You probably know from applying for personal credit cards that one of the first pieces of information a card issuer requests from applicants is their Social Security number (SSN). That’s also the case with small business credit cards, especially those that require a personal guarantee from the founder.
However, there are some credit card issuers that will approve you for a credit card based solely on your Employer Identification Number (EIN), a number that credit bureaus and the IRS use to identify businesses in much the same way that they use SSNs to identify people. Those card issuers will not look at your personal credit report when determining whether to approve your application.
Whether or not you get business cards with EIN only, it still usually makes sense avoid using a personal credit card for business. A business credit card can be a powerful tool to help you manage your company’s cash flow, understand its spending and expenses, and separate your business finances from your personal money.
Curious to learn more about getting a credit card with only an EIN? Read on to find out how to get a business credit card with only an EIN, the different types of credit cards available with only an EIN, the pros and cons of getting a credit card with only an EIN, and how to apply for a business credit card with an EIN only.
Can you get a business credit card with EIN only?
If you have a large, established business, you can typically get a corporate card without using an individual SSN. It’s also possible to get a small business credit card with an EIN only (without providing your SSN), but there are fewer options from which to choose. The vast majority of business credit card issuers require applicants to have either an SSN only or an EIN as well as an SSN for company owners. Immigrants that don’t have an SSN may be able to apply for credit using an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN), or tax ID.
If your business does not have established credit, you may need to meet additional requirements to get approved for a card using just your EIN. Those requirements might involve meeting a certain monthly revenue threshold or having a certain amount of capital in the bank.
What is an EIN?
An EIN, or employer identification number, is a nine-digit unique, taxpayer identification number assigned to all registered businesses. The IRS uses an EIN to keep track of business tax returns in the same way that it uses SSNs to keep track of personal returns. You’ll need to provide this number when applying for many types of business loans, including those backed by the Small Business Administration.
An EIN is similar to an SSN in that once the government assigns an EIN to a business, it will never change.
You’ll need your EIN when filing business taxes and in order to open a business bank account. If you lose your EIN, you may be able to find it on business-related paperwork, such as your business registration documents or previous tax returns. If you still can’t locate it, you can call the IRS at 800-829-4933.
Lenders provide a company’s EIN to the business credit-rating agencies to get a credit report on that business, if one exists. You do not need an EIN to apply for a business credit card, but you do need one if you want a business credit card without a personal guarantee.
It’s a good idea to get an EIN early on after establishing your business. Many small business owners prefer using an EIN for business purposes, rather than their SSN as an extra layer of protection against identity theft. Since EINs are connected to businesses instead of people, they have less use for fraudsters.
Why some issuers don’t approve applications with only an EIN
Many card issuers prefer to have an SSN over an EIN—and many may ask applicants to provide both— because they require the owners or founders of a business to provide a personal guarantee. That’s because lending money to startups is extremely risky, and most credit cards don’t require collateral. So lenders want to protect themselves from losses by requiring individuals to promise to repay their debts if a business can’t.
Business credit card issuers that require a founder’s personal guarantee will look at your personal credit when deciding whether to extend a credit card to your business. In those cases, your personal credit will also factor into the size of the credit limit you receive and the interest rate, if applicable.
Some, but not all business credit card issuers that require an SSN for approval report payments on the card to personal credit agencies. While sole proprietors can get an EIN, they are typically not eligible for small business credit cards using only their EIN.
Why would a small business need a business credit card with EIN and not an SSN?
A small business might prefer a credit card with an EIN rather than an SSN for several reasons. For starters, using an EIN rather than an SSN helps establish a separation between the personal finances of the founder or owner and those of the business.
Business owners who want to avoid taking on personal liability for their business expenses may be good candidates for small business cards that don’t require an EIN. Cards that use an EIN only are one of the few types of business credit cards that will not affect personal credit.
Using an EIN can help a business establish a credit history over time, as long as the card issuer reports payments to business credit-rating agencies.
Your business credit reflects how well you manage your finances and pay your debt. Having better business credit can open up additional sources of capital to your business in the future, and make it more affordable for you to borrow money.
Another reason that a small business might want a credit card with just their EIN is that the founder or owner has poor credit. In that case, they might worry that they’d be denied a business credit card based on their personal credit history.
How do business credit cards without an EIN work?
Business credit cards that don’t require an EIN work just like other business credit cards. You can use them to make purchases for your business, and they can be a helpful tool to manage your cash flow. Many small business credit cards also come with digital tools that can give you additional insight into your company’s spending.
