Business Banking

Can I get a business credit card with only an EIN?

Most business credit cards require an Employer Identification Number (EIN). However, there are some options if your business does not yet have one.

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If you’re a small business owner, you can apply for business credit cards with an EIN. However, you will almost always have to provide a Social Security Number (SSN) as well.

Business credit card companies typically require a personal guarantee on the debt that comes with the card. That means you’ll still be personally responsible for repaying the debt even if your company goes under.

Because of that, the card company will require your Social Security Number for checking your personal credit score before approving your card application. While most business credit card issuers prefer a FICO score of at least 740, you can still qualify if your score is 670 or higher.

The bottom line is that you’ll almost always need your SSN alongside your company’s EIN when applying for a business credit card. However, you'll discover that there are some options if you want to apply for a business credit card with your EIN only.

What is an EIN?

Short for Employer Identification Number, EIN is a unique, nine-digit number that the IRS issues to US-based businesses for the purpose of identification. While individuals have Social Security Numbers, businesses have Employer Identification Numbers.

The IRS uses EINs to track how and when companies report their taxes. For this reason, an EIN is also referred to as a Federal Tax Identification Number or Federal Employer Identification Number.

The EIN is not just useful to the IRS, it’s beneficial to businesses as well. As a small business owner, it allows you to:

  • Easily file tax returns for your small business
  • Separate your personal and business affairs by keeping your SSN private and exclusively using the EIN for business activities
  • Acquire business permits
  • Open small business bank accounts. Most financial providers require EINs
  • Streamline the business loan or line of credit application process
  • Establish a business file for your business

Applying for an EIN

An EIN is free to acquire. Anyone whose business or principal office is based in the U.S. or its territories can get an EIN. You only need to have a valid Taxpayer Identification Number, SSN, or a past EIN (if you had one).

The IRS recommends that you apply for an EIN online through their website. You’ll receive the number immediately after a successful activation. Here are the three steps involved in the EIN application process:

1. Determine if you’re eligible for an EIN

You are eligible for an EIN if you have a valid Taxpayer Identification Number. You can also use a past EIN, SSN or ITIN in place of the Tax ID. Besides that, your principal business must be located in the U.S. or its territories.

2. Apply online

The IRS doesn’t allow you to save an application session and resume later. So make sure that you have enough time to complete it in one sitting. A session expires after 15 minutes of inactivity.

Should your session expire, you will have to start all over again. Because of that, make sure to have all the documents ready before you initiate a session. Remember, you only need a tax ID, EIN, SSN or ITIN.

3. Submit the application

Once you’ve completed the application, hit submit. You’ll get your EIN instantly. You can download, save and print the confirmation notice that the IRS issues. 

Can you get a business credit card without an SSN?

In general, you can get a business credit card with only EIN if your company is large, well-established and has a rich credit history. In which case, it’s the company (rather than its shareholders) that will be directly responsible for credit card debt.

If you have a small business or just opened up shop, you may find it difficult to get a business credit card without a Social Security Number. You will almost always need an SSN alongside your EIN.

As mentioned, the purpose of an SSN is for the card company to do a personal credit check. They’ll want to protect themselves against a potential loss by ensuring your creditworthiness and ability to repay any debt, should your company go under. This is called a personal guarantee.

That said, you can get a business credit card without a personal guarantee once your company is large enough to be eligible. These corporate cards are meant for well-established companies with strong credit histories. So the more you grow your business, the higher your chances of qualifying for the best business credit cards with only an EIN.

EIN only business credit cards have stricter eligibility requirements, including a high PayDex score and revenue. Such requirements often lock out small businesses from accessing credit cards without using an SSN. There are, however, some business credit cards for new businesses or freelancers without these requirements.

Why would you apply for a business credit card with an EIN?

There are plenty of reasons why you would want to apply for business credit cards with EIN only. The most common motivations include:

If you have bad personal credit

A personal credit check can negatively affect your business credit card application, particularly if your personal credit score is less than decent. It decreases the likelihood of your business qualifying for a credit card even if the business is capable of paying back its debts.

When you want to keep your social security number private

Frequently using your social security number increases the likelihood of it landing in the wrong hands. This includes using it in business activities like applying for a business credit card.

When someone gets your SSN, they can use it to steal your identity, commit fraud, open new bank accounts, obtain medical benefits, and even gain employment. The less you use your social security number, the lower the chances of it being stolen.

Besides, if you’re keen on hiding your identity as the owner of the business, you might want to avoid frequently associating the business with your SSN. That’s motivation enough to apply for a business credit card with an EIN only.

To avoid using a personal guarantee

Typically, you’ll have to provide a personal guarantee using your SSN for a small business credit card. This serves as a line of defense for the lender so that if your business goes under, you’ll still be personally liable for paying off the card. Financial providers usually include these terms in the fine print, so make sure to read and understand it properly before signing up.

While it’s very unlikely, a credit card company may give you the option to avoid a personal guarantee. This often applies for secured credit cards. In that case, you’ll have to make a refundable cash deposit to become a cardholder. If your company fails to pay off the card, the issuer retains your deposit.

While this option does require you to dig in your pockets before opening an account, it also saves you from a personal guarantee. Just remember to ask if the card issuer offers this option to begin with.

Separating business from personal activities

There are many benefits that come with separating business finances from your personal finances. For one, negative business activities won’t affect your personal score, and vice-versa. Additionally, separating personal and business finances keeps your business transactions organized in one place. This simplifies your accounting process, particularly when tax time comes around. It also entitles you to tax deductions.

