Business credit cards fuel the startup dreams of three in five women entrepreneurs, according to a new survey commissioned by PNC Bank. Between March and May, the regional bank's researchers asked 1,300 female company owners and senior decision makers to share their thoughts on the state of the American business climate. According to the survey results, many businesswomen rely far more on credit cards and family savings than on traditional small business loans and investors.

According to PNC Bank spokesperson Beth Marcello, business credit cards offer flexibility and freedom for entrepreneurs, but at a higher level of risk compared to other forms of borrowing. In a statement to reporters, Marcello said that women business owners "who rely strictly on savings and credit cards leave few options to weather downturns without cashing in personal assets or taking a hit to their personal credit history."

In addition, the PNC Bank study revealed that roughly a third of respondents leaned on personal credit cards to help cover routine expenses and cash flow gaps at their companies. Many small business owners must provide personal guarantees when applying for new credit, leaving entrepreneurs especially vulnerable to personal credit risks. Because business credit cards don't carry the same legal protections as consumer credit cards, business owners face tougher penalties and collection activities on defaulted accounts.

Though many small business owners tend to walk financial tightropes, the PNC Bank survey found strong optimism about the future of women-owned businesses in America. Although only 41 percent of the respondents told researchers that they intended to make a capital investment in their companies, 4 out of 5 women expect to see their businesses succeed in the long term. 82 percent of respondents predict their sales will stay the same or increase, even though half of the respondents consider the overall economy "gloomy."