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8 Best Small Business Credit Cards of December 2019

Chanelle BessetteDecember 5, 2019

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

NerdWallet's Best Small Business Credit Cards of December 2019

Our pick for

Sign-up bonus

Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Annual Fee

$95

Regular APR

17.49% - 22.49% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
If you're all about that sign-up bonus, the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card should be at the top of your list. Its versatile ongoing rewards also make it worth keeping.

Pros

With this card, the sign-up bonus is the main event, not an afterthought. The bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. You can also transfer points to several airline and hotel loyalty programs, such as United, Southwest, Marriott and Hyatt, at a 1:1 ratio. As for rewards, you get 3 points per dollar on up to $150,000 a year in combined spending on travel, telecommunications (internet, phone and cable), shipping, and advertising on social media and search engines; all other spending earns 1 point per dollar.

Cons

This card's bonus categories aren't a good fit for all business owners. There's an annual fee of $95. After the first year, you’d have to spend at least $2,534 before the rewards make up for the annual fee. This might not matter as much to you, though, if you deduct the fee as a business expense on your taxes.
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases - with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • $95 Annual Fee

Our pick for

Cash back

Capital One Spark Cash Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Annual Fee

$0 intro for the first year, then $95

Regular APR

18.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
With unlimited 2% cash back, the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business is a great deal on its own and can be a powerful complement to the other cards in your wallet.

Pros

Flat-rate rewards cards are a bit like khakis: a little boring, but they go with everything. When you pair this 2% cash-back card with a tiered rewards card, you’ll always earn more than the “1% back on everything else” that most cards promise. If you’re a one-credit-card type of entrepreneur, a flat-rate card like this will likely offer better long-term value than a tiered rewards card.

Cons

After the first year, you’ll break even on the annual fee only if you put more than $4,750 on the card per year. If you plan to spend less, consider a no-annual-fee card instead.
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn up to $2,000 in cash bonuses
  • Earn a $500 cash bonus when you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months and earn $1,500 when you spend $50,000 in the first 6 months of your account opening
  • Earn unlimited 2% cash back for your business on every purchase, everywhere, no limits or category restrictions
  • $0 annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
  • Free employee cards, which also earn unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases
  • $0 Fraud Liability if your card is lost or stolen
  • Rewards won't expire for the life of the account, and you can redeem your cash back for any amount
  • No foreign transaction fees

Our pick for

Business travel card

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN Credit Card

on American Express's website, or call (866) 512-6673

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$595

Regular APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
For business travelers who spend a lot of time on the road, or especially in the air, The Business Platinum® Card from American Express can be a bargain even at $595 a year.

Pros

No, this card is not cheap, but it comes with an extensive portfolio of benefits that make it well worth the investment for entrepreneurs who are always on the road: 5X points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, access to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide, a $200 annual credit for incidental airline fees, plus reimbursement for the application fee for TSA Precheck or Global Entry, and automatic elite status with Marriott and Hilton hotels. That’s not even mentioning the sizable bonus offer for new cardholders.

Cons

The annual fee is $595, which is very steep. Keep in mind, though, that the fee is a deductible business expense.
  • Welcome Offer: Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points.
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases made on your Business Platinum Card® within your first 3 months of Card Membership.†
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's an extra half point per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
  • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year when flight is booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.
  • Terms Apply
  • View Rates and Fees

Our pick for

Flat-rate travel rewards

Capital One Spark Miles Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Annual Fee

$0 intro for the first year, then $95

Regular APR

18.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
The Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business is a keeper for traveling entrepreneurs whose expenses don't fall into common bonus categories.

Pros

This card features an industry-leading flat rewards rate of 2 miles per dollar spent on anything. Miles are worth 1 cent each when redeemed for travel expenses. The spiffy sign-up bonus is also a big draw: Earn 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months and earn 150,000 bonus miles when you spend $50,000 in the first 6 months of your account opening. The card doesn't charge foreign transaction fees.

