Editorial Picks for Best Business Credit Cards
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
Best Overall, Best for Travel Rewards
The Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card is our best overall and the best business credit card for travel rewards because of its earning power and the value of its rewards. Businesses can earn 3x points on the first $150,000 they spend on travel and select categories each year, then the points can be used for cash back, to book travel at 1.25 cents a point, or to transfer to hotel and airline partners for a potentially higher value.
Read the full Ink Business Preferred Credit Card Review.
Marriott Bonvoy Business™American Express® Card
Best Business Hotel Card
Business owners looking for the best business hotel card will enjoy the benefits of this Marriott card. It includes automatic Silver Elite status and an annual free night worth up to 35,000 points, plus the ability to earn a second free night based on your spending.
Read the full Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card Review.
United℠ Business Card
Best Business Airline Card
The United Business Card offers valuable benefits for business travelers, such as priority boarding, free checked bags, and two complimentary airport lounge passes each year. You’ll also receive 5,000 bonus miles every year that you renew the card.
Read the full United Business Card Review.
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard
Best for American Airlines
Frequent fliers on American Airlines will benefit from free checked bags, priority boarding, and 25% discount on in-flight purchases. Big spenders can earn a MQD waiver for elite status and a Companion Certificate when they spend $30,000 each year.
Read the full CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard Review.
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card
Best for Office Supply Purchases
The best credit card for office supply purchases is the Chase Ink Business Cash credit card. It earns 5% on the first $25,000 in combined purchases for office supplies, internet, cable, and phone services each year for a potential of $1,250 in cash back annually.
Read the full Ink Business Cash Credit Card Review.
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Best for Airport Lounge Access
The best business credit card for airport lounge access is the Amex Business Platinum. Between Amex Centurion Lounges and the complimentary Priority Pass membership, you’ll have access to over 1,200 airport lounges around the world.
Read the full The Business Platinum Card from American Express Review.
Amazon Business Prime American Express Card
Best for Amazon Business / AWS Cloud Hosting
Businesses that spend regularly with Amazon or Whole Foods will benefit from this card’s unlimited 5% rewards. It has no annual fee and new cardholders receive a $100 Amazon gift card upon approval.
Read the full Amazon Business Prime American Express Card Review.
Types of Business Credit Cards
Credit cards for small businesses are as varied in type as their consumer counterparts. In fact, many consumer credit cards have a business-card sibling, typically with similar features and rewards.
As with personal cards, the choices in business cards run the gamut from no-frills/no-fee options to rewards cards with complex tiered rewards based on travel, airline, issuer, or hotel loyalty programs.
Here’s a quick primer on the main card types available to small business owners:
Business airline credit cards: These cards offer rewards—usually in miles—for regular card spending, along with bonus miles for purchases from their co-branded airline. Miles earned with the card are pooled with those earned by flying. The cards may also offer benefits such as early boarding, a free checked bag, or discounts on in-flight purchases.
Ability to earn airline-specific miles on a favored carrier
Bonus miles usually offered for airline purchases and other travel-focused categories, like dining or hotels
Often confers elite status in the airline’s frequent-flyer program
Annual fees are often high
Limited options for redeeming or transferring miles
Business hotel credit cards: Similar to their airline counterparts, these cards offer rewards—usually in points—for regular card spending, along with bonus miles for purchases from their co-branded hotel chain. Points earned with the card are pooled with those earned through hotel or resort stays.
Ability to earn bonus points at preferred hotel chain on hotel nights and other spending
Often confers elite status in the hotel’s loyalty program
Annual fees can be high
Limited options for redeeming or transferring points
Business general travel credit cards: Branded to card issuers, rather than airlines or hotels, these rewards cards offer points or miles from the issuer that can be redeemed for travel through the issuer’s rewards portal. Some provide automatic statement credits for travel-related purchases.
Certain cards offer exceptional benefits, like airline lounge access, priority boarding, and primary rental-car insurance.
Many cards offer bonus miles or points for spending in categories such as airfare, restaurants, and gas.
