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How to Apply for a Business Credit Card

Applying for a business credit card, especially if it’s your first one, can be incredibly intimidating.

If you’re like most people you might have questions about what types of businesses qualify and business revenue requirements, as well as how to actually fill out the application correctly.

So, this guide’s purpose is to clear up any confusion about who can qualify for a business credit card and show why it makes good business sense to take advantage of the unique rewards that come with small business credit cards.

How to Apply for a Business Credit Card

DP Home Office with a computer table, desktop computer, and black swivel chair

Let’s get started by addressing some of the most frequently asked questions and misconceptions about getting a business credit card in the first place.

Do I Qualify for a Business Credit Card?

I don’t think I have a business. I don’t think what I do counts as a business.

It’s not uncommon to hear things like this when talking about business credit cards.

Even just the word business tends to be thought of in a classic sense, when in fact, it applies to large companies, small mom and pop shops, people with side hustles, and even independent contractors.

So it’s only natural to think you might not qualify for a business credit card.

But, you don’t have to think of the word business strictly in this traditional sense.

Your business doesn’t need to be a physical business like a shoe store or a restaurant. It doesn’t need an actual brick-and-mortar location. Nor does it need to be a large company or corporation.

Your business can be a side hustle or a part-time project. It can be something you do just sometimes, which means it doesn’t need to be your primary source of income.

The length of time you’ve had your business also isn’t a typical determining factor of whether or not you can qualify for a business credit card.

New businesses may want a business credit card for start-up costs just as an established business may need to purchase supplies to complete an order or perform a service.

However, a business that’s been in existence has proof of revenue and expenses which works in its favor when applying for new lines of credit.

Luckily, though, this isn’t the only factor that determines approval for a business credit card application.

So, What Counts as a Business?

Artist Painting Freelance Business

You can be a seller on Amazon or eBay or an Etsy artist and shopowner.

Maybe you have regular yard sales or you sell baked goods. Babysitting and dog-walking count as a business.

As a teacher, I would tutor on the side. This tutoring counted as a business, and I could use it to qualify for business credit cards

Perhaps you own a rental property or just rent out your house or apartment. This real estate arrangement can count as a business.

  • Do you offer a service?
  • Are you a freelance writer or a consultant of some kind?
  • Do you blog, design websites, or even work as a virtual assistant?
  • Or maybe you’re a part-time driver or a coach.

All of these can be listed on business credit card applications.

Why Consider a Business Credit Card?

Business credit cards can be a great way to build a credit history for your business.

They open up new possibilities for travel rewards credit cards, as well as benefits that might not be typical of personal credit cards like bonus categories specific for businesses.

Using a credit card to pay for supplies and other things you need to run your business earns points and miles or cashback rewards that bring a return on your business costs that could potentially be invested back into the business or yourself for some much-needed R&R to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Perhaps you’re a freelancer who needs to travel to clients. A travel rewards business credit card can help you keep your business expenses separate while at the same time helping you earn miles and points for your paid travel expenses.

Another great thing about business credit cards is they don’t count towards 5/24, which is good if you’re trying to lower your overall count. 

Keep in mind, though, Chase business cards are subject to the 5/24 rule.

This means the bank will look at how many new credit cards you’ve gotten in the last 24 months as a determining factor for your business credit card application. However, if approved, the business card won’t add to your overall count.

For example, if you’re 4/24 and you apply for the Chase Ink Business Preferred, Chase will look at your overall card count in the last 24 months.

At 4/24, you’ll be ok. And, after you’re approved for the card, you’ll still be at 4/24 because the business credit cards won’t add to your 5/24 count.

How to Fill Out a Business Credit Card Application

Computer desk

Business credit card applications aren’t all that different from personal credit card applications. However, there are fields for important information about your business the bank will need to consider your application.

The #1 rule when filling out business credit card applications is to always be truthful and honest. It’s better to show small numbers rather than made-up numbers you can’t explain later on.

I’ve had to call the reconsideration line for a bank whose business card I had been denied. It can be a nerve-wracking experience and I can’t imagine having to be called out for untruthful numbers. (Luckily, I was able to get the card approved after answering a few questions.)

Beyond this, though, let’s take a look at a few of the information fields that are unique to business credit card applications and clear up any confusion.

Business Name

Your business name can be your own name. Again, if you’re consulting or tutoring, you are the business.