Cons

The card has an annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $95. After the first year, you'd have to spend at least $4,750 a year on the card before the rewards would outweigh the cost. But keep in mind that this fee could be deducted as a business expense on your taxes.
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn up to 200,000 bonus miles worth up to $2,000 to spend on travel—flights, hotels and more
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months and earn 150,000 bonus miles when you spend $50,000 in the first 6 months of your account opening
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, everywhere, no limits or category restrictions, and miles won't expire for the life of the account
  • Earn 5X miles on hotel and rental car bookings through Capital One Travel℠ using a Spark Miles card
  • Transfer your miles to 10+ leading travel loyalty programs like JetBlue™, Air Canada, and Emirates™
  • Redeem your miles instantly for any travel-related purchases, from flights and hotels to ride-sharing services
  • Fly through security with one statement credit for either the $85 TSA Pre✓® application fee or the $100 Global Entry application fee
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that

Our pick for

No-fee travel rewards

Bank of America Travel Rewards World Mastercard® for Business Credit Card

on Bank of America's website

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

12.74% - 22.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% on Purchases for 9 billing cycles

Recommended Credit Score
The Bank of America® Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard® credit card is just right for business owners who want a travel card with robust ongoing rewards but no fee.

Pros

This $0-annual-fee card offers robust rewards of 1.5 points for every dollar spent, and 3 points per dollar spent on travel purchases booked through Bank of America®. It also comes with a plum sign-up bonus for a no-fee card: Earn 25,000 bonus points when you make at least $1,000 in net purchases within 60 days of your account opening which can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit towards travel purchases. It charges no foreign transaction fees.

Cons

Higher reward rates are available on other no-fee small business cards. Other cards — especially cards with annual fees — also offer larger sign-up bonuses.
  • Earn 25,000 bonus points when you make at least $1,000 in net purchases within 60 days of your account opening which can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit towards travel purchases.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all purchases everywhere, every time-no matter how much you spend. Points don't expire.
  • Earn 3 points per every dollar spent on travel purchases (car, hotel, airline) booked through the Bank of America® Travel Center - powered by Expedia®.
  • No annual fee and no international transaction fees.
  • 0% Introductory APR on purchases for your first 9 billing cycles.
  • Redeem points for travel with no blackout dates, cash back or gift cards.
  • Get 75% more points on the base earn of every purchase you make when you're a Preferred Rewards for Business Platinum Honors tier member. That means you will earn 2.62 points for every $1 you spend and 4.12 points per every $1 you spend at the Bank of America® Travel Center.

Our pick for

No personal guarantee

Brex

on Brex's website

on Brex's website

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
Unlike most cards designed for entrepreneurs, the Brex Card for Startups doesn't require the cardholder to personally guarantee the debt on the card. Instead, Brex determines creditworthiness by evaluating a company's cash balance, spending patterns and investors. It's a good option when a business owner has a thin credit file but is well-capitalized.

Pros

Apply for the card through NerdWallet for a great offer: 75,000 in Brex Rewards points upon signup and waived card fees for life (equal to $750+ value). This card pays 1 point per dollar spent on purchases, but if you make the Brex Card for Startups your only company card, you'll earn elevated rewards on rideshares (7 points per dollar), travel booked through Brex (4 points per dollar), restaurants (3 points per dollar) and recurring software expenses (2 points per dollar). You'll also qualify for valuable offers from such business service providers as Amazon Web Services, Google Ads, WeWork and Salesforce.

