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

by on February 12, 2012 · 31 comments

in American Express, Chase, Credit Cards, Sunday Reader Questions

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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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Kona102

    You have talked about these same subjects over and over now… I havent seen anything great in 2012 so far. No amazing advice or deals.

  • Maury

    In the past, I was approved for a Citi business card without being asked anything.

  • Pat

    How likely is it to get the Chase Ink Bold while holding the Sapphire? Should I wait until my Sapphire is about to expire and then “trade”?

  • Dan

    I got the Sapphire awhile ago, and then got the Ink Bold a couple of months ago. I didn’t have any trouble getting the Bold, although that was the most thorough application for a business card that I’ve been through.

  • Dan


    FYI, but Chase actually offers *three* versions of the INK card — Bold, Cash, and Classic. You talked about the first two but not the last. The last is a watered down version of the Bold card — smaller sign up bonus and lower category limits for the 5/2 bonuses.

    I am about to finish the spend requirement on the Bold, and about a month or so ago Chase sent me a targeted offer for the Classic. It was the standard 25k card, but no min spend. Not the best offer in the world, but a preapproved card with no spend is a actually a score, considering how hard I’ve hit up Chase in the last year or so. Besides, this card has no annual fee, and 5x bonus on cable, phone, office supplies, and 2x on gas and hotels. This is actually a nice compliment to the Sapphire Preferred, as it carries bonuses in areas the SP doesn’t.

  • Dan

    I go both ways on this. Yes, I feel that credit cards are getting beat to death, but OTOH, this is where the big scores are. Heck, I haven’t set foot on a United plane in years, but I’m sitting on 160,000 UA points because of a variety of different credit card sign ups and promotions. (These points are strictly related to UA/CO-specific cards, not general transfer cards like AmEx and SP.)

    Does this post offer anything *new*? No. But it is a concise wrap-up of the better offers out there right now. I won’t necessarily go get a card today because of Brian’s post, but two months from now I might be in the market for a new card. I’d refer back to this one to see if there are any decent Biz card to add to my portfolio. Besides, the reader’s question was legit.

    As to the last point, I don’t know what amazing advice/deals are out there right now. If there isn’t any, I’d rather know that in 5-10 minutes with my morning coffee than have to slog through FT. The s/n ratio on the blogs is pretty good. With FT, it takes time to separate the wheat from the chafe, and it’s not something I care to do regularly.

  • Dan

    Me too. Chase was the only bank to ask a single question.

  • nicesharky

    I’ve had the Sapphire Preferred for almost a year and just applied for the Ink Bold business card last night…approved online with no problems. I have a Chase Business Checking account, so business account info pre-populated the business application for the Bold. nice.

  • ATPGFan

    Didn’t you see the 36 points per dollar deal last week? Maybe you should stop complaining and find your own great deal. It’s free advice he’s offering you. You’ve got some nerve to complain about something you get for free. Plus, as someone who follows multiple blogs, there just hasn’t been any amazing deals thus far in 2012 and I trust the TPG would let us know about it as soon as he gets wind of it. Keep up the good work, Brian!

  • Ramosz83

    Citi was the easiest for me, chase gave me a hard time but I still haven’t been denied.

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  • Kona102

    ATPG Fan, the 36 points deal was the first major unique deal I’ve seen on here. I’m not complaining, I’m just getting tired of TPG talking all about credit cards because he gets referral bonuses… I also read many blogs and FT, and less and less quality material is being published on TPG.

    I wish TPG would focus on delivering a range of subjects, instead of just credit cards and the recent trip reports, which you can find on wikitravel easier.

  • Charles Clarke

    *Some* business cards don’t show up on your personal credit. Some do. I believe they do it under the theory that you are applying for credit jointly and individually with the business. Capital One and Discover business cards appear on mine personal credit report.

  • Travel and Credit

    Gotta love all the different ways to earn Ultimate Rewards points!

  • Jonathan

    The business cards tend to have a statement in the T&C on the application that the card should only be used for business purposes. So if you want to follow their rules it can make meeting the spending requirement for the bonus difficult if you don’t really have business-related expenses.

  • Dan

    Considering that the T&C’s are all one sided, I don’t get bothered by that too much.

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  • Trevor Wright

    Does anyone have insight about applying for an AMEX Biz card without an EIN? Can I use my SS#?

  • thepointsguy

    Yes you can use SSN

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