FoundersCard Review – A Premium Membership For Entrepreneurs
FoundersCard offers industry discounts & benefits for entrepreneurs.
Instant access to a multitude of discounts and benefits along with member-only networking events.
Thousands of high-quality tracks that can be filtered to achieve the optimal tone or mood.
An annual fee of $595 per year (plus $95 initiation fee) or discounted $495 membership via a member referral.
Entrepreneurs, startups, founders and high-level executives who are looking to save on business-related expenses and travel.
Great travel discounts
Discounts or credit to several popular business services
New perks are added regularly
Several big name retail partners
Expensive yearly fee
Perks can disappear overnight (without warning)
Some perks have fine-print
From my experience documented throughout this review, FoundersCard has be proven to be a worthwhile purchase for me as I easily made my money back on the annual fee. However, the assortment of associated perks might not cater to your needs (see them all here) especially if you don't already spend a great deal of money on business or travel related expenses each year.
As an entrepreneur, I'm always looking for ways to save money on business expenses as well as network with other like-minded individuals to help grow my company.
I am also a frequent user of credit card perks and rewards, so I have been following many of the blogs and communities surrounding this industry such as The Points Guy. In the past, I have seen a unique service mentioned called the FoundersCard and decided to find out more for myself.
Shortly after discovering the loyalty program geared for entrepreneurs, I applied to this invite-only membership and got to experience its perks for myself over the last ten months.
In the following review, I will touch on many of the questions surrounding the FoundersCard and describe both the pros and cons of my experience within the platform. While I will not be able to touch on all of the perks, I will do my best to cover enough information to help aid any potential new members.
Keep in mind, despite being a FoundersCard member, I was NOT paid or endorsed by FoundersCard to write up this review or share my experience (full disclosure, if you decide to sign up with my referral code it will save you and me money on our memberships).
All of the thoughts and opinions stated in the remainder of this article are based on my own. As you read along, you'll see I also cover the negatives to the membership and how I think it is the not the right investment for everyone.
What Is FoundersCard?
I am going to get straight to the point as many people have misconceptions as to what the card is and isn't. First off, it is NOT a credit card with no way to put charges on it nor does it serve as an alternative to cash or credit.Instead, it is more like a traditional AAA membership where it grants the cardholder perks in the form of discounts and networking access for a flat rate per year.
Most of the value gained from FoundersCard comes from the wide array of discounts and perks offered to entrepreneurs to earn savings on travel, business, and lifestyle expenses. If you live in or close to a major city, FoundersCard does host numerous networking events throughout the year, so there is a good chance they host one in your area at some point in the future.
My physical FoundersCard (cool although unnecessary for nearly every redemption).
These are the two primary ways to benefit from the FoundersCard in exchange for the yearly fee. Depending on your business needs, it can easily justify the membership cost and save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars annually.
Each membership includes a physical version of your FoundersCard used for gaining access to the networking events and is sometimes required for in-person redemptions (such as hotel stays). For browsing and redeeming online discounts and access, you will be granted access to their member-only web portal along with their mobile app and chrome extension (notifies you when you access a retailers website that offers a FoundersCard benefit).
How Much Does The FoundersCard Cost?
Becoming a FoundersCard member is not an overly complicated process, but it does require filling out an application which then has to be approved by their team.
The application requires providing basic information about yourself like your name, business name, role at the company, email and referral code. There is no financial or sensitive information requested as again, the FoundersCard is NOT a form of credit.
Now for someone applying without a referral code, the current annual rate is $595 a year in addition to a one-time initiation fee of $95, and this pricing could increase in the coming years. If you use a referral code form an existing member such as myself (our referral code is FCCOLTON331), then this rate is dropped to $495 a year with a waived initiation fee.
Whatever price you pay with the referral code is locked in for renewal fees for the life of your account, so there is a significant benefit to using a referral code if you want to save money on the membership.
What About FoundersCard Elite?
New to the service is FoundersCard Elite, an upgraded version of the standard membership. This isn't designed for most people at an annual rate of $895, but it offers a few excellent benefits that help provide a VIP treatment:
FoundersCard concierge who can help assist with travel booking and recommendations on restaurants, airlines, hotels, etc.
