Business credit cards

Compare the best credit cards for Australian businesses that earn points and cashback on expenses.

By   |   Verified by David Boyd   |   Updated 30 May 2024

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Comparing business credit cards

American Express Platinum Business Card

FeaturedApply by 25 June 2024

American Express Platinum Business Card

Rewards program

Membership Rewards Ascent

Points per $1 spent

2.25 points

Sign up bonus

350,000 points

Annual fee

$1,750.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Receive 350,000 bonus Membership Rewards points when you apply by 25 June 2024, are approved, and spend $12,000 on your card within the first 3 months. New American Express Card Members only.
  • Earn up to 2.25 pts per $1 spent.
  • Get exclusive Platinum travel, experience, and dining privileges.

Pros

  • The offer of 350,000 bonus Membership Rewards points when you meet the criteria.
  • Earn up to 2.25 pts per $1 spent and 1 point per $1 spent at the ATO.
  • Access to more than 1,400 lounges globally, including The Centurion® Lounge.
  • Gold status match at Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, and Premium status at Radisson Hotel Group.
  • Get the Amex Experiences App to access information on Platinum benefits, travel offers, events and recommended merchants.

Cons

  • The annual fee of $1,750 p.a.
  • Since this is a charge card, the balance must be cleared every statement.
  • No balance transfer facility.
American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card

Rewards program

Qantas Business Rewards

Points per $1 spent

1.25 points

Sign up bonus

170,000 points

Annual fee

$450.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Enjoy 170,000 bonus Qantas Points with the American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card when you apply 25 June 2024, get approved, and spend at least $3,000 within 3 months of your approval date. Available to new American Express Card Members only.
  • Earn 2 Qantas Points per $1 spent on Qantas products and services, up to 1.25 points per $1 spent on everyday spend and 0.5 Qantas Points per $1 spent on government spend, utilities and insurance.
  • After a total of 500,000 Qantas Points is earned in a calendar year, the everyday business earn rate will change from 1.25 to 0.75 Qantas Points per $1 spent.*For Card Members who applied for the Card between 1 July 2023 – 9 January 2024, this change will come into effect from 10 July 2024.

Pros

  • Earn 170,000 bonus Qantas Points when you meet the criteria.
  • Two complimentary passes for the Qantas Club lounge every year.
  • A flexible Payment Option is available to spread costs over time for a portion of your balance.
  • Power up your business – Spend with Dell Technologies and get up to $100 credit.

Cons

  • The $450 p.a. annual fee.
  • Balance must be repaid in full each month.
  • No concierge service.
  • Lounge passes are valid for Qantas Club and not the international business lounges.
American Express Gold Business Card

Rewards program

Membership Rewards Ascent

Points per $1 spent

1.5 points

Sign up bonus

75,000 points

Annual fee

$169.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Receive 75,000 bonus Membership Reward points when you apply, are approved, and spend $1,000 on your card within the first 2 months. New American Express Card Members only.
  • Earn up to 1.5 Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent.
  • No pre-set spending limit means more flexibility.
  • Travel Insurance that includes up to $2.5 million in medical emergency expenses cover.

Pros

  • Receive 75,000 bonus Membership Reward points when you meet the criteria.
  • Earn up to 1.5 Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent.
  • No cap on how many points you can earn.
  • No pre-set spending limit means more flexibility.
  • Spend with Dell Technologies to receive up to $75 credit until 31 December 2024.
  • Membership Rewards points can be transferred to a number of airlines, giving you options when booking travel.

Cons

  • The $119 fee for every additional card added.
  • Doesn't offer airport lounge access.
  • No access to concierge services.
American Express Business Explorer Credit Card

Rewards program

Membership Rewards Gateway

Points per $1 spent

2 points

Sign up bonus

N/A

Annual fee

$0.00 for 1st year

Highlights

  • Enjoy $0 Annual Card Fee (usually $149) in the first year when you apply by 23 July 2024 and are approved for the American Express® Business Explorer Credit Card. T&C’s apply. New American Express Card Members only.
  • Enjoy two American Express Lounge passes per year at Sydney and Melbourne airports.
  • Includes Complimentary Travel Insurance when you pay for your return trip with your Card.

