5 ways you might be eligible for a business credit card without realizing it

Jan 20, 2021

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Following the submission of an online application, the average credit card approval process takes roughly 60 seconds. But with so much at stake — valuable sign-up bonuses worth $500-plus in rewards — that minute can feel like a tantalizing eternity. Of course, there are few greater joys than the “You’re Approved!” screen after a successful application turns into a new card — and its accompanying welcome bonus.

Now, you may be sitting pretty with a decent points stash, yet envious of your business-owner buddy who gleefully applies for twice as many cards as you. Because with a small business, your friend might manage to pair the United Explorer Card with the United Business Card, or the American Express® Gold Card with the American Express® Business Gold Card. Plus… well, you get the idea.

But what if we were to say that you, too, could be eligible for business credit cards? That’s right. You don’t necessarily need to be a big, official LLC or Inc. to get a business credit card.

While you do need a business to open a business credit card, the qualifications for the term “business” may be different than you might expect. Below are five jobs — sometimes done full-time, sometimes done as a side hustle — that could open new doors to the business credit card world.

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In This Post

Independent contractor

With the advent of the digital economy, it’s easier than ever to pick up a side gig. Whether you’re a freelance writer, drive for ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft or deliver food for an app-based delivery service including DoorDash or Grubhub, you’re considered an independent contractor and may qualify for a small business credit card.

Opening a business credit card is a good idea because it’s easier to separate your business expenses and you can earn rewards for the purchases you would have made anyway. Two great options for earning bonus points are the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card.

If you’d like to earn a big intro bonus and extra cash or points on high-value bonus categories, the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card is the way to go. The card earns 3x Ultimate Rewards points on the first $150,000 in combined spending on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable, phone services and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year.

This card has a $95 annual fee and currently offers 100,000 bonus points after $15,000 spent on purchases in the first three months of account opening. You can read our Ink Business Preferred review to learn more about the card.

Driving for Uber or Lyft is a great way to earn some extra cash and points at the same time. (Photo by shutter_o/Shutterstock)

If you’re looking for a business card with a generous flat earning rate and no annual fee, the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card earns 1.5% cash back on all purchases, with no category restrictions to worry about. The card currently offers $750 cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. To learn more about the card’s benefits, read our Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card review.

Another potential advantage to having the Ink Business Unlimited card is the cash back rewards can be converted to Chase Ultimate Rewards points if you have another credit card that earns these points – such as the Chase Ink Preferred. Your points would then be worth at least 1.25 cents each when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Keep in mind that although business cards are subject to Chase’s infamous 5/24 rule, they don’t add to your count.

Related: Maximize your wallet with the perfect quartet of Chase cards

Consultant

In some ways, consultants are tutors for companies. Coming in from the outside to provide a fresh perspective or working hand in hand with internal employees. Given they need to book their own travel, consultants are uniquely positioned to rack up an impressive number of points and miles.

That’s why every consultant should consider wallet space for The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. It comes with a hefty $595 annual fee (see rates and fees), but earns 5x Membership Rewards points on flights and prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel. With Membership Rewards points worth 2 cents apiece according to TPG’s valuations, you would earn a 10% return on these expenses.

Even if you’re not doing much traveling these days, the card currently offers new applicants a pretty substantial 125,000-point welcome bonus after you spend $15,000 in eligible purchases within your first three months of card membership. It also provides some valuable non-travel benefits, such as up to $200 in annual statement credits towards U.S. Dell purchases.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Another good option for consultants is the American Express Business Gold Card. That’s because it automatically gives you 4x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent in the two categories where you spend the most each billing cycle (on the first $150,000 of bonus category spending each year; then 1x).

The six possible bonus categories include airfare purchased from airlines, U.S. purchases for advertising in select media (online, TV, radio), U.S. purchases for shipping, U.S. purchases at gas stations, U.S. purchases at restaurants and U.S. purchases made directly from select technology providers. New cardholders earn 70,000 bonus points after you spend $10,000 on eligible purchases in the first three months of account opening. The card has a $295 annual fee (see rates and fees).

Related: Amex’s “once per lifetime” bonus rule

Babysitter

Imagine learning that one of your very first jobs made you business card-eligible. Babysitters — just like tutors, consultants, doctors, lawyers and bankers — have legitimate expenses. And given the need to wear many hats, from chauffeur to chef, babysitters often have myriad categories of expenses for which to account.

That’s why a card such as the no-annual-fee U.S. Bank Business Cash Rewards World Elite™ MasterCard®  makes so much sense here, given the unlimited 3% cash back earned on gas and cellular as well as office supply store charges. There’s a nice little incentive to open the card too: $500 cash back after spending $4,500 in eligible purchases in the first 150 days of account opening.

The information for the U.S. Bank Business Cash Rewards World card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Babysitting isn't all fun and games - it's driving, cooking, and more. (Photo via Getty Images)
Babysitting isn’t all fun and games — there are many expenses involved, like grocery shopping for kids. (Photo via Getty Images)

Landscaper/snow shoveler

(Photo by Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images)

From raking leaves in the fall to shoveling snow during the winter and mowing grass across the spring and summer, yard work is a year-round job. Those who do it for a primary living or secondary income stream can attest that it’s a job that comes with plenty of business expenses, which don’t need to go on your personal cards.

Supplies and even equipment can often be found at a great discount via wholesale clubs, whose store cards often come with lucrative spending incentives. The Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi, for instance, is a strong option not just for shopping at Costco (2% cash back), but on spending on eligible gas (4% on the first $7,000 per year; then 1% thereafter) as well as restaurants and eligible travel (3% cash back). In a nutshell, the one-stop shop has a one-stop credit card to boot. How fitting.

Related: The best credit cards for freelancers

Online seller

(Photo by Poike / Getty Images)

Last but certainly not least, let’s cover a job you can do from home. Online selling is big business and is easy to get into thanks to sites such as Amazon, eBay and Etsy. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to make a few bucks on an old suit you no longer wear, a pair of jeans that no longer fit or some old toys your kids don’t play with anymore — you are a seller.

Sure, selling hand-me-downs isn’t the new get-rich-quick scheme, but it positions you to get business credit cards. For those looking to work in their pajamas — and, let’s be real, who wouldn’t want that? — the American Express Business Gold Card and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card are strong choices as they can help earn you bonus points on popular spending categories, including U.S. shipping.

Related: 9 side hustles that can help you qualify for a business card

Bottom line

Getting approved for a business credit card is easier than some people think and there’s real value to keeping personal and work expenses separate. Welcome bonuses on business cards can be just as — or sometimes more — lucrative as those offered on personal cards, meaning your points balance could grow substantially. Many of these cards also come with unique perks not found with personal cards.

As always, it’s important to remain vigilant and know when your statements close and annual fees are due. Many small business owners apply as sole proprietors, but don’t hesitate to consult with your tax expert should questions arise during the application process.

If you need help completing a business card application, take a look at our guides for Amex and Chase:

Jason Stauffer contributed to this story.

Featured photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Business Card, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Amex Business Gold card, click here.

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