Can You Get Business Credit Cards with Only an EIN?
If you’re trying to apply for a credit card or a business loan, there’s no way around it: your credit score will be a factor in whether or not you get approved. So what do you do if you have bad credit? Or if you don’t have a social security number? Is it possible to get approved by credit card companies using just your business’s employer identification number (EIN)?
The short answer is yes: you can apply for certain business credit cards using just your EIN. EIN-only cards are great for building your business credit, and they’re a huge help when it comes to keeping your personal and business expenses separate. The catch is, they typically require cardholders to meet minimum revenue requirements and have more than a year’s worth of business history. In other words, most small businesses don’t qualify.
Here’s everything you need to know about applying for a business credit card using only your EIN.
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Types of EIN-only business credit cards
When it comes to EIN-only credit cards, it may pay to think outside the box. Credit card companies are not the only card issuers out there. Lots of other providers offer business cards that don’t require a social security number. Each card offers different ways to earn points, cash in rewards, and pay your balance, so be sure to pick the option that works best for your business needs.
Corporate cards are almost exclusively reserved for large companies with lots of revenue. Basically, they allow you to use one or more cards to cover your business expenses without signing any personal guarantees—your business is liable for 100% of the credit card debt.
That said, some credit card companies still ask for personal guarantees on their corporate cards, so be sure to read the fine print. Asking each individual cardholder to sign a personal guarantee may not be a bad thing, especially on employee cards. With this method, your employees would have to submit their credit card expenses to the company every month, and they’d be personally liable for any personal expenses on the card. In other words, it would make it easier to monitor employee card use and weed out anyone who’s abusing their company card privileges.
But if you’re looking to avoid credit checks on your personal credit score, make sure you’re signing up for a corporate card that doesn’t include a personal guarantee.
Corporate store credit cards
Many retail stores offer personal and business cards—and the corporate cards often don’t come with a personal liability requirement.
Corporate store cards offer a lot of in-store perks. For instance, with the Office Depot OfficeMax Business Credit Card, you get a statement credit of $50 on your first purchase of $150 or more. Other cards offer cashback options, points, rewards, and discounts on in-store purchases.
The downside? Corporate store credit cards have lower credit limits than other EIN-only cards. And in most cases, you can use the card only at the issuing store, so be sure to choose a store where you rack up a lot of business expenses. Or if you’re looking to use your card to pay for office utilities and other operating costs, avoid this type of EIN-only card altogether.
Prepaid business credit cards
A prepaid business credit card offers low risk for card issuers, so most credit card companies don’t require a check on your personal credit history when you apply.
A prepaid business credit card basically acts like a debit card. You make up-front payments on your card, which you can then spend until your money is gone. The difference between a prepaid business credit card and a debit card, though, is that a prepaid business credit card can help build your business credit history faster.
One note, though: most prepaid cards don’t offer points and rewards programs. So don’t expect the airline miles or hotel stays you’d get with other business cards.
What's different about EIN-only credit cards?
First, here's a little refresher on run-of-the-mill business credit cards.
If you were to sign up for a Chase Ultimate Rewards card, for example, you’d have to provide both your EIN (if you have one) and your social security number. You’d probably also have to sign a personal guarantee in which you agree to be personally liable for your business credit card debt if your business is unable to pay it. From there, the card issuer does a hard check on both your business credit score and your personal credit history.
EIN-only cards are different because they don’t require you to sign a personal guarantee. With an EIN-only card, your company assumes full responsibility for the debt. And since you’re not personally liable, your personal credit doesn’t play a role in the approval process, and late payments on the card will be reported to only business credit bureaus (not consumer credit bureaus).
Other than that, there’s not a whole lot of difference between regular small-business credit cards and EIN-only cards. You still have to pay annual fees, foreign transaction fees, and interest rates—and the rewards are pretty comparable as well. You just don’t have to deal with personal liability.
Pros and cons of EIN-only business credit cards
What do you need to qualify for business credit cards using only an EIN?
EIN-only cards aren’t your run-of-the-mill business credit cards. EIN-only cards still offer the same high credit limits as other business credit cards, but there’s no personal liability. That presents a lot of risk for card issuers, who could wind up holding the bag for tens of thousands of dollars if your business isn’t able to cash up.
