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- The best business credit cards on the market today typically require good to excellent credit, or a FICO score of 670 to 850
- Business owners with bad personal credit might only be able to qualify for a secured business credit card, which requires putting down a security deposit
- To qualify for an unsecured business credit card, business owners with bad credit will likely need to work on improving their credit first
Although an impressive credit history and a high credit score aren’t requirements to start a business, they are tools in your arsenal that can definitely help launch your success. After all, you may eventually want to borrow money from a financial institution to pay for the costs of a launch, manage ongoing operations and more. With a high credit score and a lengthy credit history in your profile, most lenders will like what they see.
To appeal to a lender, however, your past business credit history will be relevant. If your business has yet to start, you won’t have a business credit profile that can help you qualify for credit products. And lenders may assess your personal creditworthiness to determine qualifications and set terms. This is also where you’ll run into issues if you have bad personal credit due to mistakes you’ve made in the past.
What credit score is required for a business credit card?
As you begin looking for ways to build business credit, you’ll notice that many business credit cards rely on your personal credit and require a personal guarantee. A personal guarantee ensures that, if your business doesn’t succeed, you are still legally responsible for paying the debt out of your personal funds. It lessens the risk of your creditor in extending credit to you.
The best business credit cards on the market today require good credit to excellent credit — or a FICO score of 670 or higher. Business credit cards with exceptional rewards and perks may even require a credit score of 700 or higher.
You can find business credit cards for fair credit, as well as business credit cards that don’t require a credit check at all. As an example, the Capital One Spark 1% Classic* requires at least fair credit — or a FICO score of 580 to 669. For business owners with poor credit, the Revenued Business Card may be an option. This card doesn’t require a hard credit check at all, and it offers cash back on all purchases.
Build up your personal credit score
To know what is dragging your credit scores down, pull up your credit reports. You can get a report from each of the three credit reporting agencies — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — once per week through a federally-backed website called AnnualCreditReport.com.
The information listed in the sections for trade lines, public records and credit inquiries of your credit reports are all inputted into scoring models, so read your reports carefully. If you spot any errors, you can file a dispute with each credit bureau report that lists incorrect information, as well as the company that is reporting the incorrect information in the first place.
To improve your credit score — even if your report includes negative data — be sure to:
- Pay all credit accounts on time. Although late payments hurt credit scores — especially when there are many late payments or the accounts are seriously delinquent — establishing a perfect payment history from this point forward will help mend the damage.
- Reduce credit card debt. If you have credit cards and they’re maxed out, reduce the balance to well below the credit limit. Most experts recommend owing less than 30 percent of your available credit limit — or less than $3,000 for every $10,000 in revolving credit limits you have access to.
- Consider opening a personal credit card. You can find many credit cards for people with bad credit. Once you have a card, choose a small bill to charge each month, then pay it off in full and on time to build up a positive credit history.
- Add utility and cellphone accounts to your report. The more on-time payments you have on your credit report, the better. Experian offers the free Boost program that allows you to add non-credit accounts to your file. Those payments should help increase your FICO 8 credit score at least a few extra points.
With this strategy, you can build your credit over time. For the best approval odds, aim for a credit score of 700 or higher — or a credit score in the good range.
Here’s a breakdown of the FICO scoring ranges:
- Excellent — 800 to 850
- Very good — 740 to 799
- Good — 670 to 739
- Fair — 580 to 669
- Poor — 300 to 579
Find a business credit card you can qualify for
Although you can use a personal credit card for your business, it’s better to get one designed specifically for your company. After all, business credit cards offer benefits that are designed to help business owners do everything from accounting to expense management. Just be aware that any business cards you get remain your personal responsibility. Even if it’s in your business’s name, you will be on the hook for all payments and any outstanding debt.
Even if your credit is bad, there are still good business cards for people with bad credit to consider. But if you’re able to build your score to at least the good credit range, you can then start looking into the best small business credit cards on the market. Give yourself plenty of time to compare options, and make sure you can meet a business card’s requirements before submitting an application.
Be aware that some business cards are charge cards while others are credit cards. With a charge card, there is no preset credit limit and you must pay the entire balance within about 30 days of purchase. Credit cards come with a credit limit, but you can pay at least the minimum requested payment with each statement and then revolve the rest, paying interest on any balance you carry over. Ultimately, you may want one of each.
