5 Easy Task Management Apps

If you are a newcomer to the project management world, you would be forgiven for not immediately grasping the difference between task management and project management. After all, both tasks and projects are things that need to get done, and it would be helpful to…manage them. All playfulness aside, the difference between the two concepts can be helpful to understand, especially when considering how to spend your dollars on software.

Put simply, task management is more basic than project management. Where your typical project management app features milestones, Gantt charts, in-depth reporting, and more, task management apps tend to work with to-do lists, file storage, and communication. Put another way, project management is always task management, but task management is not always project management. Kind of a square-rectangle deal.

If you find that your team would benefit from an official to-do list, but don’t want to invest in full-on project management, a task management app might be just what you need. While most of these apps are straightforward, some are easier to use than others. With that in mind, here are the top five easiest task management apps:

Producteev

Producteev (read our review) has a bit more to offer than some of the other solutions on this list. This simple app ticks the standard boxes for task management (task lists, etc.), but also allows you to build entire “networks” of projects within your company. It provides a level of organization that extends beyond what is standard in task management, so if you are looking for something a bit complex, this might be the app for you. One important note, before you jump to sign up for Producteev: This app is somewhat lacking in communication tools. While it is true that you can comment on tasks, even using the @ symbol to mention specific team members, there is no dedicated chat feature. For that reason, I have a hard time recommending Producteev to mobile or remote teams.

On the other hand, Producteev’s pricing is extremely attractive. There are two subscription levels: free and $99/month. The difference between the two? Paying subscribers can customize their color scheme, add their own logo, and access dedicated support services with a guaranteed 24-hour response time. Is this worth the cash? It depends. If your team is small, I would try the free version first. If you are working with a larger group, the value of the subscription increases. In the end, of course, the decision rests with you.

Squidhub

I have written several posts that discuss Squidhub (read our review) in the last few months. Simply put, I like this app a lot; it jives well with how I personally work, and does so with possibly the cutest mascot in the business world. (That’s a bold claim, I know, but just look at that adorable little guy). Squidhub’s simple, single-page UI, and focus on task management and communication exemplify the qualities of a good task management app. However, some may find the simplicity of Squidhub a little limiting.

One of the best things about Squidhub is that it feels complete even at its free subscription level. Actually, for the moment, the free plan is the only option for Squidhub users. However, the company has recently revealed (on the Squidhub pricing page) that higher subscription levels will soon be available. If you have room to play in your budget, some of those new options may be worth considering — particularly the Business plan, which will allow users to build templates for task lists.

ClickUp

ClickUp (read our review) is so easy to use that you may start to wonder how its competitors even stay in business. With features that sometimes emulate true project management (time tracking, workspaces, project views, etc), it feels as though there is little this app can’t do. In fact, if I had a criticism, it might be that ClickUp is trying too hard. When you first log in to the app, you get a pop-up asking you to name other project management apps you have used so they can “tailor the experience” a bit more to your needs. While this could easily be a genuine goal, it also feels a bit, well, braggy.

And there are so many other things ClickUp could brag about! Not the least of which is price. Like the three prior options I have covered here, ClickUp has an excellent free version that will leave you wondering how the company behind the app, Mango, is making any profit. If you want a little more file storage space, as well as onboarding services, you could choose to pay $5/user/month. The benefit of that extra cost is really going to depend on your specific circumstances. If you are already paying for cloud-based file storage, you may not find the subscription necessary. On the other hand, onboarding is one of the biggest challenges of a new business service app, so that five dollar fee might pay for itself right in the first month.

Trello

Trello (read our review) is one of those programs that is always easy to recommend. This app, the originator of the increasingly popular board view, is simple yet effective. Capable of pretty advanced task management, Trello is also (dare I say it?) fun. Sure, you can pack your boards and cards with relevant information, assigning tasks to different team members with deadlines and more, but you can also activate the Pirate (!) powerup that turns your cards into crinkly old treasure maps if you haven’t touched them in awhile. You can also put “stickers” on your boards; my personal favorite is the smiling face of a husky dog — the company mascot, Taco.

Like most of the apps I am covering here today, Trello offers its best features for free. If you want a bit more customization or file storage — or even more advanced power-ups — you can pay up to $20/user/month.  Honestly, though, I don’t personally see these things as worth the cost (unless a specific power-up is extra important to you).