As far as credit cards go, the best way to separate business from personal is to apply for a business credit card with an EIN only. Leaving out your Social Security Number automatically separates your personal activities from the card. It may also help your business earn cashback rewards and perks on eligible purchases, like gas stations and business expenses.

Protecting personal credit

It’s not uncommon for business finance woes to negatively affect your personal credit. That’s because some lenders usually report small business activities to business credit bureaus as well as personal credit bureaus.

The effect is that your business credit card activity appears on both your business and personal credit reports. If the business goes through a rough patch and misses or delays card payments, it could greatly impact your personal credit.

One way to avoid this is applying for a business credit card with an EIN only. This delinks business from your personal credit card activity.

Alternatively, consider looking for business card companies that report to commercial credit bureaus only and not personal credit bureaus. Some card issuers don’t report payments at all. These providers make better options, especially if your business frequently struggles with cash flow.

How to apply for a business credit with an EIN

As discussed, you’ll often need both an EIN and SSN when applying for a business credit card. The process is fairly simple and straightforward. It’s similar to applying for a consumer credit card, save for a few differences.

For starters, you’ll need to provide the card issuer with some information about your business. Such information includes your business name, types, address, contact information, revenue, expenses, and years in business.

The card company will also ask for your business’s Tax ID, which is essentially the EIN. And if you’re a small business owner, you’ll almost always be asked for your Social Security Number as well.

Both the EIN and SSN are Tax IDs, but card companies – including American Express, Visa, Chase, Capital One, and Bank of America – typically ask for both. However, a few issuers like Brex card will allow you to apply for a business credit card with an EIN only. Such card companies are ideal if you don’t want to include your SSN in the application process.

Once you have the above listed documents ready, you can start shopping for a credit card company whose services match your business needs. Look at their credit score requirements (both business and personal credit scores), credit limits, repayment terms, revenue requirements and so on. Don’t forget to check the annual fee for maintaining the credit account as well as APR charged on the card. Of course, the cheaper the card the better it is for your small business’s cash flow.

If you’re eligible and their terms meet your business needs, go ahead and fill out an online application. If it’s approved, your card will be sent via mail within 7 to 14 business days.

What business credit cards can you get with only an EIN?

As a small business owner, there are only a handful of business credit cards that you can apply for with an EIN only. Here’s a sample of the application form for a Chase business credit card.

As you can see, Chase requires that you enter your Social Security Number in place of a Tax Identification Number if you’re a sole proprietor. They don’t give you the option to use an EIN at all. It’s a similar story with other major business card companies, including American Express, Capital One, and Bank of America.

That said, a few companies like Brex Card do allow you to apply for business credit cards with an EIN only. They offer credit cards to startups and sole proprietorships that neither require a SSN nor a personal guarantee. The tradeoff is that you’ll need a bank balance of at least $50,000 or $100,000 if you are self-funded.

The bottom line is that apart from just a handful of card issuers, it’s near impossible to avoid a personal credit check when applying for a business credit card. That said, not every card company will report your business’s credit activity to consumer credit bureaus.

For example, Citi, Bank of America and Wells Fargo will ask for your SSN but won’t report business activity to personal credit bureaus. BBVA doesn’t report small business credit card activity at all – whether to business or personal credit bureaus.

Such issuers make good alternatives if you can’t get your hands on a credit card that doesn’t require a Social Security Number. Yes, they’ll have your SSN and will almost certainly do a personal credit check. But they won’t report business activities to personal credit bureaus. This ensures that your business finances don’t negatively affect your personal credit score.

Having said that, you should know that card companies like U.S. Bank, American Express and Chase will report seriously delinquent accounts to both personal and business credit bureaus. So, you still can’t afford to skip or delay credit card payments.

What if you want to apply for a business credit card with EIN only and strictly no SSN? In that case, consider specialized credit cards. Below are some options that you can pick from:

Corporate business credit cards

These are cards that are strictly meant for businesses. Issuers allow you to apply through your business with an EIN only. The tradeoff is that corporate credit cards are extremely hard to qualify for. Your business needs to be well-established with an excellent credit score and predetermined profit margins per year. So if this is your first year or so, this isn't the best option for you. The exact revenue requirements vary by card issuer. 

Prepaid business credit cards

Prepaid business credit cards are much like debit cards save for the fact that they are not linked to any particular bank account. Instead, you load a prepaid balance to the card and then spend it up to that balance. Prepaid business credit cards pose the least risk to card issuers and are therefore easier to qualify for. However, your business can’t use this card to build business credit.

Corporate store credit cards

Are there stores that you frequent for business purchases? Perhaps for office supplies? Whether it's Office Depot, Staples, or any other major retail outlet, you can request a store credit card. Quite a good number of corporate store credit cards do not require a SSN, which makes them ideal if you’re looking for business credit cards with EIN only. They also come with additional benefits, including rewards points, statement credits, and cashback options.

Corporate gas cards

Also known as fleet fuel cards, corporate gas cards allow your company to fuel business vehicles. Of course, they are most ideal if your company frequently uses vehicles in its operations. A good example of a corporate gas card that only requires EIN is the Shell Small Business Card. It, however, requires at least $1 million in annual revenue and one year in business.

The bottom line

There are not many options available for SMBs looking for business credit cards with EIN only. However, you can still use corporate business credit cards, prepaid business credit cards, corporate store credit cards, and corporate gas cards. These are easy to qualify for, apart from corporate business credit cards which are meant for established businesses.

For small businesses, most traditional business credit cards will almost certainly require that you use your SSN alongside your business EIN. They may not be ideal options if you’re trying to avoid using your SSN.

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