Best credit cards for startups

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New businesses are popping up in nearly every industry, disrupting larger corporations and offering unique products and services never seen before. Often referred to as “startups,” these small businesses often have new ideas, low overhead, and tons of potential.

Anyone who owns or works for a startup knows that in addition to a great business idea and tons of hard work (lots and lots of hard work!), you need a set of tools to help you succeed.

Credit cards can be one of these tools, and some new business credit cards were designed with lean, fast-growing startups in mind. In this post, we’ll discuss some of the best business credit cards and which of those might be a good fit for your startup.

Find the perfect new business credit card to help your start-up succeed. (Photo by Jacob Lund/Shutterstock.com)

Summary of the best credit cards for startups

Although you could technically use any small business card for your startup, some business credit cards will be a better fit. Here’s our list of the best business credit cards for startups:

 Best forAnnual Fee
Brex Corporate Card for Startups Eliminating risk for owners$0
The Business Platinum® Card from American ExpressTravel and business perks, premium benefits$595 annual fee (see rates and fees)
Ink Business Preferred® Credit CardEarning points for advertising, large sign-up bonus$95
Ink Business Cash® Credit CardSimplified cash back$0
Capital One® Spark® Cash for BusinessFree employee cards, simple cash earnings$95, waived the first year

Comparing the best business credit cards for startups

Brex Corporate Card for Startups: Best for eliminating risk for owners

­­The Brex card for Startups is perhaps the most unique card on this list because it does not hold any individual personally responsible for business debts. This means that if your startup runs out of capital and must file for bankruptcy, the business owner will not be held personally responsible for repaying the startup’s debts.

The trade-off for this valuable benefit is that the Brex card has stricter application requirements and is more difficult to be approved for than any other card on this list. If you can get approved, you’ll receive strong earnings potential and great benefits for startups, all for the low annual fee of $0.

Read our full review of the Brex Card for Startups.

Amex Business Platinum Card: Premium travel benefits

The Amex Business Platinum card is one of our all-around favorites for startups and small businesses alike. This card comes with a suite of benefits ranging from biannual Dell credits to access to luxurious airport lounges and travel credits that can be used to offset airline add-on purchases.

Amex is also notoriously generous for approving new business credit cards, especially for folks who already have an existing Amex relationship. If you’re approved for this card, keep in mind the hefty $595 annual fee (see rates and fees) and fee for employee cards (ranging from $0 per card for Amex Business Green cards to $300 per year for additional Amex Business Platinum employee cards; see rates and fees). But in exchange for the fee, you’ll get strong points earning and valuable travel benefits, which are compelling enough for me to keep the card open year after year.

The information for the Amex Business Green  has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.          

Here’s our full rundown of the Amex Business Platinum card.

The business platinum is my favorite all-around business card for small businesses. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael)

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card: Earning points for advertising and a large sign-up bonus

Chase has several compelling business credit cards that are great for startups, but my favorite is the Chase Ink Business Preferred credit card. This card comes with a generous 100,000-point sign-up bonus (after you spend $15,000 in the first three months of account opening) which is easily worth over $1,250 when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Saving money on travel expenses can be a huge benefit for any new startup.

This card carries a $95 annual fee, but additional users are free (for all your employees) and you’ll earn 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards on purchases such as travel, shipping, and advertising on select social media and search engine platforms. These ongoing benefits and perks make the Ink Business Preferred a great long-term card as your business continues to grow.

Read our comprehensive review of the Chase Ink Business Preferred card.

Chase Ink Cash: Simplified cash back

If you prefer to minimize your expenses and don’t value points as much, the Chase Ink Business Cash is another great option for your new business. This card offers a generous $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, but the ongoing earning of points/cash back doesn’t quite measure up to the Ink Business Preferred.

On the other hand, you’ll never pay an annual fee (for the primary or employee cards) and you can take advantage of 0% introductory APR on all purchases for the first 12 months, then a variable APR of 13.24% – 19.24% applies. This could be just the financial flexibility you need to get your startup cash flow positive.

Read our review of the Chase Ink Cash credit card.

Capital One Spark Cash for Business: Simple cash earnings and free employee cards

Although you may be more familiar with Chase or Amex, Capital One also offers a strong suite of business credit cards that may be perfect for your next startup venture. The Capital One Spark Cash for Business card offers a similar $500 sign-up bonus (after you spend $4,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening)as well as ongoing earnings at a flat 2% cash back.

This simplicity makes this Capital One card a compelling option—especially with no annual fee and no fee for employee cards. Capital One also boasts fantastic customer service, which can be valuable for newer businesses looking for additional financial support.

Read our review of the Capital One Spark Cash for Business credit card.

The information for the Capital One Spark Cash card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

How to apply for a business credit card

As a reminder, business credit cards can be a great option—even if you’ve never had a business before. Here are some general tips on how to get approved for a business credit card. In general, you’ll just need things like your business location and industry, date of business establishment (ie when the business was formed) and your own personal information if you’ll be the one applying on behalf of the business.

For more details on applying for specific business cards, you can check out these bank-specific posts:

Pros and cons of using a credit card for your startup

Pros

  • Reduced personal liability if the business is struggling
  • Organized record of business vs. personal expenses
  • More rewards in the form of points, miles, and cash back (our favorite reason)
  • Additional protections for you and your business (such as purchase protection, enhanced customer service and more)
  • Employee cards for streamlined expense reporting
  • Build or rebuild business credit history
  • No liability for lost or stolen cards

Cons

  • Annual fees (for the business and employee cards) where applicable
  • Additional record-keeping for paying off business cards in addition to other expenses
  • Potential for late fees and or penalties (similar to the risk of using any credit card)

How we chose the best business cards for startups

Listed above are some of our favorite business cards for new startups based on our experience with these cards and their respective banks/financial institutions. In general, we recommend that you decide what’s most important for you and your business when selecting what card might be the best fit.

If you’re looking for the best points or cash-back earnings, you can look at our list of the best business credit cards currently available. But for folks wanting to keep things simple and reduce expenses, I recommend a no-annual-fee card that you can keep for the long haul.

As always, feel free to check out our beginner’s guide to credit cards and miles and points, as the recommendations for personal and business credit cards are very similar.

Bottom Line

If you own or work for a startup business, we’re rooting for you — and we hope that this discussion has been helpful when considering how credit cards may (or may not) support you in accomplishing your business goals.

In general, we’ve found that matching the right credit card with the right startup has been a valuable asset when it comes to things like reducing liability, increasing business capital, earning rewards (or cash back) and organizing your business expenses.

Although I’m yet to see exponential growth in any of my startup ventures, I wish you all the best (and all the best credit cards) for your up-and-coming businesses.

For the rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card from American Express, please click here.

Jake Pearring is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, he covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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