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How to apply for a business credit card

Applying for a business credit card doesn't have to be difficult, but it's important to research your options.
Written by Laurie Garrison, Contributor

Businesses both large and small could benefit from having business credit cards. When company employees use business credit cards, whether for purchasing supplies, equipment, meals, or for travel, it makes it easier to keep track of the company's expenses. Payments are also made directly to the credit card company instead of individual employees.

When employees use personal cards and must submit reimbursement claims, it becomes more difficult to track and categorize business expenses. And, instead of making one credit card payment, the company must make multiple payments if several people have business expenses.

In addition to tracking expenses, companies can benefit from having a business credit card by earning rewards and other perks.

How do you apply for a business credit card?

The process of applying for a business credit card is similar to applying for a personal card. Additionally, the types of cards available for businesses mirror what's available for personal cards. You can apply for the following types of business credit cards:

  • Cashback: You can earn a set percentage of money based on the total amount of your charges
  • Points: You can get a set number of points for each dollar spent on qualifying purchases
  • Miles: You can earn a certain number of miles for money spent on eligible purchases
  • 0% introductory APR: Applies to balance transfers and/or purchases for a set period of time

There are three steps you should take to apply for a business credit card: check your credit score, research your options, and submit your application.

How do you check your credit score?

Even though your application is for your business, credit card issuers will also check your personal credit score. Typically, you'll need a personal FICO score of 670 or higher. Since your application will trigger a hard inquiry on your credit, which could cause it to drop a few points, you want to find out in advance if your score is high enough.

Companies that issue business credit cards typically use one or more of the three reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian or TransUnion -- to check personal credit scores. Each of these agencies allows you to check your score for free every 12 months. While each agency may have a different score for you, these scores are often relatively close. 

Through their online banking services, many banks will also show you your credit score at no charge. These scores usually come from one of the three reporting agencies. You can also use independent companies like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame, which have programs where you can check your score at no charge. However, the scores reported through third-party companies may not be as accurate as the agencies' scores.

In addition to your personal score, you should check your company's business credit score if it has one. Unlike personal credit scores, the process of scoring credit for businesses is not standardized. Several companies provide scores to businesses, such as Dun & Bradstreet Nav Equifax, and Experian, and each has different computing methods. You'll want to find out which company the card issuer you're applying to is using and check your score with that company prior to submitting your application.

How do you research your business credit card options?

There are several factors to consider when choosing a business credit card. These include the card-issuing company, the type of card you want, interest rates, annual fees, and financial features.

The company issuing the card

A good place to start your research is the bank where you have your business account. If you already have a relationship with a banker there, they can help you determine the best card for your needs. If you don't have a business checking account yet, you may want to look at the bank that handles your personal accounts, since, again, you have a pre-existing relationship with them. 

After that, you can check the major national banks, such as JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, U.S. Bank, Truist, PNC, and TD Bank. However, don't overlook regional banks, such as Bank of the West, BBVA Compass Bank, BMO Harris Bank, California Bank & Trust, Comerica Bank, HSBC, Huntington National Bank, M&T Bank, etc. 

However, all credit card issuers do not report your business credit activity to the commercial credit bureaus. If developing a business credit score and history is important, you'll want to choose a card issuer that does make those reports. 

Finally, you'll want to find a credit card issuer that supports your type of business. Some do not offer cards to solopreneurs or non-profits, for example.

Type of business credit card

As previously mentioned, you can choose a business credit card with points, cashback, miles, or a lower interest rate. Knowing how you and your employees will use the card will help with this decision. For example, if you do a lot of business traveling, you may opt for a card where you can earn miles. If you want additional items, you may want a card with points you can exchange for a variety of items in the card issuer's redemption catalog. Or, you may simply want a straight cash back card so you can decide how you want to use the money you earn from using the card.

Interest rates

If you don't carry a balance from month to month, the rate of interest may not be important. But, if it's possible you'll carry a balance, you may prefer a card with a lower interest rate. Some business credit cards have a 0% introductory APR, which may be beneficial if you have a large purchase coming up.

Annual fees

There are annual fees associated with some business credit cards, while other cards do not charge you each year to use them. Cards with annual fees often have additional perks, so you'd need to decide if these perks are worth the extra charge.

Financial features: Many business credit card issuers include account management tools. Among the features may be the ability to download your card information into your accounting program. These features can make it easier to manage your finances.

While it may not be possible to get everything you want in a business credit card, by thoroughly researching your options, you can apply for the card and to the card issuer that meets the majority of your needs.

What criteria is needed to submit a business credit card application?

Once you've discovered your personal and business credit score, decided which type of card you want (and which credit card issuer you want to use), it's time to submit your application. However, to make that process easier, you want to gather all your information in advance.

Each company issuing business credit cards has its own criteria and material requests. Typical information they'll want to know includes:

  • Business name: the company's legal name and DBA if there is one
  • Business address: physical and mailing (if different)
  • Business phone number
  • Tax identification number
  • Business type: corporation, partnership, LLC, sole proprietorship
  • Industry: retail, technology, manufacturing, construction, etc.
  • Age: how long has the business be running
  • Revenue: current revenue and revenue projections or expectations
  • Expenses: monthly and/or annual
  • Personal credit score: typically looking for scores of 670 or higher
  • Personal guarantee: from the business owner and/or their partners to cover the debt
  • Social security number, date of birth, and personal income: of the person applying for the business credit card

Once you've gathered your information, you can apply for a credit card. Most card issuers have a secure online portal for the application. For some banks, you can also apply in person. 

It can take anywhere from a few minutes to two weeks to learn if you've been approved. Then, if approved, it can take up to two weeks to receive your card.

Why do you need a business credit card?

Business credit cards make it easier to keep your business expenses separate from your personal expenses. They typically come with financial tools that can work with your accounting software, saving you time manually processing this information. 

You'll have one single monthly payment to the credit card issuer instead of multiple payments to staff members. You may be able to take advantage of incentives like cashback, points, or miles.

How do you get approved for a business credit card?

If your business has one, business credit card issuers may look at both your personal credit score and your business credit score. Typically, your personal credit score should be at least 670. Card issuers will look at other factors like the age of your business, its current and projected revenue, and business expenses, along with your personal income.

Which business credit card is right for you?

Like personal credit cards, there are several types of business credit cards. You can choose from cashback, points, miles, introductory 0% APR, etc. Your choice depends on your business needs and how you use the card. For example, if you travel a lot for business, you may want a card that offers miles.

Which bank should you use for a business credit card?

Each credit card issuer has different requirements and offers for their business credit cards. You'll want to research what's available from several different banks. This could include the large banks that serve the entire nation or regional banks local to your specific area. 

You may want to start your research with the bank that holds your company checking account.

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