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, sometimes known as an LLC credit 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.
There’s a low bar to jump for qualifying as a business. You’re eligible if you have a formal business structure such as a limited liability company (LLC) or S corporation. However, you can also apply as a sole proprietor. That means you qualify if you make money through freelance work — for example, as a photographer-for-hire or an Amazon seller. Just make sure you can produce documentation that proves you make money outside of regular employment.
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. As a rule of thumb, however, you’ll have better odds if you have a good to an excellent FICO credit score of 670 to 850.
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.
3. Find the right business credit card.
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:
Rewards. A large number of business credit cards come with a rewards program. This can be in the form of cash back or points and miles. In general, cashback cards are best for everyday spending like gas, dining, shipping services, department stores and office supplies, while points/miles cards are generally best for travel purchases.
Intro APR period. An intro APR can be especially helpful if you want to make business purchases interest-free for a limited time, or if you have existing business debt and want to pay no interest on it for a limited time through a balance transfer.
Welcome offer. Business cards usually have better welcome offers than you’ll find with personal cards. Welcome offers worth at least $500 are common. However, keep in mind they’re usually available one time only, for a few months after you open your card.
Fees. A common annual fee for business cards is $95. Consider whether you want to add this expense to your balance sheet. You’ll also find cards with no annual fees, as well as premium products priced around $500 a year. Also, consider other fees — most notably, foreign transaction fees if you often travel abroad.
4. Check your eligibility requirements.
Generally, if you do business or receive payment for your services, you’re eligible to apply for a business card. This includes:
You don’t necessarily need to turn a profit to be eligible. But if you can provide projected revenue numbers in your application, it could help your chance of approval.
5. 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 Security number 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 tax identification number or Social Security number 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 60 seconds. 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, expect to receive your card within 10 business days.
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.
Earn 4x points on two categories of your choice on up to $150,000 in combined purchases each calendar year, then 1x points. Categories include US purchases for advertising in select media, US purchases made directly from select technology providers and more.
When weighing your options, first read the provider’s requirements to make sure you’re eligible. That way, you avoid unnecessary hard pulls on your credit history, which can temporarily lower your overall score.
Personal vs. business credit score
Your personal credit score is different from your business credit score, though lenders may rely on both when reviewing your application for business credit. Each score reveals to potential creditors how you handle different types of financing.
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.
Who can apply for a business credit card?
LLCs and sole proprietors are both eligible for a business credit card. If you have a formal business structure, you’ll enter your tax identification number while applying for your card. If you’re applying as a sole proprietor, you’ll simply enter your Social Security number.
Can I apply for a business credit card without a business?
Yes. But you still need to do some form of work to qualify, like having an income as a freelance writer or an Amazon seller outside of your employment. In this case, you can mark on your credit card application that you are a sole proprietor and use your own Social Security number instead of the tax ID or EIN.
Don’t lie to the bank if you don’t really have a business because they may ask for supporting documentation to prove that you have a business or that you have an income.
Examples of qualifying one-person businesses
Ultimately, your card issuer will decide whether your business qualifies. But to give you an idea of the possibilities, here are a few solo businesses that could get you approved:
Freelance services, such as writing, web design or marketing
Running a shop on websites such as Etsy, eBay and Amazon
Rideshare driving, such as Uber or Lyft
Selling in-person at local marketplaces
Is an LLC credit card different than a business credit card?
No. Business credit cards and LLC credit cards are one and the same. If you operate an LLC, you’ll have the same business credit card opportunities as though you a different form of business, such as a partnership or operate as a sole proprietor.
Can I get a business credit card with poor personal credit?
Yes, but your options are slightly limited. To start building your credit with a business credit card, you can apply for a:
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
Yes, as long as you intend to make a profit.
Yes, but it’s not recommended. Sometimes a bank may review your expenses and if they see that you use a business credit card for personal expenses, they may close your credit card account.
Yes. Typically, your provider will report payment activity to at least one bureau.
If your provider checks your personal credit score when you apply for the card, you’ll typically see a drop of a few points. However, your business card activity usually won’t affect your personal credit score after that. To verify whether your payment history is reported to your personal score, contact your provider.
Not usually — as long as your personal income meets your provider’s requirements, you shouldn’t need to meet a revenue minimum.
Kevin Joey Chen is a credit cards, banking and investments writer whose work and analysis have appeared on CNN, U.S. News & World Report, Business.com, Lifehacker and CreditCards.com. He's passionate about helping you get your finances in order by expertly navigating cutting-edge financial tools — including credit cards, apps and budgeting software.
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