Home Best 5 Small Business Credit Cards in 2020
Vidal Arias

Starting your own business might be a scary decision to make, but certainly, it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever face and enjoy in your life. If you are currently in the process of embarking in the journey of becoming an entrepreneur and a business person, it is key for you to be aware that at some point you might have to apply for credit in order to sustain or expand your business.

Just like any individual has to face a credit score to determine their creditworthiness, the same applies to companies and private businesses. If you are a small company or a startup, it is highly probable that you will have to start building a credit score and history to back your firm. One of the most common paths utilized to build business credit is by getting a credit card.

Even though this is a pretty common practice to create a credit history, it is key to keep in mind that credit cards can also become a big problem if not managed accordingly. While interest rates on business cards are considerably lower than traditional cards, it is still high compared to other borrowing products like credit lines and loans. if you are planning on financing through your credit card you might want to rethink twice as it could easily cost you 3 times as much as other products.

I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have Thomas Jefferson

The idea behind this article is to provide insight into how a business credit card works and also the best cards available in the market. It is important for you to take your time to understand what your business needs are in order to choose the best card for your company.

What is a Business Credit Card?

A business credit card is designed with the intention of being used by a company or a business instead of the personal use of an individual. This type of card can be pretty useful for small companies who are trying to build up a credit record and also to consolidate their spending in an effort to minimize it but also to record it better.

One common misconception is that a company should be huge or have many employees for it to be eligible for credit cards, in reality, it is simpler and more accessible than that. Over the years the demand for this type of product has become so high that many financial institutions started to look for ways to open credit lines for startups and companies without a business record. One particular structure that has become very popular is for individuals to act as personal guarantees for the business credit cards, this model would allow for the integration of personal liability in order to back the structuring and the debt.

Just like with a traditional credit card, mishandling can lead to expensive problems that can easily damage someone’s credit score, and put any new company in a precarious situation.

Here are some of the most important pros and cons of business credit cards.

It is worth mentioning that these are not standard terms and they can vary between financial institution and even card membership.

Pros

  • Build Credit: It is fairly common to see individuals upset after being rejected for a Business Credit Card, many believe that by having a great credit score it will automatically grant their ventures with the same benefits and this could not be further from the truth. Individuals should be aware that when acting as a company they will have to start their own process to build their credit as an institution and not as individuals. If you starting a company and you need access build a credit history then you should consider a credit card as one of the most straightforward options, proper management will help you achieve more complex borrowing products like credit lines and loans.
  • More Secure Than Cash: Not only a credit card will allow you to monitor and keep a tight accounting of your expenses and your payments, but it will also regulate against fraudulent movements. Keep in mind that depending on how advanced your company/business might be, you might not want to deal with managing cash do to all the risk inherited with it. Being able to always control and monitor transactions is a way to avoid problems since the beginning.
  • Rewards: Depending on the type of card that you will be using it is possible to take the benefits even further with rewards and miles programs. Even if it doesn’t sound like a lot but if you are planning on managing a big part of the spending of the company via a credit card, you would be surprised by how many miles you can manage to get in a year. The same goes for other rewards like discounts or cash-back, picture it this way, you are a company focused on sales and you are constantly buying new inventory for the firm. Even if the card only offers you a cash-back of 2%, imagine being able to apply an automatic discount to all your purchases. If you start adding up dollar after dollar, you will end up with a considerably large pile of cash over time.
  • Easy Qualification: Believe it or not but applying for a corporate card can be easier and less complicated than what it takes to get approved for a personal credit card. If you have a decent business model and are starting operations with a properly prepared forecast and business plan, you won’t encounter many problems in the process. Depending on the stage of the business you might want to apply with a traditional bank as you would be able to sit down with one of the executives in a branch an go through everything easier.

