Ink Bold vs. AmEx Gold Card: Who Wins?

by Lynn B. Johnson on October 9, 2009

Ink Bold Charge CardLast week, banking powerhouse JP Morgan Chase launched a charge card for small businesses. This is the first charge card to be offered by any major Visa/MasterCard issuer, as American Express locked up that marketplace a long time ago.

The new business charge card is called Ink Bold, and, as with any charge card, monthly balances must be paid in full each billing period. Ink Bold most closely resembles the Gold Card from American Express OPEN. Let’s compare some typical features:

Annual Fee: Ink Bold is fee-free your first year, and $95/year thereafter. After a free first year with your Gold Card, it will cost you $125 each year after that. Advantage: Ink Bold.

Earning Points: Both cards let you earn 1 point for every $1 spent, have no expiration date on their points and no limit on the number of points you can earn. In addition, the Ink Bold allots additional points for certain purchases, like qualifying airplane tickets or Ultimate Rewards Mall items. The Gold Card also offers point-earning incentives when you shop with their partners. Advantage: Ink Bold.

Bonus Points: Ink Bold has a tiered reward program. Although Chase promises that you can earn an additional 47,500 bonus points each year, these points are tiered and you won’t receive your final 25,000 points until you’ve spent $100,000 within 12 months. Once you’ve spent $50,000 on your Ink Bold card, you have earned a total of 22,500 bonus points. The Gold Card offers 25,000 bonus points if you spend $50,000 each year. Advantage: American Express, unless you are planning to spend more than $100K per year on your charge card.

Point Redemption: Ink Bold rather murkily promises that “you can redeem points or rebates to apply to purchase(s) made within 60 days of the redemption date.” Basically, 2,500 points is equivalent to $25 off your statement, with 100 points = $1 after that. This is one clear place where they beat American Express. With the Gold Card, you can redeem your points for travel, gift cards, merchandise, and more, but you can’t use the points to pay your bill or directly convert your points into cash (unless, say, you listed your AmEx gift card on Craigslist, but who wants to go to that level of bother?). Advantage: Ink Bold.

Other Benefits: Ink Bold provides certain travel/protection/security benefits as outlined in the Guide to Benefits, plus flexible spending and zero-liability protection (not applicable to ATM/PIN transactions). AmEx does appear to have it over Ink Bold given their access to exclusive events and discount shopping; OPEN lets cardholders save up to 25% on business expenses at partners including FedEx, Delta, Hertz, and more. Advantage: American Express.

Customer Satisfaction: American Express topped the recent J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Credit Card Satisfaction Survey for the third consecutive year  – achieving 100% for Customer Interaction, AND Problem Resolution. Chase earned a dismal seventh place in the survey, earning only 3/5 points for each category. Advantage: American Express.

Ultimately, though Ink Bold may have a few better options than the Gold Card, Chase is going to need to significantly improve the benefits and services before Ink Bold can compete with American Express at the world-class level. It will be interesting to see whether JP Morgan Chase expands Ink Bold to an umbrella charge-card brand, as American Express has done so successfully.

Disclosure: Some links point to CardHub.com, which is owned by the same parent company as this blog.

Discussion

Mark
I for one, got a Ink Bold card because of the issue of acceptance. The vast majority of my vendors only take Visa/Mastercard.
March 28 at 22:10 pm
Jason
I recently gave them a try to replace my American Express Platinum Business Card. What a terrible mistake. They gave me a card with a $1,800 credit limit but did not tell me there was a limit at all. I experienced 2 embarrassing declines before calling. Their customer service is a joke. Don't waste your time with this card.
November 24 at 15:57 pm
eric
We switched from AMEX to Bold. Chase has been a great card. Bold does have a pre-defined limit despite what they advertise. I work for a mid-market company and I know our accounting department had to work with Chase to get an appropriate size line (over $100k spend monthly). Slightly annoying but Chase does not break out cardholder statements like AMEX. You have to run an expense report.
November 16 at 20:26 pm
Hyde
I know what you're saying Tom. That was my exact experience. I lost over $70k in credit with that Chase review. It wasn't because of my credit score or business credit record. Actually, I don't even think it had that much to do with just approving the INK Bold. I think it was an opportunity for them to lower their risk exposure which they and BofA are doing extensively these days. I had a business card with Chase already with a high credit line. We'll see if the Bold was worth getting after all.
November 2 at 15:46 pm
Hyde
Continuing previous post. In fact I was on the phone with a Chase Business Card Credit Analyst going over both my business and personal finances in some detail. They actually lowered a couple of credit lines I had on personal cards with them before they would approve the INK Bold. Has anyone else applied for this card, and if so, did you have to go thru an arduous financial inquisition to be approved? Or has anyone applied for and not been approved for any reason?
October 28 at 16:33 pm
Tom
I had a similar experience. I have the AMEX Gold card and awesome credit. However, chase put me through the ringer when speaking to a Credit Analyst AND lowered my credit line on a different card from chase. However, I'm hoping it will be worth it! Should be receiving the Ink Bold card any day now.
October 30 at 23:59 pm
Hyde
The INK Bold Business card is very much just for small business owners of most any size short of what they would categorize as "Corporate" clients. This card, with an open-ended credit line, just helps you keep your expenses separate from personal. Also, the business card charges won't show up on your personal credit files, so it won't look like you have a lot of personal debt when a bureau is pulled. I went ahead and got the INK Bold. It wasn't as easy as the less than 60 second AMEX approval.
October 28 at 16:26 pm
Odysseas Papadimitriou
I am really surprised to hear that "the business card charges won't show up on your personal credit files" -- are you sure about that?

