Review: Compare AmEx OPEN cards for your business

If you’re looking for a card for your small business, the cards in the OPEN network from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) may have piqued your interest.

OPEN encompasses a suite of cards created for business owners. There are about a dozen cards in the program. While the cards’ benefits differ, they all offer OPEN benefits (an assortment of perks specifically for business owners). Amex OPEN logo

Our review will help you understand the OPEN program and pick the specific American Express business card that’s right for your business.

An overview of OPEN

Whichever OPEN card you choose, it will have the following benefits:

  • Access to OPEN Savings: When you make a purchase with a partner company, you’ll get a 5 percent discount (for cash-back cards) or 2 extra Membership Rewards points per dollar spent (for cards earning MR points). Current partners include FedEx, Hertz, HP and Hyatt. If you use your American Express business card with these partners, expect your savings or MR points to be credited automatically.
  • Bookkeeping tools: Through the ReceiptMatch app, you can add receipts and notes to your transactions. You can also sync your online account with QuickBooks, so that you can label your transactions with your QuickBooks tags and send purchase data straight to QuickBooks. Your employees can use ReceiptMatch as well to upload receipt images for purchases made with their employee cards.
  • Ability to appoint an Account Manager: You can assign a business partner or employee the role of Account Manager on your card. Depending on the level of access you allow, the Account Manager can pay the bill, review statements and dispute charges.

Which card should you pick?

The OPEN tools and benefits were designed with small-business owners in mind, which could make any one AmEx’s business offerings a good fit for your business. Yet each of the cards has unique perks and rewards. Use our suggestions below as a guide.

For the new business trying to rein in costs – SimplyCash Business Card

Your new business is guzzling all your money to maintain itself — so it may come as a relief that this card is rewarding but affordable:

  • No annual fee; no annual fee for additional employee cards
  • 5 percent cash back at office supply stores and phone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers
  • 3 percent back from a category of your choice (airfare directly from airlines, hotel rooms directly from hotels, car rentals directly from rental companies, U.S. gas stations, U.S. restaurants, eligible U.S. advertising purchases, U.S. shipping company purchases.
  • 1 percent back on other purchases

This card gives you rewards for some of the mundane but very necessary money-suckers for start-ups (like office supplies and phone service). Because rewards come in the form of cash back, you can funnel them right back into your business instead of bartering for less-tangible things like airline miles. Finally, with no annual fee, you don’t have to worry if the card is too expensive to justify.

For the business owner who wants to farm MR points – The Business Gold Rewards Card

This one is a charge card, so you must pay in full every month. It also has an annual fee of $175 (waived the first year) and a $50 annual fee for the first additional employee card (waived the first year; additional employee cards have no fee). What makes it stand out is that it lets you pad your MR point balance on a variety of common business expenses:

  • 3X points (on up to $100,000 in purchases per year) on one category from the following list: Airfare directly from airlines, eligible U.S. advertising purchases, U.S. gas stations, U.S. shipping, computer and cloud computing purchases from select providers
  • 2X points (on up to $100,000 in purchases per year) on the four remaining categories
  • 1X points on other purchases (and on category purchases after the $100,000 limit has been reached)

If you have time to maximize them, MR points can be incredibly lucrative, especially if you transfer them into AmEx’s airline and hotel partners. If you have large expenses that align with this card’s categories (and maximize those categories), you could earn hundreds of thousands of these points every year and use them for free first-class flights and hotel stays.

For the business owner who needs payment flexibility – The Plum Card

There’s nothing quite like this card on the market right now. It offers a little leeway if you need a little extra time to pay the balance — and rewards you if you pay early. Here’s how it works:

  • If you need more time: You can pay 10 percent of the balance from new activity on your statement (plus whatever amount remains from previous balances) by the payment date and get 60 extra interest-free days to pay the rest.
  • If you pay early: Pay your card bill (at least the minimum) within 10 days of your statement closing date and get a discount of 1.5 percent on the amount paid, which will show up as a statement credit in the following cycle.

The annual fee for this card is $250 (waived the first year), and there’s no fee for additional employee cards.

For businesses with an unpredictable cash flow, this card is simultaneously a lifeline (if you need a little more time to carry a balance without interest) and an incentive to pay early.

For the business owner who wants rewards but doesn’t want to mess with categories – Blue for Business Card

  • No annual fee (for primary card or employee cards)
  • 1 MR point per dollar on all eligible purchases
  • 2 MR points per dollar spent through American Express Travel
  • 30 percent annual relationship bonus each year. This bonus is equal to 30 percent of eligible purchases charged to your card each year. You’ll receive it automatically within 30 days of your account anniversary. In other words, if you spend $20,000 on the card in a year, you’ll get a 6,000-point bonus.

This card gives you a bonus on all your spending, even if it doesn’t neatly fit into the “business” categories assigned to the cards above. For example, if you own a food truck, you may not be traveling a lot for business or buying office supplies. You’ll still get a 30 percent annual bonus on all the food containers, condiments and ingredients you bought, if you purchase them with this card.

For the business owner who wants to travel in comfort – Business Platinum card

If your business requires lots of travel, this card ($450 annual fee) makes being on the road less of a slog with the following benefits:

  • Lounge access: Complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club, Airspace lounges, Priority Pass Select lounges and Centurion lounges.
  • Reimbursement for TSA Precheck or Global Entry: TSA Precheck ($85) smooths out your passage through TSA, while Global Entry ($100) cuts the line-standing when you return to the U.S. from abroad. Pick one, and get reimbursed for the fees via statement credit.
  • Status at Starwood and rental car companies: Automatically get Gold Preferred Starwood Membership (with benefits like room upgrades and late checkouts), as well as status with Hertz, Avis and National Rental Car (with benefits like upgrades and skipping the lines).
  • Free Wi-Fi: You get complimentary Boingo membership as well as 10 Gogo inflight Internet passes each year.
  • International airline program: When you purchase an eligible business or first class international ticket on a participating airline, you get a second ticket for only the cost of surcharges, fees and taxes. If you want to tack a vacation onto a business trip, this allows you to bring a traveling companion.
  • $200 airline fee credit every year: You can use this toward things that make flying more enjoyable, such as in-flight refreshments and entertainment.

The Business Platinum card isn’t exactly a rewards powerhouse, earning just 1 point per dollar on all eligible purchases and 2 points per dollar through the American Express Travel website. But the perks can help you stay rested and focused on work.

While the American Express OPEN products have a lot to offer, they’re not the only business credit card products out there. Options abound from various issuers with various annual fees, reward structures and benefits.

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