Comparing Business Credit Card Offers
Updated: November 13, 2018
If you’re a small business owner, you probably don’t have time to sort through a laundry list of business cards and complicated rewards schemes. But if you’re looking for the right card for your business, it pays to sweat the details.
A good business card can help you invest more in your company, smooth out fluctuations in your monthly cash flow and build a better credit score for your business. It can also help you organize your expenses and monitor your employees’ spending.
Even better, many of the best business credit cards nowadays come packed with generous rewards that help you trim expenses and enjoy exclusive benefits. Here, we look at:
Whether you want to understand more about how to properly use a business card or how to build business credit, we can help.
How business credit cards work
Business credit cards are designed for use by business owners for business use rather than private individuals who have cards for their personal use. They are often used to build a company’s credit history, improve its cashflow and keep business expenses separate from personal charges. Business credit cards are available to businesses of all sizes, including sole proprietorships, and they may or may not show up on your individual credit report.
Business credit cards are great tools to organize expenditures, earn rewards, and save on interest payments. Even if your business's spending is modest, choosing the right credit card can save you large sums of money over time.
"All businesses, regardless of size, should have credit cards specifically designated for business use. You can even qualify for these cards as a sole proprietor," says Ted Rossman, CreditCards.com industry analyst. "Business credit cards offer excellent rewards and make it easier to track expenses and manage taxes."
An important difference to note: Small business cards are different from corporate credit cards. Corporate cards are issued by only a few banks to companies that have a relationship with that bank, and are issued to the company as a whole rather than to an individual within the company.
CreditCards.com's best business credit cards of 2018:
|Business Credit Card||Best For:||Rewards Rate||Annual Fee||CreditCards.com Rating|
|Ink Business UnlimitedSM Credit Card||Flat-rate rewards on business purchases||1.5% unlimited||$0||3.6 / 5|
|The Blue BusinessSM Plus Credit Card from American Express||Flexible credit limit and long intro 0% APR period||2X||$0||4.3 / 5|
|Bank of America® Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card||Business travel purchases and bonus for Business Advantage clients||3% at gas stations and office supply stores**||$0||2.5 / 5|
|Ink Business CashSM Credit Card||Cash back with high rewards rate on office supplies||5% on office supplies, internet*||$0||3.4 / 5|
|Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business||Free employee cards and unlimited 2% cash back||2% unlimited||$0 intro for first year; $95 thereafter||4.4 / 5|
|Ink Business PreferredSM Credit Card||Sign-up bonus and high rewards on select business categories||3X on travel, select business categories||$95||3.9 / 5|
|Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business||No expiration on rewards and small business perks||1.5% unlimited||$0||3.7 / 5|
|CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®||International business and flights||2X on eligible AA purchases, select business categories||$0 intro for first year; $99 thereafter||3.9 / 5|
|Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business||Bonus miles and international use||2X on all purchases||$0 intro for first year; $95 thereafter||4.2 / 5|
|American Express® Business Gold Card||High rewards rates on business purchases||4X on your 2 top spending categories***||$295||3.8 / 5|
*Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year
**Up to $250,000 each calendar year, 1% after that
***Up to $150,000 annually, then 1 point per dollar
Research methodology: what we considered
Business credit cards analyzed: 368
Criteria used: Rewards categories, rewards rates, redemption options and flexibility, sign-up bonus, customer service, small business perks, annual fee, other rates and fees, security, credit needed, ease of application
Editor's take on the best business credit cards
Ink Business UnlimitedSM Credit Card
For small business owners looking for a straightforward rewards structure, the Ink Business Unlimited's 1.5% back on all purchases is a nice option. There's also a sizeable sign-up bonus of $500 after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
While the ongoing rewards are lower than that of the Spark Cash for Business, this card comes with no annual fee, while the Spark Cash for Business requires a $95 annual fee after the first year. The Ink Business Unlimited also offers 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months (then 15.24% - 21.24% variable), something you won't get with the Spark Cash for Business.
The Blue BusinessSM Plus Credit Card from American Express
This card has no annual fee, and you'll get 2X points on every purchase up to $50,000 each year. Then it's 1X point after that on all purchases. You can redeem them in a variety of ways – travel, statement credits, and more.
In addition to no-fee employee cards, you'll have access to the Spend Manager feature, which allows you to add receipts and notes to your transactions, as well as allowing you to label and transfer your American Express data to QuickBooks.
Bank of America® Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card
With its 3% cash back at gas stations and office supply stores (up to $250,000 each calendar year, 1% after that), the Business Advantage Cash Rewards card is perfect for business travel and frequent road trips as well as regular business expenses. It also offers 2% back at restaurants and 1% on everything else, solidifying its status as a versatile credit card.
While its cash back bonus is a lackluster $200, its required spend is a paltry $500 in the first 60 days of opening your account. Add to that, there is no annual fee with this card. While its 0% intro APR is only for purchases and only for 9 billing cycles (then 13.24% - 23.24% variable APR), it can still come in handy if you plan to carry a balance.
Ink Business CashSM Credit Card
The Ink Business Cash has a really strong sign-up bonus and 5% cash back in common business spending categories (office supply stores, internet, cable, phone). Consider this a go-to business card if you spend most in those categories and don't want the hassle of an annual fee.
