Searching for the best business credit cards for startups? You've come to the right place.
As they say, you have to spend money to make money. And as it turns out, the card you use to spend that money can have a major impact on your business.
Comparing the best corporate credit cards for your startup can feel overwhelming, but resist the urge to snag the first one you find. Between fees, rewards, and other features, taking your time to research your options could pay off to the tune of thousands of dollars.
As you do your homework, remember that not all corporate credit cards are meant for startups or small businesses. To give yourself and your business the best chance for success, compare these four choices among the best business credit cards for startups.
The Top 4: The Best Corporate Credit Cards for Startups
You already know how typical personal credit cards work, but when it comes to your business, it's time to think outside the box. Take a look at four unique options: Brex, Divvy, Ramp, and Stripe. These four cards are unique because they're more like charge cards than traditional credit cards.
This means you can't carry a balance on these cards. You'll pay it off every month, which keeps your business out of debt. The card providers make money by charging fees to your merchants instead of charging you interest.
These cards are also unique in that they do not require a personal guarantee, personal credit check or credit score of the business owner to open an account, relying instead on a company's cash flow to determine credit limits — more on this later.
While all four of these cards work this way, they have plenty of differences. The only way to choose the best one is to compare their features. Read on for our comprehensive business credit card comparison.
What is the difference between a corporate card and a traditional business credit card?
Before we review the various features of this new breed of corporate credit cards, let's first review a few points for how they differ from traditional business credit cards.
- Providers: Most major credit bureaus and financial institutions offer corporate programs for small businesses and large enterprises. Some highly-regarded and recognizable names include American Express, Capital One, Chase and, amongst the venture-backed startup community, Silicon Valley Bank.
- Application & Qualification: Applying for a traditional small business credit card often requires founders or business owners to undergo a personal credit check and may require a personal guarantee if your business does not meet the credit card issuer's minimum annual revenue threshold. Your acceptance and credit limit may be impacted by your personal credit score, in addition to your company's credit history.
- Card fees: While application fees are not common, annual card fees may apply depending on the card issuer and type. You will also be subject to interest rate fees for any balance carried over.
- Perks: Card members can access a line of credit (a key benefit to this type of card) and, if necessary, pay off their balance with monthly payments over a period of time with interest. They also may offer balance transfers, access to additional financial resources, exclusive sign-up offers, introductory APRs and more.
- Rewards: Traditional corporate cards offer bonus points, cash rewards or gift cards on purchases made; some of which are more rewards-based than others which are more cash-back based. Because of their robust networks, some of these cards are able to offer compelling travel rewards programs, in particular, complete with TSA Precheck, Global Entry and CLEAR membership discounts. These travel cards are an attractive money-saving option for companies where business travel is a core component of their operations.
Most of the best corporate credit cards advertise based on their rewards because you can watch them pay off in real dollars. These four top startup credit cards have very different approaches to rewards programs.
Brex's approach is similar to that of most credit cards, offering specific amounts of Brex rewards points for various types of purchases. They offer unlimited rewards points at a rate of seven times on rideshare spending, four times on flights and hotels, and three times on restaurants for example. Any purchase that isn't in one of the bonus categories earns one point per dollar.
Divvy offers rewards for various types of purchases too, but they let you choose your own reward plan. You decide if you want to pay off your balance every week, twice per month, or once per month. The more frequent your payoff schedule is, the better your rewards are.
Ramp, on the other hand, keeps it simple. All purchases made using your Ramp credit card earn you 1.5% cash back rewards as statement credit.
Stripe has a customizable reward program as Divvy does but in a different way. Stripe tracks your spending each month and divides your spending into specific categories. You get 2% cashback on whatever your top two categories are each month. Every other purchase earns you 1% cashback.
See also: 8 Best Accounting Tools for Startups
Cashback rewards are among the most important perks when it comes to choosing a credit card, but they aren't the only ones.
