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Can You Have a Business Card Even Without an Official Business?

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Published: May 5, 2014

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The answer in most cases is yes!

Everyone is doing something on the side. Well, almost everyone. Do you run a blog? Do you sell stuff on Ebay or Amazon? Do you babysit or petsit? Do you have garage sales every now and then? Do you have a hobby that you hope to turn into a side- or even full-time business one day?

Understand that you don't have to be a big corporation to enjoy the benefits of a business credit card. You don't even have to be a corporation to begin with! You don't have to have a business name or EIN (Employer Identification Number). You can be a sole proprietor and run your business under your own name. That won't be a problem.

Now, we have established that most people can have a business credit card even without an official business. The question that remains is why you would want to. Isn't there already an abundance of personal consumer credit cards?

Well, of course, if you don't see credit cards the way I see them: as a means to make a profit or at least save a lot of money. However, if you treat credit cards as something more than just "plastic money", then you should consider adding business credit cards to your portfolio.

Here is why. There are no consumer credit cards on the market (at least that I know of) that would give you 5% cashback on cable TV and telecommunication services (plus 1% on everything else). Telecommunication services include internet and phone charges, both cell- and landline. How does it sound, considering that the industry standard is a meager 1 % cashback?

If that sounds good enough, there is more. The Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Bold cards offer each a 60,000-Ultimate Rewards point sign up bonus right now (aside from the above-listed goodies). You can redeem your bonus for $600 or you can get a much better value out of it by transferring your points into one of the Chase's partner airline or hotel program. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.

The US Bank FlexPerks Business Cash Rewards Visa Card is not as generous with office supply and cellular cashback--"only" 3%"--but it does not have an annual fee whatsoever and it gives you 3% cashback on gas. Another US Bank product, the FlexPerks Business Travel Rewards card is stingier with cashback--only 1% (but it's worth two points for the airlines)--but it gives you a 20,000-point bonus which is good to redeem for up to $400 airline ticket.

Speaking of travel, there are some excellent hotel business travel cards, such as the American Express SPG Business Credit card (covering Sheraton, Westin, Aloft, etc.) and US Bank Club Carlson card (Radisson, Park Inn, etc.). The AMEX SPG card offers a 25,000-point bonus good for up to 8-10 hotel nights, and the Club Carlson card offers you a whopping 85,000-point bonus good for up to 20 hotel nights!

These are only a few reasons of why you probably should consider having a business card or two in your wallet. There are more. But before you rush to fill out that application, here is a word of caution.

Be careful with business credit cards, as they do not afford the same level of protection as consumer cards. Most providers will still cover unauthorized charges, but remember that you are supposed to use your card for business expense. Now, what exactly is a legit business expense might be subject to a debate (to some degree), but a rule is a rule. I do not recommend using a business credit card to buy, let's say, an engagement ring. If you need a purchase protection from your credit card down the road, you might have a hard time convincing the credit card company that it was a legit business purchase.

There are often some confusions as to how to fill out the application for a business credit card. It's easy, just tell the truth. If you do business under your own name, use your name. If you don't have an EIN, use your Social Security number. If you don't make any money with your business, or make very little, just say so.

Doesn't it mean they will reject you if you have small or no business income? No! Your business does not have to be profitable to qualify for a business credit card, and they will base their decision on your personal income and credit score. Understand that you, as a cardholder, is personally responsible for making all the payments. Another word, a small business credit card is not a corporate card. You cannot hide behind the corporation (not that you would want to do that anyway).

Next time we'll talk about getting even more out of your business credit cards. Stay tuned.

This is a post by Andy Shuman, a credit and travel expert who blogs at He writes and blogs during and between trips that he enjoys free of charge mostly due to creative use of credit card offers. He believes that credit cards are much more than just a convenient way to pay for a purchase, and that the benefits of responsible credit habits can go far beyond getting the best rates for loans and mortgages.

Andy is the author of bestselling books from Lazy Traveler Handbook Series available on Amazon. When he's not traveling, he lives with his beautiful wife and daughter in Brooklyn, NY.

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