As a sole proprietor, there doesn’t need to be a formal name for the business. Even established businesses may still have a person’s name as their name.

Business Address

Your business address can be the same as your home address. If you’re consulting or do remote computer-based work from home, for example, you won’t have a business address and that’s ok.

Tax ID Number

The business can be just you. Having a business doesn’t mean you have a team of people that work with you. On business applications, you can list yourself as a sole proprietor and use your social security number instead of an EIN, or official tax ID number.

An EIN is issued once a business becomes incorporated or an LLC. It’s not a requirement for business credit card applications.

Business Revenue

Some of the most commonly asked questions about business credit card applications are about revenue.

  • Do I need to show a business income?
  • Is it ok if my business makes just a small amount?
  • What if my business hasn’t made anything yet or is just starting up?

The short and simple answer is each bank is different.

In normal financial times, most banks don’t require your business to have made any money. Nor do you need to have a certain amount of revenue from the business. 

However, in times of financial turmoil, banks look to mitigate their potential losses.

Business credit card applications could be looked at much closer and banks could prefer a business that’s already up and running.

For example, Chase made changes in 2020 to its business applications. It now states, “Annual business revenue can no longer be zero.” However, this was temporary and a reflection of the times.

No matter what, though, be honest with yourself and the bank. Business credit card applications will ask how much money your business has made and your total annual income.

For sole proprietors, banks will look at your personal credit information and your total household income as a way to safeguard the business line of credit. Meaning, you personally are responsible for any money owed even if a business no longer exists.

Banks like Chase may even require you to log in to an existing account you have with them or have a business checking account with sufficient funding.

It is also ok to project revenue the business will make.

This is helpful for businesses that are in their first year and don’t have annual revenue totals from previous years. However, if the bank has more questions for you after you submit the application, you may need to explain your estimate.

And remember, business revenue doesn’t necessarily mean profit. New business owners and banks alike know all too well how important it is to invest earnings back into a business to fuel more growth.

I wasn’t Instantly Approved…Now What?

Yes No Maybe I don't Know

Sometimes, banks just want additional information. But especially if it’s your first business card, you may not be automatically approved.

It’s not uncommon for a bank to want some additional information or even have an additional requirement to approve the application.

If after a couple of days you haven’t heard back, you may want to call the bank’s reconsideration line to see if there’s any additional information you can provide.

If you get a rejection letter, call the reconsideration line to discuss the reasons you weren’t approved.

There may just be a few verifications needed to reverse the decision. In some cases, you may need to establish a relationship with the bank first.

For example, you can open up a business checking or savings account and reapply once this is established.

Either way, it’s ok to say you’re just starting up and you need to fund some start-up costs.

If asked, it’s ok to explain you’d like to keep business expenses separate from your personal expenses. It’s certainly ok to need an additional way to purchase supplies, services, and equipment.

You may even need to travel more frequently for business and anticipate flying or staying with a particular airline or hotel more often, which could potentially make a co-branded airline or hotel credit card a smart decision for your business costs.

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Best Business Credit Cards

Chase business credit cards include valuable Ultimate Rewards earnings cards and co-branded cards with United, Southwest, and Marriott.

When you submit an application, Chase will look at your complete credit history and household income, not just business revenue.

And even though business cards don’t add to your 5/24 count, they are subject to the rule. So, you’ll want to make sure you’re under 5/24 before applying.

It’s also a great plan to include a Chase business card as one of your first 5 travel rewards credit cards.

Chase also seems to like it when business card applicants have an existing connection to the bank.

There’s no one right answer, but having a bank account or even a personal credit card with Chase may be helpful.

In my case, many years ago I was initially denied for my first Chase business card, but once I established a Chase business checking account, I was immediately approved.

I also recommend waiting for the Chase decision letter before calling in.

ProTip: If you have Chase personal credit cards with high credit limits, consider lowering these limits at least a month before applying for a Chase business credit card.

In addition, if you’ve moved or changed the address on your Chase account in the last 6 months, you might not be immediately approved simply for security fraud protection.

Ink Business Preferred

Current Welcome Bonus: 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $15,000 in the first 3 months from your account opening.

