Business Credit Cards: How to Score the Best Deal for Your Small Biz
Cash flow is a challenge for almost every business at some point. In fact, 30% of businesses fail because they run out of money. Yikes.
One way to avoid cash flow problems is by establishing a line of credit for your business. This can give you access to capital when you don’t physically have it available, but need it to keep the wheels turning.
This is where small business credit cards come in. You can apply for a credit card to give you access to funds — and these handy little cards have a lot more benefits for your business than that. Below, we’ll go over why you need one, how to get one, and which are the best small business credit cards out there.
Why do you need a business credit card?
There are lots of reasons merchants might need a business credit card:
- Simpler accounting: A business credit card makes it easier to keep personal and business expenses separate, which in turn makes it easier to record, track, and total expenses — this comes in handy at tax time.
- Protect personal assets: Likewise, if business and personal expenses are separate, and you’re working as a business entity, this limits your personal liabilities should your business face financial hardship.
- Fund your business: You might need to make high-ticket purchases and investments in your business to help you grow along the way. A credit card makes it easier to have access to necessary capital without draining your financial safety net.
- Build credit: Over time, your business will build credit. This is important for future lines of credit and funding, like business loans or investors.
- Create bank relationships: Similarly, if you’ll need funding down the line, it’s always helpful to have well-established relationships with financial institutions to increase the likelihood of loan approvals. (Note: Only about a quarter of SMB loan applications are approved.)
- Earn points and rewards: Cash in on the spending you’re doing anyway with credit card rewards for business expenses, travel, and other common charges.
- Higher lines of credit: Business lines of credit typically have higher limits than for individuals.
Why you need the right business credit card
Every business is different, so there’s no universal “best business credit card.” But it’s helpful to understand why picking the right one is so critical. “You’ll frequently reach for your business credit card when making business purchases, so you want to be sure you have the correct card,” says Priyanka Prakash, business finance expert at Fundera. “By getting a card that rewards you in the areas you already spend on, it’s like getting free cash to invest in growing your business.”
Before you begin your search, examine your business. “The best place to look for the right business credit card is right in your own expenses,” says Brett Holzhauer, credit card writer at FinanceBuzz. “Once you have an idea of what categories you spend most on, you can match those expenses to a credit card that will give you the best earnings possible.”
Then look to the future. What are your business goals? What do you need to get there? From there, Prakash recommends figuring out:
- How much you plan to spend your business credit card each month
- The types of purchases you’ll spend the most on
- Your personal and business credit scores
Your credit score will affect which credit cards your business is eligible for, as well as the stipulations of having that card. Here’s a fun fact: Nearly half of SMB owners don’t even know they have a credit score, much less why it’s important.
Pro tip: “Before you apply, make sure you have everything you need,” says Ashley Dull, media manager at CardRates.com. This includes your business name, EIN, monthly revenue and spend, and contact information.
Where to find business credit cards
Now it’s time to actually start searching. One obvious place to go is Google. You’ll find tons of offers, round-ups, and reviews. There are also credit card comparison sites built to do exactly that: help you find the best credit cards.
“If you know what you want, it’s easy to compare your options, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, these sites offer comparison tools to help you narrow down your options based on the criteria you specify,” says Ashley Dull, media manager at CardRates.com.
Try these review and comparison sites:
- Compare Cards
- Credit Card Insider
- Credit Karma
- Doctor Of Credit
How to choose a business credit card
Now that you understand your unique needs and have a few cards in consideration, compare the following:
Though many financial experts will tell you not to be fooled by high signup bonuses, the right ones can actually yield you a decent reward. “If you’re not credit-savvy, it’s easy to overlook the power of a good signup bonus,” says Dull. “Almost every credit card comes with some form of bonus for new cardholders, including business cards.”
Business card signup bonuses work the same way consumer card bonuses do, but they’re typically more rewarding. “Because businesses tend to spend a lot more on their credit cards than the average consumer, the signup bonuses are easily attainable on business cards,” she says.
Rewards and cash back
Rewards, points, cash back, and other ongoing incentives are super important. “If you’re earning cash back, it could give you the ability to reinvest in the business or purchase that new office chair you’ve been dying to have,” says Brett Holzhauer, credit card writer at FinanceBuzz.
These rewards are what you’ll be earning with each purchase, so it’s important to look back to the types of purchases you’ve made in the past and plan to make in the future and find a card that will reward those categories.
