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4 steps for freelancers to choose the right credit card

freelancer in coffee shop using credit card
March 30, 2018

By Maggie Tomasek

Freelancers have unique financial management challenges: Preparing for lean times, planning tax payments, maintaining supplies and equipment ... The list goes on. What’s more, you need to track your business and personal expenses separately. A credit card dedicated to business expenses can simplify you record-keeping.But which card is best for you?

Here are four simple steps to determine the right credit card for your freelancer needs.

1. Business credit card or personal credit card?

You  might be using a credit card for your business expenses, but that doesn’t mean you need an actual business credit card. Many freelancers prefer using personal cards because they can handle your spending needs, and business cards aren’t protected by the CARD act.

But if your freelance business really takes off, you can always upgrade to a business credit card, which comes with different sets of rewards, limits, and other features. The point at which you need to upgrade to a business card will vary from person to person, depending on multiple factors. A good rule of thumb is to monitor your credit card spending. If your business expenses exceed your personal expenses, think about making the switch.

2. Look at your spending to optimize your rewards

Information is the most critical tool in your kit when it comes to selecting the right credit card. Take a look at your personal and business spending patterns over the last year and see what stands out. You may already have a rewards card for your personal use, but if your business expenses vary significantly from your personal expenses, you could be losing out. For example, if you drive a lot to gigs or to meet clients, a credit card with cash back to use for gas expenses and car maintenance might be the best fit. On the flipside, if you choose a credit card to optimize your business rewards, you might be missing out on rewards for your personal spending. So if you decide to only use one credit card, make sure that it strikes the right balance for your spending habits.

3. Assess the fees and interest rates

Some cards come with an annual fee, but since you’ve already examined your spending patterns, you can do the math to determine if an annual fee is actually worth it. Another fee to watch out for is the foreign transaction fee, which can add up quickly if you’re frequently on assignment out of the country. And don’t forget the interest rate. While you always want to pay off your card every month, sometimes it’s just not possible – especially in those lean months. If you plan to take advantage of a zero percent balance transfer offer to move a balance from a high-interest card, look for a credit card with no balance transfer fees.

4. Other considerations

Here are just a few other questions to ask when looking at your credit card options. Does the credit card offer a personal finance tool that allows you to categorize expenses? Is it compatible with the accounting software you use? Is there a signup bonus? Are there reward tiers or other hoops you have to jump through to get your cash back? What about other perks and bonuses, such as concierge service or free checked bags?

Bottom line: it’s more important to choose a credit card based on the way you spend your money than on the promise of flashy rewards.


Maggie Tomasek is the PR and Social Media Specialist at Alliant. She began her career as a journalist for newspapers in Utica, N.Y., Des Moines and Cincinnati before moving to Chicago in 2009. Maggie is a seven-time Chicago Marathon finisher and a lifelong creative writer with a passion for comedy. Her mom instilled in her a great sense of fiscal responsibility, and her big sister told her to throw that responsibility out the window every once in a while in the name of life experience. So far, that combination of financial advice has worked out pretty well for her.