Some cards offer additional incentives, like bonus points multipliers, for booking travel through the issuer’s reservation portal.
Annual fees are common.
No automatic elite status in an airline or hotel loyalty program, unlike with many cards that are co-branded with carriers or chains.
Business cash back credit cards: These offer a fixed percentage of cash back on all purchases, or in certain categories like restaurants, travel, and office supplies. Or often both.
Rewards are in the most usable of currencies—cash
No hassle of redeeming points or miles
Rewards value is clear and transparent
Few or no redemption options except cash
May provide lower rewards value than certain points and miles programs
Business non-rewards credit cards: As with the simplest consumer credit cards, some business cards have few or no rewards, discounts, or benefits. Such cards provide small businesses with basic credit card functionality, generally for no annual fee.
Business secured credit cards: A few national card issuers offer secured business cards aimed at those with no credit history or who are seeking to repair damaged credit. Like their consumer counterparts, these cards require a security deposit that the issuer holds in order to extend a credit line of equal value, and can often be upgraded to a non-secured card after a history of on-time payments.
Business General Travel Credit Cards vs. Business Airline Credit Cards and Hotel Credit Cards
Deciding between a general travel rewards credit card or one allied to a specific airline or hotel chain is a common dilemma for small businesses. While some small business owners have preferred airlines and hotel chains, others have no particular brand loyalty, and instead seek out the lowest ticket and room prices on every trip.
Choose between general and co-branded travel cards based on your priorities and past behavior. If you already have a significant number of miles or points accumulated with an issuer, carrier, or hotel chain, you might favor a card that allows you to continue earning those. If you have no such legacy, and no affinities to particular airlines or hotels, you may prefer to pass on partner-specific perks and status in favor of earning the more flexible rewards of a general travel card.
Business Travel Credit Cards vs. Business Cash Back Credit Cards
The key difference between business travel credit cards and business cash back credit cards is the type of “currency” they earn.
Business travel cards earn miles or points that can be used to redeem for free travel through certain card issuer reward platforms or, in the case of co-branded cards, with specific airlines or hotels.
By contrast, business cash back cards earn a percentage rebate on purchases, paid in the form of statement credits, gift cards, or a check directed to the small business owner. (Some supposed cash back cards actually earn “points” that are then converted to statement credits, gift cards, or checks on a penny per point basis.)
The types also differ in their annual fees. As a rule, business travel cards (whether general travel, airline, or hotel) have fees, and most business cash back cards do not. One exercise to help decide between a travel card with an annual fee and a no-fee cash back card is to calculate whether your yearly spending will generate enough value to fully offset the travel card’s annual fee.
If the rewards are sufficient, and the card’s extras contribute additional value for you, the travel card may be the better choice. However, you might favor a no-fee cash-back card if you’re uncomfortable with paying for a card. That is especially the case if the fee for the card is on the high side and its benefits aren’t especially compatible with your travel preferences and style.
How to Compare Business Travel Credit Cards
As with assessing consumer travel cards against one another, it can be complex to compare the rewards and benefits of competing business travel credit cards. Here, to help simplify the task, is a rundown of the main attributes you should size up when deciding between business travel cards:
Annual membership fees: While several business travel credit cards charge no annual fee, those are the exception rather than the rule. When considering a card with a fee, it’s helpful, naturally, if the rewards you expect to earn on a card over a year will fully offset the expense. But if it won’t, consider how valuable—financially or in terms of comfort and convenience—the card’s extras are to you. In other words, an annual fee shouldn’t necessarily be a deterrent to choosing a particular card. It should, however, be a key factor in your choice.
Rewards earning structure: Do the math based on your business spending patterns to see what you would likely earn each year relative to other types of cards in the category. Keep in mind, though, that the best-laid spending plans sometimes fall short, and there’s a risk a card won’t generate the rewards value you expected in a given year.
