Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new card details and information.
No matter the size of your business, a business credit card can be a valuable tool to help you earn rewards and manage expenses. But not all business credit cards are created equal. Different business cards are best suited for different types of business owners and entrepreneurs — what is most valuable to a freelancer will likely be different than what’s most valuable to a retail store owner.
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Freelancers looking for a credit card should consider their business spending habits and overall goals. For example, when I used to do freelance graphic design work, I didn’t have a ton of expenses in just one category and wasn’t spending an overwhelming amount on business expenses in general. In my case, a flat-rate card with no annual fee would have been the best choice. Of course, freelancers who spend more consistently in concentrated categories such as office supplies, internet and phone services could potentially find more value in cards that earn high rewards in those spending categories.
So, keeping all that in mind, here are a few of my top picks for freelancers looking to maximize their expenses.
Overview of the best credit cards for freelancers Blue Business Plus® Credit Card from American Express Bank of America® Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business Ink Business Cash Credit Card Ink Business Preferred Credit Card The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
The information for the Capital One Spark Cash, Capital One Spark Miles, Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards, Ink Business Cash and Ink Business Preferred have been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuers.
Comparing the best credit cards for freelancers Card Welcome bonus Rewards Annual fee Blue Business Plus® Credit Card from American Express N/A 2x Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 spent annually
1x on everything else
$0 (see rates and fees) Bank of America® Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card $300 after you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days 3% on the category of your choice
2% on dining ($50,000 annual cap on combined rewards spending)
1% on everything else
$0 Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business $500 after you spend $4,500 in the first three months Unlimited 2% on all purchases $95, waived the first year Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business 50,000 Capital One miles after spending $4,500 in the first three months 5x on car rentals and hotel bookings made through Capital One
2x on everything else
$95, waived the first year Ink Business Cash Credit Card $500 after you spend $3,000 in the first three months 5% on office supply stores and internet, cable and phone services
2% on gas stations and restaurants ($25,000 annual cap on combined rewards spending)
1% on everything else
$0 Ink Business Preferred Credit Card 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $15,000 in the first three months 3x on the first $150,000 in combined spending on travel, shipping, internet, cable and phone services and advertising made with social media sites and search engines
1x on everything else
$95 The Business Platinum Card® from American Express 75,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $15,000 in the first three months 5x on airfare and prepaid hotel rooms booked through AmexTravel.com
1.5x on purchases over $5,000
1x on everything else
$595 (see rates and fees) Best cards for freelancers in 2020 The Blue Business®️ Plus Credit Card from American Express (Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
Annual fee: $0 (see rates and fees)
Welcome bonus: N/A
Rewards: Get 2x on the first $50,000 spent annually, then 1x.
Why we like it for freelancers: If you have a smaller annual budget and you’re looking for a way to earn Membership Rewards points on business expenses, the Blue Business Plus is a great option. It’s simple, it’s powerful and has no annual fee — a perfect trio for the budding freelancer. With the Blue Business Plus, you’ll have full access to Amex Membership Rewards transfer partners, which is rare for no-annual-fee credit cards. And there’s no fee for additional employee cards either.
To be fair, there are two minor downsides to the card: First, the card doesn’t come with a welcome bonus. A welcome bonus isn’t the only reason you should get a credit card. But with so many cards with excellent bonuses out there, it’s a bummer when an otherwise solid credit card doesn’t offer one. You’ll also want to avoid using it for overseas transactions because the card carries a 2.7% foreign transaction fee (see rates and fees).
Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business
Annual fee: $95, waived the first year
Welcome bonus: $500 after you spend $4,500 in the first three months.
Rewards: Get unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases
Why we like it for freelancers: This is one of the easiest business cards for freelancers to manage since you won’t have to worry about transferring or redeeming points. You simply get 2% cash back on all purchases, with no limit on how much you can earn. That’s perfect for freelancers who’d rather not keep track of categories that offer extra rewards and who prefer a one-stop card for all their business expenses. Redeeming rewards is also easy; customers can choose between redeeming for account credit, gift cards or a check in the mail (though it’s important to note that Capital One has currently suspended being able to redeem for gift cards due to the coronavirus pandemic disrupting supply). You can also set up auto-redemption so you never forget to cash in your points.
Employee cards are free, and Capital One doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees, so you can give this card to employees who are traveling overseas on behalf of your business.
Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards credit card (Photo by @criene via Twenty20)
Annual fee: $0
Welcome bonus: $300 after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days
Rewards: Get 3% back in the category of your choice and 2% on dining ($50,000 cap on annual rewards spending).
Why we like it for freelancers: Oftentimes, freelancer expenses can vary from person to person and month to month. The ability to choose the category you’ll earn 3% cash back on is a great feature you don’t find on many credit cards — business or personal. Each month, you’ll be able to choose between the following categories:
Gas stations Office supply stores Travel TV/telecom and wireless services Computer services Business consulting services
So, let’s say you travel frequently — but obviously you aren’t going anywhere right now. You can easily switch your category of choice over to TV/telecom and wireless services now that you’re at home more. And when travel is back on the table, you can switch it back. Also, remember you’ll get 2% on dining in addition to your 3% category of choice. It’s not the best cash-back option for larger businesses since there’s a $50,000 annual cap on bonus spending, but it’s perfect for low-budget freelancers looking to maximize purchases.
Capital One® Spark Miles for Business
Annual fee: $95, waived the first year
Welcome bonus: 50,000 miles after spending $4,500 in the first 90 days
Rewards: Earn 5x on car rentals and hotels booked through Capital One and 2x on everything else.
