To get a business credit card, you have to go through an application process that’s pretty similar to the one required of most consumer credit cards. You’ll have to supply some information about your business — its name and contact information, for example — but the gist is the same.
One of the more interesting similarities is that even though you may be applying on behalf of a business, you’ll generally still have to deal with a hard inquiry on your personal credit to get a business credit card.
What’s more, you’ll nearly always have to provide a personal guarantee that acknowledges your personal liability for your business’ credit card debts, and this can be a problem if you’re intent on keeping personal and business finances separate.
This point, in particular, brings up an important question: Is it possible to get a business credit card without a personal guarantee?
Technically, the answer is yes — you can get select business credit cards without a personal guarantee. But opportunities to do so are generally reserved for companies with big-league revenue and considerable cash reserves.
Let’s dig into the details, starting with the basics.
What Is a Personal Guarantee?
If you’re planning to apply for a business credit card in the near future, it’s essential to understand exactly what a personal guarantee entails.
It’s pretty simple. A personal guarantee is a legally binding agreement that holds you responsible for paying off a business credit card’s account balance in full, even if that credit card is used explicitly in the name of a business.
Personal guarantees exist because businesses are formed and dissolved on a daily basis. If only the business were responsible for the debts accumulated on a given card, then credit card issuers would likely lose massive amounts of money left and right.
When you think about how personal guarantees protect issuers from their money simply disappearing, it’s probably a lot clearer why it’s as difficult as it is to get a business credit card without one.
Can You Get a Business Credit Card Without a Personal Guarantee?
Let’s face reality.
Unless you’re representing a big corporation, you almost certainly won’t be able to get a business credit card without a personal guarantee.
Certain credit cards are available with no personal guarantee, but they nearly always have limitations. Options are usually restricted to corporate credit cards, and these cards are often only usable with certain merchants.
Designed for larger businesses, corporate cards often have stringent requirements that include annual revenue and/or cash reserve minimums in the millions of dollars. Others just require that borrowers use company assets for collateral, a system that’s not unlike the typical secured credit card. These rules are intended to reduce the risk that a borrowing business defaults on its debts. We’ve included some good examples below.
Even if you’re applying for a business credit card with your business’ EIN, you’ll likely still need to personally guarantee the card. When you use an EIN to apply, issuers will usually ask for your SSN later on.
On certain occasions, you may be able to increase the likelihood that you’ll be approved for a business card without a personal guarantee by maintaining a long and fruitful relationship with a financial institution. You could also simply focus on building a strong business credit history to prove that your business is good for its debts.
But even then, it seems very unlikely that you’ll be able to get a regular business card without a personal guarantee. If you’re still operating in the small business world, it’s especially safe to assume that a personal guarantee is just something you’ll have to deal with.
Cards You Can Get Without a Personal Guarantee
By now it’s likely clear that business cards available with no personal guarantee are few and far between. That said, they exist, and you’ll find four of your options below.
The Brex Corporate Card stands out from the crowd. It’s a flexible business card that’s not cobranded with a retailer — if you meet the requirements, you can use it anywhere Mastercard is accepted. Plus, if you choose to make the Brex card your company’s exclusive corporate card, you get access to the Brex Exclusive rewards program. Even if you don’t qualify for Brex Exclusive, you’ll get 1X point per dollar on every purchase, as well as credits and discounts for a host of services your business might find useful.
The Brex card is a charge card, which means you have to pay its statement balance in full every month.
- Only available to corporations and other non-individual liability companies
- Annual fee: $0
- Rewards: 7X points on rideshare services and taxis; 4X points on flights, hotels, and Airbnb stays booked with Brex; 3X points at restaurants; 2X points on recurring software purchases; 1X point on all other purchases
- Perks: Credits for various services, including $5,232 for ZenDesk and $5,000 for Amazon Web Services; discounts for other services, including WeWork and Salesforce; virtual cards for online transactions
- Requirements: No clear-cut requirements; Brex customer support suggests that most Brex approvals are for companies with professional investors, U.S. bank accounts with balances that remain consistently above $100,000, and an EIN
This card is tailored to suit startups, but Brex also provides credit cards with rewards programs and features designed for other businesses types:
The Bremer Bank Visa Signature Business Company Card is basically the only true business credit card that’s available with no personal guarantee and isn’t classified as a “corporate card.” It still targets “medium to large businesses,” however, and it has high income and revenue requirements. Cardholders enjoy access to a free rewards program when using the card.