A choice for a complimentary Spouse Membership (worth $395 annually) or Team Membership (valued at $295 per year)
Special access and privileges for events and hotel reservations (where applicable)
Limited Edition Stainless Steel Black Membership card
Personalized leather luggage tag from Owen & Fred (an FC Partner)
As a standard member, I don't see any reason I'd upgrade unless I plan to purchase another membership for a colleague or family member in the future. The perks are a bit too vague for my liking, and I'm not sure there is a clear enough explanation of the increased value in return for the higher annual fee except when needing to add a spouse or team membership.
What Are The FoundersCard Benefits?
The name ‘FoundersCard' implies that it is only available to a company's founder, but the criteria for approval is wider than that, and it can be applied to anyone with a primary role in a business or entrepreneurs of all types.
Between all of the different categories and subsections within them, there are far too many benefits available to name one by one, so I'll be covering the most notable below. Those interested in browsing the entire backend of the FoundersCard benefits, you can do so via this link.
Since this is the target demographic, the benefit of FoundersCard is honed down to providing value to business owners in one of five different categories:
Hotel Discounts & Loyalty Programs
Since many members are frequently traveling for business purposes, the FoundersCard provides a hotel & resorts program that offers a discounted rate, flexible cancellation privileges and even complimentary upgrades and amenities. Both domestic and international locations are available spanning nearly all the major cities you could want (most hotel benefits can be easily applied online using promo codes).
Beyond deals with specific hotels, FoundersCard has also negotiated deals with notable chains like the Four Seasons, Starwood, Marriot, SLS Hotel Mandarin Oriental and more.From a business traveler's point of view, I think this is the real gold mine in the FoundersCard investment as you can quickly recoup your $500 in just a single stay (or a few depending on your location).
At somewhere like the Park Hyatt New York which typically runs $1,275 for their Park Deluxe Room, but FoundersCard members will only pay $645-795 depending on the booking dates.
With Las Vegas being a hotbed for business conventions and industry tradeshows, those frequenting Sin City can benefit greatly from the FoundersCard. Since I travel to the Consumer Electronics Show every year, the Vegas perks were incredibly enticing for me and one of the primary reasons that drove me to sign up for the service.
Teaming up with Caesars Entertainment and their Total Rewards Program, FoundersCard members are given a complimentary Diamond status (2nd highest in the tiers). Also, members receive 20% off the best available rate at Caesars Palace and associated properties including the Flamingo, the Cromwell, Nobu Hotel, Rio, Planet Hollywood, Paris and the Linq.
The Diamond Total Rewards status offers tremendous value overall especially if you already frequent Caesar's properties during your Las Vegas trips:
Since I'm not a big gambler, my favorite perks are the room discounts, preferred restaurant pricing, Diamond Lounge access (free food and drinks), $100 celebration dinner gift credit, priority check-in, and the removal of resort fees which can save you hundreds per stay.
Lifestyle & Retail Discounts
The lifestyle section deals more with day to day luxuries and can be broken down into multiple sections: experience & access, health & fitness, premium retail and iLifestyle.
Some of my favorite benefits in this section include the following:
Discounts on Cirque du Soleil tickets (unfortunately Vegas shows aren't included in the benefits at this time)
20% savings on Bliss Spa services (massages, facials, body treatments)
Purchase or lease a new Audi vehicle at Dealer Invoice price plus $300 (1 purchase per year at this discount)
Receive up to $7,500 off a BMW & Mini purchase or lease
Beyond the hotel discounts, there are other travel-related benefits that FoundersCard members can utilize to save time and money. These include discounts on flights from airlines like Cathay Pacific Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, British Airways, Jetblue (they recently ran a status match upgrade to Mosaic and offer bigger discounts on Mint fares), Quantas, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Alaska Airlines.
Besides cheaper flights, the membership also grants ways to obtain faster elite status on American Airlines (Platinum Status challenge), a complimentary Marco Polo Club Silver membership on Cathay Airways and a complimentary Flying Club Silver Elite status after a single flight with Virgin Atlantic.
CLEAR is an alternative to TSA Precheck and is expanding rapidly at larger airports. FoundersCard members receive a free 6-month trial of CLEAR along with a discounted fee of $140/year after instead of the standard $179/year rate.
