Business Credit Cards
This guide will show you what you need to pick the best card for your company, how you should use it, ways to make it work for you, and how to use it as a springboard to the future.
Business credit cards are an effective way for small business owners to make the purchases they need to conduct business while also building the sort of credit they need to acquire the larger amounts of funding needed down the road. Building credit is the first step to getting the sizable loans you'll need as you company grows and expands. This guide will show you what you need to pick the best card for your company, how you should use it, ways to make it work for you, and how to use it as a springboard to the future.
What are Business Credit Cards?
Put simply, business credit cards operate in exactly the same way that your personal credit cards do, with one exception. While personal credit cards are given based on your personal credit and impact your personal credit score, a business credit card has no impact on any individual person's credit. It's an entirely separate entity.
Purchases made on your business credit card won't have any effect on your person credit limits. Payments made on your business credit card won't affect balances on your personal card. That separation from a single person means that there are highly strategic reasons to use a business credit card for any purchase your business needs.
When your business needs money, make sure you research business loans. But you may find that the credit card is the super option, and choosing the right business credit card can mean saving thousands of dollars on business expenses over the course of a year. So you'll want to make sure you're doing everything you can to get the best possible terms.
Why use a business credit card?
There are plenty of great reasons to get and use a business credit card on top of the way they separate your business from your personal finances.
They build your credit
Because you're adding lines of credit that can be very large, you're improving your ratio of credit to credit used, which will improve your business's credit score. You'll also need to be careful to use your business credit card carefully, as mounting debts can create more problems than they solve.
You can make necessary purchases
Maybe the most obvious point, but it bears mentioning. Sometimes in the course of business, you'll have to make a massive emergency purchase. If you run a brewery and your bottling equipment is busted, you can't put out product. If you run a gym and your plumbing is ruptured, your members can't shower. You need lots of money quickly in order to stay open. A business credit card will have that money available for you.
It controls employee spending
If you have numerous employees going out and working on your behalf, it's helpful to be able to track and limit their spending. A business credit card can help.
It simplifies bookkeeping
A business credit card means your accountant has a simplified view of where you're spending money, which makes it easier to make big purchases and control finances. It's all right there. And for your employees, they can simply refer to their card statements on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis and know their expenses at a glance. Payment for all purchases can be made with one check each month, thus facilitating ease of managing a business checking account.
They can be tailored to your company's needs
Because there are so many options for business credit cards, you're almost guaranteed to find one that will be perfect for your company.
Most business cards come with perks
Most business credit cards come with some sort of perk. This means that in addition to helping boost your company's credit report, your purchases can go toward some other boost or kickback.
Many cards will offer cash back. The concept is simple: for every purchase you make, you'll get a percentage back, often as a statement credit for your future billing cycles. If you get 2% cash back, it means if you spend $10,000 on a piece of equipment for your business, you'll get $200 on a future statement.
It doesn't sound like much, but if you're using a small business credit card for numerous purchases, that cash back can add up quickly.
It should be noted that many cards will place limitations on how cash back works. Sometimes you'll only get that statement credit back at certain retailers or on certain purchases, like phone services or at office supply stores. Some cards will offer greater percentages back on various categories. Maybe a card will offer 5% back on office supply purchases, 3% back on gas, and 2% on everything else.
Look at your monthly business expenses. Where are you spending the most money? Is there a business credit card available that can take advantage of your current budgeting?
Foreign Transaction Fees
Some cards will waive foreign transaction fees. This is obviously a very helpful perk for companies doing international business. If your company makes most or all of its purchases inside the United States, this is a perk that may not be useful for you.
If you're looking for an immediate cash flow boost, you may want to look into cards with a quick bonus. Some will offer thousands of points or cash if you spend a certain amount in the first few months or in the first year.
If your business makes it necessary to travel extensively, you may want to consider a business card with air travel perks. Business travel expenses can add up quickly, so you'll want to make sure you're getting lots of rewards points for your travel or you're using those rewards points on the travel itself.
Some cards will give airline miles similar to the way previously-discussed cards dole out cash. Others might match the miles you pay for. Many also include hotel perks.
Some business cards are set up to keep costs at a minimum by withholding some of the other rewards programs. You might find cards with a one-time fee instead of a hefty annual fee. Some will require no fee at account opening.
Many cards will offer no-cost employee cards so that your account builds up more quickly and you can simplify accounting. When you have multiple cardholders building toward rewards, they can add up quickly and save more money.
Some cards are set up specifically to help business owners with balance transfers. If you've got numerous sources of debt (and decent credit), you can transfer all those debts onto one card with a very low introductory apr. That can help you pay down those debts with the new card.
How to get a business credit card
Check your personal credit
When you first apply for a business credit card, you'll be using your personal credit history in addition to information about your company. That information and rating will determine your interest rates.
Your personal credit should be strong and your history should be free of any errors. You'll want to double-check that payments on credit accounts have been reported correctly and that no accounts are in collections. If you're able, you should work hard to pay down any existing lines of credit. Your personal credit score is calculated using a whole host of factors, but one of the most important is the ratio of your credit limit to the amount you've drawn on that credit.
