Ever since I discovered the world of credit card points and travel hacking, I’ve been obsessed with learning everything I can about this hobby. With a little bit of knowledge, it’s possible to accumulate hundreds of thousands of points and miles just by opening up new cards and putting your normal, everyday spending on them. Even a fairly casual credit card user should be able to earn at least 1 free flight per year with what I think is very minimal work.
The secret weapon in the points and miles game has to be business credit cards. Most people know what personal credit cards are, but it seems like fewer people are aware of business credit cards and what they can do for your travel hacking adventures. If you’re looking to optimize your spending and travel for free, you need to be taking advantage of business credit cards.
To demonstrate the importance of business cards, you can just look at my own credit card history. Over the past 12 months, I’ve opened up 4 personal credit cards. In that same time period, I’ve opened up 7 business credit cards (with more to come in the future). I don’t do this just for the heck of it – I opt for business cards when I can because of how advantageous they are for what I’m trying to do (which is to accumulate as many points and miles as I can so that I can travel for free).
Today’s post is going to serve as a short guide as to what business credit cards are, why you should be signing up for them, and how you can qualify for one. Business credit cards might sound intimidating, but really, they aren’t, and most people reading this should be able to get multiple business cards without any problem. Read this post, learn more about how business cards work, and you’ll be racking up points and miles in no time.
What Is A Business Credit Card?
In the credit card world, there are basically two types of cards – personal cards and business cards.
A personal card is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a personal credit card that you can get for yourself if you have a decent enough credit score. Like any credit card, it appears on your credit report, so anyone that pulls your credit report will be able to see that account. Most of you reading this probably have at least one personal credit card in your wallet.
A business credit card, in contrast, is a credit card that (surprise, surprise) is made for people who have businesses. The typical reason someone might get a business credit card is to help track their expenses. It’s much easier to track your business expenses when you’re putting them all on one card. At the end of the year, all you have to do is pull up what you spent on that card, and you know exactly what your expenses are for the year.
It’s important to note that, while business credit cards are for people with businesses, you don’t actually have to use those cards just for business expenses. It’s perfectly fine to mix personal spending on a business card and indeed if you’re getting business cards for travel hacking purposes, you’ll most definitely have to put personal charges on your business cards in order to hit minimum spend requirements. That’s totally fine to do.
Advantages of Business Credit Cards
Now that we know what business cards are, the question then becomes, why do we want to get them? It comes down to one big reason – business credit cards, in general, do not appear on your credit report. American Express, Chase, and Citi, for example, all do not report business credit cards to credit reporting agencies.
Since these companies do not report business cards to credit reporting agencies, in essence, when you get a business card, it’s like you’re getting an invisible card. You get all of the benefits of a new card and the signup bonus that comes along with it, but risk no impact on your credit score other than the temporary hard inquiry you might get. The only downside that can come with a business credit card is if you fail to pay your bill, which is obviously something that you’re not going to do anyway.
Getting a new credit card, but not having it reported to on your credit report is extremely beneficial for a variety of reasons. These include:
1. A business credit card won’t impact your 5/24 status. The number one rule that any travel hacker should know is the 5/24 rule, which essentially states that if you have 5 or more new credit card accounts from any company in a 24-month period, you will not be eligible for new Chase credit cards. For those of you that don’t know, Chase credit cards are widely considered to be the best credit cards to get, and the ones that you should start your credit card journey with.
The advantage of getting business cards, then, is that since they don’t appear on your credit report, you can continue to get new Chase credit cards even when you have more than 5 credit cards in a 24-month period. If you look at my own credit card history, I’m currently sitting on 11 new cards in the past 12 months, yet my credit report only shows 4 new credit card accounts during that same time span. This gives me a big advantage as I plan out my credit cards in the coming months.
Note that with respect to 5/24 status, it’s important to know that while a Chase business card won’t count towards your 5/24 status, you are not eligible to get a Chase business card if you’re over 5/24. Keep that in mind as you plan out your strategy.
2. Business credit cards have almost no impact on your credit report. One of the reasons a lot of people don’t get into the travel hacking world is that they’re afraid that opening up new credit cards will mess up their credit. I felt the same way before I got into this world. It’s the reason I resisted travel hacking for so long – I thought for sure that opening up new cards meant my credit score would plummet (pro-tip: I was wrong, opening up new cards doesn’t mess up your credit – in fact, my credit score has basically stayed the same during these past 12 months).
If you’re the type of person that’s scared that opening up new credit cards will mess up your credit, then business credit cards are a perfect way for you to still earn points and miles. You’ll get the card, but nothing will appear on your credit report. When you apply for a business card, the only thing that might show up on your credit report is a hard inquiry, which only has a temporary impact on your credit score and no impact at all after 1 year.
