How to apply for a business credit card

Learn about the business credit card application process—how it works, what information you need and when you should apply.

Business credit cards can be important tools to help you grow and manage your business. A business credit card can be a great way to increase your purchasing power. It can also deliver other important benefits like helping you build a credit history, ensuring smooth cash flow, making record-keeping easier, and delivering attractive rewards and incentives for using the card. 

If you've been searching for a business credit card to fit your needs, you likely have found a wide assortment of options—and an even wider array of terms, conditions, benefits and features. If you're a new business owner and are unsure of how to apply for a business credit card, this article will help clarify how to apply for a business credit card and the most efficient steps to go from application to approval. 

How to get a business credit card

It's relatively simple to apply for a business credit card. Much of the process is similar to applying for a personal credit card. To start, review the card options available and choose a card that meets your business's needs. Then, take some time to check your personal credit, gather the information needed to apply for the credit card and complete your application. We'll break down each of these steps to applying for a business credit card in greater detail and include tips to keep in mind at each step.

Step 1: Research business credit cards

There is a wide range of business credit cards that suit a variety of business needs. It's just a matter of matching card offerings with your needs. If you travel often, you may want a business credit card that offers travel points and miles incentives. If you plan on using your credit card to pay vendors, a business credit card with cash-back rewards may be an option to consider. Learn more about the different Capital One Business credit cards by comparing them with your business goals. 

Here are some practical tips to keep in mind to help you make the most informed choice as you research your business credit card options:

  • Review your business expenses to see how much and where you're currently spending your money. This will help you understand what rewards programs (like travel miles and cash back) would benefit your business most. 
  • Understand rewards caps and redemption rules, which can limit how you use your rewards. 
  • Compare fees and interest rates. If you carry a card balance each month, a low interest rate will be important. Remember that annual percentage rates (APRs) are determined by your creditworthiness. Advertised low rates aren’t guaranteed. There are also cards that require you to pay your balance in full each month. 
  • Understand the qualifications necessary for approval, like a personal guarantee and personal credit score thresholds. 
  • Look into special signup or welcome bonus offers and understand the requirements for spending to qualify for the offer.
  • Research what credit reporting agencies the cards report to—such as Equifax® or Experian®—if you’re interested in building up your business credit score.

Step 2: Choose a card that meets your needs

Once you've narrowed your options for business credit cards with offers, perks and rates that align with your business needs, you’ll want to compare benefits, cardholder obligations and qualification criteria side by side. To make this process easier, compare cards in the same category. For example, compare travel rewards cards to other travel rewards cards. Compare Capital One Spark Business card benefits—including perks, tools and rewards.

Step 3: Check your personal credit score

Once you have an idea of which card you want to apply for, take a moment to check your personal credit scores. The higher your scores, the more likely you'll be approved for a business credit card with the best rates. Most credit card issuers provide their cardholders free access to their personal credit scores.

CreditWise from Capital One is a free tool that allows you to monitor and stay on top of your credit score. 

Each business credit card will indicate its recommended credit score ranges for qualification. If your credit score doesn't fall within the range for the business credit card you want, paying bills on time and paying down credit card debt can help improve your score. If this is the case, consider looking for a card that supports credit building.

Step 4: Gather the information needed to apply

Prepare to complete a business credit card application by gathering all the necessary information that is required. You'll need information about income and expenses for your business; your personal identification information, like your Social Security number; plus business identification information, such as your employer identification number (EIN) or tax identification number. Additionally, you'll need to know the legal name, address, birthdate and Social Security number for any beneficial owners or business controllers with a 25% or greater stake.

Step 5: Complete the application

When you're ready to apply, fill out an online application for a business credit card. It usually takes less than 10 minutes to complete. You may be asked to verify certain information or provide additional details as your application is reviewed.

Remember that each application will result in a credit inquiry, which shows up on your credit report and may lower your credit score.

Step 6: Wait for the approval decision

Once you submit your application, it will be reviewed by the card issuer. You may be approved within a few minutes or within a few days. Once approved, you'll receive your business credit card by mail in about seven to 14 business days.

What you need to apply for a business credit card

The business credit card application process is similar to applying for a personal credit card. There will be a section requiring personal information such as your name, Social Security number, home address and annual income. There will also be a section asking for specific information about your business. That information may include:

  • Contact information: Provide your business's mailing address and phone number.
  • Legal name of your business: Provide the name you're doing business under, such as the name you registered as a limited liability company (LLC) or S or C corporation with your state. If you're a sole proprietor, just provide your legal name.
  • Federal tax ID: If you registered your business with the state, you received a nine-digit federal tax ID number, or EIN. Input that number in this section. If you're a sole proprietor, list your Social Security number.
  • Type of industry (NAICS code): You'll likely find a drop-down list of industry classifications in this section. These classifications categorize companies by their primary business activity. Choose the classification that most closely applies to your business.
  • Legal structure of your business: If you've registered your business with the state, your business is classified as a specific legal structure, such as a corporation, partnership, nonprofit, LLC or cooperative. If you're a freelancer or a one-person business and haven't registered with the state, your business is considered a sole proprietorship.
  • Revenue: List your previous year's annual revenue before taxes and expenses.
  • Monthly expenses: List your average monthly credit card expenses for the business.
  • Beneficial owners or business controllers: If your business is a corporation or partnership, you'll be asked to list the names, contact information and personal identification information of people who are beneficial owners—those who own at least 25% of your company. 
  • Years in the business: Select the amount of time your business has existed.
  • Your role in the business: List your role—such as owner or partner.

Frequently asked questions

The right time to apply for a credit card will vary depending on unique aspects of your company, including things like where you are in your seasonal business cycle. That’s why it's important to consider your business needs, goals and requirements and your own credit preferences as a business owner.

Whether you need to finance a large purchase or are just looking for additional travel rewards, make sure your personal credit score is in good shape before you apply for a business credit card. If you’ve just launched your business, be sure you have a business plan that helps project annual revenue and expenses, since this information will be required on your application.

Business credit cards aren't just for those who own a corporation, partnership or limited liability company. Freelancers and independent contractors are considered self-employed business owners, commonly known as sole proprietors. Simply put, if you work for yourself, you may be eligible for a business credit card. 

Keep in mind that your personal credit score will be taken into consideration during the application review process.

Applying for a business credit card can affect your personal credit since a credit card issuer will conduct a personal credit inquiry as part of the application review process. Each credit inquiry may lower your credit score and show up on your personal credit report.

When you apply for a business credit card with your EIN, the application will also require that you list your Social Security number. Card issuers will use your Social Security number to check your personal credit as part of the application review process. Doing so helps them understand your personal track record in managing credit and paying off debt.

Take the first step by comparing Spark Business cards today

A business credit card can be an important management tool that helps your business maintain ample cash flow, establish a business credit history, and take advantage of important perks and rewards. The best business credit card for your company depends on how you want to use that credit and what rewards will work best for your enterprise.

Ready to find one? See if there's a Capital One Spark Business credit card that's right for you.

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