Will Your Business Card Keep up with your Growth — or Slow You Down?

Business cards help fast-growing tech companies manage expenses and seize opportunities as they arise. But not all cards are created equal. The right card provides the support you need now and the flexibility you'll require as you scale.

"Founders ... need a card that accommodates rapid change without impacting personal credit"

To find the right card, look beyond promotional offers and eye-catching incentives. Founders and the companies they start need a card that accommodates rapid change without impacting personal credit while providing actionable financial intelligence and cost controls to guide spending decisions.

Pay close attention to each of these as you shop for your company's card:

Tech-space expertise

Fast-growing tech companies have unique needs, so it's important to choose a card provider with the experience and know-how to accommodate them. For instance, a card provider with tech startup expertise will have better insight into your growth potential and can consider it when setting credit and spending limits. A knowledgeable provider can also help you implement a card program in the way that best serves you and your team. Ask the providers you're considering for examples of customers that are similar to your company.

Personal liability

Most card programs require company founders to carry a personal guarantee. That can keep fast-moving startups from pursuing certain high-potential opportunities. Ask providers whether the business or an individual owner is ultimately financially liable for the account and whether the account status could affect your personal credit.

Visibility and control

Find out whether you will be able to track card spending in the way that works best for you. Some cards, for instance, automatically sync transactions with accounting or expense-management apps. Also ask potential providers about spending controls, such as by job role or expense category. Some card programs require a minimum number of cardholders before these can be implemented.

Flexible limits

Fast-growing tech companies can quickly outpace their spending limits, and traditional card providers may not be able to increase them quickly enough in response. Look for a card provider that takes a venture-friendly approach to credit approval and will proactively raise your limit to match your growth rate.


Not all card programs geared toward startups offer rewards. Yet the ability to earn rewards points on business purchases can add up to savings — especially when employees' purchases are included in a single rewards account. Ask the providers you are considering whether their card program offers rewards, and how they can be used. Having the option of applying rewards points toward your card balance and travel can benefit a growing startup.

Customer service

Will your requests for support be routed to a customer service call center? Or can you start building relationships with relationship managers who take the time to understand your entire business? Many banks focus their attention on larger customers but having an advisor who ensures that the right solutions are in place can be even more critical for smaller companies.

Proactive monitoring

Will you initiate all contact when you need help, or is a prospective provider's standard of customer support more proactive? Highlight those that will actively monitor your card usage and advise you on when it may be smart to make changes to your card program. A hands-on team at the issuing bank will maximize the card's value to your company and allow you to focus on growing your business.

"Push hard to learn about each provider's commitment to serving your business"

You'll still want to ensure that the card you choose provides travel benefits, purchase protections and safeguards against fraud. Push hard to learn about each provider's commitment to serving your business. When you make the right choice, you will gain an important ally in your growth and success.

Learn more about the SVB Innovators Card, a business card uniquely designed for founders and their fast-growing companies, or contact your SVB representative for more information.

This material, including without limitation the statistical information herein, is provided for informational purposes only. The material is based in part upon information from third-party sources that we believe to be reliable, but which has not been independently verified by us and, as such, we do not represent that the information is accurate or complete. You should obtain relevant and specific professional advice before making any investment or other decision. Silicon Valley Bank is not responsible for any cost, claim or loss associated with your use of this material.

About the Author

Liam Fairbairn is a senior vice president in the Early Stage Practice for SVB in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he specializes in serving seed-stage technology companies in the enterprise software, consumer internet and frontier tech sectors. As a relationship manager, he delivers the fast and flexible banking solutions innovators demand. As an advisor, he strives to be each client’s first point of contact when they’re looking to connect with value-add partners in the tech ecosystem who can help entrepreneurs set visionary ideas in motion.

Liam thrives on being at "the tip of the spear" — witnessing game-changing breakthroughs before they impact the world. He’s savored this vantage point again and again throughout his 20-plus years at SVB. While working on a team focused on infrastructure software, he advised tech companies as they transitioned from hardware to cloud-based information delivery. Liam previously partnered with equally groundbreaking entrepreneurs, including life science visionaries in the medical device, biotechnology, diagnostics, nanotechnology and healthcare IT sectors. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Santa Clara University, where he was awarded a scholarship and played Division 1 baseball for the Broncos all four years. Liam also has the distinction of finishing his college career ranked No. 22 in the country by Baseball America in 1997.

Outside of work, Liam currently serves on the board of the San Carlos American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) and coaches Little League baseball and softball. He also enjoys life at home in his native Bay Area with his wife and two children, and spends as much time as possible outdoors, especially in Hawaii where he has a large contingent of family. However, Liam feels quite at home at SVB, too, as his sister, wife and sister-in-law all work for the bank.