Hunting for more rewards? Don’t overlook business cards

The rules for eligibility might be broader than you think

By  |  Published: October 12, 2017

Tony Mecia
Personal Finance Writer
Rewards expert who writes the "Cashing In" reader Q&A column for CreditCards.com

Banks cracking down on reward card applications

When searching for a new rewards credit card, there is a category of cards that is often overlooked: business cards.

Sure, there are plenty of compelling personal cards out there that offer lucrative sign-up bonuses, cash back, travel rewards and all kinds of perks. But there are often business versions of popular reward cards offering the same or better features. If there is a reward card you like but you already have it, you often can apply for a business version of the card. You might be surprised to learn that you don’t have to run a full-time incorporated business to be approved.

For example, say you really like flying on Southwest Airlines and have the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Visa Signature * card (annual fee: $69), which offers a bonus of 40,000 Southwest frequent-flyer miles after spending $1,000 in three months. You could consider another personal card, the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier * card (annual fee: $99), which also has a 40,000-mile bonus. Or for more rewards, you could go for the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business card (annual fee: $99), which offers 60,000 miles.

The credit card industry’s rules for who is eligible to receive and use a business credit card are looser than you might think. You don’t have to be incorporated. You don’t have to make a profit or even have any income yet. You don’t have to have employees. You don’t have to have the business as your main job. If there are other ways you earn money, such as baby sitting, yardwork, blogging or consulting – those all could count as businesses. A July 2017 survey by Bankrate.com found that 44 million Americans had a “side hustle,” or secondary means of income apart from their regular jobs. Anything like that could count as a business and make you eligible for a business credit card.

When you apply for a business card, issuers typically look at your personal credit, and they add any information from the card account to your personal credit report.

A lot of small-business owners like to use business cards to keep their business charges separate from personal expenses, but there is no requirement to keep these expenses separate. For tax purposes, you need to report any business income minus business expenses to the Internal Revenue Service, but there is no rule that mandates which card you use to pay for your expenses.

All this means is that when searching for a new rewards card, you might want to broaden your options. Most major card issuers offer business versions of their most popular cards: American Express has business versions of its Platinum, Gold, and Starwood cards. Capital One and Bank of America have business versions of their cash back and travel cards. Most airlines offer business credit cards tied to frequent-flyer accounts.

There are downsides to business cards. For example, business cards are exempted from the consumer protections offered by the federal Credit CARD Act. So, for example, you might be charged higher late fees than are allowed under the law for consumer cards.

Business cards might not be right for everybody, but a lot of people have discovered them as a potential new source of rewards.

*The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers.

See related: Pushing reward card applications to the limits, The direct route to a Southwest companion pass


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Updated: 10-23-2017

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