Cons

  • Cost of Borrowing: If you are planning on carrying a balance in your card or to simply finance a purchase, it is incredibly important to keep in mind that while it can be convenient to do so, it is definitely not cheap! Business Credit Cards offers one of the highest APRs in the market, even though their rates might be a little bit more favorable than personal cards, it still too high compared to other borrowing products like credit lines or even business loans.
  • It’s Easy to Dig Yourself into a Hole: As mentioned above, while utilizing a card can be convenient, it can easily become a problem if you don’t take proper care of your debt. In the hands of the inexperience and the unprepared, a credit card can become in a double-sided sword that can destroy a credit score and even a small business. It is your responsibility to be aware of your ability to repay your debt before swiping your card. If you are not sure of being able to repay for your purchase I would recommend leaving your card at home to avoid any temptations. The whole idea of this article is not to create fear of cards but to create some conscience about the negatives of not taking proper care of them.
  • The application process can damage your credit: It is important to understand that whenever you apply for a borrowing product or a credit line the institution receiving the request will proceed to inquire about the company’s credit score. Even though this might sound inoffensive, there are two types of inquires hard/soft. If the institution proceeds with a hard inquiry it will affect your score as the credit bureaus will be signaled with your intention of getting credit and possible getting in debt. In order to avoid affecting your credit score for no reason, I personally recommend understanding deeply the necessity and the reasons to get a credit card. This will allow you to narrow down the number of options so you can focus on one for two. In the end, it is recommended to only apply to one card at the time. This is a situation where acting as a sniper will help you more than you can imagine, select a target and work on it.
  • Personal Credit Issues: Since a company has to apply and work to get their own score, many individuals believe that this will not have an impact on their personal scores and this could not be further from the truth. As the owner of the company if you result in a default or bankruptcy it will be reflected on your credit score as well. Please be aware of this before making risky decisions as it will not only affect the company but also your name and your pocket directly. It is also important to understand that most banks will ask for a personal guarantee, this is similar to the cosigner in a student loan. This is a requirement imposed to ensure that in case of the company dissolving the bank will be able to charge the repayment directly to a physical individual.
  • Risk of Employee Abuse: While credit cards can be safer than cash when it comes to managing payments and simply carrying them around, it is key to understand that they present their own type of risk. If you are planning on giving a business or corporate credit cards to different individuals in your company, it will be important to also establish a model to review all the spending and to make all employees prepare expense reports. This practice will prevent individuals from utilizing the company credit card for their one benefit. You would be surprised by how much money this wrongful practice costs small and medium companies in the US each year

Best Business Credit Cards

1. Chase Business Preferred – Visa | Overall Best Signing Bonus

Over the past years, Chase Bank has been trying really hard to take the throne of AMEX as a symbol of status and wealth. Their Preferred program was developed with the sole intention of matching and improving the benefits that an individual would receive with most American Express Cards. Even though it is a tough fight I’ve found that they both fall into different categories once you look at the micro details.

This is a card that it is for someone interested in a premium service, at an accessible price and with a great sign in bonus. It can not be compared in terms of the luxury benefits of an Amex Platinum but when it comes to the real deal of using your credit card, it is truly a close fight.

Many people believe this card charges a considerably expensive annual fee but once you consider that your signing bonus is worth more than $1,000 then you realize that you are actually getting money from owning the credit card. Not many firms can say that individuals will actually be the winners out of having a credit card.

Additional Information

APR: Variable 18.24%-23.24%

Intro APR 0% (not offered)

Credit Card Type: Unsecured

Minimum Credit Score: 740+

Annual Fee: $95

Our Rating

  • Points: This card offers 80,000 bonus points simply by signing in. If your business will require you or someone in the firm to travel a lot you should consider this as a great option since the bank offers 3 points for each dollar spent on travel.
  • Airline Transfer: Something very clever that chase did with their credit cards is to offer their users to transfer their points towards miles of more than 50 airlines around the world. This is a great benefit as it provides a more transparent payment process when it comes to withdrawing and utilizing the points/miles.
  • Customer Service: Keep in mind that you are doing business with one of the largest and most important banks in the US, this allows Chase to offer a more personal and caring service, think about it as an economy of scale.
  • No Intro APR: One of the most peculiar benefits of business cards is that they usually offered a considerably longer period of time where the interest on card balance is reduced or waived entirely. As a business owner, this can be an easy way to fund certain expenses and purchases during a short period of time.
  • High Annual Fee: This is a very common practice but it is still a hefty sum to pay for a regular Visa Preferred Card. Keep in mind that this is an expense that will automatically be charged to your credit card. If for some reason you are not planning on using your card much often you should not forget to pay for this initial charge. It would be a pity to forget about it and get a penalty so early.

2. Capital One – Spark Cash | Overall Best Office Expenditure

Some times in life it is better to aim for something that it is simple and minimalistic than going for the flashy option, while many individuals still prefer a posh looking credit card, there are others truly interested in getting a good service and a product that is easy to understand.

If you fall into the latter category then you are in a good time as this might be the best business credit card that you will find in the market. This is a credit card that is very straightforward and easy to understand, Capital One has made an incredible job making this a product that is crystal clear. If you’ve had bad experiences with the fine print in a credit card contract in the past, you might want to look at the Spark Cash card as your next CC.

