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Best startup business credit cards

Summary

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 best cards to help you get your startup off the ground.

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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 startup business credit card with no personal guarantee 

Brex Corporate Card for Startups

Our rating: 4.4 out of 5
Score required: Excellent
Type of card: Corporate travel
Spending categories: Rideshares, travel, restaurants, software subscriptions

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  • 7x points on rideshares, 4x on travel, 3x on restaurants and 2x on software subscriptions
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • 30,000 bonus points upon sign up and waived card fees for life (equal to $300+ value)
  • $5,000 credit for Amazon Web Services and $150 credit for Google Ads, along with other software discounts in your first year
  • $0 annual fee ($5/month for employee cards)

Our take: With an application process that makes qualifying faster and easier than usual and a unique rewards program that offers up to 7x points on ride-sharing, the Brex Corporate Card is well-attuned to the needs of startup companies.

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 — 7x Brex Rewards points  on rideshares, 4x on travel, 3x on restaurants and 2x on software subscriptions — as well as 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Your startup will also be eligible for discounts on popular services, such as Google Ads, Amazon Web Services and WeWork, 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, but it’ll cost you $5 per month for each employee card.

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.

Best startup business credit card for fair credit

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

Our rating: 2.6 out of 5
Score required: Fair to good
Type of card: Cash back
Spending categories: N/A

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  • 1% cash back on every purchase
  • Build business credit with responsible use
  • $0 annual fee

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.

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 percent cash back on every purchase. That’s a little lower than what you might earn with the top 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.

Best credit card for financing a startup 

American Express® Blue Business Cash Card

Our rating: 3.9 out of 5
Score required: Good to excellent
Type of card: Cash back
Spending categories: N/A

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  • 2% cash back on up to $50,000 in purchases per calendar year
  • 1% cash back on all purchases after that
  • 0% introductory APR on new purchases for the first 12 months (14.99-20.99% variable thereafter)
  • Spend over your credit limit with no penalty (as long as you off the over-the-limit amount)
  • Apply for 30-, 60- or 90-day Working Capital terms after first 6 months of membership
  • $0 annual fee

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.

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 percent cash back on up to $50,000 in purchases per calendar year and 1 percent 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.

Best startup business credit card for cash back

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

Our rating: 4.1 out of 5
Score required: Good to excellent
Type of card: Cash back
Spending categories: N/A

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  • 2% cash back on every purchase
  • $500 cash back if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months and an additional $1,500 cash back after spending $50,000 in first 6 months
  • $95 annual fee (waived first year)

Our take: If you want a simple business credit card with a superb cash-back rate, you will love the Spark Cash card.

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 percent cash back — but unlike the Blue Business Cash Card, those cash back rewards don’t end once you spend $50K in a calendar year. Instead, you get an unlimited 2 percent cash back on every purchase.

You also get a welcome bonus, which is something the Blue Business Cash Card doesn’t offer. If you spend $5,000 in your first three months as a cardholder, you’ll earn a one-time $500 cash bonus. You can also earn an additional $1,500 cash back if you spend $50,000 in the first six months. 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.

Best startup business credit card for travel

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Our rating: 4.4 out of 5
Score required: Excellent
Type of card: Travel
Spending categories: Flights, hotels

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  • 5x points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
  • 2x points on travel purchases on amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • 50% more points (1.5 points per dollar) on purchases of $5,000 or more (up to 1 million bonus points per year)
  • 50,000 points if you spend $10,000 + 50,000 more points if you spend an additional $15,000 in first 3 months
  • Get 35% points back on a designated airline each year (up to 500,000 bonus points per year) when you pay with points
  • $595 annual fee

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.

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: 50,000 points after you spend $10,000 and another 50,000 points after you spend an additional $15,000.

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 percent 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, a year of complimentary Platinum Global Access from WeWork 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

RewardsAnnual fee
Brex Corporate Card for Startups
  • 7x points on rideshares, 4x on travel, 3x on restaurants and 2x on software subscriptions
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • 30,000 bonus points upon sign up
$0 ($5/month for employee cards)
Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business
  • 1% cash back on every purchase
$0
American Express® Blue Business Cash Card
  • 2% cash back on up to $50,000 in purchases per calendar year
  • 1% cash back on all purchases after that
$0
Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business
  • 2% cash back on every purchase
  • $500 cash back if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months
  • Additional $1,500 cash back after spending $50,000 in first 6 months
$95 (waived first year)
The Business Platinum® Card from American Express
  • 5x points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
  • 2x points on travel purchases on amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • 50,000 points if you spend $10,000 + 50,000 more points if you spend an additional $15,000 in first 3 months
$595

How to choose a business credit card

Before you decide which business credit card might be best for your growing startup, ask yourself what you hope to get out of your new credit card:

  • Do you want a credit card to earn rewards on day-to-day purchases, or to fund a large purchase and pay it off over time?
  • Are you looking for a card that can get you perks on business travel, or a card that will make it easy for employees to make business purchases?
  • What kinds of travel perks are valuable to you? (Take a close look at lounge access and travel insurance.)
  • Are you trying to build your business credit so you can get a better rate on a business loan? (Make sure the card reports to a business credit agency.)
  • What are the biggest categories of expenses for your business? (Look for rewards cards with bonus categories that match those purchases.)
  • If you’re looking for a rewards card, do you prefer cash back or travel rewards?
  • How good is your credit? If your credit is on the low side, you might look for a card with an easier approval process.
  • How much flexibility do you need in paying off your balance each month? If you think you might need to carry a balance for cash-flow purposes, look for cards with more flexible (and affordable) financing features.

The more you know about what you want out of your business credit card, the better prepared you’ll be to choose the card that’s right for you.

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 on 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:

Pros

  • 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 towards 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.

Cons

  • 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 percent 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.

See related: Should you fund your startup business with a credit card?

How to make the most of your business credit card

  • Use your card for as many business purchases as possible, to maximize your rewards, take advantage of purchase protections and make expense tracking easier.
  • On that note, be careful to keep your expenses in check and to pay your balance in full whenever possible.
  • Learn as much about your credit card’s perks as possible, from accounting services to extended warranties to rental collision coverage, and take advantage of them.
  • Read the terms and conditions carefully – business cards aren’t regulated by the CARD act, so you should keep a close eye on interest rates, due dates and fees.
  • Keep your personal expenses on a separate card to make expense tracking easier (and to avoid personal liability for your company).
  • Find a card that lets you set up alerts and individual limits for your employee cards, to help prevent fraud.

Final thoughts

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.

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Published: October 29, 2019

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