Best Credit Cards for Small-Business Owners of October 2019

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As a business owner, maximizing profits is a top priority, so it may be natural to want a business credit card that can provide as much value as possible. 

Whether you’re looking for cash-back or travel rewards, a card to help you rebuild your credit or one to help you make a big purchase with a financing deal, here are our top choices.

Editors' Picks

Best for Travel Rewards

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

Our Rating Among Small Business Owner Cards
4.9
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 17.49% - 25.49% variable
Annual Fee $0 for the first year, then $99
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, telecommunication merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rentals and at gas stations. Earn 1X on other purchases.
Cash Advance APR (%) 21.99%
Cash Advance Fee Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

Why We Like This Card

AAdvantage miles are worth as much as 2.95 cents apiece when you redeem them for American Airlines flights, making the card’s sign-up bonus worth $2,065, based on our analysis. You can also get several perks with the airline like preferred boarding, free checked bags, in-flight discounts, and a companion certificate. The card has a relatively low annual fee, which is waived for the first year, and it doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee when you’re abroad.

Best Overall Card

Ink Business Unlimited

Our Rating Among Small Business Owner Cards
4.0
Ink Business Unlimited
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.24% - 21.24% variable
Annual Fee $0
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 12 Months
Cash Advance APR (%) 26.99%
Cash Advance Fee Either $15 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.

Why We Like This Card

The card is so impressive that it’s our favorite overall, and wins in our cash-back rewards, no-annual-fee, and introductory-purchase-APR categories, too. It also offers an impressive $500 sign-up bonus when you spend $3,000 in the first three months, making it easy to get a ton of value without any costs—as long as you pay your bill in full each month. And don’t forget to take advantage of the 12-month 0% APR deal on purchases so you can save money on interest charges.

Best Sign-Up Bonus

United Explorer Business Card

Our Rating Among Small Business Owner Cards
4.5
United Explorer Business Card
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 17.74% - 24.74% variable
Annual Fee $95
Cash Advance APR (%) 26.74%
Cash Advance Fee Either $15 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.

Why We Like This Card

The card’s sign-up bonus is worth shooting for if you can meet the spending requirements without going over your budget. You can earn 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months, plus another 50,000 miles after spending a total of $25,000 in the first six months. That’s worth $785 to $1,570 based on our analysis of United MileagePlus miles. The card also offers plenty of opportunities to earn bonus rewards, plus valuable travel perks.

Best Secured Card

Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card

Our Rating Among Small Business Owner Cards
3.3
Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Poor - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 16.9% variable
Annual Fee $25
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 1.5% cash back or earn 1X point and recieve 1,000 bonus points when your company spend is $1,000 or more in any monthly billing period.
Cash Advance Fee See Terms

Why We Like This Card

You’ll need to make a security deposit as collateral for your credit line, but you can get between $500 and $25,000 in available credit. What’s more, the card offers a couple of rewards programs you can choose from, including 1.5% cash back on everything, which you’ll be hard-pressed to beat. Keep in mind, though, that the card’s annual fee is per card, not just for the primary account.

Find Your Credit Card Match

We believe it's most important to consider interest rate, rewards, and annual fee when you choose a business credit card for everyday use, but we know you might have different priorities. See what suits you best.
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Your Results

Who Can Get a Business Credit Card?

Anyone with a business can apply for a business credit card. You don’t need an official setup or employees to qualify as a business owner. According to the IRS, business income may include any income you receive from the sale of a product or service.

This means that if you occasionally buy and resell items on Amazon or eBay, do freelance photography or graphic design work, or even babysit, that could qualify as a business. 

And while business credit card applications often ask for an employer identification number (EIN), you can also use a Social Security number to apply.  

How to Choose the Best Credit Card for Your Business Needs

With so many different business credit cards to choose from, it can be difficult to narrow down the selection to just one. To help you with this process, here are three things to consider:

Your Credit Score 

Business credit card issuers run a personal credit check when you submit an application. While many of the best business credit cards require good or excellent credit to qualify—think a 700 credit score or higher—some don’t. 

Check your credit score before you apply for a credit card. If it’s in the good or excellent range, you’ll have a better chance of getting approved for the card you want. If your score is considered fair or poor, however, you should probably work on building your credit before you apply for a card you’re unlikely to be approved for. 

Your Business Expenses 

A lot of business credit cards offer bonus rewards on certain spending categories such as shipping, advertising, or communications expenses. If your business spends a lot in one area, it may make sense to pick a card that provides more value on those purchases.  

