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A corporate credit card is a type of credit card that protects business owners and their employees from personal liability for purchases made on behalf of the company.
A corporate card — sometimes called a commercial credit card — may be a good fit for you if your business is registered as a corporation, brings in several million dollars in annual revenue and has multiple employees authorized to make spending decisions for the company.
If your company doesn’t meet these criteria, a small-business credit card is likely a better choice.
How do corporate credit cards work?
Corporate credit cards allow multiple employees to charge items to their employer. But unlike business credit cards with more than one authorized user, corporate cards do not require a personal guarantee from business owners in the event of nonrepayment.
Corporate credit cards can be structured against liability in several ways:
The company is responsible for paying the bill. The issuer doesn't check employees' credit. Employees file expense reports so the company can reconcile charges with the card statement each month, but the employee doesn’t have to pay the bill upfront. This is the standard with most corporate card programs.
Employees must pay all charges on the card, and they get reimbursed when they file an expense report. The issuer will check employees' credit before giving them a card, but this check is a “soft pull,” meaning it doesn’t affect employees' credit scores.
Both the company and the employee are responsible for debt on the card. Employees are responsible for repaying any personal or unauthorized spending on the corporate card, but are not personally held liable for any expenses charged in compliance with company policies. However, if a long overdue balance gets reported to credit reporting bureaus, it may impact the employee’s credit.
Pros and cons of a corporate card
Going with a corporate card program has several benefits, including:
No effect on your personal credit. Because the company is typically liable for payment, issuers don't report corporate card activity in the purchaser’s name to the credit bureaus. Also, you and your employees won't have to undergo a credit check that could impact your personal credit score to qualify for a corporate credit card.
Reduced personal risk. Corporate cards are issued on the basis of the company’s financial strength, not the owner's personal finances. While you would probably give small-business cards only to employees you trust, you still have to be on the lookout for fraud, which would affect both you and your business. A corporate card won’t prevent fraud, but it will protect your personal assets.
Better reporting. Corporate credit card programs offer businesses robust ways to track expenses. Your cardholding employees typically will be able to file their expenses electronically, saving you time checking reports. Also, it will be easier to for you to see where and how your employees are spending your company's money.
Ability to set spending limits. Setting rules for spending is crucial for business success. Corporate card programs let managers set limits on the amount of spending and the categories in which employees can spend. Many companies forbid personal use of a corporate credit card.
But corporate credit cards also have drawbacks, such as:
In-depth application process. Setting up a corporate line of credit will likely be a more involved process than signing up for a business credit card online. Card issuers will evaluate your business stability to establish creditworthiness, so be prepared to share your legal and financial information for corporate card approval.
May require a minimum number of cardholders. Some corporate card issuers require that eligible corporations sign up for a minimum number of employee cards. If your business doesn’t need that many authorized cardholders just yet, you may want to research cards that do not have that requirement — or hold off on getting a corporate card until then.
Where can I get a corporate credit card?
To get a corporate credit card, you’ll typically need to work with a representative instead of applying online to make sure your business meets the qualifications.
These are some of the best-known corporate card issuers in the market:
The American Express Corporate Platinum Card®, American Express® Corporate Green Card and American Express® Corporate Gold Card are available for both established corporations and eligible startups.
Capital One offers the One Card for users who prefer a physical card, or a virtual card program that can be used for paying vendors in lieu of checks. Capital One’s One Card includes a simple rewards system where 10,000 points equals a $100 statement credit.
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
JPMorgan offers several commercial cards for different primary uses, including the Corporate Card, the Purchasing Card, the Virtual Card and the One Card. The One Card is the only card option available to companies with less than $10 million in annual revenue.
Citibank offers several commercial cards for specific categories of spend, such as for travel and entertainment, for employees who manage large volumes of company expenses and for booking meetings and related expenses, as well as the One Card for businesses that want to use a single card for all transaction types.
Wells Fargo offers only one commercial credit card: the WellsOne®, for all types of business transactions. WellsOne customers can also use virtual card technology to provide one-time payment information to vendors for increased security.
Corporate card alternatives
If you don't qualify for a traditional corporate credit card, these are some alternatives that feature some of the same benefits:
Like a corporate credit card, the Brex Card does not require a personal guarantee, meaning that business owners don't need to worry about putting their own assets on the line in the event that the company can't pay its card debts. However, this is a charge card, so cardholders will need to pay off the card balance either at the end of each day or each month, depending on the card type. Read our full review.
If you want to qualify for a business credit card based on your company’s performance instead of your personal credit, consider Divvy. Divvy evaluates applicants on the strength of their business entity type, annual revenue, business tax ID or EIN, and business formation date, making this card a potential choice for those with bad credit.
Business vs. corporate credit cards: Which one is right for you?
As your small business grows, you may be thinking about changing from a small-business card to a corporate credit card.
Consider moving to a corporate credit card if:
Your company is incorporated.
Your annual revenue tops several million dollars.
You’ve authorized multiple employees to make business-related purchases.
You have a significant volume of financial transactions.
If you do not meet these thresholds, sticking with a business credit card may be a better option for you.
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15.49%-23.49% Variable APR
14.74%-20.74% Variable APR
0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening
0% intro APR on Purchases for 12 months
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The information related to American Express® Corporate Green Card, American Express® Corporate Gold Card, The American Express Corporate Platinum Card®, Capital One One® Card, JPMorgan Chase & Co. Corporate Card, JPMorgan Chase & Co. Purchasing Card, JPMorgan Chase & Co. Virtual Card, JPMorgan Chase & Co. One Card, Citi® One Card, and WellsOne® has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.