Cons

Your business must have a $100,000 bank balance to apply. This is a charge card, not a credit card, meaning the balance is due in full each billing cycle.
  • 75,000 in Brex Rewards points upon signup and waived card fees for life (equal to $750+ value)*
  • No personal guarantee needed - we do not ask for a personal credit check or security deposit during the application.
  • Credit limits 10-20x higher than traditional small business corporate cards.
  • $100,000 bank balance required to qualify for Brex.
  • Exclusive signup offers from the best products and tools for your business (e.g. AWS, Google Ads, WeWork, Salesforce) worth over $50,000 in value.
  • Earn points on every dollar spent with industry-leading multipliers: 7x on rideshare, 4x on travel, 3x on restaurants, 2x on software subscriptions and 1x on all other transactions.
  • Miles transfer program to 6 airlines (including Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Air France, and more) and their loyalty programs, giving Brex customers access to book travel across all of the major global airline alliances - Star Alliance, Oneword, and SkyTeam.
  • 30-day charge card running on the Mastercard network. Enjoy global acceptance with no foreign transaction fees.
  • Build business credit: Brex partners with Dun & Bradstreet and Experian to report your on-time payments.
  • Make employee expenses seamless - automated receipt-capture and expense matching and reconciliation via text and email. Instantly add new users and set spending limits.
  • Simplify reconciliation with built-in integrations with Quickbooks, Xero and more.

Our pick for

0% Intro APR period

American Express The Blue for Business® Credit Card

on American Express's website, or call (866) 512-6673

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.74% - 20.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 12 months

Recommended Credit Score
Come for the 0% intro APR offer; stay for the great ongoing rewards. The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express is an excellent fit for small business owners looking for a valuable, no-fuss card.

Pros

This card's 0% intro APR period gives you plenty of breathing room. You'll get 0% APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 14.74% - 20.74% Variable APR. For rewards, the card gives you 2 points per dollar spent on everything, on up to the first $50,000 in purchases made every year, and 1 point per dollar after that. (Terms apply.)

Cons

There's no bonus offer for new cardholders. The $50,000 spending cap on double points significantly reduces its value for businesses with high operating expenses.
  • Get rewarded for business as usual. Earn 2X Membership Rewards® points on everyday business purchases such as office supplies or client dinners.
  • 2X applies to the first $50,000 in purchases per year, 1 point per dollar thereafter.
  • Enjoy the flexibility to put more purchases on the Card and earn rewards when you buy above your credit limit*.
  • You’ve got the power to use your Card beyond its credit limit* with Expanded Buying Power.
  • More buying power for your business means more opportunities to earn points. That’s everyday business with the Blue Business Plus Card.
  • *The amount you can spend above your credit limit is not unlimited. It adjusts with your use of the Card, your payment history, credit record, financial resources known to us, and other factors.
  • 0.0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, then a variable rate, 14.74%, 17.74% or 20.74%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors as determined at the time of account opening.
  • Terms Apply
  • View Rates and Fees

Our pick for

Fair credit

Capital One Spark Classic Business Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

24.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
If you have fair credit and can pay in full every month, the Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business might be the most affordable way for you to borrow money for your business.

Pros

As long as you pay your balance in full every month, this card is a whole lot cheaper than many of the high-interest loans and other short-term financing offers marketed to entrepreneurs with fair credit. You earn cash-back rewards on your spending, too. With on-time payments, you can work toward strengthening your personal credit and business credit.

Cons

The ongoing APR is 24.74% Variable APR, which is relatively high, so it’s not a good card for carrying debt.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back for your business on every purchase, everywhere, no limits or category restrictions
  • No annual fee
  • Build and strengthen credit for your business by using this credit card responsibly
  • $0 Fraud Liability if your card is lost or stolen
  • Free employee cards, which also earn unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases
  • Rewards won't expire for the life of the account, and you can redeem your cash back for any amount
  • No foreign transaction fees

