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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.
We’ll dig into the details, starting with the basics.
Or, you can skip to our card picks to see which cards you can get without a personal guarantee — plus the requirements you’ll have to meet in order to do so.
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.
If you’re planning to apply for a business credit card in the near future, you might already understand the concept of a personal guarantee. But in case you don’t, here’s 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.
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.
Take note that, despite not requiring a personal guarantee, Brex does have a clear idea of what it’s looking for in a cardholder.
If you want a Brex card, you’ll generally have to be associated with a forward-thinking business that creates or uses innovative, modern technology. You cannot get a Brex card if you’re a sole proprietor.
You’ll also have to have a healthy business-specific bank account, ideally maintaining a balance of $100,000 or more at any given time.
Consider contacting Brex before you apply if you’re not sure whether you’ll qualify.
This card is tailored to suit startups, but Brex also provides credit cards with rewards programs and features designed for other businesses types, which feature similar strict requirements:
The Stripe Corporate Card is a lot like the Brex card we just described. It’s a charge card, paid off monthly, with a flexible rewards program and valuable benefits. It’s also available without a personal guarantee, and there’s no credit inquiry involved. But as is the case with the Brex card, this isn’t necessarily an easy card to get.
It’s available by invitation only, but you can request an invite. Not much of an obstacle. You don’t even have to use Stripe for payments to qualify.
The real challenge comes in meeting Stripe’s standards. Whether you’ll be approved for the card depends on several variables, including:
That may sound ambiguous, but considering how the card’s called a “corporate card,” it stands to reason that your business’ payment volume and bank account balances will have to be somewhat high to qualify.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
For rates and fees of The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, please click here.
A personal guarantee is usually required for everyday business credit cards. There are certain cards where they’re not necessary, though these typically cater to bigger, more valuable companies.
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