Key takeaways

  • A small-business owner will typically start out with one credit card and add to their portfolio as needed.
  • Having multiple small-business credit cards will add another layer of protection to your finances if you need to make expensive purchases for your business.
  • Small-business cards have varied offerings, so having multiple cards at your disposal can help build a portfolio of your ideal rewards rates and benefits.

As a small-business owner, you want a credit card that’s right for your venture. But as your business grows and your needs change, you’ll likely find that you want more than one card. This way, you can ensure financial safety while getting ahead with the perks and rewards that come with these specialized products. Each business credit card has its own attributes, so it’s important to review what they offer and apply only for cards that will help you achieve your goals.

Here’s how to decide whether adding more accounts to your credit portfolio makes sense and what the benefits will be for doing so.

Should you own multiple business credit cards?

Just as consumers sometimes need more than one personal credit card to pay for the things they want and to build good credit, small-business owners typically have multiple business credit cards to take advantage of the same strategy.

The main reason you will likely want a more robust small-business credit card portfolio is the immediate borrowing power they offer via credit lines. Although some business cards have high credit limits, especially when compared to personal cards, the credit line on a single business card may fall short. When you’re running a business, you’ll likely need sufficient access to capital for everything from start up costs and operations management to emergency coverage.

For example, the card you have may come with a $20,000 limit, but for one month, you may find that you need to charge $30,000. In that case, you’ll want to have at least two cards with the same limit on hand, but three is preferable, as exhausting the limits on those accounts can hurt your credit rating.

Plus, the more business credit cards you have, the higher your available credit will be. The more available credit you have, the easier it can be to maintain a low credit utilization ratio, which can help you build business credit.

Benefits of owning multiple business credit cards

Unlike small business loans, business credit cards often come with special perks and rewards. You probably won’t get all the perks you want out of one single card, but by layering them, you can enjoy a variety of benefits.

Look for cards that offer the type of perks that are going to help you and your business succeed. These might include:

  • 0% intro APR offers. There’s nothing like borrowing money from a bank without having to pay any financing fees. If you have a business card offering a 0 percent intro APR, you can buy what you need without additional interest being added — at least until the introductory period is over.
  • Rewards programs. Different cards offer different rewards programs. Some may give you bonus rewards on phone bills, office supplies or advertising, while others might offer cash back at a flat rate on all purchases.
  • Unique perks. Some small-business credit cards feature access to accounting systems to keep you organized and help you maximize your tax deductions, as well as itemized quarterly or year-end reports with spending categories. Others may not have such robust systems.
  • Free employee cards. Want to give certain employees the opportunity to charge on your account? Not all corporate credit cards offer free employee cards. Those that do should let you customize their access so that you’ll be protected against unauthorized charges.
  • The ability to build business credit. Not all business cards report activity to the business credit bureaus, such as Dun & Bradstreet or Equifax. In fact, they may only send negative information to those agencies. Before you apply, contact the issuer and ask about its reporting practices.

When to add another business credit card to your portfolio

If you’re just launching a business, you’ll want to start off with a single business credit card. To get your first business credit card, you’ll need to define your business. These business structure definitions can include something like an LLC or S-Corp, but they can also include sole proprietors, freelancers and contractors. Either way, you’ll usually have to submit the business name along with the business structure.

When comparing business cards, and focus on options that match your needs and credit rating. When you apply, you will be entering information about your business, but also about your personal credit information. In fact, almost all business credit cards require a personal guarantee, which means you’ll be responsible for the payments even if all the debt was a result of your business expenses.

Once you’ve established a history of using that business credit card responsibly, you can start exploring other business credit card options. Identify card features you don’t already have and look for options that can boost your portfolio.

For example, if your first business credit card offers cash back rewards, and you expect you’ll be traveling in the future, look for a business travel credit card that offers points or miles on travel-related expenses. Want to be rewarded for taking clients out on the town? Look for a card that offers high rewards on dining and entertainment. Also be on the lookout for statement credit-earning opportunities related to services or products that you use regularly — from cloud storage to Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credits.

Alternatives to business credit cards

The best business credit cards typically require good to excellent credit. That could leave a lot of small business owners without access to much-needed capital. Business credit cards are also only a good fit for short-term expenses that you can pay off each month to avoid interest charges. While having at least one business credit card on hand is a solid option, here are a few alternatives to consider:

Business lines of credit

A business line of credit is a revolving pool of funds, similar to a business credit card. Most lines of credit don’t earn rewards or have features offered with credit cards. But credit limits can soar up to $2 million and above for well-qualified borrowers. And many business lines of credit have lower eligibility requirements compared to business credit cards. So even business owners with bad credit can qualify.

Small-business loans

Small-business owners who won’t be able to pay off their debt quickly should consider a low-interest business loan. The average credit card interest rate is 20.72 percent, according to Bankrate analysis. Carrying a balance for too long with rates that high can make it hard for you to pay off your debt. Fortunately, there are small business loan options, including SBA loans, which offer affordable rates to business owners who qualify, including people with poor credit.

The bottom line

Business credit cards can help safeguard you against coming up short on funds in case of emergency or help manage operating costs without having to seek alternative forms of capital. They also offer the kind of benefits that are especially useful for small-business owners.

To find the best business credit cards to add to your portfolio, keep in mind the types of cards you already have and what can help you reach your latest business goals. Only apply for cards that you’re sure you can qualify for, and be sure to time your applications instead of applying for multiple cards at once. It’s best to wait three to six months in between applications.