You might want to pull a credit report and confirm it.
October 30 at 06:55 am
Hyde
I've done so, and none of my business cards are on any of the 3 personal credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion). It's got its pros and cons in not showing up. One pro is lower debt to credit limit ratio. A con is your large purchases and good payment history don't help you because they aren't seen by anyone.
November 2 at 15:52 pm
Tom
I don't know about the Ink Bold Card - but I do know that the Business Amex Gold Card doesn't report on my personal credit report.
October 31 at 00:01 am
Lennyontheblock
These comments all seem very consumer-focused. What does this card do that makes it appropriate for a small business? Is it just a way to avoid CardAct compliance because small business cards are exempt from teh new regs? And, if it actually is a busines offering, would it ever be appropriate for middle market companies or is it strictly a sole-proprietor kind of play?
October 22 at 12:39 pm
Odysseas Papadimitriou
Small Business credit cards are not exempt of CardACT in any way. Also they are appropriate for any type of company that needs less than 10-20 employees to have a credit card. Beyond that you might want to consider a corporate card.
October 30 at 06:59 am
Lynn B. Johnson
Blueangel, I called AmEx and the service rep I spoke with specifically told me that you cannot use AmEx points to pay your statement. A crack in their famous customer service, perhaps?
October 22 at 11:25 am
Hyde
However, I do believe, Lynn, that you CAN pay your Gold, Platinum or Centurion annual membership fee with Membership Miles that you have accrued. I believe I did see that as an option in the Miles (points) catalog they sent me showing some of the things you can buy with your miles.
November 2 at 16:00 pm
Blueangel
I am a loyal Amex cardholder, to touch on a couple of things, I just found out that they are accepted at 93% of major vendors, and they have this website http://amexb2b.us.disk11.com/open/us/en/Search.do?us_nu=dd it helps you find a vendor that accepts Amex in case you are looking for an specific product and the one you usually go to doesn't take it.
Second thing is, AMEX lets you redeem points for a statement credit, at exactly the same ratio than Chase so that was an error on the article.
October 21 at 20:13 pm
Dwayne
I want to know which airport lounges are used by ink holders
October 20 at 22:52 pm
Hyde
I will also agree with the above commentators that AMEX has excellent, reliable customer service in pretty much every service area I have dealt with. They always act professionally, and reps seem to be well trained. I can't say that for Chase. I've had Chase cards for 7 yrs & AMEX cards for 14 yrs, so I'm familiar with both. Still, I have to say that wider card acceptance is well worth thinking over. No V/MC issuer matches AMEX for service, but I have a backup VISA/MC for those not taking AMEX.
October 17 at 16:48 pm
Hanoch
I agree with Manos. I've been an Amex customer for about 10 years and can't think of a better company to deal with. As noted by Hyde, I have had some experience with certain merchants not taking Amex, but I find that to be a rare occurrence.
October 12 at 17:24 pm
Lynn B. Johnson
Good point, Hyde. And Manos, I do think that the AmEX customer service is indeed the heaviest hitter here.
October 10 at 08:18 am
sonny
I have had the american express since 02 I decided to use the card to pay vendors to get the points.I have 2 companys both doing good and have perfect history with american express. When I did they suspended the card without notice and wanted company and personal tax returns and reduced my line of credit to 100k and it took 2 weeks to review. I got the chase card because american express left me in a bad situation with people in transit and no credit cards and no they did not work with me .
July 14 at 23:25 pm
Hyde
There is one huge category that was overlooked in this comparison, and that is number of merchants who accept the card for payment. Ink Bold is a VISA card which is accepted at twice as many places as AMEX cards are. Basically if a merchant takes cards, then they take VISA. That is not the universal rule even on most business expenses, especially in this economy. I've seen merchants drop AMEX because of their higher merchant fees just in the last year. Advantage: Ink Bold with extra credit.
October 9 at 16:34 pm
Manos
The American Express customer service is no match for Chase. Good luck trying to compete with that level of service!
October 9 at 11:05 am

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