Also, almost all business cards offer rewards programs, so read over a program’s details and focus on the perks that match your spending habits and business. One card may offer an exceptional rewards value for restaurant meals, while another offers boosted rewards on office products. If you think traveling will be in your future, concentrate on a business card that gives you travel perks related to flights, airport amenities, hotels and car rentals.
It’s also worth noting that many business credit cards offer excellent sign-up bonuses, which will allow you to earn a large amount of points, cash or miles after spending a certain amount within a specific time frame after card activation.
Some business cards also offer 0 percent intro APRs on purchases for a fixed number of months, which can give you breathing room to pay for your venture’s needs before financing fees are assessed. As long as you pay the debt in full before the regular APR kicks in, you won’t pay interest on your purchase.
Finally, prepare for annual fees. Not all cards charge them, but if you can get enough perks and rewards out of an account, you’ll come out ahead.
Best business cards for people with bad personal credit
If you have bad personal credit and you need a business credit card, the following options could work for your needs.
Capital One Spark 1% Classic
- No annual fee
- Earns 1 percent cash back on everyday purchases and 5 percent cash back for purchases through issuer’s travel portal
- No foreign transaction fees
The Capital One Spark 1% Classic offers 1 percent cash back on all purchases with no annual fee required. This business credit card is also unsecured, and it’s available to people who’ve made some credit mistakes in the past.
Its starting credit limit may be as low as $300, however, depending on your credit score. If you have fair to good credit, you might want to look at a stronger card.
Bank of America Business Advantage Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured credit card
- Earns 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases
- Minimum security deposit of $1,000 required
- No annual fee
The Bank of America® Business Advantage Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured credit card is a secured credit card for businesses, so collateral is required upfront. In this case, the collateral you put down is a minimum security deposit of $1,000. This card does offer you 1.5 percent cash back on all spending, and Bank of America says it periodically reviews your account to see if you’re eligible to upgrade to an unsecured card.
Other perks you’ll get include cash flow management tools, several travel insurance benefits and free access to your business credit scores through Dun & Bradstreet.
Business Edition Secured Mastercard Credit Card
- Security deposit between $2,200 and $100,000 required
- Earn interest on your security deposit
- $39 annual fee
The Business Edition® Secured Mastercard® Credit Card from the First National Bank of Omaha lets you request your own credit limit between $2,000 and $100,000, subject to approval, with your security deposit serving as 110 percent of your credit limit amount (between $2,200 and $110,000).
A $39 annual fee applies, but this card helps small business owners seamlessly track and monitor spending. Other perks cardholders receive include cash flow management tools, mobile receipt management and discounts on QuickBooks and TurboTax.
Need more business financing? Look into loans
Credit and charge cards tend to be useful for short-term financing, while business loans are preferable for big-ticket expenses that you want to pay off over several years.
To get a business loan with the best terms, it’s best to wait until your credit is in decent shape. However, if you need to borrow a significant amount of money right away and then pay in equal installment payments, you can find startup business loans for bad credit.
Loans with no credit checks still pass through an approval process, but the lender analyzes your assets and income for approval instead of your credit history. If it appears that you can make the payments that are associated with the loan, you have a better chance of approval. Other lenders do check credit reports and scores, but the standards for qualification are low.
In either case, loans that are developed for people with bad credit tend to be smaller and come with higher interest rates than those for people who have good credit.
Whichever loan you get, simply pay it off according to the agreement. Assuming the lender sends information to the credit reporting agencies (most do, but if you get a “no credit check loan,” ask the lender to be sure), it will help your credit score grow.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Many business credit cards do a personal credit check when you apply, and most also require a personal guarantee. These are good reasons to work on improving your personal credit score before you open a business (and long after).
It depends on the creditor. Some check only one of your credit reports when you apply for a business credit card, while others check several reports. Unfortunately, you may not know which credit report creditors will use before you apply, though you can ask.
Yes. Even the best secured business credit cards require you to put down a cash deposit as collateral. While putting down collateral for a business card may not be ideal, these cards offer the convenience of using a credit card for purchases while giving you the chance to prove your creditworthiness.
The bottom line
To qualify for a business credit card (or a business loan), take action to improve your personal credit history. Shape up your FICO score, identify the best business card for your needs and consider a business loan. Take these simple steps and you’ll not only repair your bad credit, but you’re also set on the path to apply for stronger credit products for your business.
*Information about the Capital One Spark 1% Classic, Bank of America® Business Advantage Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured and Business Edition® Secured Mastercard® Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate. Card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.