Last 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.