How to Get Approved for a Business Credit Card in Canada

by | Published May 13, 2020 | Edited Sep 19, 2022


Most individuals in Canada have at least one personal credit card as part of their financial tool kit. However, business credit cards are often thought of as unattainable when it comes to being a regular person with no formal business to speak of.

It can be a tough mindset to shake, especially since it can seem kind of sketchy when it comes to applying for your first business credit card as an individual. But business credit cards are absolutely worth pursuing as they often come with excellent welcome bonuses and perks.

Getting a business credit card as a sole proprietor is easier than you might think; let’s look at how you can get approved for your first business credit card in Canada, in addition to how you can get business cards with different credit card issuers.

Why Would I Want a Business Credit Card?

The “Business” moniker tied to many credit cards seems to scare many excellent would-be cardholders from avoiding this family of products out of fear that they won’t be eligible to hold the card. After all, most Canadians don’t own businesses. So why would somebody who works for a corporation for a living or only makes a few dollars on a minor side-hustle want a small business credit card?

The welcome bonuses and perks make pursuing business credit cards completely worth your time and effort. If you are serious about travel hacking, you would be missing out on a significant amount of credit cards available to you in the Canadian market if you ignore business credit cards.

What we want to prove to you is that it is definitely in your interest to involve your time and effort in business credit cards. This is because of the welcome bonuses we’re so fond of; on many small business cards, the bonuses are stronger and more lucrative than anything else on the market

If you want to see for yourself, take advantage of our credit card comparison tool to see the current welcome bonuses for all personal and business credit cards in Canada.

What You Need to Know as an Individual Applying for a Business Credit Card

When it comes to business credit card applications in Canada, your personal credit history will be pulled and you will be individually liable for any purchases made on this business credit card. Your business card will also show on your personal credit report.

Always remember that it is within every financial institution’s rights to ask you for additional documentation surrounding your business if they so desire. While the chance of this happening is incredibly rare based on our experiences, it is a possibility to be aware of. It might be worth looking into setting up a formal entity with Ownr to legitimize your “business” if you have concerns.

How to Get Approved for an American Express Business Card

American Express has the best business card lineup out of all financial institutions in Canada. The reason we are so excited to share the virtues of the American Express business card lineup with you are two-fold: great bonuses, and ease of sign-up. Just make sure you are able to meet your minimum spend requirements and know how to get around merchants who may be trying to cheat you out of using your preferred payment method before you apply for a business card with Amex.

The American Express Business Card Lineup

Amex small business cards often have welcome bonuses that are industry-leading.

The Amex Business Platinum card often has the highest bonus in Canada, and while the annual fee is steep at $499, it comes with a slew of card membership benefits such as complimentary Priority Pass Lounge access, Marriott Gold Elite hotel status, and much, much more.

American Express Business Platinum

The Amex Business Platinum card earns Membership Rewards points and offers cardholders benefits including complimentary access to four airport lounge programs and instant Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status.

BONUS
110,000 Membership Rewards
MINSPEND
$7,000
NET VALUE
$1,921+
ANNUAL FEE
$499
FOREX FEES
Yes

The American Express business card lineup in Canada:

Credit Card Welcome Bonus Net Value
American Express Business Platinum 110,000 Membership Rewards $1,921 Apply
American Express Business Gold 75,000 Membership Rewards $1,451 Apply
American Express Aeroplan Business Reserve 90,000 Aeroplan $1,291 Apply
American Express Business Edge 45,000 Membership Rewards $891 Apply
American Express Marriott Bonvoy Business 65,000 Marriott Bonvoy $435 Apply
American Express AIR MILES Business 2,000 AIR MILES $120 Apply

If hotel points are more what you are looking for the Marriott Business Bonvoy Card usually has a good welcome bonus with minimal spend required. This card, when coupled with the personal Marriott Bonvoy Amex card, can set you on the path to making some strong redemptions at Marriott Bonvoy properties.

Some other strong cards in the Amex small business card lineup include the Business Gold card and the Business Edge card. Depending on your ability to meet minimum spend requirements, it might be worth exploring applying for a few cards at once depending on the bonuses that are available.

Also, understand that you may receive a bigger welcome bonus when you’re applying via a referral link (depending on the current public offer vs. the referral offer). When it comes to referring, this link can be from a friend or significant other (we call this ‘P2’ or Player 2). You’ll only receive a referral bonus when someone is approved from your referral link.

For example, if you have the Business Platinum card from American Express and refer someone, they can then select from a range of Amex credit cards. When they are approved after applying through your referral link, you’ll also receive 20,000 Membership Rewards points on your Business Platinum account.

