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Freelancers have special needs when it comes to good financial management. Money earned must be stretched in a number of different directions. Since no employer withholds money for taxes or social security, the freelancer is responsible for paying them (usually each quarter).
Freelancers are responsible for maintaining a workspace and all equipment needed (computer, printer, software, office supplies, phone, internet service, desk, utilities and so on), and must foot the bill for any business-related travel, conference attendance, subscriptions and the like. Freelancers must be extra vigilant when it comes to selecting cost-effective financial products.
Business or Personal?
Smart freelancers seek out every advantage when it comes to taxes, and that process starts with complete separation of business and personal finances. A business credit card is not required but you may find it useful. As far as the IRS is concerned, any credit card can be designated as solely for business purchases.
In fact, business cards are not protected by the CARD act, so many solopreneurs prefer to stick with consumer cards. Both types of cards are secured with the applicant’s personal credit, and a business card does not necessarily create or build business credit.
Credit Card Features To Watch For
Desirable features vary depending on the consumer. When choosing any new credit card, the most important thing is that it offers features and benefits that complement the holder’s typical usage patterns.
While some prefer fee-free credit, others find good value in cards that impose an annual fee. For someone who travels occasionally, a fee card might pay for itself after the first roundtrip in free checked baggage, WiFi and in-flight purchases.
The primary goal on any credit card is always to pay it off regularly and avoid carrying a balance; the interest rate for such a user is irrelevant. That’s not always possible, however.
A cardholder who sometimes carries a balance should understand the interest rate and select the card that offers the best rate possible. Credit cards used for overdraft protection usually impose a higher interest rate on the overdraft advance.
Foreign Transaction Fee
Typically set at 3 percent, this fee adds up quickly for anyone who uses the card outside the U.S. Many cards offer free foreign transactions, so there is usually no reason for a traveler to have to use a card that charges.
Depending on how you plan to use the card, other fees can add up. Taking advantage of a zero percent balance transfer offer typically incurs a fee of 2% or more of the amount transferred, partially negating the interest savings. Late payments can incur fees as well as potentially push the account into a higher interest rate overall.
Getting a new credit card is a great opportunity to net a signup bonus. When comparing cards, look for a reward you can use, like points that can be transferred to your preferred airline or hotel brand, or cash back.
The biggest difference between reward programs is that while one is perfect for Person A, another is perfect for Person B. To find the best program, match the reward opportunities to your typical spending habits.
Airline co-branded cards typically give the best rewards on travel related expenses, and so have less value for someone who travels infrequently. Some business cards stack extra rewards onto office supply spending or other business related expenses. Many consumer cards offer their heaviest rewards for groceries and gas.
Look at your own typical budget and your usual spending habits to determine what card will give the greatest payoff.
This is where business cards have an advantage over most consumer cards. Since every expense must be categorized for tax purposes, it’s nice if the credit card offers an app that handles this task for you.
Look for the ability to tag purchases and upload photos of receipts, as well as downloadable transaction data into the accounting software of your choice.
Top 3 Credit Cards for Freelancers
Anyone who works from home can appreciate the 5% cash back categories offered by this card. You’ll be able to purchase most things you’ll want for a basic home office at this discount, including computers, computer accessories, office furniture, and your internet and phone services. The 2% cash back for gas and restaurants works out great if you often travel and meet for meals for work. You’ll also be able to use the Jot mobile app and all its tools to help you keep track of your business spending.
- No annual fee
- The signup bonus is $200 cash back after spending $3,000 in the first three months, and zero percent interest for one year.
- Foreign transaction fee is 3%
- Earn 5 points per dollar on internet, cable and phone services and at office supply stores (up to a combined $25,000 per year)
- Earn 2 points per dollar at gas stations and restaurants (up to a combined $25,000 per year)
- Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases (unlimited)
- Easy expense tracking and reporting tool, a mobile app called Jot
For People with
- Annual Fee: $0
- Interest Rate: 14.74%–20.74% Variable
Quick Card Facts
- Earn $300 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
- Named "Best for Rewards for Small Business" MONEY® Magazine, October 2014
- Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year
- Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year
- Earn 1% cash back on all other card purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn
- 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers
- Free employee cards
- No Annual Fee
The information for Chase Ink Business Cash Card has been collected independently by Credit Card Insider. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Unlike the previous cards, this card offers an unlimited 2% cash back on every purchase, making it a better choice for general business spending and for business that don’t make many regular purchases. It does have an annual fee, but it is waived for the first year and the $250 introductory bonus will cover the fee for 4 years after that. There are no foreign transaction fees with this card, and you’ll also get a mobile app for finance management.
- Requires excellent credit
- Annual fee is $0 the first year, then $59
- Earn 2% cash back on every purchase
- The signup bonus is $250 after spending $5,000 in the first three months and an additional $50 bonus for getting an employee card within the first 60 days. Some business owners have received paper mail promotional offers for $500 cash back after spending $4,500, and 1.5% cash back on purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees
For People with
- Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)
- Interest Rate: 17.99% Variable
Quick Card Facts
- Earn 2% cash back on every purchase, every day
- Plus, a one-time $500 cash bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first 3 months
- Cash rewards don't expire, and there are no categories to limit where or what you buy
- $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
- Redeem cash rewards anytime, for any amount, even set up automatic redemption
- No foreign transaction fees
- Earn unlimited cash rewards that don't expire
Unlike the previous 3 cards, this is a charge card, which means that you’ll need to pay off the balance completely each month. This is a high-end luxury business card for travelers that, while it has an annual fee and won’t earn you many points (2 per dollar on American Express Travel), it provides an abundance of benefits that frequent travelers will love. You’ll get complimentary access to hundreds of airport lounges, statement credits for various travel-related expenses, discounts on companion tickets, and more.
- Charge card (balance must be paid in full each month)
- Annual fee is $450
- 2 points per dollar on the American Express Travel Website
- Rebate of up to $200 on airline fees (checked bags, in-flight refreshments, etc.)
- Welcome bonus is 40,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $5,000 in the first three months
- Free Boingo WiFi worldwide
- Access to Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs and Airspace Lounges in airports around the world, plus enrollment in Priority Pass Select which gives access to 700 more airport lounges.
- 24/7/365 personal concierge service
For People with
- Annual Fee: $450
- Interest Rate: Not Applicable - Paid in Full Monthly
Quick Card Facts
- Welcome Offer: Get up to 75,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $20,000 in purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
- The Business Platinum Card's premium benefits include world-class platinum service, travel benefits, rewards that can help reduce expenses, and access to one-of-a-kind events.
- Membership Rewards® Program: Get one point for each dollar of eligible purchases. There is no limit to the number of points you can get.
- 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back.
- Airport Lounge Access Program: Elevate your business travel experience with complimentary access to over 700 airport lounges worldwide.
- Complimentary internet access: Enroll your Card with Gogo and Boingo and get 10 Gogo inflight internet passes annually and unlimited Wi-Fi at Boingo hotspots.
- Terms & Restrictions Apply
What credit cards do you use to fund your freelance business? What other financial strategies do you use? Let us know in the comments below!
Kimberly Rotter contributed to this post.