How to get a business credit card

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

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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

Let’s talk about these steps in depth.

1. Form a business.

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.

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.

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.

Consider this business rewards card

Universal Premium Mastercard®

  • Accepted at nearly 160,000 fueling locations throughout the United States
  • Choose the most convenient and cost saving sites for your business
  • Prevent unwanted non-fuel spending by limiting purchases only to the pump
  • Open cards to make purchases at over 400,000 maintenance locations
  • Save up to 6¢ per gallon with volume rebates on purchases within the Retail Savings network
  • Save up to 15% on fuel management costs
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How to compare the best credit cards for small business

Are you planning to invest in your business? Do you need to pay off debt? Would you like a stronger cash flow?

Think about your business spending and cash flow when weighing business card factors that include:

  • Annual fee. Consider how much you’re willing to pay to use a business credit card each year, and determine if any perks are worth the price. A high annual fee doesn’t mean a card isn’t a contender for your business — it could potentially provide you with invaluable rewards, tools and more.
  • APR. A high APR means you’ll pay more interest on any balances you carry over each month. A low interest rate can minimize the cost of borrowing money with your credit card.
  • Promotional interest rate. An intro purchase APR can help you avoid paying high interest rates on big items or balances you transfer from other cards. But pay close attention to the length of your intro period to avoid getting hit with a heap of interest when the rate reverts to your everyday APR.
  • Cash back and rewards. Choose a business credit card that can earn rewards on what you buy most. Look for cash back, miles or points in categories that fit your needs.
  • Foreign transaction fees. If you travel internationally on business, a card that waives foreign transaction fees can save you big. Many providers charge 2% or more for each purchase made outside the States.
  • Signup bonus. The business card market is fierce, with many providers offering generous bonuses to entice you to choose theirs over competitors. Most come with spending requirements that are easy to meet with regular use.
  • Premium benefits. Rewards aren’t the only perks. You could get access to priority airline boarding, waived bag fees and other travel extras. Just make sure your business can take advantage of what your card offers.
  • Read the fine print. By taking on a business credit card, you’re agreeing to specific terms and conditions. Read and understand your card’s contract as you would any others for your business. If you don’t fully agree with what the provider requires, consider a different business card.

MUST READ: Kait signs up for a bonus — and covers her business in Cali

Kait recently started a luxury travel company on the East Coast that books vacations for clients all over the world. Tired of using her personal credit card, she applied for the Chase Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card. She liked the 80,000-points bonus, which she easily qualified for after spending $5,000 in the first three months of using her card.

She redeemed those 80,000 points — about $1,000 when used toward travel — to pay for a business trip to California, reinvesting the money she saved into her business’s success.

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.

Updated November 12th, 2019
Name Product Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
2% cash back on all purchases on up to $50,000 per calendar year, then 1%
0% intro for the first 12 months (then 14.74% to 20.74% variable)
$0
Earn 2% cash back on all purchases on up to $50,000 per calendar year, then 1%. Rates & fees
2x points on everyday business purchases on up to $50,000 annually, then 1x points
0% intro for the first 12 months (then 14.74% to 20.74% variable)
$0
Earn 2x Membership Rewards® points on everyday business purchases on up to $50,000 with no category restrictions. Rates & fees
3x points on the first $150,000 on travel and select business categories annually, then 1x after and on all other purchases
17.74% to 22.74% variable
$95
80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel rewards when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
3 cents off per gallon when you buy 30,000 or more gallons in a month plus 3 cents off at the Retail Savings Network
29.24% variable
Up to $120
Earn 3 cents off per gallon when you buy 30,000 or more gallons in a month plus 3 cents off at the Retail Savings Network.
2x miles on Delta purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases
17.24% to 26.24% variable
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months plus $50 after making a direct Delta purchase in the same timeframe. Rates & fees

Compare up to 4 providers

Is there a good credit card for startups?

Yes. You can try the Brex for Startups for startups. This is a charge card that doesn’t require a personal guarantee.

In addition, you can earn rewards on your purchases and you can get a high credit limit.

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.

  • Freelancers
  • Sole proprietorships
  • Hobbyists
  • Partnerships
  • Side hustles
  • C-corps
  • S-corps

You don’t necessary 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.

What credit score do I need to get a business credit card?

Applicants with a good or excellent credit score of 670 or higher will find several business cards they can find approval for. Among the business credit cards out there, you’ll find those with less strong credit histories too or with no personal guarantee.

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.

Lenders typically beyond your personal credit score to focus on your business’s annual revenue, among other factors. After you’ve built up your business’s credit score, you’ll be in a stronger position for approval on business loans with low rates and long repayment terms.

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. There are cards you can get with average credit, such as the Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business.

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.

How to make the most out of your business credit card

You’ve got your card in hand, and you’re ready to start making it work for your business. Take advantage of all that a business card offers by keeping in mind a few key elements.

Look for a credit card that can earn you reward points or cash back on your largest small business expenses — like travel, gas or office supplies. You’ll even find cards that allow you to earn point or dollar multiples on categories that rotating quarterly or annually.

If you’re already in the market for a card, you might as well look for the strongest intro incentive you qualify for. Signup offers are plentiful and often easy to meet, helping you jump-start your rewards with bonus rewards or cash back. Whereas a low or 0% intro APR can soften the blow of large investments in your business, such as laptops or furniture for your office.

To establish or build your business’s credit score, focusing on cards that report your responsible spending to all three credit reporting bureaus can set you up for long-term success.

  • Keep to a budget. Align your spending with your cash flow to avoid expensive interest. Calculate how much you can afford to comfortably repay each month so that you don’t bump into your credit limit.
  • Adjust your credit limit. The credit limit on your card should be enough to cover your daily expenses throughout the month, with a little extra for emergencies. If you’re exhausting your credit limit often, see if your issuer is willing to increase your limit.
  • Maximize rewards. Look for a card that can earn your points or cash back on your top business expenses. Many include airline, hotel and other partners that offer double — sometimes triple — rewards in specific categories.
  • Travel affordably. If you’re always on the road, look for a card offering elite status on airlines, airport lounge access, complimentary rental car insurance, waived foreign transaction fees, loyalty programs and multiple ways to redeem points.
  • Automate your accounts. Technology makes it easy to keep tabs on our cards. Set up autopay, sign up for text or email alerts, go paperless for your statements or use a mobile app to monitor your business accounts at all times.
  • Monitor your credit score. Your business credit score is an important one if you’re planning on sticking around for the long haul. Pull both your personal and business credit reports to make sure everything is accurate and current.
  • Don’t be afraid to switch. As your business grows, the credit card you have today may not meet your needs. Maybe you need a higher credit limit or your spending trends are newly suited for stronger rewards. Don’t let brand loyalty hold you back from getting the best business card you’re eligible for.

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.

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