How You Can Get a Business Credit Card

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When you think of a business, something such as a restaurant, a retail store, or an online merchant may be the first thing that pops into your mind. Yes, these are what any of us would likely call a traditional business. Businesses that have a dedicated location or office space, a group of employees and hopefully generating enough revenue to support all of its employees while passing on a healthy profit to the owners or shareholders.

These businesses likely have credit cards that help manage their finances by isolating expenses and potentially giving employees the ability to make purchases on behalf of the company. In the end, the business owners and person that was issued the card enjoys the card benefits and rewards generated.

If you have a small business or a side job that you use to generate some extra income, you may be eligible for these types of cards and associated benefits.

Top Cards to Investigate

There are many business credit and charge cards issued; all of the major banks offer some form of a small business credit card. Here are some of the most lucrative rewards (some other cards with huge bonuses):

Small Business Laptop

Why You Want a Business Credit Card

There are any number of reasons why a business credit card; here are some to consider:

  • Isolate your business expenses – Even the most organized people need a hand keeping personal, and business expenses separate. Logistically, a separate card account makes managing expense for you and your bookkeeper or accountant infinitely easier
  • Specific rewards & bonus categories – Your personal rewards card may earn you points with your favorite hotel program, but doesn't provide any bonuses on a big business expense like advertising. There are several cards that offer bonuses when you spend on advertising to help grow your business
  • Build or Grow your business – Credit cards help with cash flow, and while we'd never recommend you carry a balance, they are there to help provide a cushion when needed. At a minimum, by using a credit card instead of a check/debit payment you're giving yourself 20+ days depending on when your statement closes and when your bill is due. If you're looking for extra time to pay a bill, perhaps check out The Plum Card® from American Express, which will provide up to 60 days to make a payment on select charges.
  • You're looking for additional rewards – Let's face it, one of the reasons you use credit cards is for their rewards. The more you spend, the more you get. Finding the right rewards program to earn with for your business is a part of deciding which card is best for you.
  • You want protection/insurance services – Business credit cards come with different insurance and protection services than personal credit cards. While many perks overlap, you may find different coverage available, such as cellular phone coverage available with the Ink Preferred.

Truths & Myths About Business Credit & Charge Cards

There are plenty of myths about credit cards, but here are some truths and myths specifically about business cards.

  • Myth: You need a Federal EIN or Tax ID to get a business credit or charge card. In fact, a sole proprietorship, where you use your Social Security Number is perfectly acceptable to use on a business credit or charge card application.
  • Myth: You need to have multiple employees and a storefront to be eligible for a business card. No, you don't. A single person business that wants to manage expenses and rewards is perfectly suitable.
  • Myth: The business must be your primary form of income to be eligible for a business card. Completely false. Many small businesses start off as a hobby or side project and grow into a labor of love and passion.
  • Truth: Business credit cards will help you build a financial profile for your business in case you need a bank loan. Regular use of your business credit cards show that you have the financial wherewithal and stability to take and manage credit/debt.
  • Truth: If a credit card issuer has both a personal and business card, you can receive both and receive the bonuses on both. You need to think of business and personal credit cards as separate businesses within the business of a credit card issuer. Yes, they've both credit cards, but different business units issue and manage personally issued and business-issued card products.
  • Truth: Credit card issuers want to recruit new small businesses. Just as card issuers want their card to be the first one out of your wallet for your personal expenses, they want the same for your business expenses. If you have a personal credit card, perhaps look to that issuer for a complimentary business card product. If you can earn rewards in the same program; bonus!

Really, Almost Anyone?

Yes, small businesses are everywhere. According to the U.S. Small Business Association in 2013, there was 28.8 million small business and over 80% of them had no employees! Just because your business is new, you're the only person working in it, or you don't have a “real” office space, this doesn't mean you're not eligible to obtain a business credit card.

Take a look at how you're managing your small business or side project expenses and see if there is a way for you to grow your business and ramp up the rewards you're earning.

Do you have any small business credit cards? Which are your favorite? Share with us in the comments.

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  • business owners be WARNED regarding BUSINESS cards such as the capital one card which reports occasional delinquent payments on one’s PERSONAL credit report – unlike Chase and American Express business cards which do NOT negatively affect one’s personal credit report! I found that out the hard way when my personal credit score fell after having missed one payment by the due date!

  • I recently applied for the Chase Sapphire Business card and was rejected until I submitted a business license issued by a government agency.

  • I have had Southwest Business card for selling on eBay. I told them the truth about sales, under $1000 and was instantly approved.

  • I’m about to start using a business credit building service and I’ve got it narrowed down to CorporateCreditScore and Nav. Anyone used either or know which I should use?

