Think you might not need to whip out your Social Security Number (SSN) when you need a business credit card — and that your business will back it instead?
Well, possibly — but many business credit card issuers require your SSN during the application process. Credit card issuers protect themselves by making sure you can back your credit card with a personal guarantee and check your credit score using your SSN.
It’s also worth considering if you want to separate your personal and business banking. After all, you could end up hurting your personal credit if your business is ever in trouble.
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,” she says. “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.”
Read on for the most up-to-date tips on how to get a business card without an SSN.
Here’s a short list of what’s generally required on most credit card applications:
- Legal name
- Social Security Number
- Current address
- Annual income
Once you give a credit card issuer your SSN, the issuer can check your credit. Your income will determine whether you’re able to pay a credit card bill and how much credit you should be given.
Reasons you might not have a Social Security Number
Individuals born in the United States are automatically issued an SSN. This number is a unique identification number issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
You may not have an SSN for a variety of reasons beyond not being born in the U.S. You might be:
- An undocumented immigrant
- A permanent resident who hasn’t yet applied for an SSN
- A victim of credit card fraud and need a new SSN
- Unwilling to provide your SSN to get a business credit card
You might choose to attempt to get an SSN prior to getting a business credit card, particularly if you want the smoothest ride toward getting a business credit card. “Keep in mind that some banks will accept your deposits without an SSN but will not issue any form of credit. Just because one bank says no does not mean others will,” says Mike Scott, senior mortgage loan originator of Independent Bank.
Steps you’ll need to take
You cannot simply apply for and get an SSN unless you are in the U.S. legally and authorized to work in this country, adds Scott.
- You’ll need to use your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Once you have your ITIN, you can apply for an EIN, which is basically your business’s Social Security Number.
- When you receive your EIN, you can apply for a business credit card, but many lenders will be hesitant to lend to you unless your business is well-established and in a good financial position.
“Applying with only an EIN means that the lender can’t run a personal credit check on you or require you to put a personal guarantee on your spending on the card,” Tayne says.
Applying for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
Your first step is to get an ITIN because you have to have an ITIN prior to taking the next step, which is applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
An ITIN is a tax processing number available for certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouses and dependents who cannot get an SSN. Similar to an SNN, it is a nine-digit number that begins with the number nine and looks similar to an SSN (9XX-XX-XXXX).
Step 1: Complete IRS Form W-7, the IRS Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. This form requires documentation that confirms foreign/alien status and true identity for each individual.
Step 2: Attach a federal income tax return to the Form W-7. Applicants who meet one of the exceptions to the requirement to file a tax return (see the Instructions for Form W-7) must provide documentation to support the exception.
Step 3: Mail the documentation with Form W-7 to the address in the Form W-7 Instructions, present it at IRS walk-in offices or process your application through an Acceptance Agent authorized by the IRS. You can use Form W-7(SP), Solicitud de Número de Identificación Personal del Contribuyente del Servicio de Impuestos Internos, if you need a form written in Spanish.
Applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
An EIN is a nine-digit tax identification number assigned to sole proprietors, corporations, partnerships, estates, trusts, employee retirement plans and other entities for tax filing and reporting purposes. This number works almost like an SSN for your business.
Step 1: Determine whether you’re eligible for an EIN. Your principal business must be located in the United States or U.S. Territories. You must have a valid Taxpayer Identification Number to apply for an EIN. You are limited to one EIN per responsible party, or individual, per day.
Step 2: Complete the application in one sitting. You won’t be able to save and return at a later time. Your session will expire after 15 minutes of inactivity.
Step 3: Submit Your application. You’ll get your EIN immediately once you’ve completed it. You can then download, save and print your EIN confirmation notice.
How to apply for a business credit card with an EIN
Next, find a business credit card issuer that will let you apply with an EIN instead of an SSN. There are several types of credit cards you can apply for, and here are some options 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 and many don’t require an SSN and only require an EIN.
Corporate cards have stricter application rules. You have to have a certain profit margin each year, which means that if you have a brand-new startup or smaller business, you might not be able to get one.
Corporate store credit cards
Why not consider a corporate store credit card at a store you frequent regularly, such as Staples or Office Depot? Most corporate store credit cards don’t come with a personal liability requirement. Corporate store credit cards often offer specific perks like discounts on purchases, cashback options and points and rewards.
Corporate gas cards
Another tack is to apply for a corporate gas card, which allows your company to apply without a personal guarantee. You can get the Shell Business Card with your EIN if your business takes in $1 million in revenue every year and has at least three years of business history.
Prepaid business credit cards
One common stumbling block for many business owners is the “lots of revenue” requirement needed to get most business credit cards. Look into a prepaid business credit card if the amount of money your business takes in just isn’t enough to get a corporate credit card without an SSN.
A prepaid business card is just like it sounds: You prepay business cards by loading a balance onto the card so you can easily track your purchases and spend up to the amount you load on. Prepaid business credit cards are always low-risk for card issuers because they don’t require a personal guarantee or an SSN.
The downside to these types of cards is that you aren’t able to build personal or business credit. However, they’re a great solution if you have a low credit score and don’t want to tie your personal credit to your business and lower your credit score even more if your business doesn’t work out.
Benefits of having a business credit card
There are a lot of reasons you might want to opt for a business credit card. Note that like personal credit cards, business credit cards also carry interest charges and might also charge an annual fee. Look around for a business credit card with no annual fee or one with a zero percent introductory APR offer.
Here are some other reasons it could work in your favor to have a business credit card:
- Higher credit limits: Business credit cards typically carry credit limits of $50,000 or more, which makes it much easier to make major business purchases that you would not be able to make using your personal credit card or cash.
- Separate business credit: One of the most important reasons to choose a business credit card is that it’s easier to keep track of your records prior to tax time. A business credit card stands on its own, which means your personal credit rating is not reflected in your transactions. In addition, once you have a separate credit card for a small business, you no longer have to sort out business and personal transactions during tax season.
- Credit rating boost: Business credit cards can help boost your business credit rating quickly as long as you don’t misuse them and always make timely payments. Be sure you do business with suppliers who report your transactions to the credit bureaus (some suppliers don’t, so ask prior to making a final choice).
- Control of employee spending: A business credit card makes it easier to set spending limits for yourself or your employees.
- Business perks: The rewards offered on business credit cards are typically business-related and may include discounts on business travel. You might also have a major advantage if you shop at business supply outlets.
- Protecting your credit score: The last thing you want to do when you’re trying to rebuild your personal credit is to make a mistake with your business and tank your personal credit score even further. You can keep your personal credit under wraps when your personal credit isn’t tied to your business credit card.
Don’t get frustrated by an SSN roadblock
It’s important to ask yourself several questions as you consider which business credit card will work best for you. Do you want your business card tied to your personal credit? Do you prefer to put limits on spending by you or your employees? It’s important to look to the future and decide how a business credit card could impact your credit score.
Don’t be afraid to consider other alternatives to traditional business credit cards. You can look into new startups like Brex, a financial company that issues corporate charge cards to technology companies in the United States.
Brex uses an underwriting algorithm to determine your eligibility and does not require an SSN, says Becca Borawski Jenkins, editor at FinanceBuzz.com.
“The most important thing to remember is that you still have options. Educate yourself on what is available to you, consider your goals and your company’s goals and choose the credit card option that best aligns with your needs,” she says. “Don’t consider not having an SSN to be a roadblock when it comes to your financial needs; it simply means you need to explore a different path.”