Maximizing Miles & Points Earnings for Online Marketing

If you’re familiar with blogs like The Points Guy or forums like Flyertalk, points & miles are likely not news to you, but if you’re not a forum geek like myself, you might need a refresher. If you’re advertising online (or running a business in general) you want to get the most out of every dollar you invest. Points & miles are a great way to boost your ROI a little bit, but they really are just a little bit more exciting than the cents per point (at least, they are for me!).

I periodically get questions about what card is best to use, and really the answer depends on your needs. For Adwords and Facebook spend, I generally recommend the Amex Business Gold Card. For advertisers funding traffic sources with large single purchases, the Amex Business Platinum card offers 1.5x points per dollar on purchases over $5000. Chase offers 2 business cards with great bonus rewards on office supplies, internet and phone service and even shipping.

So let’s get into the pros and cons of the cards. All of these cards offer 1 point per dollar on “regular” spend. I don’t go much into the benefits of the cards other than bonuses on spending, but most of these cards offer lots of other benefits (airport lounges, free wifi, private concierges, global entry fee credits, etc.).

American Express Business Gold Rewards Card – The Gold card currently has an increased signup bonus offering 75,000 membership rewards points after $10,000 of spend, which is a good offer, but I’ve heard that there have been better offers in the past. That said, the Gold card offers 3x points on one of 5 categories (travel, advertising, gas stations, shipping or select technology) up to $100,000 per year, however you do have to select one category per year. If you advertise with Google Adwords or Facebook [or work with me — my credit card charges code as advertising 🙂 ] you can pick up a little bit of extra ROI. You’d have to spend ~$8300/month on advertising (or in another category) to maximize this benefit, but I value Amex points at least at 2 cents per point, so you’d get at least $6000 in value from your bonus points.

I recommend keeping the Business Gold rewards card if you spend more than $15,000 per year on advertising. I’m a big fan of American Express, and I find their points to be incredibly versatile. The Gold card also has a relatively low fee, and it’s waived for the first year.

American Express Business Platinum Card – The Platinum card has a 100,000 membership rewards points signup bonus until January 25th of 2017, so this now is a great time to sign up. Remember that Amex bonuses can be once per lifetime, but this is definitely one of the best public signup bonuses for this card. On top of that, you’ll get 1.5x membership rewards points on purchases over $5000 (great for funding advertising sources), and you’ll get a 50% refund of your points on pay-with-points purchases from Amex travel. There are so many cheap business and first class fares available now, that it can actually end up being cheaper to use this option over a standard award redemption.

I should also point out that the personal Platinum card has most of the same benefits, but with a slightly different points earning scheme. Instead of having a refund on pay with points and 1.5x earning on purchases over $5000, the personal card offers 5x points on airfare booked with airlines or Amex. It also offers a $200 airline fee credit, and if you can get some value out of the 5x points on airfare, these two cards can be very complimentary.

I recommend keeping the Business Platinum card around for purchases over $5000, for the $200 airline fee credit and 50% points refund. After valuing in the airline credit, the $450 membership fee comes down to $250/year, and it’s pretty easy to get $250 of value out of the points refund feature.

American Express Starwood Business Card – The signup bonus on SPG cards have been lowered recently, so I don’t necessarily recommend applying for this card at the time of writing, but it’s a great card nonetheless. You’ll earn 2 SPG points per dollar on Starwood and Marriott stays (The Starwood-Marriott merger made it the biggest hotel chain in the world, so it’s pretty easy to find a property almost anywhere you go) and 1 point per dollar on everything else. I value SPG points at a base value of 2.5 cents, but I find you can easily get 6 to 15 cents per point in value when transferring points to airline partners (I booked a business class ticket from Asia to Europe last night for 34,000 SPG points!)

For 34,000 SPG points transferred to Alaska Airlines, I got a value of more than 25 cents per point on my Cathay Business class ticket!
For 34,000 SPG points transferred to Alaska Airlines, I got a value of more than 25 cents per point on my Cathay Business class ticket from Hong Kong to Amsterdam next March!

