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Updated Nov 01, 2023

How to Apply for a Business Credit Card if You Have Bad Credit

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Donna Fuscaldo, Staff Writer

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A business credit card can build your credit profile, improve your business’ cash flow and help you make essential purchases for your company. However, if your personal credit score has taken a hit or two, qualifying for a business credit card can be challenging, but not impossible. We’ll explain options small business owners with less-than-stellar credit can pursue to obtain a business credit card.  

How do credit card issuers assess a business borrower?

When assessing a business borrower’s creditworthiness, the card issuer considers income from all sources. However, the borrower’s personal credit score dictates whether the applicant will be approved and how much interest they will pay.

What are good and bad credit scores?

Credit card issuers look for a good credit score (670 to 739 and above, according to the FICO Score range) when assessing a business borrower, just as they do when individuals apply for a personal credit card. The higher the score, the more creditworthy they consider the borrower. 

The lower the score, the riskier the business owner appears. (Scores ranging from 580 to 669 are considered fair, while scores ranging from 300 to 579 are considered poor.)

“Those with bad credit will have a difficult time getting a credit card since there aren’t a lot of cards aimed at that particular segment,” said Gerri Detweiler, author and expert on small business finance. “There are some issuers that will issue (credit cards) with a 600 score, which is not a bad credit score but not a great credit score.”

What credit score do you need to get a business credit card?

The credit score requirement will vary among issuers, but many business credit card companies require a credit score of 675 or higher. That’s not to say there aren’t options for borrowers with poor credit scores, such as those hovering around 600.

TipBottom line

To get the most out of your business credit card, avoid paying interest, optimize the card’s unique benefits and understand when promotional offers end.

How can you get a business credit card with bad credit?

If you’re applying for a business credit card with bad credit or no credit history, consider applying for a secured business credit card. A secured card is a viable way to improve your credit score and access credit.

Secured business credit cards have the following parameters: 

  • The credit card company requires a deposit upfront. 
  • Your credit limit is typically in lockstep with the deposit. 
  • The more on-time payments you make, the more your credit line increases. 
  • If your account stays in good standing, which means no late payments, your credit score increases over time.

“Payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score,” said Barry Coleman, vice president of counseling and education programs at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “Business owners would be wise to make on-time payments.”

Aside from the deposit requirement, secured credit cards are similar to unsecured credit cards: There’s an annual percentage rate (APR), an annual fee and potentially other charges.

Did You Know?Did you know

Ensure you apply for a D-U-N-S Number. This will enable you to get a business credit score from Dun & Bradstreet, the major credit bureau for business credit.

How can you build credit if you don’t want a secured card?

If you don’t want a secured card but still want to rebuild poor credit (or establish a good credit history if your business is new), consider applying for financing from a vendor.

“There are a number of business suppliers, most notably office and industrial supply companies, that are a little more lenient when it comes to using credit,” said Coleman. “Businesses [that] secure an account with one of these and make sure to pay invoices on time will improve their credit.”

The purchasing limit may be low to start with but, over time, it increases if you meet your obligations. “There are a number of companies that offer these types of accounts,” noted Coleman.

What are some business credit cards for people with bad credit?

Despite some business credit card issuers being more cautious about who they approve, there are cards for business owners with bad credit. Consider the following options. 

1. Spark 1% Classic From Capital One

Spark 1% Classic from Capital One is geared toward business owners with less-than-stellar credit. It considers applicants with credit scores as low as 580. You aren’t required to make a deposit with this card, but you will pay a hefty APR. At last check, the APR was 29.74% for purchases and cash advances. 

There are no annual fees and you earn 1% cash back on every business purchase. You can redeem points at any time, regardless of how many you’ve accumulated.

Capital One reports your payment history to all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). That means your personal and business credit scores get a boost every month you pay on time.

2. Bank of America Business Advantage Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured

The Bank of America Business Advantage Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured card helps establish and strengthen your business credit. It requires a security deposit of at least $1,000 and provides 1.5% cash back on your purchases, which you can use toward your credit card balance.

There is no annual fee and your account will be reviewed periodically to see if your credit limit can be increased. Potentially, you could transition to an unsecured card. The APR is currently 26.74%, with a 4% balance transfer fee. The card comes with cash flow management tools and travel and emergency services and can even help you monitor your business credit score for free.  

3. Ramp Card

The Ramp card is unique because it doesn’t require a personal credit check or a founder guarantee. It provides 1.5% cash back on purchases and integrates easily into most popular accounting software programs and other must-have business tools like Gusto and Workday. 

If you want employees to have corporate cards, you can control and monitor their spending. It simplifies expenses and automatically collects receipts to make expense reports easier. 

Robust software identifies duplicate transactions automatically and gives you information that can help you get a better price. The card has no annual fee, a 0% APR and a $250 welcome credit upon approval. Freelancers and sole proprietors are not eligible for approval. 

