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If you're starting up a company, big or small, one of your first orders of business should be finding a business credit card. The right card can help entrepreneurs and small business owners fund purchases, track expenses and keep costs low—all while earning rewards.
Whether you're opening your own small business or starting up the next unicorn, your company will likely grow beyond just one person. (If you're planning on staying solo during your business venture, check out our best credit cards for freelancers and sole proprietors.) The best business credit cards allow you to set up employee cards and build business credit so you can qualify for other types of loans down the road.
If you keep your future needs in mind while you’re choosing your business credit card, you won’t be stuck with a card that causes later hassle when you’re focused on growing. There are a number of business credit cards out there, each with their own perks and points system, and the right choice will save your time and earn you rewards over the long run. Whether you're a startup founder, contractor, restaurant owner, or run some other type of business, these seven credit cards can address your needs.
The best business credit cards
Best overall: American Express® Business Gold Card
Best for simplicity: Capital One Spark Cash for Business
Best for imperfect credit: Capital One Spark Classic for Business
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
Bank of America® Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard®
Things to know about business credit cards
Nearly every business card requires a personal guarantee, which is an agreement between the business owner and the credit card issuer. It means the issuer can go after your personal assets to satisfy any balance owed if your business defaults on the card payments—even if you leave the company. That goes for expenses you or your employees charge to the credit card.
Using your business credit card can help you build business credit, which can be useful if you need a business loan in the future. Here's a quick rundown on how it works: Business credit card issuers can report your account activity to both the personal credit reporting agencies and the business reporting agencies, such as Dun & Bradstreet and Experian. These agencies use the information in your report to create a credit score for your business, which helps lenders measure risk before extending you credit. If you're worried about this card affecting your personal credit, ask the issuer how it will report your payments (before applying for the card).
The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, better known as the CARD Act, is a law that improved consumer protections. It regulates how interest rates, fees and finance charges are calculated on credit cards and provides more transparent rules that issuers have to follow. The law doesn't extend to business credit cards, though some issuers are extending the CARD Act's protections to its business products. Get to know the card's features and terms before you apply for a business card—and ask questions—so you don't get dinged with unexpected fees.
How we evaluated
I've been working in the personal-finance space for nine years, so I know how to maximize value when it comes to your own finances and your business's. I looked at business credit cards from the major issuers and measured their benefits, rewards, costs, and how cardholders might use the card and redeem rewards.
Small-business owners may be looking to grow in the future, so they need a product that helps them build business credit, provide a high credit limit, set up employee cards and manage expenses.
And because the IRS requires business owners to categorize expenses and income for tax purposes, it’s a nice draw if the credit card offers an app that handles expense tracking for you.
Before applying for a business credit card, ask the issuer a few questions:
Will there be a fee for employee cards? Most of the cards here offer free employee cards, with the exception of the American Express cards, which, depending on the card, sometimes charge an annual fee for employees as well. The annual fee for employees is usually less than the annual fee for the primary account holder’s card.
Do points earned from employee cards accrue to the primary cardholder's account? For all cards listed here, they do.
Which perks can the employee cardholder use? Some of the included perks may only apply to the primary account holder. As always, read the fine print.
These recommendations were put together assuming the primary applicant would have average to excellent credit. However, banks have the final say on who's approved. Be prepared for the issuer to check your credit history and use its own set of criteria when evaluating your application.
Best overall: American Express Business Gold Card
This card's rewards program adjusts to your business's spending habits—a no-fuss way to supercharge your benefits—and the bonus categories have a high spending cap, which could help if you need room to make a lot of purchases and earn rewards on them.
The annual fee is $295, which is a bit more affordable than what you'll pay for The Business Platinum Card. If your expenses vary from month to month, this card could be a good fit for your business. See rates and fees.
Ongoing rewards: You’ll earn points on any employee cards you set up, for a number of expenses including travel, computer equipment, shipping, and advertising, which could go a long way in helping you get your business off the ground.
Specifically, you’ll get 4X Membership Rewards points on up to $150,000 in combined purchases in two categories where your business spent the most each billing cycle—so if your business spends $150,000 on, say, software and online advertising, the primary account will receive 600,000 points to spend in the Membership Rewards portal, or cash out into your bank account. After that, you'll earn 1 point per dollar spent. The bonus categories include:
Airfare purchased directly from airlines
U.S. purchases for advertising in select media (online, TV, radio)
U.S. purchases made directly from select technology providers of computer hardware, software and cloud solutions
U.S. purchases at gas stations
U.S. purchases at restaurants
U.S. purchases for shipping
What's more, if you book flights using points at American Express Travel, you'll get 25% of them back.
Perks: You can earn a welcome bonus of 70,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $10,000 within three months of account opening. As far as expense management goes, the card allows you to set up employee cards with customizable spending limits, transfer data from your American Express online statement directly into your QuickBooks account, and use a mobile app to add receipts and notes to transactions.
Best for simplicity: Capital One Spark Cash for Business
Not every business owner wants to spend time on complicated rewards programs and pay a high annual fee. Capital One Spark Cash For Business cardholders can enjoy a refreshingly simple rewards program with a generous cash-back rate, tools that help streamline expense management, and a $500 cash welcome bonus after spending $5,000 within three months of account opening.
If your spending doesn't fit neatly into one category, the flat 2% cash-back rate lets you maximize every purchase you make, whether it's for airfare, consulting services or a Costco run to refill the snack drawer. The annual fee is $95, though it's waived in year one.
