Running a business can be frustrating, and even more so when you need financing and discover that your credit scores don’t qualify you for many options.
If you’re trying to build or rebuild credit, you may have heard a secured credit card can be a good option. As a business owner, you may need something slightly different: a secured business credit card. Here, we’ll introduce you to what one is, examine when you would want one, and help you determine which card is best for your needs.
A secured credit card can help you establish a positive payment history and show lenders you are a good credit risk, so you may qualify for better rates and terms for small business loans and lines of credit in the future.
What Is a Secured Business Credit Card?
Secured credit cards are designed for people who have bad credit or who have very little credit history. A refundable deposit protects the card issuer in case of default, and responsible use of the card can help the cardholder establish and build credit. Business credit cards are designed for business expenses.
For many businesses, credit cards are an essential part of their business activities. They can help you build your credit scores and credit history, and they can help you obtain the assets you need to properly run your business. Unfortunately, bad credit or no credit may make it difficult to be approved for a credit card. If you don’t qualify for a traditional business credit card, and if you are looking to establish or rebuild your credit, a secured business card can represent a viable option.
So, what exactly is a secured business credit card? Quite simply, it is one that requires a deposit up front. In most cases, the issuer will require you to link your bank checking or savings account so the deposit can be deducted directly, but a few issuers will allow you to send those funds to them after approval.
Though putting down a deposit for a credit card may not sound ideal, a secured business card can be a valuable tool to potentially build and improve your credit. The security deposit will ensure lenders that, despite your lack of good credit, you will be able to pay them back.If you manage the card properly (pay the bills) you can get the security deposit back.
Much like a regular credit card, you can use a secured credit card to make purchases or pay bills when cash is not an option. If your payment history is reported to the major credit bureaus and your account remains in good standing (no late payments) over a period of time one of these cards may help you boost your credit scores and build your credit history.
How a Secured Business Credit Card Works
For the most part, a secured business credit card works like any unsecured credit card, with the exception that it may help build business credit, not just personal credit.
Your card may come with an annual fee, so budget for that each year. Like any other credit card, you may be able to access balance transfers to pay off other cards or debt, and you may be able to get a cash advance at ATMs. (Be careful: these advances tend to have a higher APR or other fees associated with the privilege).
If you pay your monthly bill on time and keep balances in check, you can build credit over time, which may help you qualify for an unsecured credit card. Keep in mind, though, that a small credit line means it is easy to hurt your credit scores with high “utilization” or “debt usage.” In other words, if the balance reported to the credit reporting agencies is close to your credit limits, your credit scores may be negatively impacted. To be safe, try to keep your balances below 20% of your credit limit.
Pros and Cons of a Secured Business Credit Card
Just like with any financing solution, there are both positive and negative aspects to consider with a secured business credit card.
- Great for building or rebuilding your personal or business credit
- Paying on time can open the door to an unsecured business credit card
- Bad credit won’t prevent you from qualifying
- Interest rate may be high
- Credit limit will be low initially
- May be easy to max out card due to low limit
How a Secured Business Credit Card Works
Qualifications for secured business credit cards are often quite flexible. There may be a personal credit check but most issuers do not require good credit to qualify. You’ll need to place your deposit with the issuer, and they will typically make that easy to do by allowing you to link your bank account.
How Much Money Will I Need for a Security Deposit?
The amount for the security deposit required will vary from lender to lender. Most issuers require at least $300—500, but there are a few issuers with lower requirements. If that’s simply out of reach, you may consider some of the other options to build business credit outlined later in this article.
Typically, your credit limit will be equal to or a percent more (or less) than the required cash deposit; this means that the credit card issuer is lowering its overall risk by securing funds ahead of time. For example, if you want a card with a $500 credit limit and are approved, you will typically be required to pay a security deposit of $500, or close to that amount.
It’s important to note that this is not a prepaid credit card in which purchases will be deducted from a balance. Instead, your deposit will be held separately, and you will be required to make payments without relying on the money you paid up front.
What Happens to My Deposit for a Secured Business Credit Card?
As mentioned above, your deposit is held separately (often in an FDIC-insured bank account), and much like a deposit for say, rental equipment, you will get it back as long as you live up to your end of the bargain. In this case, that bargain is making regular payments on your account and eventually reaching a zero balance.
When exactly you get your deposit back can also vary from one credit card issuer to another, but in all circumstances, your account will need to be in good standing for a period of time. With that in mind, these are the most common scenarios in which a secured credit card lender will return your deposit.
In one scenario, the deposit can be returned when you decide to close the account. Of course, it’s not as simple as just saying, “I’m done; let’s close this down.” Your account must be in good standing and carry a zero balance at the time of closing. Follow the protocol provided by your business credit card company for closing your account and receiving your deposit back.
The other, perhaps most desired, scenario is one in which you successfully reduce your perceived risk by maintaining a history of on-time payments and manageable balances. In this case, the lender may decide to convert your account from a secured credit card account to an unsecured card and to return your deposit without requiring you to close the account. (Or the issuer may raise your limit without you having to increase your deposit.) This may not be automatic, so keep an eye on your credit score, and when it rises ask your lender if you can convert your card to an unsecured business credit card. The lender may check your personal and/or business credit report with one or more of the major credit bureaus, and make a decision based on what it finds.
What Risks Are Associated with Secured Business Credit Cards?
Though the application and approval process may be slightly different, when it comes to fees, APRs, and credit reporting, a secured credit card operates much like a regular credit card.
Secured credit cards often have an annual fee associated with them, and though rates vary drastically from lender to lender, the APR can be quite high. If there is a low introductory APR, read the fine print to make sure you understand what happens after that introductory rate expires. Missing a payment or not paying in full can quickly land you in a dangerous and expensive place.
