Whether you’re looking for a travel card to help make business trips a little more comfortable or a corporate card to issue to your new employees, we have a list of the best cards to help you get your startup off the ground.
If you want to start a business, you’re going to need a business credit card. While many entrepreneurs fund the initial phases of their small business out of pocket, taking out a business credit card proves that you mean business – literally.
But which business credit card is right for your growing startup? We’ve got a list of the best startup business credit cards that meet a variety of business needs – whether you’re looking for a travel card to help make business trips a little more comfortable or a corporate card to issue to your new employees. We’ve also got tips on how to choose the best business card for your startup, how to increase your odds of getting accepted for a business credit card and how to make the most of your new card once you’ve got it.
Best credit cards for startups
Brex Corporate Card for Startups
Our rating: 4.4 out of 5
Our take: With an application process that makes qualifying faster and easier than usual and a unique rewards program that offers up to 8X points on ride-sharing, the Brex Corporate Card is well-attuned to the needs of startup companies.
Why it’s the best startup business credit card with no personal guarantee
If your startup is at the point where you have a significant revenue stream and an office full of employees, you might be ready for a corporate card. Unlike your typical business credit card, which can be used by small business owners of any size (including solopreneurs and freelancers), corporate cards are designed to meet the needs of growing corporations.
In this case, that means no-cap rewards on four major spending categories – 8X Brex Rewards points on rideshares, 5X on travel, 4X on restaurants and 3X on software subscriptions depending on whether you make your card payments every 30 days or on a daily basis with Brex cash – as well as 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Your startup will also be eligible for discounts on popular services, such as Amazon Web Services, Zoom and Dropbox, as well as a 30,000-point sign-up bonus.
Plus, it only takes a few minutes to get approved for the Brex Corporate Card. All you need to do is provide basic information about your business and link your corporate account. There’s no personal guarantee required, though you do need a minimum of $100,000 in your corporate bank account to be eligible for this card. The Brex Corporate Card has no annual fee and you’ll get five employee cards at no cost, but it’ll cost you $5 per month for each additional employee card beyond that.
As you use your Brex Corporate Card, your credit activity and payments will be reported to Experian and Dun & Bradstreet, both of which will help your business build its credit history.
Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business
Our rating: 2.6 out of 5
Our take: The Spark Classic card doesn’t offer the lowest APR or juiciest rewards; but it does help cardholders with damaged credit build a better credit score and earn a modest amount of cash back, so they can qualify for more generous cards over time.
Why it’s the best startup business credit card for fair credit
Your credit score shouldn’t hold you back from small business success – so don’t let your less-than-perfect credit prevent you from taking advantage of all the benefits a small business credit card can provide. Use the Capital One Spark Classic for Business credit card to help you build your business and your credit at the same time.
When you use the Spark Classic for Business, you’ll earn 1% cash back on every purchase. That’s a little lower than what you might earn with the best business credit cards, but if you practice responsible credit habits like making on-time payments and maintaining a low credit utilization ratio, your score should improve month-over-month – which means you might be eligible for an even better business credit card before you know it.
The Spark Classic for Business has no annual fee, which is one more reason why it’s a great card for people who want to get their business – and their credit – off the ground.
American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card
Our rating: 3.9 out of 5
Our take: The Blue Business Cash card is a great option for small business owners seeking to create cash flow for a new or expanding business, thanks to its flexible credit limit and working capital terms.
Why it’s the best startup business credit card for large purchases
Startups often come with startup costs – which means you’re going to want a credit card that rewards big spending. The American Express Blue Business Cash Card is one of the top business cash back cards on the market, offering 2% cash back on up to $50,000 in purchases per calendar year and 1% cash back on all additional purchases.
This isn’t the only reason why you’ll want to use the Blue Business Cash Card to help you finance your startup costs. You’ll also get access to a flexible credit limit, making it possible to fund extra purchases during those months when you really need to invest in your business. (Be aware that you’ll need to cover both your minimum payment and your above-limit spending at the end of your billing cycle.) Plus, once you’ve had your Blue Business Cash Card for six months, you’ll be able to apply for Working Capital Terms, a feature in which Amex will pay your vendors up front, and you’ll pay off the costs in 30, 60 or 90 days.
Capital One Spark Cash for Business
Our rating: 4.1 out of 5
Our take: If you want a simple business credit card with a superb cash-back rate, you will love the Spark Cash card.
Why it’s the best startup business credit card for cash back
If you want to earn as much cash back on your purchases as possible, consider the Capital One Spark Cash for Business card. Like the Blue Business Cash Card, the Spark Cash for Business offers 2% cash back – but unlike the Blue Business Cash Card, those cash back rewards don’t end once you spend $50,000 in a calendar year. Instead, you get an unlimited 2% cash back on every purchase.
You also get a welcome bonus – if you spend $4,500 in your first three months as a cardholder, you’ll earn a one-time $500 cash bonus. Just think about how you could use that money to grow your business (or to pay off your credit card balance).
The Spark Cash for Business credit card does include a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived the first year – and don’t forget that business credit card fees are tax-deductible.
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Our rating: 4.4 out of 5
Our take: The Business Platinum Card from American Express offers generous bonus points and great travel perks – including the best lounge access around – for frequent business travelers.
Why it’s the best startup business credit card for travel
If your startup requires you to spend a lot of time working out of hotel rooms, you’re going to want a credit card that rewards travel spending. The Business Platinum Card for American Express is ready to help get you where you need to go.