A note on Charge Cards: as we’ve mentioned before, you must pay off your monthly statement on charge cards in full, or else. In addition, you cannot apply for the Business Gold and Business Platinum within the same 90-day period or you will be automatically declined by the Amex system.

American Express Business Cards Are Easy to be Approved For

When it comes to how to apply for an Amex business card, the second reason that we love American Express Business cards is just how easy they are to get approved for. In Canada, the law generally stipulates that individuals are responsible for their debts, and so if you own or operate a small business (or even a sole proprietorship – a business that consists of only you), then small business cards will be linked only to your own credit score and history.

This means if you’ve been following our advice, keeping your utilization low, and always paying your bills off in full – you’re gold (or Platinum, as the case may be).

This means that you now have the prerequisites to apply for American Express Business cards. When filling out your Amex business card application, you can enter your own first and last name as your business name if you don’t own one. On the other hand, if you operate a little side gig you can enter that name instead. Just don’t put something ridiculous and you’ll be approved.

The next real major hurdle in the application process that you’ll have to overcome is inputting your personal and business income on your Amex card application. In both cases, it’s best to be honest- no need to sour your relationship with American Express by exaggerating or, worse yet, trigger a dreaded financial review from them.

If you don’t have annual business revenue, and you’re just applying for this card with your name as you want it for your own uses, just put $0. Many businesses don’t make revenue when they start out, and there’s no reason to not see yourself as a legitimate business person.

Think about this for a second: have you ever sold something on Kijiji? Babysat a friend’s kid for a $20 gift card and a bottle of Chardonnay? Driven a friend to the airport for gas money? Well, those are all business transactions that you did, and there’s no reason that you shouldn’t put your own name down and apply for an Amex business card – as an issuer, they believe in a laissez-faire attitude that accounts for this activity in peoples’ lives, and they want to incentivize you into further business pursuits by welcoming you with excellent bonuses.

The last issue you’ll have to face, therefore, is what title or business to assign to yourself, as well as an age for your business. There are many options on their drop-down menu and sometimes Amex will call you to confirm – I myself called myself a “consultant” and answered (truthfully) that I consult on behalf of my industry, which is travel.

For business age, I always put 1 as a standard answer but feel free to put how long your business has been operating. If it’s a new small business credit card after holding a few, just be honest about how long you’ve been tracking your personal commerce.

In addition, how you decide to assign your chosen career is up to you, but consider that you probably conduct all kinds of business transactions that would be as fitting a label as any. So long as you put something reasonable, and can back it up if and when you receive a phone call, American Express can be quite understanding in issuing your chosen card.

Referral Bonuses

American Express has a strong referral program that can be taken advantage of with both personal and business credit cards. These can be a great asset to improving your points earned by incentivizing you to help your friends and loved ones sign up for cards that may be right for them or their businesses. They’re also a way to continue earning points via referral, and Prince of Travel has made a flowchart to demonstrate how to do this.

In brief, though, what we can say is that the real workhorse of any referral strategy is the Amex Business Platinum via the Amex refer a friend program. This is because its referral bonus is a whopping 20,000 Membership Rewards points – an incredible value!

More importantly, the person being referred doesn’t have to pick the Business Platinum for themselves – by simply clicking the “more cards” options, they can select the Business Gold card or the Business Edge card. On top of that, they’ll get the welcome bonus offer available from the referral link. 

pyramid scheme meme
And unlike many “amazing referral marketing” opportunities, this actually holds significant value and isn’t a pyramid scheme.

As we noted earlier, though, if they have been approved for the Business Platinum then they should hold off getting the Business Gold until 90 days from approval of the Platinum has passed.

Another great advantage of the referral program, whether you’re giving your links to your friends and family or using them yourself, is that they help avoid that doubt over the inevitable “Pending” message we alluded to earlier. Once you see the referral bonus points reflected on your online American Express account, you know that your referee has definitely been approved! This is because referral bonuses are only posted for successful applications.

One last note: a recent change to this strategy is that you should NEVER self-refer when applying for credit cards – for example from your Business Platinum to Gold or Edge. American Express Canada has recently been subject to a series of mass shutdowns of accounts (also known as being Amexiled). While it is still speculation who they target, self-referrals are a likely culprit since they explicitly violate Amex’s terms and conditions. 

Proceed with caution, don’t needlessly abuse the system, and you should be fine.

How to Get Approved for a CIBC Business Credit Card

CIBC Business Cards have become quite infamous for being a YMMV scenario. There is a good chance that you will need to go to a branch in order to get approved for business cards with CIBC. This may be one reason why it isn’t talked about as much. 

However, if you are willing to go through the hassle, the cards can offer some tremendous value.  Two of the main cards that you would want to consider applying for would be the CIBC Aeroplan and CIBC Aventura Business cards.