Which means another smart way to improve your credit score is to request an increase in the credit limits of any lines of credit you already have. If you're really on your game, you'll be able to accomplish both.
Once you're able to boost your personal credit score, you'll receive far more favorable terms and lower interest rates when it comes time to apply for the business credit card you need.
Review your business's revenue and expenses
Any line of credit offered to a business is the financial institution's way of showing that they believe the business will be able to pay them back. So, logically, you'll want to be able to show credit card companies that your business can, has, and will continue to make money.
Review and prepare a representative history of your company's revenue. At least the last calendar year. Think about the trends you see in the numbers. Is your revenue trending upward? Are you creating more revenue streams? Did you have a bad month or months?
And check your expenses. For one, your expenses combined with revenues show whether you're generating profit. But it's also helpful to again see where you're spending money and use that to determine the card you apply for.
If these numbers aren't favorable, don't fret: you have another option
You may need to apply for a secured business credit card. A secured card functions essentially the same way as a regular card does, except that you'll have to put a large amount of money down before you receive the line of credit.
Secured credit cards are great for those with less-than-perfect credit or a short credit history because once you've built up several billing cycles of on-time payment, you'll receive that deposit back and the card can function as normal.
Applying for business credit cards is simple, fast, and online
Your credit is solid. You've got the documents you need. Now you're ready to submit an application.
For almost all modern-day business credit cards, you'll simply need to fill out an online application. You'll submit your business's name, its revenue and expenses, time in business, contact information, and tax ID number. You may need to submit business tax returns and some personal information as well.
But in most cases, you'll receive a decision immediately if not instantaneously, and you'll get the card in the mail within a couple weeks if you're approved. And then it's simply a matter of using the card wisely, making business purchases that will ensure maximum bonus points and other rewards.
What are some of the best business credit cards?
Every business is different, so there's not necessarily one specific best credit card. But here are some business cards which may be particularly strong in certain categories of business.
Capital One Spark Cash for Business
While you will need excellent credit, the Capital One Spark Cash for Business card features a simple rewards program with a terrific welcome offer.
You'll get unlimited 2% back on each and every purchase. In addition, there's no annual fee in your first year, though there is a $95 fee every year thereafter. If you spend $4,500 in the first three months, you'll also get a $500 bonus.
Young companies or startups in need of a fast boost. Anyone looking for a simple rewards program with no particular spending categories. Companies and business owners with excellent credit.
Chase Ink Business Preferred Card
80,000 bonus points if you spend $5,000 in the first three months. Free employee cards. Triple points on travel expenses, shipping, utilities, and online advertising purchases. Points can transfer to travel programs.
Companies with lots of employees making travel or shipping purchases or for anyone who doesn't mind an annual fee.
American Express Business Gold Card
While this card comes with a hefty annual fee of almost $300, it can be well worth it if you are spending a considerable amount in certain categories.
Each billing cycle, you'll earn quadruple points in two of six categories, depending on which two you spent the most on. As stated through the American Express website, those categories are: Airfare purchased directly from airlines, advertising in select media (online, TV, radio), purchases made directly from select technology providers of computer hardware, software, and cloud solutions, purchases at gas stations, purchases at restaurants, and purchases for shipping.
If you use points to purchase airfare through the American Express Travel, you'll get 25% of them back.
Companies with lots of travel involved or who spend heavily in shipping or ground transportation. Also any business with the flexibility to handle a large annual fee.
Capital One Spark Classic for Business
If even after you make the moves to boost your credit, your score is still hovering below where it needs to be to get a low-interest card with lots of perks, you may want to look here. All is not lost for entrepreneurs with bad credit.
Unlimited 1% cash back an1d no-fee employee cards. That's because this card is very attainable for those with less than ideal credit. This is the card you apply for when you need to build your business credit from the ground up. Use it responsibly, and you'll be able to build a business credit score worthy of one of the more lucrative cards.
Businesses with a short or checkered credit history unable to qualify for cards with more and better perks.
The Business Platinum Card from American Express
All of the perks for this card boil down to making travel better, less of a pain, and less expensive. It does also come with an annual fee of almost $600.
5x points on flights and hotels booked through American Express Travel. A $200 Airline Fee Credit every year. A 50% boost in points on large purchases. 50,000 and 25,000 point bonuses for each $10,000 you spend in the first three months. One year of WeWork access.
If your company spends a lot and requires a ton of travel, this is an incredible deal. But it's at its best when it's being used a ton, so this isn't a card for businesses with low expenditures. You'll also need to keep that annual fee in mind.
Business credit cards can be helpful and specialized tools for any business.
Because they're so unique and designed for specific purposes, a business credit card can help you build credit for your company while also racking up bonuses. There's a right card out there for every business to make sure your money works for you on normal expenditures and that you have a safety net if an emergency ever arises.