The sign-up bonus is $500 after a $3,000 spend within the first 3 months of card membership, and the 5% cash back is on the first $25,000 spent on those categories in the year. You can also earn 2% back up to $25,000 at gas stations and restaurants each year, making it a competitor of the tiered consumer cash back cards, such as Blue Cash Everyday and Bank of America Cash Rewards. It's 1% back on all other purchases, no limits.
Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business
If you don't want to worry about remembering what your bonus categories are, the Spark Cash is a great card – you get 2% cash back on every purchase. Couple that with a strong sign-up bonus and easy access to additional employee cards, and you have one of the strongest business cards out there.
This card has a $500 one-time bonus after a $5,000 spend in 3 months – a high required spend, but a respectable bonus. As a limited time offer, there is an additional $1,500 bonus to be gained if you are able to spend $50,000 in your first 6 months. With the flat rate for ongoing rewards, there's no tinkering with rotating categories, and the 2% back is quite good. Finally, employee cards come at no extra cost, and you can earn rewards from employees' spend.
Stefanie O’Connell (personal finance expert): "Unlimited 2 percent cash back on every purchase, a $500 sign-up bonus and simple cash back reward redemption make the Capital One Spark Cash for Business card an easy way to get rewarded for doing business on a daily basis."
Daniel P. Ray (editor-in-chief at CreditCards.com): "With the Capital One Spark Cash for Business card, you don’t have to learn about complicated redemption plans. You just earn, and handsomely, with every purchase."
Matt Schulz (chief industry analyst at CompareCards): "If you're running a business, your to-do list is 100 miles long. What you want from a card is simplicity, flexibility and predictability. That's why Spark Cash from Capital One is so great. It's a simple cash back card that gets you 2 percent on everything you spend. Nice and easy, and you can use those rewards on whatever you think is best for your business."
Ink Business PreferredSM Credit Card
The Ink Business Preferred has one of the best sign-up bonuses on the market right now, and it has great rewards rates in common business expense categories. This card is a no-brainer if you spend a lot on advertising and want the bonus 25% in points when using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to book travel.
Earn 80,000 points (worth $1,000 in travel through Ultimate Rewards) after you spend $5,000 within the first 3 months of card membership. Also, earn 3X points on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, and advertising purchases made through social media and search engines up to a combined $150,000 each year. Earn 1X point on all other purchases. You can also get up to $600 per claim in cellphone protection against theft or damage for you or your employees listed on your cell bill and when you pay with this card (max 3 claims a year, with a $100 deductible on each claim).
Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business
This card has many of the Spark Cash's benefits, including no fee on employee cards and ability to earn rewards on employees' spend. The Spark Cash Select's rewards of 1.5% back on all purchases have been trimmed when compared to the Spark Cash, but without the added expense of an annual fee.
The one-time bonus is also lower, at $200, although the required spend is also lower, at $3,000 within the first 3 months. Rewards won't expire for the life of the account, and you can redeem your cash back for any amount.
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®
A great choice especially for businesses that require cross-country or international travel, this card comes with a stellar sign-up bonus of 70,000 AAdvantage miles for spending $4,000 in the first 4 months. You earn 2X miles not only on eligible American Airlines purchases, but also a number of key business expenses, including at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants, and gas stations.
It also comes with the kind of premium perks you would expect, like preferred boarding on AA flights and free first checked bags on domestic AA flights. The $99 annual fee is waived in the first year.
Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business
This card offers 50,000 miles after a $5,000 spend within the first 3 months, and for a limited time you can earn another 150,000 miles if you spend $50,000 within the first 6 months. In terms of regular rewards, the Spark Miles earns 2X miles on all purchases. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year and there are no foreign transaction fees.
One surprise: While the card carries a high interest rate of 18.74% variable, there is no balance transfer fee, so this card could be a solid option if you are consolidating debt and you plan to pay the balance off quickly.
American Express® Business Gold Card
For business owners seeking high rewards on a variety of purchases, the Business Gold Card is a great match. From 6 possible categories, you will earn 4X points on the 2 categories in which you spend the most in each billing cycle. These 6 categories include airfare purchased directly from airlines and U.S. purchases in select media advertising, gas stations, restaurants, shipping, and select computer software and hardware. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar; note that purchases in the aforementioned categories also drop to 1 point per dollar after the first $150,000 spent each year.
There is an annual fee of $295, but the rewards make the fee easily worth it for businesses with medium to high expenses. The Business Gold Card also comes with some interesting welcome offers, namely up to 1 year free of G Suite Basic and ZipRecruiter Standard.
Pros and cons of business credit cards
If you are a small business owner trying to build your credit history and grow your business, a business credit card can be a beneficial tool. But they also come with potential downfalls.
Here’s a summary of the pros and cons:
Build credit for your business
A business credit card can substantially boost your business credit history. By putting small charges on your card each month and paying them off, you can create a record of timely payments for your business.
Improve your cash flow
If you need to make purchases for your business before your customers pay you, using credit cards can be a smart practice – as long as you’re assured of getting the funds to pay off the balance. Business cards tend to offer higher credit limits and more flexible payment terms to help with cash flow. Some cards even give business owners flexible due dates to pay off a balance.
Track and manage your business spending
Business cards allow you to keep your business spending separate from personal expenses, and to see all your business purchases in one place. Most business credit cards will integrate with Quickbooks, so you can easily upload and track your spending.