Summary of Best Small Business Credit Cards of December 2019

Credit CardBest ForIntro APRRegular APRAnnual FeeLearn More
Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

on Chase's website

Sign-up bonus

N/A

17.49% - 22.49% Variable APR

$95

on Chase's website

Capital One Spark Cash Credit Card

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

on Capital One's website

Cash back

N/A

18.74% Variable APR

$0 intro for the first year, then $95

on Capital One's website

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN Credit Card

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

on American Express's website, or call (866) 512-6673

Business travel card

N/A

N/A

$595

on American Express's website, or call (866) 512-6673

Capital One Spark Miles Credit Card

Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

on Capital One's website

Flat-rate travel rewards

N/A

18.74% Variable APR

$0 intro for the first year, then $95

on Capital One's website

Bank of America Travel Rewards World Mastercard® for Business Credit Card

Bank of America® Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard® credit card

on Bank of America's website

No-fee travel rewards

0% on Purchases for 9 billing cycles

12.74% - 22.74% Variable APR

$0

on Bank of America's website

Brex

Brex Card for Startups

on Brex's website

No personal guarantee

N/A

N/A

$0

on Brex's website

American Express The Blue for Business® Credit Card

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

on American Express's website, or call (866) 512-6673

0% Intro APR period

0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 12 months

14.74% - 20.74% Variable APR

$0

on American Express's website, or call (866) 512-6673

Capital One Spark Classic Business Credit Card

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

on Capital One's website

Fair credit

N/A

24.74% Variable APR

$0

on Capital One's website

Credit CardBest ForIntro APRRegular APRAnnual FeeLearn More
Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

on Chase's website

Sign-up bonus

N/A

17.49% - 22.49% Variable APR

$95

on Chase's website

Capital One Spark Cash Credit Card

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

on Capital One's website

Cash back

N/A

18.74% Variable APR

$0 intro for the first year, then $95

on Capital One's website

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN Credit Card

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

on American Express's website, or call (866) 512-6673

Business travel card

N/A

N/A

$595

on American Express's website, or call (866) 512-6673

Capital One Spark Miles Credit Card

Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

on Capital One's website

Flat-rate travel rewards

N/A

18.74% Variable APR

$0 intro for the first year, then $95

on Capital One's website

Bank of America Travel Rewards World Mastercard® for Business Credit Card

Bank of America® Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard® credit card

on Bank of America's website

No-fee travel rewards

0% on Purchases for 9 billing cycles

12.74% - 22.74% Variable APR

$0

on Bank of America's website

Brex

Brex Card for Startups

on Brex's website

No personal guarantee

N/A

N/A

$0

on Brex's website

American Express The Blue for Business® Credit Card

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

on American Express's website, or call (866) 512-6673

0% Intro APR period

0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 12 months

14.74% - 20.74% Variable APR

$0

on American Express's website, or call (866) 512-6673

Capital One Spark Classic Business Credit Card

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

on Capital One's website

Fair credit

N/A

24.74% Variable APR

$0

on Capital One's website

HOW THEIR REWARD RATES STACK UP

Card Best for ... Rewards
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card Sign-up bonus • 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 a year spent on travel and select business categories
• 1 point per dollar on all other spending
Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business Cash back • 2% cash back on all purchases
The Business Platinum® Card from American Express Business travel card • 5 points per $1 spent on flights and prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com
• 1.5 points per dollar on eligible purchases of more than $5,000
• 1 point per dollar on all other spending
• Terms apply
Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business Flat-rate travel rewards • 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases
Bank of America® Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard® credit card No-fee travel rewards • 3 points per $1 spent on travel booked through Bank of America®
• 1.5 points per dollar on all other spending
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express 0% APR period • 2 points per dollar on first $50,000 a year in spending
• 1 point per dollar after that
• Terms apply
Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business Fair/average credit • 1% cash back on all purchases

Understanding business credit cards

At first glance, small business credit cards seem a lot like consumer cards. They come with similar sign-up bonuses, rewards and fees. But business and consumer cards differ in a few key ways. Here’s what you should know before applying.

You’ll have to sign a personal guarantee

Virtually all small business credit card applications include personal guarantees, or clauses stating that you are personally liable for the debt accrued. This means you’re responsible for the balances even if your business goes belly-up. Keep this in mind when applying and avoid borrowing more than you’re able to pay back.

