Updated August 19, 2016

How to Get a Business Credit Card

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Applying for a business credit card is easier than it sounds. Here is how to apply for one, whether you have a corporation or a tiny home business.

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A business credit card is a great way to get extra rewards and perks.

Read on for everything to know about how to apply for a business credit card.

Who Can Apply?

Business cards aren't just for corporations. You can apply for a business card even if you're running a one-man show and have no office.

You may be surprised by what could be considered a business. Here are just some examples:

  • If you're a freelance web designer
  • If you have an Etsy shop
  • If you sell books on Ebay
  • If you drive Uber in your spare time
  • If you tutor students
  • If you sell cookies at the farmer's market

Basically, if you do anything for profit, it can be considered a small business.

In fact, you don't even have to be already making income to apply for a business credit card. You just need to have a reasonable intention to make money and have business expenses (such as buying materials for your Etsy shop).

Benefits of having a business credit card:

  • Keep your business expenses separated. This will make it so much easier come tax time.
  • Earn rewards in business categories. Besides the tempting sign-up bonuses, business credit cards generally give bonus cash back or points in popular business categories (such as office supply stores, advertising online, telecommunication services, etc.)
  • More purchasing power. Having a separate business credit card will mean that you have more credit for business expenses. Also, business credit cards tend to give higher credit lines than personal cards.

What You Need to Apply

Here comes the fun part: Applying for a business credit card when you're just starting out can make you feel more official. It's a little different than applying for a personal credit card.

Here's a rundown of how to fill out the application:

  1. The business' legal name
    This is the name you use to do business. It's what will show up on your card if you're approved.

    If you have a corporation or an LLC, enter the business name that you registered with your state government.

    If you're a freelancer or sole proprietor, just use your legal name on this line.

    Tip: Small business can also file a "Doing Business As" or DBA. This allows you to operate under another business name (instead of your own name). If you have done this, apply with your DBA name.

  2. Your tax identification number
    You'll need a tax identification number to process your application.

    Incorporated businesses and partnerships enter their federal Employer Identification Number. This is a nine-digit number issued by the IRS for tax reporting purposes.

    If you're a freelancer, you'd enter your Social Security number on this line (unless you have an IRS-issued Employer Identification Number).

  3. The business type / business structure
    This is the kind of business you're operating. If you're an LLC, you'd choose partnership or corporation, based on how it's set up. If you are a freelancer, you would usually put down sole proprietorship.

  4. The industry type / nature of the business
    Credit card companies also want to know what kind of business you're running. You'll have a list of industries to choose from. Just select the one that fits best, even if it isn't quite the exact label.

    Related: Successful People Do These 23 Things Daily

  5. Your role in the business
    Spell out what you do. For example, you can say you're the owner, president, or general manager.

    Related: CEO Statistics

  6. Business address and phone number
    You'll need to fill in the contact information for your business. If you run your business from home, just use your home address here.

  7. How long you've been in business
    Enter the number of years you've been in business. If you're still in the early startup phase, just enter "0" in this box.

    Related: Startup Failure Rate Statistics

  8. The number of employees
    Enter the number of employees you have, if any. If it's just you, enter "1" for yourself.

  9. Annual business revenue
    You have to let the credit card company in on how much revenue your business is bringing in each year. If your business is new and you haven't made a buck yet, it's fine to put "0."

    Related: How to Make Customers Happy

  10. Estimated monthly spend
    This just means your most accurate guess of what you think you'll charge to the card each month. Not all business card applications ask for this, but you should be ready with an answer if it comes up. Make sure this is what you will charge for business expenses, not personal.

    Aside from your business information, you'll need to connect the dots on your own personal details. That means filling in:

    • Your name
    • Address, phone number and email
    • Social Security number
    • Birth date
    • Mother's maiden name
    • Household income

Getting Approved for a Business Credit Card

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For new businesses and first-time applicants, here are some things to know about getting approved.