One-time bonus: With an airline or hotel card, determine what the bonus is worth, in either dollars or in free award flights or nights. You may also want to keep that value in mind when you consider the card’s annual fee, since generous bonuses can help offset that cost, sometimes for years to come.
Foreign transaction fees: Most business travel rewards cards waive foreign transaction fees, which are usually 3% of the transaction value. However, some do not, which should be a major decision factor if your business travel often takes you outside the country.
Global acceptance: While Visa, Mastercard, and Discover are highly accepted at merchants around the world, American Express lags behind in its global footprint. However, the acceptance of all networks varies by country. If you’re a frequent traveler to particular destinations, consult the acceptance maps on the networks’ websites to confirm you’ll be able to easily use the card at the places you visit.
Travel-related insurance: Business travel rewards cards can eliminate the need for employees to pay to insure various aspects of their trips. Important and useful insurance protections that many cards offer on a complimentary basis include coverage for trip cancellation/interruption, lost luggage or flight delays, and travel accidents. Most also offer rental-car insurance coverage, and select premium travel cards even offer coverage that’s primary rather than secondary. (That is, it covers the cost of all damage to the car in a collision, rather than only expenses your own vehicle insurance won’t reimburse.)
How to Choose the Best Business Travel Rewards Credit Card
Ask yourself the following questions before deciding which travel rewards card best suits your goals and spending:
- Can the spending requirements for the card’s one-time bonuses be realistically met with expected business-related purchases?
- Are you loyal to a particular bank card issuer (like Chase, Citi, Capital One, Bank of America, or Wells Fargo) because of an existing financial relationship, such as a savings, checking, or loan account, whether business or personal?
- Are you loyal to a particular airline or hotel, and belong to their loyalty program? Have you a substantial number of points or miles in that account?
- Is it important for you to keep spending in order to reach or maintain elite status in an airline or hotel loyalty program?
- Do you plan or expect to travel to international destinations?
- How important are certain special benefits like airport lounge access or primary rental-car insurance?
- What’s the maximum annual fee you’re comfortable paying?
What Are Business Charge Cards?
Business charge cards are select cards issued by providers such as American Express (which also offers business credit cards) that don’t allow balances to be carried from month to month. Instead, each month’s charges must be paid in full on or before the statement due date. Business charge cards also lack the preset spending limits of credit cards, their APRs (since no balances are carried), and late fees (although fees can still ensue if a balance is left unpaid).
What Are Business Credit Cards?
Business credit cards are designed for the needs of small businesses organized as sole proprietorships, partnerships, or LLCs. They allow business spending to be leveraged to earn valuable rewards in the form of cash back, points, or miles. Other business-friendly features include providing a separate credit line to help fund business operations and tools to easily segregate business expenses from personal ones.
How Do Small Businesses Use Business Credit Cards?
Our research of the small business community suggests that most entrepreneurs and business owners use business credit cards primarily to help manage cash flow. That is, they mostly depend on the card at times when they’ve incurred charges in order to provide goods and services but are yet to get paid by clients. They also appreciate, and even rely upon, leveraging business spending to earn card rewards.
Also important is the quality of customer service—particularly, how well issuers resolve complaints—since card fraud is a frequent headache for small businesses.
Lower in priority, say many businesses, is the card’s interest rate, whether during introductory promotions or over the long term. In large part, that’s because businesses are less inclined than consumers to carry balances from month to month. Business card clients, we observe, are also less sensitive than regular consumers to cards’ annual fees and about meeting the spending requirements for a card’s one-time bonus.
Who Qualifies for Small Business Credit Cards?
Anyone with a registered business (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or LLC) or a side gig may apply for a small business credit card. You may apply for a business credit card with your personal Social Security number as a sole proprietor or an Employer Identification Number (EIN) if you have a formal business structure.
Each bank has different qualifications for how long you must be in business before you are eligible to be approved. While some banks require two years in business, others will consider you from the beginning. Having an office, store, or other dedicated headquarters is not required, nor must you have any employees other than yourself.
