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How to get a business credit card

Getting a business credit card is simpler than you might think. Here’s exactly what to do.

Your business is in full swing and you’re ready for a business credit card. The only problem is, you’re not quite sure how to get one.

Fear not – applying for a business card is fairly straightforward. And there are myriad benefits of having one, such as separating your personal and business finances and having access to expense-management tools.

How to get a business credit card

1. Form a business.

There’s a low bar to jump for qualifying as a business. You’re eligible if you’ve formed one of Canada’s 4 business structures:

  • Sole proprietorship. Easy and inexpensive to set up. There is no limited liability, so both your personal and business assets are liable in the event of a legal dispute.
  • Partnership. Profit is shared between partners in an arrangement that is usually outlined by a contract. Again, there is no limited liability, so partners’ personal and business assets are at risk. (Ontario has 2 types of partnerships: general and limited. Partners share the management of the company in a general partnership. But in a limited partnership, some partners actively manage the company while others only provide funding.)
  • Corporation. There is limited liability, so only the business’s assets – and not the owners’ personal assets – are at risk in the event of a lawsuit. Corporations are also more enduring than sole proprietorships and partnerships as these entities are legally distinct and not tied to the people who own them. (Ontario has private corporations and public corporations, both of which you can create at either the federal or the provincial level. Private corporations do not publicly sell shares or securities, while public corporations do under the regulation of the Ontario Securities Act.)
  • Cooperative. Formed by a group of people (“members”) each of whom has an equal say in running the business and who collectively split its profits.

You can qualify as a sole proprietor if you make money through freelance work — for example, as a photographer-for-hire or an Amazon seller. Just make sure you’ve registered your business and have documentation to prove it.

If you have a partnership or corporation, you’ll enter your Business Number (BN) while applying for your card. If you’re applying as a sole proprietor, you’ll simply enter your Social Insurance Number (SIN). Provinces may have different rules regarding tax identification for cooperatives.

2. Establish business credit.

Every provider will check your personal and business credit. Your personal credit weighs most on the provider’s decision, but having strong business credit will increase your odds of approval.

To build business credit, start by obtaining vendor credit. Put your phone and utility bill under your business name. And ask your vendors — such as your office supply store or advertising agency — if you can start small lines of credit with them. You might also want to apply for a business loan. As you make consistent on-time payments of at least the minimum amount due, you’ll build your business credit.

There are many excellent cards on the market, and the perfect pick will depend on your specific needs. Here are a few key factors that’ll help you choose between different cards.

  • Annual fee. It’s a good idea to first check a card’s annual fee. You’ll want to get enough out of your card to offset this fee, which might mean earning a sufficient signup bonus or significant rewards.
  • Rewards. You’ll find big differences here. Consider your business spending and see whether certain cards offer accelerated rewards for your preferred categories. If your spending is relatively even across categories, you might like a card that offers a flat rewards rate for all spending.
  • Intro APR. Getting a 0% APR on purchases or balance transfers can be very helpful, especially when your budget is tight. For business cards, zero-interest periods tend to top out at around 15 months.
  • Signup bonus. Business credit cards are a competitive category, and providers are generally willing to offer big bonuses to attract business owners. A signup bonus alone can pay for your annual fee many times over.

Compare business credit cards

Getting a business credit card can help you streamline your business finances and earn rewards on your purchases. Make sure you compare multiple options until you find the right fit for your wallet.

Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Annual Fee Minimum Income Welcome Offer
American Express Business Edge Card
19.99%
21.99%
$99
N/A
Earn up to 57,000 Membership Rewards points in your first year. Earn 45,000 Welcome Bonus points when you charge $5,000 in purchases to your Card in your first three months, and earn 1,000 Membership Rewards points each month (a total of 12,000 annually) when you spend a minimum of $3,000 on eligible purchases.
American Express Aeroplan Business Reserve Card
16.99%
21.99%
$599
N/A
Earn up to 90,000 Aeroplan points and a bonus Buddy Pass.
BMO Cashback Business Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0
N/A
Get 10% cash back on gas, office supplies, cell phone bills and internet bills for 3 months.
BMO World Elite Business Mastercard
17.99%
22.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($149 thereafter)
N/A
Get up to 70,000 BMO reward points. Get 50,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months and an additional 20,000 points when you spend $35,000 in the first twelve months. Plus, get the $149 fee waived for the first year.
BMO Air Miles No-Fee Business Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0
N/A
Get 1,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles (over $100 towards your purchases with AIR MILES Cash).
BMO AIR MILES World Elite Business Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($149 thereafter)
N/A
American Express AIR MILES for Business Card
N/A
N/A
$180
N/A
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 2,000 AIR MILES when you spend at least $5,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months
Business Platinum Card from American Express
N/A
N/A
$499
N/A
Earn a Welcome Bonus of up to 100,000 Membership Rewards points ($1,000 in statement credits that you can reinvest into your business).
Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card
19.99%
21.99%
$150
N/A
Earn a Welcome Bonus of up to 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Plus, earn 5 points for every $1 spent on eligible gas, dining & travel (excluding lodging) for the first 3 months.
American Express Business Gold Rewards Card
N/A
N/A
$199
N/A
Earn a Welcome Bonus of up to 110,000 Membership Rewards points. If redeemed for statement credit, this is $1,100 that you can reinvest in your business.
American Express AIR MILES Gold Business Card
19.99%
21.99%
$0
N/A
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 150 AIR MILES when you spend at least $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months
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Compare up to 4 providers

4. Apply and wait for a decision.

Once you’ve picked a business card, it’s time to apply. You’ll need to provide information about yourself, including:

  • Your name, residential status and residential address.
  • Your Social Insurance Number (SIN) and date of birth.
  • Your email address and phone number.
  • Financial information, such as your annual income and source of income.

You’ll also need to provide information about your business, including:

  • The name of your business, its mailing address and its employee count.
  • Your years in business and annual business revenue.
  • Your Business Number (BN) or Social Insurance Number (SIN) if you’re applying as a sole proprietor.

Fill out the application form, request employee cards if needed and agree to the provider’s terms. The last step is to review your application and submit it.

Most major providers offer automated applications, so you’ll likely receive a decision within minutes. If there are issues with your application, you may need to wait a few business days to a few weeks to hear back.

After you’re approved, you’ll often receive your card within 10 business days. However, actual delivery may times vary between providers.

Why should I get a business credit card?

There can be many advantages to getting a business card, including:

  • Keeping your personal and business expenses separate.
  • Gaining access to advanced expense-management tools, such as employee spending controls and quarterly or annual expense reports.
  • Accelerated rewards on business purchases.
  • Higher credit limits.
  • Building business credit.

What if my business gets denied for a credit card?

If your business is denied for a credit card, don’t lose hope. There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of getting one soon or in the future.

  • Ask the provider to reconsider. Many providers use algorithms that automatically process applicants. For that reason, your application may have been denied by a computer instead of a human. Call the provider and ask for its reconsideration team, who will review your application manually. At that time, you can ask why you were denied and add clarifying information that may help your chances of approval.
  • Increase your credit score. You may have been denied because your credit score was too low. In that case, apply again when your credit improves. Keeping debt low and paying balances on time are two tried-and-true methods to increase your score.
  • Apply for a card for business owners with fair credit. You don’t have to have excellent credit to get a business card. Some providers offers credit cards specifically for fair-credit borrowers. Interest rates may be higher than what you would be get with a good credit score, but so will your chances of being approved. One card available to fair credit users is the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card.

Am I personally liable for my business credit card?

Most of the time, the answer is yes. Your provider will probably ask you to personally guarantee your debt no matter your business structure. For that reason, it’s a good idea not to charge more than you can personally pay off. But there are some credit cards without a personal guarantee.

Bottom line

Applying for a business credit card can be very simple. If you’ve decided on a business structure, it’s a matter of comparing different business credit cards and finding the best fit. When you’ve settled on a card, you can easily apply for it on the provider’s website.

Frequently asked questions

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