Issue cards to your employees with spending controls
Many business cards will issue individual cards to your employees for free, to save your employees from having to cover business expenses with their personal funds. If you are leery about employees misusing their cards, you can set up spending limits and alerts for each user to keep them in check. Another bonus of employee cards: You get to collect the rewards on all their purchases.
Get rewarded on business-specific purchases
A business credit card can help you reap substantial rewards on your business purchases, with bonus categories targeted to common business purchases. The Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card, for instance, offers 5 percent cash back bonus on office supplies, internet, cable and phone services (on the first $25,000 in combined purchases each year).
Additional sign-up bonus opportunities
If you’ve maxed out your opportunities to earn sign-up bonuses with a certain issuer, you may be able to collect an additional sign-up bonus by applying for the business version of a card – and often with a larger sign-up bonus than the personal version of the card.
A business failure can impact your personal credit score
If your business fails and you end up with a credit card balance you can’t pay off, you might be personally responsible for paying your business credit card off, and it may go on your personal credit report.
Business cards are typically laden with features – such as detailed expense tracking and spending reports – that may be overkill for the average consumer. Also, because they’re exempt from the consumer protections offered by the federal Credit CARD Act, you might be charged higher late fees or have your APR suddenly hiked up (though many issuers extend consumer-friendly terms to their business cards).
How to apply for a business credit card
You may assume that you have to be the owner of a business with multiple employees and an office or store front to apply for a business credit card, but that simply isn’t true. Anyone who owns a side business – such as baby-sitting, yard maintenance, blogging or consulting – that makes money (or possibly doesn’t even have an income yet) can potentially qualify for a business card.
Here’s what you’ll be asked for when you apply:
- An EIN or SSN
You’ll need to supply your EIN – the number issued by the IRS to people who have a business located in the United States or U.S. territories. If you’re an individual proprietor without an EIN, you can use your Social Security number instead to apply.
- Your business information
You’ll need to supply some basic information about your business: The name of your business (or your personal name, if you’re a freelancer), the type of business (partnership, corporation or sole proprietorship), your role in the business, your business address and phone number, how long you’ve been in business, your number of employees, your annual business revenue and your estimated monthly spend.
- Your personal information
You’ll need to include your personal details on the application as well, including name, address, contact information, Social Security number, birthdate, mother’s maiden name and household income.
- A personal guarantee
Unless you own a substantially sized business (and sometimes even when you do), you’ll probably be asked to make a personal guarantee on your business credit card application, stating that you are personally responsible for repaying your card debt. This means that, if you stop making payments on the card because the business fails, the bank can come after you personally to recover the debt.
Having a well-established business, of course, helps your odds, but you may be able to qualify by just supplying the above information. Here are a few other things you can do to boost your chances of qualifying:
- Pay down debt
Pay down your existing card debt about 30 days before applying for a new card.
- List all of your income
When applying, be sure to list income before taxes, and include income such as pension, alimony and rental income.
- Build up your personal credit score first
Having a good personal credit history is the main factor for getting accepted for a business credit card. If your credit score isn’t good, you need to work on building your personal credit before you apply.
- Be honest on your application
Don’t make up fake revenue for your business hoping to push your application through. If the bank double checks on your application and finds your application isn’t accurate, you could get rejected.
- Start a relationship with the bank
If you already have a relationship with the bank, you have a greater chance of getting accepted for one of their business cards. Start a checking account for your business with the bank and then try applying for one of their cards.
How to choose the best credit card for your business
Credit cards are among the most popular forms of credit for business owners – in fact, it is the most popular among those not applying for a line of credit. Some 44% say they regularly use cards, with the second most common being a loan or line of credit at 38%, according to the Federal Reserve's 2017 Small Business Credit Survey.
There’s no one-size-fits-all business credit card. Business’s credit needs can vary greatly, and business credit cards vary along with those needs. As Ted Rossman points out, "Choosing the right business credit card depends on what you're looking for (cash back, free travel, low interest, etc.). There are lucrative sign-up bonuses to be had, and rewards on spending categories tailored for businesses (such as travel, technology, internet, phone, shipping and online advertising purchases)." Here’s what you need to consider in choosing the best card for your needs:
How do you want to use the card?
Your first step in picking the right business credit card is determining what your needs are for a credit card.
- Do you need to make a purchase and pay the debt off over time? If so, then a card with a 0-percent APR on new purchases might be a good way to go.
- Do you need the card to create cash flow for your business? You might look at a charge card or a credit card with more flexible spending terms, such as the American Express Plum card.
- Are you looking for a card to start building a credit history for your business? As long as the card issuer will report your good habits to the credit bureaus, any card will serve this purpose.
- Do you want to earn rewards from your business spending? If so, you might look at cash back cards or other types of rewards cards that will enable you to earn rewards on your business spending while also building up a record of timely payments. Do this, and you're ahead of the game – just 29% of small-business owners who have a credit card use the rewards to pay a business expense, Capital One found. And just 1 in 10 use rewards to help their business' bottom line.
What are your spending habits?
Consider the amount that you’re likely to charge each month, and whether you’re assured of paying your bill off at the end of the month. If you need the flexibility to make very large purchases, you might choose a charge card, which doesn’t impose a credit limit.
If you’re likely to carry a balance at all, you might want to steer clear of a charge card because you can incur a stiff penalty for not paying off your bill, although American Express now has a program that allows you to pay over time if you qualify. And, if you think you’ll need more flexibility in paying off your balance, you might look for a card with a more flexible deadline.