Until your business reaches a certain level of success, most banks will ask for a personal guarantee for repayment of any charges. They’ll analyze both the business’s credit and financials, as well as your personal credit score, debt levels, and income when reviewing your application.
What Should You Consider Before Applying for a Business Credit Card?
Before diving into the rich array of choices in business credit cards, take stock of some attributes of your enterprise and how well they align with the features and benefits of cards on the market. Here are some key considerations:
Credit Score: Issuers of business credit cards evaluate an enterprise’s creditworthiness just as they do for individuals who apply for consumer cards. If your business is at least a few years old, expect its business income and expenses to be evaluated as part of the issuer’s approval process.
That said, a key data point for a new enterprise is likely to be the personal credit record of the principal owner. While standards vary by the card and issuer, approval for a business credit card generally demands good to excellent credit.
Rather than simply taking your chances on a card, it’s best before applying to research your current credit score or to go through a card-matching or pre-approval process. That exercise will provide a preliminary take on your likelihood of approval before you risk submitting a full application, which can reduce your credit score, albeit only slightly.
Business-Related Spending Patterns: The better you understand what you’ll buy with a business card, and where, the better you can tailor the card you choose to your spending. Some business credit cards provide extra points, miles, or cash back for certain categories of spending, such as phone bills, shipping, or office supplies. Others offer discounts on purchases from specific business-focused retailers, such as Staples.
If your spending ranges too widely to suit a card that emphasizes specific categories or retailers, you can instead choose one that provides a set percentage of cash back or number of points or miles on all spending.
Ancillary Card Features and Benefits: Since businesses present a higher risk to lenders, interest rates on business cards tend to be a bit higher than for regular consumer cards. That said, rates do vary among business cards. If you anticipate carrying a balance, seek out a card with a lower APR or an initial period when purchases can be carried without interest. If you are already carrying business debt on another card, seek out cards with offers that allow balances to be transferred to the new card and carried at 0% APR for a period.
Some premium travel business cards offer luxe benefits such as airport lounge access and concierge services. These cards, though, tend to have steep annual fees. Assess carefully whether the card’s extras merit the extra cost you’ll likely pay. Unless you’re a true road warrior, a card with few or no travel benefits and a small or no annual fee may be a better choice for your business.
What Are the Types of Business Credit Scores?
Two types of business credit scores should be monitored if you plan to apply for business loans in the future: Experian’s Intelliscore Plus score and Dun & Bradstreet’s Paydex score. Both have score ranges of 0 to 100.
Intelliscore Plus: Scores of 76 or higher are considered good to excellent.
Paydex: Scores of 80 or higher are considered good to excellent.
How Do You Build Business Credit?
When first starting a business, you must rely on your personal credit history to get a business credit card or any other type of credit for your venture. Over time, though, the business will build its own credit history and business credit score with the rating agencies that track business credit. You can help facilitate this process with the following steps:
- Choose an initial form of business entity (sole proprietorship, partnership, or LLC)
- Apply for an employer identification number (EIN) for IRS purposes
- Apply for a Dun & Bradstreet (D-U-N-S) Number in order to register with the business credit agencies
- Open a business-specific checking/savings account with a bank or credit union
- Apply for, and responsibly use, a small business credit card—including always making on-time payments
- Avoid making personal expenditures with that business credit card
How Do You Apply for a Business Credit Card?
Once you’ve selected the right card for your business, it is time to apply for your credit card. Each bank’s application process is a little different, but they generally ask for the following information. Having this information readily available while applying will make the process go smoothly and quickly:
- Business name
- SSN (sole proprietor) or EIN (formal business entity)
- Business owner(s) names, titles, and SSNs
- Personal information for each owner: date of birth, mother’s maiden name, address, income
- Business address and phone number
- Annual revenues
- Number of employees
- Business established date
- Industry that the business operates in
- Estimated monthly spend on your new card
Expect to spend 10 to 20 minutes completing the business credit card application, depending on how much information you need to provide.