Pros

  • $0 annual fee on the first year.
  • Earn up to 2 points per $1 spent.
  • No fee for up to 99 employee cards.
  • Up to 55 interest-free days.

Cons

  • Annual fee reverts to $149 after the initial year.
  • There is no balance transfer offer for this card.
  • Cash advances are blocked, which might be inconvenient for some.
American Express Velocity Business Charge Card

Rewards program

Velocity Frequent Flyer

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

100,000 points

Annual fee

$249.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Receive 100,000 Bonus Velocity Points when you apply by 27 August 2024, are approved, and meet the minimum spend criteria of $3,000 within 2 months of approval. New American Express Card Members only.
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Virgin Australia services and up to 1 point per $1 spent on other purchases. Earn 0.5 points per $1 on ATO and government spending.
  • Enjoy 2 complimentary single-entry passes to the Virgin Australia Lounge at selected domestic airports every year.

Pros

  • Receive 100,000 bonus Velocity Points when you meet the criteria.
  • Earn up to 2 Velocity Points per $1 spent.
  • No pre-set spending limit and up to 51 days to pay for purchases.

Cons

  • The annual fee of $249 p.a.
  • Each employee card costs $99.
NAB Qantas Business Signature Credit Card

Rewards program

Qantas Frequent Flyer

Points per $1 spent

0.66 points

Sign up bonus

150,000 points

Annual fee

$295.00 for 1st year

Highlights

  • Obtain 150,000 bonus Qantas Points upon spending $4,000 on everyday purchases within 60 days.
  • Accrue 0.67 Qantas Points per $1 spent.
  • Include additional cardholders, each with personalized credit limits.

Pros

  • Earn 150,000 bonus Qantas points by spending $4,000 on eligible business purchases within 60 days of account opening.
  • Up to 44 interest-free days on business purchases.
  • Comes with access to Visa's global concierge service, complimentary unauthorised transaction insurance, and transport accident insurance.
  • Add multiple additional cardholders, each with individual credit limits.
  • Supports most digital wallets, including Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay.

Cons

  • Lacks complimentary international travel insurance.
  • Points are capped at $50,000 per card per statement period.
NAB Rewards Business Signature Credit Card

Rewards program

NAB Rewards

Points per $1 spent

1.25 points

Sign up bonus

100,000 points

Annual fee

$175.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • 100,000 NAB Rewards Points when you spend $4,000 on everyday purchases in 60 days.
  • Triple the earn rate on overseas spending or purchases made at overseas stores and suppliers from Australia.
  • Double the earn rate on purchases made at partner department and hardware stores.

Pros

  • Receive a generous 100,000 bonus NAB Rewards Points when you spend $4,000 on everyday business purchases within 60 days of opening your account.
  • Earn 1.25 NAB Rewards Points per $1 spent on eligible everyday business purchases, with no cap.
  • ATO payments earn NAB Rewards Points at the same rate as everyday purchases.
  • NAB Rewards Points can be transferred to several other airline rewards programs, making it easier to find an awards seat.
  • Up to 44 interest-free days on purchases, giving you more flexibility and breathing room with your business expenses.
  • Complimentary NAB Commercial Cards Unauthorised Transaction Insurance and NAB Commercial Cards Transit Accident Insurance.
  • Works with major digital wallets, including Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay.

Cons

  • Additional cardholders don't come cheap.
  • Lacks complimentary international travel insurance.
  • No complimentary airline lounge passes.
Commonwealth Bank Business Awards Credit Card

Rewards program

Commonwealth Bank Awards

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

N/A

Annual fee

$100.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Choose to earn CommBank Awards points or opt-in to earn Qantas Points for $30 per year. Terms and Conditions apply.
  • Up to 55 days interest-free on purchases.
  • Earn 1 Awards point for every dollar you spend on your Awards Mastercard.

