Business Credit Cards for Startups: 5 Growth-Accelerating Options

Choose the right business credit card for your startup to meet your needs and earn valuable rewards.
Last updated May 22, 2021 | By Lee Huffman
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Choosing the right business credit card is important for any business, but it’s crucial for startups. Paying your bills with a credit card gives you breathing room while waiting for client payments. Tracking expenses becomes easier with cards for you and your employees. Plus, credit cards can provide valuable rewards to boost your bottom line.

To help you find the best business credit cards for your startup, we’ve pulled together this great list of options. Read on to learn about these cards and their benefits. 

In this article

What are the best business credit cards for startups?

If you’re looking for the best business credit cards for startups, there are several factors to consider. Here are a few of the questions to ponder:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Does the credit card require a personal guarantee?
  • Will the bank check your credit?
  • Does the credit card report to your personal credit report?
  • Are you okay with paying an annual fee?
  • Does the credit card offer a signup bonus?
  • What rewards are most important to you – cash back, airline miles, hotel points, or flexible points?
  • In which categories do you spend the most?
  • Are there other benefits that are important to you? Examples include airport lounge access, waived bag fees, and hotel elite status.

Some banks require your business to be open for at least two years before they will approve your business credit card application. Others may approve you when you are just starting out, if you provide a personal guarantee. Offering a personal guarantee means you are liable for the outstanding balance if your business cannot pay the bill.

Most banks will pull your personal credit when underwriting your application. However, only a couple, such as Capital One and Discover, will actually include the business credit card on your personal credit report.

When choosing a business credit card for your startup, think about the cost of the card versus the benefits it provides. A welcome bonus is great for the first year, but the ongoing benefits are what you should focus on when it comes time to renew. Think about where you'll spend the most, such as dining, travel, or online advertising, and narrow down your choices to credit cards that offer extra points for those categories.

Best business credit cards for startups — compared

As you read about the best business credit cards for startups, think about whether the credit card's fees, earning power, and benefits align with your goals.

Card Welcome offer Reward details Annual fee
Brex for Startups None 7X points on rideshare, 4X on Brex Travel, 3X at restaurants and on eligible Apple products, 2X on software subscriptions, and 1X on all other purchases with Brex Exclusive $0
Chase Ink Business Preferred Earn 100,000 points after spending $15,000 in the first 3 months 5X points on Lyft rides; 3X points on the first $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping, internet, cable, or phone services, and advertising purchases with social media and search engines; and 1X points per $1 on everything else $95
United Business Card Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 2X miles on United purchases and dining (including eligible delivery services), at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting; and 1X miles on everything else $99 (waived first year)
Capital One Spark Cash for Business Earn a $500 cash bonus after spending $4,500 in the first 3 months Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases on all cards attached to the account $0
Bank of America Business Advantage Customized Cash Rewards Mastercard Earn a $300 statement credit after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days 3% cash back on your category of choice and 2% cash back on dining (on up to $50,000 annually in combined 3% and 2% category purchases); and unlimited 1% cash back on everything else $0

Brex for Startups

The Brex for Startups card is targeted specifically to startup businesses. Entrepreneurs will love that this credit card does not pull personal credit nor does it require a personal guarantee. Instead, the credit line is based on the business's financials.

On average, credit limits offered are 10X to 20X higher than competing business credit cards. Your activity on the account also helps to build your business credit with Dun & Bradstreet and Experian for future lending needs.

There is a $0 annual fee for the Brex for Startups card. The first five authorized user cards are also free, and additional authorized user cards are just $5 per month. Plus,  it’s a no foreign transaction fee credit card, so you won’t be charged an extra fee when you make international purchases.

