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If you’ve started a side gig to bring in some extra funds, you might be thinking about applying for a small-business credit card. Completing an online application for a credit card takes just minutes, but for small-business cards, you’ll have to answer a few extra questions.
Some are obvious and others may seem like head-scratchers, but if you have the necessary information on hand before you click “apply,” you’ll be done in no time.
Nerd tip: Because of economic uncertainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many credit cards, including small-business credit cards, have become more difficult to qualify for. Side-hustlers can opt to use a separate, personal card for their business purchases instead. In fact, for small one-person operations, these traditional "consumer cards" may be a better fit.
Completing the application for a small-business credit card
Selecting your business structure
Your business structure affects not only how you file your taxes, but also how liable you are personally if your business struggles financially. Many side hustles — like driving for a ridesharing service, pet sitting in your neighborhood or selling crafts on Etsy — start out as sole proprietorships. That can change if your venture grows into a more formal business.
Sole proprietorship: You’re the only owner of an unincorporated business.
Partnership: You share ownership of the business with one or more people.
Corporation: In this more formal business structure, the business is a separate legal entity from its owners. There are multiple types of corporations, each with its own rules when it comes to taxation, profit-sharing, company stock and more.
Limited liability company (LLC): As a business owner (or, as the IRS would call you, a “member”), you’re not personally liable if your business goes bankrupt. LLCs can have one or more members.
Nonprofit: This business entity refers to tax-exempt businesses in the fields of charity, education or religious, literary or scientific work.
Sharing your business name
If you’ve incorporated your business or otherwise given it a legal name, that’s what you enter in this field. If you don’t have an official business name, you can enter your own name. What you enter will likely appear on the front of your business credit card under your name. (Some card applications ask for both a legal name and the name you want to appear on the card.)
What’s included in annual revenue?
Report the previous year’s gross revenue, meaning the money your company brought in before taxes and other expenses were deducted. If your business is new and hasn’t earned revenue yet, you can enter $0. Don’t worry — that might not work against you. Just be prepared to answer follow-up questions if the credit card issuer wants to know more about your business.
Selecting the business category and type
Through a series of drop-down menus, you’ll tell the issuer roughly what kind of business you’re in. This part can be confusing if it seems like none of the industries applies to what you do, but just get as close as you can.
Additional information you’ll need to provide
Other questions include how long you’ve been in business and your business address (this may be the same as your home address). You’ll also need to supply your IRS-provided Employer Identification Number (EIN) or indicate that you don’t have one and use your Social Security number instead. Typically, sole proprietors use their Social Security numbers.
The IRS has a quick questionnaire that can help you determine whether you need an EIN for your business.