What types of rewards are you interested in?
If you think a rewards card is the best option for you, the next step is to figure out your preference for rewards.
- Do you or your employees travel often for business, and are you loyal to a particular airline or hotel? You might consider signing up for a cobranded airline or hotel card, which can be extremely rewarding for dedicated customers.
- Or, if you want more flexible redemption options, you might consider a flexible points card, such as the Chase Ink Business Preferred card.
- If you’re looking for simplicity, a cash back card is probably your best bet – you can redeem your cash back as statement credit or have it deposited into a bank account without having to worry about how to use rewards points.
What types of spending do you do?
Once you’ve settled on the type of rewards that you prefer, you should look at how your business allocates its spending, to decide which card will be most rewarding for you:
Do you mind paying an annual fee?
Many business credit cards come with annual fees, and the fees are often well worth it. If you run some calculations, you’ll often find that you’ll get far more value out of a card with an annual fee than a card without one.
Comparison of Spark Cash and Spark Cash Select, first year...
|Card||Ongoing rewards||Sign-up bonus||Annual fee||Total at end of 1st year|
|Capital One Spark Cash Select for Business||1.5%*$1,700 a mth*12 mths=$306||$200/$3,000 spend in 3 mths||$0||$506|
|Capital One Spark Cash for Business||2%*$1,700 a mth*12 mths=$408||$500/$5,000 spend in 3 mths||$95, waived first yr||$908|
As you'll notice, the Spark Cash is worthwhile the first year because of the waived annual fee and the higher sign-up bonus. But things change in the second year:
Comparison of Spark Cash and Spark Cash Select, second year...
|Card||Ongoing rewards||Annual fee||Total at end of 1st year|
|Capital One Spark Cash Select for Business||1.5%*$1,700 a mth*12 mths=$306||$0||$306|
|Capital One Spark Cash for Business||2%*$1,700 a mth*12 mths=$408||$95, waived first yr||$313|
As you can see, in the second year, the card with no annual fee becomes a better fit if you have a lower spend.
Consider the other benefits
Business credit cards often come with a long list of benefits that can add considerable value to card on top of the card’s rewards program. Keep an eye out for features to track and manage your spending, including integration with account software such as Quickbooks, which could make life much easier for you (or your account manager).
If you plan to issue cards to your employees, you should look for a card that allows you to set spending controls and alerts on your employee cards. Also, cards often come with travel and purchase protections that can add some insurance to your next trip or major business purchase.
How to compare two business credit cards
The best approach to comparing two business credit cards depends on how you intend to use the card. If you are searching for a card to finance a large payment, you might compare the interest rates on two cards (or the length of their introductory period if they both offer 0-percent financing) and the flexibility of their repayment terms. If you are looking for a card to manage cash flow, you might examine the flexibility of payment terms on two cards. Or, if you are hoping to earn cash back or travel rewards with your credit cards, you might compare the value of the rewards that you can earn with each card.
Since business rewards cards are a popular option, we’ll take a deeper dive into how to compare them:
Comparing rewards values
Your first step is to calculate the rewards value for the two cards. Basically, you need to estimate how much you’re likely to spend in each of the card’s bonus categories over the year, multiply that amount by the rewards value (don’t forget to figure in the value of points if it’s a points or miles card), add in the sign-up bonus and subtract the annual fee. You should use the following formula:
Rewards value = (Spend in category 1 x Rewards rate x Point value) + (Spend in category 2 x Rewards rate x Point value), etc. + Sign-up bonus - Annual fee
For example, in the following table we calculate the rewards earnings for a cardholder who spends $48,000 on a card in a year, with 6 percent of their spending allocated to office supplies, internet, cable and phone services ($2,880); 12 percent to dining out ($5,280); 11 percent to gas station purchases ($5,760); and 71 percent to other types of purchases ($34,080).
For this particular cardholder, the Capital One Spark Cash card – though it doesn’t offer any bonus categories -- comes out ahead, thanks to its high rate of 2 percent cash back on every purchase:
Rewards value in the first year ($48,000 spend)
Capital One Spark Cash
Chase Ink Business Cash
|2% x $48,000 + $500 sign-up bonus - $0 annual fee (waived first year) = $1,460||(5% x $2,880) + (2% x $5,280) + (2% x $5,760) + (1% x $34,080) + $500 sign-up bonus - $0 annual fee = $1,205.60|
Over the long term, the Capital One Spark Cash card proves to be the better value. Even when we add in the annual fee in the second year, our model cardholder still earns a larger amount of cash back with the Capital One Spark Cash card:
Rewards value in the second year ($48,000 spend)
Capital One Spark Cash
Chase Ink Business Cash
|2% x $48,000 - $95 annual fee = $865||(5% x $2,880) + (2% x $5,280) + (2% x $5,760) + (1% x $34,080) - $0 annual fee = $705.60|
Comparing other features
You should also take a look at the cards’ other features before you decide which one to go with. For instance, you need to consider how easy it is to earn and redeem rewards with the cards.
