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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

Meghan HunterHow to qualify for a small-business credit card and why you should get oneMillion Mile Secrets Team

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We’ve done the research on requirements for getting a small-business credit card. Spoiler alert: It’s less intimidating than you think. You don’t need a full-time business with employees or six-figure revenue. It’s possible to qualify for a small-business credit card with a part-time side hustle or a freelance gig.

A number of the best credit cards for travel are also small-business cards, like the ever-popular Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, our top pick for business owners. Earning bonuses on business cards is a fantastic way to boost your miles and point balances to get you closer to your dream vacation.

You don’t need to own a full-time business, like a coffee shop, to qualify for a small-business credit card. (Photo by Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

How to qualify for a small-business credit card

What counts as a business when you apply for small-business credit cards?

If you’re a small-business owner, a business credit card is a great way to separate your business and personal expenses and earn travel rewards while you’re at it.

Using a business card makes it easy to keep track of your business expenses, and because the bonus categories are tailored to small-business expenses, it’s a good alternative to using personal cards.

If you earn income for performing a service or selling goods, you may qualify as a small business. Your work as an independent contractor may also count, especially if you get a 1099 form for it. This includes side hustles like hosting on Airbnb, selling on eBay or freelance writing or design. So it’s easier than you think to earn miles and points with a small business.

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

Using a small-business credit card can be one of the quickest ways to earn free travel

I have slowly convinced every friend and colleague to start using small-business credit cards for their businesses. Not doing so is like leaving money on the table.

A friend of mine owns a roofing company. Materials for each new job cost roughly $1,000 to $6,000. He used to buy these materials from a roofing supply distributor using 30-day terms offered by the distributor. Once the customer paid for the completed job, he would pay down his line of credit. Now he uses a small-business credit card to pay for those same materials in lieu of using the distributor’s payment terms and earns thousands of free airline miles from his 12 to 15 roofing jobs every month.

He even used his good credit with the roofing distributor as a reference to help him get approved for a higher limit on his small-business credit card.

Small-business credit card revenue and income requirements

When you fill out a small-business credit card application, tell the truth. It’s OK if you’re just getting started and don’t bring in thousands of dollars a year in revenue. One reason for getting a business credit card is to help grow your operation.

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 fudge the numbers and go through a financial review with a bank.

If you’re a startup and haven’t earned any income yet, put that on the application. You can also estimate anticipated income.

Banks want your business to grow. When you use your card, the bank also benefits. It’s a mutually rewarding relationship. 

The bank’s decision on your small-business credit application will be based on your personal credit profile. Banks look at your total income and credit score when evaluating your application. So if you can qualify for a similar personal credit card, you can probably be approved for a business credit card too. Banks do not require you to have a personal card to approve you for a small-business card.

When you apply for your first small-business credit card, include your business revenue along with your personal income because you’ll be personally backing the credit for your business.

This is straightforward on most business credit card applications, which have sections about your annual business revenue and another for your annual gross income.

Best business credit cards

American Express

As a small-business owner, it’s possible to get an Amex small-business credit card before even opening your door. If you have no revenue, Amex will look at your credit history instead of your business income.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith)

The Blue Business®️ Plus Credit Card from American Express 

A great Amex small-business credit card is the no-annual-fee Amex Blue Business Plus (See Rates and Fees). It earns 2x Amex Membership Rewards points per $1 on up to $50,000 in purchases per calendar year (then 1x Amex Membership Rewards points on all purchases).

Being able to earn bonus points and transfer those points directly to airline and hotel partners, all without paying an annual fee, is virtually unheard-of in the world of travel rewards credit cards. This is why the Amex Blue Business Plus is such a great card for small-business owners.

And earning 2 points per $1 on $50,000 in purchases per year (1x points thereafter) is an excellent deal because similar small-business cards have a lower earning rate for regular purchases.

Amex small-business cards do not appear on your personal credit report. So opening a new card won’t hurt your chances of being approved for Chase cards by exceeding Chase’s 5/24 rule.

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

If you’re a business owner looking for a card that offers premium perks like airport lounge access, the Amex Business Platinum is the right card choice.

With it you can earn up to 100,000 bonus Amex Membership Rewards points:

  • Earn 50,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Terms apply.
  • Earn another 50,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after you spend an additional $15,000 on qualifying purchases within the same timeframe. Terms apply.

In addition to a great welcome offer, you’ll get 1.5x Amex Membership Rewards points on single purchases of $5,000+ (up to 1,000,000 bonus points per calendar year) and 5x Amex Membership Rewards points when you book airfare or prepaid hotels through the Amex travel site.

