Many entrepreneurs rely on credit cards to keep their small businesses running. Check out these statistics on their charging and payment habits
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Business credit cards can be a valuable tool for entrepreneurs trying to build credit, smooth over temporary cash flow issues and keep business and personal expenses separate. Many of the best business cards come with higher credit limits than personal cards, and rewards programs that let you earn extra points for certain business-related purchases, such as office supplies and phone bills.
Until recently, when most people thought of a small business, they pictured a local restaurant, car mechanic or perhaps a doctor’s office. But with the emergence of today’s gig economy, there are millions of people using their cars to offer ride-share services, renting their house out on to travelers and selling goods online. These solopreneurs are using credit cards in the course of everyday businesses.
Below are statistics compiled by CreditCards.com on business credit cards.
Size of the business card market:
- As of 2015, there were 13.9 million small-business credit card accounts. That’s fewer than 4 percent of the number of all general-purpose credit cards in circulation.1
- Though relatively few in number, business cards do a lot of heavy lifting: Small-business cards account for $430 billion in spending, or about 1 in every 6 dollars spent on general purpose cards.1
- Small-business credit card purchase volume is set to balloon from $493 billion in 2017 to $686 billion in 2022, according to a Mercator Advisory Group March 14, 2018, blog post.
How small-business owners obtain, use their cards:
- Of businesses that seek credit, 31 percent applied for a credit card and 86 percent sought a loan or line of credit. Approval rates are highest for companies with higher revenue and more employees.4
- Among startup business owners, 7 percent use a business credit card, 13 percent use their personal credit cards for startup capital, and 11 percent tap personal assets and 12 percent seek a business loan, the U.S. Small Business Administration notes.9
- A 2017 U.S. Trust survey of startup founders, though, finds that 16 percent of founders turn to credit cards to start their business. Among millennial startup owners, 37 percent use plastic to finance their business.10
- Small business cards tend to be used for convenience, not for financing: They represent about $50 billion in outstanding credit card debt, less than 8 percent of the amount owed on general purpose cards.1
- About 67 percent of small-business owners currently have a business credit card, but only 24 percent use it as the primary method of business spending.7
- As of December 2017, 31 percent of business owners said they used credit cards to meet their capital needs in the past 12 months.3
- Just 29 percent of small-business owners who have a credit card use the rewards to pay a business expense. And just 1 in 10 use rewards to help their business’ bottom line.7
Features of small-business credit cards:
- Rates on business credit card offers tend be below the national average for general purpose cards. As of April 2018, APRs offered online for business cards were about 14 percent, about 2.5 percentage points lower than the average for general purpose cards.2
- Loans and lines of credit are the first choice for small businesses seeking capital, sought by 89 percent of small businesses. Credit cards are in second place, at 30 percent. New companies (two years old or less) were more likely to seek credit cards, at 44 percent.4
Small-business card regulations:
- The federal Credit CARD Act of 2009 established new protections for consumer credit cards, but business cards were excluded from the law and do not have the same protections.5
- As a result of being excluded from the CARD Act, business cards have higher fees than consumer cards. For example, CreditCards.com found that only four of the 100 surveyed cards charge over-limit fees, and all of them were business credit cards.6
How small-business owners and consumers differ in their credit card use:
- Small-business owners had an average credit score of 721 versus 673 for consumers in 2016.
- Business owners also had an average 7.43 open trade accounts on their credit reports in 2016, versus 4.4 for consumers.
- The average monthly payments for business owners reached $2,032, while consumers were less than half that at $954.
- Small-business owners had an average total credit limit of $56,100 while consumers had an average credit limit of $26,900.8
- Mercator Advisory Group, Small Business Credit Cards: The Key to Richer Customer Relationships, November 2015
- CreditCards.com Weekly Rate Report
- National Small Business Association 2017 year-end report
- 2016 Small Business Credit Survey, conducted by the Federal Reserve Banks of New York, Atlanta, Cleveland, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Boston and Richmond.
- “10 ways business credit cards are different,” CreditCards.com
- 2017 credit card fee survey, CreditCards.com, August 2017
- Capital One Spark Business Barometer, May 2016
- Experian’s The Face of Small Business report, 2016
- U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy report, September 2017
- 2017 U.S. Trust Survey of High Net Worth Business Owners
Daniel P. Ray and Tamara E. Holmes contributed to this report.