There are plenty of compelling reasons for a small-business owner to get a business credit card. These products offer unique rewards and perks designed specifically for small-business owners. However, before you apply for the card that looks like the best fit for you and your venture, you should understand what a personal guarantee is. This is a standard feature of business cards, and it would be better to learn — before you apply — that you, as an individual, are liable for any balances incurred for business expenses.

What is a personal guarantee?

A personal guarantee is a clause in a credit agreement that spells out your liability for the account. If you sign the document, you’ll form a contract with the credit issuer that you will pay the bill, out of your own assets. When searching for a business card, you’ll want to look for this clause in the fine print. You should see this clause in a business card’s terms and conditions.

For instance, for the Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, the personal guarantee clause is listed in the Pricing & Terms section: “Individual and Company Liability: You understand that by responding to this offer you agree to be personally responsible, both individually and jointly with the Company, for payment of all balances incurred on all cards and accounts issued pursuant to this application now or whenever such additional accounts may be established in the future. You understand that if you leave the employment of the Company, you will continue to be responsible for the outstanding balances on the accounts. You must notify us immediately to close the accounts and prevent further usage.”

As you can see, this is a serious clause. In the event that you falter, stop making payments and the account goes into default, the issuer can (and will) turn to you for total repayment. It wouldn’t matter that the charges weren’t for your own needs but for your company’s expenses — you’re considered one and the same for this purpose.

Why does a business card require a personal guarantee?

The reason business credit card issuers include a personal guarantee is that most of these products are unsecured. That means there is no collateral for the issuer to claim if the account goes into default. Since credit lines on business cards can be very high, extending the credit lines is risky. The personal guarantee lowers that risk.

Therefore, if you’re getting a business credit card, you’ll need to be comfortable with this aspect and use your business card very carefully. Only charge when you’re sure you can make the payments, and try to keep the balance well below the credit limit.

Also, be aware that, depending on the issuer and account, a business card can affect your personal credit. In most cases, the issuer will send the account information to the three major credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Consequently, that account will be factored into your credit scores, such as FICO Score and VantageScore.

Can you get a business card without a personal guarantee?

If you are really uncomfortable with the personal guarantee, there are a few business credit cards that do not require a personal guarantee. Business credit cards that don’t require a personal guarantee typically require high annual revenues to qualify instead. For example, the Office Depot® Business Credit Account* requires corporations to be in business for more than three years with more than $5 million in annual revenue.

Then there’s the Brex 30 Card, which is not available to sole proprietors or unincorporated partnerships. Further, Brex outlines a list of eligibility requirements on its website. Requirements may include meeting $1 million in annual revenue, a minimum cash balance, investment criteria or a minimum company size, among others.

The bottom line

In the end, a personal guarantee shouldn’t scare you off a top business credit card. When you open any credit card, you’ll sign a contract where you’ll pledge to treat the account according to the terms outlined. If you charge but do not make your payments as agreed, late payments will negatively affect your credit rating and the issuer can take steps to collect if it goes seriously delinquent.

But if you use a business account responsibly — with on-time payments and well-managed debt — you will enjoy all of the great aspects of a business credit card. You’ll create and sustain a positive credit history and build your business credit, all while protecting your personal credit.

*All information about the Office Depot® Business Credit Account has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.