When it comes to running an e-commerce business, the world is truly your oyster. If you’re a small business, getting online is one of the best things you can do to scale upwards. Among the many benefits that e-commerce provides are a borderless marketplace to offer your products and services, lower cost of operations, and the flexibility of where your business is based.
One of the main aspects of a business plan that can be daunting, especially when you’re first starting out, is the adequate financing of your business. However, this shouldn’t discourage you! Along with the booming e-commerce sector comes many suitable options, including business credit cards, to suit your rising business needs. Business credit cards can be a great way to cover business expenses, while also helping you earn rewards and providing perks such as purchase protection (though these, of course, vary by card).
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We’ve looked up the best business credit cards for e-commerce businesses broken down by the stage of business you are at. Some of the criteria we have covered includes the amount of cashback, introductory perks, reward programs and fees. Let's dive into the details that each credit card has to offer to see what suits your e-commerce needs.
For Small Businesses
Chase Ink Business Preferred® credit card
This is a great option for e-commerce businesses. The Chase Ink Business Preferred® credit card has one the most attractive sign-up bonuses of 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. That is equivalent to $1000 cash back or, if you redeem through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program, it can amount to approximately $1,250 in travel rewards.
Other than the sign-up bonus, this card brings you most value through shipping purchases, advertising purchases, and internet expenses, allowing you to earn three points to the dollar on your first $150,000 spent on these categories (plus a few others, like travel and phone services). As an e-commerce business owner, these three categories are likely quite central to your business, making the Chase Ink Business Preferred® credit card an optimal choice. After the first $150,000, you’ll earn one point per dollar on these expenses, which can be redeemed for cash on your statements, or other rewards such as travel and gift cards through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
A point to note is that the Chase Ink Business Preferred credit card has an annual fee of $95 and also requires your business to have a good credit rating to sign up. If you spend enough in the right categories, however, the annual fee can easily be worth it.
Capital One Spark Cash for Business
This card is ideal for small business owners who do not want to worry about keeping track of bonus categories or handling multiple rewards credit cards. The main highlight of the Capital One Spark Cash for Business is its unlimited 2% cashback on all purchases, which is one of the highest percentages offered for a business credit card.
As for the sign-up bonus, new applicants will be able to earn a one-time $500 bonus after spending $4,500 in the first 3 months of account opening. The annual fee is also waived for the first year, after which you will be charged $95 annually. Points gathered can be redeemed as a credit on your statement, for any amount (up to the full cash back amount that you have earned), and anytime with no expiration date. Some of the other features on this card are: no foreign transaction fees, free employee cards, and payment flexibility, as well as fraud coverage and alerts.
The Capital One Spark Cash for Business also requires business owners to have a good credit score, but this is justifiable as one of the perks of the card is its “Flexible Spending Power” feature. Cardholders can make purchases above their spending limit with no additional fee (so long as the full amount is paid off each month — otherwise, you’ll be charged APR). This feature can be great for small businesses that are just starting up for all the one-off initial purchases that would potentially be made. It can also be used as a little extra working capital, or as an investment, such as for a big inventory purchase.
With a great sign-up bonus, 2% flat cashback on purchases and an inexpensive annual cost that is free for the first year, the Spark Cash for Business is tough to resist.
The BREX Exclusive
The Brex Exclusive was created with startups in mind. To qualify for the Brex Exclusive program, you will need to start by committing to the Brex card as the only corporate card for your business. Once you’ve done that, and if your Brex account is in good standing, then you may be invited to participate in the Brex Exclusive rewards program.
If you are an e-commerce business owner, the main perk of this card is that it gives you instant cash payouts as part of its rewards program. On top of that, The Brex Exclusive is a good match for your business if travel is a significant expense. You stand to earn 7x reward points for ride shares and taxis. You earn 4x points if your larger travel bookings like hotel and air travel are made through the Brex Travel portal.
As with most e-commerce businesses, Software as a Service (SaaS) will be one of the main costs incurred. The Brex Exclusive offers great welcome perks on common softwares used such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Ads and WeWork facilities. Another great aspect of Brex is its $0 annual fee and on top of that, you do not need to have a good credit score to apply.
The benefits reaped from this card will only be maximized if your company uses Brex exclusively. Otherwise, all reward points will be 1X points for all purchases and with no extra rewards. For more established businesses, this may not be ideal. Another potential drawback is that Brex provide charge cards, which means you must pay off the balance in full at the end of each payment cycle, and cannot carry a balance. However for new business owners or startups looking for their first corporate card, the Brex Exclusive is worthy of consideration.
For Growing and Scaling Businesses
Ramp Credit Card
Ramp is a credit card and financial management app that gives you 1.5 percent cash back on all transactions with $0 in fees. One point to note is that the Ramp card is similar to a charge card and you will have to pay off your expenses by a 30-day period. There are no annual percentage rates (APRs) and annual fees, as you will be paying it off immediately.
