A Guide To Using Personal Credit Cards For Business Expenses
It may seem natural to use a business credit card when you’re making purchases on a business’s behalf — whether it’s your business or you’re an employee — but there’s a strong case to be made for using personal credit cards to cover business expenses instead.
First of all, the CARD Act of 2009 provides a number of legal protections to users of personal credit cards — legal protections that don’t apply to business card users. If you use a personal card, you can’t have your introductory APR revoked before six months have passed, nor can you be charged excessive fees for minor infractions. You also can’t have your APR raised without first having 45 days’ notice of the change. While business card issuers often extend these protections to consumers as a courtesy, this isn’t a universal practice.
You might also find that the rewards programs associated with personal credit cards fit your spending patterns more closely than the incentive programs of business card issuers. Whatever the reason, using a personal credit card to cover business purchases is a common practice, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. However, that’s not to say there aren’t any pitfalls to avoid.
Here are some tips for using personal credit cards to cover business expenses.
Table of Contents
- Use A Separate Card For Business
- Don’t Use Your Debit Card
- Be Wary Of Affecting Your Personal Credit Score
- Pay Off Your Card As Soon As You’re Reimbursed
- Record Everything
- Pick The Personal Card That Fits Your Business Spending Profile
- Use It Or Lose It
- Try To Get Reimbursed As Soon As Possible
- Final Thoughts
Use A Separate Card For Business
One thing you’ll want to avoid is commingling business and personal expenses. A good way to avoid this is to use a separate credit card for your business purchases, even if that card is a personal card. This way, you won’t have to go through all your purchases one-by-one on your existing personal card to determine which purchases were business-related and which weren’t.
Keeping your business purchases confined exclusively to one card is helpful in several ways. If you’re an employee, you’ll be able to report your business expenditures more easily. And regardless of whether you’re an employee or the owner of a business, confining your business purchases to one separate card will make dealing with the IRS less painful in the event of an audit. If you charge business and personal expenses on the same card, you may have a harder time proving to the IRS that your business charges really were for business purposes.
Don’t Use Your Debit Card
Even if you don’t get a separate card for business use, whatever you do, don’t make business purchases on your debit card. Doing so is a good way to get a hold placed on your own money.
Entities such as hotels and rental car agencies will typically place a hold on your card — often for hundreds of dollars. In this way, work-related purchases can end up sapping your personal funds. Don’t do it!
Be Wary Of Affecting Your Personal Credit Score
If you use a separate personal credit card for all your business-related expenses, know that you can negatively impact your personal credit score with your business purchases. If you charge a large business purchase to your card, your credit utilization ratio will be affected until you get reimbursed. Your credit utilization ratio is the amount of debt you have vs. the amount of your credit limit.
For this reason, if you’re applying for a loan of some kind, you might want to avoid doing so while you have a large as-yet-unreimbursed business expense on your card. If you don’t, you may well end up paying a higher interest rate on your loan.
Of course, the positive aspect of this is the fact that if you make your payments and use your personal card wisely, you can improve your credit score in a way you can’t with a business credit card. That’s because when you use a business card, your transaction history typically doesn’t get reported to the consumer credit bureaus.
Pay Off Your Card As Soon As You’re Reimbursed
A recent report from CareerBuilder found that 78% of full-time workers in the US live paycheck to paycheck. With this as our grim reality, it’s no wonder that many workers are tempted to use their reimbursement funds to pay other bills. However, you should avoid doing this if at all possible.
If you don’t pay down your card with your full reimbursement amount, you’ll be paying interest on a purchase that wasn’t even for you. Unless doing so would make you homeless, pay off that card as soon as you get the reimbursement check. Otherwise, you’re just throwing money away in the form of interest payments.
A good way to both streamline the reimbursement process and satisfy the IRS in the event of an audit is to be meticulous about recordkeeping. Use a smartphone app to save pictures of receipts from all your business purchases, along with images of the reimbursement checks you receive (or screenshots of the direct deposit).
You may even want to jot down additional information on your business receipts before archiving them, such as the people who were with you and the date/time of the transaction. Generally, the more information you can provide about your business purchases, the better — whether it be to the IRS, or if you’re an employee, to your boss.
Pick The Personal Card That Fits Your Business Spending Profile
Naturally, when you’re considering which credit card to use for business expenses, you’ll be comparing interest rates and fees as you seek the best deal. However, don’t forget to compare the rewards programs of the personal cards you’re considering as well.
The nature of your business will determine the sort of items and services you’ll be charging to your new card. Be sure to choose a card with rewards you’ll be in a position to take advantage of. Let’s take a look at a few personal credit cards you can use to cover business expenses.
QuicksilverOne from Capital One
QuicksilverOne from Capital One
QuicksilverOne® from Capital One® can be good for business spending if you have average credit. To start, this bit of plastic offers an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, with no restrictions on purchases or spending caps.
Capital One also bundles in an excellent array of extra benefits, including the ability to raise your credit line after five consecutively made payments and $0 fraud liability.
Note that the card does require an annual fee. However, at $39 per year, QuicksilverOne’s annual fee is much lower than most cards.
Read more about the QuicksilverOne with our review.
US Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card
U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card
13.99% - 23.99% (variable)
If you’ve got excellent credit, the US Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card might just help you out.
The card’s primary draw is the 5% cash back you’ll earn on the first $2,000 worth of purchases per quarter in two categories of your choosing. You’ll then get an unlimited 2% cash back on one other, every day category (like gas stations, grocery stores or restaurants). All other purchases (and purchases in the select categories past the $2,000 mark) net 1% back.
Note that the selectable categories are subject to change every quarter. Of course, if you don’t mind keeping track of the categories and you vary your business spending enough to take advantage of the high-earning categories, you stand to make some nice cash back with this card.
Use It Or Lose It
Remember: If you get a personal credit card to use for business expenses, make sure you actually use it. If you go for a long time without charging anything to the card, your credit card issuer might shut down your account due to inactivity. This can negatively impact your credit score.
Try To Get Reimbursed As Soon As Possible
If you’ve ever worked at a company where you’re expected to cover business expenses, you know how frustrating it can be when your reimbursement doesn’t come in a timely manner. It impacts the amount of credit you have available, and — as I’ve discussed — it can affect your credit utilization ratio as well.
Try to ensure that your company’s reimbursement policies are reasonable before agreeing to make business purchases on behalf of the company. If there’s a delay in receiving your reimbursement, and, as a result, you have to pay finance charges, insist on being reimbursed for that as well. No employee should be made to suffer negative consequences as a result of a company’s lackadaisical reimbursement practices.
For both business owners and employees, it’s perfectly reasonable to use a personal credit card to cover business expenses. By following these rules of thumb, you can avoid taking a personal financial hit when charging business expenses to your personal credit card.