High rollers who insist on flying a private jet can even score a free 3-month JetSmarter membership as well a $2,000 in flight credit should you purchase an additional membership during your trial period.
Fortunately, the travel perks don't just apply to the air and also are eligible for limo and car rentals. The perks include discounts, and in select cases, a complimentary loyalty status at rental car services including Herts, Avis (receive complimentary Preferred Plus membership), Sixt Rent a Car, Silvercar, Zipcar, Carey, EmpireCLS, Getaround and Groundlink Car Service.
With a membership geared towards business owners and professionals, this is another segment of FoundersCard where a lot of potential value can be gained.
Most of the perks are great and useful to business owners of all types, but also where you'll see the largest amount of fine print when it comes to redeeming these benefits (I'll get more into this later).
The ‘business' section of FoundersCard is broken down into four sections: business essentials, web services, marketing & research and co-working.
Dedicated Apple Business Team contact and Apple loyalty pricing (based on annual spend tiers)
20% off Namecheap services and most domains (depends on TLD)
Up to 37% off Lenovo products
15% off Constant Contact online marketing tools
25% off all Optimizely plans for new accounts
Networking Events For Members
There is a famous saying “your net worth is determined by your network, ” and this is often shown true in business. Each year FoundersCard holds networking events at popular hotels or resorts in major cities for nearby or visiting members to meet and greet.
Since signing up for membership, the closest event to me was in Boston back when I was still living in Massachusetts. Now that I've relocated St. Petersburg, Florida, there is an upcoming event in Miami that I may attend although to date I haven't been able to participate in any of the FC events.
However, this year FoundersCard is holding an event in Las Vegas during CES (January 12th, 2018) and I have plans to attend and have already RSVP'd through the member portal.
While I haven't had the chance to get an experience of how much value is in the FC events, I do see some potential in the contacts that I could make during this time with the CES event's guest list currently at 98 members and is growing by the day.
(UPDATE – 1/22/18) I stopped by the FoundersCard signature event at CES. The venue was at the Mandarin Oriental which is a gorgeous hotel, but the event was held in a small room in the back of a crowded bar.
Due to complications in my schedule, I could only stay for about 30 minutes although I did meet a few other interesting members. There was only one FoundersCard staff in attendance who was working the door (I believe it was the CEO) and a small bar/light appetizers.
In terms of networking opportunities, most of the people there were from a very scattered background so I didn't meet any contacts that I thought were overly valuable although it was a decent experience overall.
Would I go again? Yes.
Would I travel a significant distance to attend this type of event in the future based on this experience? Probably not.
The Downsides Of The FoundersCard Membership
If you do research online, you'll find a few common trouble points or complaints when using FoundersCard, and they are usually described as the following:
Benefits have fine print can can be removed/changed overnight
This is true, but I do think some of the critics over-exaggerate the extent of both of these aspects. While I've experienced both cases, neither have really given me a bad taste in my mouth as I've always been able to redeem as instructed via the fine-print.
The fine-print is most relevant for the business perks as things like Apple loyalty pricing and the UPS discount have spending tiers to get the maximum value. This means the more you spend per year with Apple or per month with UPS, reflects the overall discount you are given on their products and services.
As for perks disappearing, I originally saw a lot of value in their MailChimp perk which offered a whopping $2,500 in MonkeyRewards (pre-paid credit) for FoundersCard members. I was able to redeem it without a hitch, but the perk and since been removed without warning.
I had concerns about my Caesar's Total Rewards Diamond membership which is only good on a yearly basis. The Total Rewards system automatically downgrades its members status every January 1st unless the standard 15,00 Tier Credits are reached.
Email notification about my Diamond status upgrade.
In the case of the FoundersCard, I wasn't sure what would happen to my account and if it didn't get automatically renewed back to Diamond, I would be disappointed. I reached out to FoundersCard support and spoke with Shannon who assured me of the following:
Welcome to FoundersCard!
We have enjoyed the partnership with Total Rewards for a few years now. The contract is up for renewal each year in January, and if it is renewed, they will extend the “valid through” date of your Diamond upgrade through FoundersCard. While we aren't allowed to guarantee this contract will be renewed next year, we don't anticipate any changes to the program.
Please let me know if you have any further questions. Have a great day.
