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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!
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.
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
Apply Here: SimplyCash® Plus Business Card from American Express
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!
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.
Apply Here: Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
Apply Here: Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card
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!
The representative we spoke to at Citi said you’d have no problem getting a small business credit card with no revenue.
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.
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.
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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