Favorite Card Features:

  • 3x on travel, shipping costs, internet, phone & cable services, and advertising with social media sites and search engines on the first $150k in combined category spending
  • No foreign exchange fees
  • Transfer Ultimate Rewards points to airline and hotel partners like United, Flying Blue, and Hyatt
    1.25 cents per point value if you redeem points for travel in the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal

Annual Fee: $95

Ink Business Cash 

Current Welcome Bonus: Earn $750 after spending $7,500 in the first 3 months from opening your account.

Favorite Card Features:

  • 5% on office supply stores and internet, phone & cable services on the first $25k in combined category spending
  • 2% on gas stations and dining on up to a combined $25k in spending
  • Paired with an Ink Preferred or Sapphire, the $750 welcome bonus becomes 75k Ultimate Rewards points that have access to valuable airline and hotel transfer partners like United, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Hyatt.

Annual Fee: $0

Ink Business Unlimited

Current Welcome Bonus: $750 after spending $7,500 in the first 3 months from opening your account.

Favorite Card Features:

  • 1.5x on all purchases with no spending cap.
  • Paired with an Ink Preferred or Sapphire, the $750 welcome bonus becomes 75k Ultimate Rewards points that have access to valuable airline and hotel transfer partners like United, Flying Blue, Virgin Atlantic, and Hyatt.

Annual Fee: $0

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business

Current Welcome Bonus: Earn 80,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months of your account opening.

Favorite Card Features:

  • 4x on Southwest purchases
  • 3x on Rapid Rewards Hotels and Car partner bookings
  • 2x on Rideshares
  • 2x on internet, cable, and cell phone costs, as well as advertising purchases for social media and search engines
  • Perks include a Global Entry fee credit and 4 upgraded boarding positions
  • Get 9k Rapid Rewards points each year you renew your card

Annual Fee: $199

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business

Current Welcome Bonus: 60,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months from your account opening.

Favorite Card Features:

  • 3x on Southwest purchases,
  • 2x on rental cars and hotels booked through Southwest's partners
  • 2x on rideshares
  • 2 EarlyBird Check-ins per year
  • No foreign exchange fees
  • Each year on your card anniversary, earn 6,000 Rapid Rewards points.
  • Use Rapid Rewards points to fly anywhere Southwest flys including Hawaii, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

Annual Fee: $99

United Explorer Business Card

Current Welcome Bonus: Earn 75,000 United miles after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months from your account opening. 

Favorite Card Features:

  • 2x on United purchases, dining, at gas stations, office supply stores, local transit & commuting (including things like tolls, taxis, and rideshare costs)
  • 5k United miles each year on your account anniversary if you have a United business and personal credit card
  • $100 United travel credit after making 7 United flight purchases > $100
  • Get 25% off United inflight purchases for things like drinks and wifi
  • No foreign exchange fees
  • A free checked bag when you fly with United
  • 2 United Club passes each year
  • 1-year DashPass for free and reduced delivery fees on DoorDash offers over $12

Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, $99 thereafter

American Express is good about helping business owners get started. They understand new small businesses will have little if any revenue just yet. Again, honesty about your personal income, business expenses, and revenue is the best path to success.

Their business cards include Membership Rewards earnings cards and co-branded hotel credit cards. Membership Rewards points, in particular, are especially valuable when transferred to their airline transfer partners.

Lastly, depending on the card, American Express business cards also come with perks like free employee cards and access to business management tools to help as your business grows.

Blue Business Plus

Current Welcome Bonus: Earn 15,000 American Express Membership Rewards points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months as a cardholder.

Favorite Card Features:

  • 2x American Express Membership Rewards points for up to $50k a year
  • Add Amex Offers to the card to earn bonus points and statement credits for qualifying purchases
  • Transfer Membership Rewards points to valuable airline and hotel transfer partners including Delta, Aeroplan, Virgin Atlantic, and ANA
  • Terms Apply

Annual Fee: $0

American Express Business Gold

Current Welcome Bonus: 70,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $10,000 in the first 3 months from your account opening. 

