The Best Credit Card for Startups in 2021

by Adarsh Raj Bhatt
white and blue magnetic card

Most surveys of entrepreneurs show that credit cards are among the most popular sources of startup financing. For startups and small businesses struggling to find funding, borrowing against a credit card could be an attractive option. Often, it’s the only one available.

How do you get business credit cards for startups?

A good business credit card is often useful for more than just daily transactions.

It will often provide you with things like:

  • High spending caps
  • Great incentives such as airline points and discounts
  • Important business tools

In certain cases, a formal business arrangement is not needed to apply for a startup credit card. You can register for cards through your social security number rather than a tax ID or EIN if you're a small business owner or a startup founder without a registered LLC.

This vendor review guide is ideal for those looking for a credit card for their early-stage startups. We'll walk you through the best choices and discuss how to choose the best business credit card for your startup.

Credit Cards for Startups

A new startup credit card might be exactly what you require to make your startup grow. 

It could become the one-stop shop for paying for purchases, tracking your expenditure, and taking advantage of incentives and rewards. If you want flat-rate points, attractive bonuses, or even some additional time to pay, choose a card that suits your startup. For many new startups, a business credit card will probably help you get through the first year.

Credit cards are easy payment solutions because they: 

  • Are accepted almost everywhere
  • Bundle your expenses into a single monthly bill
  • Offer a variety of rewards

Corporate Credit Cards for Startups

Corporate credit cards are intended for established startups with annual revenues of a minimum of $4 million, 15 or more card holders, and estimated charges of $250,000 or more annually. 

While most startups, like sole proprietors and DBAs, are eligible for a small business credit card, corporate cards are only available to corporations. To be eligible, the startup must be designed and registered as a C or S corporation.

The American Express Corporate Program for Startups is an example of a corporate credit card for a startup, that provides Full Corporate Liability with no implications on personal credit scores, as well as select perks, incentives, and business resources that come with American Express Card Membership. 

What Startups Look For In A Credit Card

Kruze Consulting has detailed the following factors startup founders look for when choosing a credit card:

  • Startup-Centric Rewards
  • A Spending Limit Based on the startup’s Balance Sheet
  • No Personal Guarantee
  • Affordable and Fast Bookkeeping
  • Spending-Management Tools

Top Credit Cards for Startups in 2021

Brex Card for Startups

Description: Credit cards, bank accounts, payments, expenses, and accounting all in one place to keep you in control of your growth. 

Best for: Startups with at least $50,000 in their bank account or at least $50,000 in sales each month. Geared towards well-funded startups, not smaller ventures. 

Cost: Free for qualifying startups

Evaluation on key criteria: 

  • APR: None
  • Credit Limit: 10-20x higher limits than traditional corporate cards
  • Rewards: 7x rewards on rideshare apps, 4x on Brex Travel, 3x on restaurants, 2x on recurring software. Partner Discounts for Google Ads, Zendesk, Twilio Sendgrid, AWS, and WeWork.
  • Startup Centric Rewards: Yes
  • High Spending Limit: Yes
  • No Personal Guarantee: Yes
  • Integration with Accounting Softwares: Yes
  • Spending Management Tools: Yes

Pros:

  • Easy sign-up 
  • No personal guarantee and security deposit needed
  • Simple online dashboard
  • Great customer support

Cons: Brex only accepts VC-funded startups or those that have raised >$500K capital

Divvy

Description: The spend management solution that gives users the credit they need and the software to manage it. 

Cost: Free

Best for: All startup sizes

Evaluation on key criteria:

  • APR: Unclear
  • Credit Limit: Depends on bank account and payment
  • Rewards: 7x rewards on dining, 5x on hotels, and 2x on software subscriptions, although amounts decline if you pay semi-monthly or monthly (vs. weekly)

Pros: Allows users to customize expense fields, budgets, and reports 

Cons: Cannot set limits for receipts

Stripe Corporate Card

Description: Instantly provision cards, manage your startup's spending in real-time, and get credit increases as your startup grows.

