How to Get a Business Credit Card: Step-by-Step Guide and Tips

Estimated read time 10 min read

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  • You can qualify for a business credit card even if you don’t have a traditional business.
  • You need a good personal credit score to qualify for a business credit card.
  • Business credit cards often have large welcome bonuses and good benefits, so they’re good options if you’re eligible.

It’s entirely possible that you could qualify for a business credit card even if you don’t run a thriving enterprise. You may even be operating a small business in your life without ever having considered it as such. Any sort of for-profit business activities count as a business — even on a very small scale — and can likely qualify you for a business credit card. 

A business credit card is a relatively convenient way to cover your business expenses without finding an investor or shopping for a business loan. Some business credit cards can even build up rewards and bonuses like a personal credit card. See whether you qualify for a business credit card and how to apply for one. 

How to get a business credit card

There are still business credit card approval requirements you need to meet, even if you don’t need to operate a large business to qualify. Let’s review the steps to obtaining a business credit card. 

1. Assess your eligibility

If you get a 1099 instead of a W-2 form for work that you do, such as driving for Uber and Lyft or freelancing part-time, you are conducting business activities that would likely qualify you for a business card. However, conducting business activities isn’t limited to people who receive a 1099.

Own a rental property? Sell stuff on eBay or Etsy? These are business activities that generate taxable income, meaning there’s a good reason to keep your finances separate from business banking services like a credit card.

These are the general business structures eligible for business credit cards:

  • Sole proprietorships and freelancers
  • Limited Liability Corporations
  • Corporations
  • Partnerships
  • Nonprofits

What credit score do you need to qualify for a business credit card?

Although you are applying for credit on behalf of your business, when you apply for a business credit card for the first time, lenders will look at your personal credit report and credit score. Business credit card eligibility requirements vary from card to card, but most credit card companies look for at least a good credit score. That said, there are secured business credit cards for business owners who don’t meet credit score requirements. 

Income requirements for business credit card

If you have a single rental property or a small side business like selling stuff on Etsy, it may not generate much income. That’s fine.

Banks evaluate your credit risk based on the total picture of your income and assets because you will be personally guaranteeing the business credit card. This is a point of consideration especially if anyone else is involved in business actvity.

2. Establish a tax identity

The foundation of obtaining a business credit card is establishing a separate tax identity for your business activity. Fortunately, this does not have to be complicated. Instead, all you need is a free tax ID number called an “EIN” from the IRS. You can sign up for an EIN for free on the IRS website. 

The EIN is required for filing payroll taxes if you hire people, or if you issue 1099s to other people. You may never do that, but banks track and manage business accounts using this number along with your Social Security number.

You’ll generally need an EIN in order to apply for a business credit card if you have a more formal business, but if you’re a sole proprietor — meaning you have a side gig like selling items online — you can apply for a business card using just your Social Security number. However, to build your business’s credit score, you must apply for a business card with an EIN.

3. Compare credit cards

The process of choosing the right business credit card is similar to the process of choosing a personal credit card. You’ll want to assess your business’s finances, determine what you want from your card, and compare benefits and welcome bonuses. 

Some bonuses might not be the best fit for you and your business. For example, the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card offers 100,000 bonus points after spending $8,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. If you’re not going to reach the spending requirement within the bonus earning period, it’s best to look for another card. 

On the other hand, some cards offer more cash back on certain purchases. If you drive for Uber or Lyft, it may be worth looking into cards that offer more cash back on gas purchases. You can find our guide on the best business rewards credit cards here.

You’ll also want to read the fine print. Some credit card companies will report negative information or serious delinquencies to the consumer credit bureaus, which will lower your personal credit score. If this is a serious concern, you should focus on those credit card companies that don’t report to the credit bureaus.

4. Apply for a business credit card

When applying for a business credit card, you should be prepared to provide your personal and business information.

Of your personal information, you should be prepared to provide the following: 

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Home address
  • Phone number
  • Annual income
  • Monthly housing payments (mortgage or rent)

You should also be able to provide the following information about your business:

  • Business name
  • Business address (may be your home address)
  • Business type
  • Monthly spending and annual income
  • Number of employees
  • Tax identification number (EIN or SSN)

Note: Applying for your first business credit card will result in a hard inquiry on your personal credit report, which can hurt your personal credit score. 

Business credit card vs. consumer credit card

Business credit cards often have very sweet incentives to sign up, but they can also be harder to get than personal credit cards.

When you sign up for a business credit card, you’re dealing with the commercial banking division of the bank. They operate differently, and the process with many banks tends to be more involved and takes longer than getting approved for a personal credit card.

It’s not uncommon for banks to ask for additional documentation, and an in-person branch visit may even be required. Banks do take a higher risk with commercial lending than with personal lending, so they’ll want to get to know you and the business activity that you’re conducting before approving you for an account.

Business cards (usually) aren’t reported on your personal credit report

This may be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. Business credit cards don’t usually impact your personal credit report. That means business credit card spending will not help you improve your personal credit score (because these products aren’t intended to be used for personal spending). 

Instead, payments made on a business credit card will contribute to the business’s credit history and its credit score. However, some businesses may report missed payments to the consumer credit bureaus if your business gets behind on payments. 

Business cards are for business spending

Any spending on your business credit card should be related to the business — both for tax reasons and to stay in line with the bank’s terms and conditions. That being said, a lot of spending you’re doing personally might be categorized as business spending.

For example, if you drive for Uber, many automotive-related expenses, such as gasoline, insurance, and repairs, may be considered business expenses. Talk with your tax advisor to determine where your business should charge expenses.

Another thing to keep in mind is that when you take money out of the business, it doesn’t have to be in the form of a check. The business could pay you in an equivalent cash value, such as gift cards purchased with the business’ credit card.

Top business credit cards

Insider’s Featured Small Business Cards

  • Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card

  • Ink Business Cash® Credit Card

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Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on purchases.

Earn $750 bonus cash back

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. Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year. Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Earn $750 bonus cash back

If you’re now confident that you operate a small business, you’ve had the epiphany that dozens more credit cards offering valuable sign-up bonuses and ongoing benefits are available to you.

If you’re after a quick list of the best options for you, here are a few top picks to consider. You can see more in our guide on the best small-business credit cards.

Business credit cards aren’t an easy slam dunk, but they’re more accessible than you think. Given that, why not double up on welcome bonuses? When you’re flying up front in first class on an award flight booked with points from a card like the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, the effort will be have been worth it.

Business Credit Card Qualifications Frequently Asked Questions

To apply for a business credit card, you’ll need to gather essential information, including your business’s legal name, address, and contact details. You’ll also provide details about your business type, structure, and federal tax ID number (EIN or SSN). Additionally, be prepared to share your employee count, annual business revenue, estimated revenue, and expected monthly card expenses.

Business credit cards are accessible to individuals with independent income streams, including CEOs, rideshare drivers, and Facebook Marketplace resellers. As long as you meet the minimum credit score and other eligibility criteria, you can qualify for a business credit card regardless of your business venture.

Qualifying for a business credit card is typically straightforward for most business owners, as long as they maintain good to excellent personal credit and aim to separate personal and business expenses. Owning a physical storefront or having numerous employees is not a prerequisite. However, some cards may require proof of income to access premium benefits.

Caroline Lupini

Freelance reporter

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