3. You can cancel business credit cards when you no longer need them without any fear. One downside to a lot of personal cards is that, if the card doesn’t have an option to downgrade to a no annual fee card, the only option to avoid the annual fee is to cancel the card entirely. A lot of people don’t like doing this because of the perceived negative impact it has on your credit.
When you’re dealing with business cards, you don’t have to worry about this problem since they don’t appear on your credit report at all. In other words, if you don’t want to pay the annual fee after your first year, you can always cancel the card and no one will be able to see that the account was closed. That’s perfect for travel hackers like us that are opening up cards just for the signup bonus, but don’t want to be stuck paying annual fees.
4. Business credit cards essentially allow you to earn the same signup bonus twice. Beyond the previous three points, the other reason you should be looking at business cards is that they essentially allow you to get multiple signup bonuses on the same card.
Most personal cards have a business version of the same card. By getting both the personal and business version of a card, you can essentially double up your signup bonuses. As an example, last year, I signed up for the American Express SPG card and the American Express SPG Business Card. American Express only allows you to earn the signup bonus on each card once, but since I got both cards, I essentially was able to get the same bonus twice. Instead of getting 35,000 SPG points, I was able to earn 70,000 SPG points.
Other cards, like the Chase Ink Preferred (discussed below), allow you to get earn the bonus on the card twice by opening up the card once using your social security number, then opening up the card again using an EIN that you can get from the IRS. Essentially, when you do this, it’s like you’re getting a card for different businesses. Since your card is for different businesses, Chase allows you to earn the bonus again.
How To Get A Business Credit Card
The main objection I get from a lot of people about business credit cards is the belief that they can’t get one because they don’t have a “real” business. First off, most people underestimate themselves. If you earn ANY income outside of your day job (which the vast majority of people do in some fashion), then you have a business. In other words, unless 100% of your income comes in the form of a W-2 from an employer, you have a business in some fashion – even if you don’t think you have one.
A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that a business is some official thing. They think that businesses are supposed to be some sort of big company with a bunch of employees. In fact, most businesses aren’t like that – they’re small businesses or side businesses run by regular people like you and me.
To qualify for a business credit card, the only thing you need to do is earn some sort of income outside of your day job. So what are some examples of real, 100% legitimate businesses? Just as an example, the following would qualify as real businesses:
- Renting out a room on Airbnb
- Dog sitting (either on Rover or just doing it on your own)
- Walking dogs (either through Wag or just walking dogs on your own)
- Selling stuff you find on eBay
- Doing Uber, Lyft, Postmates, DoorDash, Uber Eats, Caviar, or any other rideshare type app
- ANY work where you have to pay self-employment tax
It might not seem like a business to you, but if you’re getting paid and it’s not an employer paying you, then you’re a sole proprietor – essentially a business of you. I think almost everyone probably earns some sort of income outside of their day job, and if you don’t, you definitely can.
Another way to think about it is this way. If you pay self-employment taxes (i.e. you pay social security and Medicare taxes on your earnings), then the government has straight up decided that you are a business. You’re literally paying the taxes a business pays.
I’m not going to go into the exact specifics of how to apply for a business card in this post, but in general, when you apply for a business card, you’ll need to provide some info about your business. For example, here’s what the application screen looks like for the Chase Ink Preferred card.
When filling this form out, there are some important things to remember.
- Under Legal Name of Business, put your full name. Unless you have actual paperwork showing that you have a business with a different name (like an LLC or a corporation), then your business name is just your full name.
- For Business Name on Card, put your name.
- Under Tax Identification Number, put your social security number. If you want, you can get an EIN fro the IRS website in a few minutes. It’s up to you whether you want to do that, but using your social security number is perfectly fine.
- For Type of Business, Business Type, and Business Subtype, search and see what fits closest to the type of business you are doing. This doesn’t have to be exact, so don’t worry too much about this.
- For Annual Business Revenue, you can estimate this if necessary. I typically recommend it being more than zero. Ideally, at least $1,000 will make it easier for you. Most people doing Uber, Lyft, or anything like that can make that much in a year, so it’s fair to put that as your annual business revenue.
- For Years in Business, it’s usually best to have this be at least 1.
Again, remember, businesses are not just corporations. If you’ve done anything to earn income outside of your W-2 job, you can legitimately say that you are a business. When I apply for business cards, I typically apply using my Airbnb business, which generates somewhere between $7,000 and $9,000 per year. I’ve applied for other business cards using my Rover business, my Wag business, or my Postmates/DoorDash/Uber Eats income, all of which only generate about $1,000 or $2,000 of income each year.
