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Capital One offers five different credit cards in their Spark family of business cards, including two cash back cards which are covered in this review.
These cards are both designed for people with excellent credit:
- Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business: 2% cash back, $95 annual fee (waived the first year)
- Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business: 1.5% cash back, no annual fee, 0% intro APR on purchases for 9 months (with a regular 15.24%–23.24% Variable APR after that)
These are general cash back cards, which means that they don’t have any spending categories to worry about. Instead, they provide the same reward no matter where you shop or what you buy.
The Spark Cash offers a higher cash back rate and also has an annual fee. But if you plan to spend more than $19,000 every year with it, it will be the more rewarding choice out of these two. If you won’t be spending that much per year, the Spark Cash Select will end up providing more cash back.
These cards both report your activity to the business credit bureaus, which means they can help you build up your business credit. This is unlike many other business credit cards.
Should you be using one of these cards to help manage your business spending? Keep reading to find out!
Our Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Why we like these cards
We gave the Spark Cash and Spark Cash Select cards 5 out of 5 Stars. They’re good options for business owners to earn cash back on purchases in general, rather than specific categories.
- They’re cheap to use. The Spark Cash Select has no annual fee, while the Spark Cash is just $95 (waived the first year). And you can offset that fee by spending as little as $4,750 per year with the card.
- You’ll earn a competitive amount of cash back with each card, given their fee structures.
- Both cards have a pretty good signup bonus for spending in the first 3 months.
- These cards are available at the Visa Signature level. That comes with upgraded benefits compared to most cards, like discounts and complimentary services while traveling.
- Capital One provides a decent set of business-related benefits with these cards. That includes spending and account management tools.
- You can get an unlimited number of employee cards at no cost.
- Capital One business cards report activity to three business credit bureaus. So these cards are good options if you want to improve your business’s credit.
Why these cards could be better
- You won’t be earning a ton of cash back with these cards, compared to some other business credit cards.
- There are some valuable perks, but nothing to write home about.
There are many other options for business owners to earn rewards on purchases. Check out some alternatives to the Spark Cash cards below, some of which have bonus reward categories.
Insider Advice: Using These Cards as Part of Your Credit Card Strategy
- Use these cards to earn cash back on every purchase, no matter what you’re buying. You won’t need to be concerned with bonus reward categories, and which card to use where.
- Be sure to get the signup bonus, whichever card you use. You can earn that by spending a certain amount in the first 3 months. The Spark Cash requires $4,500 spent in the first 3 months, which will earn you $500 cash back. The Spark Cash Select requires you to spend $3,000 and will provide $200 cash back.
- You should probably only need one of these cards at a time. We’ve calculated if you spend more than $19,000 per year, the Spark Cash will be more profitable than the Spark Cash Select. Otherwise, consider going with the Spark Cash Select, which will end up providing more cash back.
- If you have the Spark Cash, you should be sure to spend enough with the card to offset the annual fee each year. You’ll need to spend $4,750 per year to make up for that fee.
- If you have the Spark Cash Select, use the 9-month 0% introductory APR offer for purchases. This will let you pay off large business expenses over time at no interest before the regular 15.24%–23.24% Variable APR starts.
- You can earn more cash back more quickly by assigning employee cards to your employees. You’ll earn cash back whenever the cards are used, and you can set individual credit limits to control spending. Employee cards are free.
- These cards are available at the Visa Signature tier, which comes with enhanced benefits compared to basic Visa cards. The tier you get will depend on your credit history and financial situation. Check your Guide to Benefits to see which benefits are available for your card.
- Take note that these are business credit cards, which means they are different from regular personal credit cards in a few important ways. Read all about how business cards are different from consumer credit cards.
- These cards report to business credit bureaus, specifically Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, and Small Business Financial Exchange. This means you can build your business credit with these cards.
- These cards don’t have foreign transaction fees, so they are good options for business trips outside the country. Most cards charge a fee of up to 3% for every purchase made when traveling abroad. And as Visa cards, they’ll be accepted basically everywhere.
The Spark Cash is more rewarding, providing 2% cash back no matter where you shop and the largest signup bonus.