Pros

  • Get access to a unique collection of entertainment experiences through Priceless Sydney and Mastercard Privileges.
  • 24/7 emergency assistance overseas.
  • Includes Transit Accident Insurance and Unauthorised Transaction Insurance.

Cons

  • The additional cardholder fee is $75.
Commonwealth Bank Business Platinum Awards Credit Card

Rewards program

Commonwealth Bank Awards

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

N/A

Annual fee

$300.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Choose to earn CommBank Awards points or Qantas Points ($30 fee per year applies).
  • Earn 1 Awards Point or 0.4 Qantas Points for every dollar spent using your CommBank Awards Mastercard
  • Balance Transfer at 5.99% for 5 months.

Pros

  • Earn up to 300,000 points a year. Terms and Conditions apply.
  • Transfer your earned points to other travel programs.
  • Includes Transit Accident Insurance and Unauthorised Transaction Insurance.

Cons

  • High annual fee.
  • The additional cardholder fee is $75.

St.George Amplify Business Credit Card

Rewards program

Amplify Rewards, Amplify Qantas

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

N/A

Annual fee

$0.00 for 1st year

Highlights

  • $0 annual card fee for the first year ($89 p.a. thereafter).
  • Get up to 3 additional cards for employees at no extra cost.
  • Up to 55 interest-free days on purchases.

Pros

  • No annual card fee for the first year.
  • Choose between Amplify Rewards or Qantas Frequent Flyer rewards.
  • No cap on how many points can be earned from eligible spending.
  • Includes transit accident insurance and unauthorised transaction insurance.

Cons

  • The cash advance interest rate of 20.24% p.a.
  • Relatively few additional cardholders.
  • Additional cardholders are free.
ANZ Business Black Credit Card

Rewards program

ANZ Business Rewards

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

100,000 points

Annual fee

$0.00 for 1st year

Highlights

  • Receive 100,000 bonus Reward Points when you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months from approval
  • Save $300 with no Annual Card Fee and save $75 per card with no Rewards Fee for the first year on a new ANZ Business Black credit card (Terms and Conditions apply).
  • Earn 1.5 Reward Points per $1 spent on eligible purchases up to and including $10,000 per statement period.
  • Complimentary Unauthorized Transactions Insurance, International Travel Insurance, and Transit Accident Insurance for overseas travel.

Pros

  • Substantial sign-up bonus for new qualifying customers.
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on eligible business purchases.
  • Tax payments to the ATO also earn points (at a reduced rate).
  • Points can be transferred to several different airline frequent flyer programs.
  • Comes with complimentary international travel insurance.
  • Also has extended warranty, fraud protection, purchase protection insurance, and transport accident insurance.
  • Cardholders have access to ANZ's concierge service.
  • Add unlimited cardholders for free to share the account with staff.
  • Works with Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay, making payments more convenient.
  • Get a data feed for Xero, MYOB, and QuickBooks, making accounting and bookkeeping more streamlined.

Cons

  • The card's ongoing annual fee is $300 p.a. after the first year's waiver.
  • Transactions made in a foreign currency or online attract a 3% fee.
  • No introductory offer on purchases and interest is charged at 20.24% p.a.
  • No balance transfer offer.
  • Earn rate drops after $10,000 spent per statement period.
Suncorp Clear Options Business Credit Card

Rewards program

Suncorp Rewards

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

N/A

Annual fee

$45.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Low annual ongoing fee of $45 p.a. Add up to 99 additional cardholders.
  • Choose to earn Suncorp Rewards points or Qantas Points on eligible purchases.
  • Up to 55 days interest-free on purchases.

Pros

  • Earn 1 Suncorp Rewards point per $1 on eligible business spending.
  • Convert Suncorp Rewards points to Flybuys points, KrisFlyer Miles, or Velocity Points.
  • Possible to earn Qantas Points instead of Suncorp Rewards points.
  • Minimum credit limit of $2,000.
  • Up to 99 additional cardholders, but at a cost.
  • A competitive annual fee of $45 p.a.
  • Free monthly statements for active cards.

