What Is a Business Credit Builder Card?
A business credit builder card is a credit card designed to help small business owners improve their business credit scores. If you’re new to building business credit and need a place to start, a business credit builder card is a good option.
These accounts have low credit requirements, so you can qualify with a bad score or limited business credit profile. That’s unusual for financial tradelines, which are usually relatively challenging to qualify for.
Card issuers are typically willing to make these accounts available to risky borrowers because they put features in place to protect them against the possibility of late payments and defaults. These are often called secured business credit cards.
For example, one of the most common approaches is to require an upfront deposit from the borrower that’s equal to the card’s credit limit. It acts as collateral, which the card issuer can use to recover any losses they might suffer.
A similar strategy has also become popular due to the spread of digital technology and mobile apps. Instead of making a single upfront deposit, the cardholder transfers a smaller deposit each month, which becomes the credit limit for that period.
At the end of the month, the deposit often goes toward the borrower’s outstanding balance automatically. That way, borrowers don’t have to tie up as much cash in the account, but the card issuer still has sufficient collateral at all times.
Because these accounts are supposed to help you build business credit, they usually report to at least one business credit bureau. However, they don’t necessarily share data with all of them, so do your due diligence before choosing one.
Best Business Credit Builder Cards
Each business credit builder card has unique requirements and features, so you may need to shop around to find one that suits you. Here are some of the best options to consider first.
Bank of America Secured Business Card
Secured credit cards are a popular consumer product, but they’re harder to come by for businesses. In addition, many of the biggest credit card issuers stopped taking applications for these accounts in 2023.
However, Bank of America (BoA) still offers one, and it’s a good option for someone who wants a traditional business credit builder card. There aren’t many bells or whistles, but it’s an easy account to manage.
To qualify, you must undergo a credit check, and since it’s a secured card, you must also make an upfront security deposit. BoA’s minimum is $1,000. If you’re approved, the amount will equal your eventual credit line.
There’s no annual fee, but you can earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase. When you’re ready to redeem your rewards, you can request a deposit to your bank account, a credit against your card’s balance, or a check in the mail.
However, Bank of America only reports your business credit activities to the Small Business Financial Exchange (SBFE). You’ll need additional accounts to build credit with the other business credit bureaus.
Tillful Credit Builder Card
If you’d like a more modern experience, the Tillful Business Credit Card may be a better option. Tillful is a startup that launched at the beginning of 2021 and was recently acquired by Nav.
It comes with a mobile app you can also use to access several other beneficial features, including a free copy of your Experian Business credit score, Intelliscore Plus, and a credit builder subscription you can have reported as a second tradeline.
To qualify for the Tillful Card, you must meet the following requirements:
Have an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Be incorporated in the U.S. for at least three months
Not do business in any of their restricted industries
Have a Tillful Credit Account in good standing
However, you don’t have to undergo a credit check or sign a personal guarantee. There’s also no annual fee to use the account, no interest on balances, and you can earn 1% cash back on all eligible purchases.
Tillful automatically reports your activities to Experian and Equifax. It also lets you self-report to Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), but you will need a D&B subscription.
Divvy offers a corporate credit builder card that’s technically a charge card. That means you must put money into your account before you can start spending, and the amount you transfer will be your credit limit.
Also, the funds you contribute automatically go toward your balance at the end of each month, preventing you from carrying it over to the next period. However, there’s no minimum contribution amount, so it’s easy to fit into any budget.
Divvy only reports your payment activities, not credit utilization, to the SBFE and D&B. It also offers reward rates that increase the more often you pay off your balance. For example, you can get 7x points on restaurant costs if you pay off your balance weekly.
In addition to its business credit builder card, Divvy offers extensive expense management features. They’re particularly beneficial if your business has a sizable staff, as they’re capable of organizing the spending of an entire team.
These features include free cost-tracking software plus unlimited physical and virtual cards for your employees. That lets you monitor their activities, set spending limits to enforce budgets, and generate insightful expense reports - all for free.
Business Credit Builder Card Pros
Business credit builder cards have several advantages compared to other accounts you might use to build business credit. Here are some of the most significant ones.
Businesses can use two types of credit accounts to establish their credit scores: vendor and financial tradelines. Vendor tradelines come from entities that don’t specialize in extending credit, while financial tradelines come from established lenders.
