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Top Small Business Credit Cards in Canada

As I’ve done a few financial product reviews in the past, a couple of readers expressed interest in my opinion about the top small business credit cards in Canada.  Even though I run a small business of my own, this is an area that I haven’t really researched, that is, until now.

You may be wondering why an entrepreneur would want a small business credit card as most of them are much more expensive with less features than personal credit cards. The most important reason is to keep expenses separate along with a generally higher credit limit.  As well, charging business expenses to a personal credit card may be against the terms of service of the credit card issuer.

Having said that, the table below shows the credit card offerings from all the big banks in Canada with the addition of competitive cards from American Express.  I only listed credit cards that offered rewards, but there are certainly other cards available for small business that focus on lower interest rates.  The rewards include Aeroplan, Avion, Air Miles, TD Travel and Cash Back.

Here is a comparison table for the best small business credit cards in Canada:

Annual Fee
Rewards Extras
AEROPLAN
CIBC Aerogold VISA $180, $50 for supplementary cards
  • 1 pt for every $1 spending,
  • 1.5 pts for travel spending,
  • 15k pts welcome bonus (25k pts req for travel within North America)
  • Flight Delay,
  • Baggage Insurance,
  • Car Rental Insurance,
  • Common Carrier
American Express Business Gold $180, $50 for supplementary cards (both are FREE for the first year)
  • 1 pt for $1 spending.
  • 1:1 transferable to Aeroplan,
  • 25k pt welcome bonus (free flight)
  • Disability Plan for Small Business,
  • Flight Delay,
  • Baggage Insurance,
  • Car Rental Insurance,
  • Common Carrier,
  • Hotel Burglary Insurance,
  • Purchase Security,
  • Extended Warranty
AMEX Aeroplan Platinum $399, $199 for supplementary cards
  • 1.25 pt for $1 spending.
  • 1:1 transferable to Aeroplan,
  • Disability Plan for Small Business,
  • Flight Delay,
  • Baggage Insurance,
  • Car Rental Insurance,
  • Common Carrier,
  • Hotel Burglary Insurance,
  • Purchase Security,
  • Extended Warranty
  • Trip Cancellation Insurance
  • Trip Interruption Insurance
AIR MILES
BMO Air Miles Mastercard FREE for business owner, $5 for employee card.
  • 1 Air Mile for every $20 spending,
  • 1.5 Miles at Shell and National/Alamo Car Rental
  • Purchase Protection,
  • Extended Warranty
BMO Gold Air Miles Mastercard
$119 for business owner, $15 for employees.
  • 1 Air Mile for $15 spending,
  • 2 Miles at Shell, National/Alamo Car Rental
  • 150 air miles welcome bonus,
  • Purchase Protection,
  • Extended Warranty,
  • Car Rental Insurance,
  • Trip Interruption Insurance,
  • Common Carrier
AMEX Air Miles Gold FREE primary and supplementary cards
  • 1 Air Mile for every $20 spending,
  • 1 Air Miles for every $15 spending at Air Miles Sponsors.
  • 150 Air Miles welcome bonus with $1k spending in first 3 months
  • Disability Plan for Small Business,
  • Common Carrier
AMEX Air Miles Platinum $99, FREE supplementary cards
  • 1 Air Mile for every $15 spending,
  • 1 Air Miles for every $10 spending at Air Miles Sponsors.
  • 250 Air Miles welcome bonus with $1k spending in first 3 months
  • 1000 Air Mile annual bonus with $50k spending
  • Disability Plan for Small Business,
  • Flight Delay,
  • Baggage Insurance,
  • Car Rental Insurance,
  • Common Carrier,
  • Hotel Burglary Insurance,
  • Purchase Security,
  • Extended Warranty
CASH BACK
BMO CashBack Mastercard
FREE for business owner, $5 for employee card.
  • 0.5% CashBack on spending,
  • 1.5% at Shell, National/Alamo Car Rental.
  • Purchase Protection,
  • Extended Warranty
BMO Premium CashBack Mastercard
$69 for business owner, $5 for employees. ($29 discount if you have a BMO Biz Account)
  • 1% CashBack on spending,
  • 3.0% at Shell, National/Alamo Car Rental.
  • BMO Roadside Assistance,
  • Purchase Protection,
  • Extended Warranty
AMEX Cash Back FREE primary and supplementary cards
  • 0.25% cash back on first $2k spending,
  • 0.50% on next $3k spending,
  • 1.5% on spending over $5k
  • Up to $1k cash back per year.
  • Disability Plan for Small Business,
  • Common Carrier
ScotiaBank VISA (Silver)
$65 1% Cash Back on spending
ScotiaBank VISA (Gold) $95 1% Cash Back on spending
  • International Concierge Service,
  • Car Rental Insurance,
  • Travel Accident,
  • Lost Luggage,
  • Emergency Purchases,
  • Flight delay
  • hotel burglary.
OTHER TRAVEL
TD Travel VISA
$149, $149 for additional cards
  • 3 TD pts for $1 spending,
  • 9 TD pts for $1 spending at TD travel centre.
  • 30k pts welcome bonus.
  • 20k pts = $100 towards travel (1.5% return)
  • Baggage Insurance,
  • Car Rental Insurance,
  • Common Carrier,
  • Purchase Security,
  • Extended Warranty
RBC VISA AVION
$120, $50 for supplementary cards
  • 1 pt for every $1 spending,
  • 15k pts welcome bonus
  • Flight Delay,
  • Baggage Insurance,
  • Car Rental Insurance,
  • Common Carrier,
  • Hotel Burglary Insurance,
  • Purchase Security,
  • Extended Warranty
AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) $150, $50 for supplementary cards
  • 1 pt for every $1 spending,
  • 10k pts welcome bonus (enough for one night @ 4 star hotel)
  • Free Weekend Night with $40k spending
  • Gold status with $30k annual spending
  • Disability Plan for Small Business,
  • Flight Delay,
  • Baggage Insurance,
  • Car Rental Insurance,
  • Common Carrier,
  • Hotel Burglary Insurance,
  • Purchase Security,
  • Extended Warranty
  • Trip Cancellation Insurance
  • Trip Interruption Insurance

