Published in: Credit Cards | Dec. 21, 2018

How to Get a Business Credit Card Without a Business

Business credit cards can open up a whole new world when it comes to managing your finances and reaping rewards.

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Business credit cards often come with bigger bonuses and more rewards all at a lower cost. They also help you separate your finances. The best part? You don’t have to own a big business to get one.

Let’s talk about what you need to get a business credit card and how to apply for one, as well as some of the best business credit cards on the market and why they might be a perfect fit for your wallet.

What are business credit cards?

While you don’t have to run a company to get one, business credit cards are credit cards specifically geared toward business owners and people who have business expenses. They’re meant to be used for business rather than personal purchases, which can be anything from small expenses for your side hustle to financing your startup idea.

The rewards scheme on business credit cards often reflects this purpose. They may offer extra rewards and bonus points for business-related purchases, which can be anything from printing services to office supplies to advertising fees. Some also offer bonuses on dining and travel, as those are common business purchases.

Do business credit cards affect your personal credit?

Business credit cards don’t always show up on your personal credit history. Instead, they go on your business credit history. This means that they won’t affect your personal credit score at all.

However, while some credit card issuers don’t report business credit card activity to consumer credit bureaus, others do. This means that their business credit cards would affect your credit score in the same way as any other credit card. If you hold a business credit card with Discover or Capital One, it will affect your personal score. With most other issuers, your business activity won’t affect your personal credit score unless your account is seriously delinquent.

Why I love business credit cards

To me, business credit cards are the undiscovered gem of the credit card world. Here are some of my favorite perks and benefits that come with business credit cards.

Bigger sign-up bonuses -- Many business credit cards come with sign-up bonuses that are the same as or significantly higher than those offered by their personal counterparts.

Lower annual fees -- At the same time, you’ll often get a higher sign-up bonus and better rewards rate for the same annual fee with a business credit card, and they’re often waived for the first year.

New bonus spending categories -- Many business credit cards come with bonus spending categories that aren’t offered by personal credit cards, such as internet and phone bills, advertising expenses, and office supplies. This is a great way to maximize your reward earnings.

Double the rewards -- If you’ve already gotten the sign-up bonus on a personal credit card, check to see if there’s a business version. You may be able to double your bonus by applying for that as well, and you can couple up the cards for higher rewards if they have different bonus spending categories.

Separate finances -- Whether you’re making occasional purchases for work, buying stuff to sell on eBay, or starting a full-blown business, business credit cards are a great way to separate out those purchases and make budgeting and tax season a lot easier.

Not on your personal credit report -- Most credit card issuers don’t report business credit card activity to consumer credit bureaus so that activity remains separate from your personal credit report. This is particularly helpful if you ever find your business in a rough patch and end up running up a balance.

A way to build your business credit score -- Because most business credit cards report to commercial credit bureaus, your activity will help you build up your business credit score. This is useful if you ever want to take out a small business loan or get business insurance.

How to get a business credit card with no business

Just about anyone can get a business credit card. You don’t need to be running a corporation, but you do need to be able to list some kind of business, even if it’s just your one-person side hustle. Keep in mind that you should never lie on a credit card application, so if you truly can’t think of anything you do that would qualify as a business, don’t make something up.

What qualifies as a business when it comes to business credit cards?

There are many activities that can count as a business when applying for a business credit card. Obviously, owning a business is one of them. But so are self-employment, side hustles, freelancing, and even many hobbies. Here’s a list of examples that qualify as a business:

  • Selling services on a freelancer website
  • Selling goods on eBay
  • Selling crafts on Etsy or at fairs
  • Selling baked goods at the farmer’s market or in your community
  • Any type of consulting
  • Tutoring and babysitting
  • Driving for rideshare apps in your spare time

Essentially, anything you do for profit can be considered a business. Even if you haven’t started making money yet, you can still apply for a business credit card as long as you intend to start a profit-generating activity.

How to apply for a business credit card

If you have a corporation or a registered LLC, you can apply using that information. However, you don’t have to have an LLC. You can also apply as a sole proprietor using your social security number, which is what most freelancers and people with side hustles do.

If you’re applying as a registered corporation or LLC, you can go ahead and include your legal business name and Employer Identification Number or EIN. If you’re applying as a sole proprietor, you can provide your legal name under the business’s legal name field. Instead of providing an EIN in the tax identification number field, you’ll provide your social security number. You can use your home address and personal phone number for the business contact information.

You’ll also need to explain the type of business you’re starting or running, what industry it’s in, and what your role is. You’ll need to state how long you’ve been in business and estimate your annual revenue. You don’t need to be generating a lot of money. In fact, if your business is brand new, you can put “0” for your annual revenue. They’ll also want you to estimate your anticipated spending.

The best business credit cards

There is a range of different options out there, so make sure you pick the best business credit card for your needs.

Travel vs. cash-back business credit cards

You’ll first want to decide whether you prefer to earn cash-back rewards or travel rewards in the form of points or miles. Cash back is a great, simple option for people who want rewards that are easy to redeem and don’t travel often. However, if you do travel frequently, you might be able to squeeze more value out of a travel credit card, as long as you learn how to score high-value redemptions.

Flat-rate rewards or bonus categories

Some business credit cards offer flat-rate rewards, which means you get the same cash back or points rate for all purchases. This can mean 2% cash back on all purchases or 2 points per $1 spent on all purchases. If you go with a rewards credit card that has bonus categories, you’ll only get 1% cash back or 1 point on regular purchases, but you’ll get a higher rewards rate on purchases in specific bonus categories. With business credit cards, these bonus categories are often related to business expenses (perhaps travel, advertising, or phone and internet bills). They may offer 3 points per $1 spent or up to 5% cash back on those purchases.

Business credit cards with no annual fee

You’ll also have to determine whether you’re willing to pay an annual fee for extra rewards. While most business credit cards do come with an annual fee that’s often waived during the first year, there are a few credit cards with no annual fee. These credit cards offer a lower rewards rate, such as 1% cash back on all purchases, but you don’t run the risk of spending more on fees than you’re earning in rewards.

Business credit cards with big sign-up bonuses

A big perk of getting approved for a business credit card is the chance to qualify for a sign-up bonus, as business credit cards tend to come with some of the best credit card sign-up bonuses out there. While this shouldn’t be the only factor you consider, a generous welcome bonus is certainly a tempting offer.

As long as you have good credit, it’s not difficult to get a business credit card, even if you don’t own a big business. Often, these credit cards offer even better perks and rewards than personal credit cards. Just make sure you’re truthful in your credit card application.

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