Your personal credit may be affected

When you apply for a small business credit card, the application will probably show up as an inquiry on your personal credit report, which can cost you a few points on your credit scores for a short time. That’s because your issuer wants to make sure that you, the business owner, are personally on solid financial footing before letting you borrow money. 

After that, small business cards generally fall into two categories: some report your account payment history only to commercial credit bureaus, while others report to both consumer and commercial bureaus. In the latter case, your good or bad spending habits on your small business credit card could affect both your personal and business credit.

They generally aren’t covered by consumer protection laws

As a courtesy, issuers today generally extend many consumer protections for personal credit cards to small business credit cards. But the law doesn’t require them to do so. The consumer-friendly Credit Card Act of 2009 set important limits on fees, interest calculations and disclosures for personal credit cards, but it doesn’t cover small business credit cards.

Small business cards aren’t corporate cards

There are two types of business credit cards: small business cards and corporate cards. If you’re just starting out and your revenue is in the thousands, not the millions, you’ll likely want to go with a small business credit card, the kind featured on this list. Once you hit the big time, you might want to switch over to a corporate card. This would limit your personal financial liability for the account.

Who can apply for a small-business card

Anyone who operates a business can apply

You don't need to be incorporated or have a formal structure such as an LLC or partnership. Sole proprietors are eligible, too, and your business can be your full-time job, a part-time operation or even just a side hustle. Be prepared to answer questions on the application about:

  • Your business name (if it has one) and contact information.
  • The industry you're in, how long you've been in business and how many employees you have.
  • Your business's annual revenue and spending.

You do not need an existing business credit history

That's because, as described above, you will likely be personally liable for the debts of the business.

You'll need a federal Taxpayer Identification Number

For sole proprietors with no employees, this can just be your Social Security number. If you have employees or your business meets certain other criteria, you'll already have an Employer Identification Number. You can use that — but the application will still probably ask for your Social Security number, too.

Business credit scores vs. personal credit scores

Businesses can have credit scores just like individuals. When you're just getting a business off the ground, you'll probably have to rely on your personal credit to open a small-business credit card or obtain a loan. But as a business builds its credit over time, it becomes easier to secure financing separate from the owner's personal credit, as well as qualify for a business insurance policy.

» MORE: How to build business credit

Below are key differences between business credit scores and personal credit scores.

Reporting bureaus

Like consumer credit scores, business scores are generated by credit reporting bureaus — companies that collect information about debts and then use that information to estimate how risky it would be to lend money to a person or, in this case, a business. The higher the score, the lower the risk.

The main consumer credit reporting bureaus are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The main bureaus for business scores are Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian.

Range

Consumer credit scoring systems typically have a score range of 300 to 850. The range for business scores is usually 0 to 100.

Standardization

Consumer credit bureaus collect information independently from each other, but they use similar algorithms to calculate scores. As a result, your personal scores are likely to be similar, even if not identical, from one bureau to the next. Business credit score algorithms don’t follow an industry standard and can vary from bureau to bureau.

Access

Federal law gives you the right to a free copy of your personal credit report from each of the three major consumer credit bureaus once every 12 months. Further, you can get free access to your personal credit score in a number of ways (including from NerdWallet). Not so for business credit. You’ll have to pay to see your company’s credit report and score at the major business credit bureaus.

Privacy

Only you and certain companies have the right to see your personal credit reports and scores. But with business credit reports, all information is public, and you can get information on other companies as long as you're willing to pay for it.

» MORE: Business credit score basics

How to choose a small business credit card

Chances are, you'll use your small-business credit card quite a bit, so make sure you’re getting one with favorable terms. Here’s how:

Take stock of your business’s spending habits

If you plan on carrying balances from month to month, getting a card with a 0% APR period or low ongoing interest is more important than searching for generous rewards. Alternatively, if you plan on paying in full every month, a card with a big sign-up bonus and lucrative rewards could be a perfect fit.

