Business credit cards can be a great way to safely pay for business purchases, earn rewards, manage cash flow and even an option for short-term business financing. When shopping for a business credit card, you may come across an intriguing idea: business credit cards that can be obtained with just an EIN: no Social Security number (or personal guarantee) required.
No EIN business credit cards may be appealing for a variety of reasons:
- Your personal credit history isn’t great and you want to find a credit card issuer that won’t check personal credit
- You don’t want to use a business credit card that will report your account to your personal credit reports and impact your personal credit scores, and/or
- You want to avoid personal liability in the event your business does not succeed.
Unless your business is large and well-established, however, it can be hard to qualify for a business credit card without using personal credit. Here’s what you should know when looking for business credit cards that only require an EIN.
What’s An EIN?
The Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a nine-digit tax identification number, similar to a Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), but mostly used by businesses.
EINs are used by businesses, from large companies to sole proprietors, to file taxes. Your business must obtain an EIN if it has employees, is incorporated, or has certain types of retirement plans. But you may also request an EIN if you operate a business or work as an independent contractor and want to use an identification number separate from your SSN.
An EIN may be required to report business tax information to the IRS. It can also be helpful if you want to accept payments from clients or vendors and don’t want to reveal your personal Social Security number.
How does this tie into your credit history, then? If a lender requests an EIN on a credit application but does not request a Social Security number, it’s very possible the lender will not check your personal credit.
Using your EIN to apply for credit is one way to separate your business and personal finances. However, keep in mind that a lender may require a personal guarantee even if you don’t supply a SSN, and there is no personal credit check. Read the application and cardholder agreement carefully if this is a concern for you.
One common misconception is that an EIN is used to match business credit report data to a business, similar to the way a Social Security number is used to help match consumer credit information in personal credit reports. Commercial credit reporting agencies typically use their own proprietary identifiers; D&B uses the DUNS number, Experian uses the Business Identification Number and Equifax uses an Equifax ID. While lenders may request an EIN on a credit application, it’s not required to report an account to business credit bureaus.
How to Get An EIN
Getting an EIN is simple and straightforward. You can request an EIN for free from the IRS. It’s easiest and fastest to use their online request form but you can also request it by mail. If you work with a business formation company, they may include or offer this service.
Who Qualifies For An EIN-only Credit Card?
Most small business credit cards require a personal credit check, and many providers require personal credit scores in the good to excellent credit range. Major issuers that do require a personal credit check and a personal guarantee for their small business credit cards include:
- American Express
- Bank of America
- Capital One
- Wells Fargo
A personal credit check isn’t always a bad thing. Businesses without strong business credit or high annual revenues— including new businesses— can often qualify based on their personal credit scores and income from all sources, not just the business.
Some card issuers and lenders will extend credit without a personal credit check or personal guarantee. To qualify for an EIN-only credit card without a personal credit check, the business must typically demonstrate the ability to repay the debt out of revenues. Business bank account statements may be required to verify revenues.
Younger businesses, those with modest revenues, or who have little (or poor) business credit won’t likely qualify for cards without an EIN. If you are looking for an EIN-only credit card as your solution to bad credit, you’ll likely be disappointed.
However, small business credit cards are often available to individuals with good personal credit.
If you still want an EIN-only card, there are a few options to consider. The three types of cards to consider are:
Corporate Credit Cards
Credit cards that don’t require a personal credit check often fall into the category of “corporate cards,” and these cards are only available to well-established businesses with high revenues— often in the $1—4 million range or higher— and multiple employees. At that stage, the business often has strong business credit and financial data to show it is capable of repaying its debts.
These cards are often structured as “charge cards”, which means they require payment in full upon receipt of the billing statement. These cards generally do not require a personal guarantee and don’t report to the owner’s personal guarantee or report to the owner’s (or employee’s) personal credit reports.
As the name implies, these are usually issued by fuel companies to fill up your business or fleet vehicles with gas. Because purchases are limited to fuel, and the company wants you to fill up at their stations, they may use your business profile to qualify, rather than personal credit. This is also called “company only liability” and is a perk offered for those businesses with high revenues – such as a million dollars in annual revenue or more. These cards give you the chance to earn rewards with every gallon you pump.
Secured Business Credit Cards
A business owner may qualify for a business secured credit card, or prepaid business credit card, even if the owner has low personal credit scores.
With a secured card you must place a security deposit with the issuer. That money is held in reserve in case you don’t pay for purchases. The security deposit reduces the risk to the lender, so these cards are easier to get than traditional unsecured cards.
Your credit limit is usually equal to your deposit, so unless you place a large deposit with the issuer, your credit limit will be very low. However, if the card reports to business and/or consumer credit reporting agencies, an on-time payment history can help you build credit.
Prepaid cards require you to load an account with funds to pay for purchases. As you spend, you’ll need to reload the account (or permit the issuer to do that automatically).
Best Business Credit Cards With Only EIN
The credit cards below will check your personal credit scores when you apply, but generally will not report a business credit card account on personal credit reports as long as you don’t default on the debt. They may also require a personal guarantee. Note: Issuer policies may change so always be sure to review your cardholder agreement and ask questions if this is important to you.
Divvy Smart Credit Card for Business only requires a soft personal credit check.
How Do Business Credit Cards Work?
Business credit cards work very much the same as personal credit cards. The credit card application process is a bit more involved, as you’ll have to answer some questions about your business as well as provide some personal information.
As mentioned, many issuers rely on personal creditworthiness as an important part of the application process. Once you’re approved, you can use your small business credit card in the same way you would a personal credit card. This can include making purchases, getting cash advances, and even using balance transfers. Some card offers feature 0% intro APRs, which can be helpful for short-term financing.
Rewards credit cards let you earn cash back rewards and/or travel rewards for eligible purchases. Use them for as many business purchases as possible to maximize rewards, provided you don’t run up debt you can’t repay.
Employee cards allow you to earn even more rewards, and small business owners can use them to manage employee spending with customized reporting, alerts, or spending limits.
Alternatives to Using An EIN
Don’t dismiss the option of applying using your personal credit. It may still be the best way to get the card you need. Some of these cards don’t report to personal credit (here’s a list of how small business cards report to personal credit) so if your goal is to protect your personal credit, you may still accomplish that goal.
All major small business credit cards require a personal guarantee, so make sure you are careful not to run up balances you can’t repay. If you default on one of these cards, it may appear on your personal credit reports and the lender may try to collect from your personal assets.
Get Business Credit Without an EIN
It is possible to obtain credit accounts with just your EIN. Note we said “credit accounts,” not “credit cards.” There are credit accounts that don’t check or report to personal credit; they are called vendor or trade credit. These accounts will often give you 30 days to pay your balance.
Here’s a list of net-30 vendor accounts that don’t require a personal credit check and don’t report to personal credit. They report to business credit, which makes them an excellent way to help build business credit.
Nav’s Verdict on EIN Only Business Credit Cards
Small business owners will often find it difficult to qualify for EIN only business credit cards, at least until their business is well-established and earns significant revenue.
However, you can still effectively separate your business and personal finances, as well as business and personal credit histories, by using a dedicated business credit card that doesn’t report to personal credit as long as you pay back what you borrow.
If you’re unable to qualify for a business credit card, keep working on both your personal credit and business credit scores.