CIBC Aeroplan Visa Business

The CIBC Aeroplan Visa Business card earns Aeroplan points and offers cardholders benefits including an Air Canada Buddy Pass and free first checked bag on Air Canada flights.

BONUS
30,000 Aeroplan
MINSPEND
$3,000
NET VALUE
$630+
ANNUAL FEE
$180 (FYF)
FOREX FEES
Yes
CIBC Aventura Visa Business

The CIBC Aventura Visa Business card earns Aventura points and gives cardholders the opportunity to earn 2x Aventura on travel purchases through the CIBC Rewards Centre.

BONUS
25,000 Aventura
MINSPEND
$0
NET VALUE
$550+
ANNUAL FEE
$120 (FYF)
FOREX FEES
Yes

The other two CIBC Business credit cards are “Plus” cards, and are approved based on your business income, and data points suggest that the customer service reps may request a real Business Number/Trade Name Registration and a Notice of Assessment. For this reason, the ‘regular’ business cards shown above are a lower-hanging fruit with only a $35,000 minimum income requirement.   

In general, take a similar approach to filling out the application questions as we described with American Express business cards (assuming you are filling out with a pseudo-real sole proprietorship). 

The following fields will need to be completed whether in branch or online:

  • Business Operating Name: Your full name.  A difference here from Amex is that CIBC may strictly require proof of trade name registration for doing business under any name other than your own. Laws surrounding this can vary by province, but better to be safe than sorry, unless you have the proof to back it up. 
  • Business Address: Your home address
  • Business Phone: Your home phone number
  • Canada Customs and Business Registration Number: I used my Canada Revenue Agency Business Number here. You can get this for free from the CRA website, and it has no tax implications (assuming you aren’t actually making any money through the ‘business’). This can be useful for future applications as well to add legitimacy to the business (real or not).
  • Nature of the Business: Your discretion – if you don’t really have a business, make sure this is something you can at least talk about.
  • Business Type: Individual / sole proprietorship
  • Number of principle owners including yourself: 1
  • Financial institution of your business bank account: Not really their business, just enter somewhere else you do your banking. 
  • What percentage of the business do you own: 100%
  • Number of employees excluding yourself: Your discretion – I said 0. 
  • Last fiscal year end: There is a debate to be had here, but I would put a date that implies you haven’t done a tax return for the business yet, otherwise you may be asked to provide this. 
  • Total outstanding business debt: Answer honestly 
  • Total credit available: Generally, you should answer this honestly
  • Gross annual revenue/sales: As with Amex, don’t be afraid to put $0.00 here if that is the case.
  • Annual after tax profit/loss: Ditto

If you decide to go through the online application option, it is common to receive a ‘conditional approval’ (although there have been DPs of full approval without going into a branch, it seems the exception to the rule). 

If you are conditionally approved you will still need to go into the branch to finalize the approval. 

I would still recommend applying online because it saves you having to answer these questions under the scrutiny of a branch CSR, and also because they are incentivized to try to push other inferior products (mainly from the Aventura family of monopoly money) on you. 

cibc penguin advisor
Actual photo of a CIBC advisor after their failed attempt to pressure you into Aventura products.

The cases where in-branch might be preferable are:

  1. You are in contact/ acquainted with a trusted CSR who will make the process easier for you.
  2. You already had a hard pull with CIBC in the last 90 days, in which case applying in branch can save you another hard pull (as they can retain your score and use it to qualify you for up to 90 days in-branch only). 

If you do the online method and get conditional approval, it will look like the following:

cibc business credit card application status

As mentioned, you will then need to go to the branch to finalize the application, verify your ID, and provide the following “requested Information”:

  • Principal Owner information (Name, Home Address, Occupation)
  • Signing Officer information (Name, Home Address, Date of Birth)
  • Provide a current government-issued photo ID
  • Start-up Date
  • Nature of Business
  • Is the business not-for-profit and/or a registered charity?

Finally, after all that, the last step will be to complete something called a Form 12830.

There isn’t much to it, mainly just make sure to fill out the Principle Owner information correctly, along with Officers and Directors as indicated (with your own job title of course).

So to conclude, CIBC Business cards can be a nice supplement to your credit card strategy. They are a bit of a hassle to get, but hopefully the above information has clarified the process for you. If you have any issues, I am in contact with a ‘Senior Solutions Specialist’ for small business at CIBC head office who was hugely helpful with my first application. Reach out at [email protected]

There are also some FAQs listed below. If you have further questions, please leave them in the comments below!

Finally, although my experience seems to be corroborated by some of the DP’s we’ve personally observed at r/churningcanada, we advise you to take everything posted there with a hefty grain of salt.

