Business vs. personal credit cards: 3 reasons business cards could be a better choice

A man and a woman leaning over a paper, trying to decide if they should use a business credit card or a personal credit cardImage: A man and a woman leaning over a paper, trying to decide if they should use a business credit card or a personal credit card

In a Nutshell

Owning a small business is stressful enough without worrying if you should use a personal credit card or one geared toward the business community. Here’s a quick and easy guide.
Louis DeNicola is a personal finance writer and has written for American Express and Discover. Editorial Note: Intuit Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our third-party advertisers don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. Information about financial products not offered on Credit Karma is collected independently. Our content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.

Small-business owners may be able to use a personal credit card to run their business, but a business credit card could have special perks and features that you don’t want to miss.

Some business owners use a personal card as their “business card” without a problem. But if you have employees, are planning to grow your business, or anticipate needing access to a higher line of credit or loan in the future, a business credit card could be a better option.

Even if you don’t identify with those scenarios, business credit cards may have perks that better align with your spending and lifestyle as a business owner.

Still unsure whether you’re better off with a personal or business card? Here are some key benefits of using a business credit card.

1. A business credit card can make recordkeeping easier

Whether you’re applying for a loan or preparing to file your tax return, having well-organized records can save you time and money (particularly if you’re paying an accountant to get everything in order for you).

Bill McDevitt, a Certified Public Accountant with Wilkin and Guttenplan P.C. in New Jersey, says if you intermingle business and personal expenses you could have to manually go over the account at the end of the year and figure out which expenses are deductible. He also points out that “if you are audited, you need to support the deductibility of those business expenses.”

A business card’s online portal or app might help. Some let you tag or label purchases, add a note to the purchase and attach a picture of your receipt that you can easily pull up later.

If you decide to use a personal credit card for your business, there’s no difference from a tax perspective, according to McDevitt. But you may want to only use it for business expenses to avoid potential confusion or problems later.

2. Business credit cards can help you build business credit

A personal credit card generally can’t help you build business credit, though your business and personal credit may be linked. Using a business credit card and paying the bill on time is one way to help build your business’s credit.

Your personal credit can determine your eligibility for financial products, such as loans or credit cards, as well as the interest rate or terms you’re offered. Similarly, your business credit can affect your business’s ability to qualify for loans, credit lines, terms from vendors and equipment or office leases.

Your business credit can also impact how much you’ll pay for business insurance. If you’re a sole proprietor, your personal credit may also be considered when you apply for business-related financial products.

Be careful about missing a business credit card payment as it could hurt both your business and personal credit. Some business card issuers report card use to the consumer credit bureaus, which compile the information that your personal credit scores are based on. Also, you may be held liable for the debt if you signed a personal guarantee.

As with personal credit, building your business credit can take time. Opening and using a business credit card is a simple way to get started.

Do business and personal credit cards offer the same protections?

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009 only covers consumer credit cards. As a result, the limits on how and when credit card companies can charge fees and raise interest rates aren’t a legal requirement for business cards. But some card issuers voluntarily extend these protections to their business cards.

3. Business credit cards may offer business-specific benefits

Personal credit cards often offer a variety of benefits. They could protect you from paying for fraudulent purchases, offer a rewards program, and give additional perks such as rental car insurance or free access to airport lounges.

Business credit cards often offer similar benefits, but they’re tailored to the needs of business owners. Here are some benefits that your card could come with.

  • Free employee cards You can give your employees a card so they can easily make purchases on the business’s behalf. You may be able to monitor their spending and control where they can use the card and how much they spend.
  • Business-specific rewards programs You could get a card that offers cash back rewards on shipping, advertising and other common business purchases.
  • Higher-limit purchase protection — With purchase protection, the card’s issuer may be willing to reimburse you if an item you buy is damaged or stolen. Personal cards may offer this perk, but business cards could cover more-expensive purchases.

Finding the right business credit card

Decided you want to open a business credit card? Now you have to choose which card you want.

To narrow down the options, consider how you plan to use the card, how much you regularly spend on business expenses and which perks may be beneficial. Also consider the fees and terms of each potential card, including the annual fee and interest rate.

If you spend thousands of dollars each month, you may want a business card with a rewards program that aligns with your business expenses.

Once you choose a card, submit your application (using your business’s EIN if you have one) and you may have the card shortly.

Bottom line

You may be able to use a personal credit card to run your business, but business cards are often a better choice because they offer perks and rewards programs that were created with business owners in mind.

About the author: Louis DeNicola is a personal finance writer and has written for American Express, Discover and Nova Credit. In addition to being a contributing writer at Credit Karma, you can find his work on Business Insider, Cheapi… Read more.