The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
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10 Best Business Credit Cards for Startups

10 Best Business Credit Cards for Startups

credit card advice

Marcie Geffner
By: Marcie Geffner
Posted: May 31, 2019

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Of all the decisions a startup business faces, choosing a business card may not seem like the most important. But in fact, the right business card can make a significant positive contribution to your new business’s cash flow and profitability.

Business cards come in a variety of configurations, all with different combinations of opportunities and costs. Opportunities can include generous signup bonuses, attractive travel benefits, lucrative cash back or points-based rewards, money-saving 0% introductory APRs, and more. Costs can include annual fees, and, if you don’t pay your card balance in full every month, interest charges for purchases you make after any introductory 0% APR ends.

With dozens of cards from which to choose, it can be challenging to compare each card’s opportunities and costs and figure out which one is the best for your startup business. All business cards come with rules, restrictions, limits, and other fine print. With that in mind, here are 10 business cards that are worth a look.

Overall | Rewards | Travel | Cash Back | Discounts | Bad Credit | FAQs

Best Overall Business Cards for Startups

It isn’t easy to single out business cards that are the best overall for startups because each startup business has its own unique needs. Generally, though, two key considerations should be: a nice package of card benefits, and, since many startups experience cash-flow crunches, a low or zero annual fee.

Here are five solid business cards that meet those two criteria and more.

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases - with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.49% - 22.49% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

The Chase Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card has a generous rewards program and attractive signup bonus that gives you three points per dollar for certain business expenses, such as travel, shipping costs, internet, cable, and phone services, and advertising buys through social media and search engine websites. This three-point category is limited to your first $150,000 in combined purchases per year, based on when your account was opened. All other purchases earn one point per dollar.

Points can be redeemed for cash back, travel rewards, gift cards, or purchases at Amazon.com, including sales tax and shipping charges. Redeem points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and you’ll get a 25% boost in value. This card has a $95 annual fee, but there’s no extra cost for additional cards for employees.

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn up to $2,000 in cash bonuses
  • Earn a $500 cash bonus when you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months and earn $1,500 when you spend $50,000 in the first 6 months of your account opening
  • Earn unlimited 2% cash back for your business on every purchase, everywhere, no limits or category restrictions
  • $0 annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
  • Free employee cards, which also earn unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases
  • $0 Fraud Liability if your card is lost or stolen
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
18.74% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Excellent, Good

The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business offers a big win: unlimited 2% cash back for all purchases. Use this card often or for a large purchase, and you could get thousands of dollars back to invest in your startup or improve your cash flow.

With no minimum to redeem rewards, you can “save” cash in the program and get it when you need it. Or you can set up automatic redemptions that will give you a statement credit or check at a set time each calendar year or when your rewards total $25, $50, $100, $200, $500 or $1,500.

Don’t need cash? You can also redeem this card’s rewards for gift cards or other options.

3. Blue BusinessSMPlus Credit Card from American Express

A big advantage of the Blue BusinessSM Plus Credit Card from American Express is that you can spend more than your credit limit, so your business can buy more or make larger purchases without your having to call and request a higher limit. How much more you can spend depends on your card usage, payment history, creditworthiness, and other factors.

Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express

  • 2X membership rewards points on purchases up to $50,000, 1X points on everything else
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months
  • No annual fee

This card makes managing business expenses easier with connectivity to QuickBooks, alerts to monitor employee spending, and a year-end summary to help prepare for tax season.

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • 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 card purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 12 months
N/A 12 months
14.74% - 20.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The rewards program for the Chase Ink Business Cash℠ card gives you 5% back for purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone services, 2% back for purchases at gas stations and restaurants, and 1% back for all other purchases.

Points can be redeemed for cash back, travel, gift cards, or shopping at Amazon.com, including sales tax and shipping charges. There’s also a nice signup bonus opportunity, 0% introductory APR for purchases for the first year after your account is opened, and no annual fee.

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back for your business on every purchase, everywhere, no limits or category restrictions
  • No annual fee
  • Build and strengthen credit for your business by using this credit card responsibly
  • $0 Fraud Liability if your card is lost or stolen
  • Free employee cards, which also earn unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases
  • Rewards won't expire for the life of the account, and you can redeem your cash back for any amount
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.74% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

Most business cards are designed for business owners who have excellent or very good credit. The Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business offers somewhat more flexible guidelines to qualify and still gives you some benefits for your startup. And, there’s no annual fee.

You’ll earn 1% cash back on every purchase with no limits, choice-of-the-month categories, or minimum level to redeem your rewards. The APR for this card may be higher than you might pay with a card that requires higher-quality credit. Using this card may give you an opportunity to strengthen your credit over time when used responsibly.