Cons

  • No sign up bonus for new customers.
  • Membership fees apply to the rewards program.
  • Suncorp Rewards points don't convert to frequent flyer points at 1:1.
  • Annual fee per additional cardholder, which can add up quickly.
  • Overseas and international transactions carry a fee of 3.40%.
  • $40 over limit fees.
Westpac Altitude Business Gold Mastercard

Westpac Altitude Business Gold Mastercard

Rewards program

Altitude Rewards

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

N/A

Annual fee

$0.00 for 1st year

Highlights

  • $0 annual fee for the first year (reverts to $150 p.a. thereafter)
  • 4.99% p.a. for 12 months on balance transfers with no balance transfer fee on amounts transferred.
  • Comes with complimentary overseas travel insurance.

Pros

  • $0 first-year annual fee.
  • 4.99% p.a. for 12 months on balance transfers.
  • Earn 1 Altitude Point per $1 spent on eligible transactions.
  • Add an additional cardholder at no extra cost.

Cons

  • The high interest of 20.24% p.a. on purchases
  • There is a 3% fee if you use your card overseas.
  • A cap of 20,000 points applies per each statement cycle.
NAB Low Rate Business Credit Card

Rewards program

N/A

Points per $1 spent

N/A

Sign up bonus

N/A

Annual fee

$0.00 for 1st year

Highlights

  • 12 months at 0% p.a. on purchases. Reverts to variable purchase rate of 13.25% p.a.
  • Low ongoing 13.25% p.a. rate on purchases and cash advances.
  • No annual fee for the first year.

Pros

  • The 0% special introductory interest rate offer on purchases.
  • $0 annual fee on the first year ($60 p.a. thereafter).
  • Low interest rate on cash advances and purchases.
  • Up to 55 days on business purchases.

Cons

  • No travel insurance.
  • Doesn't earn rewards points.

Business credit cards have extra features to make your business life easier. Businesses of all sizes – from a sole trader to a company with many employees – can derive benefit from a dedicated business credit card. Besides offering many tools that personal credit cards just don’t have, they provide an opportunity for both business owners and employees to track business expenses and keep them completely separate from personal expenses. They can also save you money and simplify taxes.

Who can get a business credit card?

You can apply for a business card if your business has an Australian Business Number (ABN). A business credit card can be used by both micro businesses and large corporations (although the latter may be better served by a corporate credit card).

If you are applying for a credit card to use for your own business, the bank may check your credit score during the application.

Who is responsible for business credit card debt?

If you run a business and have an ABN but your business is not incorporated (i.e. not a company), you will be personally responsible for all transactions on your business card. You will have liability as an individual for the debt incurred by all primary and supplementary cards on the account.

Partnerships may be able to choose a 'joint and several liability' business card. This means that although all partners have agreed to be jointly responsible for the debt, in the event of a payment default the bank could, if it chose, pursue any single partner for the entire debt.

For more on this, read our guide to business credit card liability.

What are the benefits of business credit cards?

Larger credit limits

Business credit cards tend to have larger credit limits than personal ones, for obvious reasons. The expenses of a business are usually far larger than those of an individual or family. This means that you will need to have a very good personal credit history (for a business card with individual or joint and several liability), or that your business will need to demonstrate a history of both profitable operation (probably via supplying copies of tax returns when applying for the card) and timely payment to its creditors.

As well as a global credit limit for the account, it is possible to set individual limits for supplementary cards issued to employees.

For more about the benefits and drawbacks of raising your credit limit, click here.

Expense tracking and data exporting

One of the most useful features of most business card accounts is a superior expense tracking and reporting capability. Business expenses are now already separate from personal ones (in the case of a sole trader), but additional tracking tools are available on most types of business cards. Expenses for each supplementary card in each month can be listed in detail and in total, and the data can usually be exported to a spreadsheet or directly into your accounting software. For small businesses in particular, this can save hours or work at tax time.