Some business cards are true credit cards, meaning you only have to pay a minimum amount at the end of each monthly billing cycle and can carry a balance over from month to month, as long as you pay interest on it. Other business cards are charge cards, which require you to pay off the balance in full each month.
What is a personal guarantee?
A personal founder guarantee means that you’re personally liable for any debts taken on using that card. Even if your business fails, the credit card issuer can come after your personal assets to recoup their losses. If your business hasn’t established its own credit yet, most business card issuers will require a personal guarantee before giving you a business credit card.
How to apply for a business credit card with EIN
1. Get your EIN
Before you can apply for a business credit card using your EIN, you must get an EIN for your business. You typically get an EIN when you register your business with the state, but if you don’t have one, you can request an EIN from the IRS using this online form.
2. Find EIN-only business credit cards that work for you
Once you have an EIN, you’ll need to look for card issuers that will approve you with just an EIN (there are several options listed below). In most cases, your business will need to be registered as a limited-liability corporation (LLC), partnerships, or a corporation. Then, apply for a business credit card as you would with any other credit card. If there’s a box asking for your SSN, just skip it and fill out the section requesting an EIN instead.
3. Apply for a business card with EIN
You will also need to include other information about your business, including your name and corporate structure, its contact information, the size of your business, its current and projected revenues, and the date that you launched the business. Once you’ve filled out the application, the card issuer will review and verify the information and then let you know whether you’ve been approved. Some card issuers will complete the verification process instantly, while others might take a few days.
What you need to know about startup business credit cards (EIN only)
There are benefits and drawbacks to using credit cards that require only an EIN as a line of credit for your business.
Pros of credit cards with EIN only
The primary advantage to cardholders of using a credit card with an EIN only is that it helps establish a distinction between the company’s finances and those of the founder or owner. It can also help you build business credit.
Business credit card issuers that don’t require an EIN typically don’t do a personal credit check with the credit bureaus when determining whether to approve your business for a card. That means that the application itself won’t impact your personal credit score.
Cons of credit cards with EIN only
One of the biggest disadvantages of using a credit card with an EIN only is that there are fewer credit cards from which to choose, and your business may have to meet additional requirements in order to get approval for the card. If your business doesn’t meet the minimum revenue requirements or have a certain level of assets in the bank, you may not be able to get a credit card using only an EIN.
Types of business credit cards using an EIN
While there are certainly fewer credit cards available to applicants using only an EIN rather than an SSN, there are some options. Here’s how to start business credit with EIN:
Corporate business cards
Corporate business cards that do not require a personal guarantee typically allow you to apply with an EIN only. Ramp and Divvy are examples of corporate business cards that you can get with an EIN only.
Corporate store cards
Corporate store cards are business credit cards that you can use in one specific store. While these have more limited use, they may make sense if you make the bulk of your business purchases from a single vendor. Corporate store cards often offer rewards, but you can only use them at the store that’s connected to the card.
Corporate gas credit cards
As with corporate store cards, corporate gas credit cards have limited use since they only work at gas stations within a specific network. That said, if your business involves a fleet of vehicles and gas represents a primary expense, a corporate credit card for gas might make sense.
Prepaid business cards
Business card issuers typically require a Social Security number from applicants as part of a personal credit check for businesses without an established credit history. Prepaid business cards reduce the perceived risk to lenders (since there’s no possibility for losses), so they don’t need to require a personal credit check.
Prepaid business credit cards are one form of secured business credit cards. While these can be a useful tool to help your business build its credit, most businesses prefer the flexibility of unsecured cards, if they can qualify for one.
Why Ramp is your best choice for EIN-only business credit cards
Capital One, Chase, and Discover all have their own EIN-only business credit cards. However, we believe Ramp is the best option because it offers you more flexibility than other types of cards, as well as a range of additional perks. You can use a Ramp card at all different types of retailers, while building your business credit profile. Plus, Ramp pays unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards and provides credit limits as much as twenty times higher than competitors.
Ramp also makes it easy to stand up a credit card program for employees, allowing businesses to issue unlimited virtual credit cards. Companies can put restrictions on those cards around the amount they can spend or the types of vendors where they can use them. Such guardrails allow small businesses to empower employees to spend as necessary while also automatically enforcing expense policies.
Learn more about how to get an EIN-only credit card from Ramp.