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Small business credit cards are designed for business owners who want to separate their business and personal finances, earn rewards, and use credit cards as powerful tools in growing their businesses. A small business credit card, along with other tools, can even help build your business credit profile.
By Brendan Harkness
By Brendan Harkness
Business credit cards are very similar to personal credit cards, but they’re designed to help fund and provide services for small to mid-size businesses. Just like personal credit cards, business cards require self-discipline and the ability to budget funds appropriately.
All of the same fundamentals of using credit responsibly apply. Make sure that you understand the terms inside and out: Where you earn the most rewards, what benefits and services are available to you, what your interest rates are, and when your bills are due.
Advantages of business cards:
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You can apply for most business credit cards just like you’d apply for a personal credit card. This is because business credit cards usually rely on your personal credit, rather than your business credit; so there usually isn’t much difference in the application.
You’ll need “a business” of some kind, but you may find that it’s easier to meet that standard than you thought. You may qualify if you’ve ever engaged in anything like having a business — that includes being a freelancer or sole proprietor, or selling knickknacks at a local craft fair. Selling your old stuff on Craigslist might even be enough.
Learn more about applying for business credit cards here, including how they can affect your personal credit.
There are quite a few excellent business credit cards. The right one for you will depend on your needs:
There are many good airline business credit cards which are co-branded with specific airlines. They’re meant to be used mostly with that one brand, where they offer perks and their best rates for earning award miles.
The best airline card or cards for you will depend on the airlines you like. If you love flying with Delta, take a look at its co-branded cards; but if you hate that airline, you should rightly avoid its credit cards.
Many of the major airlines have co-branded cards, giving you opportunities to earn a whole lot of airline miles. Usually they only have one business card offer each, but in some cases there are more. If you don’t like the business card options, there may be a consumer airline credit card that’s more appealing.
Here are our top picks for airline business cards.
|Airline||Our Best Pick|
|Alaska Airlines||Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card|
|Asiana||Asiana Visa® Business Card|
|American Airlines||AAdvantage® Aviator™ Business Mastercard®|
|Delta||Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card (Review)|
|Hawaiian Airlines||Hawaiian Airlines® Business Mastercard®|
|JetBlue||JetBlue Business Mastercard®|
|Southwest Airlines||Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card|
|United||United℠ Business Card|
Just like when it comes to airline cards, the best hotel business card for you will depend on where you like to stay. Most of the major hotel brands offer co-branded cards, and they’re often very rewarding.
You’ll typically get some complimentary services and benefits at the participating hotel and resort locations, like free night stays. And you’ll often get some kind of Elite membership status, which usually provides extra perks and even more points on top of what you earn from the card.
There aren’t many hotel business cards, unfortunately. If the hotel brand you like doesn’t offer a business card, check to see if there’s a consumer hotel credit card that would work for you. You’ll get the same types of rewards and perks, but without the business features.
Here are our picks for the best hotel business cards.
|Hotel Brand||Our Best Pick|
|Hilton||The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (Review)|
|Marriott||Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (Review)|
There are a few important differences between business and personal cards. Before getting a business card, educate yourself on what to expect.
You’ll have some choices about the information you submit when applying for a business card. You may need to enter both your Employer Identification Number (EIN) and your Social Security number. And in some cases you may be able to submit your EIN instead of your SSN.
However, you should usually expect a credit inquiry to show up on your personal credit reports, because your EIN is connected to your SSN. Since you typically need to sign on as the personal guarantor of the account, the card issuer will check your personal credit reports. The issuer can do this with just your EIN, although if that’s all you input they may ask you to submit your SSN afterward.
Depending on the issuer, regular account activity may be reported on your credit reports alongside personal credit card accounts, affecting your personal revolving utilization. Other issuers only report negative items, like late payments, to personal credit bureaus. Learn more about how different issuers report in our guide to building business credit.
In some cases, if you have a large, established business with a good credit history of its own, you may be able to apply for a business card without a personal guarantee. You may need to negotiate this with the card issuer. If you want to apply for a business card using only an EIN and without a personal guarantee, we recommend contacting the card issuer to ask about it.
A report from the American Bankers Association clearly showed the overall economic advantage of the increased use of credit cards by small businesses.
From 2003 to 2008, it was estimated that the expansion of credit card lending to small businesses added $142 billion to the U.S. economy, and led to the creation of 1.6 million jobs.
On the individual scale, small business credit card use is connected to higher returns when it comes to growth in revenue and employment.
Some other interesting takeaways from the report:
Just like with personal cards, there are different types of cards available for businesses. The main types are revolving (commonly called “credit cards”), charge, and secured.
When you think of the typical credit card, you’re probably thinking of a revolving card. Revolving credit cards are issued with a credit limit based on your credit history and scores along with your current finances, and you can spend up to that limit.
If you carry (or revolve) a balance from month to month, you’ll be required to pay a minimum amount at the end of each billing period. If you decide not to pay the full balance owed, the remainder will accrue interest, which is set by your interest rate (usually a variable APR).
Unless absolutely necessary, we always recommend that you pay off your balance in full to avoid being charged interest on purchases.
Charge cards are very similar to revolving credit cards, but they do not allow you to revolve a balance from month to month. Instead, you’re required to pay off the balance in full each month.
There are many benefits to this approach, because, while late fees may still apply for paying late, you’ll be saving money by not accruing interest each month. You don’t get the advantage of being able to pay for purchases over many months, but charge cards usually come with many of the same features as credit cards, like cash back for purchases along with shopping and traveling benefits.
In a sense, charge cards are like credit cards with a bit of built-in financial responsibility.
Read more: Charge Cards vs. Credit Cards
Though not an immediate go-to option, secured business cards are available for business owners with below-average or bad credit.
You simply need to put down a refundable security deposit to fund the credit limit. Over time, with responsible use, you can build up your credit and upgrade to an unsecured credit card.
Read more: Secured Business Credit Cards
Business credit is a different type of credit than personal credit, and needs to be built up in different (but similar) ways. You have business credit scores very much like personal credit scores, but there are different requirements to meet and some different credit reporting agencies to deal with.
Starting a business can be complicated and expensive, and keeping business credit separated from personal credit may seem like a challenge.
What you’ll learn here:
In some cases it can be possible to successfully apply for a business credit card without needing to sign a personal guarantee of liability for the card. But you’ll usually need to be a corporation with an established line of credit.
What you’ll learn here:
Ready to explore more cards? Check out our picks for the Best Credit Cards in a variety of categories.
For rates and fees of the American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Business Gold Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, please click here.
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The information related to Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, American Express® Business Gold Card, Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business, Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card, Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business, Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business, Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business, The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, and American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card have been collected by Credit Card Insider and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of these products.