Why we like it for freelancers: The Capital One Spark Miles combines the best of a travel rewards card with the best of a flat-rate cash-back card — all for a low annual fee that’s waived the first year. You’ll earn 5x on certain travel purchases booked through Capital One, but you’re also getting unlimited 2x on all other purchases. And while you have access to Capital One’s transfer partners, you can also redeem your miles at a fixed value for travel purchases on your credit card statement. The only downside to the card is that it lacks just a little bit of flexibility in your redemption options — especially since travel isn’t currently a good idea.
But, don’t let this deter you from getting the card if you’re an avid traveler during regular circumstances. You can still use the card to rack up miles now to use later. Travel will eventually resume, and this card has the potential to be quite lucrative for those who know how to maximize it long term.
Ink Business Cash Credit Card (Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
Annual fee: $0
Welcome bonus: $500 after you spend $3,000 in the first three months
Rewards: Earn 5% back on office supply store purchases and internet, cable and phone services; get 2% on gas stations and restaurants ($25,000 cap on combined bonus category spending each year).
Why we like it for freelancers: Need to make a few big purchases for your business, but can’t afford to pay them off right away? The Ink Business Cash Credit Card is perfect for the freelancer who’s just getting started and has to purchase equipment, but needs time to build cash flow with self-employment. The card has a 0% APR for the first 12 months on purchases. After 12 months, the rate changes to a variable 13.24% to 19.24%, depending on your credit history. The 0% introductory offer will be voided if any payments are late.
The real advantage of this card is that all the cash back — including the sign-up bonus — comes in the form of points. You can redeem those points for cash back at a fixed value of 1 cent each, but you can get even more value for them if you have a Chase Ultimate Rewards card (such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Business Preferred) that offers a bonus when you redeem through the travel portal and allows transfers to airlines and hotels.
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card (Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
Annual fee: $95
Welcome bonus: 100,000 points after you spend $15,000 in the first three months of account opening
Rewards: Earn 3x on the first $150,000 spent annually on shipping, social media or online advertising, travel, internet, cable and phone services.
Why we like it for freelancers: A wide range of freelancers can take advantage of this card’s excellent bonus categories. Do you promote your businesses through Instagram and Facebook ads? Does your freelance work require shipping products? Are you constantly on the go to meet clients around the country or abroad (when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic, of course)? All of these categories will earn 3x with this card.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 2 cents each based on TPG’s most recent valuations, which means 3 points per dollar spent is equivalent to a 6% return on those bonus categories. The Ink Preferred has a $95 annual fee, and small businesses with multiple employees can request unlimited employee cards at no extra cost. The only significant downside to the card is that you have to spend $15,000 in the first three months to earn the bonus. While that may not be impossible for some freelancers, others may not have the budget to spend an average of $5,000 per month on expenses — especially not in the current financial climate.
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
Annual fee: $595 (see rates and fees)
Welcome bonus: 75,000 points after you spend $15,000 in the first three months of account opening.
Rewards: Get 5x on airfare and prepaid hotel rooms on Amextravel.com and 1.5x on purchases of $5,000 or more (up to 1 million additional points per calendar year)
Why we like it for freelancers: If your freelance business normally requires a lot of business-related travel or frequent large purchases, this could be a great card for you. The welcome bonus is worth $1,500 based on TPG’s latest valuations, and the card comes with an incredible lineup of benefits. You’ll get up to $200 in Dell statement credits each year (for U.S. purchases) and a number of excellent travel perks like unprecedented lounge access, complimentary elite status with two hotel brands, a $200 airline fee credit each year, a 35% rebate on award flights booked through Amex and more. Of course, many of these benefits won’t be useful in the short term with travel on hold. But it’s a card worth considering if you know you’ll be in the air frequently once the COVID-19 pandemic passes.
Like the Ink Business Preferred, though, this card may not be best suited for freelancers with smaller budgets. You’ll have to spend $15,000 in the first three months to get the bonus, and the card’s large annual fee is only worth it when you travel frequently enough to utilize the benefits and bonus categories.
How and why to apply for a business card
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have a brick and mortar business in order to qualify for a business credit card. You sometimes don’t even have to have a business tax ID to apply for a small business credit card.
Make sure to check your personal credit score before applying. Business credit card applications are just a little different than personal credit card applications. You’ll be asked for your personal information, but also business details such as the legal business name, business address, business phone number, tax identification number, annual business revenue, years in business and more. Don’t have a tax identification number? You can easily apply for an Employee Identification Number (EIN) with the IRS, or you can use your social security number if you are a sole proprietor.
Why use a business credit card? Aside from business-specific bonus categories and other benefits to help you maximize your small business expenses, a business credit card makes it easier to keep personal and business expenses separate. For freelancers especially, it’s imperative that you track your business expenses for tax season. Most business expenses are tax-deductible, but you’ll need to have documentation about those expenses — including receipts. Where a larger business may employ an accountant who can handle that aspect of the business, you’ll probably do it yourself if you’re a one-person freelance business. Using a business credit card for all expenses makes it that much easier to track and separate those expenses come tax season.
Related: What happens if you put personal expenses on a business credit card?
Whether you’re a long-time freelancer or just starting out, having a business credit card for your expenses is extremely helpful when it comes to keeping your books in order. You can earn valuable points, miles or cash back on your spending.
Additional reporting by Brett Holzhauer and Liz Hund.
For rates and fees of the Business Platinum Amex, click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus Card, click here.
Featured image by Paige Cody via Unsplash.
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