2019 Credit Card Fee Study: Can Your Business Save on Credit Card Fees?

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If you have a business credit card, you will be subject to fees. Annual fees, interest charges and late payment penalties are part and parcel of having a credit card. But understanding business credit card fees and knowing what fees to expect can help you compare cards and find the best fit for your business.

The 2019 U.S. News Business Credit Card Fee Study analyzed fees that applied in January to the 125 business credit cards in the U.S. News card database. The study examined annual fees, interest rates, penalty charges and other fees.

  • Business credit card fees, on average, tend to be higher than consumer card fees.
  • Fees for business travel cards are typically higher than fees for other types of business credit cards.
  • For business credit cards that charge them, annual fees can run as high as $595, but more than 60 percent of business credit cards have no annual fee.
  • On average, the interest rates for business credit cards (15.97 to 23.27 percent) are slightly lower than rates for consumer cards (16.75 to 23.62 percent).
  • If you’re late paying your business credit card, expect a fee of about $39.
  • Business credit cards that waive balance transfer fees are rare; only 2 percent of cards that allow balance transfers forgive these fees.
  • More than 40 percent of business credit cards forgo foreign transaction fees.

“Business credit card fees may be higher than consumer credit card fees,” says Gerri Detweiler, education director for Nav, which helps business owners build credit. “Business owners often spend more, and as a result, they often want premium perks from their cards. Those can come with a price.”

Annual Fees

The highest annual fee in the U.S. News study is $595, though 62 percent have no annual fee. Nearly a quarter, or 23 percent, of cards waive the first-year annual fee.

Some card issuers charge an annual fee for the company account and for each card. For example, you might spend $50 annually on your overall business account and $25 annually for each card linked to it.

In some cases, these fees can be worth paying if your business can use the card rewards and benefits enough to offset the cost. For example, The Business Platinum Card from American Express, which has a $595 annual fee, offers perks that could exceed that amount, including a $200 annual airline fee credit, airline lounge access, hotel elite status and Wi-Fi access with Boingo.

“If you’re someone who travels often enough, who values lounge access and inflight Wi-Fi, paying the annual fee can certainly make sense,” says James Larounis, points and miles expert at travel rewards website UpgradedPoints.com.

Business Card Annual Fees

Type of business credit card Average annual fee for cards that charge one Percentage of cards with no annual fee Percentage of cards that charge an annual fee but waive it the first year
Balance transfer $98.76 76 percent 24 percent
Cash back $127.48 70 percent 27 percent
Low APR Insufficient data* 78 percent Zero percent
Rewards $116.04 59 percent 25 percent
Travel $134.24 26 percent 21 percent
All business cards $118.40 62 percent 23 percent
All consumer cards $109.63 68 percent 13 percent

*There is an insufficient number of low APR credit cards that charge a fee to report an average.

APR

Overall, business credit cards have an average annual percentage rate of 15.97 to 23.27 percent, which is slightly lower than the 16.75 to 23.62 percent average APR for consumer cards. But if you’re looking for the absolute lowest APR, you’re probably not going to find it in a business credit card. Low APR consumer cards have an average minimum APR of 12.06 percent, much lower than the 13.49 percent average minimum APR for low APR business cards. Also, expect a higher minimum APR for business rewards cards than other types of business cards.

Business Card APRs

Type of business card Average minimum APR Average maximum APR
Balance transfer 15.51 percent 23.89 percent
Cash back 15.92 percent 23.92 percent
Low APR 13.49 percent 22.27 percent
Rewards 16.4 percent 23.89 percent
Travel 17.02 percent 23.27 percent
All business cards 15.97 percent 23.27 percent
All consumer cards 16.75 percent 23.62 percent

Late Fees and Penalties

Although federal regulations limit late fees and other penalties for consumer cards, business credit cards do not have the same protections.

Late fees can vary by business credit card type, but you can generally expect to pay up to $39. Be aware that any interest savings on your low APR business card can be quickly eaten up by an above-average late fee of $43.11. None of the business credit cards in the U.S. News study waive late fees, although some consumer credit cards do.

Returned payment fees are typically about $35 for business credit cards. Keep in mind that if a returned payment delays your card payment enough to make it late, you will also be charged a late fee.

Penalty APRs, charged when payments are late, can be harsh for business credit cards. Consumer cards have an average penalty APR of 27.54 percent, but you could pay at least a 29 percent penalty APR with a business credit card.

The higher rate is not necessarily what makes penalty APRs tougher for business credit cards. It’s that business and consumer cards are not held to the same standard for when they can charge penalty rates.

By law, consumer cards can’t charge a penalty APR until you’re at least 60 days late with your payment. But the rules for business credit cards vary depending on the issuer or card, and you could trigger the penalty APR with a single missed or returned payment. And a penalty APR could remain on your business card account indefinitely, unlike a consumer card.

Business Card Penalty Fees

Type of business card Average maximum late fee Average maximum returned payment fee Average penalty APR
Balance transfer $38.97 $34.72 29.37 percent
Cash back $38.56 $34.95 29.21 percent
Low APR $43.11 $36.67 29.49 percent
Rewards $38.79 $35.61 29.26 percent
Travel $39.68 $36.70 29.59 percent
All business cards $39 $35 29.13 percent
All consumer cards $36.34 $34.01 27.54 percent

Balance Transfer Fees

If you need to transfer a balance to a business credit card, you may be able to take advantage of a zero percent introductory APR offer. Doing so can save on interest, but expect to pay a balance transfer fee because 98 percent of business credit cards charge it. Usually, business card balance transfer fees are 3 percent of the amount you transfer, or a minimum fee of $5 to $10 per transfer.

