The Best Startup Credit Cards

What are the best credit cards for startups?

Startups are NOT a typical small business, and a funded startup’s credit card needs are very different from a traditional SMB. As finance and accounting advisors to hundreds of startups that have raised billions in venture capital funding, we know what to startups should look for in a credit card - and it’s not the same as a "traditional" SMB's card.

We recommend funded startups use Brex - mainly because of the startup-centric rewards, generous spending limits, and the lack of a personal guarantee (they don't hold the founder liable for the card balance if the startups goes under).

Brex

Founded in: 2017
Total Funding: $282.1m
Ideal for: Funded founders
Pros:
  • Built for startups
  • Great rewards
  • No personal guarantee
Cons:
  • Charge card
  • Brex is a startup
SVB

Founded in: 1983
Capital Base: $60b assets
Ideal for: SVB Clients
Pros:
  • Good rewards
  • High spending limits
  • No personal guarantee
Cons:
  • Charge card
  • OK online UX
Amex

Founded in: 1850
Capital Base: $175.9b assets
Ideal for: Traveling SMB owners
Pros:
  • Good travel rewards
  • Familiar brand
  • QuickBooks and Expensify syncs
Cons:
  • Low spending limits
  • Personal liability
  • Not a great card for startups
Chase

Founded in: 1823
Capital Base: $1,318b assets
Ideal for: Consumers, not startups
Pros:
  • Good travel rewards
  • Low annual fee
Cons:
  • Not a business card
  • Low spending limit
  • Founder personal liability

How do Brex, amex, and SVB startup credit cards compare?

When it comes to credit cards for your startup, there’s a lot to consider. As startup finance experts, we at Kruze consulting may have gone a little overboard in our analysis.

Check out this comparison chart reviewing Brex, amex, and SVB -- the three best credit cards for startup founders!

Built for Funded Startups Yes Yes No No
Spending Limit Generous Good Fair Fair
Rewards / Cash Back Startup Focused Startup Focused Personal Travel Rewards Personal Travel Rewards
Personal Guarantee No No Yes Yes
Easy Bookkeeping Yes Yes Yes Yes
QuickBooks Online Sync Yes Yes Yes Yes
Netsuite Sync No Yes No No
Expensify Sync Yes Yes Yes No
Annual Fee $0 $0 $125 per card $95 per card
Instant Signup Yes No No No
Ability to Carry Balance No No Yes Yes
Control Team Spending Yes No No No
Sign up Sign up Sign up Sign up

What to consider when choosing a startup credit card:

Cash back or Rewards

Cash back or Rewards

Traditional small business owners are usually trying to get travel points with their credit card. Venture funded founders have bigger stuff to worry about, and the right credit card will provide rewards that help the startup cut its burn rate. Brex and SVB’s Innovators Card pool all of the company’s points, and these can be used to pay off the card balance (basically, a cash back reward) or to cover other standard startup expenses.

Spending Limit

Spending Limit

Run of the mill SMB credit cards companies will typically do a credit check on the founder applying for the card, which means you’ll get a very low credit limit. A fast-growing, funded startup needs a higher spending limit - don’t risk your AWS getting turned off or your trade show exhibit getting rejected because you hit a low limit. Go with a provider that “gets” startups enough to base the limit on your funding! 

Personal Guarantee

Personal Guarantee

If you are the founder of a funded business, you should NOT be taking on personal liability for the company’s credit card balance. When a startup is going under, or can’t raise the next round, the founder is already likely liable for the company’s payroll liability. Don’t add on the additional personal liability of the company’s credit card as well. Avoid personal liability by going with Brex or the SVB Innovators Card. 

Easy Bookkeeping

Easy Bookkeeping

The best startup credit cards make accounting easy. Look for a provider with cleanly presented statements, modern online UX and a search feature. The best online statements update frequently, so you can understand the balance everyday - and once companies get bigger, they usually want to do their books on a weekly basis, so this becomes even more important. Finally, a good card syncs with QuickBooks, Expensify so you don’t have to deal with manual data entry.  

Controlled Spending

Controlled Spending

Headcount grows quickly at funded companies - and they will want to spend money. The best startup credit cards let you limit how much individuals or teams can purchase. You want a provider with an online interface where you can easily adjust spending limits and control your team’s spending. We recommend Brex for this feature.

Docs

APR Doesn't Matter

Startups that have raised legit seed and venture funding just pay the bill every month. You don’t want to hold a balance, so this doesn’t matter. If card provider tries to sell you on the importance of APR, they aren’t understand what a startup founder is trying to accomplish. If you are a traditional SMB, then this might be your main source of financing. But for a funded company, the credit card APR doesn’t matter - pay your credit card bill every month, like responsible founder. 