Basecamp 3

I am not sure what it is with simple task management apps and cute logos, but it is at once a fantastic and disturbing trend. Basecamp 3 (read our review) is, in some ways, the most advanced app on my list today, edging into the world of true project management in ways not even ClickUp has managed. Yes, the core of Basecamp 3 is task management and communication. But this app also boasts more advanced reporting capabilities and automated reminders. For that reason, Basecamp is a bit more versatile than some of the other options I discussed above.

Having said that, that versatility literally comes at a price. Whereas the four apps above function beautifully for free, Basecamp 3 goes for $99/month. For that reason, this might not be the best app for you if you are working with a tight budget or on a small team. On the other hand, if your team has more than 10 people, Basecamp 3 becomes one of the best values in the project or task management worlds.

Final Thoughts

There is a wide array of options when it comes to simple, easy-to-use task management apps. Much of the decision of which to use will come down to your specific situation. The base-level simplicity of Trello or Squidhub may appeal to some while the more advanced features of ClickUp or Producteev will be more in line with the needs of others. And businesses looking for a kind of hybrid task-and-project management app might want to go with Basecamp 3.

The nicest thing about any of these apps is that they are easy to try. Since most of them are free, there is no downside to giving them a test drive; even Basecamp offers a generous 30-day trial. With that in mind, go ye forth and manage your tasks!

The post 5 Easy Task Management Apps appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Identify The Pricing Model On Your Processing Statement

Credit Card Processing Statement image

“It’s 11 o’clock. Do you know where your children are?”

This was a popular PSA broadcasted to parents in the ’70s and ’80s, back when “stranger danger” was just about the scariest thing out there. Now, I have an equally important PSA for small business owners: “You have your processing statement. Do you know your pricing model?”

The ability to recognize merchant account pricing models (and, most importantly, which one you have) is a crucial step toward understanding your statement, as well as increasing your overall merchant-savvy. We’ve found that many merchants recognize the rates and fees they were quoted for processing, but without any broader context of which pricing model they have. This makes deciphering an already-confusing card processing statement all the more difficult, and makes discerning whether you’re paying too much nearly impossible.

Starting with a statement and working backward to an accurate understanding of how your quoted rates actually kick in is maybe not the ideal introduction to pricing models. Yet, this is most often the way things go, and I’m not surprised. No one goes to “merchant account school” for this stuff, and account providers vary widely in both their skill and willingness to thoroughly explain pricing.

The good news is that small business owners are no strangers to learning on the fly. So, grab a statement or two, and let’s get cracking!

A Quick Primer On Pricing

In broad strokes, the main pricing models are differentiated by the way your merchant account provider handles the wholesale cost of processing (what it must pay to other entities in the processing chain) versus its own markup. There are two separate types of wholesale costs — interchange fees and card association fees — but the differences between pricing models mostly center around how interchange fees are handled.

You’re probably already aware of the vast variety of credit and debit cards in circulation. Each type of card has its own pre-set interchange cost (a percentage of the sale and sometimes a per-transaction fee) that all merchant account providers must pay to the card-issuing bank when that particular card type is used. Over the years, the main merchant account pricing models have developed based on two possible ways of dealing with these wholesale interchange costs:

  1. Pass the interchange costs directly to the merchant and also charge a separate “low” markup.
  2. Blend the interchange costs into one or more “high” overall rates for the merchant that already include a markup.

I’m putting “low” and “high” in quotation marks because we recognize they’re super-relative terms. Not to mention, the exact amount of your rate is only one piece of the puzzle. As a helpful simplification going forward, you can think of “low” as well under 1%, and high as over 1% (often at least 2%, or even much more). The important thing to remember is that a low rate may not include interchange already (look for those costs listed separately), while a high rate likely does.

The “Big Four” Models

The most common pricing models are interchange-plus, membership, flat-rate, and tiered. For more background on the models, check out these helpful articles:

  • Trading Ease For Transparency With Interchange-Plus
  • Tiered Pricing: The Epic Fail Of A Pricing Model
  • Get A 0% Interchange-Plus Markup With Membership Fee Pricing
  • Analyzing The Cost-Effectiveness of Square’s Mobile Processing Solution (flat-rate pricing)

If you’re still a bit foggy on the differences, that’s okay. For now, you can start with your statement and work toward a better understanding of merchant account pricing as a whole. We’ll get there!

Good Indicators, But Not Guarantees

While each pricing model leaves tell-tale signs on a statement, it’s important to note that no “standard” indicator is necessarily a guarantee. Think of the indicators we’ll discuss as good clues, or important signs. In truth, processors may include red herrings in their statements, or invent their own strange hybrid systems. Fortunately, most stick fairly closely to the main pricing models.