The Best Business Credit Card
Chase Ink Preferred. Without a doubt, the Chase Ink Preferred is the best business credit card out there right now and the #1 card I recommend for everyone. It’s currently offering an 80,000 point signup bonus after you spend $5,000 on the card in the first three months. At a minimum, that’s worth $800 in cash, or $1,000 towards travel in the Chase travel portal. There’s no other credit card out there offering such a valuable signup bonus, so it’s definitely something you should take advantage of if you can.
A few suggestions for you when it comes to this card:
- If you live near a Chase Bank, then don’t apply for this card online. Instead, apply for the card in-branch and ask the banker for the 100,000 point signup bonus. Note that the 100,000 point offer is only available in branch, so if you’re like me and live in a state with no Chase banks, then you’ll only be able to apply for the card online (thus, you’ll be limited to an 80,000 point signup bonus).
- If your spouse is willing to get in on this too, get the card for yourself first, then when you’re ready, refer your spouse using your own referral link. In the optimal scenario, you would apply for the card in-branch in order to get a 100,000 point signup bonus. After hitting your spend, you would then refer your spouse, getting them an 80,000 point signup bonus and yourself a 20,000 point signup bonus. Altogether, the two of you would end up with 200,000 Chase points – enough to fly pretty much anywhere you want.
- It’s possible to get two of these cards for one person and earn the bonus on both of them (I currently have two Chase Ink Preferred cards for myself). To do this, you’ll want to apply for your first Chase Ink Preferred card using your SSN. For the second card, sign up for an EIN on the IRS website, then use your EIN to apply for your second Chase Ink Preferred card. An EIN is basically a tax ID number for your business that is free for you to have and has no tax implications. Interestingly, you can even refer yourself for your second Chase Ink Preferred card, which means that 1 person could potentially end up with 200,000 Chase points from opening up two cards.
Other Business Cards I’ve gotten include:
- American Express SPG Business Card – Get this card when it’s offering a 35,000 point signup bonus. The annual fee is waived in year 1, so you can cancel the card after 1 year if it’s not worth the annual fee for you.
- Chase Southwest Premier Business Card – If you’re looking to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, this card is a great way to do it. Just get the business card first while it’s offering a 60,000 point signup bonus. Then get a personal Southwest card when they’re offering a 50,000 point signup bonus. You’ll earn your Southwest Companion Pass just by hitting the minimum spends on these two cards.
- Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Card – Worth looking at when it’s offering at least a 60,000 mile signup bonus (typically a tiered offer where you earn 50,000 miles after $2,000 of spend in the first three months, then another 10,000 miles after another $1,000 of spend in 6 months). The annual fee is waived in the first year, so again, it’s basically a free card that you can cancel after 1 year.
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Card – I just recently snagged this one while it’s offering a 70,000 mile signup bonus. It has a $195 annual fee that is not waived in year one. Still, 70,000 SkyMiles should be worth more than $195, so it made sense for me to snag this card.
- Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Business Card – I grabbed this card at a 60,000 mile signup bonus. You can then message Citi and ask to be matched to a 75,000 mile offer (all it involves doing is messaging them and saying that you saw a 75,000 mile offer and would like to be matched to it). The annual fee is waived for this card in year 1, so again, it’s a perfect card to get and then cancel after 1 year.
I’ve included my referral links in this post, but please only use them if the signup bonus you see is the highest signup bonus offered for that card. Sometimes, referral links don’t provide the best offer, so be aware (i.e. only use my SPG link if it’s offering you a 35,000 point signup bonus, or my Delta links if they’re offering you a 60,000 mile bonus for the Gold, and a 70,000 mile bonus for the Platinum).
For pretty much anyone who is into travel hacking, business credit cards are something that you should be taking advantage of. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably already have some side hustle going on. Remember that you are a business when you do that – a business of you. So use that to your advantage to get business credit cards as you need them. You’ll be amazed at just how many points you can accumulate when you start taking advantage of these products.
Travel hacking is definitely something that you need to take the time to understand, so be sure to do your due diligence before jumping into this world. I have a few posts that are good starting points:
- Chase 5/24 Rule – Maximize Your Travel Hacking
- An Amateur Travel Hacker’s First Experience With Travel Hacking
- What You Need To Know About The Chase One Sapphire Rule
Make sure that you know how you’re going to hit the minimum spend on any particular card. It’s best to time opening new cards with when you’re making major purchases. Weddings are a great example of when you should be opening up a ton of cards. Or think about when you’re going to buy a new phone or a new computer. If you’re going to pay for something, you might as well get something in return too. Now get out there and start traveling with all of your points!