This article is part of our guide to business credit cards.
On the hunt for a new business credit card for your startup? Don't just look for credit card reward points, low intro APRs, and high spending limits. Sure, travel rewards and gift cards are enticing, but what do they do for your bottom line? Your startup needs a corporate card that will help you drive growth.
The best corporate cards for startups are the ones that come with built-in finance automation to save you time, reduce wasted spend, and increase visibility into your business expenses.
Here at Ramp, our corporate card is used by fast-growing startups everywhere, so clearly, we have a strong view on this topic. But in this article, we'll help you draw your own conclusions. We'll go over the latest card innovations that are helping businesses grow and show how different business credit cards for startups (not just our own) stack up against each other.
Employees typically spend 20 minutes, on average, to complete a single expense report. And that’s if they report correctly the first time. Unfortunately, according to the same study, almost one in five expense reports has an error, which requires time from the accounting team to identify the error and from the employee to fix it.
Modern corporate credit card issuers help companies eliminate out-of-pocket spending and error-prone expense reports altogether with software that makes it easy for employees to request corporate cards. There are some corporate credit card best practices to keep in mind when looking at options. When evaluating corporate cards, look for these features:
- Multi-step approval flows to ensure that card requests are aligned with business needs
- Virtual cards that can be issued in minutes upon approval for employees to use instantly
- Integration with tools like Slack so everyone can request, review, and issue spend easily
- Automated receipt collection to erase the need for the Great Receipt Search at the end of the month
For example, you might generate p-cards to allow dev teams to purchase tools, or business travel credit cards for sales teams attending customer meetings. Employees should get prompted via SMS or email to provide memos and upload receipt images at the point of purchase. Advanced card technology can automatically match receipts to the corresponding expense. No more sifting through wallets and purses to find receipts and nagging employees to submit their expenses—saving everyone time.
Advanced spend controls
Another aspect business owners will want to evaluate is the spend control features on your card. This is an area where modern corporate cards have a huge advantage over traditional corporate credit cards.
When employees spend, you want peace of mind that company finances are being used on the right things by the cardholder. A spend insights report from Oversight found expense violations up more than 200% during 2020 due to unclear expense policies and fraud.
Spend control features allow you to provide employee cards to your team while ensuring guardrails are in place to prevent unapproved spending. Embedded card controls like the following help you enforce your expense policy and put your finance team at ease:
- Spending category and merchant restrictions to limit where cards can be used and what constitutes an eligible business purchase
- Card auto-locking once a date is reached to prevent surprise charges
- Limits on the number of times cards can be used—one-time, daily, weekly, monthly, or annually
- Spend limits at the card and transaction level to prevent overages
No more awkward conversations about whether the chicken statue with the top hat is a business expense—the purchase will be denied before it even happens.
Traditional business credit cards are simply not built to help businesses save money. They make you sift through transactions at the end of the month to catch unapproved spending. In contrast, modern corporate cards help you block out-of-policy expenses in real-time.
Automated savings insights
In a startup, projects move quickly, so it’s easy for duplicate spending and unused subscriptions to go unnoticed.
Thankfully, modern corporate cards come with spend management software that automatically analyzes vendor data and surface opportunities to save. They help you reduce wasted spend by detecting:
- Redundant vendors, like multiple project management tools
- Duplicate subscriptions that can be consolidated to lower costs
- Sudden increase in vendor charges
- Ways to lower pricing, e.g., switch to an annual subscription
As your organization grows, leverage this kind of finance automation to make every dollar count.
Real-time expense reporting
Great corporate cards give you real-time visibility into your cash flow. It’s easy for employee spend data to get lost in credit card statements and expense reports your finance team can’t access. Cards that come with robust accounting integrations feed your startup’s card purchases directly into your accounting system so you can monitor your company’s cash flow.
Because these integrations happen in real-time, your accounting teams can create smart alerts to know when an anticipated purchase happens. Some platforms let you set smart rules that map transactions to ledger accounts and custom fields or set up automatic notifications through Slack, so these alerts become part of your team’s normal workflow. No more needing to log in to a different system to see what’s happening with expenses.
Flexible underwriting, no personal guarantees
Applying for a traditional business credit card can take months, a couple of years' worth of financials, a check of your personal credit history, and require you to provide a personal guarantee. As a sole proprietor or small business owner, this could pin your personal finances to the success of your business.
In contrast, modern card companies take an entirely different approach. Oftentimes, they look at a wider range of financial health factors instead of your personal credit score, such as your company’s cash balance and cash flows, to set your company’s business limit.
For instance, Ramp simply requires corporations and LLCs to be registered in the US, have at least $75,000 in cash in a US business bank account, and have most of their operations and corporate spend in the US, among other factors. Credit limits are generally set based on available cash in your bank account.
The best corporate cards for startups: how they compare
Now you're up to speed on the automation features you should look for in a corporate card. Let's see how the cards that regularly make the list of top small business credit cards compare.
Case studies of startups benefiting from finance automation
How WayUp saved hours
The accounting team at WayUp, a job search platform, struggled with expense reports before switching to Ramp's finance automation platform. The team spent almost an entire workday each month reviewing employee expense reports, not to mention the time it took to get them from employees in the first place."I used to spend more than six hours per month reviewing expense reports. After setting up Ramp, it takes me less than an hour," says Jose Ramon-Batista, WayUp's Staff Accountant.
How Red Antler cut down unnecessary spending
For leading brand management agency Red Antler, expenses were bottlenecked by its three creative producers. Some expenses weren’t being submitted because of lost receipts and forgotten charges. Unauthorized expenses were going unnoticed because of hard-to-read statements and processes no one had time for. Ramp was able to help Red Antler decentralize spending by quickly providing corporate cards with easy-to-manage approvals for all creative employees, eliminating bottlenecks, and increasing control over employee spending.
"Expense management is no longer an end-of-the-month nightmare, and the team now has better real-time control and visibility over their purchases," says Christina Cooksey, Red Antler's Head of Creative Production.
How real-time insights helped Mode
For analytics company Mode, manually uploading expenses from its corporate cards to its accounting software slowed down its ability to pull insights about the company’s finances. As an analytics company, it knew how important real-time data is to identify trends. By switching to Ramp's charge cards, Mode’s leadership team could clearly see the changes in employee spending through its corporate cards. That visibility allowed them to control spending and mitigate risk proactively. Teo Evanick, Financial Controller at Mode, saw this soon after her team started using Ramp’s financial automation tools.
"With Ramp, people are no longer hiding behind their expenses. Everyone can log in and see every transaction the instant it happens, forecast spend, and correct wasteful behavior. What a relief," says Teo Evanick, Mode's Financial Controller.
Level up your startup’s corporate card
Don’t just settle for business credit card offers with enticing perks. Along with having an easy-to-use rewards program, your corporate card should have finance automation tools to modernize your spend management. These tools aren’t just convenient—they strengthen your bottom line. You’ll have more time and more control over your company’s finances, so you can focus on growing your business.
Ready to level up your corporate cards with finance automation? Get Ramp today.