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Getting a business credit card is a crucial step in the process of separating personal and business finances. But if you’re a non-citizen who doesn’t have a Social Security number or you’re hoping to keep your personal credit out of your business finances, you may be looking to get a business credit card without providing a Social Security number.
However, it’s not common to get a business credit card without providing your Social Security number. In most cases, you’ll need to not only provide a Social Security number but also a personal guarantee that you’ll pay the charges personally in the event that your business can’t.
Why business credit card applications ask for your Social Security number
When you apply for a personal credit card, a lender looks at your credit score and history to determine if you’re likely to pay bills on time. The same is true for business credit cards, although it’s much less likely that a new business has enough of a credit history to help lenders make this determination.
That’s where your personal credit plays a factor. In the absence of your business’s credit history, banks will look at your personal credit score and track record of paying off debts. Your personal credit history helps lenders infer how you’ll handle your business’s debts, which helps them determine your eligibility.
If you don’t have an employer identification number on file with the IRS, your Social Security number may also be used to identify your company on a business credit card application. Even if you do have an EIN, most business credit card providers will still want your Social Security number so they can run a personal credit report. Most business credit card issuers require good to excellent credit — usually a FICO score of 690 or higher.
Additionally, since the majority of business credit cards require a personal guarantee from the cardholder, a Social Security number is needed for this as well. This guarantee reduces the amount of risk a credit card issuer takes on, which makes it easier for small businesses to get credit.
How to apply for a business credit card without a Social Security number
Provide other collateral
The vast majority of business credit cards require applicants to provide their Social Security number at some point in the process. However, there are a few kinds that don’t. Qualifying for these cards usually means having large cash reserves and significant business revenue. This signals to creditors that your business is on solid financial footing and better able to pay off your credit card bill. Small and medium-sized businesses that don’t have ample cash on hand or large revenue figures are less likely to get approved for these cards.
Even if you do qualify for a business credit card without providing a Social Security number, you may still need to offer collateral or sign a uniform commercial code, or UCC, lien. Both offer a guarantee to the credit card issuer that they will get some amount of debt paid back to them if your business can’t afford its bills.
Obtain an ITIN and EIN
If you don't have a Social Security number to provide, you can still apply for a business credit card. First, you’ll need to file for an individual taxpayer identification number, or ITIN. The IRS issues these to foreign nationals who need taxpayer identification but aren’t eligible for a Social Security number.
Once you have an ITIN, file for an EIN. An EIN serves as a kind of Social Security number for your business. You can apply for an EIN through the IRS’ website for free, and creditors can look into your existing business credit history with this number as well.
Business credit cards that don’t require a Social Security number
There are very few business credit cards that don’t require a Social Security number or EIN. One option, the Brex Card, is a corporate card that doesn’t require applicants to provide their Social Security number or a personal guarantee. With the Brex Card, your business’s cash flow and spending patterns help dictate your creditworthiness. A minimum bank balance of $50,000 from professional investors may be required to qualify for Brex.
Several retail business credit cards are more flexible about Social Security numbers and, more importantly, requiring a personal guarantee. Several big-box stores, office supply stores and gas stations offer cards that may not require a personal guarantee as long as your business meets certain criteria.