One of my family members learned the hard way this week why it’s important to have a credit card that earns a minimum of 1.5X on every purchase.
Bob (not his real name) runs a small business specializing in industrial supply sales. He called me the other day with some good news.
“I just got a huge order!” he said, excitement ringing through his voice. “I have to get the product from my manufacturer. My cost is about ten thousand dollars. My manufacturer accepts credit cards. Think of the points I’ll earn!”
Indeed! Quite a nice little score for Bobby on a couple of levels. First, he’s making a healthy profit from the sale’s markup. Next, earning 10,000 points for a couple of minutes’ work is pretty great.
Given that industrial goods purchases aren’t exactly a commonly bonused category, his options were fairly limited.
“So I’m gonna use my Chase Sapphire Reserve,” he said. “Right?”
My heart sank a little. All Bob wants is to take his wife on a European cruise. The CSR will earn only 1X (or 10,000 points) in this situation. Still a nice haul, but practices like these won’t get him and his lovely missus to Europe much sooner.
“Do you have a Chase Ink Unlimited?” I asked. “It earns 1.5 points per dollar spent.”
“Mmmkay. Do you have the Chase Freedom Unlimited card? That’s another 1.5X card.”
“The American Express Blue Business Cash Card? That earns two-percent cashback on each purchase.” (Up to $50,000 a year in spending.)
He soon completed his purchased, earned a nice 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points — and then called me back to see where he went wrong.
Did Bob Go Wrong?
No, he didn’t go wrong, as far as I’m concerned. He could’ve paid with a debit card (ugh, gross!) or put it on his account and paid with a check (I cringe at the thought). He earned 10,000 points — which is great!
Because Bob holds the Chase Sapphire Reserve, those 10,000 points will essentially be worth $150 if he uses them to book travel through the Ultimate Rewards travel site. (Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders can redeem points at a 1.25X rate.)
But he could have done better.
If he had the Ink Unlimited or Freedom Unlimited, that $10,000 purchase would have earned him 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points. From there, he could transfer those points to the Chase Sapphire Reserve — and redeemed them at that tasty 1.5X rate. The $10,000 purchase very easily could’ve been worth $225 travel — instead of the $150 he’ll now get.
I encouraged him to get the Chase Ink Unlimited. It has no annual fee — so it costs him nothing to hold the card (assuming he pays his bills on time, which he always does). It’ll work great for supply purchases from industrial vendors.
The Freedom Unlimited — a no annual fee card — is another way to go. It has the same 1.5X formula that the Ink Unlimited would earn him. Some people, though, understandably don’t like commingling personal credit cards with business purchases.
The American Express Blue Business Cash Card (also a no annual fee product) would have earned him $200 on this purchase. I don’t know any business owners who turn down cash back.
It’s Not Just Small Businesses
A few months ago, we discussed how most credit cards don’t give permanent bonuses for online shopping (think Amazon, etc).
While there are limited time promotions (Amex Offers for 4X on Amazon, etc) on many cards, having a 1.5X option can earn you plenty of points — and more free travel.
What About Delta Amex Cards?
Four Delta Amexes award bonus MQMs after meeting certain spending thresholds:
- Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express
- Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card from American Express
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express
The 1X earnings are a little easier to swallow on those cards, given the real goal is MQM boosts. (Remember that bonus SkyMiles upon meeting spend thresholds go away early next year.)
I’ll probably use my personal Delta Reserve for some non-bonused spending to start the year (I have a retention offer to meet). Once I reach my bonus MQM and MQD exempt spend goals for that card, though, I won’t use it again (except for 20% credit on Delta inflight purchases).
Featured image: ©iStock.com/fizkes
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