Now, we’re finally ready to look at the four main pricing models and their most common statement indicators. The more indicators for a certain model on your statement, the better the odds that’s the model you have. I’ll be using a few snippets of statements as examples, but note that any interchange rates listed are not necessarily the current values. Some of the statements are older. In any case, your statement will never match these completely. No two processors display this stuff in the same way.

Interchange-Plus / Cost-Plus Pricing

All things being equal, interchange-plus statements are the most difficult to read. The big payoff is that you clearly see the difference between wholesale costs and your account provider’s markup on your statements. In this model, the rate you were quoted was just the markup piece — the “plus” in “interchange-plus.” In other words, interchange fees and your account provider’s markup are charged separately. Typically, interchange-plus plans charge both a percentage markup and a flat, per-transaction markup. Here’s what you’ll likely see on your statement:

  • Itemized Interchange Rates: 

    Example A: One small section of a long list of interchange rates. Note that each type of card is charged its own pre-set rate, and passed through to the merchant.

  • Consistent “Low” Percentage Markup: Charged separately from interchange fees.

Example B: Consistent markup of 0.40% listed after each card type’s itemized list of interchange fees. All transactions/card types have the same 0.40% markup.

Example C: In the “Rate” column, a consistent 0.31% markup is shown directly above the itemized interchange rate for each type of card/transaction.

  • Consistent Transaction Fee Markup: This per-transaction markup may be found in the same line items as the percentage markups, or down in a separate “authorization” section.

    Example D: Along with a consistent 0.10% markup across the board (Disc %), there’s a consistent $0.10 transaction fee markup (Disc P/I) for all card/transaction types.

Subscription / Membership Pricing

Membership pricing is sort of a riff on interchange-plus. The wholesale interchange rates are still charged separately from the account provider’s markup. The difference is that the markup comes in the form of one flat monthly subscription fee, and also a small, per-transaction markup. No percentage markup is charged. Here are the main statement indicators of subscription pricing:

  • Itemized Interchange Rates: Similar to Example A above.
  • Consistent Transaction Fee Markup: See Example E below.
  • No Percentage Markup: See Example E below. Note that percentages will still be part of itemized interchange rates (not shown below), but no separate percentage markup is present.

Example E: Consistent $0.11 “Item Rate” charged on all card/transaction types. No “Disc Rate” % markup. This account had a membership fee of $120/month (not pictured).  Interchange rates were itemized separately (not pictured).

Flat-Rate / Blended Pricing

This is the model most commonly offered by third-party payment facilitators (a.k.a. PSPs, merchant aggregators) like PayPal, Stripe, and Square. Occasionally, traditional merchant account providers use it as well. In this all-inclusive model, wholesale charges and the processor’s markup are all blended together into your one, flat processing rate. If a per-transaction fee is part of your rate, this also goes toward covering your provider’s wholesale costs plus any profit margin. Your flat rate covers all types of transactions, from inexpensive signature debit transactions, all the way to expensive business rewards cards. You’ll typically observe:

  • No Itemized Interchange Rates: Your statement is quite simple, but you can’t see the actual wholesale cost behind any of your transactions.
  • Consistent “High” Rate: If any rate is displayed at all, it’s usually just one main rate in the high 2% to mid-3% range, and sometimes you’ll see a per-transaction fee as well. Note that some PSPs charge a couple different high rates based on the type of transactions you run (i.e., keyed or ecommmerce vs. swiped/dipped.)

Tiered / Bundled Pricing

This is another case where you can’t see the itemized interchange rates separate from your processor’s markup on your statement. Instead, your transactions are first grouped into tiers according to the processor’s pre-set criteria. Each group (tier) is then charged a flat rate that already includes the interchange costs for those transactions. If you’ve got a tiered plan but have only been quoted one rate, it’s typically the rate for transactions that fall under the lowest, “qualified” tier. In reality, some transactions may be downgraded to higher priced tiers (mid-qualified and non-qualified). You have no real way of predicting these downgrades ahead of time. Here’s what you’d see:

  • No Itemized Interchange Rates: You generally won’t see a list of interchange charges–because why list them if they’re already blended into your tiered rates?
  • Qualified, Mid-Qualified, Non-Qualified Labels: Any line items with any of these labels (or similar-looking abbreviations) is your biggest clue.