Cost: Free

Best for: Fast-growing startups

Evaluation on key criteria:

  • APR: None
  • Credit Limit: Based on payment processing and bank history
  • Rewards: Up to 2% cashback on your top two categories, automatically calculated each month. 1% cash back on other categories. $50,000 in free payment processing after the first $5,000 in spend. Partner Benefits for AWS, Shopify, Notion, DigitalOcean, Zendesk, Intercom, Google Ads, Hubspot, Airtable, and more.
  • Startup Centric Rewards: Yes
  • High Spending Limit: No
  • No Personal Guarantee: Yes
  • Integration with Accounting Softwares: Yes
  • Spending Management Tools: Yes

Pros: Good UI/UX

Cons: Credit card’s cashback capabilities might prove unimpressive for some

Expensify Card

Description: Control how much employees can spend on their Expensify Card. 

Cost: Free

Best for: Active users of Expensify

Evaluation on key criteria:

  • APR: None
  • Credit Limit: Based on bank account balance
  • Rewards: Partner benefits for AWS, Highfive, Zendesk, Stackoverflow, Gusto, Stripe, and more. Every swipe, Expensify donates to a relevant cause through Karma Points.
  • Startup Centric Rewards: Yes
  • High Spending Limit: No
  • No Personal Guarantee: Yes
  • Integration with Accounting Softwares: Yes
  • Spending Management Tools: Yes

Pros: Good reviews from current customers on Expensify forums

Cons: No contactless payment integrations

SVB Innovators Card

Description: Uniquely designed to help fast-growing startups meet their business needs at every stage.

Best for: Startups of all sizes, best suited to fast growing startups

Cost: Free

Evaluation of key criteria: 

  • APR: Undisclosed
  • Credit Limit: Undisclosed
  • Rewards: Earn 2 points for every dollar spent and redeemable towards statement credits, gift cards, travel and merchandise rewards.
  • Startup Centric Rewards: Yes
  • High Spending Limit: No
  • No Personal Guarantee: Yes
  • Integration with Accounting Softwares: Yes
  • Spending Management Tools: Yes

Pros: 

  • Specializing in startups.
  • Unlimited Transactions

Cons: 

  • Opening an account is not very straight-forward
  • The online interface can feel a bit out-of-date

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

Description: Build and strengthen credit for your startup by using this credit card responsibly.

Cost: Free

Best for: Startups of all sizes (best for building business credit)

Evaluation on key criteria: 

  • APR: 26.99% variable APR
  • Credit Limit: Minimum credit line is $500 and is based on the ability to pay
  • Rewards: Earn unlimited 1% cash back on every purchase for your startup, with no minimum to redeem. Comes with travel and emergency-assistance services, auto rental damage waiver, and purchase security and extended protection.
  • Startup Centric Rewards: No
  • High Spending Limit: No
  • No Personal Guarantee: No
  • Integration with Accounting Softwares: Yes
  • Spending Management Tools: Yes

Pros: It’s a simple process to get approved even without a credit history

Cons: High APR and low rewards versus other cards

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Description: With offers for business shopping, dining, travel, and more, there’s something for everyone.

Best for: Startups of all sizes (best for business trips)

Cost: $595 annually

Evaluation on key criteria: 

  • APR: APR on purchases will be variable, 14.24% - 22.24%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors as determined at the time of account opening.
  • Credit Limit: Undisclosed
  • Rewards: Get 5x Membership Rewards points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com. Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. $200 Airline Fee Credit. Get 50% more points on each eligible purchase of $5K or more. Up to 1 million additional points per calendar year.
  • Startup Centric Rewards: No
  • High Spending Limit: No
  • No Personal Guarantee: No
  • Integration with Accounting Softwares: Yes
  • Spending Management Tools: Yes

Pros:  High rewards rate on certain travel purchases. No foreign transaction fee.

Cons: A target of several negative customer reviews, such as “Ripped off”, “Stay Away”, “Bad Customer Service”, etc.

Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card (Chase)

Description: Stay on top of your startup with Fraud Protection, Purchase Protection, personalized Account Alerts, Offer Details, and more. 

Best for: Startups of any size.

