Can You Get a Business Credit Card Without a Business?

It would seem to make sense that to get a business credit card you need to have a business, but is that even true?  Can you get a business credit card without a business? The short answer is yes.

Credit card issuers routinely issue business credit cards to applicants who have no business ventures operating. This is due in part to the reality that many people apply for business credit cards before launching their businesses but also because credit card companies rely primarily on the applicant’s credit history and personal income, even if that income is derived from nonbusiness sources.

It is a bit of a gray zone, so you’ll want to ask the card issuer directly if you will be stepping on any toes by getting a business credit card without actually having a business. Chances are, you won’t.

What Constitutes a “Business”?

Part of the concern by consumers about business credit cards is: exactly what constitutes a business? It’s common to think of a business in very specific terms, such as a venture that has a dedicated physical location, an established cash flow, and is legally incorporated.

Credit card issuers, however, take a different view of what a business is. To issue a business credit card, any of the following activities is likely to qualify:

  • A side hustle, like house painting, cutting lawns, or pet sitting.
  • Freelancing activities, like writing or proofreading.
  • Teaching or tutoring, like test prep or giving music lessons.
  • Rideshare driving.
  • Providing delivery services.
  • Buying and selling online.
  • Contracting or consulting work.

These are just some of the activities that will qualify as a business for business credit card purposes. It’s also possible to get a business credit card for a business you are about to launch.

Why You Might Get a Business Credit Card Without a Business

The two primary reasons are either for the planned launch of a new business venture or to have a dedicated credit card for an informal business, such as those listed above.

There are multiple reasons why you would want to have a business credit card in either situation.

  1. You may want to create a brand for your business. This is done by having your business name associated with everything you use in the activity. That will include advertising and marketing pieces, business cards, invoices, a dedicated phone line, and a credit card with the name of your business on it. Branding is an excellent way to build credibility for your business and to make it look like a serious venture.
  2. With any business you have, regardless of how small, you will likely want to keep your business expenses separate from the personal ones. That will make income tax preparation much easier.
  3. As you’ll see in a bit, many business credit cards come with business-specific benefits. These can include generous rewards for business-related purchases.
  4. You may want to have a dedicated business credit card as a source of revolving credit to help build your business. It’s usually much easier to get a business credit card than it is to get a business loan.

What Business Credit Card Issuers Require for Qualification

Applying for a business credit card is very similar to applying for a consumer credit card. The card issuer will be primarily concerned with your financial profile. That will include basic information, like your full name, physical address, phone number, email address, Social Security number, occupation, and annual income.

If you do have a business up and running, the card issuer may also be looking for any of the following:

  • The name of the business.
  • Type of business entity – sole proprietorship, corporation, S corporation, partnership, or LLC.
  • An employer identification number (EIN), though this may not be required. Physical location of the business.
  • Number of employees, if any.
  • Current and projected income.
  • The type of business.
  • How long has the business been in operation?
  • Other business liabilities.

Depending on how formal the application process is, the credit card issuer may ask you to provide documentation to support any of the information requested above. That can include evidence of an EIN or articles of incorporation if your business is incorporated.

Good Business Credit Cards for Casual Businesses

Whether you have an established business or you’re thinking of starting one, there are some excellent credit cards for small business owners. Even as an upstart, you should be eligible to apply for any of the three cards below. But before applying, check with the issuer to make sure the type of business you have–or plan to have – will be eligible for the card offer.

1. Ink Business Premier℠ Credit Card

Chase Ink Business Premier

Our Rating: 4.7

★★★★
Ink Business Premier℠ Credit Card

Welcome Offer

Earn $1,000 bonus cash back

Annual Fee

$195

APR

Flex for Business variable APR: 19.49% – 27.49% Variable

Credit Req'd

Good, Excellent

Rewards: Earn up to 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase, 2.5% cash back on purchases of $5,000 or more, and 2% cash back on other eligible purchases.

The Ink Business Premier℠ Credit Card tops our list because it pays 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase, 2.5% cash back on large purchases of $5,000 or more, and 2% cash back on other eligible purchases. Frankly, this is as close to a perfect credit card as you'll find.

