Applying for a new business credit card expands your purchasing power, allowing you to make needed enhancements and upgrades for your business. And since you’re making these purchases for business purposes, using a business credit card helps you keep a strict separation between your company and your personal transactions.
However, the reality is that card issuers commonly ask for your Employer Identification Number (EIN) and your Social Security Number (SSN) when you apply for a business credit card. If you’re wondering how to get a business card using an EIN only, here’s what you need to know.
- What is an EIN for?
- Why do business credit cards typically require your SSN?
- Why would you want to get a business card only using your EIN?
- What types of business credit cards can you get with only an EIN?
- Alternative business credit cards if you’re using your EIN due to bad credit
- The bottom line on EIN-only business credit cards
What is an EIN for?
An EIN is a unique number that the IRS assigns to your business for tax identification purposes, like on business tax returns. This nine-digit number is used by different types of businesses, including sole proprietorships, corporations, small businesses, private employers, nonprofit organizations, and other business entities.
Although your SSN is also a nine-digit number, it serves a very different purpose. Your SSN is issued by the Social Security Administration, and it’s used to track your personal wages. It’s also used to identify and track Social Security benefits when you claim them.
Why do business credit cards typically require your SSN?
During the business credit card application process, giving banks or other card issuers your SSN gives them access to your personal credit profile. Credit card companies use your SSN to assess whether you’re a strong candidate for the card for a few reasons:
- Your business hasn’t demonstrated its creditworthiness yet. If your business is new, or has zero or minimal credit history, the issuer of the card will use your SSN to run a personal credit check and determine your risk level as a borrower.
- You’ll be personally liable if the business fails. The reality of owning a business is that not all businesses make it. If your business folds but you’ve supplied your SSN, you can be held liable to repay the balance on the business credit card.
Getting a small business credit card with no personal guarantee might make sense if you’ll solely be using the account for business expenses. But card issuers may want to verify the creditworthiness of a primary individual who will ultimately be responsible for the charges.
Why would you want to get a business card only using your EIN?
Getting a business credit card using your EIN is advantageous in a few ways. For example, it allows you to build business credit and get the benefits of using a credit card, like greater purchasing flexibility and earning cash back or travel rewards, without positioning yourself as a guarantor of the amount owed if your business is unable to pay.
Additionally, using an EIN helps you get access to a business credit card account if:
- You have poor or no personal credit. If you don’t have a strong personal credit history, it might be harder to get approved for a business credit card using your SSN.
- You want to avoid personal liability. As noted above, by using an EIN for your business card, you’re not using yourself as a personal guarantor of the balance through your SSN, so you can’t be held accountable if the business goes under.
- You don’t have an SSN. If you aren’t a U.S. resident and used an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to request an EIN through the IRS, a business credit card using an EIN can help open the doors to the benefits of a credit card.
What types of business credit cards can you get with only an EIN?
Although many credit card issuers require an SSN for a business card, there are some cards on the market that only require an EIN.
Corporate business card
Corporate business credit cards are accessible to businesses that have demonstrated annual revenue in the millions. Like the name suggests, these cards feature corporate liability, meaning no one person is responsible for non-payment on the account. Similarly, since the business is solely responsible for charges on the account, it’s also the entity that benefits from earned rewards and other card perks.
The reporting associated with a corporate credit card is also more robust. A company’s accounting department will have access to analytics and reporting tools to monitor how the cards are being used and can set limits for individually-issued cards as a way to track spending.
If you’re considering a corporate credit card that only uses an EIN, you’ll need to meet the issuer’s required revenue threshold and have a good business credit profile, among other factors. This makes corporate credit cards challenging to access if you’re a small business owner.
A special note: Silicon Valley startup Brex is reinventing the traditional corporate card. While a traditional corporate card requires million-dollar revenue, Brex uses an underwriting algorithm to determine your eligibility and to set your limit. It links to your company’s bank account and uses data, like your cash flow, spending patterns, and your company’s investors, to make its decision. It also boasts 10-20X higher limits, automated expense management, and seamless integration in accounting systems. The company currently offers a Brex for Ecommerce and a Brex for Startups.
Corporate gas card
If your business requires frequent fuel fill-ups, a corporate gas card that only requires an EIN, like the Shell Small Business Card, might be useful. Corporate gas cards give you the advantage of issuing multiple cards to your employees as well as setting fuel limits (and sometimes even location limits).
Like regular corporate credit cards, corporate gas cards provide reporting on the card’s activity and require good business credit to get approved. On the downside, they can’t be used for just any type of business purchase. Corporate gas cards are used specifically for fuel purchases at the pump and sometimes for vehicle maintenance purchases.
Prepaid business card
You can also opt for a prepaid business card using an EIN only. Since prepaid cards are considered low risk, you won’t need to supply your SSN. This option gives you the flexibility and benefits of a credit card when cash payments aren’t feasible — for example, if you need to book travel or order supplies online. It’s also safer than cash because in the event you lose your card, you might be able to get the funds back.
Once you have the card, simply fund it with a set amount and use the card as you would a typical business credit card. For example, if you load the prepaid card with $500, you’d have a credit line on the card of $500. Once your card’s $500 credit limit is used, you’ll need to reload it with more funds.
This could be a good option for an EIN-only business card if you don’t meet the revenue requirements that corporate cards expect. The main disadvantage with a prepaid business card is that, like prepaid personal credit cards, it doesn’t help your business credit score because issuers typically don't report payments to the credit bureaus. Additionally, in this case, your responsible credit card use isn’t helping your own credit either.
Alternative business credit cards if you’re using your EIN due to bad credit
Although there are a number of reasons you might be looking for an EIN-only business credit card, a secured credit card could be a good alternative if your main reason is a poor personal credit score. Secured credit cards for businesses only require you to share your EIN, while secured personal cards will still require your SSN. The benefit of a secured card is that, unlike a prepaid card, it slowly helps improve your business or personal credit report as you use the card responsibly.
Here are some secured credit card options if you have bad credit.
Secured business cards
- Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card: Cardholders can get 1.5% cash back per dollar spent, or earn 1 point per dollar spent and receive 1,000 bonus points each month you spend more than $1,000. Plus, it has a small $25 annual fee.
- BBVA Secured Visa Business Credit Card: Earn 3X points at office supply stores, 2X points at gas stations and restaurants, and 1X points everywhere else. You'll pay an annual fee of $40 (waived first year) with this rewards card. Note that it's only available in certain states.
Secured personal cards
- Capital One® Secured Mastercard®: Receive consideration for higher credit limit as quickly as 6 months after account opening.
The bottom line on EIN-only business credit cards
While an EIN-only business credit card can make sense in some cases, if you're open to using your SSN to apply for a business card, you'll likely have more options available to you. Since credit issuers often request both an EIN and SSN, consider shopping around for a new card if you've recently improved your credit score and you're willing to using your SSN on a business credit card application.
For business owners open to this option, here are a couple of the best credit cards available:
- American Express Blue Business Plus Credit Card: Enjoy a $0 annual fee and access to one of the most popular credit card rewards programs out there, the Amex Membership Rewards program. With this card, you get 2X Membership Rewards points on business purchases up to $50,000 each year, and 1X points on purchases after that.
- Chase Ink Business Unlimited: Cardholders earn a flat 1.5% cash back on all spending and enjoy a $0 annual fee. However, this card offers more flexible redemptions than your typical cashback card. You can choose to redeem rewards through Chase Ultimate Rewards for cash back, statement credits, travel, merchandise, or gift cards.
If you'd like to explore even more options, check out our picks for the best business credit cards for your small business.