I keep the SPG business card (and the personal version) around for daily spend and for the elite status qualifying nights it offers. The bonus categories on the SPG cards obviously aren’t great, but you can get such incredible values from the points that I think it makes sense to try and put any non-bonus spend on these cards. The card does have a $95/year fee, but that’s waived for the first year.

** NOTE: Personally, I find flying Cathay Pacific to be very convenient for getting to most of the places I want to go, and they have a great business class product. Therefor, I’m a pretty big proponent of the SPG cards. The most important thing in points & miles, however, is finding a system that works for how you want to travel. Where you live and how many people you are planning to travel with greatly impacts what types of points you will need to accumulate. **

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card – Chase has been hot lately with the release of their new Sapphire Reserve card, but they’ve also beefed up their business card offerings. The Ink Business Preferred card currently has an 80,000 point bonus after $5000 of spend on the card. Offering 3x points per dollar on travel, shipping, internet/phone and advertising on the first $150,000 of spend per year, Chase is pretty clearly one-upping American Express. The catch with the advertising is that it’s specifically for social media sites and search engines, but Chase still comes out ahead of Amex by allowing card holders to earn points in all 4 categories instead of just one per year.

Chase has tons of great airline transfer partners, though they do appear to be focused more on the personal card side of the business. The other problem a lot of “churners” have with Chase is the 5/24 rule which effectively prevents anyone who has opened 5 new cards in the last 24 months from being approved for a Chase credit card. There are reports of people getting around this periodically, but Chase is generally considered one of the more strict card issuers.

I’d definitely recommend the Chase Ink Business Preferred Card to anyone spending money for their practice (everyone has a phone and internet bill). If you’re not sure how much you’re going to spend on advertising (less than $8000/month, I would say) this card is probably a better pick than the Amex Gold Business card. The fee is also $95/year, so I can count at least 3 big ways this beats the Amex Gold Business card. Kudos, Chase.

Chase Ink Business Cash Card – In general I am not a huge fan of cash back cards (there is an exception to this — more in a moment). It’s hard to get more than 2% in value out of them, and they aren’t very exciting. I do understand why people like them, and I have a few of them myself. While I don’t have the Chase Ink Cash card (I’m unfortunately quite far past 5/24), it’s definitely worth mentioning. It currently has a $300 cash signup bonus which isn’t anything remarkable, but it earns 5% cash back on a number of office expenses up to $25,00o per year, and 2% on gas stations and restaurants up to $25,000. And on top of all that, there’s no annual fee.

Like, I said, I’m not generally a huge fan of cash back cards (I love to travel and I enjoy planning travel), but this is a great deal. 5% cash back is as good if not better than what you can generally get on an award redemption (sure, there are awards like the one I posted above, but largely they’re not that great). Because there’s no annual fee, you don’t have to “recover” any value, so if you’re going to spend the money in the card’s bonus categories anyways, I’d give this a thumbs up.

Capital One Spark  Cash Back Rewards Card – Again, I don’t use cash back cards too often anymore, but admittedly I do keep the Spark Cash Back card handy. It’s currently got a $500 cash bonus, and the $95 annual fee is waived the first year. It offers 2% cash back, and it’s incredibly straight forward. You can pay off part of your statement with cash back, and it processes very quickly. But the biggest thing for me is Capital One’s customer service. Perhaps I’m getting lucky, but I always find their system and agents to be quick and knowledgable, which is something I value highly (I really waiting on the phone).

It doesn’t offer the value that some of the cards above offer, but I don’t think simplicity is something to be overlooked. Not everyone has time for the fuss of points & miles. This card is great if you’re just looking for a reliable card that gives you easy to redeem cash back.

This is by no means a comprehensive review of the cards out there, but if you’re looking to boost your ROI on your business spend, these will get you on the right track.

If you’re interested in how I book my travel or where to start with spending money on advertising, shoot me an email at toby (at)

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