A business credit card is designed to help you keep your business and personal expenses separate, so it can be surprising to find out that business credit card issuers ask for a Social Security number when you go through the application process.
There’s a good reason for this request, but, fortunately, you may be able to get around it if you don’t have a Social Security number. Here’s what you need to know.
Why credit card issuers require a Social Security number
A business credit card is one of the easiest forms of business financing you can get. Even when you’re just starting out and have no revenue, that won’t necessarily stop you from getting approved as long as you’re creditworthy.
But because businesses fail often, card issuers need to protect their interests. They do this by requiring a personal guarantee on any debt you incur with a credit card. This means that if your business can’t repay the purchases you’ve racked up on the account, you’ll be responsible for paying it back with your personal assets.
To assess the likelihood that you’ll make good on that personal guarantee, business card issuers typically run a personal credit check, which usually requires a Social Security number. Once they perform this check, they can determine whether you’re creditworthy enough to get the card.
Keep in mind, though, that if you’re just requesting an ITIN now, you may not have a personal credit history, which can limit how many cards you can qualify for.
What if I don’t have a Social Security number?
If you’re a non-resident without a Social Security number, you can still get a business credit card — just be prepared to do a little extra legwork.
Before you can apply, you’ll typically need to apply for an individual taxpayer identification number, also called an ITIN. That said, some credit card issuers will settle for a copy of your passport.
Keep in mind, though, that not all business credit card issuers will accept these alternate forms of identification. And among the banks that do, they may only accept them on certain credit card applications.
Here’s a sampling of some major card issuers and their policies:
- American Express: Will accept an ITIN, foreign passport, or other government-issued ID.
- Bank of America: Will accept an ITIN, foreign passport, or other government-issued ID. However, you’ll need to apply over the phone or at a branch.
- Citi: Will accept a passport, national ID card, or other government-issued ID. The bank only accepts these forms of identification with certain cards and requires that you apply at a local branch.
- Capital One: Will accept an ITIN.
If you have your eye on a card with another bank, reach out to their customer service team to get more information on what they’ll accept.
What if I have a Social Security number but don’t want to share it?
If you are a U.S. citizen with a Social Security number, it is possible to get a business credit card without providing one — or an alternative form of personal identification — but it’s not easy.
Typically, the only cards that don’t require a Social Security number or any credit check at all are corporate credit cards. Unfortunately, these cards are typically reserved only for mid-size and large businesses with $4 million in annual revenue.
One option without a revenue requirement is the Brex Card, but it requires that you have $100,000 in a corporate bank account and venture capital backing when you apply.
If your business isn’t quite there yet, you’ll likely need to share your Social Security number when you apply. The only exception is if you can get a partner to apply for the primary card account with their personal information then add you as an “employee,” so you have your own card linked to the account.
The bottom line
Getting a business credit card without a Social Security number is possible, but it’s not easy, especially if you have the form of identification. If you’re a non-resident without a Social Security number, applying for an ITIN or a Social Security number can help you get a card with certain issuers. But it may still be tough if you don’t have an established credit history
If you’re feeling stuck, consider other forms of business financing that don’t require credit at all. Crowdfunding, microloans, angel investors, and your own short- and long-term savings are all options, depending on your needs and the product or service you’re selling.
As you consider all of your financing options, pick the one that best suits your needs, and you can reasonably qualify for based on your current situation.