Business credit cards can help small business owners build their credit and access necessary business financing. Applying for a business credit card takes minutes, and you can even apply with your Social Security number if you don’t have an employer identification number (EIN). Following a four-step process can help you get a card, which includes checking your credit score, researching your options, submitting your application, and using your card responsibly.
1. Check Your Credit Score
Before you apply for a business credit card, it’s crucial to check your personal credit score to make sure you qualify. Personal credit scores range from 300 to 850, but issuers typically look for a score of at least 670. They may also consider your company’s revenue, industry, and monthly expenses in judging your ability to repay. You do not have to have established business credit to get a business credit card.
The most favorable terms—low ongoing annual percentage rates (APRs) and large credit limits—are reserved for small business owners with excellent credit of at least 750. Owners with credit scores below 670 can apply for a business credit card for fair credit. However, those cards typically charge high APRs and don’t offer the best rewards.
2. Research Your Credit Card Options
Next, you should research how business credit cards work and the best rewards programs to find the one that best fits your business’s needs. The three most important features that differentiate business credit cards are reward structures, financing offers, and annual fees. Each of these could save or cost your business hundreds or thousands of dollars annually.
Research the following credit card features before applying:
- Sign-up bonuses: Some of the best business credit cards offer cash- or points-based sign-up bonuses as an incentive to apply. You can earn introductory rewards worth several hundred dollars after you meet a minimum spending requirement within the first few months of card ownership.
- Ongoing rewards: Rewards programs typically pay a fixed rate on all purchases or tiered rewards on specific spending categories like office supplies or travel. If the bulk of your expenses fall into one category, pick a card that offers bonus category rewards on that spending. If you spend across multiple categories, choose a fixed-rate card.
- Introductory financing: Some issuers offer interest-free financing on purchases, balance transfers, or both, for nine months or more. The best 0% APR business credit cards can help you finance larger purchases or consolidate other high-interest credit card debt.
- Ongoing APRs: While ongoing APRs range between 10% and 25%, issuers typically reserve the best ongoing APRs for owners with personal credit scores of at least 750. While you won’t know your APR until you’re approved, you can judge where in the range you might fall based on your credit score.
- Annual fees: While there are cards that charge no annual fees, others charge fees between $95 and $595. Some cards may waive their fees for the first year as an incentive to apply. Large annual fees typically mean better rewards and free benefits like airport lounge access.
- Repayment terms: Business credit cards only require that you make a monthly minimum payment. Any balance you carry over will be charged interest. Meanwhile, business charge cards are required to be paid in full monthly, which means they don’t carry interest. Choose a charge card if you know you can afford to pay off your balance with cash on hand.
While there is a lot to research, each factor plays a crucial role in helping you decide which card would benefit your business most. A solid mix of rewards and additional perks typically determines which card is the one for you. If multiple cards are calling your name, compare business credit cards side-by-side to help understand which one checks the most boxes for your business situation.
3. Apply for a Business Credit Card
Once you choose a business credit card, and you’re confident you understand common business credit card requirements, it’s time to fill out an application. You can apply online for most major credit cards through the issuer. You also may apply at a branch. In some cases, introductory rewards may be different in branch than online.
The basic information you’ll need to fill out on your application includes:
- Name and business name
- Business phone number and mailing address
- Industry type
- Legal entity or business structure
- Tax identification number—both your Social Security number and the business’s EIN if you have one
- Time in business
- Annual business revenue
- Monthly business expenses
- Personal income information
Once you’ve received approval notification, which can be instantly for online applications, you’ll have to wait for the issuer to send you the card. You can typically expect to receive your card within seven to 10 business days.
4. Use Your Card Responsibly & Earn Rewards
When you receive your card and activate it, you can begin using it to fund your business and earn both introductory and ongoing rewards If your card includes a 0% introductory APR offer, you can avoid interest charges during this time if you carry a balance. Some cards may even offer this interest-free financing period on balance transfers too.
If your card doesn’t have an introductory APR offer, it’s a good idea to pay your balance in full each month. If you carry a balance, the interest you will pay will overtake the value of any ongoing rewards you receive quickly. Following business credit card tips like managing your balance wisely also will help you maintain or improve your credit score as your payment history and credit use are major factors in determining your score.
Common Business Credit Card Requirements
While some people think you need a full-time business to qualify for a business credit card, that’s not always the case. Issuers may approve you even if you sell items on eBay or run a side business in addition to your full-time job. Learning this and other business credit card requirements, such as minimum personal credit score, will help you apply quickly and increase your approval odds.
1. Personal Credit History & Score
While some people think issuers check your business credit for approval, most issuers tend to consider your personal credit history heavily. Typically, they will evaluate your credit score, which is a snapshot of how you manage, use, and repay your credit or debt. The best business credit cards typically require a personal credit score of at least 670. If your score is below 670, you can apply for an easy approval business credit card.
Payment history and the amount you owe make up 65% of your personal credit score. You can improve your credit score by paying your bills on time and by managing the amount of available credit you use. Your credit utilization ratio—how much credit you use in relation to your credit limit—should be below 30%. If you have a card with a $1,000 limit, that means keeping balances below $300.
2. Personal Guarantee
Most business credit cards require a personal guarantee, which means you—the business owner—will become personally liable for the business’s debt if the company fails to repay. If your card requires a personal guarantee, it’s crucial to stay on top of business payments to ensure you don’t jeopardize your personal finances. However, there are still some types of business cards without personal guarantees.