While Brex for Startups does not offer a welcome bonus, there are over $50,000 discounts and offers available with its partners that could prove valuable to your business. If you commit to using Brex as your only business credit card, you'll receive up to 7X points through its Brex Exclusive program. Businesses that don't commit will only earn 1X points on purchases with this card. You can earn unlimited rewards in the following categories:

  • 7X on rideshare (with Brex Exclusive)
  • 4X on Brex Travel (with Brex Exclusive)
  • 3X on restaurants and eligible Apple products (with Brex Exclusive)
  • 2X on software subscriptions (with Brex exclusive)
  • 1X on all other purchases

Your points can be redeemed for statement credits, cash back, or purchases with Brex Travel. You can also transfer them to any of the seven airline transfer partners:

  • AeroMexico Club Premier
  • AirFrance KLM Flying Blue
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

The two major downsides of the Brex for Startups card is that it is a charge card and that sole proprietors and single-member entities (e.g. LLCs and S-Corps owned by one person) are not eligible. When money is tight, you cannot carry a balance from one month to the next. Additionally, the full balance is automatically withdrawn from your linked business checking account.

No Personal Liability, Lots of Rewards Potential

Brex for Tech

Intro Offer

30,000 points

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

up to 7X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • No credit check, no personal liability, and no security deposit required
  • 7X points on rideshare and 3X points on restaurants
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee

Drawbacks

  • Payments automatically withdrawn from your business bank account
  • $100,000 balance required in your business bank account
Card Details
  • Earn 30,000 points for spending $3,500, or 50,000 points for spending $9,000, in the first 30 days
  • 7X points on rideshare, 4X on Brex Travel, 3X at restaurants and on eligible Apple products, 2X on software subscriptions, and 1X on all other purchases with Brex Exclusive

Chase Ink Business Preferred

The Chase Ink Business Preferred is one of the most popular business credit cards for startups because it earns Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can combine your business points with points you earn with your personal Chase credit cards for larger redemptions.

New applicants earn 100,000 points after spending $15,000 in the first 3 months. You can redeem these points for travel, gift cards, cash back, and Apple products. Your points are worth 1.25 cents each when redeeming for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, which means your signup bonus is worth $1,250 towards flights, hotels, and more. Points can also be transferred on a 1:1 basis to 13 hotel and airline transfer partners, such as Hyatt, United, and Emirates.

When spending on the card, you'll earn 5X points on Lyft rides; 3X points on the first $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping, internet, cable, or phone services, and advertising purchases with social media and search engines; and 1X points per $1 on everything else. The points do not expire as long as your account is open.

This business credit card has an annual fee of $95. There is no charge for adding authorized users, and you can set individual spending limits for each employee. Plus, there are no foreign transaction fees on international purchases.

Hot Sign-up Bonus

Intro Offer

100,000 points

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

up to 5X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 100,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 3X points on travel and common business spending categories
  • Flexible redemption options
  • Additional employee cards at no extra cost

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
  • No intro 0% APR promotion offered
  • Limited business-specific benefits
Card Details
  • Earn 100,000 points after spending $15,000 in the first 3 months
  • 5X points on Lyft rides; 3X points on the first $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping, internet, cable, or phone services, and advertising purchases with social media and search engines; and 1X points per $1 on everything else

United Business Card

If you fly regularly to meet with investors, shareholders, suppliers, or customers, having an airline credit card can help you earn more miles and reduce expenses for checked bags. The United Business Card does all of that and more.

With this business credit card, you'll earn 2X miles on United purchases and dining (including eligible delivery services), at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting; and 1X miles on everything else. You’ll also earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Cardholders receive extra benefits when they fly. The primary cardholder and companions on the same reservation receive priority boarding. You and one companion will also receive the first checked bag for free. This can save up to $120 on every round trip flight. Each year, you'll also receive two United Club passes so you can spend time in the lounge before your flight.

There is an annual fee of $99 (waived first year) for the first card, but additional cards for employees are available at no charge. Plus, international purchases have no transaction fee.

Great value for a low fee!

Intro Offer

75,000 miles

Annual Fee

$99

Rewards Rate

up to 2X miles

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 75,000 mile sign-up bonus
  • 2X miles on United purchases, dining, at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting
  • $100 annual United credit (terms apply)
  • 5,000 bonus miles annually if you also have a personal United card
  • Free checked bag, priority boarding, and 2 United Club passes annually

Drawbacks

  • Earning bonus could be hard for some
  • Best for frequent United travelers
Card Details
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 2X miles on United purchases and dining (including eligible delivery services), at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting; and 1X miles on everything else

Capital One Spark Cash for Business

Although points and miles are good, sometimes the flexibility of cash is better for a startup business. The Capital One Spark Cash for Business meets this need with 2% cash back on every purchase, every day. Cash rewards can be redeemed for any amount and at any time.