The Capital One Spark Cash card and the Chase Ink Business Cash card are both simple, flexible cards, but the Capital One Spark Cash card comes out ahead in redemption flexibility. Unlike the Chase Ink Business Cash card, the Capital One Spark Cash card doesn’t set any limits on the cash back that you can earn and there is no minimum threshold to redeem your cash back. You can redeem any amount at any time, and you can even set your account to automatically redeem your cash back, once it reaches a certain amount:
Comparing redemption flexibility
Capital One Spark Cash
Chase Ink Business Cash
- Do awards expire? No
- Redemption options: Cash back, gift cards, donations
- Limits on cash back? No
- Minimum redemption amount: Redeem any amount of cash back at any time (and set thresholds to automatically redeem your cash back)
- Do awards expire? No
- Redemption options: Cash back, travel, gift cards, Amazon points, experiences
- Limits on cash back? $25,000 purchase limit for each bonus category
- Minimum redemption amount: $20
When you look at the cards’ features, you can see that the Chase Ink Business Cash card, while it does have similar account management features to the Capital One Spark Cash card, doesn’t have the same depth of travel and purchase protections. Of course, the Capital One Spark Cash card comes with a $95 annual fee. Basically, you’re paying a premium for all the extra features:
Capital One Spark Cash
Chase Ink Business Cash
- No fee for employee cards
- Quarterly and year-end summaries
- Mobile app sends you alerts and helps you manage spending on the go
- Integrates with QuickBooks, Quicken and Excel
- Discounts on business purchases with Visa SavingsEdge
- No foreign transaction fees
- Purchase protection
- Extended warranty
- Price protection
- Car rental insurance
- Lost luggage reimbursement
- Travel accident insurance
- Travel and emergency assistance
- Roadside dispatch
- VIP access and special events
- Emergency card services
- No fee for employee cards
- Set individual limits on employee cards
- Mobile app sends you alerts and lets you snap and tag receipts on the go
- Purchase protection
- Extended warranty
- Car rental insurance
As you can see from our example, a card with an annual fee can often be a great value, depending on your spending habits and whether you’re likely to use all the features. But who says you have to choose just one business rewards card? Signing up for multiple rewards cards and juggling them to earn extra points in the cards’ bonus categories can be a great way to maximize your rewards.
How to properly use and manage a business credit card
A business credit card can be a powerful tool for increasing your purchasing power and building your business credit history, but it can also come with serious liabilities. Here are some tips to help you avoid the pitfalls:
Read your card’s terms and conditions
Since business cards aren’t regulated by the CARD Act, you should take a close look at your card’s terms and conditions and monitor any changes to terms and conditions that come in your email. Keep an eye out for changes in interest rates, due dates or fees.
Only use your card for business expenses
Don’t put your personal spending on your business credit card. Mingling your expenses makes it harder to track your business spending. Plus, it can make you personally liable if someone sues your company.
Keep employees in check
Put limits and alerts on your employees’ credit card accounts and establish clear rules on how employees can use their cards.
Limit who you give employee cards to
Don’t just hand out cards to every employee in your company. Limit cards to accountable employees who need cards to make purchases on a frequent basis. This will help keep your expenses in check, simplify account management and limit the risk of an employee going on a spending spree.
Use your card regularly and pay the balance in full
By putting a balance on your card each month and paying it off by the due date, you can quickly improve your business credit score by creating a record of timely payments.
Spend only on what you need
Don’t let your card’s rewards program tempt you into putting extra purchases on the card. Charge only what you need to each month.
Track your spending carefully
Use your credit card’s expense reporting features to keep close tabs on your spending. Look for opportunities to cut expenses.
Anticipate your cash flow
Figure out ahead of time what your cash flow is going to be through the month. See if you can negotiate your due date with your credit card issuer so that it falls on a date where you will have funds to pay off your balance. Make large purchases right after your statement closes so you have plenty of time to repay the balance.
Make a plan to repay a large purchase ahead of time
Make sure you have a plan in place to repay the amount that you borrow against your credit line, so you can pay it off quickly and avoid high interest fees, penalties or possibly incurring a debt you can’t afford to repay. Avoid carrying a balance past the due date if you can, since the interest can be very costly.
Take advantage of purchase protections
Purchase equipment with your credit card to extend the card’s purchase protections to it. You can possibly save yourself a lot of money if the price goes down, or your equipment malfunctions or gets lost or stolen.
Use your account management features
Take advantage of all the features your issuer offers to simplify your account management. Set up automatic alerts for your card and your employees’ cards, set up autopay to make sure you meet your payment due date and link your account to your accounting software so you can easily download all your expenses.
Deduct interest from your taxes
If you do happen to incur interest from carrying a balance on a business credit card, be sure to note it on your tax form – it counts as a business expense.
How do you build business credit?
To build a credit history for your business, you need to establish that your business is a separate entity from yourself and take steps to make sure that your business’ spending activity is being tracked by business credit bureaus. Here are some steps you can take to create a credit history for your business:
Start a business checking account
A checking account will help you establish your business as a financial entity. Be sure to use it responsibly – keep an adequate balance in it and don’t bounce checks.
Make sure your business is on the credit reporting radar
Register for a DUN number through Dun and Bradstreet to establish a credit history with them. For Experian and Equifax, establish a LLC so you can get an EIN and set up a phone line with a listed number.
Use D&B Credit Builder
If some of your vendor accounts are not making it onto your credit report, you can use D&B’s Credit Builder service to provide positive payment information to your credit report. You can provide D&B with your vendors contact information, then D&B will contact them to verify your payment history.