TipBottom line

If you’re a sole proprietor applying for a business credit card, try working with the bank you use for your business checking account or the bank where you were approved for a small business loan.

What should you look for in a business credit card?

Annual fees, APR, consumer protection and customer service tend to be the most crucial business credit card considerations:

  • Annual fees: Many credit cards have annual fees. These fees are part of how credit card companies make money. A credit card that approves a business owner with bad credit will likely charge higher annual fees. Compare your card’s annual fees to others to understand how fair it is. While low annual fees are nice, higher fees might come with better perks or be a better deal overall if you can afford them.
  • APR: The APR is the credit card’s interest rate. For many businesses, APR is the most critical factor. If you carry a balance on the credit card, a high APR can be devastating. However, if you don’t carry balances and never have to pay interest on your cards, you might opt for a higher APR to get better deals or perks. The inverse is also true: Some cards have higher annual fees and a lower APR.
  • Consumer protection: Consumer protection is critical to some businesses ― and worth very little to others. Consumer protection covers a wide range of services. Some cards will insure all purchases over a certain threshold automatically. Cards may also provide identity theft protection and other valuable resources. You should choose a card with consumer protection services that make sense for your business.
  • Customer service: Excellent customer service is essential in any product exchange. Everyone wants access to good customer service when things go wrong. Read customer reviews on the credit card you are considering to gauge the issuer’s customer service.
Did You Know?Did you know

While fees can be annoying, business credit card fees are tax-deductible. Note that any fees you deduct must be directly associated with the business.

How can you use business credit cards to improve your credit?

Business credit card options are limited for owners with bad credit. However, using an approved secured or unsecured card responsibly yields multiple benefits. Your credit score and maximum limit will increase, and you can qualify for other business credit cards and other business funding options.

Here are four best practices for improving your credit after getting approved for a new secured or unsecured business credit card: 

  1. Identify the cause of your credit problem: Your credit score took a hit for a reason. Perhaps you missed payments or have more debt than you can manage. You must acknowledge and change the behavior that caused your current credit predicament. You will be in an even deeper financial quandary if you don’t.
  2. Pay your business credit card on time: Your credit score is based in large part on your payment history. By paying your balance on time, your credit score will get a boost. Set an alert to remind you a week before the payment deadline or set up automatic payments with the card issuer.
  3. Monitor your credit score: Your credit score will improve as you make timely payments and manage a reasonable debt load. If you’ve been working with a secured card, you may be able to apply for an unsecured business credit card as your score increases. Monitoring your credit score helps you understand your options. Check your score with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion quarterly or at least twice yearly.
  4. Consider the future when using your business credit card: It’s easy to splurge on something your business can’t afford. But that short-term gain can lead to financial pain later. Coleman advised business owners with poor credit to focus on reaching financial stability as soon as possible. “It’s a lot easier to grow your business when you have access to capital. That access comes with positive financial practices.”
FYIDid you know

The best accounting and invoice software can link to your business credit card and account for card purchases automatically. Read our review of FreshBooks to learn more about an affordable solution with this feature.

Things to avoid when building credit

To maximize your credit-building progress, avoid the following common mistakes: 

  • Don’t have too many credit inquiries: Every time you apply for a credit card, line of credit or business loan, there will be a credit inquiry. Having too many inquiries is a red flag that lowers your credit score.
  • Don’t mix personal and business expenses: Many new and small businesses run as limited liability companies. This setup makes it easy to mix your personal and business finances, which can be disastrous for the business’ credit. For example, if you must buy a car for personal reasons, you don’t want those credit inquiries and that debt tied to your business.
  • Don’t ignore your credit score: Keeping on top of your credit score is essential for tracking your progress and eliminating harmful errors. Monitor your credit scores at Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian and initiate a dispute if you see an error. Removing inaccuracies on your credit report can boost your score. 
  • Don’t keep a high balance on your card: High balances are harmful for several reasons. First, you’ll pay the maximum amount of interest. Secondly, it keeps your utilization high. Utilization is the percentage of your overall credit line being used. High utilization depresses your credit score. Try to keep it to under 30% by paying down your balance, keeping purchases in check and asking for a credit line increase eventually. 

Jennifer Dublino contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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Donna Fuscaldo, Staff Writer
Donna Fuscaldo is a senior finance writer at and has more than two decades of experience writing about business borrowing, funding, and investing for publications including the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Newswires, Bankrate, Investopedia, Motley Fool, and Most recently she was a senior contributor at Forbes covering the intersection of money and technology before joining Donna has carved out a name for herself in the finance and small business markets, writing hundreds of business articles offering advice, insightful analysis, and groundbreaking coverage. Her areas of focus at include business loans, accounting, and retirement benefits.
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