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Small Business Credit Card Report 2021

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The COVID-19 pandemic has been a double-edged sword for small businesses around America.

For many small retailers and restaurants, it’s been an absolute catastrophe. Countless small businesses have closed for good in the wake of the pandemic, and many more will before COVID-19 fades into memory. The lockdowns, reduced consumer spending and intense competition from larger, better-funded competitors have simply been too much for many of these businesses to endure.

At the same time, millions of Americans have run with the idea of starting their own small business or side hustle during the pandemic, either for an additional income source to protect themselves in case they lose their job in the future or as a way to gin up some revenue to help them make ends meet until they can line up their next full-time job.

Many of these new small business owners are looking to personal loans or credit cards to help them start their new venture. With that in mind, LendingTree reviewed all the small business credit card offerings from 16 of the biggest card issuers in America. We wanted to see what the state of small business credit cards was today.

What we found was largely good news. Small business credit card interest rates are typically lower than those of other types of cards. There are also plenty of no-annual-fee options available, as well as short-term 0% purchase offers. Plus, there’s a wide variety of rewards options to choose from, depending on the specific needs of your company.

However, it’s still important to do your homework before signing up. Rates can vary widely, as can fees, rewards and other facets of these cards.

Small business credit card overview

Key findings

  • Lower APRs than consumer credit cards. The average APR on a new small-business credit card is 17.82%. That’s a little bit lower than the average for new consumer credit cards, which is more than 19%.
  • Most come with sign-up bonuses. All but two reviewed cards offered rewards, and nearly 80% of those came with a sign-up bonus. The biggest cash bonus? $750.
  • Annual fees are common. About half of the small business cards come with an annual fee. The median annual fee is $99.
  • Introductory 0% interest offers can be had. 15 of 49 cards came with a short-term offer of 0% APR on purchases. The most common intro-period length was 12 months.
  • Points and miles are more common than cash back. 25 small business rewards cards offered cardholders points and miles, while 18 came with cashback rewards and 4 others allowed the cardholders to choose between the two.
  • Travel was the most common featured category. 22 of the 47 rewards cards offered extra points, miles or cash for travel purchases, while 13 cards gave cardholders extra for spending on dining and/or gas.
  • Business-specific rewards categories are available. Many cards gave bonus points for spending with office supply stores, cable/internet/wireless companies and even advertising spend, including search advertising.

What’s the average annual percentage rate on a small business credit card?

17.82%. The good news for small business owners is that rate is lower than the average rate for consumer credit cards (19.29%).

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you’ll get your best rate when you apply. Like consumer credit cards, most small business credit cards come with a range of rates based on the applicant’s creditworthiness. The average minimum APR is 14.44%, while the average maximum APR is 21.20%.

What’s the average annual fee on a small business credit card?

$167. However, the median annual fee is $99. That’s a truer representation of the state of small-business credit card annual fees, as the average is skewed by the fact that one card we reviewed had an annual fee of $595.

About half of small business credit cards had no annual fee — this means that if you’re dead set against paying one, you wouldn’t have to. However, as with consumer cards, it’s important to understand that the cards with the better rate of return on rewards might come with an annual fee.

What’s the average sign-up bonus on a small business credit card?

It depends on the type of rewards being offered:

  • For a cash back card, the average is $409.
  • For a points and miles card, the average is 60,000 points.

And while that 60,000-point bonus may sound great, remember that all points and miles are not created equal — 60,000 miles may get you a lot in return from a particular airline or hotel chain, but it may not amount to much from another.

Before you apply, look into what those miles or points will get you. Card issuers will often give you an example of either the dollar value of those points or the type of flight or room you could get with the points. That’s important to know — otherwise you could wind up disappointed.

Do small business credit cards come with 0% APR introductory offers on purchases and balance transfers?

Some absolutely do.

About a third of the reviewed cards came with an introductory 0% APR offer on purchases, but only about 1 in 10 cards came with a 0% APR offer on balance transfers.

The most common length for 0% APR purchase offers was 12 months, while the most common one for 0% APR balance transfer offers was 15 months. For purchases, the durations ranged from 6 to 15 months. For balance transfers, the range was 9 to 15 months.

Which type of rewards are more common with small business credit cards: Cash back or points and miles?

Perhaps surprisingly, points and miles cards were more common than cashback cards.

Of the 47 cards that offered rewards, 25 offered points exclusively and 18 offered cash back exclusively, while four more gave the cardholder the option to choose.

Of course, many of those points cards will allow you to redeem those points for cash. However, the cards are primarily marketed as being points cards, so that’s how we categorized them for this report.

What rewards categories earn the most points with small business credit cards?

Travel, dining and gas, with travel being the most common.

That’s pretty similar to what you’d find with consumer credit cards. (Groceries, another staple of consumer credit card rewards, was far less common with business cards — just two cards offered bonus points for grocery purchases.)

Not all earnings categories mirrored those offered by consumer cards, however. For these business-focused cards, office supply purchases was a popular category, as was spending on cable, internet or wireless. Plus, several cards offered extra rewards for spending on advertising.

What major credit card issuer offers the most small business credit card options?

American Express, by a mile.

We reviewed websites from 16 major credit card issuers. Eleven offered small business cards, while just five did not.

American Express listed 14 small business cards on their website, twice the amount offered by the issuer with the second-highest number of that we reviewed (Capital One, with seven).

Methodology

LendingTree reviewed 49 small business credit cards from 16 of the nation’s largest issuers. We looked at the card information available to the public on their issuers’ websites and determined averages and median numbers based on our findings. The data involved is up to date as of December 29, 2020.