“Credit cards come in many varieties, and you want one that complements your business,” Dull says. “If you travel for work, find one that rewards you for your travel purchases and offers travel insurance if your trip is delayed or canceled.”
Some business credit card offers include cash back on office supply purchases or common business expenses like internet and phone (ideal for brick-and-mortar businesses).
This is another top consideration when choosing a business credit card. Though it’s important to pay off your credit card in full each month to avoid paying interest, there might be times when you don’t have the capital to do that. “If you know your business card will carry a balance, look for one with a low ongoing APR or even a 0% intro APR promotion,” recommends Dull.
Especially if you’re looking to make big purchases on the credit card, you need to pay attention to the spending limit — in short, it’s gotta be high enough to give you room to make that investment. The spending limit is typically assessed based on your personal and business credit history.
You’ll also want to find out what happens when you hit the spending limit. Are there fees? Will your card be declined? Each card has its own specifications.
Today’s credit cards offer more than just points and cash back perks. Depending on your business and preferences, you can find a credit card with rewards tailored to you.
“Always consider the secondary perks,” says Holzhauer. “While cards can get flashy with signup bonuses and earnings on purchases, don’t overlook the other perks. These can easily save your business thousands of dollars per year when it comes to technology purchases such as company cell phones and computers.”
Some perks to look for:
- Extended warranty protection
- Price protection
- Return protection
- Online banking and tools
- Cell phone insurance
- Travel rewards and insurance
- Budgeting tools
- Employee cards
- Customer support
The best perks really boil down to your business and personal preferences. For example, “if you plan to put $50,000 worth of expenses on a business credit card each month, plan to spend mostly on travel, and have a credit score of 750, then you’ll want to apply for a high-limit business credit card that gives travel rewards,” says Priyanka Prakash, business finance expert at Fundera.
Some credit card companies tack on extra fees for businesses. Find out if you’ll have to pay things like late payment, statement, monthly maintenance, and other fees. Some business credit cards also require a minimum monthly transaction amount, and will charge penalties if that requirement isn’t met.
Top business credit cards
“The best business credit cards are often reserved for those with credit scores above 650,” says Prakash. And again, it depends on what your business is and what you want to get out of a credit card.
Some of the best available small business credit cards right now are:
|Capital One Spark Classic for Business
|American Express Blue Business Cash Card
|Chase Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card
|Capital One Spark Cash for Business
|Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card
|American Express Business Gold Card
|U.S. Bank FlexPerks Business Travel Rewards
|Capital One Spark Miles for Business
|Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business
|Discover it Business Card
|Capital One Spark Cash Select for Business
|American Express Business Platinum Card
|Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
|American Express Blue Business Plus Credit Card
|Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard
|Capital One GM BuyPower Business Card
Note that this information may change, and many of the credit cards offer an introductory 0% APR or waive the annual fee for the first year. Check with the credit card issuer directly.
Stuck with bad or limited credit history? This is typical for business credit cards for new businesses — you don’t have business history to fall back on and provide proof of legitimacy and financial health. In this case, Prakash recommends applying for a secured business credit card. “With a secured business credit card, you put down a monetary deposit to secure your credit limit,” she says. “After using a secured business card and paying your bills in a timely manner for a few months, you can graduate to a regular business credit card.”
Remember, this list can and will change. And you don’t need to pick one and be done with it, either.
“Just as businesses shift in strategy, their credit card strategy should do the same,” says Holzhauer. “Whether the business has is spending more in other categories, or a new credit card is introduced that will earn the business more rewards, sticking with one credit card concretely is only hurting the business. Stay educated on current credit cards and their offers, and only apply for ones that you will benefit from in your business’s current financial state.”
Moving forward with how to get a business credit card
Once you know which credit card makes the most sense for your business, prepare your EIN, financial history and projections, and personal information so you can fill out an application. Most should allow you to apply completely online.
Find out which other financial institutions and entities to do business with:
- How to Find a Credit Card Processor: A Quick-Start Guide to Choosing the Best Merchant Services
- Finding the Best Merchant Account for Ecommerce: 4 Steps to Take
- How to Find Cheap Credit Card Processing for Your Business
- Everything You Need to Know About Merchant Services Providers
- Merchant Services Reviews: 8 Sites to Check Out When Shopping for a Payment Processor
- 4 Questions to Ask Yourself When Selecting a Credit Card Processor