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Table of contents
DEFINITION
Corporate Credit Card
Corporate credit cards are cards given to employees of established companies that allow them to make business-related purchases, like business travel or client expenses, without having to use their personal credit cards and request reimbursements.

 

‍Similar to business credit cards, corporate cards provide credit so employees can make work purchases without spending out of pocket.

But unlike traditional credit cards, most corporate cards don’t require a credit check or personal guarantee. Instead, corporate card companies use your business bank account balance or annual revenue to determine eligibility. This shifts liability for any debts to the company, protecting your personal finances.

How corporate credit cards work

Corporate credit cards operate similarly to personal or small business credit cards in several respects. They allow you to make business-related purchases and often offer rewards and perks for such transactions. Your company is responsible for making timely payments on the corporate credit card, usually full monthly balance payments, and this activity will impact your business credit score.

The card will display your company's name and each employee's name as the authorized cardholder. The employee's signature will be placed on the back of the card, similar to how it would be signed on a personal credit card. Each employee card can be customized with unique spending limits and vendor controls.

 

Here are some of the pros and cons of corporate credit cards to consider when deciding whether they’re right for your business:

Pros:

  • Higher credit limits than business credit cards
  • You can issue physical and virtual cards to employees
  • Come with expense management features
  • Often no personal guarantee or credit check required
  • Rewards and perks

Cons:

  • Must be a registered LLC, C-corporation, or S-corporation to qualify for most corporate cards; not suited for sole proprietors or partnerships
  • Must meet annual revenue or cash-on-hand requirements
  • Balance must be paid in full each month

Benefits of corporate credit cards

One of the main advantages of a corporate credit card is that it simplifies the process of tracking and reporting expenses. With some corporate cards, employers can set custom spending limits for their employees. These limits can be for each purchase, specific types of purchases, or overall spending. You can also choose the vendors, categories, and locations where employee cards are accepted.

 

Corporate cards with preset spending limits mean that employees don’t have to use their personal cards for business purchases. This eliminates the expense approval and reimbursement process, saving hours of manual work for your finance team. Cards that come with software make things even easier come tax season since automatic expense tracking by category and automated reports ensure that all of your spending data is easily accessible.

 

Another benefit of corporate cards is their rewards programs. Some cards come with points-based rewards with bonus points in spending categories like travel, dining, or software. These rewards can be redeemed for gift cards, statement credit, or travel bookings. Other cards offer simple cashback rewards with no category restrictions, so every purchase earns a flat rate back in redeemable cash or statement credit.

Types of corporate credit cards

There are two main categories of corporate credit cards: those offered by traditional banks and those offered by software-oriented providers. Here’s an overview of each type of corporate card.

 

Corporate cards offered by traditional banks are generally tailored for larger corporations with substantial annual revenue. These cards often come with a set of stringent requirements, including a strong credit history, a high credit score, and a certain annual revenue—often in the millions. These standards are in place to reduce risk for banks, since corporate cards typically have higher credit limits. Traditional corporate cards also usually come with high annual fees. Examples of such cards include the American Express Corporate Card and the Chase Ink Business Preferred card.

 

Corporate cards offered by software-oriented providers cater to a broader range of businesses, including startups and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). These cards have more flexible eligibility criteria, making them accessible if your business has lower annual revenue or is still establishing a credit history. These card issuers use technology to offer features such as real-time expense tracking and integrations with accounting software. This tech-forward approach allows for a quick application process and user-friendly experience. For example, Ramp offers a corporate card with features like automated expense management and savings insights. Another card in this category is Brex.

What is the difference between a corporate card and a credit card?

Corporate cards place liability on the company only, whereas business credit cards may hold either the individual business owner or the company responsible for the charges. Corporate cards are primarily issued to employees of large organizations for covering business-related expenses such as travel, client meetings, and office supplies. These cards are designed to help organizations manage their finances with features like spending limits and integrations with accounting platforms.

Business credit cards, targeted towards SMEs and entrepreneurs, are used for similar purposes but have different eligibility criteria. Small business owners typically have to use their personal credit score to apply for a business credit card, and there may be no revenue requirements.

Unlike corporate cards, business credit cards have fewer expense management features. There may be spending controls, but they’re usually less customizable than with corporate cards. These types of cards are better suited to sole proprietors or small businesses with a small number of employees, whereas corporate cards are more efficient for managing company spending on a larger scale.

What is the difference between a credit card and a commercial debit card?

Commercial debit cards are distinct from credit cards and are connected to a company's bank account instead of a credit line. When employees use their commercial debit cards, payments are taken from the business bank account balance rather than a monthly credit limit. This means that there’s no interest or risk of credit card debt.

