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We’ve done the research regarding the requirements for getting a small business credit card. Spoiler alert – they’re less intimidating than you think. You don’t need to be running 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 freelance gig.
Why would you care? Because 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) and earning bonuses on business cards is a fantastic way to boost your miles & point balances – and be that much closer to your dream vacation.
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, opening a business credit card is a great way to keep your business expenses separate from personal expenses – and earn more travel rewards while you’re at it.
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, which makes them an even better alternative to using personal cards.
If you earn income for performing a service or selling goods, you could have a small business. Anything you do 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 & points with a small business.
To qualify as a small business, you must be for-profit, but you might even be eligible if you haven’t realized a profit yet. I’ll explain.
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 that I know to start using small business credit cards for their business. Not doing so is like leaving money on the table.
A friend of mine owns a roofing company. Each new roofing job he does has between $1,000 – $6,000 in material costs. 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 from the distributor out of the customer’s payment. Instead, he now 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 per job. In total, he completes about 12 to 15 roofing jobs per month.
He even used his current credit terms with the roofing distributor as a reference to help him get approved for a higher limit on the small business credit card that he chose.
What used to just be a standard business expense (buying roofing materials), is now earning him tens of thousands of airlines miles per month.
Small Business Credit Card 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. It’s okay 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 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. When you use your card, the bank also benefits. It’s a mutually rewarding relationship.
But in the beginning, 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 in order to approve you for a small business card.
When you apply for your first small business credit card, you should include your business revenue along with your personal income. That’s because you’ll be personally backing the credit for your business.
Doing so is pretty straightforward on most business credit card applications, as there will be a section that asks about your annual business revenue and another for your annual gross income.
Best business credit cards
As a small business owner, it’s possible to get an Amex small business credit card before even opening your doors! However, if you have no revenue, they’ll have to look at your credit history instead of your business income.
A great Amex small business credit card to start with is the no-annual-fee Amex Blue Business Plus (See Rates & 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 2X 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.
Even better? Amex small business cards do not appear on your personal credit report. So opening a new one won’t hurt your chances of being approved for Chase cards due to Chase’s 5/24 rule.
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. So be prepared to answer a few questions if you’re applying with a new business.
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 offer on any Chase Ultimate Rewards points earning card with an incredibly valuable welcome offer.
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 cell phone services, along with online advertising and the Ink Business Preferred earns bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points for spending in all of these categories.
For more details, check out our review of the Ink Business Preferred here.
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.
The good news? 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 2 different welcome bonuses, but you would have access to more bonus categories between the two cards which allow you to earn free travel even quicker.
If you decide to apply for either of these cards, be sure to 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.
According to reader reports and the MMS team’s experience, it’s possible to get a Citi small business credit card without yet having any business revenue. This is similar to what we found with Amex cards.
Just don’t forget that 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.
A Citi banking relationship is helpful too, 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 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 a 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.
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 CitiBusiiness American Airlines Platinum card.
Other considerations when applying for small business credit cards
When you have a small business you own and operate by yourself, it’s considered a sole proprietorship and better yet, 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 – either will work. Million Mile Secrets reader Juan shared how he applies for business cards as a part-time realtor 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, you might consider opening up a small business checking account with the bank, too. Having a business banking relationship is not a requirement for getting a credit card. So 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.
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 especially helpful to meet with a banker in person 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 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
- Whatever other reasons are 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. The most important thing is to be truthful on your application.
Just remember, you’ll personally 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.
The best part about applying for and being approved for a small business credit card? 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, be sure to 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.