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Do I Need a Business to Apply for a Business Credit Card?

The answer is “not really.”

Now, don’t take that too liberally either.  Let me be specific. You don’t need to have a registered business with its own business name. You don’t need an EIN (Employer Identification Number). If you have a full time business and an EIN, of course you are eligible. But you didn’t need to Google this article to find that out.

If you are in a cash crunch, you should avoid travel rewards credit cards until you are caught up. Here are our favorite credit cards for Intro 0% APR offers and for balance transfer offers

Assuming you don’t have a full time business, what is the criteria to apply for and be approved for Business Credit CardsAnd why do you care?

First, you care because realizing that you are eligible for Business Credit Cards is a game changer with regards to the various new cards, new card bonus offers, and spending bonus categories that are available to you.

My top choice right now for a first Business credit card if you are just getting into the Business card arena is the Chase Ink Preferred Credit Card. It’s rich bonus offer of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points is worth a minimum of $1,2500, this card allows you to transfer those points to airlines and hotels, and also offers free cellphone insurance if you pay the monthly bills with your card.

Sounds great – but back to the story….

Do I Qualify for a Business Credit Card?

1) You do need to conduct business outside of a day job. You are not eligible if you have a salaried position and no other income.

2) A side business /gig / whatever…. DOES count. If you consult on the side, you qualify. If you sell things on eBay.com, you qualify. If you sell your crafts on Etsy, you qualify!

3) If you do not have an official business name and an EIN (Employer Identification Number), you must apply in a very specific way. Do not mess this up or you will be declined. 

Here’s how to apply correctly

  • Your business name is simply your own name. If you are “John Paul Smith” on your personal credit cards, then put “John Paul Smith” as your name and “John Paul Smith” again as your Business name.  If you use “John Smith” (i.e. if you don’t normally use a middle name) then use “John Smith” as your name and “John Smith” again as your Business name.
  • Your Tax ID number will be your SSN (Social Security Number).
  • Your business income will be the amount you are making or will earn from your side business (anything not salary).
  • You would *not* include investment income etc, except if it is part of your business income.

If you meet the criteria above, my favorite small business cards are below. Different benefits for different preferences, so scan them all before choosing one.

You can also find the Best Business Credit Card Bonuses at Your Best Credit Cards.

Small Business Credit CardsBonus OfferBest FeaturesMore info

Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
100,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $15,000 in your first 3 monthsEarns 3x points on travel, advertising, and shipping.

This massive Welcome Bonus offer makes this card a great first business card. The bonus alone is worth $1,000 - $1,200 at a minimum.

These points can be transferred to a range of Ultimate Rewards partners like United and Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio or spent in the Ultimate Rewards portal on travel with a value of 1.25 cents per point. Also provides complimentary cell phone insurance if you pay your monthly bill with the card. $95 annual fee waived the first year.
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Chase Ink Business Unlimited
75,000 Ultimate Rewards points (or $750 cash) when you spend $7,500 in 3 monthsBest for small businesses with a lot of every day spend. This card earns 1.5x everywhere.

If you don't spend a lot in the bonus categories of other cards, or want a second card to pair with one that you use in the bonus categories, this is a great card. No annual fee. Pair this with the Chase Ink Preferred for a killer 1-2 card combo.
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Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card
75,000 Ultimate Rewards points (or $750 cash) when you spend $7,500 in 3 months5x points on up to $25,000 in office supplies, internet, cable, and phone annually.

There are lots of ways to maximize this amazing 5x benefit. If you combine these points into a Chase Sapphire Reserve account to book travel, it's like 7.5% effective cash back. No annual fee.
Learn More

The Business Platinum Card(R) from American Express
100,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $15,000 within 3 months. Terms apply.Access to Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges, Delta SkyClub lounges (with Delta ticket) $200 annual airline creditLearn More

Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
60,000 Rapid Rewards points when you spend $3,000 in 3 monthsThose trying to get a Southwest Companion pass (the bonus points count).

Read more about how to qualify for the Companion Pass here.
Learn More

The Business Gold Card
Earn 70,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $10,000 within first 3 months. Terms apply.Earns 4x Membership Rewards points on two categories of your choice (options include US-based: advertising, computer services, gas stations, restaurants, or shipping - up to $150,000 a year in spend). Other purchases earn 1X. This card is a good choice IF you will spend heavily on at least one of the bonus categories, as this card has a $295 annual fee.Learn More

The Blue Business Plus Credit Card
NoneEarns 2x Membership Rewards points on all of your purchases, regardless of category, up to $50,000 a year. This is a great card to earn Membership Rewards from spend in categories with no bonuses on other cards and has no annual fee.

As well, it earns standard Membership Rewards points meaning that if you wanted to close a Green/Gold/Platinum card, you would keep your points alive if you have this card.
Learn More

Capital One Spark Miles for Business
You will earn a bonus of 50,000 miles when you spend $4,500 in the first 3 months of opening your account.This card earns 2 miles per dollar. These miles are transferable to 11 frequent flyer programs (0.75 airline miles per one Capital One mile).Learn More

Capital One Spark Cash
You will earn a bonus of $500 when you spend $4,500 in the first 3 months of opening your account.This card earns 2% cash back.Learn More

Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Points after when spend $3,000 within 3 months. Also, Earn Up to $100 in Statement Credits when you spend at a Hilton Hotel within 12 months of approval. Terms apply.Complimentary Gold Status in the Hilton Honors program (Diamond upgrade if you spend $40,000 in a calendar year). 10 free Priority Pass lounge visits. Free weekend night rewards (valid for any hotel) when you spend more than $15,000 in a calendar year and again if you spend more than $60,000.

Earns 12x points at Hilton, 6x points on US gas, wireless services, shipping, flights booked direct with the airline or Amex Travel, and car rentals. 3x on everything else
Learn More


Let me know below in the comments, on Twitter, or in the private MilesTalk Facebook group.

And if this post helped you, please consider sharing it!

You can find credit cards that best match your spending habits and bonus categories at Your Best Credit Cards

New to all of this? My “introduction to miles and points” book, MilesTalk: Live Your Wildest Travel Dreams Using Miles and Points is available on Amazon and at major booksellers.

I got "in the game" in 2003 and since then I've collected literally millions and millions of frequent flyer miles and hotel points. I've flown around the world in first class seats that would cost $29,000 using frequent flyer miles and a few bucks in tax. And I've stayed in some of the finest hotels - all for free! A few years ago I realized many of my friends actually thought I was paying for these!! So I started sharing my tips. It's long been a passion, but when I hosted a session on Miles and Points at this year's South by Southwest festival, my love of the game intensified and this blog was born.


  1. […] If you are just getting started in miles and points, it may not be immediately obvious why your first card should in most cases be a Chase Ink Business Preferred card. You might initially be thinking that you can’t even get a business credit card, but there’s also a good chance that’s an incorrect assumption and that is why you should also read this article on the topic: Do You Need a Business to Qualify and Apply for a Business Credit Card? […]


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