A business credit card is an ultimate tool for access to the credit you need to grow your business while also reaping in cashback, rewards, and other valuable perks to help your small business thrive. Business credit cards aren’t just limited to large enterprises: Many savvy freelancers, startups, and sole-proprietors are excellent candidates for a small business credit card.
When you use the right mix of business credit cards, you can keep your business and personal finances completely separate. A business credit card can also help small business owners save thousands each year with competitive cashback and perks designed to simplify and reward everyday business operations.
When it comes to the best credit cards for startups, we evaluated dozens of cards to find the ones that best suited new businesses. Not only did we look for cards that offer a higher rate of rewards on business category spending, but we looked at welcome bonuses and compared any annual fees and other fees each card charged. On the other side of the equation, we looked for credit cards that let you redeem rewards for either cash or travel at a competitive rate.
Best Business Credit Cards For Startups and New Businesses
This is an all-star, top-pick business credit card with one of the most lucrative welcome bonuses available on any business credit card in the marketplace. Let’s not forget to emphasize that Chase Ultimate Rewards points are arguably the most valuable credit card points out there. The bonus spending categories offered by this card are attractive and relevant for start-ups and small businesses.
Rewards: Cardmembers can earn 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent on travel, shipping, internet, cable and phone services, and advertising purchases on social media and search engines. A cardmember that takes maximum advantage of the rewards-earning potential would generate an impressive 450,000 points on combined purchases on those categories alone.
Even if redeemed for a baseline statement credit at a penny a point, 450,000 points would have a value of $4,500. Cardmembers also have the option to redeem points to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards with a 25% bonus, which would increase the value of 450,000 points to $5,625.
Savvy travelers know that the best value of Chase Ultimate Rewards points is found within the flexibility of transferring as needed to the 12 airline and 3 hotel Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners, where the value of the points can exceed more than two cents each, for a potential staggering value of $9,000+.
Benefits and Drawbacks: Significant travel protection (trip cancellation and interruption for up to $5,000 per trip), primary rental car insurance, cell phone insurance (up to $600 per claim), no foreign transaction fees and no additional cost for employee cards make this card good for more than just earning rewards. Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card has a lower annual fee compared to competitor business credit cards.
Some tech-startups or small businesses might consider the $15,000 spending requirement needed within the first 3 months of account opening in order to obtain the generous welcome bonus of 100,000 bonus points as a drawback. It is higher than other business credit cards, but the lucrative welcome bonus is certainly worth being vigilant towards completing the spending threshold.
A competitive no-annual-fee business credit card that allows cardmembers to earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase.
Rewards: The Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card simplifies earnings through unlimited 1.5% cash back so that business owners can focus on other areas of their business without having to worry about learning the ropes to earning and redeeming points. Points can be redeemed for statement credits, gift cards or travel at a 1 cent per point.
Welcome Offer: Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. The Ink Business Unlimited also offers a % intro APR on purchases for the first months, after that an APR of 13.24% – 19.24% Variable will apply.
Annual Fee: $0
Benefits and Drawbacks: This card doesn’t charge a fee for employee cards, offers extended warranty, included purchase protection for up to 120 days, the ability to combine “cash back” earnings with Chase Ultimate Rewards personal and business credit cards for maximized travel redemption potential.
However, there are a few downsides you should be aware of. The Chase Ink Business Unlimited has a foreign transaction fee and doesn’t offer bonus spending categories.
Some might argue that the card falls short of other comparable cards that offer 2% cash back (such as the with a annual fee, waived the first year) or a card that offers matched earned cash back at the end of the first year (such as the Discover it® Business Card). However, if simplicity is key, earning a straightforward 1.5% cash back with the Chase Ink Business Unlimited might be a better fit for a small business or tech startup with a lower annual expense volume without having to pay a high annual fee for a card with unlimited 2% cash back that could potentially offset the earnings.
The no-annual-fee American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card is nearly identical to The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card. The key difference is that the card’s rewards are in the form of cash back rather than Membership Rewards points.
Rewards: 2% cash back on all eligible purchases on up to $50,000 per calendar year, then 1%
Welcome Offer: $250 statement credit after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
Annual Fee: No annual fee
Benefits and Drawbacks: The card’s $0 annual fee (Terms apply. See rates and fees) and compelling 2% cash back in all categories makes it a rewarding choice for business owners that spend up to $50,000 annually.
However, since the 2% cash back rewards are capped at $50,000 in annual spending, this card might not be the best fit for all startups and new businesses that incur high expenses annually. American Express may not be as widely accepted by merchants as much as Visa or MasterCard.
The American Express® Business Gold Card offers a unique and tailored approach for businesses to generate 4 points per dollar automatically on eligible expense categories that they spend the most during each billing cycle. As time goes by, expenses can evolve throughout the stages of the business and the American Express® Business Gold Card will automatically reward the two top categories with a lucrative 4 points per dollar for the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these 2 categories each calendar year.
Membership Rewards® points are valuable and well-regarded and offer exceptional value when booking travel by transferring to airline and hotel transferred partners.
