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I’ve been able to consult with business owners of all types to help them maximize their savings and rewards via business credit cards. One common category of expenses that I’ve seen is inventory. Inventory related expenses can be significant which also means significant savings and rewards are possible. Here are some of the best business credit cards for inventory expenses.
Categorize your inventory expenses
The first step to maximizing rewards is to categorize your inventory expenses (and all business expenses for that matter). In my experience, a lot of inventory expenses come in the following forms:
- Purchases of inventory (stock items, raw materials, etc.)
- Shipping expenses (some business owners spend a huge amount on shipping alone)
- Rent for warehousing
- Insurance for inventory
- IT hardware and software for inventory
- Office supplies
Those are just some of the major expenses typically associated with inventory but there are many more.
There is also one other characteristic that usually comes with lots of inventory: the need for a high spending credit limit.
Each of the business credit cards I discuss below will be able to meet some of these goals in one form or another.
Paying bills with credit cards
Depending on the expense and the industry that you’re doing business in, it might be difficult to use a credit card to pay some of your expenses. For example, some businesses spend a substantial amount on rent and leasing for warehousing but their landlord doesn’t accept credit cards.
Other expenses like insurance or even purchases of certain types of inventory can be tricky to use credit cards on.
So I highly recommend that you look into signing up for companies like Plastiq which allow you to pay essentially any bill that you can write a check for with a credit card. They do charge a small processing fee of 2.5% but the amount that you will earn in bonus rewards can often trump that.
Also, when you factor in the value of hitting sign-up bonuses paying that 2.5% fee is minuscule, so I highly encourage you to consider using Plastiq if you want to maximize rewards for your inventory or stock related expenses.
Tips for business credit cards
And finally, if you are somewhat fresh to business credit cards, read my tips for getting approved for business credit cards so that you know how to handle the application process.
The Chase Ink Preferred has a high sign-up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months . The card also earns 3X per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on all of the following categories:
- Travel, including airfare, hotels, rental cars, train tickets and taxis
- Shipping purchases
- Advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines
- Internet, cable and phone services
So the Chase Ink Preferred has you covered with several inventory related expenses like shipping and telecommunications. And if you spend a lot on advertising online with Facebook, Google, Instagram, etc. and also travel, this card becomes arguably the best business credit card on the market. For many start-ups, I’d consider this card the best option.
The advantage with the Chase Ink Preferred is that you’ll be earning Ultimate Rewards which can be redeemed as cash back at a rate of 1 cent per point. So unlike Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards function just like a normal cash back card in terms of earning percentage.
But you can get much more value out of your points. Many value Ultimate Rewards at 2 cents per point when transferred out to travel partners. And Ultimate Rewards has some fantastic to travel partners including airlines like United, Southwest, and Singapore Airlines and also some valuable hotel partners like Hyatt.
So if you were planning on redeeming your points towards travel, you can be earning roughly 6% back on these bonus categories which is phenomenal.
One special feature about the Ink Preferred is that it currently codes as 3X when using Plastiq so you could be earning 3X on many of your bills like warehousing rent, which is huge.
The Chase Ink Preferred might not provide you with as much flexibility for spending as a charge card would but it does allow you to earn your bonus earnings up to $150,000 spend per year. That’s a lot of spending and
And finally, the Ink Preferred also comes with cell phone insurance which will protect your phone for damage up to $600 against damage or theft, 3 times per 12-month period so long as you pay your cell phone with this credit card. (You do have to pay a $100 deductible.)
The Chase Ink Cash comes with a great sign-up bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. That’s worth at least $500 which is very competitive for a no annual fee credit card but the card also has some fantastic bonus categories.
The Chase Ink Cash earns 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases each account anniversary year at:
- Phone services
- Office supply stores
And it also earns 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases each year at:
- Gas stations
If you’re inventory consists largely of office supplies, it’s really hard to beat the Chase Ink cash. Also, 5% back on telecommunications is also very competitive. The only drawback to the Ink Cash is that your rewards are limited to the first $25,000 spend each year so if you’re a high spender you’ll quickly max out those rewards.
But if you’re a smaller business or just starting out then this is a great way to start racking up rewards. You won’t be able to transfer out your Ultimate Rewards to Chase travel partners unless you have a premium credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
3. Amex Blue Business Plus
The Amex Blue Business Plus can be a solid choice for inventory costs.
The card doesn’t earn bonus points on special bonus categories but instead it simply earns 2X back on all purchases in the form of Membership Rewards. This amounts to a 3.6% return on all purchases (up to $50,000 per year) if you value Membership Rewards at 1.8 cents per point.
Another great feature about the card is that it comes with no annual fee and a 0% intro APR period of 12 months. So if you’re going to be making a large inventory purchase you can’t immediately pay off, it’s like getting a loan with 0% interest for 15 months.
I recommend this card for the business owner who is trying to keep things simple and doesn’t want to bother with worrying about different rewards categories and all of that.
The Chase Ink Business Unlimited is very similar to the Amex Blue Business Plus in that it earns a single return rate for all purchase but this card earns 1.5% back on all purchases. But unlike the Blue Business Plus, this card comes with a $500 sign-up bonus after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. It also has no annual fee and comes with a 0% intro APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers.