Rewards and complimentary benefits

Business cards often come with the same kinds of rewards and benefits as those attached to personal credit cards: rewards points, frequent flyer points, complimentary travel insurance, airport lounge access and even free flights. These benefits can deliver real savings for your business. Rewards points can be exchanged for office equipment or employee incentive gifts, for example. If you or your employees travel frequently, frequent flyer points, travel insurance, lounge access or free flights will all reduce your business expenses.

Some cards offer travel insurance specifically tailored to business needs, including card account balance waiver or expenses for business trip completion by an alternative employee, in specified emergency circumstances.

Compare the business cards on this page to find one that is suitable for the size, structure, number of supplementary cards required and spending pattern of your business.

What to consider when you compare business credit cards

It is essential to understand the features available, and how to match them with the specific financial requirements of your business. This will enable you to find the card that is right for your circumstances. Make sure that you check the following:

  • Available credit limit. The card you choose should have a credit limit that could cover all the monthly expenses of your business if necessary.
  • Interest rate. Even if the card issuer gives you a large credit limit limit, you should still aim to clear the balance each month. However, the purchase rate applied to your credit card is still an essential feature to consider, since any ongoing debt incurs this interest rate. Your cash flow’s ups and downs may see you needing to use your line of credit from time to time.
  • Interest-free days. Credit cards usually come with either 44 or 55 days interest free on purchases if there is no carried-over balance from the previous month. With 55 interest-free days, your business has longer access to free credit.
  • Expense tracking functionality. Look for monthly statements listing each supplementary card’s expenditure in detail and in total, and the ability to export data to a spreadsheet or your accounting software for extra reporting flexibility and time-saving.
  • Rewards program. If the card features a rewards or frequent flyer points program (such as Qantas Points), make sure it suits the way you and your staff spend, and offers rewards that can help reduce business costs. As a rule of thumb, ensure that the value of the benefits likely to be derived from the rewards program each year is at least equivalent to the annual fee.
  • Sign-up bonus. If there are significant sign-up rewards or frequent flyer points on offer, there may be a possibility for a sizeable one-off reduction in your expenses. E.g. the bonus points may be enough for several free business flights.
  • Complimentary benefits. Built-in free travel insurance for cardholders could provide serious cost savings for your business. (Read the insurance product disclosure statement , however, to make sure that the cover is sufficient for your needs.) Some business cards may offer a free domestic flight annually, or airport lounge access. It all adds up to either reduced expenses or a better experience for your employees.
  • Introductory offers. Look out for introductory offers. Banks may offer introductory rates to new customers, such as low purchase interest rates for an initial period. This can be helpful for new businesses to make essential purchases, but you should be wary of how the deal changes at the end of the promotional period. Always check the revert interest rate and the offer expiry date. It may be that a card with a higher initial rate is better, because its ongoing, long-term rate may be lower. Balance transfers are typically not offered on business credit cards, although some banks may do run business balance transfer offers from time to time.
  • Annual fee. Credit cards for businesses often have a higher annual fee than personal credit cards. This fee covers all the extra business-specific features, reward schemes, insurance policies and other benefits, and provides access to larger credit limits and greater spending power. Ensure that the annual fee is affordable and that the extras you are paying for are genuinely beneficial to your business.

Business credit cards vs business charge cards

Cards for business use come in two flavours: credit cards and charge cards.

A credit card for business, much like a personal credit card, has a definite credit limit as well as the option to defer payment of some of the purchases balance beyond the due date. Interest charges are incurred, but the available line of credit can prove very useful.

Business charge cards, on the other hand, do not have a fixed credit limit (although the credit provided is not limitless) and you will be expected to clear the balance in full each month, on or before the due date. The lack of a fixed limit offers extra flexibility for a business with seasonal or unpredictable purchasing spikes, but there is no option to postpone payment and pay interest.

