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There was a time that it was unusual to "moonlight" in a second job, but today making a little extra income on the side is common. Whether or not your business has formally incorporated, these "side hustles" are small businesses by nearly any definition, including that of credit card issuers. So long as you're earning income and incurring expenses, you may need a small business credit card.

What small business credit cards can do for you

In many ways a small business credit card is just like the consumer cards that you probably already have. You apply for a small business credit card using your personal credit history, and nearly all of them require a personal guarantee of repayment. So you'll always be responsible for your business charges, even if it's no longer operating.

Yet having a business credit card offers numerous advantages. First, you can separate your business expenses from your personal charges, which makes it easy to simplify both your bookkeeping and your tax preparation. Small business credit cards can also offer free monthly, quarterly and annual reports, as well as free additional cards for employees.

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A business credit card is also much more likely to offer you rewards and benefits that fit your business needs. For example, you could earn bonus rewards for office supplies and shipping charges rather than the bonuses for groceries and entertainment purchases found on many consumer cards.

And of course, a small business credit card can be a great way to finance necessary purchases over the short term. So if you need to purchase supplies to complete a job before you get paid, having a few days or weeks of financing can be crucial.

What to look for in a small business credit card

Just like when you're looking for a consumer credit card, you'll want to find the small business credit card that best meets your needs, which will depend on your priorities. For example, if you're just looking for a convenient method of payment, then you might want a simple card without an elaborate rewards program, but with strong expense reporting tools.

But if earning rewards from your small business purchases is important to you, then look for a card that will offer the most valuable rewards available for the kind of purchases your business makes most often. Common bonus categories for small business credit cards include office supplies, telecommunications services, advertising, shipping, gas and travel. And if you see business travel as part of your future, then you could consider a small business card that offers travel rewards and benefits,.

Some top small business credit cards to consider

American Express® Business Gold Card. This card's flexible rewards system allows you to maximize your returns from on a variety of business purchases. It offers 4x points on the two categories that you spent the most during your billing period, and 1x point per dollar spent elsewhere. Eligible categories include: U.S. shipping, restaurants, gas, technology, advertising and airfare. The 4x points offer only applies to your first $150,000 in combined annual purchases, and some restrictions apply. American Express includes numerous expense management tools to help you track and categorize your purchases. This card offers a 70,000 point bonus for new applicants who spend $10,000 within three months of account opening, and it has an annual fee of $295.

Brex Startup Credit Card. This card is ideal for startups as it offers 7x points on rideshare purchases, 4x points on travel booked through Brex's in-house travel agency, 3x points on restaurants, 2x points on recurring software and 1x points on everything else. And unlike small business cards, it's actually a corporate card that doesn't require a personal guarantee. This means that you are using your business's credit history not your personal credit history. Also, your business will solely be responsible for repayment, and you won't have any personal liability. However, the Brex card requires an automatic withdrawal from your business bank account. Also, there's no annual fee for this card.

American Express Blue Business Cash. When you're looking for both simplicity and cash back rewards, this card offers you 2% back on up to $50,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1%. There's no annual fee with this card.

Bottom line

You don't have to be incorporated in order to have a small business credit card, and reap all of its the benefits. By finding the card that offers you the right features, rewards and benefits for your needs, you can streamline your side hustle and focus on the parts of the business that you enjoy the most.

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