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By Roy Rasmussen Updated on December 16, 2021

A Guide to the Best Business Credit Cards for Startups

What are the best business credit cards for startups? Here’s our guide to 4 of today’s top options. 

We’ll review leading business credit cards for new business by considering factors such as annual percentage rate (APR), annual fees and cash-back rewards. Use our guide to help you find the right business credit card for you.

Our Picks

In this review we’ll cover 4 leading card options suitable for startup businesses (not in particular order):

  1. American Express Blue Business Cash Card
  2. Chase Ink Business Cash credit card
  3. Capital One Spark 1.5% Cash Select card
  4. Brex cards

These cards were selected based on factors such as introductory APR, rewards systems, benefits geared toward small business needs and qualifying criteria. We’ve focused on cards that are easy for small business startups to qualify for and which serve the cash-flow needs of companies with limited revenue. Each of these cards has its own unique benefits, pros and cons which may be more appropriate for some businesses and business models than others.

In addition to the above cards, all these providers offer other cards with stricter qualifying criteria which are geared toward more established businesses, but which some startups may find useful. You might elect to start with one of the cards covered here and upgrade to a higher-tier card as your startup grows and your revenue and credit score increase.

A hand holds 4 credit cards.

Qualifying for the Best Business Credit Cards for New Businesses

As a startup, your ability to qualify for small business credit cards for new businesses typically will depend on personal financial factors such as your income and your personal credit score. Credit analytics data provider FICO uses a scoring system with a base range of 300 to 850 where a good credit score is defined as 670 to 739. A score in this range or higher will make it easier for you to qualify for the best credit card for new business firms.

Scores in the range of 580 to 669 are defined as fair, making it harder to qualify for the best credit card for small business startup options, although some providers may still extend credit, often at higher interest rates. Scores below 580 are considered poor and lower your chances of qualifying for business credit cards for startups.

Note that some providers may have in-house scoring systems which define ranges for good scores somewhat differently than FICO. However, the FICO scoring system is standard and serves as a useful guideline.

You can improve your credit score by taking steps such as paying bills on time and paying down balances on existing credit cards. As your startup accumulates more time in business, factors such as your company’s revenue and history of paying vendors on time will begin to play a role in defining your business credit score as distinct from your personal credit score.

An exception to these general qualifying rules is business credit cards which act as debit cards. For some cards in this category, your business credit history plays a bigger role than your personal credit score in determining qualifications. Your card may have a secured limit, making it easier to qualify. The Brex card reviewed falls into this category.

1. American Express Blue Business Cash Card

One of several business credit cards offered by American Express, the Blue Business Cash Card includes a range of features and benefits useful to startup companies:

  • Acceptance at 99% of U.S. locations that accept credit cards
  • 0.0% APR for the first 12 months after opening your account, followed by a variable APR of 13.24% to 19.24% depending on your creditworthiness and other items taken under consideration at the time you opened your account
  • No annual fee
  • 2% cash back automatically credited for eligible purchases up to $50,000 per calendar year, with 1% cash back after the annual limit is reached
  • Limited ability to spend above your limit with Expanded Buying Power, with your bonus limit adjusted based on factors such as your card usage and payment history
  • Travel rewards: coverage for car rental loss or damage to vehicles rented using your card, subject to exclusions and restrictions, and access to a Global Assist Hotline for help in certain travel emergencies
  • Expense management tools: including use of a business app, employee cards, cash back for vendor payments and syncing with QuickBooks
  • Extended warranty protection for covered purchases
  • Purchase protection for eligible purchases which are stolen or damaged
  • Dispute resolution assistance in the event of incorrect or fraudulent charges
  • Special offers from American Express (Amex Offers)

The Incentive

As an incentive for signing up, American Express offers a $500 statement credit. The first $250 is credited after spending $5,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months after opening your account. The remaining $250 gets credited after spending another $10,000 within the first year of holding your account.

The low introductory APR, lack of an annual fee, high cash rewards and Expanded Buying Power to cover cash-flow emergencies make the American Express Blue Business Cash Card an attractive choice for small business startups. Online approval takes as little as 30 seconds.

2. Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card

Among Chase’s business credit card offerings, one of the best for startups is the Ink Business Cash credit card. This card features:

  • A 0% introductory APR for the first 12 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.24% to 19.24%
  • No annual fee
  • 5% cash back on the first $25,000 in annual combined purchases from office supply stores and on internet, phone and cable bills
  • 2% cash back on the first $25,000 in annual combined purchases spent at gas stations and restaurants
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases, with no limits
  • Ability to redeem rewards for cash, gift cards, travel and Apple purchases through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program
  • Additional cards for employees at no extra cost, with the ability to set individual spending limits
  • Monitoring and protection through personalized alerts, fraud protection and purchase protection against damages and theft
  • Auto rental collision damage waivers
  • Travel and emergency assistance services for legal and medical referrals while traveling and other covered situations
  • Roadside dispatch service

The Incentive

As an incentive for signing up, Chase offers $750 bonus cash back if you spend $7,500 during the first 3 months after opening your account.