You can find our full review of the American Express Business Platinum Card here.

American Express® Business Gold Card

With the Amex Business Gold card, you not only will earn a decent welcome bonus of 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of cardmembership, but you’ll also earn 4 Amex Membership Rewards points per dollar on two categories where you spend the most each month (capped at the first $150,000 in combined purchases each calendar year, then 1 point per dollar).

The bonus categories include:

  • Airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • U.S. purchases for advertising in select media (online, TV and radio)
  • U.S. purchases made directly from select technology providers of computer hardware, software and cloud solutions
  • U.S. purchases at gas stations
  • U.S. purchases at restaurants
  • U.S. purchases for shipping

And you’ll earn 1x Amex Membership Rewards point per dollar for everything else.

With the Amex Business Gold’s earning structure, this card is best suited for those who spend a lot in categories like airfare, advertising and shipping. Those who can make the most of the card’s benefits and perks, like the 25% points rebate if you use your Amex points for flights booked with Amex Travel (up to 250,000 points back each calendar year).

You’ll find our review of the Amex Business Gold Card here.

Capital One

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

When you apply for the Capital One Spark Cash card, you’ll earn a $500 cash bonus after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. You can earn another $1,500 cash bonus after you spend $50,000 in total (an additional $45,000) in the first six months of account opening.

Sure, that’s a hefty minimum spending requirement to earn the full bonus, but it’s the best cash bonus you’ll find from any card at the moment. You’ll get an unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases, which makes earning and redeeming your rewards incredibly easy. You can get your rewards as a check or statement credit any time with no minimum redemption amount.

You can read our review of the Capital One Spark Cash Card here. Check out our tips for getting approved.

Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

Similar to the Capital One Spark Cash for Business, you’ll need to spend $50,000 in the first six months of account opening to earn the full 200,000-mile bonus from the Spark Miles business card:

  • You’ll earn 50,000 miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
  • You’ll earn 150,000 miles after you spend $50,000 (an additional $45,000) within the first six months of account opening.

This is an excellent offer, even though the minimum spending requirement is quite large.

With Capital One Spark Miles, you’ll earn two miles on all of your spending, so you don’t have to worry about bonus categories. On top of that, you can now earn 5 Spark Miles per dollar on hotel and rental car purchases made through Capital One Travel.

Plus, you can transfer Spark Miles to 15 airlines partners. For most of the partners, the transfer ratio is 2:1.5 (except for Singapore Airlines, JetBlue and Emirates, which transfer at 2:1). Capital One has partnered with programs like Flying Blue (Air France and KLM), Air Canada and Avianca Airlines, which are good options for booking award flights to Europe. This card also comes with a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee credit (worth up to $100).

You’ll find tips for being approved for the card here. And here’s our detailed review of Capital One Spark Miles.

Chase

Chase looks at your overall finances before approving a small-business credit card, much like they do before approving personal cards. Chase considers a banking relationship to be an asset, so having another Chase card or a bank account might help.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith)

In the past, Chase has been very friendly to small-business owners with little or no revenue. However, it appears that Chase looks for established businesses with future growth plans. So be prepared to answer a few questions if you’re applying with a new business.

We recommend applying for the Ink Business Preferred Credit CardInk Business Cash℠ Credit Card or Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card.

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

With the Chase Ink Business Preferred, you’ll earn 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Currently, it’s the highest welcome offer on any Chase Ultimate Rewards points-earning card.

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) and the Chase Ink Business Preferred enables you to transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to airline and hotel partners. You can also use them for airfare, car rentals and hotel stays at the Chase Travel Portal at a rate of 1.25 cents per point.

I have friends who are real estate agents and general contractors, and one who owns a compression sock company. All of them spend a significant amount of money on things like internet and cellphone services, along with online advertising and the Ink Business Preferred earns bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points for spending in all of these categories. Plus, they all find the card’s benefits and perks useful.

For more details, check out our review of Ink Business Preferred here.

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card

The Chase Ink Business Cash comes with a $500 cash back bonus (50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

It also 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.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith)

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

You can get the both Chase Ink Business Preferred and Chase Ink Business Cash cards because they’re considered different card products. Not only can you earn two welcome bonuses, but you have access to more bonus categories between the two cards.

If you decide to apply for either of these cards, check out our guide on how to complete a Chase business card application. And you can find a full review of the Ink Business Cash card here.

Citi

According to reader reports and the MMS team’s experience, it’s possible to get a Citi small-business credit card without having any business revenue. This is similar to what we found with Amex cards.

Although you can apply using your personal credit profile and income, you’ll be personally liable for all charges on a small-business credit card.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith)

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.

