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Most business credit card issuers ask for your Social Security number (SSN) when you apply. This also means applying for a business credit card will result in a hard inquiry on your personal credit report, which is something not everyone wants.
Fortunately, if you are hoping to get a business credit card without revealing too much personal information, there’s a workaround to explore that allows you to pick up a business credit card with just your EIN: apply for a corporate credit card instead of a small business credit card. Corporate cards, despite having stricter application requirements, often allow applicants to apply with an Employer Identification Number (EIN) instead of an SSN.
Unfortunately, if you’re just starting your business, the corporate card trick probably doesn’t apply to you. Corporate credit cards often require high revenue and good business credit. Your other option to explore is a business credit card that doesn’t require a personal guarantee.
Here are your options when applying for a credit card with just your EIN.
Can you get a business credit card without a SSN?
In almost every case, you will fall short when applying for a business credit card without an SSN. Small business credit cards require a personal guarantee, which means that you become personally responsible for any debt that your business cannot pay off. This is why credit card issuers often check your personal credit before issuing you a business credit card — and, in order to perform a hard credit inquiry on your personal credit, they need your Social Security number.
Leslie Tayne, financial attorney and author of “Life & Debt,” says applying for a business credit card without an SSN can be an arduous process. “If you don’t have a Social Security number, you will have to fill out a great deal of paperwork and go through some bureaucracy,” says Tayne. “Even after that, you may still have a difficult time finding a business card lender that will approve you for a card without a Social Security number.”
When can you get a business card without an SSN? If you apply for a corporate credit card, you may not need to provide a personal guarantee. But corporate credit cards are different from small business credit cards, and a corporate card may not be the best fit for your business.
Not only that, but becoming eligible for a corporate card often requires annual revenue in the millions of dollars, as well as at least 15 or more users of the account within the organization. Certain business structures are also required for companies who want to become eligible for a corporate credit card, and sole proprietors and small businesses rarely make the cut.
Benefits of business credit with just an EIN
Some business owners want to apply with just their EIN instead of an SSN because they don’t want their personal credit score to affect their eligibility. Others want to keep personal and business finances separate — and to keep any potential business finance issues from negatively affecting their personal credit.
Why would a business’s financial difficulties affect your personal credit? Two reasons. First, applying for a business credit card that requires a personal guarantee means that you’ll be personally responsible for any balances added to the card. This includes credit card debt that your business cannot afford to pay off in full.
The second reason is a little more complicated. Businesses have credit scores just like individuals do, and in some cases lenders will report small business credit card activity to both the business credit bureaus and the personal credit bureaus. This means your business credit card could appear on your personal credit report. If you miss a payment on your business card or run up high balances during low-cash-flow months, your business credit card activity could hurt your personal credit score.
So when you’re considering the benefits of business credit with just an EIN, the biggest is not having to mix your personal and business finances.
What business credit cards can you get with only an EIN?
Some credit card issuers allow you to apply for a business card with an EIN instead of an SSN, although options are limited. Here are some EIN credit cards for business that are worth looking into:
Corporate business credit cards
Corporate business credit cards allow you to take on liability through your business. You may be able to get a corporate credit card without a personal guarantee. In other words, your business is liable for all of the credit card debt. In some cases, corporate credit cards don’t require an SSN, meaning you can get a business card with an EIN only.
Corporate cards have stricter application rules. In most cases only certain types of businesses are eligible, and your business may need to earn a certain profit margin each year. Many issuers extend business credit with just an EIN, but only C-corps, S-corps, LLCs or LLPs registered in the U.S. are eligible to apply. If you are a sole proprietor, you might have to work a little harder to find the right corporate card for your business.
Corporate store credit cards
Why not consider a corporate store credit card at a store you frequent regularly? Some corporate store credit cards don’t come with a personal liability requirement, making them excellent EIN credit cards. Corporate store credit cards tend to offer specific perks like discounts on purchases, cash back options and points and rewards.
Corporate gas cards
Another option is a corporate gas card or a fleet fuel card, which may allow your company to apply without a personal guarantee. For example, you can get the Shell Small Business Card with your EIN if your business takes in $1 million in revenue every year and has at least one year of business history.
Just remember that a corporate gas card or fleet fuel card will only work for purchases across a brand of gas stations and stores, so the utility of these cards is limited.
Business credit cards with no personal guarantee
Business credit cards generally require personal guarantees stating that the cardholder—not the business—is responsible for the debt on the account. For that reason, banks typically require an applicant to supply their SSN.
However, there are a few business credit cards that don’t require a personal guarantee. You may be able to use an EIN rather than a SSN when applying for these cards, but all applications are different and it’s up to the individual institution.
Alternatives to help keep business separate
Keeping your business finances separate from your personal finances makes a lot of sense. After all, maintaining separate accounts for your business can help you stay organized for tax purposes, and it can keep you from accidentally merging business expenses with your personal ones, or vice versa.
Having a separate business credit card can also help you earn rewards on specific business expenses as well as all your other spending. And some business credit cards offer perks geared specifically to businesses.
If the main driver for getting a business card with an EIN is your desire to limit any impact on your personal credit, however, you can also consider applying for a traditional business card that doesn’t report to the consumer credit bureaus. You’ll need to list your SSN on your application, but cards that fall under this umbrella won’t report your balances, your payments or other information to Experian, Equifax or TransUnion.
Reportedly, card issuers like Bank of America, Citi, PNC, U.S. Bank, BBVA and Wells Fargo do not typically report any of your business card activity to the credit bureaus — not even late payments or accounts in default.
This means that, even though you’ll have to list your SSN on your business card application, a card like the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® or the Bank of America® Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard® could be worth considering.
Other card issuers like American Express and Chase are known for only reporting business activity on your personal credit reports if your account becomes delinquent. This means a card like the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card or the American Express® Business Gold Card may have no impact on your personal credit at all unless you fall behind on your monthly payments.
Should you apply for a business card with your SSN?
Since it is difficult to get business credit with just an EIN, should you go ahead and apply for a business credit card using your SSN?
While doing so may not be ideal, this is often the best option for small businesses and sole proprietors who won’t be able to get a business card any other way. Not only can applying with your SSN get you access to a business line of credit, but you can also start building business credit and you can even begin earning rewards for each dollar you spend on your business.
Also, keep in mind you shouldn’t face any negative impact on your credit score if you use your card responsibly, never make a late payment and keep your business credit utilization ratio on the low side. These are steps you should be planning to take anyway if you hope to benefit from a business credit card over the long run.
The bottom line
Technically it is possible to get a business credit card with just an EIN, but it’s not easy and the eligibility requirements are stringent. It’s not a viable option for the vast majority of small business owners. You’re probably better off applying for a business credit card with your SSN and either choosing an issuer that doesn’t report business card activity to the consumer credit bureaus or one that only reports delinquent behavior (which you should be planning to avoid anyway).
If you apply with your SSN, you will be personally guaranteeing any debt you put onto your business card. This may not be the outcome you hoped for, but you won’t have to worry, provided you pay your bill on time and use credit responsibly.
The information about the Citibusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.