Amex business cards increasingly trump personal cards

The latest changes to the American Express SPG cards (as reported here, by Doctor of Credit) have me thinking about the way Amex handles the differences between their personal and business cards.  Most of the SPG card changes apply equally to the two SPG cards.  Starting August 11, both cards (personal and business) will offer:

  • Higher annual fees ($95 vs. the current $65)
  • Boingo internet for up to 4 devices
  • Premium in room internet at all SPG hotels
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Other than the increased annual fees, all of the above perks are welcome, but the really interesting perk, in my opinion, is for business cardholders only:

  • Free access to Sheraton club lounges

Club lounge access is usually limited to Platinum elites (and occasionally, Gold elites, at the hotel’s discretion) and those who pay for access.  As of August 11 2015, Sheraton club lounges will be available to SPG business cardholders as well!  One of my favorite hotel club lounges is at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers where they have a two story lounge with large windows overlooking the river. While the food was unmemorable, the lounge and view were gorgeous:

SheratonChicagoClubLounge.jpg

The addition of this perk to the SPG Business card motivated me to create a new resource page on this site (found under the Hotels menu): Shortcuts to hotel club lounges and free breakfasts.  Please check it out.

Less differentiation in the past

It used to be the case that Amex business cards were virtually identical to their personal card counterparts: business Platinum cards were just like personal Platinum cards; business Delta cards were just like personal Delta cards; and business SPG cards were just like personal SPG cards.  There was, though, one very big exception across the board: business cards were (and still are) automatically enrolled in the Amex OPEN Savings program.  With this program, cardholders receive automatic rebates for certain types of spend.  While the particular rebates have changed over time, some current examples (at the time of this writing) include:

  • 5% back from participating Park Hyatt, Andaz, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency and Hyatt hotel or resort locations within the U.S
  • 5% back from participating Hertz locations
  • 5% back from eligible FedEx charges
  • And more (found here)

This was particularly awesome when they used to offer to 10% back from OfficeMax purchases (and note that OfficeMax sold gift cards both in store and online), but that perk went away with the introduction of the year 2014.

More differentiation

Lately, Amex has been doing more and more to differentiate their business cards from their personal cards.  Here are some examples:

  • Signup bonuses: personal cards are limited to once per lifetime. With business cards, you can receive the bonus again as long as you haven’t had the card in the past 12 months.  Most business card applications have language like this: “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product within the last 12 months.”
  • Platinum Business card: The Platinum business card currently has two big advantages over the personal version of the card:
    • 10 complimentary single flight segment passes for Gogo inflight internet each calendar year
    • 30% Pay with Points rebate for one airline, as of July 1 2015. This makes points worth 1.43 cents each towards airfare on your selected airline.
  • SPG Business card: As noted above, the SPG business card (as of August 11) has a big advantage over the personal version of the card:
    • Free access to Sheraton club lounges

Understandably, Amex seems to believe that it is worth courting businesses with better benefits.  It’s interesting to me, though, that their Delta product line is an exception to the above trend. Other than OPEN Savings, the Delta personal and business card benefits are the same. As a result, I was tempted to predict that Amex would soon enhance the business Delta cards in some way, but I don’t think that’s true.  They made major changes to the Delta cards just last year.  On May 1, 2014, they eliminated foreign transaction fees, added smart chips, and increased the annual fee for the Delta Platinum card (not to be confused with the Amex Platinum card) from $150 to $195.

Wrap up

Amex has taken steps recently to make their business cards more attractive than their personal cards. And, it just might prove to be a great strategy. Even though I recently cancelled my SPG personal card, I’m now tempted to get the business version. This will be especially true if I find myself with plans to stay in Sheraton properties.  At the moment, though, I have no such plans so I intend to hold tight and see if Amex increases their signup bonus along with their increased annual fee.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. […] Amex business cards increasingly trump personal cards by Frequent Miler. This is something I’ve noticed before, in general business cards have a lot more spend on them on personal cards. One of the main ways that credit card issuers make money is from interchange fees, because of this American Express can offer better benefits at the same price point for business cardholders. This is a bit of a departure from benefits/bonuses being based on tier spending and I think it leaves a lot of resentment for personal cardholders (especially those spending large amounts). […]

Comments

    • Good question. I don’t know, but usually Amex authorized users get airline lounge access when applicable, so my guess is yes
      UPDATE: This benefit is only for the basic cardmember and one guest staying in the same room. Also benefit is only for paid reservations that are Starpoint eligible.