Likewise, if you only pay the minimum payment, interest costs can make it difficult to pay off your balance. If cash flow is tight and you forget to make a payment, you’ll likely be charged a late fee. If things escalate and you are unable to pay your debts, you may default and find your account in collections. Of course, this will further damage your credit score, since your late payments will be reported to all credit bureaus. Most small business credit cards require a personal guarantee, which means the issuer may go after you personally to collect.
For that reason, it’s important that you are honest about your ability to repay your debts. If you are really strapped, it would be wise to keep the total balance low and to pay it in full by the due date. Keep an eye on your credit limit and how close you are to hitting it and adjust business spending accordingly.
Best Secured Credit Cards for Your Business
There are not many issuers offering secured business credit cards available so your choices will be more limited than if you were searching for an unsecured business credit card. Still, the best place to start in determining what type of business financing is best for you is to access your free personal and business credit scores to see what you qualify for. Using Nav, you can not only view each credit score for both personal and business, but you can also see which credit cards or business loans for small business you may be eligible for.
What Banks Offer Secured Business Credit Cards?
Here are a few of the credit card companies offering secured business credit cards.
Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card
Wells Fargo offers a secured business credit card with no annual fee and 1.5% cash back reward on every $1 spent. If you qualify, you can get a credit line of $500 to $25,000, depending on your qualifications.
First National Bank Business Edition® Secured Visa® Card
First National Bank offers a business secured card with a credit limit between $2,000 and $100,000, with a security deposit of 110% of your credit limit (which you’ll earn interest on). There is an annual fee of $39.
BBVA Compass Business Secured Credit Card
The BBVA secured business credit card waives its $40 annual fee the first year. You are required to open a Secured Credit Card Savings Account to provide the security deposit of at least $500. You can also get free employee cards.
Note that this card is only available in Alabama, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, California, and New Mexico.
Personal Secured Credit Cards
If you’re having trouble qualifying for a business credit card due to your credit scores, you may want to consider getting a personal secured credit card. A credit card paid on time, over time, can be helpful to building and maintaining strong credit.
Citi® Secured Mastercard®
The is a no annual fee credit card that helps you build your credit when used responsibly. Unlike a debit card, it helps build your credit history with monthly reporting to all 3 major credit bureaus. Once available, you will also have free access to your FICO score online. It features an ongoing APR of with a annual fee. A security deposit is required. If approved, a security deposit is required for the amount of your credit limit, between $200 – $2,500. Apply now.
Secured Mastercard® from Capital One®
Capital One offers its Secured Mastercard, with no annual fee and an initial credit line of $200. However, it gives automatic credit line reviews, and you could be eligible for a higher credit line within six months.
Business Credit Cards for Fair Credit
If your credit is decent—not great—there are unsecured business credit cards you may qualify for. Typically you need a FICO credit score between 580 and 669 to qualify for these. These business credit cards for fair credit are specifically tailored to business owners who are working on building or rebuilding their personal credit histories. You may start out with a lower credit limit that you can increase as you prove a history of paying your bill on time.
Business Credit Cards for Startups
If you’ve recently launched your startup, you probably don’t have credit scores or history. Still, there are business credit cards for startups you likely qualify for. You may even be able to get employee cards if you have staff that needs to make purchases for your startup.
Business Rewards Credit Cards
Many business owners like the perks that come with business rewards credit cards. Eligible purchases will help you earn membership rewards, airline miles, gift cards, or statement credit that will help you reduce overall business expenses. You might have a card that offers bonus points for qualifying in certain categories, like gas or restaurants.
Keep in mind these small business rewards credit cards may have an annual fee.
Personal Credit Cards for Business
While some individuals use a personal credit card for business it is not ideal. However, it is easy since most entrepreneurs already have at least one personal card. Just remember: charges on your personal credit card won’t be reported to business credit bureaus, nor will they help your business establish good credit history. It is never a good practice to comingle business and personal purchases on the same card.
Check out Nav’s business credit card marketplace to find the right business credit card for you!
If you want another option other than a credit card, consider taking out a business loan. This can be a good option if you need a large sum of money all at once or cash for a purchase that doesn’t allow credit cards.
Do Secured Business Credit Cards Build Business Credit?
It’s no crime to have scant or nonexistent credit history or low credit scores. The key is what you do to rebuild them. Secured business credit cards are a great tool to do just that and to show both lenders and the major credit bureaus that you’re a reliable customer.
Yes, having a secured card requires you to have cash on hand for that deposit, but once you establish a positive payment history, you should be able to qualify for an unsecured credit card. Keep an eye on your personal and business credit reports to ensure that your payments are reflected there.
Alternatives to Secured Business Credit Cards
If your credit is decent and you don’t need a secured business credit card, you have other business financing options that can help you access financing and/or build business credit.
One way to get access to the products you need and build your credit is through vendor or supplier credit (a.k.a. “tradelines”). Many vendors (for example, those selling office supplies) offer you credit directly through them. You may have a business charge card (one you can only use with that company) or simply a tradeline account that allows you to make purchases and pay off your balance later.
Here are easy approval tradeline accounts that don’t check personal and/or business credit and don’t require good personal credit.
Credit Builder Loans
With a credit builder loan, you build a savings account and good credit at the same time. You make a monthly payment toward a savings account and when you reach a specific amount saved, you get the full balance of the account to spend as you choose. In the meantime, these payments can be reported to credit reporting agencies, helping you build credit.
Nav’s Verdict: Secured Business Cards
As a business owner, you’ve got to keep an eye on your cash flow, and if you don’t have great credit, it can feel like falling without a safety net if you don’t have some form of financial security. A secured card can not only provide that peace of mind, but it can also build your credit so you qualify for better financial options down the road.