How to maximize credit card rewards for your small business

January 29, 2024 | 6 minute read

Rieva Lesonsky

Written by
Rieva Lesonsky
President and CEO
GrowBiz Media

Rieva Lesonsky is president and CEO of two companies focusing on small business and entrepreneurship—GrowBiz Media and She’s a nationally-known speaker, best-selling author, award-winning journalist, and authority on entrepreneurship who has covered the industry for more than 40 years.


When it comes to managing finances for a small business, every little bit helps. Unlike large corporations with deep pockets to cover slow seasons and market fluctuations, small business owners often are unprepared for an unexpected expense. 


So, getting something back for spending money sounds like a win, yes? One chief way small business owners can build up their cash reserves is by using credit cards that offer rewards in either cash back or points. These cards allow you to earn incentives when you spend money. For businesses, the rewards can add up quickly and may end up saving your small business some additional money.


Not sure how to get the most out of rewards credit cards? Here are a few tips to guide you:


1. Pick the right credit card

Once you start researching rewards credit cards, you may be shocked by the number of cards and the different options for cash back deals and rewards available. The key is to pick the credit card (or cards) that offer rewards best suited for your business needs, as well as your own. For example, if you’re a frequent flyer, you may want a card that provides the ability to earn miles on your preferred airline’s loyalty program. If you drive a lot, look into credit cards with offers of rebates on gas or other rewards beneficial to your business. The same goes with hotel stays, restaurants, etc.


Some business owners prefer to use cards that offer a broader range of rewards that provide flexibility. For example, since travel slowed due to the pandemic, many cardholders with airline and hotel rewards cards were not able to realize the full benefits of their cards.


In general, there are three types of credit card rewards programs:


Cash back

Cash back generally means the credit card program is designed to offer the ability to redeem earned rewards in the form of cash, such as a deposit to your business checking account, check mailed to your business, or credit card statement credit. There are many flavors of cash reward products, with some providing rewards earned as the actual dollar amount available to redeem, while some earn points that can be redeemed for cash back options.



Credit cards that offer points as rewards generally provide more redemption options, such as travel, merchandise, gift cards, or cash back. If you like the variety of options, be mindful that each redemption option may come with a different value for each point redeemed.



Cobranded airline credit cards typically allow users to earn airline frequent flyer miles on purchases made with the card. While some cards allow you to use the miles without restriction, most mile-reward programs require users to reach a threshold before miles can be used. However, most airline credit card programs provide additional benefits such as free checked bags, or priority boarding, that frequent travelers find appealing beyond earning miles.


2. Understand how rewards work

Before you sign up for a rewards card, it’s important to know what you’re getting back since the amount and type of rewards vary by program.


Flat earn rate

This is the most straightforward program type with a fixed percentage of cash back, points, or miles earned with each purchase you make. For example, if you have a 1.5% flat earn credit card, and you make a $100 purchase you will have earned $1.50 cash back, or 150 points with a points card.


Tiered earn rate

This program type provides you with the ability to earn a different amount of rewards depending on the merchant category per purchase. For example, earn 3% cash back when you buy your gas, and earn 2% when you eat out, and 1% cash back on all other spend. This is a great way to maximize your rewards earn, but keep in mind that most of these programs have annual caps on how much can be earned.


Miles and points

Airline frequent flyer miles and hotel points can accrue in the same fashion, but the difference is that these rewards will fall under the rules of the airline or hotel loyalty program. Every program will have its own award and redemption rules, so make sure to consider your specific goals to maximize your rewards.


Maximize your reward earn potential

Because credit cards are revolving credit, it’s important to pay off as much of the balance as you can every month (preferably all), so the funds are available to use and earn more rewards. Also, check on redemption distribution timetables (or how long the rewards take to be redeemed). For example, cash back rewards are typically immediate, while gift card redemption may take longer.


Many rewards credit cards also offer “signing bonuses” and special reward days when purchases earn extra awards.


3. Read the fine print

There are some things to watch out for in the fine print:


Expiration dates

Some rewards have an expiration date, so be aware of your rewards balance and your redemption options. Also, new deals appear all the time. So, enable notifications on your mobile app to tell you when a new deal appears.


Interest rate

To provide rewards, some cards may charge higher interest rates than non-rewards cards. So, in addition to introductory rate offers, please be mindful of the ongoing interest rates for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances.


Specialty cards 

Credit card companies offer various card options, and not all offer the same rates or rewards. Double-check that you’re signing up for the right card.


Transferable points

Some cards allow you to transfer points to a partner business of theirs, which can be even more rewarding if you’re earning points from that business as well.


4. Look for ways to multiply your rewards

Some banks offer loyalty programs that include benefits and rewards for everyday banking. These can include incentives such as bonus rewards on eligible business credit cards. You may need to qualify in order to take advantage of loyalty programs, but they can be a great way to get rewarded for the business you already do.


Before committing to any rewards card, take a moment to prioritize your business’ needs. How can you best use the rewards you’ll earn? How will you keep track of your rewards, so you can best take advantage of them? The best rewards cards make it simple, fun and interactive to earn and redeem awards that best benefit your business.

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