  • Would being a landlord considered operating a business when applying for a business card? I’ve heard it may go either way. One would think it should be given that the tax authority does allow expenses deduction, depreciation…etc

  • I had the SPG business card but cancelled it last year. Does anyone know what their policy is regarding former cardholders reapplying for a new card AND receiving another signup bonus? Thanks.

  • how about international student? does busness card can affect student status?

  • Jiuling Wang says:

    Not sure if it is fine for H1b visa holders to apply for a business card.

  • I’m thinking about opening a Morgan Stanley Platinum if I can get the fee waived. Is that a good choice or should I just go for a business Amex?

    I have never had a Amex cards. Thanks.

    • Debbie, if you can get the annual fee waived on a card like this it is absolutely worth pursuing. The benefits are significant and without the fee its is a tremendous bargain. That said, You could actually have BOTH cards, if you were interested in maxing out your bonuses and benefits — but of course you’ve got to weigh it against the associated costs.

  • Wow, very interesting. I have thought about a business card but was never sure about the EIN part, but maybe i’ll look into it!

  • With regards to selling items on eBay and other apps (I am sure there are multiple factors to this that would determine if you are eligible for a business card)……. The card would be used for purchases, shipping fees, monthly seller fees, etc. to maintain the business. My question is – would you need to regularly generate a specific monthly/yearly income? Thank you.

    • Austin, any card issuer would want you to have income — just as they would on a personal card. As for a specific amount, that would be up to your particular circumstance. I’ve heard in conversation a mention of a minimum of $5,000 of business income in a year, but this was a small business owner and not from anyone at a financial institution or credit issuer. Again, each situation is evaluated at application time, but I am confident that by having regular business income you stand a greater chance of approval for a business card.

  • Very informative article.
    My preference is for the American Express.
    I had a corporate and a personal, but now it seems they are closing (or at least reducing) the corporate cards.
    Do you have any info?

  • Thanks for the info Howie! Followed your advice (and a link) and signed up for Amex Business Platinum 🙂

  • Robin Gronsky says:

    I have a professional practice that I run under my personal social security number. You don’t need a tax id number to run a business. All sole proprietorships can be run under the owner’s personal social security number or they can apply for a tax id number.

  • Hmm I didn’t now you didn’t have to have a Tax ID to get a business credit card.
    Maybe I’ll give the AmEx platinum business card a try.
    100K MR points sounds very tempting.

  • Yup!
    Totally agree with this post!
    I love having an SPG business card from AMEX. I find that it gets targeted for the best AMEX offers. More than other cards in my portfolio!
    This benefit definitely more than outweighs the annual fee of $95.

  • Seems like a good way to earn more miles

  • ADAM PARSONS says:

    Using the SPG card already, great card to start with.

  • Been having rental for about 3 years, applied for Amex Open, Chase Ink and Delta Business, all approved.

  • I have had my own music business over the last 10 years. I have had several business credit cards over those years – it is true that one does not need a tax ID # to get a business credit card. Not only do these cards help keep track of business expenses, but offer generous mileage bonuses once minimum spending levels are reached.

  • Any thoughts on how to do this in Australia?

  • I love the Chase Ink for its 5% categories. As others have said, it’s usually easy to get a business card with just a tiny, sideline business. The fact that your personal credit report is used by card issuers in deciding whether to give you a business card tells you a lot.

  • It is probably best to start with the SPG Business since that card almost assuredly will be going away (as the article makes reference to). SPG points are also the most valuable of all transferable currencies at the moment, especially if you link your SPG and Marriott Rewards accounts.

  • Had the ink for a while. Have my eyes set on the amex plat now.

  • I’ve applied for several business account cards for my rental property work that I do… I’ve also been denied several of them for not having an Business Tax ID or extensive history with annual sales and balance sheets… But then again I got approved for 2 by Citi with out much head ache..

  • Will have to try this Thanks

  • Do issuers ever make sure purchases look business-y?

    • The terms of many business cards indicate that the card is to be used solely for business purposes. That said, in reality, I’ve not heard of a single case of this being enforced where someone uses the card for all of their personal expenses as well. I guess a bit of VMMY, but having never heard of a case where this is an issue, I would likely not be that concerned. Similarly, many small businesses use their personal card for business expenses when getting started.

    • I’ve never had a problem with this with any of my business cards.

    • Indeed, I’ve also never had an issue with charges on business cards being questioned. Actually, Chase even lets you categorize the charges on right your business card account page. Also, I can’t recall the source, but at one point it was imparted to me that part of the rationale for the “business charges only” caveat is that personal cards offer more consumer protections than do business cards.

    • Purchases do not have to be just office furniture or toner – anything that could theoretically be related to running your own 1-person business. Say a meal – could be for a “client meeting.”

    • nick zynger says:

      No. It does not matter if your purchases are personal or business like. I have had 3 business cards and have only myself as the only employee with no EIN number.

    • This was very helpful information