Strengthen your personal credit history
Unlikely though it may seem, building your personal credit score is one of the first steps to building a credit history for your business. A good personal credit score can help you acquire your first lines of business credit. Also, your personal credit history will likely be considered down the line along with your business credit history when you apply for additional loans.
Apply for a small business credit card
Before you’ve built up your business credit history, you can use your personal credit history to qualify for a business credit card. Your activity on the card should be reported to all the business credit bureaus. Use it often and be sure to pay your bill on time and in full each month.
Make your payments on time
Consistent and prompt payments are the single most-critical factor in a business credit report. Diligently paying all your accounts on time will go a long way toward demonstrating your ability to manage loans.
Streamline your invoicing
To make sure you can make your own payments on time (and minimize your need for cash flow), make sure your own customers paying you in a timely manner. Send out your invoices as soon as a service is performed and encourage your customers to pay on time.
Use business credit instead of personal credit when you can
Shift your spending to your business accounts and pay off your balance in time to strengthen your company’s credit report.
Ask for a credit line increase
Request credit line increases on your existing accounts – this will improve your credit-to-debt ratio and thus your overall credit score.
What is a good credit rating for a business?
Credit scoring for businesses is a bit different (and more complicated) than scoring for consumers. Personal FICO scores range from 300 to 850 while business credit scores generally range from zero to 100. There are three primary business credit score bureaus – Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian – and they all structure their ratings differently. Here’s a quick summary for you:
Dun & Bradstreet offers three scores in its credit report:
- Paydex score – An indicator of the timeliness of your payments. The score ranges from zero to 100. A score above 80 indicates payments made within terms.
- Commercial credit score – Shows the likelihood of a severe delinquency on your bills in the next year. The score ranges from 101 to 670, with a lower score representing a higher probability of a delinquency. A score above 450 is good and above 482 is excellent.
- Financial stress score – Predicts the likelihood of your business failing within the next year. The score ranges from A score above 1509 is good and above 1570 is excellent.
Equifax offers four scores in its credit report:
- Credit information – Measures your delinquency risk based on positive and negative information in your credit file. The score ranges from 20 to 70, with lower scores being better.
- Payment index – Shows the timeliness of your payments to vendors and creditors. The score ranges from zero to 99. A score lower than 30 (i.e., your payments are usually made in the first 30 days) is best.
- Commercial delinquency score – Shows the likelihood of a severe delinquency on your bills in the next year. The score ranges from 101 to 992. A higher score is better.
- Business failure score – Predicts the likelihood of your business failing in the next year. The score ranges from 1,000 to 1,610. A higher score is better.
Experian offers a single score in its credit report:
- Business credit score – A comprehensive rating of your creditworthiness, based on your credit history, including balances and outstanding loans, payment habits, whether you have any liens against you, judgments or bankruptcies against your business and the size and age of your business. The score ranges from zero to 100. A score higher than 50 is good.
Note, if you are intending to apply for a business credit card, you’ll also need to look at your personal FICO score, since card issuers use your personal credit history to determine your credit worthiness. A FICO score of 700 is considered good, while 750 and above is considered excellent.
How do I find my business credit score?
You can find your business credit score by visiting the Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian websites. You can check your business credit history at no cost. You will have to pay a fee to see your credit scores — $61.99 for your Dun & Bradstreet score, $99.95 for your Equifax score and $39.95 for your Experian score.
Do business credit cards build personal credit?
Usually not. Business credit cards typically aren’t recorded on your personal credit report unless your account becomes seriously delinquent – but it depends on the issuer. Capital One, for instance, does report all the activity on your business cards to consumer credit bureaus, but Bank of America does not.
Here’s a summary of credit reporting policies for the major issuers:
|Issuer||Reports to personal credit bureaus?|
|American Express||Yes. But only negative information.|
|Bank of America||No.|
|Capital One||Yes. Capital One flags all data sent to personal credit bureaus as "small business" so bureaus can incorporate the data into their reports accordingly.|
|Chase||No. But will if account becomes seriously delinquent.|
|U.S. Bank||No. But will if account becomes seriously delinquent.|
A business card vs. a consumer card
While consumer and business cards have much in common, business cards are targeted to small businesses and have unique features that may make them less useful for someone who doesn’t own a business. Here are the key differences:
Higher credit limits and more flexible payment terms
Business cards often have better terms than consumer credit cards. Business cards frequently come with higher credit limits, and some cards – such as the American Express Plum card – may offer flexible payment terms to help businesses maintain cash flow.
Business owners, who tend to spend more heavily on their cards than personal cardholders, are plum targets for credit card issuers. Business cards often feature very generous bonuses to lure in business owners.
Only business owners can apply
Unlike personal cards, which are pretty much open to anyone with a high enough credit score, business credit cards require you to own a business to apply. Luckily, the definition of a qualifying business is permissive – any side job through which you earn income may qualify as a business.
Rewards targeted toward business purchases
Business credit cards tend to target their bonus categories toward common types of business purchases, such as travel, dining and office supplies.
Business cards also tend to come with features that help business owners manage their credit card spending, such as expense tracking, integration with Quickbooks and the ability to issue employee cards with spending limits and account alerts.
Build business credit
Business credit cards report to business credit bureaus, and are very useful for building a credit history for your business.