The low introductory APR, lack of annual fee and cash back rewards make the Chase Ink Business Cash credit card a good choice for startups. Businesses that make significant purchases in categories such as office supplies, utilities, travel and dining may find this card particularly useful.

3. Capital One Spark 1.5% Cash Select

Capital One’s business credit card offerings include the Capital One Spark 1.5% Cash Select card, a good option for startups. This card features:

  • A 0% introductory APR for the first 12 months, followed by a variable APR of 15.99% to 23.99% based on creditworthiness
  • No annual fee
  • Minimum monthly payments of the greater of $15 or 1% of your balance plus any new interest, late payment penalties and past due amounts
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, with no limits or restrictions on categories
  • Automatic bill payment setup
  • 0% fraud liability
  • Year-end spending summaries
  • Purchase records which can be imported into Quicken, QuickBooks, Excel and other formats
  • The ability to assign an account manager for managing transactions and resolving disputes
  • Virtual card numbers for more secure online payments

Of Note

Unlike some providers, Capital One lists qualification requirements explicitly on its website. You can qualify for the Capital One Spark 1.5% Cash Select card with good credit, which Capital One defines as having no bankruptcy loans or defaults in the past 5 years and no credit card or loan payments over 30 days late over the past year. Capital One has other options with stricter qualifications for applicants with excellent credit.

Online application takes about 10 minutes and approvals are made within seconds. Applicants will need to provide the legal names, addresses and Social Security numbers for all business owners along with the company’s legal name, address and tax identification number (TIN).

The Capital One Spark 1.5% Cash Select card is a good option for startups that are looking for a low introductory APR and plan to maintain a balance. Capital One has other options for businesses that play to pay off their balances every month.

4. Brex Cards

Brex, which provides financial services targeted at companies in the technology industry, includes credit card services among its products. The Brex card works like a debit card, drawing from your balance. It comes in 2 varieties, one for companies of all sizes and one for companies meeting certain size and revenue criteria. 

The version for smaller companies features:

  • No minimum balance
  • Limits determined by the company’s financial information rather than business owner’s personal finances, based on factors such as the company’s available cash, spending habits and credit history
  • Card balances paid daily from your account
  • No interest, so no introductory APR
  • No annual fees
  • Rewards points multiplied by 8 for rideshare, 5 for qualified Brex travel expenses, 4 times for restaurants, 3 times for recurring software bills and 1 time for other expenses
  • Integration with QuickBooks, Xero and other software
  • Expense tracking tools
  • Unlimited cards for all employees with custom limits and team tracking tools
  • Fraud protection with no liability
  • Reporting to credit tracking services to build your business credit

Of Note

For companies that meet size and revenue qualifications, Brex offers the ability to pay balances monthly, account limits of 10 to 20 times that of standard corporate cards and rewards points of up to 7 times on all spending categories.

When it comes to qualifying, Brex stands out as one of the relatively rare startup business credit cards with no credit check requirements. They base their underwriting decisions on your company’s employer identification number rather than your Social Security number. They don’t require any personal guarantee. Applying does not affect your personal credit score.

Brex represents an option for startups that need a debit card with rewards rather than a standard credit card. Their card can help build the credit history needed to apply for a business credit card. Their rewards for software bills can help companies in the tech industry save money.

A startup rocket labeled blasts off.

Choose the Best Business Credit Card for Your Startup

Business credit cards differ based on factors such as APR interest rates, annual fees and cash-back rewards. Some cards have low introductory APR periods, while others don’t. Some waive annual fees. Cash-back rewards and other bonuses may vary widely. Consider the details of card offers when choosing the right card for your business.

The cards reviewed here generally require a good credit score to qualify. If your credit score is only fair, you still may be able to qualify for other cards with higher interest rates.

Credit cards are only one solution to startup financing. Other business financing solutions such as loans, invoice financing, merchant cash advances and equipment financing represent additional alternatives. Fast Capital 360 uses digital technology to match businesses with financing resources that fit your needs and qualifying criteria. To explore other financing options, take a few minutes to fill out our free, no-obligation prequalifying form and see your loan options.

Roy is a respected, published author on topics including business coaching, small business management and business automation as well as an expert business plan writer and strategist.
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