Business Credit Card vs. Personal: What You Should Know

It’s more than the type of expenses charged to the card

Young man in white shirt sitting at airport making an online purchase with credit card
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If you’re like most people, using credit cards is part of your everyday life. But if you’re an entrepreneur, you may think about whether it’s better to use a business credit card more than your personal card.

Maintaining separate business and personal finances allows you to be more organized at tax time, and is essential for protecting your personal assets. Using a business credit card for company expenses is one way to create that critical distinction. Keep reading to learn more about the key differences between business and personal credit cards.

What’s the Difference Between Business and Personal Credit Cards?

  Business Credit Card Personal Credit Card
Identification Number Used To Apply Employer Identification Number (EIN) Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)
Generally Accepted Use Business expenses Personal expenses
Benefits, Perks, and Rewards Earn points, cash back, or airline miles by making business purchases Earn points, cash back, or airline miles by making personal purchases
Credit Reporting Consumer credit bureaus and/or business credit reporting agencies Consumer credit bureaus
Credit Evaluation Credit rating Credit score
Consumer Protections Limited Full

Identification Number Used To Apply

When you apply for a business credit card, you’ll need to provide your EIN, which distinguishes you from your business for tax purposes. Generally, when you apply for a personal credit card, you’ll need to share your SSN or ITIN.

If you don’t already have an EIN, you can obtain it for free through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website.

Generally Accepted Use

Business credit cards are designed to cover expenses related to operating and growing your company. This may include attending an industry conference or eating meals while traveling for business. If you own a company and have a handful of employees, you may share a business credit card to cover company-related expenses.

Personal credit cards, on the other hand, are meant to pay for personal expenses, such as groceries, gas, and other everyday purchases.

Rewards Programs

Both business credit cards and personal cards provide the opportunity for individuals to earn rewards. Business credit card rewards programs give you points, cash back, or airline miles for spending within business-related categories, such as shipping or advertising.

Depending on your line of work, you may choose to apply for a business card that offers relevant rewards. For example, if you and your staff travel regularly for business, you may consider an airline business credit card over another type.

Personal credit card rewards programs give you perks as well. These are based more on the individual, offering perks for doing things like buying groceries, dining out, or purchasing goods from a drugstore.

Credit Reporting

When you apply for a business credit card, your personal credit will typically get checked to help determine your creditworthiness. Plus, an inquiry will appear on your personal credit report. Often, your account usage will be reported to the consumer credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) and show up on your personal credit report.

While you use an EIN to apply for a business credit card, in most cases, your personal credit report will be used in the credit decision.

That being said, there are business credit cards that exclusively report to the business credit reporting agencies: Dun and Bradstreet, Experian Commercial, and Equifax Small Business. Using one or more of these business credit cards can help you keep your personal credit out of the equation and build business credit.

Credit Evaluation

As you build business credit, you earn a credit rating. Your credit rating is based on several data points in your business credit report, such as payment history, the number of accounts on file, and public records like liens or bankruptcies, if applicable. Your personal credit evaluation, or credit score, is based on similar data within your consumer credit report.

To qualify for a small business credit card, your personal credit score often needs to be considered good or excellent. According to the FICO scoring model, that is 670 or higher.

Consumer Protections

Your personal credit card accounts are protected by the Truth in Lending Act, which requires lenders to educate borrowers about the cost and terms of the debt they’re assuming.

Unfortunately, most of the Act doesn’t apply to business credit card accounts. In regard to liability, though, the Act states you can’t get issued a business credit card unless you ask for one. Plus, if the card is lost or stolen, the employee cardholder generally can’t be held liable for fraudulent charges greater than $50.

Which Is Right for You?

A business credit card may be right for you if you want to:

  • Build business credit
  • Buy goods and services for your enterprise while preserving the firm’s cash flow
  • Earn rewards for making company purchases

A personal credit card may be right for you if you want to:

  • Buy goods and services for your personal life while preserving your cash flow
  • Earn rewards for making personal purchases

You can apply and maintain both a business credit card and a personal credit card. To successfully balance using both types of credit cards, you should:

  • Use separate, designated accounts for business and personal purchases
  • Pay all of your credit card bills on time
  • Limit your spending to what you can easily afford to repay

The Bottom Line

When you’re an entrepreneur, both business and personal credit cards can have places in your wallet. But it’s important to remember each card’s intended purpose before you make a purchase. Your business credit card is there to finance company expenses, and your personal credit card is there to pay for the goods and services you need to live your life.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you split one credit card to show business expenses versus personal?

It’s a smart idea to keep your business and personal spending separate and use different credit cards for each type of transaction. Maintaining that separation makes reporting your business expenses on your taxes easier, and protects your personal assets if your company gets sued.

How do you get a business credit card?

The process of getting a business credit card is similar to getting a personal credit card. To start, check your credit report and fix any errors you find. Then compare several business credit card options and apply for the one that best meets your company’s financing needs.

What is “APR” on a credit card?

The “APR” on a credit card is its Annual Percentage Rate. It’s how much it costs you to use the card, including interest and fees, expressed as a percentage.

What is a secured credit card?

A secured credit card is a credit card that helps you build or rebuild your credit. If approved for an account, you give the bank a security deposit, which becomes your credit limit. Once funded, you use the card and make timely payments. If you fail to pay on time, the bank can take your security deposit. But if you manage the account responsibly, you could graduate to an unsecured card.