We have a slug-fest on our hands, between two of the most popular business travel cards on the market: The Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Business card by American Express and the Ink Plus Business Card from Chase. We’ll put them head to head across a variety of categories, to determine which is king of the ring!
A Few Opening Notes on Business Credit Cards
If you run a formal business you can of course get a business credit card. What may not be obvious though is that individuals can also get business credit cards. That’s because an individual can perform business as a sole proprietor. Sole proprietorship is a formal, legitimate business approach and it is one which credit card banks recognize. For example, a person may buy used items and resell them on eBay, as a sole proprietor (i.e. they haven’t established an LLC or a corporation).
If you’re applying for a business credit card as a sole proprietor you’ll usually need to enter your name in the field labeled “Legal Name of Business” and your social security number in the field labeled “Tax ID” or similar.
If you have questions about business credit cards, leave a comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll respond, or even create a more detailed post.
Note: There is also a personal version of the SPG American Express available. There are some differences in benefits between the personal and business versions of the card but there are many similarities.
Intro to the Fighters
In the purple corner, we have the SPG Business AMEX. In the blue corner we have the Chase Ink Plus. They are two of the most popular business credit cards around. They’re heavyweights for sure. That’s not by coincidence – they’re both extremely valuable.
The SPG Business AMEX earns, you guessed it, Starwood Preferred Guest points, aka Starpoints. These are extremely valuable because Starwood’s hotel redemption values are usually high and also because Starpoints can be transferred to various airlines. The Chase Ink Plus earns Ultimate Rewards (UR) points, which are also extremely valuable. They’re not tied to any specific airline or hotel. They can be transferred to many different airlines and hotels or redeemed directly for travel at a rate of 1.25 cents/Ultimate Rewards point.
Here’s the Scoring Scale…
For each of the categories of comparison I’ll determine a winner, or label it a draw if there is no clear winner. Wins will be characterized as one of three levels and points will be awarded for a quantitative analysis:
- Glancing Blow – Awarded 1 point
- Stunning Uppercut – Awarded 2 points
- Knockout Punch – Awarded 3 points
The SPG Business AMEX has a relatively straightforward earning structure. Using the card for purchases will generally yield you one Starpoint per dollar spent. Through the card, you’ll earn two Starpoints per dollar spent at Starwood properties (you’ll earn additional Starpoints for your stay separate from the credit card).
The Chase Ink Plus card has some really strong earning options. With it you’ll earn…
- 5 points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year
- 2 points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel each account anniversary year
- 1 point per $1 on all other purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn
The Chase Ink Plus really shines on the earning potential front. You can use it for auto payments of your phone, internet and cable bills and consistently get 5 point per dollar without a moment’s thought. You can also reap the 5X rewards for office supply store purchases. And many office supply stores sell gift cards to myriad other stores/vendors so you can essentially get 5X rewards at those stores/vendors.
Winner: Chase Ink Plus (knockout punch)
Value of Points
Per my latest point valuations, Starpoints are worth about 2.2 cents each and Chase Ultimate Rewards are worth about 2.1 cents each.
Of course these are my valuations so they’re influenced somewhat by my personal situation. If, for example, you only stay at Hyatt or IHG properties, then the SPG points won’t be worth as much to you as the Ultimate Rewards points. That’s because Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to multiple hotel chains including Hyatt, IHG and Marriott but Starpoints cannot be transferred to another hotel chain. Both SPG and Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to a variety of airlines.
If you redeem SPG points for a hotel stay, you can really maximize value by staying for five nights. That’s because the fifth night is free for award stays.
One of the reasons that SPG points are worth so much is that the list of airline transfer partners is so extensive (34 partners as of writing). To see the full list of airline transfer partners for Starwood, click here.
Taking all aspects of the two programs into account, I believe the value of the points in these two programs is for all intents and purposes, about equal.
The SPG Business AMEX checks in with a $95 annual fee but with the deal offered as of writing, that annual fee is waived for the first year. The Chase Ink Plus also comes with a $95 annual fee and it is not waived for the first year. If you plan to hold this card long-term the one extra year of annual fee will fade “into the noise,” but if you are an acquire-and-ditch type, getting the SPG Business AMEX for a full year before paying an annual fee is going to be appealing.
Signup Bonus Spend Requirement
The signup promotions available for these two cards, as of writing, come with a minimum spending requirement of $5,000 in the first 3 months.
