BEST OF

Best Small Business Credit Cards of November 2020

NerdWalletOctober 15, 2020
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Small-business credit cards aren't just for people with storefronts or offices. If you're a freelancer, have a "side hustle" or do gig work, you may be a candidate for a small-business credit card, too. Having a dedicated card for your money-making enterprise helps you keep business and personal finances separate. And many small-business cards offer rewards and perks to rival some of the best consumer cards. Below, you'll find our favorite small-business cards, plus information on what it takes to apply for them and how they differ from consumer cards.

Some of our selections for the best small-business credit cards can be applied for through NerdWallet, and some cannot. Below, you'll find application links for the credit cards from our partners that are available through NerdWallet, followed by the full list of our picks.

NerdWallet's Best Small Business Credit Cards of November 2020

Best Small Business Credit Cards From Our Partners

Our pick for

0% intro APR + cash-back rewards

on American Express's website

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.24% - 19.24% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening

Recommended Credit Score

The American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card is identical to The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, but its rewards are in cash rather than points.

Pros

You get an introductory 0% intro APR on Purchases for 12 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.24% - 19.24% Variable APR. For rewards, you earn 2% cash back on the first $50,000 in purchases each year, and 1% after that. Terms apply.

Cons

The $50,000 cap on 2% cash back makes this card a poor fit for businesses with high expenses. Prefer Amex points to cash back? See The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express.

  • Earn up to $300 back to boost your business. You can earn up to $100 in the form of statement credits at each of the following merchants: Dell Technologies, DocuSign or FedEx after you make an eligible purchase on your new Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 2% cash back on all eligible purchases on up to $50,000 per calendar year, then 1%. Cash back earned is automatically credited to your statement.
  • From workflow to inventory to floor plans, your business is constantly changing. That’s why you’ve got the power to spend beyond your credit limit with Expanded Buying Power.
  • Just remember, 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 for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.24% - 19.24%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors as determined at the time of account opening.
  • No Annual Fee
  • Terms Apply
  • View Rates and Fees

Our pick for

Travel rewards: Premium rewards and perks

on American Express's website

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 $595 annual fee is very steep. Keep in mind, though, that the fee is a deductible business expense.

  • Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 you book on amextravel.com.
  • Terms Apply
  • View Rates and Fees

Our pick for

0% intro APR + AmEx points

on American Express's website

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.24% - 19.24% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening

Recommended Credit Score

Come for the 0% intro APR offer; stay for the ongoing rewards. The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express is a good fit for entrepreneurs looking for a no-fee, no-fuss card.

Pros

You'll get an introductory 0% intro APR on Purchases for 12 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.24% - 19.24% Variable APR. For rewards, the card gives you 2 Membership Rewards 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

The $50,000 spending cap on double points reduces this card's value for businesses with high operating expenses. Prefer cash to points? See the American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card.

  • Earn up to $300 back to boost your business. You can earn up to $100 in the form of statement credits at each of the following merchants: Dell Technologies, DocuSign or FedEx after you make an eligible purchase on your new Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • 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 for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.24% - 19.24%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors at account opening.
  • No Annual Fee
  • Terms Apply
  • View Rates and Fees

Our pick for

Cash back: Bonus categories

on Chase's website

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.24% - 19.24% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 12 months

Recommended Credit Score

If your business spends a significant amount on office supplies, telecommunications, gas and restaurants, the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card is worth a look.

Pros

You get 5% cash back on up to $25,000 in combined spending per account year at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services; 2% cash back on the first $25,000 in combined spending per account year at gas stations and restaurants; and 1% on everything else. There's a great sign-up bonus, a 0% intro APR period and a $0 annual fee.

Cons

The bonus categories might not be a good match for your spending — and the limit on spending eligible for 5% or 2% rewards might be too low for some businesses.

  • Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year
  • Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other card purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • No Annual Fee

Our pick for

Travel rewards: Bonus categories + big sign-up offer

on Chase's website

Annual Fee

$95

Regular APR

15.99% - 20.99% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card offers one of the richest sign-up bonuses available on any credit card, anywhere, and it pays handsome rewards in a variety of categories.

Pros

If your business's budget includes enough expenses to earn it, the sign-up bonus is worth $1,250 if you redeem the points for travel booked through Chase. (You can also transfer points to a dozen or so airline and hotel programs, including United, Southwest, Marriott and Hyatt.) You'll earn 3 points per dollar on up to $150,000 a year in 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.

  • New Offer! Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 toward travel when redeemed 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

Flexible financing

on American Express's website

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0 intro for the first year, then $250

Regular APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Businesses with high working capital needs but sometimes inconsistent cash flow might find The Plum Card® from American Express a perfect fit. Pay early and get a discount, or enjoy up to 60 days interest-free.

Pros

Pay your bill within 10 days of your statement closing date, and you get an automatic 1.5% discount. If you need more time, pay the minimum due, and you can get up to 60 days interest-free to pay the rest. The card also has no preset spending limit. Terms apply.