Ongoing rewards: It's simple: You'll get 2% cash back on every purchase you make, which you can then redeem for any amount at any time with no expiration date.
Perks: Although it's not a travel-specific rewards card, cardholders still get travel-related perks like travel and emergency assistance services, an auto rental collision damage waiver, and no foreign transaction fees.
Plus, business owners can add employee cards for free and earn points on the purchases; create customized spending reports to simplify planning, budgeting and taxes; and download purchase records to multiple formats including Quicken, Quickbooks and Excel.
Best for imperfect credit: Capital One Spark Classic for Business
Many business credit cards require good to excellent credit, so business owners with fair credit may have a hard time qualifying for a card. If you fit that description, the Capital One Spark Classic for Business is a solid option. You can earn rewards with no annual fee—while building credit.
Ongoing rewards: Earn 1% cash back on all purchases, with no minimum to redeem.
Perks: Cardholders get the full suite of Capital One Spark benefits, including: free employee cards that earn points for the primary account holder, customizable spending reports, and tools to download purchase records to multiple formats including Quicken, Quickbooks and Excel.
Business Platinum Card from American Express
Though this card's annual fee is on the steep end at $595, it's a favorite among business owners because of its incredible suite of perks and point system geared toward travel purchases. See rates and fees.
You can also earn 75,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $15,000 within three months of account opening—if you plan to set up employee cards, reaching this requirement shouldn't be a problem.
Plus, business owners with a lot of expenses won't have to worry about exceeding a preset spending limit, as your spending power adjusts based on your usage and other factors.
Ongoing rewards: You’ll earn 5 points per dollar spent on airfare and prepaid hotel rooms on amextravel.com, 1.5 points on purchases of $5,000 or more, and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else. When you redeem points for flights, you'll get 35% of them back.
Perks: There's a ton of them, mostly geared toward travel. Here's a sampling of the card's lucrative benefits:
An annual travel fee credit up to $200
Gold status with Hilton Honors
Gold elite status with Marriott Bonvoy
Access to a suite of airport lounges
Up to $100 voucher for a Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee
Up to $200 annual Dell statement credits
Expense-management tools to help you track and organize expenses
Employee cards that earn points for the primary account holder and come with customizable spending limits
Roadside assistance, travel accident insurance, shopping protections, car rental loss and damage insurance, and baggage insurance
Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card
This card could be a good fit if you and your employees are always on the go and spend a lot on accommodations during business travel. When you're loyal to the Marriott Bonvoy brand and carry this card, you can earn free hotel stays and redeem points at more than 7,000 participating hotels worldwide—so chances are, there's a qualifying hotel wherever you go.
You can also earn a high rewards rate in several bonus categories and set up employee cards, which earn points for the primary account holder and come with customizable spending limits. Although the card comes with a $125 annual fee, the perks and rewards can easily make up for it. See rates and fees.
Ongoing rewards: You'll earn 6 points for every dollar spent at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels; 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services and on U.S. purchases for shipping; and 2 points per dollar spent everywhere else.
Perks: The card is stocked with them. First, through May 12, 2021, you'll get a welcome bonus of 100,000 points after spending at least $5,000 within three months from account opening. During that same time period, you can also score a $150 statement credit upon eligible purchases. Then you'll get one free hotel night every year after the annual fee is paid, and yet another free night once you spend $60,000 within a calendar year.
When it comes to travel extras, cardholders receive complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status—with the potential to upgrade to Gold depending on your spending habits. There's also a 5,000-point bonus when you transfer 60,000 points to a participating frequent flyer program.
Of course, this card comes with expense-tracking tools and protections such as extended warranty and purchase protection.
Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard
This card offers a strong cash-back program and sign-up bonus, but what sets it apart is the potential for relationship rewards. When you enroll in the Business Advantage Relationship Rewards program, you can earn an additional 25%, 50% or 75% rewards bonus on every purchase you make.
If you qualify for the highest bonus, you'll earn as much as 5.25% cash back on the category of your choice, 3.5% on dining and 1.75% on all other purchases. Your rewards grow as your qualifying Bank of America, Merrill Edge or Merrill Lynch balances increase. So whether you're a freelancer with a few thousand dollars in your business checking account or a business owner with a few high-dollar investments, you could supersize your rewards potential.
Ongoing rewards: You’ll earn 3% cash back on the category of your choice, including business-friendly options like gas stations, office supply stores, travel, TV/telecom and wireless services, and computer services or business consulting services. You’ll also earn 2% cash back on dining, and 1% on all other purchases. The bonus rates apply to the first $50,000 in combined spending in the category of your choice and on dining purchases each calendar year (1% after that).
Perks: Cardholders pay no annual fee and get a 0% intro APR for the first nine billing cycles, then it goes up to 8.99%–18.99%. Cardholders also earn a $300 sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 within 90 days of account opening. Plus, you can take advantage of free employee cards that earn points toward the primary account, a lineup of expense-management tools, and travel and emergency services.
Please note: The offers mentioned above are subject to change at any time and some may no longer be available.
Reviewed has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Reviewed and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
See rates and fees for the American Express Business Gold Card. See rates and fees for the Business Platinum Card from American Express. See rates and fees for the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card.
Other top credit card options
This article originally appeared on Reviewed: The best business credit cards of 2021: Reviewed