When I signed up for my WaMu business credit card, I regretted it. It’s got a pretty high interest rate and gives me no rewards of any kind. I just signed up for it because I was already at the bank and my accounting seminar instructor said it’s much easier to keep track of your finances with a credit card than with a debit card (this is true — especially if you use Quickbooks).
This week I got an offer in the mail from Citibank, so I figured it was time to switch. They wanted me to apply for their CitiBusiness Card with Thank You Network. It seemed like a pretty good deal. When you wade through the point nonsense, you essentially get 3% back on “qualified business purchases,” which they define as “purchases at certain office supply merchants, and on professional services,” and 1% on everything else you buy. You can also transfer your balance from another credit card and get 0% APR on it until May. Still, I thought I might be able to do better.
I did most of my research at CreditCards.com. This site is basically just a list of rewards cards. They don’t provide much specific information about any of them. For that you need to visit the card provider’s web site and read the terms and conditions. You really need to read the fine print carefully, because there is some weird stuff in there. For example, I got pretty excited about the Chase Business Cash Rewards Card, because it advertises in HUGE type that you can get 5% cash back with every business purchase. When you read the fine print, however, you discover that this only happens when you spend exactly between $2,000 and $2,500 every month. This is clearly a rule that was written just to screw the undiscerning applicant, since there is no logical reason whatsoever to encourage people to spend within that precise $500 range. The American Express Blue card has similar bizarre restrictions.
Other hidden rules have to with sliding rewards scales. You can theoretically earn 3-5% cash back on lots of cards, but if you spend, say, less than $1,500 a month, you’ll only get 0.25% back. This makes more sense from a business perspective (after all, the more you borrow, the more interest you might have to pay), but it’s still kind of sleazy.
In the end, it came down to the CitiBusiness Visa and the Amex SimplyCash. The CitiBusiness Visa was tempting because of the huge signing bonus (10,000 frequent flyer miles when you first enter the site, 15,000 when you’re trying to leave it), but Citibank web sites are extremely slow and unreliable on my computer. I’ve also heard some not nice things about Citicorp as a company. So I went with the Amex, because the rewards were simple, high (5% on business purchases, 1% on everything else), and never expire. As an added bonus, Amex will also give you discounts at lots of major companies through their “Open” business network, like Delta, Hertz and FedEx Kinkos. The discounts average 3-5% and it’s automatically deducted from your credit card statement, so you don’t have to remember to show or mention anything at checkout.
If I were just starting out, I might sign up for both cards, since some retailers don’t accept American Express. I’m just going to keep my WaMu business Visa for now, though. It may not give me any rewards or cash back, but it has an awesome online module to track my credit profile (including free FICO score tracking!). WaMu websites are the best in banking, in my opinion. They’re simple, fast and provide all of the information I need in a format that makes sense.