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If you’re a freelancer, Uber or Lyft driver or have any type of profitable side hustle, you might qualify for the top business credit cards. If you’ve been hesitant to apply for a small-business credit card because you’re unsure of how the process works, you’re leaving points on the table. So let’s break down the business-card application process, starting with American Express, and take a look at the questions that are most likely to trip you up.
You can only earn a welcome bonus for a specific Amex business card once per lifetime, which is the same restriction Amex has on its consumer cards. But there are several great Amex business cards to choose from, so you’ve got plenty of options. You could earn flexible Amex Membership Rewards points with The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, which currently has an increased bonus offer of up to 100,000 points after spending $25,000 on qualifying purchases in the first three months. Or you could opt for The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express which has no annual fee (see rates and fees) and earns 2x Membership Rewards points on every purchase on the first $50,000 spent on eligible purchases each calendar year, then 1x.
Amex also issues a range of cobranded small-business credit cards. If you’re looking for free hotel stays The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card comes with automatic Gold Hilton status (free breakfast), 10 Priority Pass airport lounge visits per year and a hefty 125,000 Hilton-point bonus, which you can earn after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening. Or you could opt to earn Delta SkyMiles with one of the business (or personal) Delta credit cards that have perks such as priority boarding and a free checked bag for you and up to eight companions.
How to complete an Amex business card application
Applying for Amex small-business cards is almost exactly the same process as applying for a personal Amex credit card — but the few differences can be confusing if you’ve never done it before. In the coming days I’ll also be writing step-by-step guides on how to fill out Capital One and Chase business-card applications, so sign up for The Points Guy’s email list to get notified when those are published.
If you already have an Amex credit card, you can sign into your account to shorten the application process. But if you’re new to Amex, the first page of your business-card application will look like this:
The basic information, like your email address, is straightforward, so let’s look at the boxes that can be tricky and what you should enter for each one:
- Legal business name: As a rule of thumb, for a sole proprietor you should use your name as the business name. My wife is freelance artist and she uses her name as her legal business name on card applications. However, if you have setup a legal structure for your business (LLC, etc.) or registered a name for your business (aka a fictitious name or DBA – doing business as), then you’ll put the name you registered here.
- Business name on card: This is the business name that will appear on your credit card just below the name of the cardholder (you or the authorized user). You can just put your legal business name here, although sometimes it won’t fit.
- Business address: This can be the same as your home address if you do business from home or don’t have a separate business address.
- Company structure: In most cases your company structure will be “sole proprietorship.” If you’re running a business by yourself, you’re mostly likely a sole proprietor. This includes most freelancers, Uber drivers, eBay resellers, etc. But, if you’ve got a partner, select “partnership.” If you have set up some sort of legal business structure (LLC, S-Corp, etc.), choose “corporation.”
- Number of employees: You count as an employee so you’ll always select at least one.
- Annual business revenue: This is all the money your business earns in a year before taxes or any other expenses. If you’re just starting out in business, it’s okay to put zero.
- Estimated monthly spend: The amount of monthly expenses you anticipate putting on the card.
- Federal tax ID: If you’re a sole proprietor and you haven’t registered for a Federal tax ID, you can use your Social Security number here.
- Role in company: You are probably the owner, but if you’re not, select whichever best fits your job title.
Once you’ve filled out the last page and hit “continue,” you’ll get to a page like the one below (unless you’re signed into your Amex account).
On the second application page most of the questions are straightforward, but in the “Total Annual Income” box be sure you’re including all of your eligible income. If you’re over 21, this includes any income you can reasonably expect to use to pay your bills. For me that means I can include my wife’s income and my income in this section. Your “Total Annual Income” will include any profits you’ve taken from your business as well.
The Non-Taxable Annual Income box is optional and can be left blank, but if you receive any income that is exempt from federal income tax (Social Security, child support, disability benefits, etc.), you can enter that annual total.
The final step is selecting which address (home or business) you’d like American Express to send your bill to and then reviewing the terms and conditions. At this point you can save the application and apply later or submit it for review. Often you’ll get an instant response, but sometimes your application can go into pending status.
If your card application is denied or put into the pending category, one option is to call Amex’s reconsideration line (877-399-3083 for new accounts). Sometimes answering a few simple questions or verifying minor details is all you’ll need to do to get an application approved. Other times you might be able to shift credit from existing accounts to the new card or be able to close an existing account to get your new application approved. Every situation is different but talking to an agent on the phone is an opportunity to humanize your application or at the very least find out the specific reasons your application was declined.
Even if you only have a part-time side hustle, you could qualify for many of the best small-business credit cards and completing the application is simpler than it may seem. In most cases, if you’re a sole proprietor, you can use your Social Security number as your business tax ID, and you can use your name as your business name.
One advantage to applying for an Amex business card is that it won’t appear on your personal credit report, which means it doesn’t add to your Chase 5/24 count. And because Amex limits you to earning a welcome offer for a specific card once per lifetime, applying for business cards will expand your options for earning new bonuses. For example, there are three Amex Delta business cards in addition to the available consumer cards and each card is considered a different a product, so opening a Delta business card won’t limit you from opening the personal version of that card later on.
Featured image by Image by Dan Rentea/Shutterstock.
For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus, click here.
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Aside from the up to 100,000 points welcome bonus, Amex recently made huge improvements to the Business Platinum Card, including the fact that you will now earn 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more, earn 5x on flights and eligible hotels at Amextravel.com and cardholders will receive a $200 airline fee credit each year.
- Welcome Offer: Earn up to 100,000 Membership Rewards® points.
- Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 50,000 points after you spend an additional $15,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
- Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
- Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
- 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
- Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.
- Get one year of Platinum Global Access from WeWork. With this membership, you can access 300+ premium, inspiring workspaces in 75+ cities. To get this exclusive offer, enroll between 2/15/2019 and 12/31/2019.
- Terms Apply
- See Rates & Fees