2% cash back
All eligible purchases
Earn unlimited 2% cash back on all other business purchases
2.5% cash back
All eligible purchases
Earn 2.5% total cash back on purchases of $5,000 or more
5% cash back
Travel
Unlimited 5% total cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel(SM)

Pros

  • Welcome offer
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Up to 5% cash back
  • Earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Cons

  • Annual fee
  • Requires good credit
  • Can't transfer points to other Chase cards or travel partners

2. The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Amex Business Platinum Card

Our Rating: 4.5

★★★★

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Welcome Offer

Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards® points (Terms Apply)

Est. Value

Up to $2,400

Annual Fee

$695

APR

19.49% – 27.49% Variable

Credit Req'd

Good, Excellent

Rewards: Earn 5x points on flights and hotels booked on AmexTravel.com and 1x points on other eligible purchases. Earn 1.5x points on eligible purchases at U.S. construction material, hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers, and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express is for frequent business travelers. It comes with great perks like airport lounge access and cell phone protection.

1x points
On all other eligible purchases
Earn 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
1.5x points
Select Categories
Earn 1.5X points (that's an extra half point per dollar) on each eligible purchase at U.S. construction material, hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers, and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
5x points
Airfare
5X Membership Rewards® points on flights on AmexTravel.com.
5x points
Hotels
5X Membership Rewards® points on prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.

Pros

  • Welcome offer
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Up to 5x points

Cons

  • Annual fee
  • Requires good credit

3. Capital One Spark Cash Plus

Capital One Spark Cash Plus

Our Rating: 4.8

★★★★

Capital One Spark Cash Plus

Welcome Offer

$1,500 Cash Back

Est. Value

$1,500

Annual Fee

$150

APR

N/A Variable

Credit Req'd

Excellent

Rewards: Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. 2% cash back on all other purchases.

Capital One Spark Cash Plus is a charge card for business owners with an excellent flat rate of 2% cash back on all purchases. You must pay the card in full every month. There are no foreign transaction fees.

2% cash back
On all other eligible purchases
Earn unlimited 2% cash back on every purchase, everywhere-with no limits or category restrictions.
5% cash back
Hotels
Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels booked through Capital One Travel.
5% cash back
Rental Cars
Earn unlimited 5% cash back on rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.

Pros

  • Welcome offer
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Up to 5% cash back
  • unlimited 2% cash back

Cons

  • Annual fee
  • Requires good credit
  • Pay your balance at the end of the month

Be aware this is a charge card, and you must pay your balance in full each month. However, because it is there are no preset spending limits. Employee cards are available to help you earn even more rewards.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I get a business credit card without a business income?

It’s common for credit card issuers to make credit cards available for new businesses. That being the case, you won’t have a business income. You’ll need to explain the status of your business to the card issuer to make sure they are okay with providing a card for a new business. The chances are excellent that they will.

Is it illegal to get a business credit card without a business?

It’s very unlikely, and the card issuer will decline your application if that happens to be true in your state of residence. Your business credit card will likely be approved based on your income and credit score, regardless of whether you have a business. Also, it’s possible to get a business credit card for an informal business, like freelancing or gig work.

Do I need an EIN to get a business credit card?

Generally, not. Once again, your application will be approved based on your personal income and credit history. The only time an EIN is likely to be required is if you have formed a corporation and want to have the credit card issued to your business, not to you personally.

That’s the kind of requirement that applies to established businesses that already have business credit. Most credit card issuers will be more interested in your financial profile.

Can you build business credit without an LLC?

Though it may be possible to build business credit for a sole proprietorship, the effort is much more likely to be successful if the business is established as an independent legal entity. That will be the case if the business is incorporated as either a C or S corporation or as a limited liability company (LLC).

Should You Get a Business Credit Card Without a Business?

Whether you have an established business, a side hustle, or a business you are planning to launch, you should seriously consider getting a business credit card. Don’t worry about whether or not your venture represents a “legitimate” business–the credit card issuer will make that determination, and it will most likely be favorable. You can then enjoy all the benefits and perks that come with having a dedicated credit card for your business.