Figure out what type of rewards you should go for

If earning big rewards is your goal, start by looking at your costs. For businesses that spend plenty on travel and office supplies, a card that gives bonus rewards in those categories would be an excellent choice. And for companies with spending that doesn't fit into the usual categories, a flat-rate rewards card would fit the bill.

» Confused about miles and points programs? See what these rewards are worth and read about how these programs work with our guide to travel rewards programs.

Look for business-friendly benefits

Some cards come with programs that allow you to match photos of receipts to your card purchases in-app. Many also offer free employee cards and itemized end-of-year statements that help at tax time.

For more, see our guide to choosing a business credit card

How to compare small-business credit cards

As you narrow down your choices based on your business's needs, here's how to evaluate and compare the features of different cards.

Annual fee

Many of the best small-business credit cards charge an annual fee, often in the $100 range. The rewards you earn from your spending can easily make up for it, so don't dismiss the idea of paying a fee out of hand. High-volume businesses, especially, can earn rewards that dwarf the fee. If you spend $200,000 a year on a card with a 2% rewards rate, for example, that's $4,000 a year in rewards, well worth a $100 fee. Annual fees are also deductible business expenses. Still, if you're 100% opposed to paying a fee, there are fine no-fee options available.

Rewards structure

If you opt for a rewards credit card, you'll have two choices to make. The first is whether you want a flat-rate card or a bonus-category card:

  • Flat-rate cards pay you the same rewards on every purchase, regardless of what you buy or where. If you want simplicity, or if your business's expenses tend to run the gamut without any particular category predominating, then a flat-rate card may be best for you.
  • Bonus-category cards pay a higher rewards rate in certain categories and a lower base rate on everything else. If you don't mind (or if you enjoy) keeping track of categories and moving spending around to maximize your return, then these cards may be right for you. A bonus category card is an excellent choice if you spend a lot of money in just a few areas. Typical bonus categories for business credit cards include things like office supplies, travel, telecommunications, advertising and shipping.

The second choice is whether you want your rewards as cash back or points.

  • Cash-back cards pay you back a certain percentage of every purchase. Flat-rate cards tend to offer 1% to 2% back — spend $1,000 on something, get $10 to $20 back. Bonus-category cards go as high as 5%. Cash back is most commonly redeemed as a credit against your account.
  • Points cards give you points or miles for each dollar you spend, either at a flat rate or with bonus points in certain categories. These rewards can usually be redeemed for travel, though you may have other options, such as merchandise or cash back.

Introductory APR period

A number of cards offer a lower interest rate, often 0%, when you first open the account. The 0% period may last a year or more. This can be of great benefit if you have a major business-related purchase you're looking to finance.

Ongoing APR

If you plan to pay your credit card bill in full each month, then the ongoing APR doesn't have to be a major factor in your decision. That's because you'll pay no interest. But if you expect to carry a balance from month to month, the ongoing interest rate becomes very important. Interest charges can easily eat up the value of your rewards, so prioritize a lower ongoing APR if you're going to be carrying debt.

Financing options

Some small-business credit cards offer special financing options, such as a discount if you pay early or the ability to set up installment plans to pay off specific charges. These can be useful if your business is seasonal or subject to irregular cash flow.

Free cards for employees

If you're earning rewards, you'll want to get as much company spending on the card as possible. Many issuers allow you to get additional cards at no extra cost for employees who are authorized to spend money on behalf of the business. You also may be able to set spending limits or other restrictions on employee cards.

Expense management tools

It's helpful if the issuer offers tools to help you track and categorize expenses. For example, you may be able to download transaction data into bookkeeping software. Or you could match photos of receipts to transactions. Or you may get a detailed annual report for use in preparing your taxes.