Example F: Transactions are charged 1.75%, 2.75% or 3.25% depending on the tier

  • Multiple Rates, Usually “High”: By definition, a tiered program must have at least two rate levels or tiers shown on the statement. The standard model is three levels: qualified (lowest), mid-qualified (middle), and non-qualified (highest). Note that some providers may create a separate set of three tiers for debit transactions, because these wholesale debit costs are cheaper. The bottom levels of a signature debit tier can actually be “low” (well under 1%) and still account for the interchange cost or act as a loss leader. You’ll need to be sure that there are no other higher rates charged on your statement (and examine other indicators) before you can assume your “low” rate means you’re on interchange-plus! On the other hand, all credit card tiers will likely be well over 1% and in the “high” category, so look for those as a better indicator. When you’re looking for multiple rates on your statement, the mid and non-qualified transactions may be listed right next to the qualified ones, or may be shown as separate surcharges later in the statement (like in Example H below).

Example G: Two “high” rates are charged, 1.75% + $0.10 for credit, and 1.21% + $ 0.20 for debit. These are the two qualified tiers of this plan.

Example H: In the same statement as above, we find a surcharge section. Twenty-two transactions were downgraded to non-qualified (amounting to an extra 2%) and 30 to mid-qualified (an extra 1.47%). Multiple rates for multiple tiers at play!

Final Thoughts

Did you recognize your own pricing model among these main four types? If you made it this far with your statement, I hope you’ve at least developed a strong hunch. While each model has its merits for different situations, you can probably tell we prefer the inherent transparency and comparability of models that separate out the interchange costs from the account provider’s markup. By the same token, we have a hard time getting behind the unpredictable downgrading and surcharging of tiered pricing. I’d encourage you to check out our top merchant account providers if you’re looking for a fresh start. All of them offer transparent interchange-plus or subscription pricing plans.

Parents of the 70s and 80s feared “stranger danger” above all else, but my biggest fear for merchants is that they pay too much or even get scammed because they don’t have a solid understanding of their processing statements. Knowing and recognizing your pricing model is one of your best protections as a merchant. If you’re still unsure about yours, drop us a line and we’ll see if we can help!

The post How To Identify The Pricing Model On Your Processing Statement appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Personal Credit Cards For Business Expenses

credit cards for startups

If you’re launching a new business, you may naturally be attracted to the idea of getting a business credit card to use for your business expenses. And why not? “Business” is right there in the name.

However, there are a number of reasons why you might want to go with a personal credit card instead, especially when getting your startup off the ground. For one thing, the CARD Act of 2009 regulates personal credit cards. By law, personal credit card providers can’t jack up your APR overnight or charge excessive fees for minor infractions. While most credit card companies extend these safeguards to business credit card holders as a courtesy, many do not. Similarly, introductory rates associated with personal credit cards must be offered for the first six months. Not so with business cards.

What’s more, the incentive programs associated with personal credit cards may be more fitting for your needs than the rewards associated with business credit cards. Your startup likely does not yet need a large office, for example, so a business card that offers discounts on office supplies probably doesn’t hold any special appeal.

Let’s take a look at the best personal credit cards for entrepreneurs.

General Cash Back Cards

Most embryonic businesses will want to select a personal credit card with a solid, all-purpose rewards program. The following cards can help you maximize your profits on the everyday purchases you make for your budding business, whether you’re spending on gas for your car, paint for your office, printer paper, or new-client lunches.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

For entrepreneurs who require flexibility in a credit card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card is an ideal choice. It’s a flat-rate cash-back card, so there are no bonus categories — you get cash back on all purchases, and you are allowed great flexibility in how you redeem your rewards.

Chase Freedom Unlimited
credit cards for startups
Annual Fee $0
APR Variable, 16.24% – 24.99%
Signup Bonus $150 if you spend $500 in the first three months
Rewards Automatic 1.5% cash back on all purchases
Can use your rewards to book travel with Chase
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The Chase Freedom Unlimited card has no annual fee, and you also get an introductory 0% APR for the first 15 months. (Unfortunately, there is a 3% foreign transaction fee.)

When you’re starting a new business, you may find yourself making all manners of unexpected purchases. To this end, the Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card automatically gives you 1.5% cash back on all purchases. You won’t have to keep track of the categories your purchases fall into; everything is covered. And you can redeem for cash back in any amount you wish — there’s no minimum redemption.