The Spark Cash Select is next, offering 1.5% cash back on every purchase and a smaller signup bonus.
- 2% cash back on all purchases
- $500 cash back for spending $4,500 on purchases in the first 3 months
Spark Cash Select
- 1.5% cash back on all purchases
- $200 cash back for spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
You can earn an unlimited amount of cash back, and it will not expire as long as your account is open.
You may be able to transfer your rewards between Capital One cards. Contact customer support for your card to learn if you can.
You can redeem the cash back you earn as a statement credit to reduce the balance of your account, or you can have it mailed to you in the form of a check. The statement credit is usually the easiest way to redeem.
Capital One provides an automatic redemption system you can set up. This will automatically redeem your cash back at either a set time every year or when it reaches a specified threshold.
There is also the option to redeem your cash back for certain purchases, gift cards, and other expenses. But these methods are subject to change and will not always grant the full value of 1 cent for every 1 cent you’ve earned. So, it’s usually best to just redeem for statement credits.
How to Offset the Annual Fee
The Capital One Spark Cash card comes with an annual fee of $95, which is waived the first year. It would be best to earn enough cash back every year to offset that fee, and then make some profit on top of that. So how much do you need to spend every year to offset the fee?
This card provides 2% cash back, so if you spend $4,750 you’ll earn exactly $95 in cash back. Any rewards you earn after that will be pure profit.
That means you should expect to spend at least $4,750 with this card every year to make sure it remains profitable for you. However, you’ll need to spend more than that to make the Spark Cash card the right choice between the two Spark Cash cards. If you won’t spend very much you should consider the Spark Cash Select, which has no annual fee but only offers 1.5% cash back.
We’ll discuss exactly how much you need to spend to make the Spark Cash card the right choice in the next section.
Which Card is Better for You?
We saw above that you’ll need to spend $4,750 per year to offset the annual fee of the Spark Cash card. But that will only let you break even.
If you spent that much with the Spark Cash Select instead you would earn $71.25 in profit, and that would be a better strategy. Without an annual fee, that amount of spending will provide cash back every year even though you earn at a lower rate.
So how much do you need to spend per year to make the Spark Cash card, at 2% cash back, more rewarding than the Spark Cash Select at 1.5% cash back? Here are some example amounts, along with how much cash back you’ll earn after the annual fee is subtracted.
|Amount Spent Annually||Cash Back Earned (Spark Cash)||Cash Back Earned (Spark Cash Select)|
As you can see, you’ll need to spend $19,000 per year to make the Spark Cash card as profitable as the Spark Cash Select. As you spend more than that, the difference in the cash back you’ll earn grows more and more in favor of the Spark Cash card.
So, if you spend more than $19,000 per year the Spark Cash will provide more cash back and it would be the right choice for you; if you won’t spend that much, the Spark Cash Select will be more rewarding overall even though it offers a lower cash back rate.
Capital One provides a nice set of benefits for each of these cards. They each come with the same benefits.
The benefits you get will depend on your card service level — Visa Platinum (basic) or Visa Signature (upgraded). This will depend on your credit history and financial situation, and it will be determined by Capital One if you’re approved for an account.
The Spark Cash and Spark Cash Select cards will usually come at the Visa Signature level. However, in some cases they may come at Visa Platinum, which has reduced benefits. The following benefits are for Visa Signature business cards from Capital One. Be sure to check your Guide to Benefits to learn exactly which benefits are available with your card.
Reports to Business Credit Bureaus
These cards report your activity to these three business credit bureaus:
- Dun & Bradstreet
- Small Business Financial Exchange
This is a pretty unique feature because most business credit cards, which have the word “business” in their name, don’t actually report your regular activity to either the business credit bureaus or the personal credit bureaus. Instead, they only report to the personal credit bureaus when you perform a negative action, like a late or returned payment.
The Spark cards provide a way to build up your business credit, unlike most other business cards which will only affect your personal credit when you do something negative. This feature makes these cards stand out among business credit cards.
Quarterly and Year-End Summaries
You can get custom, itemized reports of your spending to help simplify accounting and taxes. Includes primary and employee cards.