May not go on your personal credit report
Depending on the issuer, a business credit card account may not appear on your personal credit report. Some issuers, such as Capital One, report all your business credit activity, some only report delinquencies and some issuers don’t report to personal credit bureaus at all.
No consumer protections
Consumer protections, such as the credit CARD Act of 2009, generally don’t apply to business credit cards. With a business card, you could potentially be subject to instant rate hikes, fluctuating due dates and high late fees and overlimit charges. (However, most issuers voluntarily extend the same protections to their business credit card customers.)
Business credit cards vs. business charge cards
Business credit cards and business charge cards are very similar to one another – you can use either type of card to make purchases against a line of credit, which has to be paid either partially or in full by the end of the month. There are key differences between the two, however:
- Credit cards have a preset spending limit, which you are not allowed to go over without being penalized or having your card declined.
- Charge cards don’t have a preset spending limit. This gives businesses the flexibility to make a large purchase without having to request a credit increase. (Issuers may still impose an overall cap on how much you spend, however.)
- Credit cards allow you to carry a balance transfer month to month. You are charged interest on your balance if you don’t pay it in full starting from the end of your grace period, and you could owe a penalty if you don’t make a minimum payment on your balance.
- Charge cards penalize you if you don’t pay your balance in full at the end of the month. You will be penalized sharply if you don’t pay off the bill on your charge card at the end of the month – around 3 percent of total balance. Also, your issuer may suspend your credit.
A charge card may be the better way to go for your business, since they offer more spending flexibility and they have less impact on your credit score, since there isn’t a debt-to-credit ratio. However, they can also be more difficult to qualify for. A business credit card may be the better option if you need a card with a lower barrier to entry and also if there’s a possibility you might carry a balance from month to month.
Major business programs
Whether you are on the watch for business loans or travel business cards, the major banks' business programs are worth a look.
The 3 Chase Ink cards are the stars of the Chase business products, with bonus points or cash back and rich ongoing rewards. Rewards can be used toward cash back, travel, gift cards, and so on.
There are also partner small-business cards with Southwest, United and Marriott, all with bonuses and ongoing points or miles. Those include boosted rewards for loyalty, such as 5X points on Marriott purchases, and Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card offers 6,000 points every anniversary.
Also offered are checking, merchant services and business lending.
Available products, depending on your area, include Chase Total, Chase Performance and Chase Platinum. You can earn $200 back with qualifying activities.
Not only does Chase make sure you can accept payments online, through mobile and everything in between, but the bank also offers the latest in security.
Offerings include business lines of credit, business term loans, SBA financing, commercial real estate financing and equipment financing.
Business cards. Lending. Connecting with QuickBooks. American Express features possibilities you'll love.
Small business and corporate cards abound with this brand, allowing you to earn rewards both from your own expenses and those of your employees. Manage expenses with Spend Manager and sync transactions with Connect to QuickBooks.
There are also funding opportunities for cardmembers and merchants that accept the cards. For example, get merchant financing with fixed-fee, no-interest loans with funding up to $2 million. You can also request funding to pay vendors through Working Capital Terms, and get approved for collateral-free funding within minutes at fixed rates for up to $50,000.
Whether you're looking for a travel business card or a checking account with a generous bonus, Capital One offers choices.
Small Business Bank
The small business options are endless with Capital One.There's Business Unlimited or basic checking, with up to a $1,000 bonus, and merchants can save up to 0.15% on processing fees. You can also get 1.75% APY for 12 months on Business Advantage Savings and up to $7,500 off closing costs on your commercial real estate loan (promotional rate will expire 365 days after account opening; upon expiration, standard interest rate in effect as of that date will apply to the entire balance). There's also Escrow Express, 401(k) solutions for your business and, of course, cards.
The Spark cards offer a host of travel and purchase benefits, including purchase security; extended protection; save up to 15% at participating merchants through Visa SavingsEdge; travel and emergency assistance; and auto rental collision damage waiver. Also get a quarterly and year-end summary; employee cards at no additional cost; downloadable purchase records; and no foreign transaction fees.
Bank of America Business Advantage
Business Advantage offers a plethora of business tools and options, including checking; credit cards; merchant services; and Merrill Edge for business and personal retirement planning.
You can choose between Business Fundamentals Checking, which is good if your average monthly balance is under $5,000, and the Business Advantage Checking, which is an option when your average monthly balance is more than $15,000.
Earn a statement credit, cash back, points, or get a rock bottom variable APR for your balance transfers. For example, the Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard offers 3% back on gas stations and office supply stores (up to $250,000 each calendar year), and the Business Advantage Travel Rewards Mastercard offers 25,000 bonus points (when you spend $1,000 in net purchases within 60 days of your account opening).
A wide variety of Clover point of sale products are available, such as Clover Go for food trucks, farmer's markets and other businesses without a storefront, or Clover Station for merchants who need business management solutions in addition to payment processing such as restaurants and retail.
Use Merrill Edge for your retirement needs and save money with tax advantages; get competitive pricing; have more options; and gain access to specialists. You can use Merrill Edge for 401(k)s, individual 401(k)s, SEP IRAs or SIMPLE IRAs.
Common business credit card rewards categories
The majority of business cards come with a points or miles-based rewards program that offer you a choice of redemption options – including travel, merchandise and gift cards – in exchange for your miles or points. Of the 368 business credit cards we analyzed, we hand-picked 40 cards for in-depth individual reviews. 28 out of these 40 business cards in our reviews database include a points- or miles-based rewards program. Out of these, four allow you to collect airline miles, which you can redeem for airfare and other airline rewards, three are cobranded hotel cards that offer hotel nights in exchange for your points and 21 are general rewards cards that offer a wide variety of redemption options.