So you won’t earn special bonus rates for inventory-related purchases but you can still expect to earn a lot of rewards with the Ink Unlimited since you’ll earn an increased amount of points on all purchases.
Also, it’s worth noting that just like the Ink Cash, the Ultimate Rewards earned by this card cannot be transferred out to different transfer partners unless you have a premium credit card.
5. Business Gold Rewards Card
Update: a new Gold Card has been released by Amex and this card is no longer available.
The Business Gold Rewards Card is one the cards that I recommend to those who are looking to spend substantial amounts of money on certain inventory related expenses and I’ll show you why.
The card comes with a welcome offer of 50,000 Membership Rewards after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. If you value Membership Rewards at 1.8 cents per point (which many do), that’s $900 worth of Membership Rewards.
The Business Gold Rewards is known for having some of the best bonus categories and several of those categories relate to inventory-related costs.
You can earn 3X Membership Rewards on one of the following categories and then 2X on all of the other remaining categories.
- Airfare purchased directly from airlines
- U.S. purchases for advertising in select media
- U.S. purchases at gas stations
- U.S. purchases for shipping
- U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers
If you value Membership Rewards at 1.8 cents per point, getting 3X on one of these categories is like earning 5.4% back on one category and then 3.6% back on the other categories up to $100,000 per year.
Many businesses spend a lot on shipping and hardware/software to manage their inventory so getting 5.4% on one category and then 3.6% on the others is a pretty amazing bargain and it’s why I consider the Business Gold Rewards to be one of the best business cards for inventory expenses.
The Business Gold Rewards Card comes with a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $175. That’s a high annual fee after the first year but if you’re spending a lot in these bonus categories you can quickly earn enough in rewards to cancel out the annual fee.
Another major reason why this is such a good business card for inventory is that many business owners have to charge a substantial amount each month on their inventory expenses and this is a charge card and not a traditional credit card.
This means that the balance must be paid off each month and that you don’t have a set credit limit (although that doesn’t mean that it’s unlimited). So unlike other credit cards, you should be able to work your way up to very high spending on this card.
This card will give you G Suite Basic free for 1 year for up to 3 users as statement credits up to $200. It will also come with Spend Manager which is a feature available to help you manage your Card expenses by allowing you to add receipts and notes to your transactions either via desktop or your mobile device.
6. Amex Blue Business Cash
While the Business Gold Card earns Membership Rewards, many business owners simply want to put cash back into their pocket. For those people, the Amex Blue Business Cash might be a better choice. That card earns 2% cash back on all eligible purchases on up to $50,000 per calendar year, then 1%.
Also this is a credit card and not a charge card so you don’t get as much flexibility with credit limits although it’s worth pointing out that you can spend above your credit limit when needed. Just how much you’ll be able to spend over your credit limit will be adjusted based on your payment history, credit record, financial resources known to Amex.
This card comes with no annual fee. But note that this card does come with foreign transaction fees, so you probably don’t want to use this card on international trips since you’ll have to pay foreign transaction fees.
7.Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business Credit Card
The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business Credit Card earns an unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases. Just like the Business Blue Plus, it’s a straight forward credit card with no special bonus categories. So if you don’t want to hassle with bonus categories this is a good option.
The Spark comes with a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, and it’s $95 after that. You’ll need to run the math to see how that $95 eats into your rewards compared to other credit cards. If you spend $4,750 a year, you’ll come out on top with the annual fee but it’s just a matter of comparing those earnings to what you’d get with other cards.
The Spark has a good early spend bonus of $500 when you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. And finally, the card comes with no foreign transaction fees so it’s great for travelers.
One thing to note about the Spark is that it will usually report to your personal credit report. So if you’re trying to stay under 5/24 so you can apply for Chase cards, you might want to consider one of the other options listed in this article.
8. Amex Plum Card
The Amex Plum card is an interesting card but it’s actually one that could be really handy when dealing with inventory. It comes with an annual fee of $250 that’s waived the first year and doesn’t currently come with a welcome offer. So why is it so compelling?
It has two unique payment features.
The most useful would be that you can take up to 60 days to pay your entire balance off without interest when you pay the minimum Due by the Payment Due Date. When dealing with inventory there are a lot of unknowns sometimes. And so you might need a little bit of extra time to come up with the funds to pay off your balance and getting two months to come up with those funds could be a nice perk for some people.
The card will also give you a 1.5% discount when you pay early so it’s like getting 1.5% back so long as you pay everything off.
I’d personally prefer the Amex options listed above over the Plum Card though if you’re dealing with somewhat unpredictable inventory and sales, it could make sense to go with a card like this.
The best credit cards for inventory expenses are the ones that fit your specific type of inventory expenses. You should be able to find a card for many of the related expenses like shipping, office supplies, telecommunications, gas, and others. But I highly suggest that you always look into utilizing a payment system like Plastiq which will allow you to pay things like rent and insurance with your credit card so that you can optimize your rewards.
Cover photo by (nutmeg).
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.