Startups are a little different from traditional small businesses. In general, the intention of these young companies is to make waves with a groundbreaking product or service. If you are one such entrepreneur, a credit card that can fulfill your company’s unique needs will be essential.

The right business credit card for a startup will give your company access to capital, flexible financing terms and perks that will help you start your business and connect with clients around the globe. You’ll also be able to build your business’s credit separately from your personal credit, which can help if you ever apply for a business loan.

So which business credit card aligns best with your startup? As always, that depends on what you most want from the account.

Best business credit card Reward highlight Annual fee APR Bankrate score
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card 1x-3x $95 20.24% – 25.24% Variable 4.5
American Express Business Gold Card 1x-25% $295 18.49% – 26.49% Variable 4.4
American Express Business Platinum Card 1x-5x $695 18.49% – 26.49% Variable 4.8
Ink Business Cash® Credit Card 1%-5% $0 17.49% – 23.49% Variable 4.6
Capital One Spark Cash Select 1.5%-5% $0 18.99% – 26.99% Variable 3.0
U.S. Bank Business Platinum Card N/A $0 16.24% – 25.24% Variable N/A
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card 3x-7x $0 19.99%-28.99% Variable 4.6
Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business 1% $0 28.49% (Variable) N/A

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Best for its sign-up bonus

  • Rewards: 3X points on the first $150,000 you spend on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year, then 1X points; 1X points on all other purchases
  • Welcome bonus: 100,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 on purchases in your first three months
  • Annual fee: $95
  • Regular APR: 20.24 percent to 25.24 percent variable

If you’re running a startup, you’re probably no stranger to budget constraints. If you can use every dollar you can get, a credit card that gives you a big welcome bonus will be helpful. With the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, you can earn a sign-up bonus of 100,000 points (after spending $15,000 on qualifying purchases within three months from account opening), which is worth $1,000 in cash. If you use the points for travel expenses by redeeming them through Chase Ultimate Rewards, they’ll be worth even more — up to $1,250. Given this card’s modest annual fee, that’s extremely generous.

To get the bonus, you’ll need to meet the spending requirement, so consider what you’ll charge and how you’ll manage the bill. You’ll want to pay the debt off by the due date to reap the full benefit of the sign-up bonus, so plan ahead.

Pros

  • Comparatively low annual fee
  • Employee cards come at no additional cost
  • Various travel and purchase protection benefits, including the coveted cellphone protection

Cons

  • Welcome bonus spending requirement and timeframe may be too much for some small businesses

American Express Business Gold Card: Best for flexible payment arrangements

  • Rewards: 4X points on up to $150,000 per year in two select categories your business spends the most in each billing cycle; 2X points on rental cars booked through AmexTravel.com
  • Welcome bonus: 70,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $10,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months
  • Annual fee: $295
  • Regular APR: 17.99 percent to 25.99 percent variable

Need to pay for a big marketing campaign or extra research and development but don’t have the money for it at this moment? The American Express® Business Gold Card is a charge card, so there is no preset credit limit, and you can pay for exceptionally large purchases.

At the end of your billing cycle, you can pay the entire balance in full with no interest added or use the Amex Pay Over Time plan. If you choose Pay Over Time, you can split up the cost of a large purchase into monthly installments with interest. This card combines the advantage of a high-limit charge card with a credit card that allows for revolving balances, making it great for startups with potentially large purchases on the horizon.

Pros

  • No preset credit limit
  • Despite being a charge card, ability to carry a balance with Amex’s Pay Over Time
  • Travel insurance benefits, like trip delay and baggage delay insurance

Cons

  • $295 annual fee
  • Lacks more premium travel perks, like lounge access or travel statement credits, despite its high fee

American Express Business Platinum Card: Best for travel

  • Rewards: 5X points on flights and prepaid hotels; 2X points on prepaid rental cars when booked via AmexTravel.com; 1.5X points per dollar spent (on up to $2,000,000 per calendar year) on key purchases of $5,000 or more (electronics goods, retailers, software and cloud service providers, construction materials, hardware supplies and shipping providers); 1X points on all other purchases
  • Welcome bonus: 120,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months
  • Annual fee: $695
  • Regular APR: 17.99 percent to 25.99 percent variable

If you travel quite a bit for your startup business, you’ll want a credit card that can help you travel economically while remaining comfortable. The Business Platinum Card® from American Express is dense with valuable benefits that can help you do both, such as up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year toward qualifying airline fees at one qualifying airline. Cardholders also get up to $189 back per year on Clear membership, up to $100 in statement credits toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and complimentary access to 1,300+ of the finest airport lounges in the world (including access to Amex Centurion lounges).