 

Like credit cards, corporate cards also have a deferred payment model. Corporate credit card balances typically must be paid in full each month, whereas credit cards allow for the option of a minimum payment with interest. Both types of cards are distinct from commercial debit cards which pull directly from funds in a business bank account rather than a revolving line of credit.

How to qualify for a corporate card

If you own a registered LLC, C-corp, or S-corp with annual revenue in the millions and total expenses of at least $250,000 per year, your company might qualify for a corporate credit card. While small businesses and sole proprietorships can get a small business credit card, corporate credit cards are designed for more established companies.

Tip:
Want to maximize your credit limit? If you’re an e-commerce sales company, look for providers who are willing to underwrite you using sales data from platforms and marketplaces like Stripe, Shopify, and Amazon. Even if your company lacks sizable revenue or a long credit history, you may still qualify for a corporate card.

 

A corporate credit card application will typically ask for your business address and legal information, corporate formation information including your EIN number, average monthly spending, credentials linked to a business bank account, and your personal contact information as the business owner.

 

Your company's formation details can typically be found in your Articles of Incorporation, tax records, and loan requests. Your EIN may be listed on previous tax filings and loan applications. In case it isn't included in any of these documents, you can call the IRS for assistance.

To estimate your monthly business expenses, tally up the total amount spent on your business credit cards in the past month. If your spending varies greatly or follows a seasonal pattern, report the average of the last 3–6 months. Exclude any payments made through ACH, check, or wire transfers.

How to implement company credit cards

The first step in implementing corporate credit cards is selecting one that suits your business. Different cards come with their own revenue and spending requirements as well as unique reward program structures. Some cards offer tiered rewards systems, where different types of expenses, such as travel, dining, or office supplies, earn varying rates of cashback or points. There are also cards that specialize in travel rewards, accumulating points for flights and hotel stays. Others offer a flat cashback rate on all purchases, providing a consistent return regardless of spending category.

Once you’ve decided on a card, the next step is to establish a corporate credit card policy. This policy should clearly outline which employees get corporate cards, permissible uses of the card, and spending limits. It's important to define what counts as a legitimate business expense and set guidelines for pre-approval of large or unusual expenditures. The policy should also include procedures for reporting lost or stolen cards and disputing unauthorized charges. By setting clear rules and expectations, a card policy helps prevent unauthorized employee spending and lets employees know what they can expect.

 

Finally, you or your finance team should set up controls on employee card accounts. This involves configuring spending limits and restrictions based on each cardholder’s role and your company's budget. For example, you can set daily or monthly spending limits, limit transactions from certain types of vendors, or require approval for expenditures over a certain amount. Also, integrating the cards with your company’s accounting software can facilitate automated expense reporting, speeding up your month-end close.

What happens if you don't pay your corporate credit card?

To use corporate cards, businesses are typically required to pay the full balance each month by enrolling in automatic payments deducted from their business bank account. That means there’s no possibility of carrying a balance on the card. Sometimes, you can also choose to automatically pay your balance once you're close to your spending limit. That way, you can make sure your cards never get declined.

What happens if you use corporate card for personal use?

If you or an employee accidentally makes a personal charge on their corporate card, you can usually flag such an expense as accidental through your card provider’s platform. Once the expense has been flagged, you can initiate a repayment through the bank account that’s connected to your card. It may take a couple of business days to complete the process.

Using a corporate card for personal expenses on a regular basis is likely against the contract terms for your card. In that case, repeatedly using the card for non-business expenses could send a red flag to your card provider, prompting them to ask about your card use. Going against the terms of your cardholder agreement could result in a fine or having to close the account.

Consider Ramp’s modern corporate cards

Don't settle for business credit cards that require a personal guarantee or legacy corporate cards that lack the most basic spend management features. It’s time for a differently designed card and finance software that decreases the amount of time spent processing expense reports and ensures error-free transactions.

To qualify for Ramp, all you need is:

  • A registered LLC or corporation in the United States
  • An EIN number
  • $75,000 or more in a U.S. business bank account—or, commerce businesses may be eligible for our sales-based underwriting
  • Personal contact details as the business owner 
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Finance Writer and Editor, Ramp
Ali Mercieca is a Finance Writer and Content Editor at Ramp. Prior to Ramp, she worked with Robinhood on the editorial strategy for their financial literacy articles and with Nearside, an online banking platform, overseeing their banking and finance blog. Ali holds a B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy from York University and can be found writing about editorial content strategy and SEO on her Substack.
Ramp is dedicated to helping businesses of all sizes make informed decisions. We adhere to strict editorial guidelines to ensure that our content meets and maintains our high standards.

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