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AmEx, MasterCard up their game for business credit cards

by Peter Andrew

It's been a recurring theme in this blog lately: credit card companies are upping their game as they compete for market share, and consumers have benefited through more generous rewards and improved perks. But it's not just consumers who are getting better value from their plastic. Businesses too have often found they can get more from their cards. So it was no surprise on Wednesday when American Express and MasterCard each announced significant enhancements to some of their business credit cards.

American Express: email in the air for free

First up, the American Express® Corporate Platinum Card, which is now offering two perks that could have real value for international travelers, and frequent fliers in general.

One of the worst aspects of flying overseas is coming home. No, not being reunited with the family, but having to join those all-too-often very long queues at passport control. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has now recognized just how irritating these long lines can be, and has introduced Global Entry, a program that allows low-risk, pre-approved Americans to avoid most of these delays via a streamlined process. The bad news: there's a $100 application fee before you can register. The good news: American Express is offering to pick up the tab for those with its Corporate Platinum Card.

Another new perk for holders of that card is free Gogo in-air wi-fi on up to 10 flights a year within the continental U.S.A. You have to buy a Gogo flight pass using your card, but will receive a statement credit for the full cost. The operators of the currently 1,200 airplanes equipped with this service include:

  • Air Canada
  • AirTran Airways
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • US Airways
  • Virgin America Airlines

American Express senior vice president Jaromir Divilek explained in a press release the thinking behind these innovations:

Business travelers have no time to waste. They're on the go 24/7, and are constantly looking for ways to save time and be more efficient. These new benefits will ease their time on the road, and, at the same time, benefit the corporation by encouraging card usage and aiding expense management across the organization.

MasterCard: more affordable hotel accommodation

Meanwhile, those who register their eligible small business credit cards with the MasterCard Easy Savings Hotel Network can automatically save 4 percent on "all hotel folio charges" when they pay with that card at over 7,500 mid-scale and economy hotels across the country. Participating chains include:

  • Days Inn
  • EconoLodge
  • Hampton Inn
  • Hilton Garden Inn
  • Holiday Inn
  • Holiday Inn Express
  • Howard Johnson
  • Hyatt Place
  • Ramada
  • Super 8

These hotel discounts are an extension of the MasterCard Easy Savings Program, which already offers enrolled small businesses various discounts. Two new ones of these are 10 percent off both cloud-based phone systems from Vocalocity, and tax and financial advice from BIDaWIZ. MasterCard Worldwide vice president Eugene DeSilva commented in a press release:

The expansion of our popular Easy Savings program helps MasterCard deliver on our commitment to help small businesses find easy, stress-free ways to maximize the success of their business and get the most out of every dollar. And, the financial institutions and merchants that issue and accept our cards benefit from creating stronger, more rewarding relationships with their customers.

As small business credit card offers go, that sounds a good one.

Published 10/13/11 (Modified 09/05/12)

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