How to Qualify for a Small Business Credit Card (And Why You Should Get One!)

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Million Mile Secrets reader, Kris, commented:

I (and perhaps many others) would really appreciate if you could write about small business cards qualifications.  I do some infrequent consulting, but the income from this is very minimal.  What are my chances of getting a small business credit card?

Should I even try?  Which bank has more flexible rules?

Excellent question, Kris!

How To Qualify For A Small Business Credit Card And Why You Should Get One

I Spoke With Representatives From AMEX, Chase, and Citi About the Requirements for Their Small Business Cards. (Spoiler: They’re Less Intimidating Than You Think!)

I called American Express, Chase, and Citi, to ask about their small business credit card requirements.

I’ll share what I found out.  And give you tips for getting a business credit card of your own!

What Qualifies As a Small Business?

Link:   3 Ways You May Qualify for a Small Business Card

Link:   10 Activities That May Qualify You for a Small Business Card

If you’re a small business owner, opening a business credit card is a great way to keep your business expenses separate from personal expenses – and earn more miles and points!

It’s an easy way to keep track of what you’re spending on your business.  And the good news is many bonus categories are tailored toward small business expenses!

How To Qualify For A Small Business Credit Card And Why You Should Get One

Do You Provide a Service or Product (Like Coaching, Photography, Design, or Real Estate) and Get Paid for It? You May Already Have a Small Business!

I wrote about how you can qualify for a small business card.  And 10 activities that might qualify you to open one.

If you earn income for performing a service, or selling goods, you could have a small business.  And anything you do as an independent contractor may also count, especially if you get a 1099 form for it!

To qualify as a small business, you must be for-profit.  And you might even be eligible if you haven’t realized a profit yet.

Revenue and Income Requirements

When you fill-out a small business credit card application, the most important thing to remember is to tell the truth.

How To Qualify For A Small Business Credit Card And Why You Should Get One

The Truth Will Set You Free (And Help With Your Small Business Credit Card Application). Don’t Be a Pinocchio. Be Honest!

This is so important, you should hear it twice.  Don’t lie on a small business credit card application.  It’s better to tell the truth and be denied than to lie and go through a financial review with a bank.

If you’re a start-up and haven’t earned any income yet, put that!  If you know for sure you’ll earn a certain amount, you can estimate to the best of your knowledge.

Banks want your business to grow!  And they want to grow along with you.

How To Qualify For A Small Business Credit Card And Why You Should Get One

Banks Will Consider Your Personal Credit for a Small Business Credit Card. And You’ll Be Responsible for Any Charges You Make on It

But when you start out, your small business credit application will be based on your personal credit.  So if you wouldn’t qualify for a similar personal credit card, you probably won’t be approved for a business credit card.

When you apply for your 1st small business credit card, include your business revenue with your personal income.  Because you will be personally backing the credit for your business.

For example, if our reader Kris has a small business that earns $3,000 a year, and makes $50,000 per year as a teacher, Kris should list $53,000 as the total income.

Small Business Cards to Consider

1.   American Express

Link:  Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

Link:  SimplyCash® Business Card from American Express

Link:  How to Fill Out an American Express Business Credit Card Application

I’ve written about how to fill out an American Express small business credit card application.

The AMEX representative I spoke with said many small business owners get an AMEX small business credit card before they even open their doors!

However, if you have no revenue, they’ll have to look at your credit history instead of your business income.

Two great AMEX small business credit cards to start with are the AMEX Starwood small business card and AMEX SimplyCash.

You’ll earn 2 Starwood points per $1 spent with the AMEX Starwood small business card at Starwood hotels, and 1 Starwood point per $1 spent on other purchases.  These points are especially valuable for hotel stays and flights!  Read my review of the Starwood small business card.

AMEX SimplyCash gives you 5% cash back at office supply stores in the US and on your US wireless phone bill.  You’ll also get 3% cash back on the 1st $25,000 you spend on eligible purchases in bonus category you choose like airfare, car rentals, grocery stores, or restaurants.