Earn 5X Membership Rewards points per dollar when you purchase flights and prepaid hotel rooms through amextravel.com, 2X points on additional travel purchases made through amextravel.com and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases – unless you make a purchase of $5,000 or more, at which point you’ll earn 1.5 points per dollar. You’ll also be able to access an incredible welcome bonus in your first three months of membership: 85,000 points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases.
Want to maximize those Membership Rewards points after you’ve earned them? We’ve got a guide to help you get started, but here’s one tip: Use Membership Rewards Pay with Points to book a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of your points back (for up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year).
The Business Platinum credit card also gets you access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection and a $200 airline fee credit, among other perks. Be prepared to pay a $595 annual fee for the privilege of using this card – but if you travel often enough, it’ll be more than worth it.
Compare top startup business credit cards
|Brex 30 Card||$0|
|Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business||$0|
|American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card||$0|
|Capital One Spark Cash for Business||$95 (waived first year)|
|The Business Platinum Card® from American Express||$595|
How to choose a business credit card
Ask these questions before choosing which business credit card might be best for your growing startup:
How will you use the card?
If you’re going to use your business credit card to finance a large purchase, look for a card with a long 0% introductory APR period. That way, you can maximize the time you have to pay off your purchase without paying anything extra in interest.
If you’re just going to use it for day-to-day expenses, think about what those expenses are. Look for a card that will reward your everyday purchases – like travel, office supplies or utilities – at a boosted rate.
Lastly, think about who will be using the card. If you want your employees to be authorized users, look for a card that offers free employee cards or custom spending limits.
What kind of rewards do you want?
Are you hoping to earn some cash back on your everyday purchases, or are you shooting for rewards-funded travel? If you’re searching for a travel rewards card, it’s important to consider additional perks and benefits, like rental car insurance and airport lounge access.
What is your credit score?
Your personal credit will probably be pulled when you apply for a business credit card. If your score isn’t great, apply for a card that’s within your range. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to work on building your credit before you apply.
Getting a line of credit in your business’s name can also be useful if you’re going to take out a business loan in the near future. Your business has a credit score, too, and a positive borrowing history can contribute to a good business credit score, giving you a lower interest rate when you apply for business loans. If that’s important to you, make sure the card you’re applying for reports to at least one – or all three – of the dominant business credit bureaus.
How to apply and get approved for a business credit card
Applying for a business credit card is a lot like applying for a personal credit card. You’ll need to provide basic personal information, such as your name, address and income. You’ll also need to provide basic business information, such as your business’s name, address and revenue. Once you’ve filled out the application, expect a hard pull on your credit as the credit card issuer determines whether you are eligible for the card.
If you want to increase your odds of getting approved, here are a few tips:
- Check your credit score to learn where you stand. If you don’t already have access to your credit score, use a free service to learn whether your credit is fair, good, excellent or needs work – and then use that information to find credit cards designed for people with your credit score.
- Build your personal credit score before applying for a business credit card. Lenders check your personal credit history before issuing business credit cards, so consider doing some basic maintenance on your credit score before applying. Disputing errors on your credit report, paying off revolving balances and requesting credit limit increases can all improve your score and make you eligible for more business credit cards.
- Use our CardMatch service to quickly identify which credit cards might be right for you. There’s no impact to your credit score, and you might receive special offers and pre-qualified matches.
Pros and cons of using a credit card for your startup
There are a lot of advantages (as well as some disadvantages) to using a credit card to help fund your startup:
- Credit card financing is easily obtainable if you already have good credit and credit cards in your name.
- You can cover business expenses during periods of low cash flow or finance a large purchase that will help you attract more customers and grow your revenue.
- You can also use earn rewards on everyday expenses or earn points that you can put toward business travel – both of which can save your business money in the long run.
- With timely payments, you can use a business credit card to build a credit history for your new business.
- You can use credit card purchase and travel protections to insure purchases for your business.
- Many business cards offer valuable perks for small business owners, such as airport lounge access, discounts on business purchases or credits toward commonly purchased items.
- Credit cards can make expense tracking easier – many cards allow you and your employees to upload and track your receipts from your mobile phone and to download your expenses to Quickbooks and other accounting software.
- You can automate repeating purchases, such as software licenses.
- For financing a business, a small business loan might offer lower interest rates than a business credit card.
- Likewise, using crowdfunding to get seed money (and customer buy-in) before launching a new product might be a better option than putting all your expenses on credit.
- If the card requires a personal guarantee, your business credit card could affect your personal credit score.
- Credit cards have high interest rates. Unless your business card comes with a 0% offer for new purchases, it can be very expensive to carry a balance on it.
- Credit cards can foster sloppy financial habits if you’re not disciplined about paying off your balance each month.
- Overall, since they’re usually linked to your personal credit history and charge high interest, credit cards can be a very risky means of funding a startup.
Getting a business credit card is an important part of growing a small business. For many small business owners, it’s one of the first big steps in separating your personal finances from your business finances. When it’s time to apply for a business card for your startup, think about which problems you’d like your business credit card to solve – and then look for cards that provide the solution you’re looking for. Think of it like writing a job description and finding the candidate that’s the best fit.
As your startup continues to grow, start thinking beyond business credit cards. The next step might be a small business loan, a crowdfunding project or a group of investors. Business credit cards are excellent tools to help you cover day-to-day expenses while earning rewards, but they aren’t the only way to finance a startup – and you’ll know when it’s time to start exploring other options.