Perks

If your business has you traveling a lot, look for a card that can make your trip more comfortable. Co-branded airline and hotel cards offer special status and upgrades. Some cards give you access to airport lounges. Others provide travel insurance or rental car coverage for peace of mind.

Getting the most out of your small business card

Pay with your credit card whenever possible

For entrepreneurs who pay in full every month and don't overspend, using a rewards credit card for everything makes those points, miles or cash back add up fast. Avoid paying with a credit card when a convenience charge is added, if possible.

Lock down that sign-up bonus

To get your card's sign-up bonus, you typically need to make a few thousand dollars' worth of purchases in the first few months after opening the account. Check your card's terms and track your spending to make sure you don’t miss out.

Know when your introductory 0% APR ends

Read your credit card statements and make a note of when your promotional offer expires to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Deduct interest and fees on your taxes

 If you’re using your card for business costs, fees and interest count as business expenses. That means you can deduct them at tax time. 


To view rates and fees of the The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, please visit this page.
To view rates and fees of the The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, please visit this page.

Last updated on December 5, 2019

Methodology

NerdWallet's Credit Cards team selects the best credit cards for small business based on overall consumer value, as evidenced by star ratings, as well as their suitability for specific kinds of small-business operators. Factors in our evaluation include annual and other fees, rewards rates, the earning structure (for example, flat-rate rewards versus bonus categories), redemption options, bonus offers for new cardholders, introductory and ongoing APRs, and other noteworthy features such as special financing arrangements, free cards for employees or tools for managing business expenses.

Frequently asked questions

The fundamental difference between a small-business credit card and a corporate credit card lies in who is responsible for debts on the card:

  • With a small-business card, the business owner is personally responsible for the debt. That means he or she is liable for paying the debt even if the business goes under.
  • With a corporate card, the business itself is the debtor. If the company goes out of business, the owners are not personally responsible for paying the debt.

This difference is reflected in the application process for business credit cards. When you apply for a small-business credit card, the issuer will check your personal credit history as well as your business’s credit (if your business even has a credit file of its own, which many don’t). You’ll also be expected to provide a personal guarantee that you’ll repay any debt. For a corporate card, the issuer examines only the business’s credit standing. The owners and operators don’t have to provide a personal guarantee.

Because of this, corporate cards are an option primarily for companies that have already established a credit history separate from the owners.

The biggest difference between business and consumer credit cards, of course, is that you must operate a business to qualify for a business card. Beyond that:

  • Consumer protections that apply to personal credit cards don’t necessarily apply to business cards. This includes things like limits on fees and rules about when the issuer can change the interest rate.
  • Activity on small-business credit cards can be reported on the credit histories of both the business and the cardholder.
  • Credit limits on business cards tend to be higher.
  • Rewards structures are different, particularly the categories that earn bonus rewards. A business credit card is more likely to earn bonus rewards on shipping or at office-supply stores, for example, than at supermarkets or movie theaters.

In general, you must operate a business to qualify a small-business credit card, but that business does not have to be incorporated or even have a formal structure, such as a partnership or LLC. If you’re a sole proprietor, freelancer or “gig” worker, you can apply for a small-business card, too. Be aware, though, that the application will likely ask specific questions about your business — the name (if it has one), what kind of business it is, how much revenue it brings in, and so on.

The effect a business credit card has on your credit score depends on what type of card it is. A corporate card issued to you by your employer has no effect, because all account activity is reported on the employer’s credit file, not yours. Really, a corporate card is nothing but a tool you use for your job — you’re not on the hook for the debt. But if it’s a small-business card that you applied for yourself, the activity on the account will show up on your credit report and can affect your score. That’s because you’ve pledged to personally guarantee the debt on the card.

The application for a small-business credit card will typically ask for the tax identification number of the business. If you have an EIN, you can use that. But you don’t need an EIN. If you’re a sole proprietor, you can use your Social Security number. Either way, the application will also ask for information about the individual who is personally guaranteeing the debt. You’ll use your Social Security number for that.