Out of the selected cards, they are all fairly competitive, but some stand out from the rest.  For the business owner in choosing a rewards card, to me, it depends on a few factors namely, the return on spending, the usefulness of the rewards program, and the accessibility of the credit card.  For example, if the business owner is already an Aeroplan member and heavy collector, then it may make sense to stick with the program and funnel all business expenses to boost the points accumulation.  It appears as well that American Express is extremely competitive in their offerings, but they aren’t accepted everywhere.  However, the business owner may only purchase from suppliers that offer American Express which makes it a non issue.  Onto my favorite picks.

Top Aeroplan Card

There are a few contenders in this rewards group for the business owners who collect Aeroplan points.  Out of the three choices, I think that there are two real contenders as I think the AMEX Platinum is out to lunch with their $399 annual fee.

The CIBC Aerogold and the AMEX Business Gold card really go head to head as both have the same annual fees but slightly different rewards and perks.  I like the AMEX for its greater insurance coverage, especially the extended warranty, and their sign up freebies which equate to a free year and a free flight. However, the CIBC card is a VISA, which has greater acceptance, and offers 1.5 pts per dollar of travel spending.  It’s a toss up here!

Top Air Miles Card

I’m not a big Air Miles collector, but there are a couple cards in this group that offer good value, namely the free ones.  As a passive Air Miles collector, I would choose the BMO free Air Miles card as it offers 1 Mile for $20 spending and 1.5 Miles for $1 spending at Shell along with extended warranty protection.  The AMEX competitor offers a similar rewards package, but doesn’t have quite enough insurance for my liking.

If I was an active Air miles collector, I would likely choose the AMEX Platinum card and write off the $99 fee.  Although the AMEX Platinum and BMO Gold have a similar rewards system (1 pt for $15 spending), the AMEX insurance package is slightly more comprehensive.

Top Cash Back Card

I must comment that the cash back options are weak for small business owners, compared to personal cash back credit cards anyways.  Each of them have  their pitfalls, for example, the free BMO card only offers 0.5% cash back and the AMEX free version is light on the insurance.

However, if I had to pick, it would likely be the BMO Premium card ($69) that offers 1% cash back, 3% at shell and includes roadside assistance and extended warranty.  BMO clients can receive a $29 discount on the card.

Best of the Rest

The last three cards fall into the “other” pile as each cover unique rewards programs that no other cards offer.  These cards include the TD Travel Visa, RBC AVION Visa, and the AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) card.  The three cards are approximately the same cost and fairly comprehensive rewards and insurance offerings.

Within this category however, I think the SPG program outweighs them all.  As I’ve written about before, the SPG program can give you up to 8% return on spending if you choose your rewards carefully.  Along with that, AMEX includes perhaps the most comprehensive insurance package of them all.

What do you think?  Which cards do you think offer the best value for each rewards category?

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FT About the author: FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Bob Ferguson April 25, 2011, 1:09 pm

    I am wondering why you didn’t include the RBC Visa Gold card?

    Bob

  • FT FrugalTrader April 25, 2011, 1:30 pm

    Hi Bob,
    I didn’t see that card on their web site: http://www.rbcroyalbank.com/business/financing/credit-cards.html, do you have a link?