2.   Chase

Link:   Chase Ink Plus

Link:   Chase Ink Cash

Link:   How to Fill Out a Chase Business Card Application

The Chase representative I spoke with said Chase looks at your overall finances before approving a small business credit card, similar to how they approve personal cards.  They consider a banking relationship to be an asset, so having another Chase card or a bank account might help.

In the past, Chase has been very friendly to small business owners with little or no revenue.  However, recently Chase seems to be looking for established businesses with future growth plans.  I recommend applying for the Chase Ink Plus or Chase Ink Cash cards.

The Chase Ink Plus earns 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 you spend on purchases at office supply stores, and on your cable and internet bills.  The Ink Plus enables you to transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to airline and hotel partners.  Or use them for airfare, car rentals, and hotel stays at the Chase Travel Portal.

Chase Ink Cash earns 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points (5% cash back) on the 1st $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cell phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services each card year.  I also like that you get 2X points at restaurants with no annual fee.

To transfer the points you earn with Ink Cash to partner airlines & hotels, you’ll need the Ink Plus, Ink Bold, or Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Rumor 100,000 Chase Ultimate Reward Point Sign Up Bonus With New Card Coming Soon

You Can Move the 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards Points You Earn at Restaurants with Ink Cash to Your Ink Plus Card. Then Transfer to Partner Airlines & Hotels Like Hyatt and United Airlines

And, you can get the Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Cash cards because they’re considered different card products!

3.   Citi

Link:   CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

Link:   How to Fill Out a Citi Business Card Application

The representative I spoke to at Citi said I’d have no problem getting a small business credit card with no revenue.

She did tell me I’d be personally liable for all charges on a small business credit card, and that I could apply using my personal credit profile and income.

A Citi banking relationship is helpful, but not required.  The credit limit you’re assigned is based on your personal credit score, and how much income your small business generates.

The CitiBusiness AAdvantage World Mastercard earns 2X American Airlines miles per $1 spent on American Airlines and US Airways purchases.  Plus you get 1 free checked bag for yourself and up to companions on the same itinerary!  You’ll also get priority boarding on American Airlines and US Airways flights.

Other Considerations When Applying

When you have a small business you own and operate by yourself, it’s considered a sole proprietorship.

You do NOT need an EIN (Employer Identification Number) to apply for a small business credit card.  You can apply with your Social Security Number.  Either will work.

How To Qualify For A Small Business Credit Card And Why You Should Get One

It Helps to Have a Pre-Existing Relationship With the Banks. But You Can Always Be Reconsidered If You’re Denied

It helps to have a relationship with the bank before you apply, like another credit card or a checking account.  If you really want to keep your expenses separate, you might consider opening up a small business checking account with the bank, too.

If you have other credit cards with the bank, you can offer to move part of your personal card’s credit limit to the small business card if you’re having trouble getting approved.

If you are denied at 1st, don’t give up!  You can always call and ask to be reconsidered for the card.

Keep in mind you will be asked questions about your business.  Be truthful and upbeat, and explain why you want the card:

  • To keep your business expenses separate
  • To help grow your business
  • Because you like the miles or points, and want to try a new card
  • Because you have a relationship with the bank and you like their service
  • You have a lot of business travel coming up and want to earn miles or points with the airline or hotel
  • Or whatever reason is most important to you!

And remember, if you’re not approved right away, you can always wait a few months and try again.

Bottom Line

When you apply for a small business credit card, and have little (or no!) revenue from your small business, the banks will consider your personal credit profile and history instead.  And you might already qualify for a small business credit card!

You’ll be fully responsible for all the charges on the card.  And it helps your approval chances if you have a pre-existing relationship with the bank such as a checking account or other credit cards with them before you apply.

Here’s my list of the best small business credit card for travel rewards.  Some have bonus categories for purchases at office supply stores, shipping, phone & internet, and online advertising.