All four of these cards have partnerships with other companies, giving their cardholders exclusive partner offers and discounts on services. Google Ads and Amazon Web Services are among those partners for all four cards. There are also partnerships between Brex and WeWork, Divvy and Adobe, Ramp and Datadog, and Stripe and Shopify, to name a few.
Ramp and Stripe, however, go above and beyond with their perks.
For the Ramp card, the key focus is to track and analyze your business's spending. Their platform identifies wasteful spending and helps you cut it out of your budget, saving more money overall. Ramp reports that its customers save up to 2% through this ongoing analysis.
Stripe also has its own brand of perk. Stripe's primary business is payment processing. After spending $5,000 on your Stripe credit card, you'll receive $50,000 in free payment processing.
Typical Credit Limit
The purpose of a startup credit card is for your team members to have access to the money your company needs when you need it. To do that, you need a reasonable credit limit.
All four of these cards tend to have higher spending limits than other traditional corporate credit cards, and they aren't based on your credit history.
Brex, Ramp, and Stripe set your spending limits depending on your bank balances. Simply put, higher bank balance means higher limits. Stripe also uses your payment processing history, especially if you've used Stripe's payment processing software in the past.
Divvy is a bit different. The card is meant as an accessory to Divvy's main product: expense tracking software. Therefore, they allow you to set budgets based on how much you can pay off.
For all of these cards, though, your spending limit is a company total and you can set your own budget for each team member's card to allocate employee spending limits.
Rule #1 for business expense tracking is to put all your business expenses on a single card. However, all four of these cards take it a step further.
Divvy initially launched as an expense management platform, later introducing its complementary corporate card offering — so it should come as no surprise that Divvy has the most extensive platform for managing expenses. In addition to allowing cardholders to easily upload receipts, Divvy takes it a step further by allowing managers to require spenders submit expenses for approval before the transaction occurs.
That said, the three other cards work toward making your life easier on the expense management front as well.
Brex, Ramp, and Stripe all have dashboards where cardholders can upload receipts and admins easily view card activity. They each also allow you to text or email your receipt and they will automatically link it to the correct expense, or upload a photo of the receipt directly via the mobile app.
All-in-all, each of these cards bring a lot of value to the table when it comes to capturing and storing details and documentation for each business expense, a pain point for businesses using traditional credit cards or processing expense reports for employee reimbursements.
Reliable accounting software is a critical aspect of keeping your business on track. Chances are that you already use Quickbooks or another type of popular accounting software to make your reporting process simpler.
The ability to, for example, sync transaction data along with the data captured by the expense management tool directly to your accounting software is a huge time- (and headache-!) saving benefit for accounting departments.
The beauty of these top four corporate cards is that they all integrate with certain accounting software.
Brex and Ramp both integrate with Quickbooks Desktop and Quickbooks Online, Oracle NetSuite and Xero.
Divvy is a bit more limited. It integrates well with Quickbooks Online already. Its integration with NetSuite is in beta testing, and the brand is actively working toward adding integrations with Quickbooks Desktop and Xero.
Stripe's software integrations are still in progress as well. The platform already works seamlessly with Quickbooks, and they are in the process of adding Xero and Bench to the list.
Typical Interest Rate
Interest rates are always a top consideration when choosing the best credit cards for startup businesses, but these four cards are unique.
Because they require you to pay them off monthly, they don't charge interest because you can't carry a balance. This is a tremendous money-saver for many businesses.
One of the reasons these four cards are among our favorites for startup companies is that they charge few, if any, fees.
Divvy, Ramp, and Stripe don't charge any annual fees no matter how many cards you issue to your employees. With Brex, there are no fees for your first five cards. For any additional Brex cards, there is a cost of $5 per user per month.
As part of the Brex accounting partner program, Zeni customers get waived fees for life with unlimited cards. Learn more about the Zeni x Brex perks here.
A business credit card isn't worth much if you have a hard time finding merchants who accept it. Fortunately, that isn't a problem with these four cards.