With this business credit card, you'll earn up to $1,000 cash bonus — $500 after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months, plus $500 after spending $50,000 in the first 6 months. It comes with an annual fee of $150, and there are no foreign transaction fees. Employee cards can be added at no extra charge.

Unlimited 2% Cash Back

Intro Offer

$1000

Annual Fee

$150

Rewards Rate

unlimited 2% cash back

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Up to $1,000 cash welcome bonus
  • 2% unlimited cash back
  • Charge card with no preset spending limits
  • $200 cash bonus every year you spend $200,000 or more

Drawbacks

  • Must pay off balance in full each month
  • Has annual fee
Card Details
  • Earn up to $1,000 cash bonus — $500 after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months, plus $500 after spending $50,000 in the first 6 months
  • 2% cash back on every purchase, every day

Bank of America Business Advantage Customized Cash Rewards

With the Bank of America Business Advantage Customized Cash Rewards credit card, you’ll earn up to 3% cash back cash back on your spending. You get 3% cash back on your category of choice and 2% cash back on dining (on up to $50,000 annually in combined 3% and 2% category purchases); and unlimited 1% cash back on everything else. Your cashback rewards can be deposited into your Bank of America bank account, used as a statement credit, or mailed to you as a check.

New cardholders can also earn a $300 statement credit after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.

This card is best for business owners with some savings. If you have money in the bank or investments saved up, you'll earn extra rewards for your larger balances with Bank of America Preferred Rewards. You'll receive a rewards bonus up to 75% each month based on your relationship with the bank. This means that you can earn up to 5.25% cash back on your spending each month.

There is a $0 annual fee with this card. However, there is a foreign transaction fee of 3%.

How to earn the most rewards

As great as many of these business credit cards for startups are, it is likely that they don't cover all of your needs. In most cases, you can apply for multiple credit cards over time to earn more rewards on your spending and mix and match the benefits offered. Just remember that the Brex for Startups card requires a commitment to put 100% of your business expenses on their card, otherwise, you'll only earn 1X on your purchases.

For example, you can choose one business credit card, like the Capital One Spark Cash for Business, that offers cash back that you can use to reduce normal business expenses. Then, pair it with another credit card that earns points or miles that you can use to pay for business or personal travel.

Why we chose these cards (methodology)

With so many business credit cards out there, it makes sense to narrow down the options. We selected these cards based on their ability to earn rewards and the benefits they offer in relation to the fees charged.

Just as you focus on the ROI (return on investment) in your business, you should do the same when choosing a business credit card. We feel that the ROI of these credit cards makes them a worthwhile addition to your wallet.

The final word on the best credit cards for startups

As you are building your business, it pays to have a credit card that aligns with your unique needs and situation. Bootstrapping a startup can be tough, and credit cards offer a way to pay your bills today while waiting on payments from customers. As you spend on the cards, you can earn valuable rewards and benefits that you can use to reduce your expenses and make the journey more comfortable.

Hot Sign-up Bonus

Intro Offer

100,000 points

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

up to 5X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 100,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 3X points on travel and common business spending categories
  • Flexible redemption options
  • Additional employee cards at no extra cost

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
  • No intro 0% APR promotion offered
  • Limited business-specific benefits
Card Details
  • Earn 100,000 points after spending $15,000 in the first 3 months
  • 5X points on Lyft rides; 3X points on the first $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping, internet, cable, or phone services, and advertising purchases with social media and search engines; and 1X points per $1 on everything else

Author Details

Lee Huffman Lee Huffman is a former financial planner and corporate finance manager who now writes about early retirement, credit cards, travel, insurance, and other personal finance topics. He enjoys showing people how to travel more, spend less, and live better. When Lee is not getting his passport stamped around the world, he's researching methods to earn more miles and points toward his next vacation.