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How to get a business credit card in six steps

Whether you have an established business or are just starting out, knowing how to get a business credit card can help you prepare for the application process.
Written by Mandy Sleight, Contributor

If you own a business, having a business credit card provides several advantages. Making cash flow management easier, separating your personal and business finances, earning rewards, and building business credit are just a few. 

Not all businesses are cash positive, and getting a business loan isn't always easy. Still, if you're approved for a business credit card, it can provide a lifeline by allowing you to make purchases and pay for services.

Whether you're an established business or just starting out, knowing how to get a business credit card can help you prepare for the application process. Here are the steps to you should take to get a business credit card:

1. Define your business type

While some believe you have to be a corporation or have an LLC to get a business credit card, small businesses are also eligible. Sole proprietors, gig workers, freelancers, and other self-employed individuals can apply for business credit, even if they only work part-time at a side hustle. 

When you apply for a business credit card, you will be asked to define your business type, so be prepared with the answer before filling out the application. If you want to incorporate or need to apply for an employee identification number (EIN) -- your business's social security number -- you should complete these processes beforehand.

2. Gather your information

While each bank offering business credit cards has their own criteria for approval, you should have the following information available when applying for a business credit card:

  • Business name

  • Business address and phone number

  • EIN

  • Business type (sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, partnership, etc.)

  • Age of the business

  • Industry

  • Your role in the business

  • Number of employees

  • Expenses and annual revenue

  • Bank statements

  • Personal credit information

Whether you plan to apply online or in person at the bank, having these documents and information available can make the application process quicker and easier.

3. Check your personal credit

If you are a startup, sole proprietor, or don't have established business credit, you may be asked for your personal details to check your credit score. Your personal credit history and credit score could make or break your business credit application, so you want to make sure it meets the issuer's credit criteria.

The better your credit score and the longer you have established an excellent credit history, the more likely you are to be approved with the best terms and benefits. You can get a free credit report with the three main credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion -- at annualcreditreport.com.

4. Research business credit card options

Just like personal credit cards, there is no shortage of business credit card options available. To help you narrow down your choices, consider what you need from the credit card. Do you solely want it to make tracking business transactions easier and separate from your personal finances? Or do you want access to rewards and other perks for everyday business purchases?

If you frequently travel for business, you can get business credit cards that offer specific perks, like airline rewards. Other cards may offer a sign-up bonus, tiered cashback rewards for purchases , and more. 

Maybe you frequently shop at a specific store and could benefit from the incentives offered there. Or maybe you find yourself ordering from Amazon most often, which could mean an Amazon Business Prime credit card is better suited for your business.

Whatever your needs, weighing your options can help you find the best business credit card.

5. Apply for a business credit card

Now that you've gathered all your information and narrowed down the best credit card for your business, you're ready to apply. The process to apply for a business credit card is similar to a personal credit card, but you may not get a decision right away.

Some creditors may ask for more information, which you should already have readily available to provide. You may be required to provide your personal information to guarantee repayment, even if the business fails. Once all relevant information is provided, the bank will make a final decision.

If you're approved, move on to the next step. If not, then you may need to work on your personal credit or establish business credit before trying again.

6. Receive your card and use it wisely

Once approved, you should get your business credit card mailed to your business address within a couple of weeks. When you receive it, activate the card and commit to using it wisely, so you don't run into trouble later on.

Review the terms and conditions carefully, plus the rewards program details if you get a rewards business credit card. This way, you can use the card correctly and maximize your benefits.

Now that you have a business credit card, only use it for business expenses and avoid mixing it with personal expenses. This will help you during tax time and keep your personal finances separate from the business.

What's the difference between business credit cards and personal credit cards?

The difference between business credit cards and personal credit cards is that business credit cards use the business entity's credit for approval and establish a credit limit. 

Having a business credit card allows you to separate your personal finances from your business finances, making record keeping easier and protecting your personal finances if you default or the business fails.

How do I get a credit card for my LLC?

When applying for a business credit card for your LLC, you will use your LLC information on the application instead of your personal details. They may also use your personal credit in approval consideration but are dependent on the creditor.

How can I get a business credit card without a business?

You can apply for a business credit card without a business by using your personal details in the application. Your name will be used as the business name, and if you don't have an EIN, you will use your social security number. A sole proprietorship is considered a business, but the creditor may ask for proof that you are in business before approving you for a business credit card.

What if I have poor credit or don't get approved for a business credit card?

If you have poor credit or haven't established enough business credit yet, there is a chance you may not be approved for a business credit card. If this happens, you have other options, like applying for a secured business credit card. A secured card requires a deposit which becomes your credit limit and can help you establish business credit or repair your personal credit so you can get approved for an unsecured business credit card in the future.

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