Business Credit Cards for Startups: 5 Growth-Accelerating Options

CREDIT CARDS - BUSINESS CREDIT CARDS
Choose the right business credit card for your startup to meet your needs and earn valuable rewards.
Updated April 9, 2024
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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 Credit Card 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
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $8,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening 3X points on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year; and 1X points per $1 on all other purchases $95
United℠ Business Card Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open 2 miles per dollar spent on United purchases, dining, at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting; plus 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases $99 (waived first year)
Capital One Spark Cash Plus Earn $1,200 after spending $30,000 in the first 3 months 2% cash back on every purchase, every day; plus 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel $150
Bank of America® Business Advantage Customized Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card Earn a $300 online statement credit after you make at least $3,000 in net purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening 3% cash back in your category of choice: gas stations & EV charging stations (default), office supply stores, travel, TV/telecom & wireless, computer services or business consulting services and 2% cash back on dining (for the first $50,000 in combined choice category/dining purchases each calendar year, then 1%); and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases $0

Brex Credit Card

The Brex card is targeted specifically at startup, ecommerce, and small 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 card. Unlimited virtual cards are available to all members of your team, free of charge. Plus, it’s a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, so you won’t be charged an extra fee when you make international purchases.

The Brex card offers a welcome bonus: Earn 10,000 points for spending your first $3,000 in the first 3 months, and an additional 20,000 if you link payroll to your Brex account, for a total 30,000 points. Additionally, there are thousands of dollars of 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
  • 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
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

The two major downsides of the Brex card are 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.

Read our full Brex Credit Card review.

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

The 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 100k bonus points after you spend $8,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. 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 3X points on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year; and 1X points per $1 on all other purchases. 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.

Read our full Ink Business Preferred review.

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 2 miles per dollar spent on United purchases, dining, at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting; plus 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases. You’ll also earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

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 $140 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.

Read our full United Business Card review.

Capital One Spark Cash Plus

Although points and miles are good, sometimes the flexibility of cash is better for a startup business. The Capital One Spark Cash Plus meets this need with 2% cash back on every purchase, every day; plus 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. Cash rewards can be redeemed for any amount and at any time.

With this business credit card, you'll earn $1,200 after spending $30,000 in the first 3 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.

Read our full Capital One Spark Cash Plus review.

Bank of America® Business Advantage Customized Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card

With the Business Advantage Customized Cash Rewards credit card, you’ll earn up to 3% cash back cash back on your spending. You can earn 3% cash back in your category of choice: gas stations & EV charging stations (default), office supply stores, travel, TV/telecom & wireless, computer services or business consulting services and 2% cash back on dining (for the first $50,000 in combined choice category/dining purchases each calendar year, then 1%); and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. 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 online statement credit after you make at least $3,000 in net purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening.

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 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 Plus, 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 Welcome Bonus

4.8

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Current Offer

Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $8,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

3X points on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year; and 1X points per $1 on all other purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

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.

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