How to Get Approved for a BMO Business Credit Card

As I myself am a BMO customer for my checking, savings, and RRSP, I asked a clerk the last time I went to a branch about how I could get a business credit card. Unfortunately, as is so often the case during in-branch visits, she told me she was a clerk for transactions and not a business or credit card expert. She advised me to speak with a financial advisor, which I was able to do shortly thereafter.

When I sat down with the advisor, he advised me that I could apply online for the BMO Air Miles Business credit card I was looking at, but that I would likely not be approved instantly online and would have to come into the branch. He also stated I would need some kind of article of incorporation (stating I did, in fact, own a legal company), as well as any revenue for my business if I declared it. He also verified my personal credit history would be pulled, and offered to process the transaction for me at a later date if I wanted to set up an appointment.

Ultimately I decided to pass as, while 3000 Air Miles would have been a nice signup bonus, the business card isn’t any better than the BMO Air Miles World Elite credit card, which offers a first-year-free annual fee rebate, two free lounge passes, and a strong chance to be instantly approved by BMO’s algorithm. It’s also quite “churnable” which makes the juice not worth the squeeze when it comes to BMO business cards.

2022 Update on BMO Business Cards

Close churning friends have recently had experience in getting approved for BMO Business cards. While BMO does do a bit more vetting than other banks, it is still possible to get these cards without an established business or articles of incorporation. Apply online as a sole proprietorship, enter $0 as your annual business revenue (or be prepared to prove whatever amount you claim), and then enter your personal income.

Most of the time the application will go pending. A week or so later you will receive either a denial or a probe for further ‘verification’ – you may need to call in. BMO will ask for verification of your personal income claimed on the application, typically as 2 recent paystubs. If you can provide this, then you should be approved. Good luck!

How to Get Approved for a TD Business Credit Card

The business credit cards at TD often have incredibly strong welcome bonuses, making them desirable to pursue.

BONUS
MINSPEND
NET VALUE
+
ANNUAL FEE
FOREX FEES
BONUS
MINSPEND
NET VALUE
+
ANNUAL FEE
FOREX FEES

There are already some DPs on the process of getting this TD business credit card in branch. See the reddit comment sequence below.

TD business cards in branch reddit data point

Reed also has some personal experience getting the TD Aeroplan Business card. As with other banks, it seems to be a challenge to find knowledgeable advisors, and conflicting information is abundant. 

In particular, two common myths from advisors are perpetrated. The first is regarding the documents required to apply for a Business credit card. As with CIBC, and based on provincial regulations, sole proprietorships operating under a personal name are not required to provide MBL, trade name registration or the like.

Secondly, advisors may tell you that you need to have a business bank account with TD. However this is not strictly true, instead, you only need to have a business profile set up with TD. (And if they insist you may not be approved as a result of no business relationship, ask to split credit from your personal account). 

Now, the other information Reed was able to glean from a knowledgeable TD representative was regarding the feasibility of applying for TD Business Cards remotely (over the phone, email, etc.). This is technically possible through two avenues (although the timing of this with the COVID19 pandemic was convenient, it should still be possible in general).

First, you can find a local TD Small Business Advisor through smallbusinessadvisors.td.com, or you can contact the Loyalty and Advice team (call business banking at 1-866-827-8511 and ask to be redirected). Either of these representatives should be able to take you through the process of setting up a business profile and applying for a credit card, over the phone.  

In fact, Reed was able to get the process started with a simple email.

TD business credit card application via email

From there, it was a matter of answering a few simple questions about the business over the phone. In particular, the nature of the business, projected business income for the year, and personal income in addition to being asked to complete a form for some additional details surrounding the business. A day later the advisor replied back saying the application was approved, and 8 days later, the new card came in the mail. Easy peasy!

RBC & Scotiabank Business Credit Cards

Unfortunately, we don’t have any experience with business cards at these banks. 

The business card offers at RBC aren’t as generous as the personal, and with the churnability of RBC, it hasn’t seemed as well worth the effort. 

That being said, if you’ve gotten a business card with RBC or Scotia, we’d love to hear more about their process and how it went; drop us a line below.

Conclusion

Business credit cards are worth it and should be part of your travel rewards and churning strategy if you want to pursue this hobby seriously. Diving into the realm of business credit cards doubles the number of opportunities for welcome bonuses for you to take advantage of in both Canada and the United States.

If you haven’t explored the world of business credit cards yet, heavily consider applying for one as your next card.

Reed Sutton

Reed Sutton

Founder at Frugal Flyer
Reed is addicted to the science (and art) of earning and redeeming travel points, and frequently pairs his trips with his other hobby: photography. Through Frugal Flyer, Reed aims to distill some of the complex and esoteric points strategies into digestible information. Furthermore, he hopes to use his technical expertise to develop invaluable applications and tools for the travel community.

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