Cost: Free

Evaluation on Key Criteria

  • APR: 0% intro APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases. After that, 13.24%–19.24% variable APR.
  • Credit Limit: Undisclosed
  • Rewards: $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. Unlimited 1.5% cash back.
  • Startup Centric Rewards: No
  • High Spending Limit: No
  • No Personal Guarantee: No
  • Integration with Accounting Softwares: Yes
  • Spending Management Tools: Yes

Pros: Great credit card for a startup’s business purposes

Cons: Delayed payment processing time of 7-10 days

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (Chase)

Description: Redeem for cash back, gift cards, travel experiences, and more through Chase Ultimate Rewards. 

Best for: Those who’re looking to earn relatively hefty cashback from their credit cards.

Cost: $95 per year

Evaluation on key criteria:

  • APR: 15.99% to 20.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Credit Limit: Undisclosed
  • Rewards: 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines. 
  • Startup Centric Rewards: No
  • High Spending Limit: No
  • No Personal Guarantee: No
  • Integration with Accounting Softwares: Yes
  • Spending Management Tools: Yes

Pros: Higher bonus value

Cons: Scope for improvement in customer service, according to user reviews

American Express® Business Gold Card

Description:  Earn rewards on qualifying purchases with offers.

Best for: Online retailers. For eg., if you’re founding a retail startup on Amazon or eBay, you could potentially rack up points fast because one of the card’s major spending categories is U.S. purchases for shipping. 

Annual Fee: $295

Evaluation on Key Criteria:

  • APR: APR will be a variable rate, 14.24% – 22.24%, based on your creditworthiness
  • Credit Limit: Undisclosed
  • Rewards: Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Gold Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Get more rewards with 4X Membership Rewards points on 2 select categories where you spend the most each month. 
  • Startup Centric Rewards: No
  • High Spending Limit: No
  • No Personal Guarantee: No
  • Integration with Accounting Softwares: Yes
  • Spending Management Tools: Yes

Pros: 

  • Sign-up bonuses
  • Big rewards
  • $0 introductory fee

Cons: Undisclosed

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card (Chase)

Description: Employee cards let you set individual spending limits and help you earn rewards even faster. 

Cost: Free

Best for: Employee Cards

Evaluation on Key Criteria: 

  • APR: 0% fixed Intro APR for the first 12 months that your Account is open. After that, 13.24% to 19.24%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Credit Limit: Undisclosed
  • Rewards: $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year. Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year. Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases – with no limit to the amount you can earn.
  • Startup Centric Rewards: No
  • High Spending Limit: No
  • No Personal Guarantee: No
  • Integration with Accounting Softwares: Yes
  • Spending Management Tools: Yes

Pros: Users are happy with their spending limits

Cons: Unsatisfactory customer service

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

Description: View your purchase history, prepare reports, and budget your expenses.

Best for: Startups and Small Businesses (best for borrowing money)

Cost: Free

Evaluation of Key Criteria: 

  • APR: 0.0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months from the date of account opening. After that your APR will be a variable rate, 13.24% – 19.24%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Credit Limit: Not disclosed but based on payment history, credit record, and financial resources, the bank might give the ability to spend above the credit limit with Expanded Buying Power.
  • Rewards: Earn 2x Membership Rewards points on everyday startup purchases up to $50,000 with no category restrictions. Earn 10,000 Extra Membership Rewards points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Startup Centric Rewards: No
  • High Spending Limit: No
  • No Personal Guarantee: No
  • Integration with Accounting Softwares: Yes
  • Spending Management Tools: Yes

Pros: Versatile card, according to user reviews

Cons: 

  • Spending Cap on 2 Points Per Dollar Rewards
  • Lacks Travel Benefits

Ramp

Descriptions: Enterprise corporate cards built from the ground up to save your startup money

Best for: Early stage startups

Cost: Free

Evaluation of Key Criteria:

  • APR: 0% including no card fees, no platform fees, no late payment fees or other fees.
  • Credit Limit: Undisclosed
  • Rewards: 1.5% cash back on all purchases. “Ramp Savings” to help identify overpayment or double payment of SaaS tools. Partnerships with many partners for rewards.

Pros: High-quality expense management controls. 1.5% cashback on all purchases. Integrations with Quickbooks, Xero, and other tools. No founder personal guarantees.

