The current signup offer for the Amex Blue for Business Card has been extended to February 22, 2017 [UPDATE: OFFER HAS EXPIRED]. The offer is different from most signup offers because rather than giving you a set number of bonus points for meeting minimum spend, this offer is mostly about increased card earnings for the first 6 months to a year. Yes, you get a standard bonus of 10K points after first purchase, but you also get 10 points per dollar at restaurants for 6 months (up to $2K spend), and 2 points per dollar on all purchases for the first year (up to $50K max). This increased earning “bonus” reminds me of a couple of other cards…
One similar, but simpler offer is with the Discover It Miles Card. The signup bonus for that card is simply the doubling of all of your first year earnings. So, the usual 1.5% cash back really equates to 3% cash back for all spend.
Another similar offer is with the BB&T Spectrum Rewards Visa. The BB&T card offers 3% cash back in the first 3 months of card ownership. It also offers a standard 5% annual bonus on rewards earned, plus another 30% bonus if you spent $50K or more. These bonuses combine to 4.05% cash back if you spend $50,000 or more in the first 3 months (as long as you leave the card alone after that). While that’s a great deal for those who can easily spend $50K in 3 months, it is unfortunately limited to residents of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and DC.
Back to Blue…
The value of the two other offers mentioned above is obvious. The Discover It Miles card earns 3% cash back in the first year. If you spent $50K in the first year, you would get a total of $1500. The BB&T Spectrum Rewards Visa earns up to 4.05%. If you spend exactly $50K in the first 3 months, you would get a total of $2,025. How about the Amex Blue for Business Card? How much value would one get from $50K first year spend?
Let’s review again the signup bonus:
[UPDATE: OFFER HAS EXPIRED]
- 10K after first purchase
- 10X restaurants for 6 months (up to $2K spend)
- 2X on all first year purchases (up to $50K spend)
And, consider a standard feature of the card:
- 30% annual relationship bonus
Let’s look at how much you would earn if you spend exactly $50,000 in non-restaurant spend:
- Signup bonus: 10K
- 2X points: $50K X 2X = 100K
- 30% relationship bonus: $50K x .3 = 15K
- Total: 125K (that amounts to 2.5X earnings on $50K spend)
What if you threw in $2K of restaurant spend in the first 6 months on top of the $50K spend? Let’s look:
- Signup bonus: 10K
- 2X points: $50K X 2X = 100K
- 10X points at restaurants: $2K x 10 = 20K
- 30% relationship bonus: 52K x .3 = 15.6K
- Total: 145.6K
How much are 125K to 145.6K Membership Rewards points worth?
The Amex Blue for Business card earns Membership Rewards points, but they are not transferable to airlines unless you also have a premium Membership Rewards card or the Everyday card. Without another such card, you’ll get less than 1 cent per point value for most redemptions, but you may be able to get 1 cent per point by trading in points for certain gift cards. So, at this level, those 125K to 145.5K points are worth $1,250 to $1,455. If this is your plan, you’ll do better with the Discover It Miles card which would net $1,500 cash back after $50K spend, and much better with the BB&T card ($2,025).
With the addition of a “real” membership rewards card, though, those points can be transferred to many different airlines. My current reasonable redemption value for Membership Rewards points is 1.82 cents per point. That means that if you use your points wisely it is reasonable to expect to get that much value or more. At that value, you would rake in $2,275 to $2,650 worth of flights. That’s clearly better than Discover It Miles ($1,500), but personally I’d prefer the certain $2,025 from the BB&T card, than the possibility of getting slightly more value from flights. An exception would be if I had a plan for how I would use those Membership Rewards points, and knew that I’d get excellent value from them.
Where the Blue for Business offer really shines is when it is paired with the Amex Business Platinum card. That card’s 50% rebate on pay with points awards makes it possible to get 2 cents per point value for many flights without having to worry about award availability. That means that those 125K to 145.6K points would be worth up to $2,500 to $2,912. That’s enough of a boost over BB&T’s $2,025 to make the Blue for Business card a better choice.
The Amex Blue for Business offer is best for those who will spend up to $50K over 12 months, but only if the card is paired with a card that allows Membership Rewards point transfers or, better yet, the Amex Business Platinum card which provides a means for getting 2 cents per point value. But do keep in mind that the offer is currently expected to end on February 22. It will be interesting to see if it is extended again as it was earlier this month.
The BB&T Spectrum Rewards Visa is the best choice for those who can spend $50K or more in the first 3 months. At exactly $50K spend, the Blue for Business card may be a better choice (depending upon what other Amex cards you have), but if you can spend significantly more than $50K in that time, the BB&T card is best since its bonus structure is not limited to $50K spend. Unfortunately, this card is an option only for residents of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and DC.
The Discover It Miles Card is a good choice for everyone else with plans to spend a lot in the next 12 months.