Review: Capital One Spark Cash vs Spark Cash Select

Contents

Capital One offers five different credit cards in its 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 2% Cash Plus for Business: 2% cash back, $95 annual fee (waived the first year)
  • Capital One Spark 1.5% Cash Select for Business: 1.5% cash back, no annual fee

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. If you plan to spend more than $19,000 every year with it, it will be the more rewarding choice out of the two. If you won’t be spending that much per year, the Spark Cash Select will end up providing more cash back (not counting any welcome bonuses, which you’ll find for both of these cards).

These cards both report your activity to the business credit bureaus, which means they can help you build up your business credit. Many other business credit cards won’t do that.

Should you be using one of these cards to help manage your business spending? Keep reading to find out!

Capital One Spark Cash for Business: Rewards

  • Earn a one-time $500 cash bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 2% cash back for your business on every purchase, everywhere, no limits or category restrictions
  • Purchase above your credit limit with no hassle and no over-limit fees
  • $0 annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
  • Free employee cards, which also earn unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases
  • $0 Fraud Liability if your card is lost or stolen
  • Rewards won’t expire for the life of the account. You can redeem your cash back for any amount
  • No foreign transaction fees

Capital One Spark 1.5% Cash Select for Business: Rewards

  • Earn a $500 bonus when you spend $4,500 in the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back for your business on every purchase, everywhere – with no limits or category restrictions
  • No annual fee
  • Rewards won’t expire for the life of the account
  • Redeem your cash back rewards for any amount
  • Free employee cards that also earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is lost or stolen
  • No foreign transaction fees

Our Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars

Why we like them

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 welcome bonus for spending in the first year.
  • 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.

How they could be better

  • You won’t be earning a ton of cash back with these cards, compared to some other business credit cards.
  • Both cards have some valuable perks, but nothing to write home about.

The cards offer business owners many other options for earning rewards on purchases. Check out some alternatives to the Spark Cash cards below, some of which have bonus reward categories.

Insider Advice: Getting the Most Out of These Cards

  • 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 or which card to use where.
  • Be sure to get the welcome bonus for whichever card you use. You can earn that by spending a certain amount in the first 3 months (see the Rewards section below).
  • 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. 
  • If you spend less than that, consider going with the Spark Cash Select.
  • If you have the Spark Cash, you’ll need to spend $4,750 per year to make up for the annual fee. 
  • 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 don’t have foreign transaction fees, so they are good options for business trips outside the country. Most cards charge a fee up to 3% for every purchase made when traveling abroad.

In general, Capital One business credit cards will report to both business and personal credit bureaus, with those business bureaus being Dun & Bradstreet, Experian and Small Business Financial Exchange. This is not like most business cards. They usually only report positive activity to business bureaus and negative activity to consumer bureaus. 

So, be aware that your business spending could drive up your credit utilization, which could hurt your credit scores. However, the Spark Cash for Business will not report any activity to the personal credit bureaus, as long as the account remains in good standing.

The Rewards

  • The Spark Cash is more rewarding, offering the largest welcome bonus and providing 2% cash back no matter where you shop.
  • The Spark Cash Select is next, giving you 1.5% cash back on every purchase and a smaller welcome bonus.

You can earn an unlimited amount of cash back. The cash back won’t 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.

Redeeming

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 that you can set up yourself. The system automatically redeems your cash back at either a set time every year or when it reaches a specified threshold.

Another available option is 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? We’ve rounded up some example amounts, along with how much cash back you’ll earn after the annual fee is subtracted.

Amount Spent AnnuallyCash Back Earned (Spark Cash)Cash Back Earned (Spark Cash Select)
$2,500-$45$37.50
$4,750$0$71.25
$10,000$105$150
$15,000$205$225
$19,000$285$285
$20,000$305$300
$25,000$405$375
$30,000$505$450
$40,000$705$600

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, the verdict (drumroll please):

  • If you spend more than $19,000 per year the Spark Cash will provide more cash back and 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.

The Benefits

Capital One provides the same benefits for each card.

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.

Purchase security

Eligible purchases are covered for up to $10,000 against damage and theft. This is limited to $50,000 in coverage per cardholder.

Extended warranty protection

You can double eligible manufacturer’s warranties of three years or less, up to one additional year.

Price protection

If you find an eligible item you bought being advertised for less than you paid within 60 days, you can be reimbursed up to $500 per item, up to $2,500 per year.

Travel and emergency assistance services

Get access to an emergency message service, medical and legal referrals, emergency transportation, a lost luggage locator service and more.

Roadside dispatch

Call 1-800-847-2869 for help if you get stuck on the road. They provide assistance for flat tires, dead batteries, towing, jump starts and whatever else you may need. Third-party fees will apply.

Lost luggage reimbursement

Get reimbursed up to $3,000 per eligible trip if a common carrier loses your bags. Benefit limited to $2,000 per bag for NY residents.

Travel accident insurance

Cardholders are insured up to $250,000 against accidental loss of life, limb, sight, speech or hearing when traveling by common carrier. The ticket must be entirely paid for with the card.

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.

Neither of these cards has 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 both Visa cards, so they’ll be accepted pretty much everywhere around the world.

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:

FeatureSpark CashSpark Cash Select
Cash Back2%1.5%
BenefitsFull set, including businessFull set, including business
Annual Fee$0 intro for first year; $95 after that$0

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.

Consider the introductory bonuses of these cards as well, which could prove to be quite lucrative.

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. While you’re doing that,  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 in a later section.

Or, if your credit isn’t that great, check out the Capital One Spark Classic for Business. It’s designed for average credit and offers 1% cash back for every purchase.

How to Apply for the Spark Business Credit Cards

You can apply for one of these Spark Business credit cards securely on Capital One’s website. 

When you apply, you’ll need to have your basic personal information, along with business information, including your total annual revenue and your business Tax ID Number or Employer ID Number.

They’ll check your credit reports from any of the three major consumer credit bureaus. The Spark Cash cards are both designed for people with excellent credit. 

The approval process can be instant or it may take a few days. If approved, you should get your card within 10 business days.

Alternatives to the Spark Business Credit Cards

Ink Business Cash® Credit Card

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 – you can do that by paying your bills in full and on time, every time.

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.

American Express® Business Gold Card

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.).

This card comes with many benefits 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 benefits of the Spark cards. American Express also provides a suite of business benefits through their OPEN program. The benefits 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.

Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card

The Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® 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. They definitely beat out the reward options with the Spark cards.

This card has an incredible number of benefits, perks and ways to redeem points. They include automatic Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status along with discounts and special offers. Add in a wide variety of complimentary services, like priority late checkout and free WiFi, whenever you book eligible stays.

The Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® 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, a great strategy could be to pair up the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® 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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