    • I haven’t seen the terms & conditions, but I’m sure it would apply to both paid and award rooms.
      UPDATE: This benefit is only for the basic cardmember and one guest staying in the same room. Also benefit is only for paid reservations that are Starpoint eligible.

      • Since I always use SPG points to stay, that I gain from my SPG buisiness, then I guess I never get to take advantage of the Club Lounge access this card provides. Bummer. At least I know.

      • What if I booked a room at a Sheraton through Amex or Citi TY Points? That’s considered a “paid” stay, right?

        • I’m not sure, but my guess is that those stays are counted the same as stays booked via an Online Travel Agency (OTA). If that’s true, then you won’t get lounge access for stays booked with Amex or Citi points.

  1. As an SPG Plat, I’m annoyed that the Sheraton lounges are gonna become even more crowded and presumably the offerings both food and beverage wise will deteriorate further because of the increased volume/costs to the hotel. This will likely just push me to enjoy my Hyatt Diamond status and not am to re qualify for SPG Plat.

    • Usually hotel lounge access includes everyone in the same room. Also it is likely that this benefit would extend to authorized users so you could make your spouse an authorized user so he/she has his/her own card.
      UPDATE: This benefit is only for the basic cardmember and one guest staying in the same room. Also benefit is only for paid reservations that are Starpoint eligible.

  2. surprised you never check on the condition of the free sheraton lounge access because it is only on eligible rates which means paid rate, NOT on Award points. please twitter, talk to AMEX to get facts right before everyone starts clicking on your link for any other blogger’s link

  3. UPDATE:
    I found an official press release from Amex. My reading of the terms indicate:
    1) Sheraton lounge access is for “basic” cardmember only. I interpret that to mean that it is NOT a perk for those with authorized user / employee cards.
    2) The offer is ONLY for Starpoint Eligible Rate reservations. In other words, point rewards don’t count; online travel agencies don’t count (expedia, etc.); etc.
    3) Limited to Card Member and a guest staying in the same room. Seems that you can only include one guest even if you have more in your room. I doubt this is enforced.
    .
    UPDATE 2: Now Amex tells me that award stays ARE eligible for lounge access. Developing…

  4. So when you cancelled your personal SPG card did you park points somewhere or just transfer them out? Can Personal points be transferred to a Business Acc’t?

    • No need. SPG points are stored with the hotel chain’s loyalty program, not with the credit card company. If you open a business SPG card, points will accrue to the same SPG account (assuming you enter in the same account number when you apply)

    • I think you mean 15K bonus points for $30K spend. You’re right — I left that out. To me that personal and business Gold cards are different in lots of ways, so I wasn’t looking at them as twin personal/business cards

  5. Can you clarify something on the Gogo benefit? Just got the Amex Business Plat 150k offer and was expecting this benefit, but it’s nowhere to be found. I went through the entire 40 benefits listed on the card and couldn’t find it. A quick search of this benefit redirected me to the Amex Business “Corporate” Platinum card. Is there a difference here, or am I missing something?

  6. As a SPG plat none of these benefits do a thing for me. I have Boingo with my Amex Plat card. Boingo was very useful for me in South Africa. They have data caps at places you stay. Boingo often uses the same network but uncapped data. This was great for me streaming and VOIP etc.
    Sheraton club lounges basically suck anyway. Mostly grab a drink and run for me. In fact club lounges vary widely across SPG properties. Some are good and others stink. I cant remember any being great.

  7. “I meant to include a section about consumer protections being better for personal cards than business cards, but I truthfully don’t know much about that. ”

    Essentially, for consumer cards, you get the protections of the Fair Credit Billing Act, regardless of the T&Cs. Many of the protections (like limits on fraud liability) are now incorporated into T&Cs and sold as a “benefit”. While T&Cs can change, you always have the FCBA as a floor. For business cards, you just really need to know what your terms are and be more aware of changes.

  8. Not really related, but I recently applied for the Business Gold and it’s been stuck in the “in progress” stage for the past 6 days. I was told the technology dept needs to confirm some information, but each time I check, I’m told the same thing. Any thoughts on how I can expedite this so I can get a decision? Thanks.

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