Business credit cards vs corporate credit cards

Larger corporations will be most likely to opt for corporate liability cards. In this case the company is the entity responsible for the debt. Sizeable organisations may be better served by a corporate credit card account, with the possibility of issuing multiple cards on a single account to a larger number of employees.

Learn about business credit cards

  • FAQs

  • Pros & cons

  • Tips

  • Guides

Who qualifies for a business credit card?

Any business with an Australian Business Number (ABN) can apply for a business credit card. In the case of a sole trader, the individual ABN holder will apply for the card. Fora company small business credit card, it may be the business owner or director. For larger companies, a senior finance employee may be responsible for applying.

What kinds of business cards are available?

  • Varying card issuers: Just as with personal cards, a business card can be a Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Diners Club card. However, American Express has the largest choice of business cards in Australia.
  • Varying card features: Features such as rewards and frequent flyer points (e.g. Qantas Points), sign-up bonus points, complimentary insurance, other travel benefits, and even low interest rates, are all available with business cards. However, business cards with low annual fees may have few or none of these features.
  • Credit card or charge card: A business card may be a credit card, with a fixed credit limit and the option to defer payment and pay interest, or a charge card with no set credit limit and the strict requirement for full timely payment of the account balance each month.

How are business cards different from personal credit cards?

In many ways, business cards function identically to personal credit cards, allowing users to make purchases including online and over the telephone, make withdrawals at ATMs and buy foreign currency.

However, business cards are issued to a business with an Australian Business Number (ABN), not to an individual, although a business with an ABN may in fact be operated by a sole trader or partnership rather than being incorporated.

Regardless of the business size, multiple cards on the one account can be provided to members of staff. Equally, a sole trader may need just one card.

Who is responsible for the debt on a business card account?

Depending on your business structure, the card provider will require a specific liability arrangement:

  • Individual liability for a sole trader.The sole trader is personally responsible for repayment of the debt, including any debt incurred on supplementary cards issued to employees.
  • Joint and several liability for a partnership. The business partners are jointly responsible for the debt, but each of them could also be held responsible for the total debt.
  • Corporate liability: For an incorporated business, the card account is usually held in the name of the company. The company has liability for the debt.

Can employees with supplementary cards spend as much as they like, up to the card account credit limit?

Where cards are issued to the employees of a business, it is normal for each card to be assigned a fixed limit which will usually be much lower than the global account limit. E.g. total account limit $50,000, with cards issued to ten employees with limits of $5,000 each (or varying limits, but still with a total of $50,000).

It is also possible to limit the kind of expenditure permitted. E.g. a procurement officer may only be allowed to purchase business stock or equipment from certain suppliers, but not use the card for travel and entertainment.

How can I tell how much has been spent by each card on the business card account?

Most business cards cards offer special financial tools to help with expense tracking, budgeting, accounting and taxation. Online access means that most transactions will be visible shortly after they are made. And each card’s monthly transactions are itemised in detail in the monthly statement, as well as being reported in total.

The ability to track transactions is a major advantage of a business credit card, replacing hours otherwise spent tracking down transactions. Data can usually be exported from your online card account into a spreadsheet or into accounting software such as MYOB, Xero and QuickBooks.

What is the difference between a business credit card and a business charge card?

A business credit card, just like a personal credit card, provides access to a revolving line of credit. This means that the business can use a credit facility up to an agreed amount. At the end of the month the balance may be paid in full if there are sufficient cash resources to hand. Otherwise, if there is a temporary lack of liquidity it is possible to make only a small part repayment and pay interest on the balance, provided the credit limit is not exceeded.

A business charge card, however, is not a revolving line of credit. Although payment for incurred expenses is deferred until after the end of the monthly billing cycle, when the payment due date arrives the balance must be paid in full. There is no provision for carrying over a balance and paying interest. Charge cards also have no fixed credit limit, which normally means that greater and more flexible spending power is granted. However, extremely large charges which far exceed the normal spending pattern and repayment capability of the business may be declined unless discussed in advance with the card issuer. If repayment is late or not made at all, large late payment fees or liquidated damages may be incurred.

