Sunday Reader Question: Do You Have to Have a Business to Get a Business Credit Card?

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Update: The offer mentioned below for the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express has expired. View the current offer here.

TPG reader Sandra writes in with a short and sweet question:  “Do you have to have a ‘business’ to qualify for a business credit card?”

Technically, yes. However, each credit card company has a different threshold for what information they require for someone to get a business card. Most are very flexible, but Citi is generally the hardest – when I got the American Airlines Business card, I had to provide proof of my business, including government EIN and business checking account information (which I luckily had as a small business owner). As for American Express, OPEN cards are exclusively for business owners though that category also covers sole proprietors.

Many small businesses start out as simple DBAs (Doing Business As) which simply denotes a business name used by a person or entity that is different from the person’s or entity’s true name. So if you start a small Ebay business and want to keep those finances separate from your personal expenses, it would be conceivable that you’d want a business credit card. In this case, you can just provide your social security number when asked for EIN and usually that suffices.

You should understand that you will get a hard inquiry on your personal credit score when you get a business card because most business credit lines are personally guaranteed. However, once approved they will sit on your business credit report, which is separate from your personal, so utilization and other factors shouldn’t affect your personal credit score. Business credit cards are also different from personal in that the purchase protection and insurance is generally less generous than with personal cards.

There are many lucrative business credit card offers and you can usually get one personal and one business card per credit card company. For example, several TPG readers have gotten approved for both the 50,000 point Sapphire Preferred (50,000 point sign-up bonus offer is no longer available) and 50,000 point Ink Bold cards on the same day (50,000 point sign-up bonus offer is no longer available). 100,000 Ultimate rewards points, if transferred smartly, can get you a roundtrip business class trip from US to Europe on United, $1,666 in Southwest flights or even up to 22 one-way short-haul American Airlines flights with British Airways Avios points. When applying for both a personal and business card on the same day, make sure you can meet the spend requirements of both cards, which in the case of the Sapphire Preferred/Ink Bold combo, you’d be looking at $8,000 within 3 months. Both annual fees are waived for the first year.

Some of the top business card deals:
50,000 points for the Chase Ink Bold after $5,000 in spend within the first 3 months. $95 annual fee, waived for the first year.
50,000 points for the Chase Southwest Business card after first use. $99 annual fee.
50,000 miles for the Citi AAdvantage Business card after first use. $75 annual fee, waived for the first year.
30,000 miles for the American Express Delta Business Gold card after first use.
25,000 points for the American Express Business Platinum after $5,000 in spend within first 3 months. $450 annual fee.
25,000 points for the American Express Starwood business card after $5,000 in spend within 6 months. $65 annual fee, waived for the first year.
20,000 points for the Chase Ink Cash after $3,000 in spend within 3 months. No annual fee. They can’t be transferred to Ultimate Rewards airline/hotel partners, but can be used on any airfare
25,000 miles for the Barclay’s US Airways business card after first use. Plus up to 10,000 additional miles for balance transfers. $75 annual fee.

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