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

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

Million Mile SecretsHow to Qualify for a Small Business Credit Card (And Why You Should Get One!)Million Mile Secrets Team

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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!

We’ve spoken with representatives from AMEX, Chase, and Citi about the requirements for their small business cards.  And spoiler alert – they’re less intimidating than you think!

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!

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

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

What Qualifies As a Small Business?

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!

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.

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.

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 first 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

Apply Here:   Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

Read our review of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express


Apply Here:   SimplyCash® Plus Business Card from American Express

Read our review of the SimplyCash® Plus Business Card from American Express


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

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

The AMEX representative we 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 Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express and SimplyCash® Plus Business Card from American Express.

With the AMEX Starwood small business card, you’ll earn:

  • 6 Marriott points per $1 at Marriott hotels
  • 4 Marriott points per $1 at US restaurants, gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service providers, and on US purchases for shipping.
  • 2 Marriott points per $1 on all other purchases.

These points are especially valuable for hotel stays and flights!

Transfer Points to Airlines Like United Airlines or Delta for a Free Flight to Amsterdam!

The AMEX SimplyCash Plus gives you 5% cash back on your first $50,000 spent each calendar year (1% after that) in combined purchases spent at wireless telephone services purchases directly from US service providers and US office supply stores.  You’ll also get 3% cash back on the first $50,000 you spend per calendar year (then 1%) on eligible purchases in 1 of 8 bonus categories you can choose from, like airfare, car rentals, or restaurants.

2.   Chase

Apply Here:   Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

Read our review of the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

Apply Here:   Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card

Read our review of the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card

Link:   How to Fill Out a Chase Business Card Application

The Chase representative we 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 it appears that Chase looks for established businesses with future growth plans.  We recommend applying for the Chase Ink Business Preferred or Chase Ink Business Cash cards.

The Chase Ink Business Preferred earns 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites, and search engines (up to a maximum of $150,000 in combined purchases per account anniversary year).  The Chase Ink Business Preferred 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 Business Cash earns 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points (5% cash back) on the first $25,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary year at office supply stores and internet, phone, and cable TV services. We also like that you get 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points at restaurants or gas stations (on the first $25,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary year) with no annual fee!

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

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

3.   Citi

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

Small Business Owners Have 3 Chase Ink Cards to Choose From, but Which Card is Right for You?
Many Banks Are Eager to Help Small Businesses!  So It’s Easier Than You Might Think to Earn Valuable Business Credit Card Bonuses!

She did tell us you’d be personally liable for all charges on a small business credit card, and that you can apply using your 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® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® earns 2X American Airlines miles per $1 spent on American Airlines purchases and select business categories, including car rentals, cell phone, and gas stations.  Plus you get 1 free checked bag on domestic flights for yourself and up to 4 companions on the same itinerary!  You’ll also get preferred boarding on American Airlines operated 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.

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.

I Flew in Business Class bed to Europe using Chase points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card
Business Card = Business Class! Team Member Scott Flew the Expensive Seats on Air Canada With Points

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 first, 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 cards 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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Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases–with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more – your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • $95 Annual Fee

More Info

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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I am an independent contractor so I do own a business. Each application for a business credit card asks for the legal name of the business. How do I answer this question when there is no legal name of businss. It is just me.

First Name Last Name Contracting

Hi, thanks for this useful information. I am a co-owner/stay-at-home parent (along with three family members) of a duplex rental property. We are not incorporated and have no official business name/ tax ID. However, we started earning a small profit in 2017. We have filed income taxes accounting for the rental property since we purchased the property. Would it be difficult for me to apply for a business credit card given my situation? And, would I simply indicate “ (First name, Last name) Contracting” under official business name? Also, under income, can I list profits(pro-rated) from my rental property as well as my spouse’s income? Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.

Margarete Chapman

It would make life easier for us.

What about Capital One? I have credit cards with Capital One, Citi, and Chase and Capital One has always been easier to deal with, they have given me a higher credit limit, and I earn more points per purchase with them.

Thanks for your insightful information.

I need to establish a Business Line of Credit to purchase an Investment Property, is this something that can be done and if so would you how I can go about doing so?

I’m glad I found your blog it seems very informative. Thanks again.

Million Mile Secrets

Hi Sharon, I don’t have personal experience. Your best bet is to chat with your banker. Good luck with your new venture!

new etsy shop qualify ?

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?

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