Why can’t I just use a personal card for my business?

You can, of course, use a personal credit card for your business expenses, especially if you are a sole trader. But this will make your accounting system more complicated. You will need to separate your business and personal expenses each month, and either make two distinct repayments of the balance – one from your personal account and one from your business account – or create a major headache for yourself at the end of the tax year.

Mixing your business and personal expenses may also leave the ATO unconvinced that your business expenses are truly only for business. It’s best to keep them completely distinct by charging them to a separate card, and if it’s a business card you should be able to claim the annual fee as a business expense.

What size does my business need to be before I can use a business card?

You can be anything from a sole trader to a small business with several employees, or a larger business with up to 99 staff members requiring supplementary cards. You will need to check the number of supplementary cards allowed on the particular card you have in mind, because the number is not unlimited, and also take into consideration whether the supplementary cards come free of charge or whether there is an additional annual fee to pay for each one.

How does the supplementary cards for employees system work?

Credit cards and charge cards for small businesses are normally issued in the name of the principal – the business owner. Where the business is incorporated, liability for repayments may be shared between the business owner personally and the company, or by the company alone. If supplementary cards are issued to employees, each employee may also the liability with the business and its owner, but only for charges made with their individual card. (Corporate cards, issued to very large organisations, have a different arrangement: the corporation itself normally carries sole liability.)

Monthly business card account statements will normally list the charges for each supplementary card separately, providing for ease of reconciliation with expense reports submitted by employees. The statement may also consolidate expense types regardless of which card incurred them, for example reporting total travel expenses or total entertainment expenses. This facilitates transfer of the figures directly into your accounting system under the required headings.

Some business cards allow a limited number of supplementary cards free of charge, typically up to four. If you need more than this you may need to choose a card which charges an additional annual fee for supplementary cards, although it should be an amount significantly lower than the primary card annual fee.

It will usually be possible to have individual credit limits placed on supplementary cards, rather than allowing supplementary cardholders unlimited access to the primary card’s global limit. Alternatively, internal business controls may be needed in order to set each employee’s credit limit.

Who gets any rewards points available – the business owner or the individual cardholders?

It’s entirely up to you. Even though you may issue supplementary cards to employees, they should only be using them for expenses related to your business, not for personal use. (You will need to have strict company rules in place to ensure this.)

Since it’s your business, you may decide to keep for your personal use any rewards points generated by supplementary cardholders. But be aware that an excessive number of points (250,000+) earned by a business card in any one year may attract the notice of the tax man. In this case the safest thing to do is to convert the rewards points into a cash offset against the card account, if this option is available, thus reducing business expenses rather than getting a personal gain. Another possibility is to utilise the accumulated points to reduce business expenses by using them for business travel or to purchase company assets.

Alternatively, you may decide to let your employees keep the rewards points themselves. In this case it becomes a worthwhile staff incentive, and it shouldn’t have any FBT implications unless it is obvious that most of the expenses of the business are deliberately being directed through a particular employee’s card in order to create an incentive.

Is it difficult to be approved for a business credit card as a sole trader, and how can I improve my chances?

To be successfully approved for a business credit card, you need to have a good credit rating. Once a year you should request a free report from one of the Australian credit bureaux (Equifax, Experian, and illion) to make sure everything is in order and there are no mistakes on file. A healthy credit history means the bank will be more willing to provide a higher credit limit, a low rate and better financial options.

What documents do I need to apply for a business card?

For an individual or joint and several liability card, you need to be over 18 years of age, be a resident or citizen of Australia, have a good credit history and earn above a certain annual income threshold, which varies from card to card. You also need to provide your financial records and ABN.

Companies will be required to provide detailed financial statements (Balance Sheet, Profit & Loss Statement, possibly tax returns).

Business-oriented functionality

Business card account statements have a level of detail and headings which match the way businesses record expenses in their accounting system. Expenses incurred can also be tracked online, either in real time or very quickly after they occur, and there is a variety of options available for smooth transfer of figures into popular accounting software programs.

