Business credit cards offer some unique perks you can’t always get with personal credit cards, including bigger sign-up bonuses and specialized rewards categories. But are you eligible if you work for yourself as an independent contractor or freelancer, or have an occasional side gig?
In most cases, the answer is yes. To get approved for a business credit card you just need to be earning some money independently.
Here’s what you need to know about applying for a business credit card when you don’t have a traditional business.
Qualifying work for a business credit card
You may be more of an entrepreneur than you think. Any income-producing endeavor may be considered a legitimate business for a business credit card. Just a few examples of common non-traditional ventures include:
- Running a dog-walking business in your neighborhood
- Buying and selling on eBay
- Working as a virtual assistant
- Driving for ridesharing apps, like Uber or Lyft
- Delivering food with app-based companies, like DoorDash or GrubHub
- Tutoring kids in person or online
- Buying and selling antiques
- Independent consulting work
- Selling homemade items at markets or online (such as on Etsy or Facebook Marketplace)
- Working as an entertainer
- Freelance writing and editing
- Building websites
- Managing social media sites
In short, if you earn money from the work you do, you may be able to qualify for a business credit card.
Best business credit cards for non-traditional businesses
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card: Best for travel and car-related gigs
Amex’s Marriott Bonvoy Business card offers 4X points when you fuel up at U.S. gas stations, so if you’re driving people or products around all day, the rewards will accumulate fast. But that’s not all. You’ll get 6X points for eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, and 4X at restaurants, shipping providers, and on wireless phone services. Everything else will earn you 2X points.
When you’re on the road, you can take advantage of the “Free Night Award” that you get every year after your card anniversary (worth up to 35,000 points)—and an additional free night after you charge $60,000 in a calendar year. You will get 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of account opening, and up to $150 back in statement credits on eligible purchases you charge in the same timeframe.
Chase Ink Business Cash® Credit Card: Best for creative work
If your business involves making and selling things, a card option that allows you to purchase a wide variety of items and get heavily rewarded for charging them will be right up your alley. The Chase Ink Business Cash® 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) each year, so review all the items you may need from the qualifying office supply stores to see if it’s a good fit. You can purchase anything for your business, including paper, design services, photo and printing, as well as things for your home office to create the perfect environment to inspire.
You’ll also get 2 percent cash back on the first $25,000 at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year, and 1 percent back on all other purchases. The $750 welcome bonus after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first three months can buy a lot of yarn or paint, too.
Amazon Business Prime American Express Credit Card: Best for online shopping enterprises
If your business involves big spending on items from the world’s largest online retailer, the Amazon Business Prime Amex might make a lot of sense. It allows you to earn 5 percent back on purchases at Amazon Business, AWS, Amazon.com and Whole Foods. You’ll get 2 percent back at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations and on wireless telephone services, and 1 percent back on all other purchases.
This card comes with a variable APR of 14.24 percent to 22.24 percent but offers an interesting option to forgo rewards in favor of a 90-day 0 percent APR on purchases (followed by 14.24 percent to 22.24 percent variable). This may come in very handy if income is temporarily reduced. The $125 Amazon.com gift card you receive after being approved without having to meet a minimum spend is a nice touch, as well as no annual fee.
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for meeting distant clients
Maybe your business involves a substantial amount of air travel. For business travelers, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express is a very popular choice. It’s a charge card, so you do need to pay off your balance in full every month, though there is also a “Pay Over Time” feature that allows you to pay incrementally in some situations (14.24 percent to 22.24 percent variable APR).
You’ll pay a $595 annual fee to own this card, but in return the rewards and benefits are impressive. You will earn 5X points on flights and prepaid hotel bookings through AmexTravel.com, enjoy an annual $200 airline fee credit, up to $179 back per year on Clear membership and elite status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors. You’ll also enjoy top-rate airport lounge access.
A Dell credit up to $200 will also be yours every year. Moreover, you’ll enjoy 100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of opening the card.
Why get a business credit card instead of a personal credit card?
There are a variety of reasons to obtain a business credit card for your business:
Rewards on business expenses
Chances are good you have some business-related expenses you could be earning travel rewards or cash back on. For example, as a carshare or delivery driver, you may need to cover your own gas, as well as pay for the maintenance and repairs on your vehicle. If you’re selling crafts or artwork, you’ll probably need to purchase supplies.
Whatever your costs are, you can earn cash, points, or miles if the card has a rewards program. If the account offers a sign-up bonus to new cardholders, you’ll also earn a big bonus by meeting a minimum spending requirement within the first few months of account opening.
Keep personal and business spending separate
A separate business credit card can help you remain organized. Not only will you have a better handle on your spending, having all of your expenses on the business credit card will help when you have to pay your taxes.
Build your business credit score
While your personal credit score is considered when you apply for a business credit card, you can create a business credit history when your credit issuer furnishes data to the three major commercial credit bureaus—Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian. By keeping your accounts in good standing, you will improve your business credit score over time, making you more eligible for other business credit products.
Many of the top business credit cards offer specialized perks, such as cell phone insurance and cash credits for business-related products and services. It pays to get the right card for your enterprise.
What to look out for in a business credit card
Although business credit cards provide plenty of advantages, there are a few potential downsides. For example, business credit cards with the most perks can charge high annual fees. If you’re unsure about how often you’ll be charging or whether or not you’ll really use the perks, consider a business credit card that does not charge an annual fee.
And, of course, every card you get must be handled properly, and management takes time and attention. You must be sure you will maintain a low balance so fees don’t eat into your proceeds, and pay the bills on time to protect your credit rating.
How to apply for a business credit card
If you have a registered business, including an LLC, you’ll apply using your business information, including your Federal Tax ID number, which is also called an Employer Identification Number (EIN). If you run your business without a formal business setup, you can simply apply as a sole proprietor with your Social Security number instead.
Either way, prepare to submit the following information:
- Your annual business income
- The length of your business since inception
- The industry your business is in
- Your role in the company
- How many employees you have (if any)
- Your business address, even if it’s your home address
- Your business phone number, even if it’s your personal phone
Depending on the card, you may have to mail in supporting documents to prove you have a business. This may include information from the Internal Revenue Service that proves your Tax ID number, or income information. In most circumstances, though, you’ll receive notice of approval within a few seconds of applying online.
The bottom line
With so many benefits and perks, business credit cards can be just what you need to manage your costs while making your work life easier and more profitable. Whatever your business is, from a casual part-time gig to a full-time freelance profession, the right business credit card will help you stay on track and get ahead.