- Annual fee: $0
- Free rewards program available
- Requirements: At least $1,000,000 in annual revenue and $350,000 in net annual income for at least the past two years
Only accepted at Shell gas stations, the rewardless Shell Small Business Card can be a convenient tool for companies with employees who are always on the road. Its key benefits include account management tools, like purchase limitations and specific gas station designations. There’s not much more to it.
- Can only be used at Shell gas stations
- Annual fee: $0
- Account management tools: Limit purchases, set a designated station, manage accounts online
- Requirements: Cardholder must be associated with a government entity, a nonprofit, or a business that earns at least $1 million yearly and is at least three years old to get the card with no personal guarantee
In terms of credit cards you can get without a personal guarantee, the Sam’s Club Business Mastercard is actually fairly flexible. You can use it wherever Mastercard is accepted (and that’s nearly everywhere credit cards are accepted), and you get strong rewards on gas, dining, and travel.
- Can be used anywhere Mastercard is accepted
- Annual fee: $0 (requires Sam’s Club membership)
- Introductory bonus: $20 statement credit when you spend $50 or more at Sam’s Club the same day you open your card
- Rewards: 5% cash back for gas in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, including gas at Sam’s Club, on up to $6,000 per year, then 1%; 3% back on dining and travel; 1% back on all other purchases; $5,000 cash rewards cap per year
- Requirements: Cardholder must be associated with a business that makes $5 million or more per year, is two or more years old, and has more than 10 employees to get the card with no personal guarantee
The Office Depot OfficeMax Business Credit Account, like the Shell card above, isn’t very flexible. You can only use it at Office Depot stores, OfficeMax stores, and on officedepot.com. There are no rewards, but there’s a small introductory bonus.
- Can only be used at Office Depot, OfficeMax, and on officedepot.com
- Annual fee: $0
- Introductory bonus: $50 statement credit after first purchase of at least $150 within 60 days of account opening
- Requirements: Cardholder must be associated with a corporation three years old or more with over $5 million in annual sales, a government entity, or a nonprofit organization to get the card
How Else Might a Business Credit Card Impact Your Personal Credit?
Personal guarantees aren’t the only connection between business and personal credit.
For one, even if your business has proven to be a dependable borrower through strong business credit, issuers will almost certainly conduct a personal credit check to determine whether you’re qualified to become a business cardholder. Amex and Capital One, for example, have confirmed that their business cards will always require personal guarantees and personal credit checks.
If you’re required to provide a personal guarantee to get the credit card, expect to submit to a personal credit inquiry, too. While the impact of a hard inquiry is temporary and typically quite small, it can affect your personal credit scores, and that’s something you may prefer to avoid.
It’s also vital to know that some credit card issuers will report business card activity not only to the business credit bureaus, but to the nation’s major consumer bureaus, too.
The remaining issuers, which include prominent names like American Express, Chase, Citi, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, normally only report business credit card activity to personal bureaus if your debts are delinquent.
Both approaches have their benefits, so this is something you should consider before choosing a business credit card.
Preparing to Apply for Your First Business Credit Card
When it comes down to it, the average small business owner is going to have a pretty hard time finding a valuable business credit card that’s available without a personal guarantee.
In the meantime, if you’re simply looking for a way out of a personal guarantee and the accompanying inquiry because your credit scores need improvement, there’s an alternative that might be worth your time:
Invest the time required to develop positive credit habits that actually improve your credit scores.
Credit-building best practices include:
- Paying the full statement balance on all of your credit accounts by the due date during every single billing period.
- Minimizing your ratio of amounts owed to overall available credit (known as credit utilization).
- Diversifying your credit profile with a healthy mix of credit, including both revolving and fixed accounts.
Once you think you’re ready to apply for a new business credit card, do your due diligence to find a card that meets your company’s demands. Our picks for the best business credit cards include options with no annual fees, cash back rewards on business staples like advertising and shipping, plus various must-have business benefits. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Annual fee: No annual fee
- Rewards: 2X Membership Rewards points per dollar on the first $50,000 in purchases every year, 1X Membership Rewards point per dollar on all other purchases
- Annual fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that
- Introductory bonus: $500 cash back for spending $4,500 in the first 3 months
- Rewards: 2% cash back on every purchase
- Annual fee: $0
- Introductory bonus: $500 cash back after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
- Rewards: 5% cash back on up to $25,000 spent per year at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services; 2% back on up to $25,000 spent per year at gas stations and restaurants; 1% back on all other purchases
- Annual fee: $95
- Introductory bonus: 80,000 bonus points for spending $5,000 in the first 3 months
- Rewards: 3X points per dollar on up to $150,000 spent per year on travel, shipping, online advertising, and telecom services; 1X point per dollar on all other purchases
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