While I felt a bit uneasy that there was a chance the contract would not be renewed, that wasn't the case so my account was upgraded back to Diamond within days and I was able to redeem the perks at both CES 2017 and CES 2018.
Support is not helpful or lacking
In the past, people have complained about the lack of support from FoundersCard staff, but so far my experience has been good overall. I've consulted the customer service on more than one occasion to receive clarification, ask questions or give feedback and always received a polite response back in a timely manner.
After signing up, I had several representatives reach out to discuss the membership and be available if I needed any additional information including trying to schedule an introductory conversation via phone (which I declined due to my hectic schedule).
I have also ready some unhappy customers who have said FoundersCard rebills them after they have canceled the membership before its renewal. This was clearly a concern of mine in the event that I didn't receive the agreed upon value from my first year of membership and wanted to leave the service.
After showing support staff Jennifer some online complaints stating this problem, she responded with the following:
If you want to cancel your membership or not be on auto-renewal you simply have to call or email us your request.
Please let me know if you'd like to set up a time to talk!
While I have to take her word for it, the customer support does seem solid at this time and I would be very surprised to see them not honor a prior cancellation before a re-bill based on my support experience thus far.
Yearly costs are too high
A reasonable perspective and one that I can't argue for most people. However, this card isn't created for most and it is geared for business professionals and entrepreneurs who are already spending a considerable amount of money on lifestyle and business expenses or travel costs.
Depending on your needs and budget, the FoundersCard's target demographic should be able to make back their initial yearly fee in savings and start banking cash after taking advantage of just 1 or 2 of the long list of perks. If you don't see perks that you'd utilize from the membership preview page then I would not recommend signing up.
How Much Value Have I Received From My Membership?
Now that I've run through the potential of the FoundersCard membership and its benefits, I'll talk more about how I have been able to save time and money using it over the past year which happens to be my first year as a cardholder. Keep in mind, everyone's needs are different and the perks that I utilize could be much more valuable to me than they would be to you and vice-versa.
Being that I haven't traveled as much as I plan to in the future for tech events and keynotes, the value of my membership likely will rise significantly further in addition to the business savings I'll be able to harness when expanding the company further (think more office furniture, computers, marketing costs).
So far since I signed up, I have utilized the following benefits and received the equivalent in monetary savings:
MailChimp $2,500 in MonkeyRewards (no longer offered) – $2,500
At the time of my sign-up, this was the perk that really convinced me to go through with the membership as it meant an immediate $2,005 worth of value for as I pay MailChimp $75/month for my email marketing subscription. Redemption was easy just requiring me to file a request and I had the ‘MonkeyRewards' credit in my account within 24 hours.
Since then, the monthly cost drains from the $2,500 in rewards instead of from my credit card like in the past. In total, I should get about 33 months or just a few months shy of three years of my current Mailchimp costs for the price of a membership.
However, like stated in the previous section, perks can disappear overnight and this is a perfect case as it is no longer offered for new or existing members.
Needed a reliable e-fax service (see our top picks) for business use and Phone.comallowed for this with a free year of their basic plan. Redemption was simple and it got the job done. All-in-all, I saved $120 from this perk for my first year although I don't plan to renew this service at full price when my free year expires.
Caesar's Diamond Total Rewards – $370.05
One of the biggest perks that appealed to me was the complimentary Diamond Total Rewards status at Caesar's properties in Vegas. I created an account and got it upgraded in time for my CES 2017 trip. We stayed at the Linq, a Caesar's property across from the Venetian that is relatively nice with great value on the dollar.
My first benefit was being able to skip the long lines of the normal hotel check-in and carry it out from their exclusive Diamond rewards lounge. It featured great decor and helpful staff who gave me the rundown on my Diamond membership as well as offered me a free room change from one area of the hotel to another which offered a better view and less noise from the busy street below, but the room size remained the same.
I got my Diamond card printed on the casino floor and was able to get my annual $100 celebration dinner rewards voucher which offers qualifying members $100 off dinner at a Caesar's restaurant once per year. I split the credit with my two colleagues and we decided to redeem it at the world famous Bacchanal Buffet in Caesar's Palace which runs at $59 per person. The food was amazing and besides the $100 credit, we were able to skip the line (the wait was just under 2 hours) and sit at a table reserved for Diamond members.
The amazing Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar's Palace.
