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Whether you’re a freelancer, someone with a side-gig, or you run a business with 15 employees, an HR team, and a brick-and-mortar store or office, keeping your personal and business finances is vital. Even if you’re a sole proprietor using your personal checking account, things can get muddy quickly when you’re cutting personal and business checks from the same account, or charging drinks with friends and your monthly Microsoft Office subscription to the same credit card.
To make your own day-to-day life easier, and to save yourself a tremendous number of headaches when it comes time to file taxes, you’re best keeping business purchases separate — I learned this quickly when I started to do some freelance work on the side.
There are a few other reasons to use a business card, though.
Your personal card might not facilitate the kind of spending your company does. Business cards can have higher credit limits, and in most cases, the activity on a business card won’t affect your personal credit report (although if you default on the business card, the card issuer can still come after you personally).
If you’re a “sole-proprietor” business, where you work solo and work under your own name and social security number (rather than a business name), getting a business card is more about the convenience of keeping your expenses separate, and protecting your own credit profile and assets — even the smallest of businesses are eligible, such as freelancers, individuals with side gigs, or even people who resell things on eBay.
If you’re a bigger business, though — or aspire to grow into one, with employees and more resources, having a business card is a must — not only to separate expenses, but to establish business credit, so that you have flexibility later on with loans and leases. Plus, you can get additional authorized cards for employees as needed.
Take a look below at our picks of a few of the best small business credit cards to open in 2018.
Welcome offer: 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $5,000 on the card in the first three months.
If you’re looking to earn valuable, flexible rewards points on your small business spending, the Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) ecosystem is among the best options. If you already have one of Chase’s popular personal rewards cards — like the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve — the Ink Business Preferred is an ideal business card companion.
Like those cards, the Ink Preferred earns UR points, and while you can keep them on that card and separate from the rest of your stash, you can also combine them with the rest of your points. These points can be traded for cash back, transferred to frequent flyer and hotel loyalty partners, or used to purchase travel with a 25% bonus (or a 50% bonus if you move your points over to your Chase Sapphire Reserve).
The card also earns 3x points per dollar on the first $150,000 your business spends on combined purchases each cardmember year in several categories, including travel, shipping, internet/cable/phone, and advertising on social media sites or with search engines, such as Google Ads. Purchases after you reach $150,000, or in any other category, earn 1x point per dollar.
That earning rate, plus the card’s 80,000 point sign-up bonus when you spend $5,000 in the first three months — the highest bonus currently offered by Chase — should make for a nice stash of Ultimate Reward points.
Among other benefits, the Ink Business Preferred offers cell phone protections. When you use the Ink Preferred to pay your cell phone bill, you’re covered for up to $600 for damage, loss, or theft of your cell phone — or your employees’ work-provided phones, if you provide them. You’re limited to three claims per rolling 12-month period, but this can save you a fortune. That insurance alone makes up for the $95 annual fee.
Welcome offer: Up to 75,000 Membership Rewards points (50,000 points after spending $10,000 in the first three months, and another 25,000 if you spend an additional $15,000 in that same time frame).
The small business version of American Express’s famed Platinum Card used to be our pick for the top business card, but recently announced changes have made it a bit more of a niche product — potentially useful for mid-sized businesses, but less valuable for sole proprieters and very small operations.
The changes don’t take place until February, so it’s still possible to grab this card and enjoy its current perks — and, for the first year, its lower annual fee.
After the changes, card holders will receive a complimentary year of WeWork Global Access membership, allowing them to use any of WeWork’s 335 facilities, which are spread across 83 cities throughout the world. The benefit is worth $2,700, according to AmEx.
After the changes, Business Platinum card holders will also get up to $200 of annual statement credits to use when shopping at Dell.
The card’s current perks will remain, but the annual fee will increase from $450 to $595, beginning with your first billing cycle after the changes in February — if you apply before then, you’ll lock down the lower fee for your first year.
The Business Platinum is ideal for small businesses that spend a lot on flights and travel — when you book flights and prepaid hotel stays through Amex Travel, you earn 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent (and 1x points on everything else). You also earn a 50% bonus — so effectively 1.5x points per dollar — on purchases of $5,000 or more, up to 1 million extra points per year.