Downloadable Purchase Records
Download your records any time you’d like in a variety of formats, including Quicken®, QuickBooks™ and Excel®.
Spark Business Customer Service Representatives
Speak with specially trained reps whenever you’d like for help with any questions you have. Call toll-free, 1-800-867-0904.
Free Employee Cards
Get an unlimited number of employee cards to distribute to your employees, and earn rewards every time they use them. You can set individual credit limits for the cards.
24/7 Concierge Service
Call the number on the back of your card for non-emergency help with a variety of tasks, like making travel arrangements, getting tickets to events or reservations at restaurants, and finding hard-to-find gifts.
Get up to 15% off at merchants when you shop through the Visa SavingsEdge shopping portal. You’ll find deals at gas stations, hotel chains, restaurants, office supply merchants, tech websites, and more.
Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection
Frequent travelers should take note of this benefit, because it provides a variety of perks, discounts, and complimentary services at over 900 hotels around the world, including most of the top brands. When staying at these participating resorts and hotels, Visa Signature cardholders will receive the following benefits:
- Best available rate guarantee
- Automatic room upgrade upon arrival, when available
- Complimentary in-room Wi-Fi, when available
- Complimentary continental breakfast daily
- $25 USD food or beverage credit
- VIP Guest status
- 3PM check-out upon request, when available
Fine Wine & Food
Visa Signature cardholders get discounts at over 50 wineries in Sonoma County, California.
The benefits at wineries include:
- Purchase 1 standard tasting using a Visa Signature card and receive 1 complimentary tasting of equal or lesser value
- Preferred pricing on non-wine purchases over $50, where applicable
- Savings on wine purchased same day in the Tasting Room
- Savings on Reserve tasting or special wine and food pairings
A rotating selection of sports-related discounts and benefits.
One example is an invitation to join Troon Rewards, the reward program of the Troon golf course and merchandise company. This will give you a 10% discount on golf fees and merchandise at Troon courses around the world. Current Troon Rewards members can receive an upgrade in status, either to Gold (15% discount) or Platinum (20% discount).
Visa Signature cardholders have access to a rotating selection of discounts and offers at a wide variety of retailers. There is a nice selection to choose from, with both online and offline offers, and it includes many popular brands so it’s worth checking before you make any major purchase.
Some current examples (at the time this was published) include:
- Save $10 on purchases of $50 or more at GNC.com
- Buy a $75.00 Macy’s eGift card & get a $5.00 Macy’s eGift card
- Save 20% on purchases of $200 or more at Cole Haan (online or in-store)
- Buy/renew a 3-month Audible Gold Gift Membership for $45 plus applicable taxes and receive a $5 Amazon.com gift card
- Free Pearl Harbor Tote Bag with purchase of $25 or more at USS Arizona Memorial Museum Store in Hawaii
These cards also come with several perks to help out when shopping. You’ll get Purchase Security to cover your items against theft and damage. And also an Extended Warranty to protect your purchases longer than usual.
Visa Signature-level cards will also get Price Protection, which will reimburse you if you find an item you bought being advertised for a lesser price.
You’ll get some travel protections with these cards, like Travel and Emergency Assistance to help you find emergency services when you need them. And an Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver to lighten the cost of your car rentals.
Visa Signature cardholders will also get the Roadside Dispatch service for on-the-road emergency referrals, like tire changes and towing. Travel Accident Insurance is included as well, which provides coverage on common carriers, and the Lost Luggage Reimbursement service will provide up to $3,000 in reimbursement if your luggage is lost or stolen.
These cards come with a variety of benefits, which could be fairly valuable if you make use of them often enough. If you’d like to read through the benefits for each card, you can see:
The Costs & Fees
|Card||Intro APR for Purchases||Regular APR||Regular Balance Transfer APR||Cash Advance APR|
|Spark Cash||N/A||19.24% Variable||19.24% Variable||25.24% Variable|
|Spark Cash Select||0% for 9 months||15.24%–23.24% Variable||15.24%–23.24% Variable||25.24% Variable|
|Card||Foreign Transaction Fee||Balance Transfer Fee||Cash Advance Fee|
|Spark Cash||None||None||3%, $10 minimum|
|Spark Cash Select||0%||0%||3%, $10 minimum|
|Card||Penalty APR||Late Fee||Returned Payment Fee|
|Spark Cash||31.65% Variable||Up to $39||None|
|Spark Cash Select||31.65% Variable||Up to $38||None|
Here you can see a few differences between the cards.
