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Small Business

New Credit-Card Options for Small-Business Owners

Chase and others help broaden out a crimped lending field.

A couple of months ago, we noted that the pickings were slim for small-business credit cards (see “Credit Cards With a Head for Business.” ) But the competition for small-business owners’ business has heated up with the recent introduction of Ink cards from Chase. Here’s a first look at what the new cards have to offer, plus a couple of other cards we like.

Chase offers four Ink rebate cards: Ink, Ink Plus, Ink Cash and Ink Bold. Ink and Ink Plus are similar rewards-points cards; with Ink Plus, you can also earn bonus rewards. The no-fee Ink Cash card is strictly cash back; the no-interest Ink Bold is meant for business owners who pay in full each month. All four cards offer online expense-management tools and higher spending limits than comparable consumer-oriented cards. Employers may request additional free cards with specified spending limits for their employees, which can help control costs.

With Ink, Ink Plus and Ink Cash, you may maintain a revolving balance. Plus, the cards offer Chase’s new Blueprint feature, which allows cardholders to specify what portion of the balance they plan to pay in full and avoid interest charges on those purchases.

After a six-month 0% introductory rate, interest on the no-fee Ink card jumps to an annual rate of 9.24% to 15.24%, depending on your credit history. Ink Plus’s interest rate is 13.24%; the $60 annual fee is waived for the first year. When you use the Ink Cash card -- the interest rate ranges from 10.24% to 16.24% -- you earn 3% for dining, fuel, home-improvement and office-supply purchases (up to $2,000, after which you earn 1%) and 1% for all other purchases. Cardholders earn one point for each dollar spent -- and bonus points when they reach specific spending thresholds -- that they may redeem for gift cards, hotel stays, airline tickets or cash, or that they may have credited back to their account.

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Ink Bold customers also earn points and bonus points that may be redeemed for perks or used to credit their account. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year.

The Ink rewards and cash-back rebates are not as generous as those of American Express’s SimplyCash Business Card, which offers unlimited rebates and an interest rate as low as 7.24% when the 0% teaser rate expires. But the Chase cards should gain acceptance because they’re Visa cards, which are more widely accepted than Amex. The fact that rewards points never expire (unlike with the Citi and Bank of America cards below) is also a plus.

Ink Bold is designed to compete with a similar Amex card, the American Express Plum Card, which offers a 1.5% credit on your next monthly statement if you pay within ten days of receiving your bill. At $185, the Plum Card’s annual fee is twice that of Ink Bold’s. You need to weigh the fee versus the value of the rewards to decide which is best for you.

To learn more about all the Chase Ink cards, go to www.chase.com/ink, or call 800-891-0259.

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Other Options

We also like the no-fee Citi Professional Cash Card (www.citicards.com; 888-382-7759), which offers a 3% rebate for each dollar spent at restaurants, gas stations, car-rental agencies and participating office suppliers for a year, and 1% thereafter. All other purchases earn 1% per dollar spent. The 0% introductory rate lasts six months, then jumps to 12.24%. You can accumulate up to $500 in rebates, except for purchases made through the Citi Bonus Cash Center, which have no cap and earn an additional 5% rebate.

You also earn a 3% rebate for many purchases when you use the Bank of America Cash Rewards for Business Visa Card (www.bankofamerica.com/smallbusiness), but the categories are different; they include office supplies, gas and the costs of computer networking, such as a Web host or an ISP. All other spending earns 1%, and there is no cap on your rebate. After the nine-month introductory period, the interest rate on this no-fee card ranges from 5.99% to 15.99%, depending on your credit history. Office-based businesses with heavy computer use will benefit most from this card. Rewards for both the Citi and Bank of America cards expire after three years.