These benefits extend to accommodations, too. Cardholders automatically get Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors elite status, which grants you access to free room upgrades, breakfast and late checkout. And if you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership, the 120,000 Membership Rewards points welcome bonus will be yours, which can pay for several business flights. Note, of course, all of these great perks come with a hefty $695 annual fee.

Pros

  • Fantastic first-year welcome bonus (with a value that can be boosted using Amex Travel’s Airline Bonus feature)
  • More than $2,534 in annual statement credits related to travel, business needs and more
  • High spending limit on key business purchases

Cons

  • Exceptionally high annual fee
  • $350 fee each year for each authorized user (recently increased from $300)

Ink Business Cash Credit Card: Best for cash back

  • Rewards: 5 percent cash back on the first $25,000 on office supplies and telecommunications each account anniversary year; 2 percent back on the first $25,000 in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year; 1 percent back on everything else
  • Welcome bonus: $900 bonus cash back when you spend $6,000 on purchases in your first three months
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 17.49 percent to 23.49 percent variable

Most startups require a physical workspace. So, if you’re creating such a space, a business credit card that earns major cash rewards on office supplies and telecommunications bills is key. The Ink Business Cash® Credit Card offers 5 percent cash back on the first $25,000 you spend at office supply stores, as well as on internet, cable and phone services every year. If you max those rewards out, they’ll total $1,250 in cash. You also earn 2 percent back at gas stations and restaurants on the first $25,000 in combined spending each account anniversary year — and if you max that out, you’ll earn $500. Anything else will score you 1 percent cash back.

Additionally, you get access to a 0 percent intro APR on purchases for 12 months (followed by a 17.49 percent to 23.49 percent variable APR), should you have a large purchase on the horizon.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Zero-interest offer on new purchases
  • Solid cash back rewards and welcome offer for a no-annual-fee business card

Cons

  • Spending caps might be too lower for higher-spending businesses
  • Unlike most other cards on this list, there’s a 3 percent foreign transaction fee

Capital One Spark Cash Select – 0% Intro APR for 12 Months: Best for financing with less-than-excellent credit

  • Rewards: 5 percent cash back on hotel stays and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; 1.5 percent back on all purchases
  • Welcome bonus: None
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 18.99 percent to 26.99 percent variable

A startup’s first year can be expensive, which is especially challenging because it can take a while to become profitable and secure funding. For that reason, many startup founders take on debt in the first year. With the Capital One Spark Cash Select – 0% Intro APR for 12 Months, you’ll have 12 months of 0 percent intro APR on new purchases (followed by a 18.99 percent to 26.99 percent variable APR). All you need to do is make your minimum payments each month and pay off the whole balance before the introductory period ends, and your charges will be free of interest costs.

As you charge, you’ll also earn an unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on everything you spend (plus 5 percent back on hotel stays and rental cards booked through Capital One Travel). This card also has less challenging qualification requirements compared to many other business cards — its credit requirement is “good,” while many other business cards require excellent credit.

Pros

  • You can qualify with a good credit score (670 and up)
  • Zero-interest offer on new purchases
  • No annual fee

Cons

  • No first-year welcome bonus

U.S. Bank Business Platinum Card*: Best for a balance transfer

  • Rewards: None
  • Welcome bonus: None
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 16.24 percent to 25.24 percent variable

If you’ve already acquired a sizable amount of debt for your startup and don’t have the cash to quickly pay it off, a balance transfer credit card could be instrumental in keeping costs to a minimum. The U.S. Bank Business Platinum Card offers a 0 percent intro APR for the first 18 billing cycles on both balance transfers and purchases made within the first 30 days of opening the card (followed by a 14.99 percent to 23.99 percent variable APR), making it one of the best business balance transfer credit cards on the market.

Outside of the balance transfer fee of 3 percent ($5 minimum), no financing costs will be added to the balance, so every month your debt will decrease by the same amount as your payment. Just be careful to adhere to its terms, since the deal will end prematurely and the regular rate (or higher) will begin if you pay late, make a payment that is returned or your account exceeds its credit limit.

