Although both small business and corporate credit cards are used by businesses to make purchases, there are many differences between the two types of cards. The effect on cardholder credit scores is one factor, but it is not the only variable. There’s a lot more employees and business owners need to know.
When you apply for a small business credit card, the lender will likely check your personal credit score. This difficult investigation should temporarily reduce your score by a few points.
Corporate credit cards are less likely to affect your personal credit score, although Experian reports that corporate card issuers sometimes check credit profiles of authorized users, resulting in difficult inquiries into their personal credit reports. For what it’s worth, I’ve had two corporate credit cards and neither has affected my personal credit.
If you are an authorized user of a small business credit card, the issuer is unlikely to check your credit. But derogatory information associated with the account (such as late payments or too much debt) could appear on your personal credit reports. The good news is that it’s usually easy to have these blemishes removed immediately, if you ask to be removed from the account. If you use a corporate credit card, late payments and other illnesses should not affect your personal credit.
Incidentally, only a few notable small business card issuers report all account activity on personal credit reports (eg, Citi, Discover, and some Capital One cards). If the account reaches default status, a much longer list of small business card issuers will appear on your personal credit reports.
When you apply for a small business or business credit card, the lender will likely also check your business credit score (assuming your business has a credit profile). And your use of a small business or corporate credit card certainly affects your business credit score.
Other Key Differences
size of the company
Business credit cards are for larger businesses, often those with an established track record that have at least a few years in business and $1 million or more in annual revenue. Small business credit cards are for small businesses, of course, but also sole proprietors, freelancers, gig workers, and more.
A lot of people don’t realize this. You don’t necessarily need to have your business officially registered to sign up for a small business credit card. You can apply using your Social Security number if you do not have an Internal Revenue Service Employer Identification Number. The catch is that you’re only supposed to use the small business credit card for business-related expenses.
You would think giant corporations that spend huge amounts of money would get the best credit card rewards. While corporate card rewards can certainly add up on a large scale, they are often quite meager in terms of the rate the company earns on every dollar spent – often no more than 1 cent in rewards for every dollar spent.
Rather than rewards, corporate credit cards are more likely to emphasize other selling points. These include large lines of credit, numerous additional employee cards (potentially with personalized spending limits), easy links to company accounting and expense reporting software, and no of personal responsibility.
Small business cards, on the other hand, often offer very generous rewards and other useful benefits. As you’d expect, their rewards tend to focus on business-friendly categories like office supplies, phone and internet services, travel, restaurants, online advertising, and more. Small business cards also regularly offer lucrative sign-up bonuses.
Corporate cards are usually guaranteed by the company, while small business cards are much more likely to require a personal guarantee from the cardholder (likely the business owner).
In other words, if a small business goes bankrupt, the owner could be held personally responsible for reimbursing the card issuer. Their personal finances and personal credit score could suffer.
If you are an employee using a small business credit card, chances are you are an authorized user, in which case you would not be liable for any unpaid charges.
The bottom line
Corporate credit cards are tools large corporations and their employees use to purchase supplies and pay for travel, entertainment and other business expenses. If you use one, it’s probably because your employer gave you one, and it won’t affect your personal credit score in most cases.
Small business credit cards are products anyone can apply for (as long as they have a business purpose). These are much more closely tied to a person’s personal credit history, especially if you are the primary account holder.
Have a question about credit cards? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to help.