Depending on your application details, you may receive immediate approval for your new business credit card. The application may go into a pending status for a manual review. If you don’t receive an automatic approval, you should receive a decision in the mail within one to two weeks.
Before applying for your business credit card, think through these questions:
- How much do you spend each month?
- Are you able to pay the balance in full or will you carry a balance?
- What types of stores do you spend at the most?
- Are you willing to pay an annual fee?
- Do you want to earn rewards? If so, do you prefer cash back, airline miles, hotel points, or flexible bank points?
- What credit card benefits appeal to you?
- Is a 0% APR promotion on purchases or balance transfers important?
- Will you add employees to the card?
Knowing your answers to these questions will help you narrow down your choices to pick the best business credit card for you.
How Do You Optimize Business Credit Card Rewards?
Whether you get a business credit card or a separate personal card for your business expenses, you’ll maximize rewards by choosing a card that’s well-matched to your anticipated spending. If you are an Uber driver, for example, first consider a card that offers bonus rewards for gasoline and other driving expenses such as tolls. Alternatively, if you’re mostly office-bound, find a card that provides discounts or bonus rewards on your leading business expenses—shipping or office supplies, for instance.
Another strategy for making the most from cards is to get a number of them, each rewarding different categories of business spending with their richest rewards. That way, you’ll optimize your rewards on almost any purchase you make. Some who are adept at this strategy even affix a label to each reward card that lists its premium spending categories.
With all that’s involved in starting a business, the rewards you’ll earn from credit cards probably won’t be your first concern. But they should receive some of your attention. Over time, the value of card rewards and perks can provide a nice bonus for yourself or to reinvest back into your business. Card use also helps build a credit profile for your venture. Assuming that track record is positive, it will help you secure even-better cards along with further forms of credit, such as small business loans.
How do Business and Consumer Credit Cards Differ?
While business and consumer credit cards often look and work in similar ways, there are distinct differences between the two. Here’s a rundown:
Small Business Credit Cards:
- Require business-related usage
- Usually have higher credit limits than consumer cards
- Report activity to business credit bureaus rather than to consumer ones
- Bonus rewards rates, if offered, are often for business-related spending categories, such as office furniture and supplies, shipping, and digital advertising
- Sometimes provide 30-day trade terms
- May not have the same protections as consumer credit cards
Consumer Credit Cards:
- Can be used for either personal or business-related expenses
- Report activity to consumer credit bureaus
- Don’t help build a credit history for your business
- Usually have lower credit limits than business cards
- Focus their best rewards on consumer expenditures, such as spending on groceries or gas
Can a Personal Credit Card Be Used for a Business?
While many small business owners start out using their personal credit cards for business expenses, it is ideal to have separate cards for your personal and business expenses. The IRS considers segregation of business expenses to a separate card important to validating that purchases claimed as business expenses are just that, rather than for personal use. As soon as you are eligible to get approved for a business credit card, you should get one to create the separation between your business and personal life.
Can Business Cards Be Used for Personal Expenses?
Generally, no. While card terms and conditions vary, they usually stipulate that only legitimate business expenses can be charged to business credit cards. Additionally, it is a best practice to keep your personal and business charges separate to make accounting easier and to maintain liability protections of your business structure.
With that being said, as long as your card is used responsibly and remains in good standing, most banks will not audit your spending to determine what are personal versus business charges.
We constantly monitor credit card offers from card-issuer websites and publicly available sources to find the best business credit cards for our readers. Each credit card is evaluated based on its fees, rewards, welcome bonuses, introductory offers, features, and benefits so that we can determine a winner for each category. Card issuers update their cards on a regular basis and, when that happens, we update our card listings, reviews, and recommendations so our readers have the most reliable information and advice.
MEET OUR CREDIT CARDS EXPERT
Ben Woolsey is Investopedia’s Associate Editorial Director of financial products and services, including credit cards. He has more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry, including marketing for banking and financial institutions such as Associates First Capital and Bank One. Prior to Investopedia, he managed credit card content for CreditCards.com and Bankrate.com.