  • Sarlock April 25, 2011, 1:49 pm

    As far as I understand it, if you use a business credit card to collect rewards points, those rewards points (or dollars) belong to the company (and if you use them for personal purposes, it is a taxable benefit). If, however, you use a personal credit card to charge business expenses and then have the business compensate you for the dollars it spent on your credit card, then those reward points are yours personally.

  • Subversive April 25, 2011, 3:48 pm

    Sarlock, that’s true, however the bookkeeping hassles are not worth it when it comes to splitting business and personal expenses up later. I’d rather just save the points and use them for business trips, there’s always enough of those which can happen to use up any points.

  • Richard April 25, 2011, 5:12 pm

    I think that when evaluating different credit cards, either business or personal, we should think, among other things of course, about how convenient and reliable the services are, how easily you can access their customer service, about extended warranty program details, and about the interest itself. I know that the idea is to not carry any balance on those cards, but sometimes when you don’t have a choice it would be nice to know that it is not going to be much higher than your LofC. I have now the Capital One MC, that I use for some of my purchases. I obtained that card few years back when I received an offer in the mail from them promising 5.99% for live, as long as I am in a good standing. So far so good, knock on wood. As you know our lines of credit as long term customers are prime plus 2, it used to be prime plus 1, so it is very comparable.I use this card to buy items that it is good to have a warranty for, but you don’t want to pay the offered extended warranty. This card doubles the warranty up to two years, so it gives you an additional one year, if there is only one year on the product.
    I checked the fine print and I phoned them before I purchased my firs item to make sure that there is no “even smaller print” that I should read.
    To summarize it, some time ago I wondered why there are so many different credit cards being offered but now I can see that they really offer very personal choices that we have to balance to arrive at the right decision.
    My decision was that I need a few different cards because there is no such a thing as “The best credit card on the market”. As I mentioned before, I use my Capital One for purchases, then I use the MBNA Smart Cash for groceries and gas, and I use some MBNA offers for money transfers, when they offer 0% for at least 12months, to lower my borrowing cost. MBNA has the lowest fees for the money transfers, 1%.

  • Sarlock April 25, 2011, 6:51 pm

    I combine my business and personal purchases through my personal credit card and don’t find it to be much of a hassle accounting-wise. Every month I just download my credit card statement, sort out which purchases are mine and which belong to the business and the job’s done (I make about 100 purchases per month on my card totalling around $50,000/month). Takes me, maybe, 5-10 minutes per month. Then I just do a payment from my business bank account directly to my credit card for the amount of the purchases in that month and bingo, I have the money back from the business for its purchases and it goes directly on to my credit card. For perhaps 15 minutes of work, I get to have all of the reward points as my own. Well worth the time!

  • Gerard April 25, 2011, 11:29 pm

    Nice roundup. A couple of quibbles:
    *you can actually get north american flights for 15K points (instead of 25K), if they’re short-haul. Worth it sometimes if you’re flying a not very competitive route (like Fredericton to St. John’s).
    *two additional benefits of the AMEX aeroplan platinum card are a free partner trip per year (you spend 15K points, your companion travels free) and free access to Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounges. Of course, if you travel enough to want this card, you probably have Elite status with aeroplan and get lounge access anyway!

  • Bob April 26, 2011, 12:33 am

    The disability plan can be attractive too for a small biz – if I get disabled, that is about it. I’ll need to read the fine print, of course, but something is better than nothing. I did look quickly at the Amex plan, and the coverage starts low but increases the longer you own the card. And it only covers “total permanent disability”, not partial or temporary.

    Still, may be worth looking in to or be a tie-breaker on some cards

  • Amit April 28, 2011, 5:27 pm

    Thanks for sharing. If I have 2 businesses – 1 that has very low expenses, and 1 that has very high expenses, then a cashback business card is great for the one with low expenses, while an airmiles card is great for the one with high expenses as then one can accumulate a lot of airmiles in a very short time.

    Till now I have been using my personal credit card too for all business expenses but accounting/bookkeeping hassles are forcing me to turn to a separate business card and I am really sad that I won’t be able to use my MBNA Cashback card once I switch over. I wish MBNA had cashback or airmiles business cards.

  • Shweta September 22, 2011, 8:05 pm

    Does anyone care about HSBC BusinessVantage MasterCard or HSBC BusinessVantage Plus MasterCard?

    Are they good in your opinion?

  • Todd June 11, 2013, 7:03 pm

    Any chance it is time to update this blog? With Capital One and few new players I would like to see your opinion?

    • FT FrugalTrader June 11, 2013, 7:38 pm

      Does capital one offer business credit cards? Most consumer credit cards will not allow business expenses.

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