The Spark Cash has an annual fee, but it’s fairly small and only kicks in after the first year. As we’ve discussed above, you can offset this fee by spending $4,750 with the card per year to earn $95 in cash back.
The Spark Cash Select comes with an intro 0% APR offer, which will apply to purchases for 9 months. If that’s a necessity for you, this will be your only option out of these two cards. This intro rate does not apply to balance transfers, and it may be replaced by the regular rate or the penalty rate if you make a late payment. You may get a regular purchase APR on the lower end or the higher end, depending on your credit and financial history.
Neither of these cards have a foreign transaction fee, making them good choices to bring with you on business trips outside the country. Most other credit cards will charge a fee, usually of 3%. They’re also Visa cards, so they’ll be accepted pretty much everywhere around the world.
|Small Business Credit Card Phone Line||1-800-867-0904|
Capital One’s customer service is fairly good compared to other credit card companies. When we’ve called them, we’ve generally been able to figure out what we needed to know without too much hassle.
We recently called to ask about these Spark Cash cards. We were wondering if they always come at the Visa Signature level, or if they might come at Visa Platinum too.
It took some time to get this answer, but we learned that these cards could come at either the Signature or Platinum level. If these were consumer cards, any accounts with credit limits of $5,000 or above would receive Signature. And any accounts below that would get Platinum.
However, with business cards like these it works differently. There is no set limit at which an account will get Visa Signature. Instead, the specifics of each business card application will be considered to determine which Visa tier it gets.
So there’s no hard and fast answer to this question. But we would guess that most people who are approved will end up with a fairly high credit limit and will get a Visa Signature card. These cards are meant for excellent credit, so anyone who is approved should be in relatively good shape financially.
Whenever we’ve called Capital One, we’ve spoken with friendly representatives who were glad to help. Last year, they came in third in J.D. Power’s annual Credit Card Satisfaction Survey. That seems about right to us. You might spend some time on hold when you call, but that’s not unusual for credit card issuers.
Capital One makes it very easy to navigate their site and find their card offers. Compared to some other card issuers, finding information about their cards is usually quite straightforward.
When you reach a card page you’ll usually be able to see all the important points pretty quickly. And there are plenty of links to get more information. Unlike many other card issuers, Capital One provides a prominent link to the card’s Guide to Benefits.
This is an excellent move on their part, because it gives you a way to see the specific benefits that will come with your card, spelled out with full details. Most other card issuers don’t provide an easy link like this, making it more difficult to figure out exactly what benefits you’ll get with a particular card.
The Bottom Line
The Spark Cash and Spark Cash Select credit cards from Capital One are both options to help you manage your business spending. They have a few small but important differences that could sway you to pick one over the other.
If you’re going back and forth between the Spark cards, consider the main ways that they are similar and different:
|Feature||Spark Cash||Spark Cash Select|
|Introductory Bonus||$500 for spending $4,500 in the first 3 months||$200 for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months|
|Benefits||Full set, including business||Full set, including business|
|Annual Fee||$95 (waived the first year)||None|
|Intro APR||None||9-month 0% APR on purchases (then 15.24%–23.24% Variable APR)|
These cards are different in a few ways, but neither one is necessarily better than the other.
Would you rather earn 2% back and pay an annual fee? Or get 1.5% back and pay no fee? You can offset the annual fee on the Spark Cash by spending $4,750 per year. But remember that you’ll need to spend more than $19,000 per year before the Spark Cash becomes more profitable than the Spark Cash Select. If you won’t spend that much annually, the Spark Cash Select will be the better choice because you’ll end up with more cash back.
