Business credit cards offer some unique perks you can’t always get with personal credit cards, as well as bigger bonuses and better rewards categories in some cases. As a result, it’s easy to become entranced by all the top business credit cards on the market today. But, what happens if you don’t have a business to help you qualify?
Here’s the good news: You don’t have to have a traditional “business” or own a major corporation to get approved for a business credit card. You just need to be earning some money independently, which is pretty common in today’s gig economy. If you don’t have an employer identification number (EIN) for your side gig, you can even apply for a business credit card as a sole proprietor. Here’s what you need to know to apply for a business credit card.
Requirements for a business credit card
Still not convinced you have a business? You may be more of an entrepreneur than you think. Pretty much any income-producing hobby you have could be considered a legitimate business provided you’re doing something to earn money.
Some examples of non-traditional business ventures that could help you qualify for a business card include:
- Running a dog-walking business in your neighborhood
- Buying and selling on eBay
- Working as a virtual assistant or an independent contractor
- 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 on Etsy.com or Facebook Marketplace
These are just some of the examples that can help you qualify for a business credit card, but there are plenty of others. The point is that pretty much any time you’re pursuing income on the side can qualify as a business — at least when it comes to qualifying for a business credit card.
Why get a business credit card instead of a personal credit card?
There are a variety of reasons to pick up a business credit card for your side gig, many of which may not be obvious right off the bat. Here are some of the most important ways a business credit card could leave you better off:
- You could earn rewards on business-related spending. Chances are good you have some business-related expenses you could be earning travel rewards or cash back on. As an Uber or Lyft driver, you cover your own gas and maintenance and repairs on your car. If you’re selling crafts on Etsy, you have supplies to purchase. Not only can you earn rewards on regular spending with a business credit card, but you could also earn a big signup bonus by meeting a minimum spending requirement within the first few months of account opening.
- You can keep personal and business spending separate. If you have considerable business expenses to keep track of, it can help to have a separate business credit card. Doing so will make it easy to keep track of all your business purchases throughout the year. Plus, your purchases will all be separate from your personal spending and easy to account for come tax time.
- Build your business credit score. While your personal credit score is considered when you apply for a business credit card, you also have a separate business credit score. Business credit cards report your credit movements to the commercial credit bureaus, which can help you improve your business credit score over time.
- Business perks: Many of the top cards for business offer different perks than personal cards. The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, for example, gives cardholders cell phone insurance when they use their credit card to pay their bill. With The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, on the other hand, you can qualify for a credit up to $200 toward Dell computers along with other perks. These are just a few examples, but there are plenty more.
It’s clear that there are plenty of advantages that come with getting a business credit card, but there are a few potential downsides. For example, business credit cards with the most perks can charge annual fees up to $595. That can be a lot to handle if you don’t use your credit card’s perks often. However, you should note that there are plenty of lucrative business credit cards with no annual fee required, too.
Aside from that, having a business credit card means having yet another bill to keep up with. If you run your balance up and can’t pay it off, your business credit card could also lead to more late fees and more interest charged. At the end of the day, it’s always best to use a business credit card for convenience with the goal of paying your balance off each month. That way, you’re benefiting from rewards and cardholder perks without paying for the privilege.
How to apply for a business credit card
Applying for a business credit card is easy. If you have a registered business, including an LLC, you’ll simply 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 set-up, you can simply apply as a sole proprietor with your Social Security number instead.
Either way, you should plan to offer up 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
It’s possible that, after you apply, you’ll need to mail in some supporting information to prove you have a business. This may include information from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that proves your Tax ID number, or perhaps income information. You may also be approved automatically without any questions at all, however, so don’t let that be a deterrent.