American Express has revamped its Open small business credit card so that the card's rewards can change as the customer's business evolves.
Small-business owners using the SimplyCash card can choose from any of seven payment categories on which to receive cash back rewards, and change that category each year to reflect their needs.
"The SimplyCash refresh was built on a real simple insight, that no two businesses are built exactly the same," says Michael LaRocque, vice president of product management at American Express Open, the small business division at Amex.
Prior to the new setup, SimplyCash was a fee-free card that offered a 5% discount on payments for supplies, 3% for payments on gasoline and 1% on all other business-related payments.
Now, cardholders still get the 5% cash back on supplies but can choose a category for the 3% reward. Those categories include airfare purchases, hotel rooms and car rentals, U.S. gas stations, restaurants, advertising or shipping costs.
When redesigning SimplyCash, LaRocque says he had a "key moment" in his thought process when a friend who operated a gourmet food business in New York City said she wished her business could get cash rewards on shipping payments.
"She was not doing a lot of driving herself anymore, but taking a lot of online orders and shipping them," LaRocque says. "If she had a choice of rewards, she would pick shipping."
Amex feels most small business owners will see value in the SimplyCash card because it is a step away from other similar cards that operate on a "one size fits all" rewards program, LaRocque says.
In the future, the SimplyCash card may integrate with the back-end office of a business to allow for an easier accounting process. "This would allow the business owner to focus on expense management and integrate the payment charges on the card to back-end accounting and cut down on paperwork," LaRocque says.
In general, the financial and payment card industries have seen a steady growth in the business card sector, which had previously waned during the recession.
Smaller companies competing with American Express were having the most difficulty keeping their small-business card portfolios strong as far back as four years ago.