Rewards: Earn 4 Membership Rewards® points per dollar on the 2 select categories where a business spends the most each month. 1 point per dollar is earned for other purchases. The 4 point per dollar earning rate applies to the first $150,000 in combined purchases from the 2 eligible categories each calendar year. The categories include: airfare purchased directly from airlines, U.S. advertising purchases in select media (online, TV, radio), purchases made directly from select U.S. technology providers of computer hardware, software, and cloud solutions, U.S. gas stations, purchases at restaurants worldwide, and shipping.
A cardmember that takes maximum advantage of the 4 points per dollar rewards-earning potential would generate an impressive 600,000 points on combined purchases on those categories alone.
Welcome Offer: 70,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $10,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months of opening an account.
Annual Fee: $295 (Terms apply. See rates and fees.)
Benefits and Drawbacks: Cardmembers can redeem points to book flights through American Express Travel using Membership Rewards® Pay with Points and get 25% of those points back (up to 250,000 points back in a calendar year). Points can also be transferred to American Express’ airline and hotel transfer partners.
However, the $295 annual fee is high compared to other business credit cards, and the 4 points per dollar two-category spend is capped at $150,000 annually.
Known for its prestigious reputation, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (terms apply, see rates & fees.) will cost a pretty penny. However, it offers an array of premium benefits with values that can exceed the expense of the annual fee when used.
Rewards: Earn 5 Membership Rewards® points per dollar on flights and prepaid hotels through American Express Travel, Earn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year. Earn 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
Welcome Offer: 120,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases with the card within the first 3 months of card membership
Annual Fee: $695
Benefits and Drawbacks: This card is heavy on the perks. Cardholders can access to airport lounges worldwide through Priority Pass after enrollment, access American Express Centurion Lounges, and access Delta SkyClubs when flying Delta same-day. Cardholders also receive up to $200 in annual credits for incidental airline fees towards an eligible airline you select/enroll with each year, TSA PreCheck™ or Global Entry application fee reimbursement, and Gold elite status with Marriott and Hilton when you enroll.
Points can be redeemed for flights with the cardholder’s preferred airline where they’ll receive a 35% rebate up to 1,000,000 bonus points per calendar year. Additionally, points can be transferred to American Express’ airline and hotel transfer partners.
The card’s annual fee is very steep compared to others and the welcome bonus requires a large spending threshold. Rewards earning is not compelling on everyday spend with this card.
What makes the Brex Card unique amongst other small business credit cards is that the cardholder is not required to personally guarantee the debt incurred on the card. Brex makes its determination of creditworthiness based on an evaluation of a company’s available liquid capital and an assessment of investors and overall company spend.
The Brex Card is a consideration for businesses that are already capitalized but do not have a lengthy credit history. The card allows for small businesses and start-ups to build business credit as Brex partners with Dun & Bradstreet and Experian to report on-time payments.
Rewards: The Brex Card offers a few rewards earning options that you can choose as a cardholder, but the classic option awards 1 point per dollar spent on general everyday purchases and offers bonus rewards on a number of categories. The specific bonus categories are: 7 points per dollar on rideshares (Lyft, Uber, etc), 4 points per dollar for travel booked through Brex, 3 points per dollar on restaurants and 2 points per dollar on recurring software subscriptions. Cardholders can also opt to pay their bill daily in order to earn slightly elevated rewards.
Card members can redeem rewards for maximum value by transferring points to one of the airline transfer partners. Partner airlines span across the three major airline alliances and include Singapore Airlines, Air France, Qantas, Cathay Pacific and more.
Annual Fee: $0
Benefits and Drawbacks: The Brex Card does not require a personal guarantee, and there’s no security deposit or personal credit check required to apply. The card allows businesses access to higher credit limits than comparable traditional small business cards.
Card members also receive exclusive-access to a suite of valuable tools and memberships relevant to startup businesses (Salesforce, Zendesk, WeWork, Google Adwords, AWS, etc.). Additionally, the card is designed to simplify expense reconciliation with compatibility to Quickbooks, Expensify, Xero and more.
The major drawback is that a business must have between $50,000 – $100,000 available in liquid capital to apply, and the Brex Card is a charge card rather than a credit card, meaning that the balance is due in full and on time each billing cycle.
How to Pick a Credit Card for Your Business
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the number of credit cards that let you earn rewards for business purchases. After all, there are many rewards credit cards on the market today, but some cards are much better than others.
These tips can help you pick the right card for your needs and goals.
- Decide on the type of rewards you want to earn. While some credit cards let you earn cash back, others will earn transferable points that could potentially be worth much more than what a standard cash back reward card offers. Keep in mind the value you can get for your points using different redemption methods.
- Look at the credit card bonus categories. What kinds of purchases do you plan to make with your credit card? You’ll want to make sure you can maximize any bonus categories your new credit card offers, such as advertising, office supplies, dining or travel.
- Compare fees, including annual fees, to make sure you will earn enough rewards from the card to cover the cost of having it.
- Take a close look at other cardholder perks you might benefit from. Examples include free employee cards for your business account, purchase protection against damage or theft, extended warranties and travel insurance protections like travel accident insurance and baggage delay coverage. You could also see benefits that make travel easier, such as airport lounge access or elite status.