Key takeaways

  • It is possible to get a business credit card without owning a business if you earn money independently, such as through freelance writing or driving for rideshare apps.
  • Typically, on your business card application, you can list yourself as the sole proprietor in the business tax identification number section. Further, you can list your Social Security number rather than a tax ID number.
  • Some card applications may require you to mail in additional documents for approval, such as income information.

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 if you 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 nontraditional 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. You don’t have to have a registered LLC or corporation in order to apply for a business credit card. If, on the credit card application, you come across a section asking for your “business tax identification number,” you can list yourself as the sole proprietor. And typically, you can enter your Social Security number instead of a tax ID number.

Business credit card requirements

If you have a registered business, including an LLC, you’ll apply using your business information, including your Federal Tax ID number, 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 age 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.

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, including the following:

  • Chances are you have some business-related expenses you could be earning travel rewards or cash back on. For example, as a rideshare 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 may be able to earn additional rewards by meeting a minimum spending requirement within the first few months of account opening.
  • Maintaining separate business and personal credit cards can help you remain organized. Not only will you have a better handle on your spending, but having all of your expenses on the business credit card will help when you have to reconcile your books and pay your taxes.
  • While your personal credit score is considered when you apply for a business credit card, you 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, your business credit score will improve over time, increasing your eligibility for other business credit products in the future.
  • Many of the top business credit cards offer specialized perks, such as cellphone 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. Often, the business credit cards with the most perks charge high annual fees. For example, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express comes with a hefty $695 annual fee. But if you’re unsure how often you’ll be charging purchases to your card, or whether you’ll really use the perks, consider a business credit card with no annual fee.

Of course, every card you get must be handled properly, and management takes time and attention. Regardless of the size of your business, it’s best to maintain a low balance so fees don’t eat into your proceeds, and always pay your monthly bill on time to protect your credit rating.

Best business credit cards for nontraditional businesses

Here are our picks for the best business cards for businesses that involve road trips, creative work, e-commerce and air travel.

  • For a $125 annual fee, the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® 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. Cardholders also earn 6X points for eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels; 4X points at restaurants worldwide, with U.S. shipping providers and U.S. wireless phone services; and 2X points on other eligible purchases.

    When you’re on the road, you can take advantage of the “Free Night Award” that you get every year after your card renewal month (worth up to 35,000 points) and an additional free night after you charge $60,000 in a calendar year.
  • If your business involves making and selling things, a card that allows you to purchase a wide variety of items while earning a range of rewards will be right up your alley.

    The Ink Business Cash® Credit Card from Chase offers 5 percent cash back on the first $25,000 you spend at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year, so review all the items you may need from the qualifying office supply stores to see if it’s a good fit. You may be able to use this benefit to 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 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year, and 1 percent back on all other purchases. Best of all, there’s no annual fee.
  • If your business involves big spending on items from the world’s largest online retailer, the Amazon Business Prime American Express Card* might make a lot of sense.

    For no annual fee, it allows you to earn 5 percent back or 90-day terms on purchases at Amazon Business, AWS, and Whole Foods with an eligible Prime membership (on up to $120,000 in 5 percent categories purchases per calendar year, then 1 percent). You’ll get 2 percent back at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations and on wireless telephone services purchases directly from U.S. service providers as well as 1 percent back on all other purchases.
  • Maybe your business involves a substantial amount of air travel. For business travelers, the Business Platinum Card from American Express is a popular choice.

    As noted above, you’ll pay a $695 annual fee to carry this card, but in return, the rewards and benefits are impressive. You’ll earn 5X Membership Rewards points on flights and prepaid hotel bookings through, 2X points on other travel booked through and 1.5X points on both purchases of $5,000 or more and on select category purchases (on up to $2 million spent per calendar year on these purchases). All other eligible purchases earn 1X points.

    You can further boost the value of your points by transferring to American Express airline and hotel partners. According to the latest Bankrate points and miles valuations, Amex Membership Rewards points at around 2.0 cents apiece on average when you transfer to a high-value travel partner — meaning the 120,000 points offered as the card’s welcome bonus (after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases in the first three months) could be worth around $2,400.

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.

*The information about the Amazon Business Prime American Express Card has been collected independently by The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.