Last Friday I posted a quick analysis of the American Express Blue Business Plus card, which earns 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent, on up to $50,000 in purchases per calendar year.
It got a lot more comments than posts which I would have considered more controversial! There were a few exchanges in the comments that I want to draw out and consider individually.
Opportunity for a negative interest rate loan
I've written before about negative interest rate loans and their value to a travel hacker, and as reader Amol pointed out in the comments, the Blue Business Plus offers such an opportunity: with a 0% APR on purchases for the first 12 months, you should be able to max out your credit limit (up to $50,000) and make only minimum payments for a year. In the last month, you can pay off the card and, since the $50,000 limit is based on the calendar year you'll still be able to spend another $50,000 for a second 100,000 Membership Rewards points in your second calendar year of cardmembership.
Earning 100,000 Membership Rewards points upfront as negative interest on a 12-month loan is a good deal, especially if you have a particularly lucrative redemption opportunity in mind.
Business credit card
As a business credit card, the Blue Business Plus has a few advantages:
- participation in American Express's OPEN savings program;
- high balances not reported on personal credit report (helpful if you max out your card as described above);
- business cards shouldn't count against Chase's approval limit for certain credit cards.
What's the 5th-best American Express credit card?
Several readers commented that they found the $50,000 limit on calendar year purchases that earn 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar too low to make the card worth considering.
There's one sense in which this is strictly true: if you have a card that has a higher earning rate, on an unlimited amount of spend, then you should use that card instead of a Blue Business Plus card. For example, if you have a BankAmericard Travel Rewards card and $100,000 of eligible deposits, and you value Membership Rewards points at less than 1.31 cents each, then you should not put any spend on a card that earns 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent, since you'll get more value earning 2.625% cash back with your Travel Rewards card.
On the other hand, most travel hackers I know accumulate multiple rewards currencies in multiple different ways: paid travel, manufactured spend, reselling, and signup bonuses, to mention a few.
If that's the case, then you don't need to ask if the Blue Business Plus card is the best credit card, or even the best American Express credit card: you only need to ask if it's the 5th-best American Express credit card, since you can have 5 total American Express credit cards.
If you could only have one credit card total across every issuing bank, you'd insist on carrying the single best credit card, which for me would probably be the Chase Ink Plus (no longer available to new applicants, unfortunately). If you could only card one credit card from each bank, you'd need to carefully select the American Express card that best suited your needs: if you wanted to trigger a Delta Medallion Qualification Dollar waiver, it would have to be a Delta American Express card. If you wanted to earn points that could be redeemed for hotel rooms and flights, or transferred to partner airline programs, you'd likely choose a Starwood Preferred Guest card.
But in the real world, you can create a portfolio of credit cards that serves a range of functions: you can carry a Delta SkyMiles card for the Medallion Qualification Dollar waiver, a Starwood Preferred Guest card for hotel stays and transfers to programs like Alaska Mileage Plus and Lufthansa Miles and More, and a Membership Rewards-earning card for transfers to Singapore KrisFlyer, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, or Air Canada Aeroplan.
I don't personally have any intention of signing up for a Blue Business Plus card, since I don't see Membership Rewards as a currency that my readers have reported being able to get a lot of value out of, and I don't see any upcoming opportunities to get outsized value from them in the immediate future. Realistically, I'd probably end up transferring them to Delta and redeeming them for 1 or 2 cents each, which doesn't entice me to go out of my way to earn them.
However, if you consistently get 2 or 3 cents per point in value from Membership Rewards points, then I don't think the $50,000 cap on purchases should pose a serious obstacle, unless it pushes the card below 5th place in your personal ranking of American Express credit cards.