Amex business cards increasingly trump personal cards

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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.

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