Kruze, a leader in startup accounting, breaks down the best startup credit cards.

We only work with funded, early-stage companies, so we know what your accounting systems and credit cards need to be capable of to support rapid growth. Many founders struggle with tools designed for consumers or massive enterprises - finding just right product or service for an early-stage company can be hard. 

Thankfully, we've taken our experience working with hundreds of funded companies and summarized it for you here.

And if your startup needs professional finance and accounting help, reach out to us!

Good credit cards for funded startups

Brex

Brex is by far the best card for a funded startup. Brex has an amazing rewards program for funded companies - you company earns points for all of the company’s spending, and these points are big for typical startup expenses like ridesharing (7x points), travel (4x points) and more. Plus, Brex gets funded businesses enough to base the spending limit on a company’s funding, and doesn’t require the founder to take on a personal guarantee.

Brex Pros
  • Awesome rewards
  • Discounts on AWS and other common expenses
  • High spending limits
  • Good accounting integrations
  • No personal guarantee
Brex Cons
  • More like a charge card
  • Young company

Apply for Brex Now

SVB Innovators Card

SVB is one of the top banking providers to funded technology companies, and they have recently launched a “Brex killer” card. The SVB Innovators card is a strong card for startups, especially for companies that already have their bank account with SVB. Integrations with QuickBooks and Expensify make bookkeeping easier, and good early-stage centric rewards (get money back on your Amazon purchases). Plus, founders take on no personal liability.

SVB Innovators Card Pros
  • Good rewards
  • High spending limits
  • Good accounting integrations
  • SVB bank account integration
  • No personal guarantee
SVB Innovators Card Cons
  • More like a charge card
  • May not be as good if you are not using SVB as your bank
  • Good but not amazing online interface

Apply for SVB Innovators Card Now

Amex Bonvoy

Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card is designed for small businesses, and is used by a measurable number of our funded CEOs for their startups. It offers very strong rewards for spending at Marriott hotels - 6x reward points. Plus, it gets the founder elite status at Marriott hotels, which could be very important for the founder of a B2B company who is always on the road closing sales. Founders likely use this card because they like to stay at Marriotts, and want to get the travel rewards for their family to use on vacation. It is possible to sync the Amex Bonvoy with QuickBooks and Expensify, so bookkeeping is easier and faster. Founders who choose the Amex Bonvoy are going to be taking on personal liability for the card, and are going to encounter a frustratingly low credit limit for a high-growth, funded company (because the limit is based on the founder’s credit score).

Amex Bonvoy Pros
  • Good travel rewards
  • Familiar brand
  • QuickBooks and Expensify syncs
Amex Bonvoy Cons
  • Low spending limit based on founder’s credit history
  • Personal liability
  • Not a great card for startups

Apply for Amex Bonvoy Now

Chase Sapphire

The Chase Sapphire is really a personal credit card, and we are always surprised by the number of startups that use it. Chase Sapphire’s popularity is probably because many founders simply start using their own personal card for their business, and because they want to earn travel points for themselves. It does have some pretty generous rewards for the founder, with the Sapphire Preferred giving 2x points on travel and restaurants, and 1 point for each $1 spent on other categories. However, it’s not really business tool, and a Chase Sapphire card is going to rely on the founder for the credit limit (so it will be too low for fast growing, funded companies). And the founder takes on the personal guarantee. (We are only including the Chase Preferred in this list because we see so many founders use it for business purposes - Chase does have a better business card, the Chase Ink.)

Chase Sapphire Pros
  • Good travel rewards
  • Lots of people already have it
  • Low annual fee of $95
Chase Sapphire Cons
  • Not a business card
  • Low spending limit based on founder’s credit history
  • Personal liability
  • Really, not a good credit card for a funded startup

Apply for Chase Sapphire Now

Chase Ink

Unlike the Chase Sapphire, which is really a consumer card, the Chase Ink line of credit cards is for businesses. Chase offers several versions, including a Chase Ink Business Limited, a Chase Ink Business Cash and Chase Ink Business Preferred. With the Chase Ink cards, early-stage company founders get cash back OR points, depending on the card they pick. The Chase Ink Business Unlimited and Chase Ink Business Cash cards have no annual fee, but there is a low, $95 per year annual fee with the Chase Ink Business Preferred. You also get $500 cash back on the first 2 Chase Ink cards, and the 3rd gives you bonus miles, after you hit the minimum spending amount in the first 3 months.

Chase Ink Pros
  • Several different cards with different rewards
  • Great rewards, mainly cash back or good points
  • Low or no annual fees
Chase Ink Cons
  • Not really built for funded, early-stage companies
  • Points accrue to the person, not the company
  • Personal liability

Apply for Chase Ink Now