Thanks for your question, Kris, and good luck with your consulting business!

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Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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9 responses to “How to Qualify for a Small Business Credit Card (And Why You Should Get One!)

  1. Hi,

    Do you know if there is any chance of an Australian getting a small business card? We have an EIN already as I think it was Amazon that forced us to get that.

    Quite happy to setup an LLC or Corp etc and can justify limits based on business income and not our personal income.

    Just we don’t have a SSN obviously and wondering if this is a problem.

    Would love to earn more miles and points as the Australian scene is quite limited.


  2. Dale, technically you can, some (most?) banks will let you apply for a credit card without a SSN, if you have a ITIN (individual taxpayer identification number) and/or EIN (employer identification number).

    However, since credit is usually approved based on prior credit–credit history that is–you might be denied for not having establish a credit history with US issuing banks. People in your shoes often start with secured credit cards and once some (US) credit history has been established, they apply for the unsecured credit cards, whether personal or business.

    This is from general/research info, I don’t personally know any non-US person who has done this.

  3. I am sure that I will qualify for a small business card. I have a rental property that I own, and put it in an LLC. My question/problem is that I have VERY few costs for my small business, thus it would seem that I would never meet the $X,000 in three months, b/c I have virtually no expenses. With that in mind, I am curious about the using the card for personal expenses. Specifically, is that an ethical thing to do?

  4. So I saw briefly that someone replied to me and talked about manufactured spending. I came back to read what was written and it’s gone. That’s curious to me.

    Anyway, I am looking to get the points/miles by using my card on my everyday purchases. What I am wondering is about using a business card for personal stuff. I have an LLC, which is a legitimate business, but generates very few expenses that could be put on a credit card, other than insurance. It is okay/legal/ethical/appropriate to get a card in my business’s name, and then use it for personal means, just to get the rewards?

  5. @jeffiepoo, I can’t advise on legal matters to your specific question, however generally speaking, manufactured spending (MS) is of course a legal activity the way is commonly used for rewards: You use the credit cards (personal or business) to buy things with so you can generate the rewards. You often time buy pin-based gift cards and then load them (transf their balance) to a prepaid account like Redbird. You then use the funds from the prepaid account to pay the bill of the credit card(s) or other bills, or spend it otherwise by using the prepaid card for purchases. This completes the rewards generating cycle.

    For more info on this in general and about Redbird in particular, go to and click on FAQ tab.

  6. As I posted on another thread, and as mentioned in this article, Chase is making it harder to get their business cards because they want the business to carry the burden of repaying the card, not the individual.

    I was denied due to lack of business revenue (I said it was $15k last year and $5-$8k this year). This wasn’t enough for the Southwest business card which has a minimum credit line of $5k.

    Future plans/growth was not important. They stated that there was nothing else wrong with my application, just that they could not justify a $5k line on a $8k business.

  7. Yesterday I applied for both the SW Premier and Business Premier at the exact same time (diff computers). I was instantly approved for the Personal card for $32,000, but the Business card went into Pending Review. I called them today and the lady said I had been Declined since I am not making money. I explained to her I’m new in the Norwex business to sell cleaning products, but she said I have to prove that I’m making at least $5000 from my business. What would you do? With the approval of this card, I now have 3 cards with Chase (SW, Freedom, Slate).

  8. I have a few questions. Is it possible to get one business card as a sole proprietor and another of the same card via my llc (with an application personally guaranteed by me) at the same time? Would a card approved with an llc offer a higher credit limit, assuming all else is equal to the sole proprietorship? Lastly, I do heavy churning with my personal credit–is it likely my application via my llc would be approved where an app for a personal card would be denied due to too many inquiries, i.e. can I successfully guarantee a card if I have too many hard pulls to be able to be approved for another personal card?

  9. Pingback: Debunking Chase’s 5/24 Rule – The Higher Flyer