Business Cards That Charge Balance Transfer Fees, by Percentage

Business cards with no balance transfer fee Business cards with a waived balance transfer fee during an introductory period Business cards that charge a 3 percent balance transfer fee Business cards that charge a 4 percent balance transfer fee Business cards that charge a 5 percent balance transfer fee
2 percent Zero percent 78 percent 16 percent 4 percent

Cash Advance Fees

A cash advance fee usually applies when you use your credit card to take out cash. That includes withdrawing cash at an ATM or using a convenience check from your credit card company. Some business credit cards waive cash advance fees, but most charge 2 to 4 percent of the amount you withdraw, or a minimum fee of $5 to $10.

Business Card Cash Advance Fees, by Percentage

Business cards with no cash advance fee Business cards that charge a 2 to 4 percent cash advance fee Business cards that charge a 5 percent cash advance fee
3 percent 81 percent 17 percent

Foreign Transaction Fees

Using your business credit card to make a purchase in a foreign currency may require a fee. Although 41 percent of business credit cards don’t charge a foreign transaction fee, many do. The fee is usually less than 2.7 percent of the transaction, with a minimum charge of $5 to $10.

“Small-business owners can easily avoid foreign transaction fees by using a card that doesn’t charge them,” Detweiler says. “That may mean using specific cards for specific purchases, but since this is an easily avoidable fee, it’s worth paying attention to.”

Business Card Foreign Transaction Fees, by Percentage

Business cards with no foreign transaction fee Business cards with a foreign transaction fee of 0.8 to 2.7 percent Business cards with a 3 percent foreign transaction fee
41 percent 42 percent 17 percent

Business Card Types With the Highest Fees

Business travel credit cards clearly have the highest fees and interest rates among business credit cards, including the highest average annual fee, minimum APR, returned payment fee and penalty APR. However, business travel credit cards may offer valuable rewards and perks that can offset these added costs.

Business Credit Card Fees

Balance transfer Cash back Low APR Rewards Travel All business cards Consumer cards
Average annual fee for cards that charge one $98.76 $127.48 Insufficient data* $116.04 $134.24 $118.40 $35.23
Average minimum APR 15.51 percent 15.92 percent 13.49 percent 16.4 percent 17.02 percent 15.97 percent 16.75 percent
Average  late fee $38.97 $38.56 $43.11 $38.79 $39.68 $39 $36.34
Average  returned payment fee $34.72 $34.95 $36.67 $35.61 $36.70 $35 $34.01
Average  penalty APR 29.37 percent 29.21 percent 29.49 percent 29.26 percent 29.59 percent 29.13 percent 27.54 percent

*There is an insufficient number of low APR credit cards that charge a fee to report an average.

Strategies for Business Credit Card Fees

No one likes spending on credit card fees, but sometimes it’s necessary. For example, a balance transfer fee could pay off if the transfer offers interest savings. And some of the best business credit cards require annual fees. If you avoid cards with annual fees, you might miss out not only on spending power for your business but also on good value in rewards and benefits.

But if you’re not careful, your business can pay more fees than necessary. Use these strategies to minimize your business credit card fees and maximize the value of rewards and benefits:

  • Determine whether card benefits outweigh costs.
  • Understand your card’s fees.
  • Negotiate with your credit card issuer.
  • Consider using more than one business credit card.
  • Pay your bill on time and in full.

Determine whether card benefits outweigh costs. A card that offers excellent perks could make paying fees worth it, but only if you’ll take advantage of them.

“I recommend taking all the benefits of the card, listing them out and checking off which ones you feel you use and which ones you don’t use,” Larounis says. Assign each benefit a price value, and compare that against fees you expect to pay.

Understand your card’s fees. You might expect interest charges or late fees, but other fees could come as a surprise if you’re not familiar with the terms of your credit card. For example, if you don’t realize that your card charges a foreign transaction fee, you might make the mistake of using it on an international trip.

“Read the fine print when you sign up for the card, and review any change of terms notices your card issuers send you so you know what fees can be charged,” Detweiler says.

Reading the full agreement is best, but if you just want the highlights, look for the card’s information box in the online agreement or on the insert delivered with your card. The box details important fees, including any applicable annual fee, transaction fees and penalty fees, as well as the APR.

Negotiate with your credit card issuer. You agree to terms when you sign up for your credit card. Your credit card issuer doesn’t have to improve those terms if you ask, but sometimes the issuer does, especially if you could take advantage of competing offers.

Detweiler recommends reviewing the value of each card yearly to see whether you might be better off with a different one. If you find a superior offer, talk to your issuer. The card issuer might be willing to improve your terms to keep your business.

Larounis encourages cardholders to call issuers annually to ask for more value from their credit cards. Specifically, ask the card issuer to waive or reduce the annual fee, or to provide a retention bonus in exchange for the fee.

Consider using more than one business credit card. A single credit card may not meet all your business needs. For example, one card could offer a low APR but charge a foreign transaction fee, while another might have a higher APR but provide travel perks, including a foreign transaction fee waiver or airport lounge access. You could use the low APR card for business expenses you need to pay off over time to save on interest and the travel card for business trips to use the perks and avoid the foreign transaction fee.

Pay your bill on time and in full. When you pay your bill in full each statement period, you aren’t subject to interest chars. And when you successfully pay your bill on time, even if you only pay the minimum, you can avoid penalty fees and interest, including a late fee, a returned payment fee and a penalty APR.



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