If you don’t spend a lot in general or your expenses are all over the place, you may be better off with a card that offers a high flat rewards rate on everything.

Other Card Benefits

In addition to a rewards program, many business credit cards offer other perks that can help you save money. Some, for instance, offer an introductory 0% APR promotion, which you can use to finance a large expense or manage irregular cash flow and pay down the balance interest-free over time.

Other cards may offer valuable travel perks, expense management features, and other benefits that can make your life a little easier. Think about what’s most important to you and focus your search on cards that can provide it.

Business Credit Card vs. Personal Credit Card

You don’t have to use a business credit card for your business. In some cases, a personal credit card may be a better fit. The important thing is that you keep your business and personal expenses separate. Here’s a quick comparison of business and personal credit cards to consider as you choose the best fit for you:

Business credit cards:

  • Rewards and perks are often tailored to common business expenses and needs
  • Can help you build a business credit history
  • Often provide higher credit limits than personal cards
  • Typically don’t report card activity to the consumer credit bureaus

Personal credit cards:

  • Rewards and perks are designed more for everyday consumer spending and needs
  • Won’t help you build a business credit history
  • Typically come with lower credit limits than business cards
  • Can affect your personal credit score and report

Business credit cards are not covered by the Fair Credit Billing Act, which limits consumer liability for fraudulent charges to $50. Most credit card companies voluntarily have zero-liability policies for unauthorized charges, but read the fine print in your card agreement to understand exactly how you're covered.

Business Credit Cards vs. Business Charge Cards

Some business credit cards aren’t traditional credit cards. Before you apply for a card, make sure you know what you’re getting. Here’s what to know about the differences between credit cards and charge cards: 

Business credit cards:

  • Allow you to carry a balance from month to month with interest
  • Come with a set credit limit
  • Charge late payment fees
  • Come from a wide range of card issuers

Business charge cards:

  • Require payment in full each month
  • Have no pre-set spending limit
  • Charge late payment fees
  • Limited to American Express

How to Build Your Business Credit

If you’re just starting out, establishing a business credit history can take time. Here are some quick steps you can take to start from scratch:

  • Set up a business entity
  • Apply for an employer identification number (EIN)
  • Apply for a D-U-N-S Number to get registered with the business credit agencies
  • Open a business bank account
  • Apply for a business credit card, use it responsibly, and pay on time every month
  • Request a trade credit arrangement from vendors or suppliers, and pay your invoices on time
  • Apply for other business financing options as needed and continue on-time payments

In order to get the most from your business credit card, avoid mixing business and personal expenses, try to pay your bill in full every month, and consider setting up automatic payments to avoid missing one.

What is a Good Credit Rating for a Business?

Business credit card issuers don’t typically check your business credit scores, so you’ll want to focus on your personal credit score as you apply for cards. 

But as you work toward establishing a business credit history for future financing needs, there are two main business credit scores you’ll want to keep an eye on:

  • Dun & Bradstreet Paydex score: Ranges from 0 to 100; a good score is considered 80 or higher.
  • Intelliscore Plus from Experian: Ranges from 0 to 100; a good score is considered 76 or higher.

How to Maximize Credit Card Rewards for Your Business 

Your best chance of maximizing rewards on your business credit card is to get a card that offers bonus rewards in categories where you spend money every day. Try to use your card whenever possible and, if feasible, consider getting more than one card to complement each other. 

For example, if you travel a lot, you might have a card that earns 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and 1 point on everything else. Use that card for travel expenses, then for all your other purchases use, say, a card that earns a flat 1.5% on all expenditures. 

Credit card rewards may not be at the top of your priority list as a business owner, but they can add up fast and provide a decent return on investment.

Methodology

At The Balance, it's our mission to give you unbiased, comprehensive credit card reviews. To do this, we collect data on hundreds of cards and score more than 55 features that affect your finances.

Our reviews are always impartial: No one can influence which cards we review, the way we present them to you, or the ratings they receive.

About This List

The Balance editorial team compiled this best card list using the same factors used to evaluate our best overall card rankings, but focused cards issued to small business owners

What We Score

Rewards, annual fee, and regular APR are the most important things people consider when choosing a credit card, so we weigh those features most heavily. Beyond limiting this list to small business cards, we applied the same methodology we use to determine our best overall credit cards. For full details on how we evaluate credit card attributes, check out our full methodology.