Small business owner applying for credit card

How to Apply for a Business Credit Card

4 min read • Dec 11, 2019 • Elizabeth Aldrich

Whether you’re looking to finance a big purchase, earn rewards, or improve your business credit score, a business credit card can help you take your business to the next level.

However, taking the next steps toward opening your first business credit card can feel intimidating. You might not know what your business credit score is, what you need to qualify for one, or what to look for in a business credit card. Here’s everything you need to know about applying for a business credit card.

Check Your Credit Score

Before choosing and applying for a business credit card, you should know your credit score. Your personal credit score and your debt-to-income ratio are the deciding factors in whether or not you’ll be approved for any credit card, business or personal.

Your business may also have a business credit score. If you’ve ever taken out a business loan or opened a business credit card, there’s a good chance that you have one. While your personal credit score is generally more important for a credit card application, having a good business credit score certainly can’t hurt.

Before applying for a business credit card, check your business credit score and your personal credit score. You’re entitled to a free personal credit report each year from all 3 credit bureaus.

Once you know where your credit stands, you’ll be able to determine which business credit cards you qualify for. Check the credit requirements before applying, and only apply to credit cards likely to approve you. Each credit card application results in a hard pull on your credit report, and while 1 or 2 of these won’t destroy your credit, too many in a short time could significantly decrease your score.

Features to Look for in a Business Credit Card

Business credit cards are not created equally. You’ll find travel business credit cards, some of which come with big signup bonuses, business credit cards with no annual fee, and cash back business credit cards, to name a few. When deciding which business credit card to apply for, it’s important to consider the features and terms that come along with each card. Look for some of these features:

  • Low or no annual fee
  • Low interest rate
  • Generous signup bonus
  • Rewards that align with your spending habits
  • Discounts on business services
  • Cell phone and/or rental car insurance
  • Travel perks

Keep in mind that no one credit card will have all of these features. Some business credit cards come with excellent rewards but a high interest rate. Others may offer you low interest but no perks. Some premium credit cards come with steep annual fees, but if you’re able to take advantage of the perks they offer, the card easily pays for itself. You have to decide what’s right for you.

If you think you might carry a balance on your credit card, whether you’re planning to use it to finance a major purchase or just suspect that you won’t be able to pay it off in full some months, you should prioritize business credit cards with the lowest interest rates. On the other hand, if you’re certain you’ll be able to pay off the balance in full each month, you can prioritize high-value rewards, discounts, and other benefits.

In terms of rewards, frequent travelers will want to look for cards that offer airline miles or hotel points, travel or rental car insurance, and perhaps even airport lounge access. Business owners who rarely travel should look for cash back rewards and benefits like cell phone insurance.

Apply for a Business Credit Card

If you’ve found the business credit card that’s right for you, you’ve gotten the hard part out of the way. Now, it’s time to complete your application.

1. Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Before applying for a business credit card, it’s smart to get an EIN from the IRS if you don’t already have one. This number is used to identify your business, and using it on your credit card application ensures that your business credit card activity is helping you build your business credit score. You can apply for an EIN online in minutes.

2. Double-Check Terms and Conditions.

Before hitting “apply,” take note of any terms and conditions, special offers, or promotions mentioned on the credit card homepage. You might want to screenshot offers like signup bonuses or interest rate promotions. This precaution will leave you with proof of having received the offer if, for some reason, the bank doesn’t honor it later.

3. Complete the Application.

Most business credit card applications take 5 to 15 minutes to complete and ask for both personal and business information. You’ll need to provide your personal and business address, your gross annual income, business revenue, industry, years in business, Social Security number, and EIN.

Once you’ve finished your business credit card application, you should receive a decision within 7 to 10 business days—if you aren’t notified immediately.

Remember to always pay your credit card bill in full whenever possible to avoid accruing interest fees. Business credit cards can be helpful tools when used responsibly, but they can also land you in unmanageable debt.


Elizabeth Aldrich

Elizabeth is a freelance writer covering personal finance, business, and travel. Her writing has appeared in The Motley Fool, Business Insider, Yahoo! Finance, LendingTree, Student Loan Hero, FOX Business, and more.