Additional Information

APR: Variable 19.24%

Intro APR 0% (not offered)

Credit Card Type: Unsecured

Minimum Credit Score: 700+

Annual Fee: $95 (Waived for the first year)

Our Rating

  • Signing Fee: Even though $95 a year is a considerably high fee for a credit card, it is amazing to get a free year of their service free of cost. Based on the official statement of Capital One, the idea behind waiving the first year is to allow individuals to try out their platform and their cards without a cost in between. The company is very confident in that after the first year you will decide to stay as the benefits of the card pays in excess of the cost of ownership.
  • Zero% Fraud Liability: With so many credit cards in the street criminality and fraud cases have become more common in the US. If you are planning on actively using your card online, it might be a great idea to go for a card that will cover 100% of the cost of fraud associated with your card. Even though this is a new Benefit that many card issuers are starting to look into, it is still great to see an option already offering it. There is nothing better than knowing you are covered in case something happens and a criminal try to use your credit card, or simply if they copy your card information and start using it.
  • Rental Car Insurance: While we complain about this card not being at the level of a fully dedicated traveling card, is worth mentioning that the firm offers a full liability coverage insurance for any car rental paid with your card. This is something rarely seen in cards of this category.
  • Rewards: If you are thinking about choosing SparkCash for their rewards you might want to reconsider your decision. Even though the firm offers a very competitive reward program with high bonuses, the points are only valid through their platform which makes it a little bit uninteresting. Not being able to transfer or use the miles with other airlines or packages has become a very standard practice in the market and it seems like Capital One hasn’t adapted yet.
  • Traveling: This is a credit card that is not designed for traveling purposes if you are planning on traveling as part of your business plan you might want to aim for a fully dedicated card.

3. American Express Business – Platinum | Luxury, and Status

Over the years American Express has become an important symbol of wealth, status and even a piece of true historical Americana still standing. If you need a credit card you don’t get an AMEX because you need one but because you want one. The platinum cards have become more of a status symbol than a financial instrument over the years.

If you meet the Minimum cash requirements to apply for this card it is important for you to understand this piece of metal (yes… metal) will open doors for you and your business. One of the most important benefits of this card is their concierge service and how well they perform when it comes to traveling.

It is important to mention that this is a ChargeCard which means that you are supposed to pay back in full your balance every month. Financing is available but it will have to be requested manually in case you are interested, keep in mind that nothing in this card is cheap and interest rates won’t be either.

Additional Information

APR: N/A

Credit Card Type: Charge Card (Balance must be paid in full every month)

Minimum Credit Score: Excellent 740+

Annual Fee: $595

Our Rating

  • Membership Rewards: This is probably where AMEX excels the most and it is that the firm offers one of the very best reward programs. The overall model is so open that your AMEX points are almost as good as cash since you can use them for almost anything. For instance, if you use your points to buy a plane ticket, 30% of the spent miles will be assigned back to you as a cashback transaction.
  • Fee Credit: The company offers up to $500 in free airfare tickets a year, this credit can be utilized for both local and international flights and they can be combined with cash or points.
  • Concierge: This is not your regular guy standing behind a desk in a hotel lobby, it is a full service 24/7 365 days a year where you will be offered with a service that can be compared to having a personal assistant. Picture yourself in a foreign city needing a reservation for a restaurant, buying a gift for your son or even sending flowers to your loved ones, these are just some of the perks of their service.
  • Annual Fee: This is probably a deal breaker for most individuals, it is very difficult to justify from a business perspective to spend almost $600 a year on a credit card subscription. If your business requires you to travel vastly, you might be able to tell yourself that you are getting it for the lounge benefits and more but in reality, you know you want the status…!
Being objective this credit card is the crown jewel only bellow the AMEX Centurion reserved for the 1% of the 1%. It is a fantastic product if you have the means to get it, as mentioned before this card will open you and your business many different doors that otherwise would not be at your reach.

4. Simply Cash – AMEX | Overall Best Business Credit Card

AMEX by itself is a symbol of wealth and status, this might not be as posh and luxury as the Platinum card but it is an even better deal if you really are interested in a proper business oriented credit card.

The whole idea of this card is to help small business operators to make the most out of every penny they spent, it is important to keep mind that this is probably one of the very best cards in the market if you are focused on cost efficiency. Not only you will not have to deal with an expensive annual fee but you will be getting one of the best cash back programs in the entire market. Not every credit card provider can give you an automatic cashback of up to 5% on all your purchases.

