Keeping your business’s money separate from your personal finances is important. On top of making it easier to track business expenses, it’s important for maintaining the legal protections that some business structures offer.
One easy way to keep your company spending separate from your personal spending is to get a small-business credit card and use it only to make business-related purchases.
If you’re starting a new business or simply haven’t gotten around to getting a business credit card yet, here’s what you need to know.
How to Get a Business Credit Card
Follow these five steps to get a business credit card.
1. Make Sure Your Business Is Eligible
The first thing that you need to do before getting a business credit card is make sure that your business is eligible.
The good news is that basically every type of business is eligible to get a business credit card. Whether you have a formal business like an LLC or a corporation or are simply operating as an unincorporated sole proprietorship, you can find credit card issuers that are willing to work with you.
You can check with individual card issuers about your business’s eligibility. Some may want you to have been in business for a specific amount of time or have a minimum revenue. You can generally find this information in the card’s terms and conditions document. But don’t be afraid to contact customer support to confirm any information you can’t find..
If you’re a startup and haven’t created a formal business structure yet, you can use your personal Social Security number in place of an Employer Identification Number.
Keep in mind that the card offers you’re eligible for depend on the type of business you’re operating. Some credit card issuers specialize in working with sole proprietors and freelancers while others prefer to work with formally incorporated small businesses.
2. Secure Your Business Credit & Identity
If your business is formally incorporated, take these steps to secure its identity and begin building business credit.
Get a D-U-N-S Number
First, apply for a D-U-N-S® Number from Dun & Bradstreet, a leading business credit intelligence provider.
The Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S® Number is a unique nine-digit business identifier that helps users — including 90% of Fortune 500 companies and countless SMB lenders — evaluate the businesses they work with. It’s a reliable way to lend your business legitimacy as it grows.
Through your D-U-N-S Number, your live business identity attaches to your company’s credit file. It could give potential lenders the confidence they need to approve your credit application. And in the meantime, it gives you valuable intelligence about how your business appears to others — and what you can do to enhance its image.
Use Dun & Bradstreet’s CreditSignal to Track & Improve Your Business Credit
Next, register for Dun & Bradstreet’s CreditSignal, a free tool that gives you access to your:
- D&B PAYDEX® Score
- Financial Stress Score
- Delinquency Predictor Score
- Supplier Evaluation Risk Rating
You’ll enjoy free access to these scores for 14 days, then receive free alerts on directional changes afterward. You’ll also get alerts about changes in your file, such as inquiries and other events that lenders and others accessing your file may be able to see. And you’ll receive a monthly summary of your business file activity, along with updates on how frequently your file is accessed.
3. Check Your Personal Credit
Even as you work to build and strengthen your Dun & Bradstreet business credit file, don’t neglect your personal credit score.
For better or worse, it’s likely that your personal credit history will affect your ability to qualify for a business loan or business credit card. Many card issuers look at both your personal credit history and your business credit score when considering your application. And many require a personal guarantee that you’ll be responsible for the debts before issuing the card.
Your personal credit is more likely to come into play if you haven’t been in business very long. Before you apply for a business credit card, take the time to check your personal credit and make sure you have a reasonable credit score. If you have poor credit, try to improve it before you apply. This can be as simple as working with the credit bureaus to remove mistakes from your credit report or as hard as paying off some large loans.
In the long run, the best way to boost your credit score is to build a long payment history on a personal credit card, line of credit, or another loan.
Improving your personal credit score before you apply for a small-business credit card won’t only impact your ability to qualify for a card. It can also play a role in determining the credit limit, interest rate, and other important aspects of your card.
4. Improve Your Business Cash Flow
Once you’ve boosted your personal credit score, make sure you can show good cash flow to help make your business credit card application more appealing. It makes sense that lenders want to make sure that you have reliable income before giving you a line of credit.
The obvious way to improve your company’s cash flow is to increase sales. The more money your business makes, the healthier its cash flow tends to be.
You can also try to reduce your company’s expenses. This reduces the rate at which you burn cash and increases the lender’s confidence that you’ll use your line of credit wisely.
5. Research Your Business Credit Card Options
Once you’re ready to apply for a business credit card, it’s time to start comparing your options. Several credit card issuers offer business cards, including Chase, American Express, and Capital One. Evaluate your options and make the best choice for your business.
One of the first things to look at is the cost of the card. This includes the annual fee, foreign transaction fees, the ongoing interest rates, and any intro APR the card offers. You want to choose a card with a low or no annual fee. If you plan to use the card to finance a large purchase, a low intro APR is also a great perk.
Account Opening Bonus
Another thing to look for is whether the card offers an account opening bonus. Many card issuers will give you a discount on balance transfers and other account services when you open the account. You may also be able to earn a sign up bonus if you use the card to make a large purchase.
Beyond the account opening bonus, consider the ongoing rewards. Rewards let small-business owners save money or earn other perks when they make business purchases with the card. These perks can include travel rewards, rewards points, cash back, and other benefits. Different lenders have different reward partnerships and programs, so take the time to compare your options.
Many card issuers tailor their card rewards and features to certain types of companies. For example, if you run a shipping business that spends a lot of money at gas stations, look for a card that has a higher rewards rate for gas purchases. If most of your money goes to office supplies, look for a card that pays more at office supply stores.
Business Management Features
Also, look at the management features and tools the card issuer gives you. If you plan to get employee cards, for example, you might want a way to set spending limits for your employees. Some cards also include perks like discounts on business services or integrations with tools like Quickbooks to make it easier to manage your business.
6. Apply for a Business Credit Card
Once you’ve decided on the small-business card you want, you’re ready to apply.
When you apply for a business credit card, you need to provide both personal and business information. This information helps the card issuer check your personal credit and learn more about your business finances so it can make a lending decision.
You should be ready to provide:
- Your name
- Your birthdate
- Your Social Security number
- Your address
- Your phone number
- Your annual income
- Your monthly housing payment
On top of that, you’ll need to have the following business information ready:
- Your business name
- The legal structure of your business
- Your business Employer Identification Number, if it has one
- The industry you operate in
- Your business address
- Your business phone number
- Your business revenue
- The number of employees you have
- Your estimated monthly business spending
- How long you’ve been in business
- Your D-U-N-S number, if needed
A business credit card makes it easier to keep your business’ finances separate from your personal finances. If you get a rewards card, it also means you can get rewarded for your company’s spending.
If you’re thinking about starting a business but aren’t sure what business you could run, there are plenty of small businesses you can run out of your home. Opening a business credit card can help you get your new company off the ground with easy access to cash. Just keep in mind that business credit cards, like personal ones, have high interest rates and that you’ll have to be ready to repay the money you borrow.