Cons

With a hefty annual fee after the first year, this card is designed for businesses that spend big. And while it offers flexible terms, it's still a charge card, meaning your balance will be due in full — you can't spread out the cost of a purchase over several months.

  • Paying early pays off: get a 1.5% Early Pay Discount, with no cap on what you can earn back.
  • Take up to 60 days to pay with no interest, when you pay your minimum due by the Payment Due Date.
  • Use the power of the Plum Card to buy big for your business.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $250
  • Terms & Restrictions Apply.
  • View Rates and Fees

Our pick for

Hotel credit card

on American Express's website

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$125

Regular APR

15.74% - 24.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

The Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card can pay for itself just with the automatic free night's stay every year. Add in automatic elite status, generous rewards, a dandy sign-up bonus and more, and it's hard to go wrong.

Pros

You earn 6 points per dollar at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels; 4 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers, and on U.S. purchases for shipping; and 2 points per dollar on all other eligible purchases. Marriott's broad portfolio of hotel brands gives you maximum flexibility in earning and redeeming rewards.

Cons

The $125 annual fee is a bit on the high side. You'll have to use the perks to get proper value out of the card.

  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Earn up to $150 in statement credits within your first 6 months of Card Membership for all eligible purchases on your Card on U.S. Advertising in select Media. Plus receive complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status for one year (February 1, 2021-January 31, 2022). Offer ends 1/13/21.
  • 6x points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
  • 4x points at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping. 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at a participating hotel. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Terms apply.
  • View Rates and Fees

Our pick for

Airline credit card

on American Express's website

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$550

Regular APR

15.74% - 24.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

If your business has you on the road a lot, you'll appreciate the airport lounge access on the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card. The annual companion certificate — which is good even in first class — and the checked-bag benefit add considerable value, too.

Pros

The card gets you into Delta's Sky Clubs and American Express Centurion Lounges. Every year, you get a companion certificate, which lets you bring someone with you on a domestic flight, regardless of what fare class your ticket is. Rewards: 3 miles per dollar on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on other purchases (rising to 1.5 miles per dollar after you spend $150,000 in a calendar year). There's a super sign-up bonus, too. Terms apply.

Cons

All the perks come at a cost, and a high one: The annual fee is $550. That fee can be a deductible business expense, though, and if you use this card as intended, you'll get your money's worth.

  • Welcome Offer: Earn 45,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in the first 3 months.
  • With Status Boost™, earn 15,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $30,000 in purchases on your new Card in a calendar year, up to four times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion Status and are different from the miles you earn toward flights.
  • Complimentary Delta Sky Club® Access and complimentary access to The Centurion Lounge when flying on a same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight. The eligible flight must be booked on a U.S. issued American Express Credit Card.
  • After you spend $150,000 on your Card in a calendar year, you earn 1.5 Miles per dollar (that’s an extra half mile per dollar) on eligible purchases the rest of the year. Eligible purchases after spending $150,000 do not include Delta purchases. If your purchase qualifies for a category that has a higher mileage accelerator, only the higher accelerator will apply.
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees when you spend overseas.
  • Earn 3 Miles on every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta.
  • Terms and limitations apply.
  • View Rates and Fees

Our pick for

No personal guarantee

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.

FULL LIST OF EDITORIAL PICKS: BEST SMALL BUSINESS CREDIT CARDS

Click the card name to read our review. Before applying, confirm details on the issuer’s website.

Our pick for: Cash back — flat-rate rewards

The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business is an excellent option for business operators whose expenses are all over the map and don't fall into the bonus categories on other business credit cards. You get a high, flat rewards rate on every purchase, with no limit to how much you can earn. There's a great sign-up bonus offer, too. Read our review.

Our pick for: Cash back — bonus categories

If your business's spending matches the bonus categories on the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card, you can rack up some serious cash back. (If not, then look elsewhere.) There's an excellent sign-up bonus for a no-annual-fee cash-back card, plus an introductory 0% APR period for purchases. Read our review. 

Our pick for: Cash back — flat-rate rewards + no annual fee

The no-fuss, no-hassle rewards of the Discover it® Business Card make it a great choice for entrepreneurs and side hustlers whose business expenses don't fall into the bonus categories on other small-business rewards cards (things like office supplies, advertising and so on). You also get Discover's signature "cash-back match" bonus your first year. Read our review.

Our pick for: Travel rewards — bonus categories + big sign-up offer

The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card starts you off with one of the biggest sign-up bonuses of any credit card anywhere (assuming you spend enough to earn it), then gives you bonus rewards in common business spending categories. Points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel booked through Chase, or you can transfer them to about a dozen airline and hotel partners. Read our review.

Travel rewards — flat-rate rewards

The Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business is basically a business version of the popular Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. You earn 2 miles per dollar on all purchases, and miles can be redeemed at a value of 1 cent apiece for any travel purchase, without the blackout dates and other restrictions of branded hotel and airline cards. The card offers a great sign-up bonus, too. Read our review.