Your redemption options continue from there. Beyond getting a statement credit or a direct deposit to your checking or savings accounts, you can also redeem your rewards by booking trips through Chase’s travel portal, which is great if your startup has you shuttling around. And if you use the Chase Freedom mobile app, you can redeem your rewards at certain participating stores.

If you have other Chase cards, you can also transfer rewards to them to take advantage of their particular redemption options.

All in all, Chase Freedom Unlimited is a very versatile card.

US Bank Cash+ Visa Signature

This is another card with versatility up the wazoo. Want to pick your own bonus categories to fit your startup? The US Bank Cash+ Visa Signature card might be the one for you.

US Bank Cash+ Visa Signature
credit cards for startups
Annual Fee $0
APR Variable, 15.24% – 24.24%
Signup Bonus $150 if you spend $500 in the first 90 days
Rewards 5% cash back on two categories of your choice ($2,000 purchase limit per quarter)
Unlimited 2% cash back on an everyday category of your choice (gas, groceries, restaurants, etc)
1% cash back on all other net purchases
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The US Bank Cash+ Visa Signature card has no annual fee, though the introductory 0% APR for the first 12 months only applies to balances transferred within 60 days of opening the card.

Here’s where the versatility comes in: You’ll get 5% cash back on the first $2,000 worth of purchases per quarter in two categories of your choosing. According to US Bank, category options are subject to change on a quarterly basis, but as of January 2018, these categories are:

  • Ground Transportation
  • Select Clothing Stores
  • Cell Phones
  • Electronics Stores
  • Car Rentals
  • Gyms/Fitness Centers
  • Bookstores
  • Fast Food
  • Sporting Goods Stores
  • Department Stores
  • Furniture Stores
  • Movie Theaters

Furthermore, you’ll get unlimited 2% cash back on one “everyday” category of your choosing:

  • Gas Stations
  • Groceries
  • Restaurants

Lastly, all other eligible net purchases earn 1% cash back.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to remember to log in to choose new bonus categories every quarter. Also, the cash rewards expire after three years, you can’t transfer the cash to other rewards programs, and there is a 3% foreign transaction fee. The credit score requirements are pretty steep as well. On the plus side, there are no limits on the total amount of cash back you can earn and no minimum redemption amount.

Capital One Quicksilver

The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card is a good option for the new business owner whose expenses don’t fit neatly into approved categories.

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards
credit cards for entrepreneurs
Annual Fee $0
APR Variable, 14.24%-24.24%
Signup Bonus $150 if you spend $500 in the first three months
Rewards Automatic 1.5% cash back on all purchases
50% back as a statement credit on your monthly Spotify Premium subscription (runs through April 2018)
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The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card bears some similarities to the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. There’s no annual fee, and you’ll get a 0% intro APR for 9 months. It’s a shorter 0% APR period than that provided by some other cards, however.

This is another card for those who can’t be bothered keeping track of rotating categories of rewards-eligible purchases. The Capital One Quicksilver will see you earning unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, with no caps on how much you earn and no minimum redemption thresholds.

If you like to have music on while in the office (whether that office is an actual office space or your living room), you’re in luck. From now through April 2018, you’ll get 50% back as a statement credit on your Spotify Premium subscription. Keep on rockin’ in the fee world!

(See what I did there? Do you think that was tweet-worthy?)

One advantage this card has over Chase Freedom Unlimited is that Capital One Quicksilver has no foreign transaction fee. On the downside: the card carries a 3% balance transfer fee.

Discover it – Cashback Match

Let’s say you’re an entrepreneur who makes a lot of purchases through Amazon or wholesale clubs. You might want to consider the Discover it – Cashback Match card.

Discover it – Cashback Match
credit cards for startups
Annual Fee $0
APR Variable, 12.24% – 24.24%
Signup Bonus Discover will match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year
Rewards 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories, changing quarterly
1% cash back on all other purchases
Rewards are usable at the Amazon.com checkout
Visit Site

In addition to the above, you’ll get an introductory 0% APR on both purchases and balance transfers for the first 14 months.

With this card, you can get 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories on your first $1,500 spent per quarter. Discover’s bonus categories for 2018 are:

  • Q1 2018: Gas stations and wholesale clubs
  • Q2 2018: Grocery stores
  • Q3 2018: Restaurants
  • Q4 2018: Amazon.com and wholesale clubs

With Discover matching all the rewards you earn over the first year, you should accumulate a healthy supply of cash back. You can put that cash back to use in the following ways:

  • Pay with rewards at the Amazon.com checkout
  • Gift cards with at least $5 added to each
  • Deposit to your bank account or apply to your Discover credit card bill
  • Make a charitable donation

It’s not a spectacular card for the frequent flyer (though there is no foreign transaction fee), but for the land-bound entrepreneur who doesn’t mind keeping track of the rotating categories, the Discover it – Cashback Match card provides plenty of value.

