Best business credit cards for startups

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Newer small businesses and startups can benefit from a dedicated business credit card in more ways than one. A business line of credit can be a valuable tool for startups when cash flow is tight, and business owners also get the chance to earn rewards and score important cardholder benefits. Not only that, but some business credit cards for startups even offer introductory 0 percent APRs for a limited time, which can help small companies save money on interest while they finance inventory and other startup expenses.

While it’s easy to assume you need to be in business for years to qualify for a business credit card, that’s not necessarily the case. Generally speaking, your personal credit rating and income will determine which business credit cards you can qualify for.

If you’re a newer business owner looking for a startup business credit card, you’ll want to compare all the best options on the market today. Consider Bankrate’s top business credit cards for startups in 2021:

Best business credit cards for startups of 2021

Capital One Spark Cash for Business: Best for cash back

  • Earn a $500 bonus when you spend $4,500 on your card within three months of account opening
  • Earn 2 percent cash back on all purchases
  • $95 annual fee (waived the first year)
  • Free employee cards
  • No foreign transaction fees

The Capital One Spark Cash for Business makes it easy for startups to access credit and earn cash back rewards. This card grants business owners a flat 2 percent cash back for each dollar they spend and the rewards you can rack up are unlimited. You also get free employee cards, and you won’t pay foreign transactions on purchases made abroad.

When it comes to redeeming rewards, cash back earned with this card can be used for statement credits or cash back in any amount. A $95 annual fee applies to this card, but it’s waived the first year. This means you get an entire year to try out the cardholder benefits and rack up as much in rewards as you can before you have to pay the annual fee.

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card: Best flexible travel rewards

  • Earn 100,000 bonus points when you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases with your card within three months of account opening
  • Earn 3X points on up to $150,000 spent on select online advertising, travel, shipping purchases and internet, cable and phone purchases each account anniversary year (then 1X points) and 1X points on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Free employee cards

The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card starts new cardholders off with the most generous bonus offer we’ve ever seen among Chase business credit cards. New cardholders can earn 100,000 points worth $1,250 in travel redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards when they spend $15,000 within three months of account opening. Meanwhile, they also get the chance to earn 3X points on up to $150,000 spent each account anniversary year on travel and select business categories for startups, which can add up quickly over time.

Also, keep in mind that rewards earned with this card fall within the Chase Ultimate Rewards universe. This means you can cash in your points for gift cards, merchandise, experiences or travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, which partners with Expedia. Even more interesting is that you can transfer these points to popular airline and hotel partners like Southwest Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, Marriott Bonvoy and Emirates at a 1:1 ratio.

A $95 annual fee applies with this card, but you do get free employee cards and no foreign transaction fees.

Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card: Best intro zero interest offer on purchases

  • Earn $750 in bonus cash when you spend $7,500 on your card within three months of account opening
  • Earn an unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on everything you buy
  • Introductory 0 percent APR on purchases for 12 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.24 percent to 19.24 percent
  • No annual fee
  • Free employee cards

Few business credit cards for startups offer an introductory 0 percent APR, yet the Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card extends new cardholders this benefit on purchases for 12 months (13.24 percent to 19.24 percent variable APR thereafter). This gives business owners a full year to finance inventory, machinery or office supply costs without having to pay interest on their purchases. However, you should note that the regular variable APR applies to remaining balances once 12 months are up.

The rewards you can earn with this card are also generous, and that’s especially true since this business credit card doesn’t charge an annual fee. Not only will you earn a flat 1.5 percent back on all purchases you make, but you can earn a $750 bonus when you spend $7,500 on your card within three months of account opening. Like some other business credit cards for startups in our ranking, the Ink Business Unlimited also gives free employee cards.

Capital One Spark Classic for Business: Best for average or fair credit

  • Earn an unlimited 1 percent cash back on every purchase
  • No annual fee
  • Free employee cards
  • Available for business owners with fair credit

The Capital One Spark Classic for Business is available to those with just “fair” credit scores, whereas most business credit cards require very good or excellent credit. This means that you may be able to get approved for this startup business credit card if you have a FICO score as low as 580.

