Maybe when your business was in its infancy, you put a few business-related expenses on your personal credit card. But now, your company is, well, a company. Is it time for a business credit card? Chances are that whether you’re in startup stage, or a full-blown functional business, you need a business credit card in your wallet.
Here’s why that personal credit card might not cut it any longer—and exactly how to tell.
Why Choose a Business Credit Card Over a Personal Card?
It’s a totally reasonable question. After all, business credit cards function just like a personal credit card. The issuer gives you a credit limit; you can make purchases, balance transfers, and even cash withdrawals. And, if you pay back the amount you’ve borrowed, your limit replenishes. Plus, you can get benefits and rewards from both, like cash back, miles, and points.
The key differences, though, between personal vs. business credit cards are significant enough that they could change the way your business spends. These are four of the major benefits that might lead you to choose a business credit card:
They’re designed for businesses. That means rewards and other perks are geared toward benefiting companies. For instance, a business credit card might offer extra cash back on office-supply expenses.
Their limits are often higher. That could be great news for you—especially because companies generally spend more than individuals. It’s very possible that the limit on your personal card will be too low to meet an emergency business expense or stay at a good credit utilization ratio (usually considered 30% or below).
You can use them to build business credit. You have a business credit score—and that’s different than your personal credit score. You can build your business credit at the big three business credit bureaus—Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, and Equifax—with a business credit card. And, probably unsurprisingly, a better business credit score will lead to better business loan options, too.
They help you protect your personal liability. It’s important to draw a distinct line between your personal and business finances (aka spending for business on a business credit card). This is especially true from a liability standpoint. If you can’t pay your credit card bills, or, worse, your business is sued or you need to declare bankruptcy, your expenses must be separated so that your personal assets and credit are protected.
How to Know If You’re Ready for a Business Credit Card
Now that you know why you should get a business credit card, here’s how to tell that you’re ready to get one. Any one of these reasons on its own is reason enough—and if you see yourself in more than one, then it’s definitely time to find the best business credit card for you:
1. You have good personal credit.
If you’ve already proven that you’re responsible with your personal finances and borrowing, chances are you’ll also be able to responsibly use a business credit card. When you’re applying for your first business credit card, card issuers will check your personal credit score in order to figure out which business cards you’ll qualify for. If you’re still building or rebuilding credit, you do still have some business credit card options; or, you can also consider working on your personal credit with a secured personal credit card before applying for a business card.
2. You need to build toward a loan…
If you’re a startup or new company that doesn’t have enough time in business to qualify for a business loan, but do need some capital to get things rolling, a business credit card can really help. If used strategically, 0% introductory APR business credit cards can work like interest-free loans for their intro periods, giving you time to pay back large purchases. Plus, you’ll be building good business credit while you pay back your bills in full on time thereafter.
3. …or graduate into a better one.
If you didn’t get favorable business loan terms because of your credit score and you’d like to refinance your existing loan, or graduate into a better product, a business credit card can help. By paying off your bills in full and on time—on top of being diligent with your loan payments, of course—you can prove financial responsibility to your lender.
4. You want to track or control employee or contractor spending.
Most business credit cards give you the option to issue employee cards connected to the main cardholder account. But many also allow you to set spending limits on these employee cards—some even will let you restrict spending to only certain categories of products, dates and times, or remotely turn cards on and off. You don’t have to be paranoid about anyone running up thousands of dollars of debt of unapproved expenses on your card.
5. You haven’t separated your business and personal finances yet.
Not only does keeping your transactions separated make accounting and tax time easier, but it’s a must if you want all of the liability protection of that LLC or corporation you filed for. It’s as simple as setting up a business bank account and making sure you’re spending on a designated business credit card—otherwise, how does anyone know where your life stops and the business begins?
6. You spend a lot but don’t earn anything for it.
Running a business costs money. Whatever you have to be spending on—supplies, inventory, utilities, gas, professional services—you might as well be earning rewards for, right? And since you can pick the rewards that benefit your business most, like hotel stays or statement credits, there’s no reason why you should be spending and not earning at the same time.
7. You don’t have a good handle on your business spending.
Tracking expenses is difficult enough—and if you’re not great with money, adding a credit card into the mix could be dangerous, sure. But a business credit card can help you figure out what kind of categories your business is spending on, how often, and during what seasons. If you pay with cash, you don’t have that kind of papertrail. By spotting patterns, you might be able to score bulk discounts longer-term contracts with vendors, or get a card that’ll reward you for certain spending categories, like entertaining or utilities.
If It’s Time, Make Sure to Find the Best Credit Card for Your Business
There are lots of reasons your business might be ready for a business credit card—and, luckily, many types of business credit cards to suit these needs. When you start looking into your options, explore all that there is to offer to make sure that you’re getting the card that works best for your business. It’s out there.