Brex and Divvy are both powered by MasterCard, so they're typically accepted by any merchant who accepts MasterCard. Ramp and Stripe are powered by Visa, so any merchant who accepts Visa should accept these cards as well.
Requirements to Qualify
Comparing startup credit cards has little purpose if you cannot qualify for any of them, so it's critical to find out the requirements.
Each of these business cards has an application process, but it's different because it doesn't check your personal credit or rely on personal finances. It focuses on your business's assets and financial activity.
For instance, you need to have a $50,000 bank balance, a U.S. EIN and not operating as a sole proprietorship to qualify for a Brex corporate card. Divvy requires you to spend $10,000 per month on your business.
Ramp doesn't go into as much detail about their criteria, though your business needs to be a corporation or LLC. Stripe also doesn't give any specific dollar amounts but they explain that your application depends on your bank balance history and your payment processing history.
Keep in mind that there are likely additional factors that these companies will review to determine whether you qualify.
The last thing your startup needs while it tries to get off the ground is a loss due to fraudulent activity.
Fortunately, all these four cards have you covered with fraud protection for all users.
Foreign Transaction Fees
Depending on your business model, you might be doing business overseas today or that might need to wait until your business grows. Either way, you need to know what you're in for in advance.
Brex, Ramp, and Stripe all offer zero foreign transaction fees for purchases made outside of the United States. Divvy does not state what their foreign transaction fees are, and users do report that they charge foreign transaction fees.
Ease of Use
In the midst of building your business, you don't have time to struggle with managing your corporate credit cards on a clumsy system. Each of these top four credit cards has its own unique platform to make your life easier, complete with multiple customer service touch-points.
Brex provides a dashboard that the primary user can utilize to issue employee cards and control what their budgets are. You can also track your spending on this platform, including uploading receipts to track everything in one place.
Ramp and Stripe also have dashboards and software systems with similar features to those Brex offers. The standout in this category is Divvy.
Divvy's primary product is expense management software, and their smart card is more of an accessory to this system. The Divvy software is the most extensive of all these cards' platforms, providing diverse features and 24/7 support to help with your every need.
And all of the providers offer virtual cards, enabling users instant access to make purchases once their application has been approved and account setup.
While each of these four cards functions similarly as a corporate charge card, they all have different unique features that set them apart.
Brex, for instance, has the unique feature of offering cash management services. You can treat your Brex account like a bank account, except that it doesn't have fees for wire or ACH transfers.
Divvy's primary identifying factor is its expense management platform. The software gives you extensive options for categorizing and tracking expenses for various categories and cardholders, making tax time a snap.
The Ramp card helps your expenses in a different way. The software has expertise in identifying opportunities for savings. With its advanced savings report, the Ramp credit card helps you cut waste and run a leaner business.
Finally, Stripe offers you the ability to process your payments and charge your card, all in one. In fact, Stripe is primarily known for its payment processing system and offers a number of related financial products. The charge card allows you to track your income and expenses in one place.
Identifying the Best Corporate Credit Card for Your Startup
No pressure, but the credit card you select for your startup can play a powerful role in your financial help. The only way to identify the best business credit cards for your startup is to determine the most important needs of your business, and compare your options accordingly.
Whether you're evaluating corporate cards for a new business, looking to revamp your current small business card setup, with this guide, you can lay down four of the top cards side-by-side to determine the best card for your business needs. Download a printable version by clicking here.
For the rest of your startup's finance-related needs, take a closer look at Zeni. Zeni uses a combination of AI and human finance experts to maintain accurate books and manage all of the finance functions for your startup, including daily bookkeeping, ongoing accounting services, access to our finance concierge, bill pay and invoicing, budgeting and projections, and even annual taxes.
Zeni customers also gain access to a single dashboard to see and manage their finances in real-time.
Editorial Disclosure: Zeni is a member of Brex's Accounting Partner Network, learn more here.
This article was last updated in May 2020.
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