That’s good news for business owners who want the chance to access a line of credit while they earn rewards, even though the flat 1 percent rewards rate is lower than some competing cards. Cardholders also get free employee cards and no foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad. Other cardholder benefits you receive include roadside assistance, extended warranties and purchase protection against damage or theft.

Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card: Best secured option for bad credit

  • Earn 1.5 percent cash back on each dollar you spend, or 1X points per dollar spent and 1,000 bonus points when your company spend is $1,000 or more in any monthly billing period
  • No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Up to 10 free employee cards
  • Available to businesses with little to no credit history

Business owners with no credit history or a low credit score may have to get started with a secured credit card for business, a type of business credit card that requires collateral. The Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card lets you secure a line of credit worth $500 to $25,000 in exchange for a cash deposit, and you get the chance to build your credit score and earn rewards along the way.

Not only does this card let you rack up cash back or rewards points, but you get free employee cards and no foreign transaction fees. You won’t pay an annual fee, either.

How to choose the best credit card for your startup

The best business credit cards for startups tend to have a specific feature that helps them stand out, whether that’s a generous rewards program, unique cardholder perks or 0 percent APR for a limited time. If you’re unsure how to choose the right card for your needs, here are a few tips that can help.

Check your credit score

First, you should take the time to check your credit score for free. Doing so can help you determine where you stand in terms of your credit, which can help you figure out the type of business credit card you may be able to qualify for.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to check your credit score online without paying a fee.

Determine the type of rewards you want to earn

Also, compare business credit cards for startups and their respective rewards programs, keeping in mind that some points work differently than others. For example, some business cards let you rack up cash back that can be redeemed for statement credits or a check in the mail, whereas other cards let you earn points good for travel, gift cards and even transfers to airline and hotel partners.

See if you could benefit from 0 percent APR

Before choosing a startup business credit card, you should also decide if you plan to carry a balance—even for a while. If you would like the chance to pay down some of your purchases without interest over time, then business credit cards that offer an introductory 0 percent APR on purchases could be your best bet.

Frequently asked questions about business credit cards for startups

Not quite ready to sign up for a startup business credit card? These frequently asked questions and answers can help you learn more.

How do business credit cards work?

Business credit cards work similarly to personal credit cards since they extend a line of credit business owners can use to make purchases. Meanwhile, business credit cards also let cardholders rack up rewards on their spending, and many come with important benefits like purchase protection, extended warranties or no foreign transaction fees.

With business credit cards, card issuers make money by charging annual fees and interest on your purchases when you carry a balance from month to month.

How can I apply for a business credit card?

You can apply for a business credit card online and from the comfort of your home. All you have to do is search Bankrate for a business credit card you’re interested in, then click “apply now” to begin the online application process.

What do I need to qualify for new business credit cards?

If you have an Employer Identification Number (EIN), then you can use it to apply for a business credit card along with your Social Security number. If you do not have an EIN, you can still apply for a business credit card as a sole proprietor using just your Social Security number.

When you apply for a business credit card, you’ll also need to share details like how long you have been in business and your business income.

How does a business credit card affect my personal credit score?

Most business credit cards won’t report your credit balances and payments to your personal credit report unless you default on your bill. With that being said, your personal credit score will be considered when you apply for a business credit card, and you’ll have a hard inquiry placed on your personal credit report during the process.

The bottom line

If you’re a business owner who is considering a dedicated business credit card, make sure to compare all the top offers available today based on their fees, rewards programs, cardholder benefits and eligibility requirements. While all the card options that made our ranking are good ones, the best business credit card for startups can vary depending on the type of business applying, the cardholder benefits they need and the type of rewards they want to earn.

The information about the Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card and Capital One Spark Classic for Business has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson began her career working in the funeral industry, which may make you wonder why she works in personal finance now. Yet, the funeral industry taught the author everything she needs to know about the value of one's money and time. Johnson left the mortuary business a decade ago in order to explore her passion for personal finance and travel the world, and since then, she and her husband have built a debt-free lifestyle that has them on the path to retire very wealthy in their 40s. Holly's love of budgeting also led to the creation of her debt payoff book, “Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love."