The card includes $200 in airline fee credits each calendar year, essentially rebating part of the annual fee. Plus, because the airline fee credit is valid each calendar year, not cardmember year, you could get it twice in your first 12 months of having the card.
The card offers a slew of other benefits, including access to more than 1,200 airport lounges, including Priority Pass lounges, Delta Sky Clubs when you’re flying with the airline, and proprietary Amex Centurion Lounge locations.
When you have the Business Platinum card and use points to book a flight through Amex Travel on one airline that you pre-select — or business or first class flights on any airline — you’ll get 35% of your points back. You’ll get 10 complimentary Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi passes each year, as well as automatic Gold elite status with Hilton, Marriott, and Starwood hotels.
Welcome offer: 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $3,000 on the card in the first three months. This offer is only available until September 26.
This card usually doesn’t have a welcome offer, and that might be enough to turn many people away from it. However, it’s currently offering a limited-time bonus, and despite the fact that you usually won’t be able to jump-start your points balance with a massive haul, you’ll earn more through regular spending: the card offers 2x points on every dollar spent, on your first $50,000 in spending every year (after that, it’s 1x point).
There’s also a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months, and then a variable rate (currently 12.99%, 16.99% or 20.99%). While funding your startup with a credit card may not be the best idea, the introductory APR can help if you have a few larger purchases coming up and are still working to get cash flow regular. Best of all, the card has no annual fee.
Welcome offer: $500 (or 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $3,000 in the first three months
However, just like the consumer Freedom Unlimited card, the Ink Business Unlimited has a trick up its sleeve: although the card is marketed as “cash back,” it actually earns Ultimate Rewards points that you can redeem for cash (1 point = $0.01).
That means that you can combine the points earned from the Ink Unlimited with the ones you earn from cards like the Ink Preferred, or the personal Sapphire Reserve, and either earn a bonus when you redeem them for travel through Chase, or transfer them to travel partners. Combined with an Ink Preferred, you’ll get a guaranteed 1.5-3x points per dollar spent.
The card offers a 0% introductory APR for 12 months (with a variable 14.99-20.99% APR after), and has no annual fee, making it a no-brainer for every small business owner, freelancer, or side-gig hustler.
Welcome offer: $500 (or 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $3,000 in the first three months
The Ink Cash is another solid Chase entry, and just like with the Ink Unlimited, you can pool the “cash” you earn with points from a points-earning card, effectively converting your cash into (potentially) more valuable points.
The Ink Cash earns 5% cash back (or 5x points) on the first $25,000 in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone services each card holder year. It earns 2% back (or 2x points) on the first $25,000 in purchases at gas stations and restaurants each year, and 1% (or 1x point) on everything else with no cap.
Like the Ink Unlimited, the Ink Cash offers a 0% introductory APR for 12 months (with a variable 14.99-20.99% APR after), and has no annual fee.
Welcome offer: $500 after spending $4,500 in the first three months
This is probably the simplest, easiest-to-use card on this list, but simple doesn’t mean bad — this can be a fantastically rewarding card.
Plus, Capital One is offering a rare limited-time sign-up bonus of up to $2,000. Your business will have to spend a whopping $50,000 in the first six months to earn the whole thing — however, if you have a business that spends a lot of money — for instance, fronting expenses that are billed to clients, or purchasing supplies — the bonus requirements could be easy to hit.
The Capital One Spark Cash earns unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases. That’s it. No categories, no points values or conversions, no redemption minimums. Rewards won’t expire for the life of the account, and you can redeem any amount of cash back.
However, keep in mind that while 2x points may be more valuable than 2% cash if you redeem strategically for travel by transferring to partners, Membership Rewards points can’t be redeemed outright for cash. You can redeem them for a statement credit, but they’ll only be worth 0.6¢ each. That means that effectively, the Amex card only offers 1.2% “cash” back, compared to the no-strings-attached 2% from the Capital One Spark Cash.
7. Airline business credit cards
Welcome offer: Varies
If you fly often for work, and you’re loyal to one particular airline, then it could be worth getting an airline’s business credit card instead. In addition to earning frequent flyer miles on every purchase, you’ll get a variety of perks like free checked bags, priority boarding, and more.
Each airline card’s terms and benefits are slightly different, so click on your preferred airline card below to learn more.