Small business credit cards are usually some of the most lucrative for banks because:
(a) many business owners spend more than the average consumer, since they might be buying inventory, equipment, etc. for their company
(b) the processing fees on them (which merchants pay) are often higher than personal credit cards
This is why you’ve seen so many commercials for the Chase Ink during the past couple years. However if Capital One® has their way, they would love to steal that thunder with their latest lineup of Spark? business credit cards. Like the Ink, there are several versions available. But how do they stack up? (hint: they give Chase a run for their money!)
As you can probably guess from the word “Classic” in the name, this is more of an entry level credit card in the Spark series. It’s geared towards those with average credit (all the others require excellent credit).
The annual fee is $0 and the rewards are an unlimited 1% cash back. The purchase APR is a variable 22.9% at time of publishing.
Remember those commercials which tout “50% more cash” on the Capital One Cash Rewards card? Well, the Spark Cash Select operates in a similar fashion, except it’s a business card versus a personal card.
There’s 1% cash back on all purchases with a 50% cash back bonus. What happens is that 1% is given each billing cycle and then at your one year anniversary of having the card, you get a bonus equal to 50% of the cash back you earned during the past 12 months. You get this bonus every year.
The variable APR on this ranges from 12.9% to 20.9% and the Capital One sites lists this as being for “excellent credit” specifically (versus card #1, which is geared towards those building credit). However you get a 0% intro APR on purchases until December 2013. There’s no annual fee.
This is similar to the Spark Cash Select, except you get miles rather than cash back.
The card gives 1 mile per dollar spent on purchases (awarded each billing cycle) and then a 50% bonus on the miles you earn every year. The interest rates listed are the same as the Cash Select. There is also a 0% intro APR on purchases until December 2013.
4. Spark Cash
The Capital One Spark Cash comes with a $59 annual fee ($0 intro for first year) but with that, comes higher cash back – 2% on all spending. There are no gimmicks or tricks with this.
Cap One also lists this as a business credit card for “excellent credit” and the lower APR reflects that – a variable 13.9% to 20.9% as I write this review.
You can apply here to get a $100 cash bonus simply for spending $1k on purchases within the first 3 mo.
5. Spark Miles
This echoes #5, except you earn miles instead of cash back.
Since it gives a full 2 miles/dollar and each mile is worth 1 cent when used for travel purchases, it’s also essentially earning you a full 2% rebate.
This Spark card also has the same APR, same annual fee, and same excellent credit score requirement as #5.
Apply with this offer for 10,000 bonus miles which you will get after making $1k in purchases within the first 3 mo.
The truth is this is what it boils down to…
These 5 Capital One Spark credit cards can really be boiled down to 3 different categories, when comparing the value of their miles and cash back rewards:
- 1 card with no annual fee and 1% rewards value. For average credit.
- 2 cards with no annual fee and 1% with a 50% annual bonus.
- 2 cards with a $59 annual fee ($0 intro for first year) and 2% rewards value.
That’s the easiest, most straightforward way to look at the rewards on these 5 different Spark cards. Although having so many options might seem a bit overwhelming at first glance, it really isn’t. It just comes down to what your rewards preference is (and obviously you need to take into account the different APRs, too).
How about the benefits?
The Spark card benefits are quite good. They offer you:
- No cost for additional cards – In case you want extras for employees.
- Year end summary – I find these come in very handy during tax time.
- Card design customization – You have the unique benefit of being able to add your company’s logo or any other image you desire.
- Visa Business Card benefits – Purchase Security and Extended Protection, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Travel and Emergency Assistance Services. Please consult issuer for benefit terms and conditions.
How will they affect your personal and biz credit?
The Spark Classic is listed as for those who want to build credit, but does this mean it’s different than their other small business credit cards? Can you apply under your business tax ID without supplying your Social Security number? Using the convenient chat feature on the Capital One website, this is what I found out…
1. Personal guarantee is required
There is no way you can apply for any of the Spark cards without your SSN. The approval of the card is based on your personal credit history. As a result, both you (as the Authorizing Signatory) and the Company will be bound to the terms of this agreement.
2. Can help build business credit
Using any of the Spark cards responsibly can help in building stronger credit for both you and your business. This is actually a huge benefit you won’t find everywhere. For example, none of the American Express business cards report to the business credit bureaus. As a result, they are useless for building biz credit. Fortunately, all of the Spark cards will report, assuming you supply your company’s tax ID number on the application.
3. Sole proprietors can apply
If you don’t have a LLC or corporation, you can still apply. The EIN/TIN field is not required if you are applying as a sole proprietor.
Want the best rewards? Want to build credit for your company? Now you can have the best of both worlds. As a recap, here’s a quick review of the 5 signup promotions currently available:
- Spark Classic – 1% cash back. No annual fee. For fair credit (others require excellent credit).
- Spark Cash Select – 1% cash back on purchases with a 50% annual cash back bonus. No annual fee. 0% intro APR on all purchases until December 2013.
- Spark Cash – 2% cash back. $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $59 after that. Bonus = $100 after spending on purchases $1k within first 3 months. Plus receive $50 by signing up one or more employee cards (which don’t cost extra).
- Spark Miles Select – 1 mile per dollar spent on purchases with a 50% annual miles bonus. No annual fee. 0% intro APR on all purchases until December 2013.
- Spark Miles – 2 miles per dollar. $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $59 after that. Bonus = 10,000 miles after spending $1k on purchases within first 3 months. Plus receive 5,000 miles by signing up one or more employee cards (which don’t cost extra).