Another point where this credit card truly stands out is in its flexibility, not only you are getting a reasonable APR but for the first nine months of your service, you will be able to get zero interest rate. Keep in mind that we mentioned this as it can be beneficial for small companies to actually grow without having to pay interest on their borrowing during this period of time, and not to promote getting in debt.

If you are planning on giving trustful employees a credit card to act on behalf of the company, this might be your overall best option in the market since AMEX will not charge you anything for additional credit cards.

Additional Information

APR: Variable 14.49% – 21.49%

Intro APR 0% (9 months)

Credit Card Type: Unsecured

Minimum Credit Score: 700+

Annual Fee: $0.

Our Rating

  • No Annual Fee: In a new business every penny counts, being able to save between $100 and $600 a year per credit card represents a considerably large saving over time.
  • Intro APR: Not having to worry about paying interest for nine months is probably one of the main reasons why so many individuals prefer this card over other competitors like Chase Preferred. This proves how much the company is interested in seen small businesses flourish. At the end of the end, it is in their best interest to see your business growing.
  • Points Rewards: The overall model is more complicated than it is with the platinum card, you also won’t be able to use your points as freely. Keep in mind that this might not be a deal breaker for some individuals but it is worth noticing.
  • CashBack: If you are a big spender and you are planning on using your card for more than $50,000 in a year you might want to look somewhere else. The problem with this card is that after you’ve passed the threshold of 50K, your cashback will fall to less than 1%.

5. Citi Business – AA | Overall Best for Local Travellers in the US

Citibank core business over the past decade has been corporate banking. The whole idea of offering this type of products is to start building a relationship with companies with high potential and that have high chances of becoming a bigger client in the future.

The bank offers a very straightforward product, easy to use and to understand. It is important to mention that this is a credit card that works great for someone who is doing business in the US and has to travel a lot locally. While American Airlines do offer access to miles and benefits for international traveling, you should keep in mind that it is in the local traveling where you can make the most out of this credit card.

If you spend more than $3,000 on your first 3 months of service you will get 50,000 bonus miles with the American Airlines Advantage Program, and the same will happen every year you renew your membership. Pros and Cons about Citi Business - AA

Additional Information

APR: Variable 17.99% – 25.99%

Intro APR 0% (not offered)

Credit Card Type: Unsecured Minimum

Credit Score: 700+

Annual Fee: $99 (Waived for the first year)

Our Rating

  • Annual Fee: keep in mind that even though having to spend $100 a year on membership is definitely not the ideal, the miles you get awarded represent already a profit for you.
  • AA Advantage Status: This credit card comes in both black, platinum and traditional layouts. The first two models will get you a premium status with the airline, this will help you get a better experience and also to be eligible for upgrades and more.
  • Intro APR: If only this card would offer an introductory interest rate it would be even better than most business credit cards in the market. Keep in mind that even though it is categorized as a business card, the only thing that truly resembles the traditional business model is mid to low interest rates.

Conclusion

From a management perspective getting a credit card might be one of the best decisions you can make in order to save time and also to improve the control over your finances. Disregarding your industry it will be key to always remember the risks and the problematics associated with utilizing a credit card  in your company. Keep in mind that the real problem is not the credit card, but the individual using it without a tight leash or a stablished control.

Even if you think that it might help you cover unexpected expenses and that it can solve certain financial situations, it is important to always remember that this is a scheme where you enjoy know but you will have to pay it later. Credit Card APRs are incredibly high which makes financing super expensive.

Running a business is already stressful enough for you to allocate part of your mental focus thinking about credit card debt so early in your business life.

It would not be fair if I simply focus only on talking about all the problems without bringing to the table all the benefits that a credit card could bring if managed appropriately. It is your responsibility to remain on the right track, making sure to always pay. If possible aim to automatize payments, that way you will not put yourself in a position of having to deal with high fees and penalties.

As mentioned always, take your time to review all your different options before making a final decision. There are literally hundreds of options in the market to choose from, with the proper investigation and review it is very likely that you will be able to find the very best option that will meet all your expectations.

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FAQs

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Vidal Arias

Vidal Arias

Vidal is an experienced Strategist and Portfolio Manager with a keen interest and passion for the financial markets and also writing. During his career, he has developed excellent market timing skills, focusing mainly on the macro analysis of the US Equity Market and the overall US Financial Market. He started his career as a financial analyst for a major American bank and continued his way into the trading desk as a Sr. Trader and later as a Portfolio Manager for an Offshore Hedgefund in Europe. Linkedin: vidalarias Email: [email protected]