Signup Bonus Value
As of writing, the signup bonus for the SPG Amex is 25,000 SPG points whereas the signup bonus for the Chase Ink Plus is 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points. With my valuations at the moment, the SPG Amex signup bonus is worth a respectable $550 (25,000 Starpoints x 2.2 cents/Starpoint) and the Chase Ink Plus signup bonus is worth a whopping $1,260 (60,000 Ultimate Rewards points x 2.1 cents/Ultimate Rewards point)!
With the SPG Business AMEX you’ll receive credit for 5 nights and 2 stays towards SPG elite status, each year. To get to the non-base level of status – Gold – you have to accumulate 25 nights or 10 stays annually. The 5 night/2 stay credit you get from the SPG Business AMEX isn’t meaningless but it’s also not huge. You can get SPG Gold status through use of the card but it requires a whopping $30,000 in spending within a calendar year.
The Chase Ink Plus isn’t associated with a specific hotel or airline so you won’t get night/stay/flight credit simply by holding the card.
Miscellaneous Card Benefits
Both of these cards come with common but valuable benefits such as fraud protection, return protection and waiver of foreign transaction fees. The SPG Business AMEX also comes with some uncommon but appealing benefits, some of which I’ve used. In addition to the elite status credit, holding the SPG Business AMEX gets you (and a guest who is staying in your room) access to the club lounge at Sheraton Hotels and Resorts for the duration of the card holder’s stay (for basic card members only on Starpoint Eligible Rate reservations). The SPG Business AMEX also gets cardholders free access to Boingo WiFi, which can be very helpful, particularly in airports which don’t offer complimentary WiFi.
The SPG card, by virtue of being an American Express, gets you AMEX Offers. These are deals you add to your credit card account with a single click and then your card account is credited once you complete the offer.
The Chase Ink Plus has great earning potential on its own but it also provides value in another way. Holding a Chase Ink Plus (or a Chase Sapphire Preferred) enables you to transfer in Ultimate Rewards points from a Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited card. Both of the Freedom cards earn points which on their own can only be redeemed for cash back. However, once you transfer them into an Ink Plus or Sapphire Preferred account they become full-fledged Ultimate Rewards points, meaning they can be transferred to partners or redeemed for travel directly. This is especially valuable in that the Freedom card has rotating 5X categories of its own and they’re often major purchase categories such as gas or dining or Amazon.com.
The SPG Business AMEX has no analogous feature.
Winner: Chase Ink Plus (glancing blow)
Card and Signup Bonus Eligibility
The eligibility rule for the SPG Business Amex is called out clearly for this offer: This bonus offer is not available to applicants who have or have had this product.
The eligibility rules for the Chase Ink Plus may be a little more involved…
- As of writing, the offer does not include a lifetime exclusion similar to the SPG Business AMEX exclusion listed above.
- Many Chase credit card offers include verbiage indicating the bonus offer is not available to anyone who received a bonus for the same product within the last 24 months. However, I don’t see that called out for this offer. That’s good news.
- There has been banter online that Chase has already applied, or is going to apply, a “5/24” rule to Chase Ink Plus applications. That rule, which has not been officially communicated or confirmed by Chase, is that you will be denied for certain Chase cards if you have opened more than 5 new credit card accounts in the last 24 months. If that description doesn’t apply to you, then of course you don’t have to worry about being denied for that specific reason.
So the stated eligibility restriction for the SPG card is more “definitive” but also more narrow – it’s only related to the specific product. With the current Ink Plus offer you could get the card and bonus again in theory even if you had it in the past. However, the other restrictions that have been seen and noted by others online, may come into play.
We Go to the Judge’s Scorecard!
I’ve compiled all of the preceding scores into a table to present it clearly and quantitatively…
You can see from the scorecard that the Chase Ink Plus claims the heavyweight championship belt!
Its strong earning structure and tremendous signup bonus value provide the knockout punches. The SPG Business AMEX wins in as many categories as the Chase Ink Plus but it tends to land glancing blows while the Chase Ink Plus lands knockout punches in the categories it wins.
Is That the Final Word?
In a word, no. Both of these cards are among the best available so you really can’t go wrong with either.
Every person’s situation is a little different so the way I called this may be different than how you would do so. If you’re intent on staying at SPG properties then the equation tilts in a major way and you should aim for the SPG Business AMEX. On the other hand, if you’re looking to rack up points that can be transferred to Hyatt or IHG, the Ink Plus is probably the better option for you.
If you’re going to travel quite a bit and you’ll be spending a lot at office supply stores you may want to get both cards and use them accordingly.
The two cards are offered by different banks which means getting both is a bit easier than if they were offered by the same bank.
Good luck and remember that there is also a personal version of the SPG American Express available.
Do you have questions on getting or using these cards? Share them below and I’ll do my best to answer them!