For example, net 30 accounts with your suppliers would be vendor tradelines. A traditional credit account, such as a credit card or small business loan, would be a financial tradeline. (A business credit builder loan would fall under this umbrella, too.)
Generally, financial tradelines are more impactful when building business credit, but they’re harder to qualify for. However, since you can often get credit builder credit cards with bad credit, they’re an ideal financial tradeline to target.
Business credit builder cards are for borrowers without good credit, so they usually don’t offer the most lucrative reward programs. However, they still tend to provide at least some cash back.
While you’re unlikely to see accounts with substantial sign-up bonuses, you can find cards offering 1% to 2% back on purchases pretty easily. That can still be significant if your business has a lot of expenses.
Some Cards Offer Account Upgrades
Because business credit builder cards are for less qualified borrowers, they tend to have features that protect the card issuer against the risk of late payments and defaults. One of the most common methods is to require some collateral.
However, if you use a credit builder card responsibly for an extended period, some issuers will upgrade you to an unsecured account. That means refunding any security deposit you provided and continuing to let you use the card.
Business Credit Builder Card Cons
Business credit builder cards are excellent tools, but they have limitations that might make them unsuitable for certain circumstances. Here are the primary drawbacks.
One of the most significant issues with business credit builder cards is that they usually require some form of deposit. Since they’re generally for people with bad credit, their issuers typically need cash as collateral to protect themselves.
As a result, you often have to provide a large lump sum upfront to qualify. The minimum amount is always a few hundred dollars at least, but some accounts may require as much as $1,000 or more.
Fees & Interest
Another notable downside to business credit builder cards is that they’re not always free. Though the cost types and amounts vary between accounts, it’s not unusual for your card to have expenses associated with it.
For example, a secured credit card with a traditional security deposit may require you to pay an annual fee. If you carry a balance from one month to the next, you’ll usually also accrue interest on the amount.
Unfortunately, credit builder cards aren’t as common for businesses as they are for consumers. As a result, you may find it challenging to find an account with terms and qualification requirements that are suitable for your circumstances.
If you strike out on business credit builder cards, you may need to start building your business credit with other account types. Vendor tradelines and services like eCredable are great options to look into for building credit.
Is Getting a Business Credit Builder Card Worth It?
Getting a business credit builder card is often worth doing. They’re one of the most effective tools for improving your business credit score, especially if you haven’t established a credit history yet.
Once again, that’s because financial tradelines have a higher impact than vendor tradelines, and business credit builder cards are one of the few financial tradelines you can get without a good business credit score.
However, there are significant differences between business credit builder cards, so you must choose one that’s right for you. Here are some factors to consider before applying for an account:
Accessibility: These accounts usually have qualification requirements that limit who can sign up. In addition to a credit check, they may have financial, legal structure, or time in business criteria.
Affordability: Credit builder cards typically aren’t the most expensive credit accounts, but they can still carry potentially burdensome costs. That may include security deposits, annual fees, or interest charges.
Reportability: Business credit card issuers each have unique credit reporting policies, which means they won’t necessarily report to the credit reporting agency you’re trying to establish credit with.
If you can find a credit builder card that meets your requirements in these three areas, it’s probably worth applying for it. If not, you may be better off targeting other credit account types.
How eCredable Can Help Build Business Credit
Business credit builder cards are excellent tools for business credit building, but they’re not ideal for everyone. In many cases, you may be better off using a service like eCredable.
Our Business Lift program lets you transform unlimited recurring business expense accounts into vendor tradelines. For example, you could add your rent, telephone, and electricity bills to your business credit report as three separate accounts.
When you sign up for our service, we report your ongoing payments to Equifax and CreditSafe, plus up to 24 months of utility payments. We’ll also share your eCredable subscription payments with them, D&B, and Experian.
The ability to report past payments is a significant advantage over credit builder cards. Adding so much credit history to your credit reports overnight is one of the only ways to boost your score rapidly.
But the advantages don’t stop there. You can also sign up for eCredable with no business or personal credit check, and because it only involves reporting your existing expenses, you don’t have to risk going into debt.
If you’re looking to build business credit, eCredable is an excellent option for any small business owner. Give it a try today!
Learn More About How Business Credit Cards Affect Business Credit:
- Which Business Credit Cards Report to Dun & Bradstreet?
- Which Business Credit Cards Do Not Report Personal Credit?
- Do Business Credit Cards Affect Personal Credit?