Travel Cards

Not all entrepreneurs need to travel for business, but for those who do, a travel rewards program can be a godsend. The following personal credit cards can help you maximize your current travel spending and earn valuable points towards any future hotel stays, flights, and car rentals you’ll book as your business continues to grow.

American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card

Here’s a great card for the entrepreneur who travels a lot: the AmEx Premier Rewards Gold card.

AmEx Premier Rewards Gold
credit cards for entrepreneurs
Annual Fee $0 for the first year, $195 subsequently
APR N/A (charge card)
Signup Bonus Make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months and get 25,000 rewards points
Rewards $100 annual airline fee credit for incidental fees
3 reward points per dollar when you book a flight directly with an airline
2 points per dollar at gas stations, supermarkets and restaurants in the US
1 point per dollar on all other purchases
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Keep in mind that this is a charge card, not a traditional credit card. In other words, you’ll have to pay the entire balance every month.

If your startup has you going to and fro, you’re in luck, because this card’s rewards are tailored to the frequent traveler and will easily offset the $195 annual fee that kicks in the second year. First off, there’s a juicy signup bonus: you’ll earn 25,000 rewards points if you make $2,000 in purchases within the first three months of signing up (terms apply).

The big rewards come when you book flights. You get three reward points per dollar when booking a flight — the only drawback is that you’ll have to book the flight directly with the airline, and airline websites suck (the prices are higher, too). You’ll get a further two points per dollar at US gas stations, supermarkets and restaurants, and one point per dollar on all other purchases.

Another factor for the frequent-flying entrepreneur to consider is that the Premier Rewards Gold has no foreign transaction fee. Of course, American Express is less accepted internationally than Visa and Mastercard, so you’ll want to carry a backup card when traveling.

Capital One Venture Rewards

Here’s another card from Capital One — this one’s a versatile travel card for the entrepreneur on the go.

Capital One Venture Rewards
credit cards for startups
Annual Fee $0 for the first year, $95 subsequently
APR Variable, 14.24% – 24.24%
Signup Bonus Earn 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months (equal to $500 in travel)
Rewards Earn two miles per dollar on every purchase
Use your miles to fly any airline and stay at any hotel
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The Venture card is designed to immediately reward the frequent traveler. Earn the equivalent of $500 for travel after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. After that point, you’ll earn unlimited 2x miles per dollar on all purchases. This means that if you rack up $500 in charges on your card in a given month, you’ll get 1,000 miles that month. Not too shabby!

The Venture gives you a great deal of flexibility in how you use your travel rewards. You can either book flights, hotels, and rental cars directly through Capital One or you can book these things anywhere you like and use the company’s Purchase Eraser tool to get a statement credit for what you spent. This way, you won’t be locked into using a particular airline or hotel chain or booking site.

Unfortunately, if you want to redeem your miles for cash back or non-travel purchases, they will be worth half of what they would be worth if applied to travel purchases. Thankfully, the card has no international transaction fees. Plus, there are no blackout dates, no expiration dates, and no limits on the number of miles you can accrue.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Here’s a travel-oriented card that might be even more flexible than the Venture: the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

Chase Sapphire Preferred
credit cards for entrepreneurs
Annual Fee $0 for the first year, $95 subsequently
APR Variable, 17.24% – 24.24%
Signup Bonus Get 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months ($625 when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards)
Rewards Two points per dollar on travel and restaurants
One point per dollar on all other purchases
Get 25% more value for your points when making travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Transfer your points to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs on a 1:1 basis
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The Chase Sapphire Preferred card comes with some sweet bonuses. Not only will you get 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months, but you’ll also get another 5,000 bonus points if you add an authorized user in those first three months and they make a purchase.

With this card, not only do you get two points per dollar when spending on travel and restaurants and one point per dollar on all other purchases, but you can transfer your points — on a 1:1 basis — to the following airline and hotel loyalty programs:

Airlines

  • Air France/KLM
  • British Airways
  • Korean Air
  • Singapore KrisFlyer
  • Southwest
  • United
  • Virgin Atlantic

Hotels

  • Hyatt
  • Marriott
  • Priority Club/InterContinental Hotels Group
  • Ritz-Carlton

What’s more, your points will be worth $0.0125 apiece if you redeem them for travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards. There’s no foreign transaction fee, either. You will have to pay a $95 annual fee after the first year, though.

Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

This next card isn’t for everyone, but the well-heeled flight-hopping entrepreneur with something to prove should enjoy the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard.

Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
credit cards for entrepreneurs
Annual Fee $450
APR Variable, 16.99% – 24.99%
Signup Bonus Get 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases in the first three months
Rewards Admirals Club membership for you and your guests
Earn 10,000 AAdvantage Elite Qualifying Miles after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
Earn two AAdvantage miles for every dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and one AAdvantage mile for every dollar spent on other purchases
First checked bag is free on domestic AA flights for you and eight companions
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For the entrepreneur with the means to get around in style, the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard has quite the bag of perks. From the 50,000 AAdvantage bonus miles if you spend $5,000 within the first three months to the automatic Admirals Club membership (a $550/year value) to the AAdvantage miles you’ll be racking up, this card brings significant value the table. However, that value doesn’t come cheap — note the eye-popping $450 annual fee! If you really want that Admirals Club membership, however, it’s a cost-effective way of getting it.

For this card to be worth it for you, you have to be a frequent American Airlines flyer with a burning desire to hang out in AA Admirals Club lounges. If you spend a big chunk of your life in airports and want to get away from the hoi polloi, this card gives you the opportunity to pay for that privilege. You’ll also get 25% savings on in-flight purchases, a $100 credit for the TSA PreCheck program every 5 years, and the absence of a foreign transaction fee.

Final Thoughts

Entrepreneurs deserve a credit card that fits their particular needs. For many, a personal credit card can do the job just fine, and with greater legal protections. If it’s a business card you’re after, check out our piece on the best business credit cards for 2018.

The post The Best Personal Credit Cards For Business Expenses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Complete Guide to Credit Card Transaction Fees

Are there days when you wonder if it’s even worth it to accept credit cards at your business? Do those days happen to correspond with the days you receive your monthly card processing statements? Hmm…interesting coincidence.

We know that accepting plastic is usually worth the cost in the end, whether or not you occasionally fantasize about the good ol’ days of all cash. Still, there’s no denying that card processing fees add up fast. It can be hard to determine where they are all coming from and why they are being charged. Some fees are automatically charged monthly, while others are charged consistently on a per-transaction basis. Still others are charged on a per-transaction basis but only under certain circumstances. Is your head already spinning?

Fortunately, Merchant Maverick has great resources on all things related to card processing costs. I’ll direct you to these as we go along. As you may have caught from the title, this post will focus specifically on credit card transaction fees. (Okay, we’ll throw debit cards in there too). Let’s begin by defining what we mean by “transaction fees.”

A broad definition of “transaction fee”

When most people think of “credit card transaction fees,” I’m pretty sure they’re thinking of the following definition: anything you are charged on a per-transaction basis. If you want an introduction to all of these various fees, this article might not be for you. Please see our Complete Guide to Rates and Fees for more generalized rate and fee information first. If, however, you are looking at your processing statement and want to figure out what some of the specific “nickel and dime” transaction fees mean, read on!

A more precise definition

In the payment processing industry, the term “transaction fee” can actually mean something a bit more specific. We often limit the use of the term to fees charged as a flat dollar amount per transaction. These are the fees we will examine in this post. We will not be looking at percentage-based fees here. Percentage-based fees are often referred to as processing “rates” rather than fees.

Why am I charged flat per-transaction fees?

Per-transaction fees are usually less than one dollar. Sometimes, they are even fractions of one cent. So why do they even exist, especially if you’re already getting charged a percentage of each sale? Is this just another excuse for “The Man” to squeeze you dry, $0.0001 at a time?

I find it helpful to think of these fees as what you pay for the privilege of using pieces of the processing system each time you run a card. Whatever costs are involved in transmitting, encrypting, storing, looking up, verifying, authorizing or otherwise handling the transaction and card data ought to be covered by flat per-transaction amounts. After all, data is data, no matter if the transaction was $5 or $5,000. We’re just moving electrons around in either case. In contrast, costs based on the percentage of the volume of the transaction cover the relative risk involved in handling different amounts of money.

Why should I keep a close eye on transaction fees?

