Best credit cards for small business

Pop quiz: What are the two fundamental ways that business credit cards can help your business?

According to Entrepreneur Magazine columnist David Newton, emerging businesses should use credit cards for two primary functions: asset acquisition and working capital. For assets such as computers, furniture or vehicles, zero APR credit cards offer some of the least expensive methods to spread out payments on new gear over 6 months or longer, provided there is enough cash to pay off the debt before the promotional period expires.

Meanwhile, a growing number of established companies continue to funnel their working capital through business credit cards to earn rewards points and miles as well as to even out cash flow and streamline expense reporting. Processing working capital through a rewards credit card can generate an extra stream of revenue for a young and hungry company. Credit card rewards can include cash rebates, which reduce your bottom line, and free travel, essential for putting you or your key people in front of clients and vendors.

From those two perspectives, the CardRatings.com editorial staff presents 6 of the best business credit cards and charge cards on the market:

Ink Cash Business Card from Chase

If you prefer counting cash to tallying rewards points, Chase offers a version of its Ink business credit card with an easy-to-track rebate program. With the Ink Cash Business Card earn cash back for your business as much as 5 percent cash back in featured categories on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services each account anniversary year.  Earn 2 percent cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and dining at restaurants each account anniversary year. And 1 percent cash back on all other card purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn.

    Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

    Road warriors swear by the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express, which offers rewards points good toward nights at Westin, Sheraton, W Hotels and other Starwood properties. Terms and limitations apply.

    Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business 

    If you have good to excellent business credit, you may qualify for one of the best cash back credit cards on the market. Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business offers a straight 2-percent cash back on every purchase and a reasonable variable APR. This card gives you flexibility to float a balance when necessary, excluding any minimum payments that are due.

    The Plum Card® from American Express OPEN

    American Express re-imagined its classic charge card for today's business, blending a trade discount for early payment or a cushion of up to 60 days to pay off a balance without interest, or both each month. With The Plum Card from American Express OPEN, you can set your own billing cycles and enjoy the security of separate employee cards. Your first year pay no annual Membership fee, then pay $250 annually. Employee cards do not carry an annual fee. There is no foreign transaction fee. Right now, a special offer for a limited time, learn how you can get up to 3.5 percent back. Terms and Restrictions apply.

    FNBO Business Edition Visa

    Maybe there's something in the water in Omaha. It's not just the home to notoriously frugal billionaire Warren Buffet, it's also the headquarters for retail bank card powerhouse FNBO. The FNBO Business Edition Visa Card carries one of the lowest variable interest rates of any business credit card on the market, with APRs starting just below 10 percent for highly qualified applicants. FNBO's online banking system stores up to seven years of statements, making your bookkeeper's life easier, too.

    U.S. Bank Visa Platinum

    Even though U.S. Bank might not have a branch near your office, they can still offer your business some of the lowest variable APRs for business credit cards on the market right now for those with excellent credit. The no-annual-fee U.S. Bank Visa Platinum credit card offers a low introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers.

    The bottom line

    Before completing any credit or charge card application, be aware of the impact of a new account on both your personal and corporate credit profiles. Your brand new business will need a personal guarantee for you to start carrying a company credit card. That means you're on the hook for any charges left unpaid if your venture fails.

    As your company grows its own credit report, you can graduate to a business credit card that relies less on your personal credit score. Pick an account with rewards that outweigh fees. Don't run up more credit than you can afford to pay off. Finally, prepare to start out with a small line of credit, and let it grow in tandem with your small business.

    About the Author

    arnold

    Curtis Arnold, a nationally recognized consumer educator and advocate, has been educating consumers about credit cards since 1998. New! Curtis is the author of 'How You Can Profit from Credit Cards: Using Credit to Improve Your Financial Life and Bottom Line' (FT Press, 2008). He is also the co-author of the upcoming Complete Idiot's Guide to Person-to-Person Lending (Alpha Books/Pengiun Group USA, April 2009), a contribitor to The Ultimate Allowance (InnerWealth Publishing, 2008) and is extensively featured in 42 RulesTM for Driving Success With Books (Super Star Press, January 2009).