Favorite Card Features:

  • 4x on 2 bonus categories that make sense for your business on up to $150k in spending each calendar year. Choices include advertising, U.S. gas, restaurants, or shipping, flights booked directly with the airline, and technology costs involving cloud services and software. 
  • No foreign exchange fees (See rates & fees details)
  • Transfer Membership Rewards points to airline and hotel partners like Aeroplan, Delta, ANA, and Etihad. 
  • Get a 25% point rebate when you book a flight with American Express Travel on your selected airline or on any premium class flight
  • Terms Apply

Annual Fee: $295

The Business Platinum Card

Current Welcome Bonus: Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $15,000 in the first 3 months of opening your account

Favorite Card Features:

  • 5x on airfare and hotels booked & paid for in advance through Amex Travel
  • 1.5x on purchases U.S. Construction materials, hardware suppliers, electronic goods stores, shipping, software & cloud services, as well as on purchases of $5k or more
  • Up to $189 statement credit each year for an annual CLEAR membership
  • No foreign exchange fees
  • Transfer Membership Rewards points to valuable airline partners like Aeroplan, Avianca, Delta, Etihad, and Virgin Atlantic.
  • Access American Express Centurion Lounges.
  • Get 35% of your points back when booking economy flights with your selected airline or on premium class flight bookings with any airline when you book through American Express Travel.
  • Earn valuable statement credits for: Dell up to $400 that can be stacked with other Dell promotions, $360 for Indeed, $150 for Adobe, and up to $120 for cell phone purchases
  • $200 Airline credit with your selected airline for incidentals like baggage fees, in-flight purchases, and lounge passes
  • Terms Apply

Annual Fee: $695 

Hilton Honors American Express Business

Current Welcome Bonus: Limited Time Offer! Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months from your account opening. Plus, get up to $130 in statement credits on qualifying purchases at Hilton family hotels within the first 12 months.

Favorite Card Features:

  • 12x on Hilton purchases
  • 6x on U.S. gas stations, restaurants, cell phone service, shipping costs, flights booked with the airline directly, and rental cars booked with the car rental company directly.
  • No foreign exchange fees
  • Hilton Gold Status
  • Earn 1 free weekend night after spending $15k in a calendar year. Earn an additional free weekend night by spending an additional $45k in the same calendar year
  • Terms Apply

Annual Fee: $95

Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express

Welcome Bonus: Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months from your account opening. 

Favorite Card Features:

  • 6x at Marriott hotels that participate in the Bonvoy program
  • 4x on U.S. dining, gas stations, cell phone service, and shipping. Earn 2x on all other purchases.
  • Get a Free Night Award after your annual renewal month at hotels participating in the Bonvoy program priced at 35k points a night and under.
  • Marriott Bonvoy points can also be transferred to 40+ airline partners and redeemed for award flights.
  • Get Marriott Bonvoy Silver status as a cardholder
  • Terms Apply

Annual Fee: $125

Capital One business credit cards come with high-powered earning potential at 2x/2% for every dollar spent. This can be a great way for businesses to get a significant return on their costs. 

Compared to other banks listed here, it can be a bit tougher to get approved for a business credit card with Capital One. Newer business owners will have less business history to show which may be necessary during a reconsideration call. 

Also, as with their personal credit cards, Capital One pulls credit history from all 3 credit bureaus. 

Capital One Spark Miles for Business

Current Welcome Bonus: Earn 50k miles after spending $4,500 in the first 3 months from your account opening.

Favorite Card Features:

  • 2x on all purchases with no spending caps
  • No foreign exchange fees
  • Transfer miles to Capital One's airline transfer partners like Aeroplan, Avianca, and Flying Blue or redeem them to erase travel purchases on your monthly statement.

Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, then $95 starting the 2nd year

Read more about the Capital One Spark Miles for Business to know whether it's right for your business.

Citibank partners with American Airlines for their travel rewards business credit card. Like other banks on the list, they are generally welcoming to new businesses that may or may not have business revenue.

At times, reconsideration may be needed just to verify the business details.

CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select

Current Welcome Bonus: 65,000 American Airlines miles after spending $4,000 in the first 4 months from your account opening.

Favorite Card Features:

  • 2x on American Airlines purchases, cell phone, internet, cable, and satellite services, as well as on gas and rental car costs.
  • No foreign exchange fees
  • 1 free checked bag on all domestic flights

Annual Fee: $0 in the first year, $99 in the second year

Business credit cards are not just for big businesses or even what might be thought of as a traditional business.

Business credit cards for new businesses, freelancers, and even part-time, independent contractors are all possible.

Having a line of credit for your business helps you organize your expenses and purchase what you need to grow your business.

Best of all, these business costs return value in the form of valuable travel rewards.

What are your questions about applying for a business credit card?

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