3. Your Business’s Name
You’ll need to provide your business’s legal name on your application. If you own a sole proprietorship or a general partnership, you can use your own legal first and last name. If your company is set up as a corporation, C corporation, S corporation, limited liability company (LLC), or limited partnership, you’ll need to use the name that’s registered with the state.
4. Business Phone Number & Mailing Address
You also will need to provide your business’s phone number and mailing address. If you work from home and don’t have an official office, you can use your home phone number and address.
5. Industry Type
Some business credit card applications will require you to indicate the industry your business operates within. Choose the one that most closely applies to your business situations like banking, finance, health, or TV production.
6. Legal Entity or Business Structure
All applications and issuers will ask you to provide your business’s structure, such as a corporation, partnership, nonprofit, LLC, government organization, or sole proprietorship. Some issuers will also require you to indicate if your business has beneficial owners if you own a corporation or partnership.
Beneficial owners are those other than yourself that own at least 25% of your company. If there are any, you’ll likely be required to provide their name, home address, date of birth, Social Security number, and percent of ownership.
7. Federal Tax Identification Number
Your EIN is also known as your federal tax ID number, which is a nine-digit number assigned by the IRS. You’ll typically use your EIN when you apply for a business credit card, allowing the issuer to verify your business. However, if you don’t have an EIN, which typically applies to sole proprietors and freelancers, you can use your Social Security number.
8. Time In Business
Although sometimes optional, there is usually a field on your application that lets you indicate how long your business has been in operation. Some applications will have a drop-down menu to choose from and others will ask you to enter the year your business started. If you recently started your business and the application has a drop-down menu, choose the lowest option available.
9. Annual Business Revenue & Monthly Business Expenses
Issuers typically use your business’s annual revenue and monthly expenses as a way to gauge your ability to repay your credit card bill on a monthly basis. Additionally, these figures may also help determine your credit limit.
If your business has little-to-no revenue, you may still qualify. If that’s the case, issuers likely will use your personal income information to evaluate your application. The key is always to tell the truth on your application and be prepared to provide documentation about your business if asked.
10. Personal Income Information
The issuer probably will ask for your personal annual income because your company doesn’t need to have established a hefty amount in annual revenue to get a business credit card. It’s common for new businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs to qualify even though they have little revenue to disclose on their application. This information will help them understand your ability to manage and repay any future debt.
Best Business Credit Card Options
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card
Best For: Office-based businesses that want top cash back rewards
|Intro APR ?0% APR for 12 months on purchases||Regular APR||Annual Fee||Credit Needed|
|0% Intro APR on Purchases||13.24% - 19.24% Variable||$0||Good - Excellent|
Chase Ink Business CashSM holds its ground as one of the best business credit cards because it pays incredible rewards on common business expenses, like office supplies. You’ll also be able to finance purchases with no interest for 12 months, helping your company get off the ground. You’ll receive these stellar business features― all while paying no annual fee.
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Best For: Gaining access to unrivaled travel rewards and luxury travel perks like airport lounge access
|Intro APR||Regular APR||Annual Fee||Credit Needed|
The American Express Business Platinum Card® tops the travel rewards category. It pays 5x points on flight and prepaid hotel purchases made through American Express travel. What’s more, you’ll access a suite of luxury perks that make business travel more enjoyable, such as free airport lounge access and credits for airport security screening membership application fees.
American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card
Best For: Earning 2% cash back every time you swipe and 0% introductory APR for 12 months
|Intro APR ?0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases||Regular APR||Annual Fee||Credit Needed|
|0% on purchases||13.24% - 19.24% Variable||No annual fee||Good, Excellent|
The American Express Blue Business CashTM Card is an excellent card that charges no annual fee but still holds its ground. While it doesn’t offer introductory rewards, you’ll be able to earn 2% cash back on spending up to $50,000 each year. Plus, you’ll be able to access a strong 0% introductory APR offer and spend above your limit. Its fixed-rate rewards program makes it a card from which most businesses can benefit.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
We covered a lot of information on how to apply for a business credit card. Some questions are asked more often than others, and we address those here. If you have any other questions, leave a comment below, and we will provide you with an answer.
How do I qualify for a business credit card?
Business owners can apply for a business credit card using their EIN or Social Security number if they don’t have one. Issuers typically require a personal credit score of at least 670 to qualify for the best cards. However, there are cards available for those with scores below 670, but you should expect less favorable terms and features.
How does a sole proprietor apply for a business credit card?
Although sole proprietors won’t have an EIN, they can apply for a business credit card using their Social Security number. The application process is no different than if your business was registered as a corporation, partnership, or LLC. You can typically apply online and receive a decision immediately.
How do I obtain business credit?
To obtain business credit, form an LLC or incorporate your business and apply for an EIN. Next, open a business bank account and business credit card to separate your business and personal finances. This will also establish business credit with the main credit bureaus. Be sure to pay all your bills on time to build your credit history and maintain a good business credit score.
Learning how to apply for a business credit card isn’t a difficult process but knowing how to navigate the application process can help improve your approval odds or chances to increase your credit limit. The types of purchases you plan on making with your card, credit score, and business’s annual revenue typically determines which card is best for you.
While you’ll typically want a card that pays rewards in categories that match your business spending habits, there are cards for businesses that spend across a variety of categories. For example, fixed-rate cards, like the American Express Blue Business CashTM Card, pay a consistent return rate no matter where you spend your money. Applying for a card like this is an easy way to maximize your earnings and save your business some cash.
For rates and fees on the American Express Business Platinum Card®, please click here.
For rates and fees on the American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card, please click here.