Top Ten Tips on Business Card Etiquette

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Business CardBusiness cards are the staple of business success.  Nevertheless, I am constantly amazed by how few professionals pay attention to the etiquette of exchanging cards.  These are the very same people who seek information about the rules of networking, making positive first impressions and dressing for success.  You can work the crowd with ease, offer an impressive handshake and dress with finesse, but if you don’t know the fine points of giving and receiving business cards, all the rest can be a waste of time and effort.

Here are ten basic rules to follow for the profitable and productive exchange of business cards.

  1. Never leave your home or office without your cards and plenty of them.  There is nothing more unprofessional than the business person who has to say, “Oh, I’m sorry. I just gave out my last card.” or ” I’m sorry. I didn’t bring any with me.”
  2. Keep your cards in a business card case or in something that protects them from wear and tear.  A crumpled business card makes a poor first impression.
  3. Know where your business cards are at all times.  The person who has to go through every jacket and pants pocket or every nook and cranny of a briefcase to find those business cards loses credibility immediately.
  4. Hand them out with discretion. Those people who believe in doling them out in multiples of 12 send a message that their cards aren’t worth much.
  5. Give and receive cards with your right hand–the hand of discretion.  This can make a big difference when doing business internationally.
  6. Give the card so the person who is receiving it can read it without having to turn it around.
  7. Always make a comment about a card when you receive it. Note the logo, the business name or some other piece of information.  This places value on the card.
  8. Keep your business cards up to date.  When any of your contact information changes; run, don’t walk, to your nearest printer for new cards. It is substandard business etiquette to hand out cards on which you have crossed off an old phone number and written in the new one.
  9. Don’t write notes to yourself on someone else’s business card during the exchange unless they appear relevant.  For example, if someone asks me to send a copy of my book, Manners That Sell, it makes perfect sense to write “Send book” on the back of that card. However, that would not be the time to write “good lead to ABC organization” on the card. I do that later and out of sight.
  10. Avoid appearing aggressive with business cards.  Wait to be asked for yours. If that isn’t happening, ask the other person for a card.  Reciprocity generally follows.

Knowing the rules of business card etiquette is just one more way to add the polish that builds profits.

Here’s to better business card etiquette!

professional speaker

Photo from Savannah magazine

Do you need personal etiquette coaching or would you like to hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners? Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at or call 912-604-0080. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website,

8 thoughts on “Top Ten Tips on Business Card Etiquette

  1. Josh Lee

    Great tips. Thanks for the post.
    One thing that I always wondered about though is what to do with the business cards that I received.
    When do you put the received card away and where? In a meeting it is easy. I put it in my notepad for reference to ask questions or make comments to the person as I forget the names all the time… but it’s always really awkward when I receive one standing up. Any thoughts?

  2. Jerrod Weitnauer

    It is a fine summer morning and you are in a happy mood. You have just returned from a long and important overseas business trip and you have attended a number of seminars and exhibitions. As you sit down with a cup of coffee your secretary enters and hands you a stiff piece of rectangular paper. She announces that a well-dressed man had come to meet you regarding an important business deal and had left behind his business card. As you glance through the card, you are impressed by the quality of the board used to make the card. What strikes you is the superb color combination the logo and the lettering of the card uses. Your eyes are riveted to the same and you just cannot take them away.;

    My very own web portal

  3. Matthew Engquist

    Great tips! I always carry around my business card holder in case I met someone and I need to give them my contact details formally. My business card is very simple. It sticks to the professional theme, which is essential.

  4. Lydia Ramsey

    Barry, thank you for those very kind words and for sending along my blog to your friends on FaceBook. My goal is to help people be successful by providing pertinent information on business etiquette.

  5. Barry Lebow

    Lydia, I have 2,400 FB friends. Today, they got your excellent post on business cards. We teach a program in Canada, the Accredited Senior Agent designation and you won’t recall but I contacted you a few years back about using some of your material. The students love it, the Top 12. We recommend that they join your newsletter and promote you. You are a delight, love your material and writing style. Pleasure.


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