At checkout, I was able to take advantage of the Diamond rewards lounge in the Linq yet again and thanks to the FoundersCard membership, I saved $170.05 on resort fees which are waived for Diamond members.
Update (1/22/18): At this year's CES, I didn't stay at a Caesar's property, but I went back for the free $100 anniversary gift card and was able to get and redeem it again with no issues.
Once again, I used it at the buffet and this time we were able to skip a line that had an estimated wait of two and a half hours (it was a packed Friday night) with one of the best tables in the entire restaurant!
15% off AT&T Wireless Bill - $143.55
Another perk that interested me greatly prior to sign-up was the AT&T discount. I applied for it shortly after my membership was approved and the savings were immediate on the next bill. Since I have four lines on my family plan, I originally received a bigger discount as my total bill was higher.
However, since AT&T has reintroduced their unlimited family plan at a lower rate which brought my total bill down by about $80. Since the AT&T perk only gives 15% every voice and data plan over $30 in value, my monthly discount from FoundersCard is currently at $9 per month.
All-in-all, I saved $143.55 from this perk in the past 10 months although the projected savings for next year would be $108 based on my new AT&T plan pricing.
Free subscription to Entrepreneur & Inc Magazine – $119.98
While I wouldn't have paid to subscribe to a physical magazine at this point in my life as it is a dying industry, I don't mind free stuff and they make great accents around the office and for bathroom reading. Was able to sign-up for both magazines for free and have them shipped to my home without issue although it did take a month or two before I saw the first issues arrive.
25% off Yotel NYC (2 Nights) – $119.50
Took a trip to NYC for a photography trade show and was able to score $119.50 in savings when staying at the unique Yotel in NYC. The redemption process was easy, being able to do so through a special web portal link with no hidden surprises or discrepancies.
This is the current value of the Hilton HHonors Gold status from the calculations of popular travel blogger, The Points Guy. This status tier within the hotel chain offers bonus points off stays, a free fifth night on bonus stays, two bottles of water per stay, room upgrades, breakfast and your choice of bonus points or a welcome amenity.
I was able to redeem this quite easily after signing up for a Hilton HHonors account and giving this information to FoundersCard. Once accepted, I was also able to status match on to Best Western to receive their ‘Diamond' loyalty status as well.
Grasshopper Phone System – $75 Credit
I had heard a lot of good things about the Grasshopper phone systemand decided to take advantage of the free credit that comes with my FoundersCard membership.
The Grasshopper perk details page says you get a complimentary $50 credit when creating a new account and waives the $25 activation fee. After signing up, I was pleased to see that I wasn't charged the $25 activation fee and I also received $75 in credit (not the advertised $50).
My first Grasshopper invoice showing the $75 FoundersCard membership credit.
Total savings from FoundersCard for 2017: $4,433.08
Looking back, I have clearly been able to get my money's worth on my FoundersCard membership during the first year. This number looks more significant due to the $2,500 in credit that I received for MailChimp, but new members aren't eligible anymore for this perk so my savings without it would be $1,933.08 which is still very reasonable considering I am not taking advantage of even a tenth of the available perks.
While I'd be less likely to have signed up without the MailChimp credit available to me as a potential member, my experience over the last 10 months has been positive overall. I will be renewing my FoundersCard membership another year as I plan to be travel more in the coming months for business and believe I will continue to reap increased savings on airfare and hotels.
Is The FoundersCard Right For Everyone?
If you were to ask me whether a FoundersCard membership is right for everyone then the simple answer is no, but their target demographic is NOT everyone. If you are an entrepreneur, business owner or high-level executive then you are the FoundersCard target demographic and thus you'll find the most use out of their benefits.
As someone who owns a tech business and travels a small portion of the year, I was able to find more than enough savings to make the yearly annual fee worth my investment and as I continue to travel more as the company grows, I see my yearly return rising.
Some of you may be better off just using rewards credit cards such as one from Bank of America, the Chase Sapphire Preferred or American Express Gold Cards). This way you can redeem travel rewards through business purchases which won't be as beneficial in savings for big spenders, but cheaper in yearly membership costs.
However, if take a look at the preview membership perks page and don't have any major benefits jump out to you as something you'd take advantage of to save yourself time or money then I don't think you should apply for FoundersCard.