Do you want a card with an intro APR for purchases? The additional benefits are the same, so you don’t need to compare them in that category. Take a look at your finances and your spending habits, and think about which one of these cards would bring you the most value.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive business rewards card, there are several others you might be interested in. See some alternatives to the Spark Cash cards below.
How to Apply for the Spark Business Credit Cards
You can apply for one of these Spark Business securely on Capital One’s website, and they’ll check your credit history and your business’s credit history.
The Spark Cash cards are both designed for people with excellent credit.
When you apply, you’ll need to have your basic personal information, along with business information which includes your total annual revenue and your business’s Tax ID Number or Employer ID Number.
They’ll check your credit reports from any of the three major consumer credit bureaus. The approval process can be instant or it may take a few days, and if approved you should get your card within 10 business days.
Alternatives to the Spark Business Credit Cards
- Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card (Review): No annual fee, 0% intro APR for 12 months for purchases (then 15.49%–21.49% Variable), up to 5% cash back on certain purchases
- American Express® Business Gold Card (Review): $295 annual fee, 4X points in the two categories you spend the most in, must be paid in full monthly
- SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express (Review): No annual fee, up to 5% cash back on certain purchases, ability to choose reward categories
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (Review): $125 annual fee, very rewarding for Marriott guests, many valuable hotel and resort benefits
The Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card (Review) has no annual fee and a 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases before the regular 15.49%–21.49% Variable APR starts. The only Spark card to have an intro rate is the Spark Cash Select, and that provides 9 months at 0% APR for purchases only (with a regular 15.24%–23.24% Variable APR after that).
The Ink card is quite rewarding for certain types of business owners:
- 5% cash back on the first $25,000:
- at office supply stores
- on internet, cable, and phone services
- 2% cash back on the first $25,000:
- at gas stations
- at restaurants
- 1% cash back on all other purchases
- Signup bonus: $500 bonus cash back for spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening
You can get employee copies of the Ink card, just like the Spark cards. It also comes with a basic set of shopping and travel protections.
Overall, it has the potential to be quite a rewarding card if you frequently shop at merchants where you’ll get the 5% cash back. There’s no annual fee, so anything you earn is pure profit as long as you avoid interest and penalty fees.
The major difference between the Ink and the Spark cards is that the Spark cards offer general rewards that you’ll get no matter where you shop. The Ink card offers its best rewards in specific categories. A good strategy to maximize rewards could be to combine these cards: use the Ink whenever you’re shopping in the 5% and 2% reward categories, and use a Spark card for every other purchase.
The American Express® Business Gold Card (Review) is more expensive than any of the Spark cards, coming with an annual fee of $295. It’s also different in that it’s a charge card, meaning you’ll have to pay your entire balance in full every month.
If you’re willing to pay that price you’ll get a variety of bonus categories:
|Introductory Bonus Offer|
So if you want a rewards program that adapts to your business as your spending habits change throughout the year, this card might be a great choice for you. You can get up to 1 cent per point with the normal redemption methods, like for flights and gift cards. That means you’ll be earning 4% cash back in the 4X categories, 2% back in the 2X category, etc.
You can also transfer your points to participating frequent traveler programs, a great feature that can potentially make those points very valuable. In some cases you can get 2 cents per point or more, which would give you a cash back equivalent of 8% in the 4X categories. But this will vary depending on the program and what the points are used for (flights, hotel rooms, etc.).
You’ll get a signup bonus of 35,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend $5,000 in your first 3 months as a cardholder. If you assume you’ll get 0.5–2.0 cents per point, that’s a value of $175–$700, and a return on spend of 3.5–14%.
The Business Gold comes with a pair of statement credits that could be very valuable. Cardholders get up to $2,988 in statement credits for ZipRecruiter, which is enough for a ZipRecruiter Standard membership for one year. And they also get up to $204 in credits for G Suite, enough for one year of G Suite Basic with three users. These credits must be used within the first year of card membership.
There are many benefits with this card that could be very valuable, especially for frequent travelers. Cardholders have access to The Hotel Collection by American Express, for example, which provides discounts and credit at hotels when you book eligible stays.