Our pick for: Travel rewards — premium rewards and perks

Like the consumer version of this card, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express comes with a big annual fee. But business travelers who prefer to go in style will find plenty that appeals to them: high rewards on certain travel purchases, bonus rewards on larger non-travel purchases, a superb newcomer bonus offer, extensive airport lounge access, elite hotel status, hundreds of dollars a year in available credits and a list of perks as long as your arm. It's not cheap, but luxury never is. Read our review.

Our pick for: Travel rewards — no annual fee

This is the business version of the issuer's excellent no-annual-fee travel card. The Bank of America® Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard® credit card pays solid rewards on every purchase and gives you wide flexibility in redeeming your points for any travel purchase, without the restrictions of branded airline and hotel cards. Read our review.

Our pick for: 0% intro APR + AmEx points

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express is a near-twin to the American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card, with one key difference: Rather than cash back, it pays you in AmEx Membership Rewards points. Read our review.

0% intro APR + cash-back rewards

The American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card boasts one of the better 0% introductory APR offers among business credit cards. Beyond that, you earn a solid cash-back rate (at least for a while — the rate drops after you hit a spending threshold). There's no annual fee, but there's no new-cardholder bonus offer either. Read our review.

Our pick for: Flexible financing

Businesses with high working capital needs but sometimes inconsistent cash flow might find The Plum Card® from American Express a perfect fit. Pay early and get a discount, or enjoy up to 60 days interest-free. There's a substantial annual fee, but if you're using the card for, say, big inventory purchases, the benefits could far outweigh the costs. Read our review.

Our pick for: Airline credit card for business

If your business has you on the road a lot, you'll appreciate the airport lounge access on the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, which includes both Delta's own Sky Clubs and American Express's Centurion Lounges when flying Delta. The annual companion certificate — which is good even in first class — and the checked-bag benefit add considerable value, too. Read our review.

Our pick for: Hotel credit card for business 

The Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card can pay for itself just with the automatic free night's stay every year. Add in automatic elite status, generous rewards, a dandy sign-up bonus and more, and it's hard to go wrong. Read our review.

Our pick for: Fair credit

The rewards rate on the Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business isn't going to wow anyone, there's no sign-up bonus and the APR is high. What makes this card valuable is that it's available to business operators with fair or "average" credit, who don't have a lot of options in business credit cards — especially with no annual fee. Read our review. 

Our pick for: No personal guarantee

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. The card earns rewards, too. Read our review.

OTHER RESOURCES

Can you apply for a small-business credit card?

The term "small business" is often associated with enterprises like a corner store, an accountant's office or a landscaping company. But small-business cards can make sense for anyone who is in business for him- or herself, whether it's a full-time job, freelancing, gig work or a side hustle.

You don't need to be incorporated or have a formal business structure, like an LLC or partnership. Most entrepreneurs are "sole proprietors" — sole proprietorships account for about three-quarters of all businesses in the U.S. — and they're eligible to apply for small-business credit cards.

Why get a small-business credit card? Small-business cards help you keep business and personal finances separate. When you use the card only for business spending, interest and fees on the card can be tax-deductible business expenses. And small-business cards offer rewards, perks and bonuses that rival (and in many cases surpass) those on consumer credit cards.

What the application asks for

Applications for small-business credit cards are a lot like those for consumer cards, with a few important differences. The application may ask for:

  • A business name. If you don't have a formal business name, this can just be your name. When you're a sole proprietor, you literally are the business.

  • Business contact information. If you don't have a separate business address and phone number, don't sweat it. Your personal address and phone number are just fine.

  • A federal Taxpayer Identification Number. Don't get intimidated by this term. Your Social Security number is a federal tax ID number, and if you're a sole proprietor, you can put that down. If you have employees or a formal business structure, you'll probably have an Employer Identification Number, and you can use that.

  • The industry you're in. What do you do in your business? This can be a broad category like retail, medical or professional services, or something more specific. If you're stumped for the proper way to describe it, think about the service you provide. Drive for Uber? That's transportation. DoorDash or Grubhub? That's delivery.

  • How long you've been in business. 

  • Revenue and expenses. Revenue is simply how much money you brought in from your business. Expenses are all the money you spent in to earn that money.

What you do NOT need

  • A formal business structure. The application will ask you to specify what kind of business it is. If your business is organized as a corporation, partnership or LLC, put that down. If you operate without a formal or legal business structure, that's fine, too. You can put down "sole proprietor."

  • An existing business credit history. Although businesses can have credit histories and credit scores of their own (more on that below), a separate business credit file isn't necessary to qualify for a small-business credit cards. That's because most cards require you to personally guarantee the debts of the business (also discussed below). In other words, you qualify for a small-business credit card based on your personal credit history and credit scores.

Understanding small-business credit cards

Business and consumer credit cards differ in a few critical 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, where you agree to be 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

To view rates and fees of the American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card, please visit this page.

To view rates and fees of the The Plum Card® from American Express, please visit this page.

Last updated on October 15, 2020

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