With the Citi American Airlines Platinum small-business card, you’ll earn 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first four months of account opening.

The card also earns 2 American Airlines miles per $1 spent on American Airlines purchases and select business categories, including car rentals, cellphone and gas stations. You get a free checked bag on domestic flights for yourself and up to four companions on the same itinerary. You’ll also get preferred boarding on American Airlines-operated flights.

If you like earning and using American Airlines miles, it’s a great option. I have it, as do many others on the Million Mile Secrets team. Read this guide for a detailed review of the CitiBusiness American Airlines Platinum card.

Other considerations when applying for small-business credit cards

When you have a small business which you own and operate by yourself, it’s considered a sole proprietorship. You don’t need an EIN (Employee Identification Number) to apply for a small-business credit card. You can apply with your Social Security number. Million Mile Secrets reader Juan shared how he applies for business cards as a part-time real estate agent using his Social Security number.

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, consider opening up a small-business checking account with the bank. A business banking relationship is not a requirement for getting a credit card. You’re eligible to apply for small-business credit cards, even if you don’t make deposits for your business at the bank that issues the card.

Business card = business class: Thanks to points and miles, I was able to fly in style across the Pacific. (Photo by Meghan Holler/Million Mile Secrets)

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 just getting started with your business, it is helpful to meet with a banker at your local branch. Bankers often have additional leverage they can use at their discretion.

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

  • To help grow your business
  • To keep your business expenses separate
  • Because you like the ability to earn points and miles 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 points and miles with the airline or hotel

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. The most important thing is to be truthful on your application.

You’ll be fully responsible for the charges on the card and it helps your approval chances if you already have a relationship with the bank such as a checking account or other credit cards.

The best part about applying for and being approved for a small-business credit card is that you’ll earn even more bonus miles or points to help grow your travel rewards balances.

If you’re looking for another credit card to add to your wallet, check out our list of the best credit cards for travel. A number on the list are small-business cards.

For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus Card, please click here.

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 have a resale business where I buy goods online. Essentially I am a buyer for a larger resale company. My income from this only comes through cash back/points cards and rebate sites.
When the cc app asks for my revenue, would I put the approximate amount of goods I purchase throughout the year?

For me personally, I only ever put income that can be verified through tax returns.

Applied for Chase SWA business CC, but was asked to submit proof of business address, which I submitted Fios INTERNET billing statement. It was eventually denied due to no supporting proof of business address. What to do?

What about applying for an EIN online through the IRS website? It’s instant and you’ll have something showing the business address as well.

If I were to apply for a biz card for my business, do I need to restrict the spending to business-related items? I have an EIN and everything but am concerned my business-only expenses would not get me close to the minimum spend, and that is what has kept me from applying in the past.

You do know you can just buy gift cards to hit MS (minimum spend). Go to any grocery store and buy multiple $500 Visa gift cards and boom MS is hit!

Does working as a full time employee for a consulting company qualify for a business card?

EY has it right. If you receive a W2, you’re probably not “self-employed” as a business (unless you own part of the company and issue yourself a W2). But if you receive a 1099, you should qualify for a business credit card.

Just use the form of income you get as the determining factor: ‘full-time employee of…’ means W2 income. That’s not a business entity.

Quick tutorial:
You must have a legal business entity registered in a municipality somewhere (usually your city of residence) to actually have a ‘business’, but you don’t need an EIN if you’re a sole proprietor – your SSN is your ‘EIN’ in that case (this is pass-thru taxation).

In most places in the USA, an LLC is free or very cheap, and the best business entity type, since it provides a legal barrier to being personally liable for the business’ expenses or mistakes. It’s also simple, since it too is a pass-through entity for tax purposes.

Just beware of the accounting side of this whole topic: spending money on a business card for personal use or (as one person suggests here… maybe trolling??) buying cash cards (if they later get used for personal items) will mess up your accounting. If you used the cash cards for business use and keep all receipts, etc., you could do that of course.

Dude why don’t you just get a business card saying you’re an ebay seller. Your business name can be anything. Ken Inc. Gross revenue $10,000.

Won’t work with chase

It’s pretty easy to qualify for a business, so that should work. It sounds like there must have been other factors in the loan application that Chase looked at and deemed it ineligible.

I personally got approved for the Chase Ink Business Preferred card with a brand new business with only $500 of annual income, so they do look at a number of different factors when deciding whether to approve or decline an application.

I know of a few people who are consultants and are paid via a 1099 instead of a W2, in which case they are technically self employed.

Sounds like that’s the case with you so it should count!