Because EIN-only cards are riskier than personal and business credit cards, credit card companies enforce stricter eligibility requirements. These requirements vary by issuer, but in general, small-business owners will need the following to qualify for an EIN-only card.
- A stellar business credit history
- Annual revenue over $1 million
- One year's worth of cash reserves
- At least one year of business history
- 10 or more employees
All of these requirements show your card issuer that your business is stable—and therefore less of a risk.
What to do if your business isn't eligible
Don’t have a million dollars in revenue? You’re in the majority, but that does make it almost impossible to get an EIN-only card.
So how do you cover the business expenses that your company checking account can’t cover? Here are a few options for business owners with bad (or no) credit.
Secured credit cards
Secured credit cards (like the Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card) require you to pay an up-front security deposit on your account, which acts as collateral in case you miss your payments. That lowers the risk for card issuers, so you can usually get a secured small-business credit card even if you’ve got a less-than-perfect personal credit score.
Business charge cards
Business charge cards are pretty much exactly like other business credit cards, except they require you to pay your entire balance at the end of each month. That makes them perfect for businesses looking to build business credit but bad for companies that need startup capital. In other words, don’t get this card unless you can afford the large monthly payments needed to cover your charges.
Small-business credit cards
If you don’t have a social security number but have additional forms of identification, small-business credit cards could be a great option for you. Some card issuers accept individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs), foreign passports or government-issued IDs, or US student visas instead of social security numbers.
You may have to apply in person or supply additional bank statements and legal forms to qualify, and the rules vary by provider. But we thought it was worth mentioning in case you’re a small-business owner considering an EIN-only card because you don’t have a social security number.
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EIN-only cards may seem like the ideal way to pay for your business expenses if you have bad personal credit. But because they don’t require a personal guarantee, they pose significant risks to credit card issuers. So unless your business has a million-dollar cash flow, EIN-only cards may not be the best solution for your company.
Instead, your business may want to take advantage of bad-credit alternatives like prepaid cards, business charge cards, or secured credit cards. Just keep in mind that these options may require up-front payments, lower credit limits, and other adjustments to make your card less of a risk to your issuer.
Ready to apply? We’ve got everything you need to know about business credit card applications. Boom.
Business credit card and EIN FAQs
Look, we all know how sweet those business rewards programs are. And if you’ve got bad personal credit, it may be tempting to substitute your social security number for your EIN and avoid a personal credit check.
But credit card companies don’t take too kindly to people falsifying their credit card applications, and neither does the government. Using an EIN on a personal credit card application is considered a felony and can lead to fines and even jail time.
So do yourself a favor: stick with using your EIN on only small-business credit card applications.
When it comes to credit cards, a “business” is any venture that generates income. So if you’re an eBay seller, a DoorDash driver, or a freelancer, you can absolutely apply for a business credit card. In fact, some card issuers offer cards with rewards specifically designed for individuals (like the Business Platinum Card from American Express, which offers year-long Premium Global Access to co-working spaces from WeWork).
Individuals claiming sole proprietorship of their business don’t need an EIN to apply. Instead, credit card companies will use your social security number to check your consumer credit score. Once approved, you can use your business credit card to cover your business expenses and start raking in rewards.
The biggest differences between personal and business credit cards are credit limits and rewards. Card issuers recognize that businesses make and spend more money than individuals, so credit limits are higher. And because there’s more potential for spending, rewards tend to be more lucrative.
Just look at Chase Ultimate Rewards points. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months. The Ink Business Preferred card, on the other hand, offers 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months—bigger rewards for more spending.
Another difference to note: business credit cards aren’t subject to the same regulations as personal cards. That means your card issuer can charge more fees on cash advances, foreign transactions, and over-limit spending. They can also change your rates and fees with no notice.
Yes, there are EIN-only cards out there. But keep in mind what we've said in this article about the risks and minimum qualifications.
Using a business credit card has some distinct advantages. It helps you keep your personal expenses separate from your business finances. That makes tax prep easier.
It builds your business credit history. And with a high enough business credit score, you may eventually qualify for an EIN-only card and avoid checks on your personal credit score.
Business credit cards have higher credit limits, which makes it easier to get the cash you need to run your business effectively.
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