Pros

  • One of the longest zero-interest offers on the market for business cards
  • Free employee cards
  • No annual fee

Cons

  • No ongoing rewards or first-year welcome bonus
  • 3 percent balance transfer fee ($5 minimum)
  • 3 percent foreign transaction fee

The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Best for Hilton Loyalists

  • Rewards: 7X points for each dollar on eligible purchases charged directly with hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio, 5X points at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and U.S. restaurants and 3X points on all other purchases
  • Welcome bonus: 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 19.99 percent to 28.99 percent variable APR

If you travel for business and are loyal to the Hilton portfolio of hotels, then the Hilton Honors American Express Business card offers excellent rewards for your loyalty. The card includes an automatic upgrade to Elite status for Hilton Honors members and an impressive 80,000 membership rewards welcome offer if you spend $1,000 within the first three months of account opening — and its lack of an annual fee only sweetens the deal. When you use the business card for expenses, you’ll earn 7X points for each dollar on eligible purchases charged directly with hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio, 5X points at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and U.S. restaurants and 3X points on all other purchases, giving you plenty of opportunities to accumulate points towards future travel.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Generous welcome offer
  • Impressive rewards for loyalty to the Hilton brand

Cons

  • Rewards rate is not as high as other Hilton Honors credit card rewards
  • No introductory APR offers

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business: Best for Fair Credit

  • Rewards: 1 percent unlimited cash back for all business purchases
  • Welcome bonus: None
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 28.49 percent variable

If you have a fair credit rating or are working towards building your credit profile, the Capital One Spark Classic for Business is worth consideration. This card has no annual fee and includes unlimited 1 percent cash back on all purchases, making it a straightforward, no-nonsense approach to earning rewards. The card also offers bonus rewards on select travel, including 5 percent cash back on hotels and rental cars when booked through Capital One Travel, making it a decent selection for business travelers.

Pros

  • Unlimited cash back potential, making it easy to track rewards
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • No introductory APR offers
  • Higher APR on purchases and balance transfers

How to get a business credit card for your startup

When your business is getting off the ground, obtaining credit can be an enormous obstacle. Keep the following in mind to make the process a little easier:

  • Have your important documents ready: A business card will require business information, such as Tax ID number, business name, legal structure, plus financials and ownership information.
  • Understand the personal guarantee: You’ll likely be required to sign a personal guarantee, which means you still have to pay for the business debt, or the credit card company will use your personal assets.
  • Know the income requirements: The good news is that your business usually doesn’t need to show earned revenue to qualify for approval. You can use your personal information (such as personal income) to help you qualify.
  • Select the card most suited to the business expenses: It’s worth taking the time to research the available business cards and select the one that rewards for the spending you’re likely to do anyways. Be sure to review the cost of the card, such as annual fees, to determine if the benefits outweigh the potential costs.

The bottom line

Business credit cards are worthwhile tools for startups, and the key is to choose the right one for you and your company — then to manage it responsibly. After all, while your business may be disruptive, your credit card should be constructive.

As always, before you apply, consider our picks for the best small-business credit cards, as there might be additional options that suit your business needs as well as your wants.

Business credit cards for startups FAQ

    • Yes. However, while your startup doesn’t need to be generating revenue, you will have to prove that you have an income source that is sufficient to satisfy the monthly payments on the credit line.
    • Business credit cards for people with bad credit, such as the Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card*, are the easiest to obtain due to lower credit score requirements.
    • No. As a sole proprietor, you can apply for a small-business credit card. You would use your Social Security number rather than an employer identification number (EIN).
    • You will almost certainly be liable for the debt since most business cards require a personal guarantee. If you don’t make your payments on time, your credit reports will show delinquencies, which will lower your credit score. If the accounts go into default, you can be sued for the amount outstanding, or the credit issuer will send the account to collections.

The bottom line

Business credit cards are worthwhile tools for startups. The key is to choose the right one for you and your company — and then to manage it responsibly. After all, while your business may be disruptive, your credit card should be constructive.

As always, before you apply, consider our picks for the best small-business credit cards, as there might be additional options that suit your business’s needs (and wants).

*The information about the U.S. Bank Business Platinum Card and Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.