Cash back cards, which are popular among business owners thanks to their simplicity and high value of cash back rewards, are less common. They constitute 12 out of the 40 business credit cards.
Common business rewards categories
- Points/miles: 28
- General rewards: 21
- Cash back/statement credit: 12
- Airline miles: 4
- Hotel nights: 3
As far as bonus categories for spending go, travel and transportation is by far the most common bonus category among the cards in our review set. 17 out of 40 cards include a bonus category for travel and transportation purchases. Gas station purchases is also a popular bonus category, as is dining and entertainment purchases (12 cards). Flat-rate rewards cards – which offer the same rewards rate on every purchase – are also very common, constituting 13 out of the 40 cards in our review set.
Spending bonuses for business credit cards
- Travel and transport: 17
- Gas: 14
- Flat-rate: 13
- Dining and entertainment: 12
- Office supplies: 11
- Telecommunications: 9
- Computer and internet: 6
- Other: 4
- Utilities: 2
How to maximize credit card rewards for your business
- Use credit cards for most of your business purchases
Leverage your business purchasing to earn rewards for yourself. Link all your bills to your credit card account (but first make sure they don’t charge finance fees). Also, keep an eye for purchases that can earn extra rewards in a bonus category, such as dining or office supplies.
- Give cards to your employees
Instead of reimbursing your employees for their purchases, give them employee cards through your account and encourage them to use them for every business-related purchase so you can earn the rewards from their purchases.
- Juggle rewards cards
Rotate your credit cards so that you can earn extra rewards in all their bonus categories.
- Keep a close eye on deadlines and fees
Make sure to pay your bill in full and on time, so that interest rates and penalties don’t eat into your profits or nullify your rewards.
- Never carry a balance
Business rewards cards tend to carry high interest rates, so you need to especially careful not to carry a balance.
- Use shopping portals to stack rewards
You can use online shopping portals such as Ebates and Swagbucks to earn extra cash back on top of your card rewards. You can also earn bonus rewards by through an issuer’s shopping portal, such as the Chase Ultimate Rewards mall.
- Get bonus points through a program partner
Some business rewards cards let you earn bonus points through partner merchants or travel partners. For instance, through the American Express OPEN program, you can opt to earn a 5 percent discount or 2 points per dollar on purchases made from a select list of merchants. Also, the Starwood Preferred Guest program has a few travel partners that offer bonus Starpoints to elite SPG members.
- Keep track of spending categories and payment due dates
Adding sticky notes to your cards to keep track of their spending categories, and using spreadsheets to track your payment deadlines and progress on spending thresholds can keep a lot of rewards value from falling through the cracks.
Or download an app that tracks all this information for you. Our Wallet app helps you manage all your credit card accounts and tells you which card to use at the time of purchase.
What other benefits and perks do business cards offer?
Business credit cards typically come with the same travel and purchase protections as their consumer counterparts as well as business-specific features that are better-suited to the needs of small business owners:
Higher credit limits
Business cards come with high credit limits – usually of $50,000 or higher – which makes them ideal for making large purchases. Some cards, such as the American Express SimplyCash Plus card, even allow you to exceed your credit limit when you need to make a large purchase.
The ability to track and manage business spending is generally a must-have for business owners. Most business credit cards come with expense-tracking features, such as apps that allow you snap photos of your receipts and file them on the go, spending reports, yearly summaries and the ability to designate an account manager to manage it all for you.
Integration with accounting software
Integration with QuickBooks and other types of accounting software is another common feature, which can help automate your bookkeeping.
Employee cards with spending controls
Business credit frequently allow you to issue cards from your account to your employees – usually for free, but sometimes for a fee – and to set up individual limits for each card along with account alerts to help you keep a close eye on your employees’ card use.
Many business credit cards include programs – such as VisaSavings Edge, Mastercard Easy Savings and American Express OPEN – which give you a small discount with a select list of merchants. The number and variety of merchants varies greatly by program. You can get a significant savings if you happen to shop frequently with a merchant.
You’ll find the usual purchase protections on your business credit card, including insurance against theft and damage for items purchased with your card, extended warranty, price guarantees and the ability to return any item within a designated time frame for a full refund. These protections are especially valuable if you need purchase expensive equipment for your business.
If you or your employees do a lot of traveling for your business, you may be able to make good use of the travel protections that frequently come on business credit cards. Travel protections often include trip cancellation insurance, travel accident trip delay insurance, insurance for lost and delayed baggage and car rental insurance.
More in-depth reviews
Our business credit card reviews can help you compare offers to find the one that best suits your needs.
Robin Ratcliff is the managing editor for reviews on CreditCards.com. Before CreditCards.com, she worked as a analyst and editor, and still brings that same analytical rigor to her card recommendations today. You can reach Robin at email@example.com.
Tracy Brackman is a credit card news editor at CreditCards.com, writing breaking news stories on card updates and new card launches. You can reach Tracy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laura Mohammad is an editor and writer at CreditCards.com. She regularly covers the best credit cards and works to bring you the most up-to-date analysis and advice. You can reach Laura at email@example.com.
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