  • It is dependent on your personal credit. Since you don't have any business history yet, the banks will look at your personal credit history and score. The better your personal credit score is, the easier it is to qualify.

    That won't come into play as much for an established business, since you would have a separate business credit history built up.

  • You probably need to sign a personal guarantee. This is a clause that states that you, personally, will repay any business debt. Banks often need this insurance that someone will be responsible. If you stop making payments on the card because the business fails, the bank can come after you personally to recover the balance owed.

  • Do not lie on the application. Even if you need to put "0" as the revenue, it's better to do that than lie. You may get a phone call asking for more information. Be prepared for questions about the nature of your business and how much you expect to make.

    Just tell the truth that you're in the startup phase. Explain why you want the business card now. For example, maybe the reward structure will really help you, and that you want to keep expenses separate.

  • A relationship with the bank helps. If you're already a customer with the bank and your accounts are in good standing, it may make it easier to apply for a business card with the same bank.

How to Compare Cards

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Every business credit card is different and there are some better suited for certain types of entrepreneurs than others. When you're shopping around for a card, keep your eyes on these four things:

  1. APR: The APR, or annual percentage rate, determines the amount of interest you'll pay over the course of a year if you carry a balance. Many business cards offer a 0% introductory rate on purchases and/or balance transfers for new cardmembers, which can give your new business some breathing room.

  2. Fees: Scoring a card with a low APR isn't such a sweet deal if it comes with lots of fees. If your goal is earning rewards, for example, make sure they're not being wiped out by a high annual fee. If you travel, steer clear of cards that charge a foreign transaction fee. This fee can add up to 3% to the cost of purchases made abroad.

  3. Rewards: Earning big rewards is one of the best reasons to get a business credit card. Choose a card with a rewards structure that aligns to your business expenses. Think about whether you want points, miles or cash back; and whether you want bonus categories or a flat rate per dollar. Also consider your redemption options. If you're after a big sign-on bonus, make sure you can meet the minimum spending requirement.

  4. Card type: Business credit cards will allow you to carry a balance, but charge cards require you to pay in full each month. Charge cards don't charge interest but there's no flexibility if you need to pay just the minimum one month. If you don't have a steady cash flow, you need to have a revolving credit card account instead.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I apply for business credit card even if I'm not yet earning income?
    Yes. You can apply as long as you have a reasonable intention to make a profit.

  • I really like the rewards on a certain business card. Can I use it for personal expenses too?
    We advise that you don't mix personal and business expenses. It'll cause more headache when you need to separate out your business expenses when filing taxes.

    And if you fall behind on your payments, the card issuer may look at your activities more closely. If they see that there are personal expenses on there, you may lose your rewards and your account could be closed or changed to a personal card.

    Note: If you operate as an LLC, corporation, or partnership, then it's even more important to keep your business separate from your personal life. At the point, there are legal considerations too. If you mix personal and business spending on a credit card, then the business and the person can be seen as the same. That may expose you to additional liabilities.

  • Do I have to also have a business checking account in order to have a business credit card?
    If you're a independent freelancer or have other small jobs (in other words, if you're a sole proprietor), then no, you do not usually need to have a business checking account.

    If you have formed a LLC, partnership, or DBA (Doing Business As), then you do need a separate business banking account. These kinds of business require that you separate business and personal finances.

  • Will a business credit card affect my personal credit?
    Generally, business credit cards don't report to personal credit bureaus. So your personal credit won't be impacted if you have high business expenses. However, if you keep on making late payments or missing them, then your personal credit may take a ding.

Bottom Line

In short, you can apply for a business card as long as you are earning profit (or intend to). There are plenty of incentives for choosing a business credit card over a personal credit card. You can keep your personal and business expenses separate, and you may be able to get higher rewards for your business-related charges. However, once you get it, use the card responsibly and abide by the cardholder agreement.

More from CreditDonkey:

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How to Build Business Credit

Infographic: How to Make Customers Happy

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