Tailored travel insurance cover

The free travel insurance policy accompanying many business cards is designed especially for the needs of business travellers, although it covers personal travel too if it is paid for using the card.

Easy access to a line of credit

It can often be easier and quicker to be approved for a business credit card than for a bank loan or overdraft, and it gives you access to a line of credit that your business can draw on as needed.

Rewards program points or frequent flyer points

Many business credit cards earn rewards or frequent flyer points (e.g. Qantas Points) on purchases, often at a higher rate than personal credit cards.

Tax benefits

If you use a business credit card for your business expenses, rather than a personal card, you might find it easier to justify your business expenses for tax purposes in the event of ATO queries or an audit. And you should be able to claim the card's annual fee, and any other fees incurred on the card, as a business tax deduction.

Card balance waiver

Some business credit cards waive the card account balance if the primary cardholder dies or suffers a serious illness or accident resulting in loss of income.

Special customer service

Business cardholders usually have access to a dedicated customer service team for business cardholders only, making it quicker and easier to have questions answered and problems resolved.

Personal liability for unincorporated businesses

Sole traders and partnerships, unlike companies, are personally responsible for debts incurred on their business credit card. If the business runs into trouble and cannot meet its debts, the card issuer will pursue you as an individual for debt recovery, and your personal credit score could be badly damaged.

Fees can be high

Depending on which card you choose, the annual fee for a business card can be quite high. And if you also have a personal credit card, you're going to be paying two annual fees (unless you have a 'no annual fee' personal card).

Fees for additional cardholders

Business credit cards are more likely than personal cards to charge a fee for supplementary or additional cardholders on the account.

Potential for unauthorised use

When you issue additional cards to your employees you need to have strict policies in place to monitor usage and prevent unauthorised purchases.

Use a business card to improve cash flow management

Both business credit cards and business charge cards allow you to postpone payments until well after the end of the monthly billing cycle. This means that you can usually get 44-55 days of free credit on your business purchases, depending on the terms applicable to the card you choose. This is much more beneficial than paying with cash, cheque, EFT or BPAY, because the cash resources of your business stay in your bank account for longer, potentially earning interest or reducing interest expense. It’s even preferable to negotiating credit terms with your suppliers, who may want to be paid within seven days and rarely grant more than 30 days credit before they start getting impatient.

You can achieve maximum benefit for your cash flow by arranging with your suppliers to have deliveries – and payments – made at the very beginning of the monthly billing cycle for your card. (Suppliers will probably jump at the chance of prompt payment, even though they will have to pay a merchant fee for accepting your card.) Alternatively, ask your card issuer to set your monthly billing cycle to begin on the day your suppliers normally expect to be paid. 

Business credit cards have the additional feature of allowing you to postpone full repayment of your account balance in any month when your business finances are tight. Provided you are still within your credit limit and are prepared to pay interest charges of up to 20% p.a. (or possibly more) for a short period, you can smooth out the bumps in your cash flow.

Business charge cards don’t have this feature, requiring full repayment of the account balance every month. However, they do have the additional benefit of having no fixed credit limit. This does not mean unlimited credit – your card provider will have an implied limit recorded on your file based on your payment history, credit records and spending patterns – but it does provide more flexibility, especially if you discuss your fluctuating credit requirement pattern with your card account manager.

Pay attention to fees and charges

Business cards on the whole have fairly high annual fees and interest rates, reflecting the additional benefits they often provide. However, just as with personal cards, it is possible to find a business credit card with introductory offers such as temporary lower interest rates (or even permanent lower rates), reduced or waived annual fees in the first year, and sign-up bonus points.

If you expect to issue a large number of cards to employees, you will need to check the annual fee for additional cards. This could be anything from zero to $100 or more per card.

Other fees to take into account are foreign transaction fees, late payment fees and over limit fees. Fortunately, if the card is used solely for business expenses, all fees, including the annual fee, should be tax deductible.