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How to apply for a business credit card

CNBC Select reviews who can apply for business credit cards, how to complete an application and how your personal credit might be affected.

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There can be many benefits to using a small business credit card, from streamlining expenses to earning rewards. But you may wonder who qualifies as a business owner?

Below, CNBC Select reviews who can apply for business credit cards, how to complete an application and how your personal credit is affected.

Who can apply for business credit cards?

As the name hints, you need to operate a business in order to apply for a business credit card. However, card issuers have pretty lenient requirements when it comes to defining a business. If you tutor in your spare time, freelance or resell products, you'll likely qualify as a business owner.

If your business is new and doesn't have a credit history yet, you can still apply. Many banks review your personal credit report in addition to your business credit report (when available).

How to apply for a business credit card

Once you choose the best business credit card for your needs, you can start the application process. Applying for a business credit card isn't that different from applying for a personal credit card. You'll still be required to enter contact information, revenue and other details.

Here's what to expect on a business credit card application:

  • Business name: The name of your company. If you freelance or have a sole proprietorship, enter your name.
  • Business address and phone number: Where your business is located, which can be your personal address. And you can list a work or personal phone.
  • Industry type and company structure: The industry your business falls under and whether you have a corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, etc.
  • Years in business: How long you've operated your business. If you have a new company, put zero.
  • Number of employees: How many employees are part of your company. If you are the only employee, enter one.
  • Annual business revenue: The amount of money your business makes each year. Report your total annual business revenue; not your business profit. Don't exaggerate this number since you may be required to provide documentation verifying it.
  • Estimated monthly spend: Average monthly business expenses you plan to spend on the card.
  • Tax identification number: This is either your employer identification number (EIN) or social security number (SSN), and sometimes both.
  • Personal information: This may include your home address, monthly rent/mortgage payments and total annual income.

How a business card affects your personal credit

When you open a business credit card, your personal credit will typically be reviewed by the card issuer, resulting in a hard inquiry on your personal credit report. This often causes your personal credit score to drop a few points, but it can bounce back in a few months with responsible card use. (Learn how to check your business credit score for free.)

When you use a business card, the actions you take with your card may be reflected on your personal credit report. That means any balances and payment history can affect your personal credit. Some card issuers only report negative information to personal credit bureaus, while others may report both the good and the bad.

You should always use your business credit card responsibly, with a plan to pay it off on time and in full each month, so you avoid damaging your personal credit.

Learn more: Amex Business Platinum Card review

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.