Small business credit cards often come with sweet perks such as signup bonuses, cash back rewards, and airline miles. Plus, they offer a way to buy items on credit for your business without damaging your personal credit. So you may be tempted to apply for one even if you have poor personal credit.
We analyzed our customers who secured a business credit card and found that, on average, small business owners who qualified have a 600+ personal credit score.
If your credit isn’t quite there yet, consider taking some time to work on your personal credit before you apply. Here are a few steps you can take now to increase your personal credit score to qualify for a business credit card.
1. Check your reports for errors
Cleaning up credit errors can be one of the easiest ways to improve your scores. You can file a dispute with the credit reporting agencies for inaccurate or incomplete information on your reports. If the debt collector doesn’t respond within 30 days or can’t verify the negative information, that information can get removed from your credit report. This may help, but it might not make a difference if a lender is using a credit scoring system that ignores collection accounts where the original amount is smaller than $100.
Nav customers can use our free CreditSweeper tool to easily scan personal and business reports for any errors—you’ll see your profile information and any accounts negatively impacting your scores. (Don’t have a Nav account yet? Click here to get started for free.)
2. Keep your utilization low
Debt usage, or the percentage of debt you are using in relation to your total available credit, can be a big personal credit score killer for business owners. Debt is the second most important factor influencing your score, and many business owners use their personal credit cards for business expenses, racking up large bills and keeping utilization high. (Read more about the importance of separating personal and business expenses.)
Here are a couple hacks to keep your utilization low:
(1) Make multiple payments on your personal credit card during each billing cycle. Your credit utilization is a snapshot of the balance you carry at the time your credit card company reports to credit bureaus. Most issuers report once a month, around the close of the billing cycle. Check your credit reports to determine when your card provider reports, and make sure your balance is as low as possible then.
(2) Increase your overall credit limits, which can help reduce your debt usage ratio to lower your utilization to total credit ratio. Be mindful though: Every time you apply for credit or ask for an increase to your limit, the card provider will pull your personal credit, which could hurt your score.
3. Focus on paying on time
Payment history is the No. 1 factor affecting your personal credit score. A history of prompt payments can demonstrate that you’re an excellent borrower, resulting in better interest rates and higher credit limits.
Check your personal credit report for any delinquent accounts. Maintaining a good payment history going forward can help your credit score rebound from the negative payment information over time. While late payments and other negative information may be reported for up to seven years (in most cases), negative information more than two years old starts to carry less weight. In addition it helps to have recent on-time payments on your reports.
What you can do in the meantime if you don’t qualify
If you want to get a card now and don’t have time to wait for your personal credit score to increase, you can look into a secured business credit card. Traditionally when we think of credit cards, we think of an unsecured card, which is a card you can charge without needing to secure the card with collateral.
A business secured card is different in that it requires a deposit as a form of collateral for the card. In most cases, your credit limit will be the amount of your deposit, but your limit may be reduced to a percentage of the deposit. Most secured cards don’t require a minimum credit score to open.
Good to excellent personal credit scores can help you qualify for a business credit card even if you are a new business just starting to grow. Check out Nav’s builder tools for personalized guidance on how to increase your personal credit scores and start qualifying for the business credit cards you want.
This article was originally written on September 9, 2016 and updated on February 24, 2022.