The Business Gold card comes with a comprehensive set of shopping and travel protections, which are comparable to the Visa Signature benefits of the Spark cards. American Express also provides a suite of business benefits through their OPEN program, which help you manage your account and connect with other business owners.
Overall, the Business Gold card is more rewarding than the Spark cards as long as you spend in its reward categories. And the benefits are a step up as well. But you’ll also be paying quite a bit more for it, so you’ll need to check your finances to see if you’ll use the Business Gold card enough to make it worth the fee.
The SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express (Review) comes with no annual fee. It has a nice 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases, followed by a regular rate of 14.49%–21.49% Variable.
The rewards are quite different, however. Instead of offering the same cash back for every purchase, the SimplyCash Plus offers:
- 5% cash back at:
- U.S. office supply stores
- Wireless phone services purchased directly from U.S. providers
- 3% cash back on your choice of 1 category:
- Airfare purchased directly from airlines
- Hotel rooms purchased directly from hotels
- Car rentals from select rental companies
- U.S. gas stations
- U.S. restaurants
- U.S. purchases of advertising in select media
- U.S. purchases of shipping
- Purchases of hardware, software, and cloud computing services from select U.S. providers
- 1% cash back on all other purchases
So as you can see the rewards are very versatile, giving business owners 5% cash back on common office purchases. And the 3% category is customizable to fit the type of spending you’ll do most. There is no signup bonus for this card, so in that area the Spark Cash and Spark Cash Select have it beat.
You’ll get a basic set of shopping and travel protections with this card, along with access to valuable OPEN business benefits provided by American Express. These include a Spend Manager, account alerts, discounts at certain merchants, and a forum to converse with other business owners.
Employee cards are available for free for the SimplyCash Plus, just like the Spark business cards.
The main difference between the Spark cards and the SimplyCash Plus are the rewards. Would you rather earn 5% and 3% cash back at the specific categories mentioned above? Or a set amount of cash back for every purchase you make? To earn the most rewards possible you could use both cards. Use the SimplyCash Plus whenever you’re spending in the reward categories, and the Spark card for every other purchase.
Instead of providing rewards for every purchase or business expenses in particular, it’s meant to be used with hotels and resorts within the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio, which is very broad and includes over 6,700 locations around the world.
This card has an annual fee of $125, and there is no introductory rate on purchases. Balance transfers are not allowed with this card. We found that you can offset the annual fee on this card by simply using your annual Free Night Award at a Marriott Bonvoy property of your choice. So this fee shouldn’t be much of an obstacle for anyone who travels often.
With this card, you’ll earn:
- 6X Bonus points per dollar at Marriott Bonvoy properties
- 4X Bonus points per dollar spent on:
- U.S. restaurants
- U.S. gas stations
- Wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. providers
- U.S. purchases of shipping
- 2X Bonus points per dollar spent on all other purchases
There is also an option to transfer your points to a variety of airline loyalty programs. You’ll even get a 5,000 point bonus whenever you transfer 60,000 points or more.
The Marriott Bonvoy Business card provides a different value for your points depending on how you redeem them. We’ve calculated that you can earn the equivalent of at least 13.6% cash back with this card if you redeem your points for reservations at Marriott Bonvoy properties. That’s probably one of the best cash back equivalents you’re likely to find.
There are many other valuable redemption methods too, like the airline point transfers mentioned earlier, vacation packages, and much more. These are some of the most rewarding offers available with credit cards, and they definitely beat out the reward options with the Spark cards.
There is an incredible number of benefits, perks, and ways to redeem points with this card. They include automatic Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status along with discounts and special offers. And a wide variety of complimentary services, like priority late checkout and free WiFi, whenever you book eligible stays.
The Marriott Bonvoy Business card can potentially be an extremely valuable credit card, but only for travelers who tend to stay at Marriott Bonvoy properties. If that doesn’t sound like you, this card won’t do you much good and you might be better off with one of the Spark cards.
If you are a business owner who travels often, however, a great strategy could be to pair up the Marriott Bonvoy Business card with one of the Spark cards. Just use your Marriott card whenever you stay at a Bonvoy property to get your points. And then use your Spark card everywhere else to earn cash back.
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