Best Business Rewards Card for Startups

Cash back rewards for card purchases are a terrific perk for a startup business since more cash is always good to have on hand. But sometimes, a business might benefit more from another type of reward, such as travel, gift cards, or points toward Amazon.com purchases. Business rewards cards give you the flexibility to choose the rewards you want when you earn them.

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • 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 card purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 12 months
N/A 12 months
14.74% - 20.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

Despite its name, the Chase Ink Business CashSM card isn’t only about cash back. You can redeem points that you earn as a statement credit applied to your balance or cash deposited into most U.S. checking or savings accounts. Or you can redeem your points for travel, gift cards, or shopping at Amazon.com, including sales tax and shipping charges.

This card has no annual fee, a nice signup bonus opportunity, and a 0% introductory APR for purchases for the first 12 months after your account is opened.

Best Business Travel Card for Startups

Whether it’s sales calls, meetings with suppliers, conferences or other trips, business travel can be a big expense for startups. That’s why a business card that offers travel rewards may be a good choice. The right business travel card could make your days on the road easier, more comfortable and, sometimes, even free.

7. Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card comes with a Hilton Honors sign-up bonus opportunity, complimentary Hilton Honors Gold Status, and a chance to earn one or two free weekend night rewards from Hilton Honors.

Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

  • Earn 12X points on Hilton Hotels purchases, 6X points on select business, travel, restaurants, and other purchases, 3X points on everything else
  • 10 free visits to Priority Pass lounges annually
  • No foreign transaction fees

The annual fee is $95, which is less than you’d probably pay to spend a night at most business-class hotels.

Best Business Cash Back Card for Startups

With a cash back business card, cash isn’t just king. It’s also queen, prince, princess, and all the king’s men.

Indeed, a card that offers cash back rewards may be an easy choice for many startup businesses that need cash to meet payroll, purchase supplies, and just to keep the lights on. Cash back rewards can also help your startup manage its cash flow.

8. Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard®

The Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard® gives you 3% cash back in your choice of one of six categories each month. The categories are gas stations; office supply stores; travel; TV, telecom and wireless providers; computer services, and business consulting services.

Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard®

  • Receive 2% cash back for dining out and 1% cash back for other purchases
  • 0% introductory APR for 9 billing cycles from account opening
  • No annual fee

The 2% and 3% categories are limited to a combined $50,000 in purchases each calendar year. After that, additional purchases drop into the 1% category, which is unlimited.

Bank of America Business Advantage Relationship Rewards offer clients who’ve achieved platinum status even bigger benefits. Join this program and you’ll get 5.25% cash back for your chosen category, 3.5% for dining out, and 1.75% for other purchases. To qualify, you’ll need an eligible Bank of America checking account and a three-month average combined balance of $50,000 or more in an eligible Bank of America and/or Merrill Edge® and Merrill Lynch® account.

Best Business Card with Discounts for Startups

Business cards typically don’t come with discounts, but you can get some business-friendly benefits that could help your startup succeed. One such benefit is payment flexibility, which lets you pay later for things your business needs to buy now. Payment flexibility can help your business manage its cash flow and avoid a cash crunch.

9. Amazon Business Prime American Express Card

If you’re an Amazon Prime or Business Prime member, the Amazon Business Prime American Express Card offers you 5% back in points for purchases in the U.S. at Amazon.comAmazon.com/Business, WholeFoods.com, Whole Foods Market, Whole Foods Market 365, Amazon Go, and Amazon Books locations, and businesses operating as Amazon Web Services.

Amazon Business Prime American Express Card

  • 5% back or 90-day terms on select purchases detailed above
  • 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, wireless phone services
  • 1% back on everything else
  • No annual fee

Alternatively, you can choose to forgo the 5% back reward and instead get 90-day payment terms for purchases at select retailers. Points can be applied as a statement credit toward your card balance or redeemed at Amazon.com and Amazon Business in the U.S. All applicants will receive a $125 Amazon.com gift card upon approval.

Cardholders will additionally receive extended warranty benefits, purchase protection, and dispute resolution services if there is fraudulent account activity.

Best Business Card for Startups with Bad Credit

Startup businesses rarely have any sort of credit history. That’s why card companies generally rely on the owner’s personal credit to issue a card to the business. If the owner’s credit isn’t wonderful, the business’s choice of cards may be limited. Still, some cards cater to this specific situation. Using cards responsibly may create a path for the business to build its own credit over time.

10. Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card

Some secured business cards are only available in certain states or counties. Wells Fargo has a national footprint. The Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card comes with a credit limit of $500 to $25,000, depending on how much you deposit to secure the card.

The rewards program gives you a choice of 1.5% cash back or one point for each dollar you spend. There’s also an opportunity to earn bonus points for a certain level of monthly spending.

Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card

  • Earn 1.5% cash back on every $1 spent
  • $500 to $25,000 credit line
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Issue up to 10 employee cards, $25 annual fee per card

Cash back is awarded quarterly in the form of a statement credit or direct deposit to an eligible business checking or savings account. Points can be redeemed for merchandise, gift cards, travel or other rewards. Points for airline tickets must be redeemed through Wells Fargo’s Rewards Service Center or online at WellsFargoRewards.com.

The bank will review your account periodically and may offer you an opportunity to upgrade to an unsecured business card, depending on your card usage, payment history, credit utilization ratio, and other factors.

(The information related to Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card has been collected by CardRates.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.)

How Do I Qualify for a Business Credit Card?

The process to apply for a business credit card is the same as the process to apply for a consumer card.

The easiest way is to apply online as most cards offer an online application. Typically, you’ll be asked to provide your business’s legal name, address, and Employer Identification Number (EIN). If your startup doesn’t have an EIN, you can get one from the IRS.

Since most startups don’t have their own credit history, the card issuer will evaluate your personal credit and credit scores to make a decision. Most business cards require excellent or very good credit, although the standards vary from one card issuer to the next.

Not all business cards require a stellar personal credit history. You’ll have fewer choices if you’re in this situation, but it’s still worth shopping around and applying for a business card so your startup business can build its own credit history.

If your personal credit isn’t good enough for your business to be approved for an unsecured business card, you may want to apply for a secured business card, which requires a deposit. Secured cards generally have more flexible guidelines to qualify.

This type of card may help your startup establish its own credit history. Once that’s done, you can apply for an unsecured business card.

How Do I Get Credit for My LLC?

Building a credit history for a Limited Liability Company (LLC) is not much different from building a personal credit history or a credit history for any other type of business. You’ll have to establish the business’s identity, open credit accounts in the business’s name, and use those accounts responsibly, making payments on time. The goal is to establish a track record of responsible credit use that will enable your LLC to obtain financing without your personal guarantee.

The first step to establishing credit for an LLC is to get an EIN from the IRS. Then you can open separate bank accounts for your LLC and set up credit accounts with your LLC’s suppliers.

Screenshot of IRS EIN Application Page

You can obtain a business EIN (Employer Identification Number) online through the IRS website.

To establish credit, make sure your LLC pays all of its suppliers on time (or early to capture discounts) and ask those suppliers to report your LLC’s payments to the business credit bureaus such as Experian, Equifax, and Dun & Bradstreet. D&B issues its own record number, known as a D-U-N-S Number. A D-U-N-S Number may help your LLC build credit if suppliers use it to report payment activity.

While it’s not required to establish credit, it may be a good idea to set up a separate phone number and website for your LLC as well.

What Business Credit Card Gives the Highest Limit?

Most business cards don’t offer super high limits; however, there are a few ways to get more credit for your startup. Here’s a list:

  • Strengthen your personal credit history to raise your credit scores and request a higher limit for your business card.
  • Get a business charge card instead of or in addition to a business credit card. A charge card doesn’t have a limit, but the balance must be paid off in full every month.
  • Apply for a corporate card. Unlike a business card, a corporate card is based on the business’s own well-established credit rather than the owner’s personal credit.
  • Apply for a business loan or line of credit in addition to a business card.

Another option is to pay all or part of your card’s balance more than once during each payment cycle. That will free up a portion of the card’s credit limit for reuse.

Keep in mind that a higher limit isn’t necessarily a good thing if it enables you to spend more than you should to nurture your startup business. Evaluate your business’s expenses and think hard about what’s a need and what’s a want. Growing a successful business means controlling expenses as well as boosting revenues.

Small Businesses Have Large Spending Needs

Some startup businesses are content to remain small. Others want to expand steadily, and others crave the excitement of explosive growth. Growth can mean higher revenues and fatter profits, but it tends to come with bigger spending.

The right business card, whether it’s a small business card, business charge card, or corporate card, can help you manage your business well and control your cash flow as you expand from a startup to an established enterprise.

When you shop for a business card, consider which benefits will genuinely help your business thrive. Maybe you need payment flexibility, a higher credit limit, a better cash back program, more travel benefits, or a longer introductory 0% APR. Thinking about the offers and making notes as you research and compare cards may help you choose the card or cards that best fit your preferences and needs.