The best credit cards for freelancers in 2019
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
It takes money to make money. Even solo freelancing operations have to pay overhead, from pens and pencils to technology. A small-business loan can help with starting up or expansion, but ongoing expenses are almost always better taken care of with a credit card, which also helps you with record-keeping for tax time.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking a personal card is the best way to finance your business expenses. Using a separate business credit card allows you to earn rewards specific to your operation, as well as separating your personal expenses from professional ones. So if you’re looking for a great credit card to fund your freelancing enterprise or small business, here are some of this year’s best choices.
Chase’s Ink Business Preferred offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on shipping, social media/online advertising, travel, internet, cable and phone services. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar spent. Freelancers who promote their businesses through Instagram and Facebook ads can easily take advantage of this 3x bonus.
This card also comes with a hefty sign-up bonus of 80,000 points when you spend $5,000 or more during the first three months. That equals $1,000 worth of travel if you redeem the points through Chase’s travel portal, or potentially even more if you transfer your points to one of Ultimate Rewards’ 13 partners, which include airlines like Southwest and United and hotels such as Hyatt.
That’s why Ultimate Rewards points are worth 2 cents each based on TPG’s most recent valuations, which means 3 points per dollar spent is equivalent to a 6% return on those bonus categories.
The Ink Preferred has a $95 annual fee, and small businesses with multiple employees can request unlimited employee cards at no extra cost.
This card is incredibly valuable for those with large business expenses who travel frequently. Currently, you will earn up to 75,000 bonus points: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 bonus points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership. (worth $1,500 based on TPG’s latest valuations).
The card offers the following spending categories:
- 5 points per dollar on airfare and prepaid hotel rooms on amextravel.com
- 1 point per dollar on everything else
This card also earns 1.5 points per dollar on purchases greater than $5,000 (up to an additional 1 million points per year). Another unique feature of this card is the 35% rebate when you redeem American Express Membership Rewards points for air travel.
The card does have a $595 annual fee (see rates and fees), but comes with an incredible suite of perks geared toward travelers, including:
- Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck reimbursement ($85)
- 10 free Gogo inflight Wi-Fi passes
- Gold status with Hilton Honors
- Gold status with Marriott Bonvoy
- Access to American Express Global Lounge Collection, including Centurion Lounges
- Warranty protection (up to two additional years on U.S. manufacturer warranties of five years or less)
- Complimentary year of access to WeWork locations
- Up to $200 annual travel credit
- Up to $200 annual Dell statement credits (up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell)
Last, this is a charge card. This means that you must pay your monthly balance in full. Be sure to choose diligently whether a charge card or credit card is best for your freelancing business.
Need to make a few big purchases for your business, but can’t afford to pay them off right away? The Ink Business Cash Credit Card is perfect for the freelancer who is just getting started and has to purchase equipment, but needs time to build cash flow with self-employment. The card has a 0% APR for the first 12 months on purchases. After 12 months, the rate changes to a variable 14.74% – 20.74%, depending on your credit history. The 0% introductory offer will be voided if any payments are late.
The Ink Business Cash now comes with a $500 bonus after you spend $3,000 in the first three months after account opening. This cash-back card also has a set of useful bonus categories, including:
- 5% back on all office supply stores and internet, cable and phone services, on up to $25,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary year
- 2% on gas stations and restaurants, on up to $25,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary year
- 1% on other expenses.
Chase charges no annual fee with this card, but there is a 3% foreign-transaction fee. If you’re traveling internationally for your work, check out our guide to the best business cards with no foreign transaction fees.
The real advantage of this card is that all the cash back — including the sign-up bonus — comes in the form of points. You can redeem those points for cash back at a fixed value of 1 cent each, but you can get even more value for them if you have a Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning card (such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Business Preferred) that allows travel redemptions and transfers to airlines and hotels
Transfer partners? Check. No annual fee (see rates and fees)? Check. In fact, there’s very little not to like about the Blue Business Plus card. It’s simple, it’s powerful and has no annual fee — a perfect trio for the budding freelancer.
To be fair, there is a minor downside to the card. You’ll want to avoid using it for overseas transactions because the card carries a 2.7% foreign-transaction fee (see rates and fees). You’ll also need to keep in mind that there’s a $50,000 annual cap on the 2x multiplier for all purchases, after which you’ll only get 1 point per dollar. But with the Blue Business Plus, you’ll have access to Amex Membership Rewards transfer partners at no annual cost. And there’s no fee for additional employee cards either.
This is one of the easiest business cards for freelancers to manage, since you won’t have to worry about transferring or redeeming points. You simply get cash back on your spending. New cardholders can earn up to $2,000 in cash bonuses; $500 cash bonus when you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months and earn $1,500 when you spend $50,000 in the first 6 months of your account opening..
The Capital One Spark Cash for Business earns 2% cash back on all purchases, with no limit on how much you can earn. That’s perfect for freelancers who’d rather not keep track of categories that offer extra rewards and who prefer a one-stop card for all their business expenses. Redeeming rewards is also easy — customers can choose between redeeming for account credit, gift cards or a check in the mail. You can also set up auto-redemption so you never forget to cash in your points.
Employee cards are free, and Capital One doesn’t charge any foreign-transaction fees, so you can give this card to employees who are traveling overseas on behalf of your business. The Capital One Spark Cash for Business comes with a $95 annual fee that’s waived for the first year.
This is a great option for freelancers who are always on the move. If Southwest doesn’t serve your airport, consider getting a different cobranded business card or a business card with the ability to transfer to travel partners. However, the reason we recommend the Southwest business card is because it can help you earn the coveted Companion Pass very quickly.
The Southwest Performance business card comes with 70,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening. You only need 110,000 points to earn the Companion Pass, so this gets you more than halfway there. This card also comes with some useful bonus categories including:
- 3 points per dollar on all Southwest purchases
- 2 points per dollar on all social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable and phone services
- 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
You will also enjoy inflight Wi-Fi credits, $100 credit towards Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, no foreign transaction fees and extra cards for your employees at no additional cost. This all comes with a $199 annual fee, which the Companion Pass far outweighs.
The Hilton Honors Business card from Amex is another great cobranded card for the traveling freelancer as it’ll allow you to rack up some serious points on stays that you can use in the future for business or pleasure.
The card comes with 125,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from opening. As for points earned, this is what you can expect:
- 12 points per dollar on eligible Hilton hotel and resorts purchases
- 6 points per dollar on flights booked directly with Amex Travel, select car rentals, U.S. restaurants and gas stations, mobile phone services and U.S. shipping purchases
- 3 points per dollar on all other purchases
Cardholders will also enjoy complimentary Gold status which comes with its own set of perks, an annual free weekend night and Priority Pass Select membership. We value Hilton Gold status alone at $1,260 and this card comes with that and more for only $95 annually (see rates and fees). It’s a steal, if you ask me.
Whether you’re a long-time freelancer or just starting out, having a business credit card for your expenses is extremely helpful when it comes to keeping your books in order. You can earn valuable points, miles or cash back on your spending.
Additional reporting by Brett Holzhauer and Liz Hund.
Featured image by Paige Cody via Unsplash.
This is The Points Guy’s permanent page about the best credit cards for freelancers. Keep in mind you may see some reader comments referring to older versions of the post below.
Aside from the up to 75,000 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 75,000 Membership Rewards® points.
- Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases made on your Business Platinum Card® 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 an extra half point 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 when flight is booked on amextravel.com.
- 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.
- Terms Apply
- See Rates & Fees