One significant benefit of this card is that it affords you the ability to scale up according to how and when your business grows. For instance, as your small business grows year by year, you will be able to upgrade to better card packages that match this growth. Meanwhile, the AI-integrated reporting tools it provides can be a great asset for small business owners in helping to manage, track and reduce their expenses as needed.
As for its perks specifically for e-commerce businesses, the card also has a solid rewards system since they have partnered up with various business services such as Google Ads and Amazon Web Services. Cardholders will be able to reap benefits with a combined total amounting to $175,000.
Overall, if you’re looking for a credit card with not many frills and a straightforward rewards scheme, this card is an attractive choice.
The American Express Business Gold Card
The American Express Business Gold card has a sign-up bonus of earning 80,000 points once you have spent $10,000 on certain purchases made in the first 3 months of card membership. The credit card rewards you 4X points for your top two expense categories each month (up to the first $150,000 in combined eligible purchases), so long as those categories are on the list. Luckily for e-commerce businesses, online advertising and shipping purchases as well as computer hardware and software from select technology providers are. For other purchases, the Card offers one point per dollar.
You do not have to declare your top two categories; rather, Amex determines them automatically based on your posted account transactions. The 4X points rewards points system is a huge plus point for e-commerce businesses, as your type of expenditure varies every month. Rather than having a fixed reward points category, this credit card offers you points based on the top 2 categories of expenditure for that month alone.
There is also the option to pay over a period of time for certain purchases that are made through the card. This can be a great incentive for some small business owners, especially start-ups. This option does come with a certain interest charge.
Another feature that is great with this card is its integration with accounting software company, Quickbooks, to help keep track of all transactions made with the card. Even though this card charges a $295 annual fee, businesses can make up for it through smart planning of expenditure categories to reap the most rewards.
How to Determine if You Need Working Capital for E-Commerce Businesses
E-commerce business owners have seen a massive boost in sales during the Covid-19 pandemic as people spent more time keeping safe indoors. While this is a huge win for online merchants, there is the challenge of having adequate cash flow to sustain your business during this period. In order to identify if your business needs working capital, here’s two important considerations:
1. Stage of your e-commerce business
Businesses that are in the midst of expanding and have a much larger customer base will likely need working capital. As you grow and expand your business, you will need capital to be able to invest in improving customer service, hiring more employees, incorporating more tech solutions and enhancing digital marketing.
2. The type of business model
There are a few ways to categorize the types of e-commerce business models and one of them is through the goods sold (i.e., physical goods, services, and digital goods). For example, if you are selling physical goods, there are several key factors that determine the level of working capital you need. Is my business seasonal? What is the lead time to procure the goods? When will my customer pay me? E-commerce businesses would need to forecast these trends in order to keep up with dips and rises in demand.
How can a business credit card be used as working capital?
Many banks offer a business line of credit in combination to your business credit card. It is a revolving credit facility which gives you access to an amount of capital. Basically, your business credit card gives you an opportunity to access short-term working capital. On top of that, the credit card can be used to help you manage cash flow for day-to-day expenses. As long as your credit limit is high enough, you can use your business credit card for expenses such as stocking up on inventory and paying suppliers.It is a great way to help you fill any financial gaps while waiting for line of credit approval. The key, however, is to keep track of your spending to avoid interest building up or accruing an unmanageable amount of debt.
When should you look beyond a business credit card?
The business credit card gives business owners great convenience and access to financing, especially for those just starting up. However, as your business grows, so will your financial needs and commitments. Having adequate working capital is crucial as businesses expand and scale up. While a business credit card does give you a spending buffer, it is important that you look at securing a business loan or lines of credit to maintain steady business growth. By using a business credit card for a while, your business would have built a credit history that will improve your chances of gaining loan approvals.
Depending on the nature of your business, you may also experience seasonal spikes in demand. Take a good look at your monthly incoming and outgoing cash flow over a period of time. This will help you identify cash flow gaps and help you plan for extra working capital ahead of time.
Last word on the Best Business Credit Cards for E-Commerce
Depending on where you are in your e-commerce business, you will likely find a good fit among these business credit cards. Just make sure you identify the most productive way of spending in order to reap the credit card rewards to their fullest potential.
One tip is to check the reward rates on your largest purchase categories before deciding on your credit card. Each e-commerce business has its one unique set of features to set it apart — choose one that aligns with your business capacity and goals.
Don’t forget to weigh the benefit of the card against the annual fees. Sometimes, choosing a card that charges an annual fee may bring more value to your business compared to one without — it just really depends on your business plan and expenses. The same goes for cash back value; though it may sound enticing at the beginning, crunch those numbers to see if it will be beneficial in the long run compared to a card with greater rewards.