Cons: Ramp is a comparatively newer vendor.

Discover

Description: Power your startup with a low intro APR and no annual fee. 

Best for: Startups and small businesses

Cost: None

Evaluation of Key Criteria: 

  • APR: 0% intro APR for 12 months from date of account opening. After the intro APR expires, your APR will be 12.99% to 20.99%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • Credit Limit: Undisclosed
  • Rewards: Earn unlimited 1.5% Cash Back Bonus on all purchases. You can redeem your rewards at any time. Rewards have no expiration date. 

Pros: 

  • Good for founders who want to earn high cash back for everyday purchases
  • No annual fee

Cons:

  • No travel rewards 
  • Penalty APR if you carry a balance month-to-month 

Offer-Based Comparison

Brex Card for Startups

Foreign Transaction fees: Free

Eligible Companies: Startups with at least $50,000 in their bank account or at least $50,000 in sales each month

Instant Sign-Up: Yes

Employee Card: Free for 5 employee cards

Virtual Card: Yes

Branded with Company Logo: No

Late fees: With late fees but not disclosed

Divvy Card

Foreign Transaction fees:  0.90% of total transaction volume when the account user is US-based. Currency Conversion Fees: 0.20% of total transaction volume regardless of where the account user is based.

Eligible Companies: Anyone

Instant Sign-Up: Yes

Employee Card: Free for Employees

Virtual Card: Yes

Branded with Company Logo: No

Late fees: Late payments will incur a fee of 2.99% or $38, whichever is greater.

Stripe Corporate Card

Foreign Transaction fees: Free

Eligible Companies: Startup needs to request Invitation

Instant Sign-Up: Yes

Employee Card: No

Virtual Card: Yes

Branded with Company Logo: Yes

Late fees: None

Expensify Card

Foreign Transaction fees: Free

Eligible Companies: Active Users of Expensify

Instant Sign-Up: Yes

Employee Card: Free for Employees

Virtual Card: Yes

Branded with Company Logo: No

Late fees: None

SVB Innovators Card

Foreign Transaction fees: Free.

Eligible Companies: Fast-growing startups

Instant Sign-Up: No

Employee Card: Free for Employees

Virtual Card: No

Branded with Company Logo: No

Late fees: NA

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

Foreign Transaction fees: Free

Eligible Companies: Undisclosed

Instant Sign-Up: No

Employee Card: Free for employees

Virtual Card: No

Branded with Company Logo: No

Late fees: 29.4% penalty APR

The Business Platinum Card from American Express

Foreign Transaction fees: Free

Eligible Companies: Undisclosed

Instant Sign-Up: No

Employee Card: Free for employees

Virtual Card: No

Branded with Company Logo: No

Late fees: $39 or $2.99 of any past due “Pay in Full” amount, whichever is greater.

Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card (Chase)

Foreign Transaction fees: 3% of the amount of each transaction in US dollars

Eligible Companies: Undisclosed

Instant Sign-Up: No

Employee Card: Free for Employees

Virtual Card: No

Branded with Company Logo: No

Late fees: $39

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (Chase)

Foreign Transaction fees: Free

Eligible Companies: Undisclosed

Instant Sign-Up: No

Employee Card: Free for employees

Virtual Card: No

Branded with Company Logo: No

Late fees: $39

American Express® Business Gold Card

Foreign Transaction fees: Free

Eligible Companies: Undisclosed

Instant Sign-Up: No

Employee Card: Free for Employees

Virtual Card: No

Branded with Company Logo: No

Late fees: $39 or $2.99 of any past due payment in full amount, whichever is greater.

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card (Chase)

Foreign Transaction fees: 3% of the amount of each transaction in US dollars

Eligible Companies: Undisclosed

Instant Sign-Up: No

Employee Card: Free for employees

Virtual Card: No

Branded with Company Logo: No

Late fees: $39

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

Foreign Transaction fees: 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars

Eligible Companies: Undisclosed

Instant Sign-Up: No

Employee Card: Free for employees

Virtual Card: No

Branded with Company Logo: No 

Late fees: Up to $39

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