Here are a few reasons transaction fees deserve your attention:

  • They are often “small” — sometimes even fractions of a cent — but can add up quickly
  • There are lots of different types
  • They tend to have odd or vague names and abbreviations
  • The names and abbreviations are not necessarily standardized across the industry
  • It’s hard to decipher exactly what function each one serves
  • It’s easy for merchant account providers to sneak in extra, unnecessary ones
  • It’s easy for providers markup existing, legitimate ones

How are transaction fees labeled on a statement?

Honestly, the nomenclature for transaction fees is all over the map. We’ll dive into some of the specific names and abbreviations for individual fees as we go. Fortunately, most statements will at least divide any percentage of volume charges and any per-transaction fees into two separate columns. Here are some common headings for flat per-transaction charges:

  • Item rate
  • Item fee
  • Sale item fee
  • Per item
  • Per item rate
  • Per item fee
  • P/I
  • Disc P/I
  • Tran fee
  • Trans fee

When you match up the main column heading to the individual name or abbreviation of each charge along the left-hand side of a statement, you should have a good idea of what the fee is and how much you’re charged each time. Pay attention to the number of transactions that incurred the fee too. This will often help clarify the fee’s identity and purpose.

Where will I encounter transaction fees?

1. Interchange Rates

The interchange rates (a.k.a., interchange reimbursement fee, wholesale rate, or discount rate) are decided upon by the card networks. Interchange rates differ depending on card and transaction type, but most are composed of a percentage of volume rate and a flat per-transaction fee. Interchange costs are considered non-negotiable for merchants.

2. Your Processor’s Markup

Depending on your pricing model (e.g., tiered, blended, interchange-plus, subscription), your processor’s markup will be handled differently. The markup over interchange may already be lumped in with your overall rate, or interchange may be charged separately from the markup. In other words, whatever is quoted as your “processing rate” may or may not have interchange already included. If you’re not sure which pricing model you have, check out our complete rate and fee guide. What you need to know going forward is that your rate — whether it’s just your provider’s markup or a blend of their markup and interchange — may include a percentage fee and a flat per-transaction fee component. And, depending on the pricing model, it may include just one or the other type of charge.

3. Card Brand Fees

These fees are collected by card networks — Visa, MasterCard, etc. — and most of them are charged on a transactional basis. Like the interchange costs, they’re considered non-negotiable, pass-through costs by your merchant account provider, so watch out to make sure they don’t get marked up! Card association fees may involve a percentage of volume or a flat, per-transaction charge, depending on what the fee is supposed to cover (catching a theme here?).

Dharma, one of our preferred merchant account providers, maintains a handy list of card brand fees. I’ll list just a few examples below. Each card brand tends to have fees that cover the same kind of things, but with frustratingly different names, just to annoy us all. As you might expect, Visa and MasterCard’s fees line up more closely than the other card brands.

  • Assessments: This is the main card brand fee. In fact, sometimes people just use “assessments” as a blanket term for all card brand fees. Visa charges 0.13% + $0.0195 per transaction for all your Visa credit card sales, for example. We might call the second piece — the $0.0195 — a “transaction fee” by our working definition. Sometimes, that flat per-transaction bit is separated out and called the Acquirer Processing Fee (APF). For MasterCard, the flat per transaction part of the assessment is called the Network Access and Brand Usage Fee (NABU). Note that some blended pricing plans may already incorporate these assessment costs into your rate quote.
  • Fees for Transaction Problems: Some card brand transaction fees only kick in if something out of the ordinary happens, such as when there’s been a mistake, mismatch, or omission in the way the transaction was processed. This includes fees with exciting names such as the Zero Floor Limit Fee, Misuse of Authorization Fee, and Transaction Integrity Fee.

4. Authorization & Authorization-Related Fees

All transactions require some kind of authorization. If the card is accepted, the authorization turns into a full-blown transaction. If the card is declined, then an authorization procedure has taken place without a transaction ultimately occurring. This means that you can potentially have more authorizations (and authorization fees) than transactions that actually go through.

So how do processors cover authorization costs? Well, some providers bake any authorization costs into the flat per-transaction fee that comes with your rate quote. In my mind, that’s exactly what any flat per-transaction fee charged by your processor should cover. Nevertheless, the technical difference between a transaction and an authorization is part of the reason why you’ll often see them broken down into separate categories and fees.

If you’re on a pricing plan that has no per-item flat fees, you can bet that authorization costs have been covered by a higher percentage of volume charge, or by some other piece of your plan’s overall fee structure. Meanwhile, there are definitely a few authorization and authorization-related costs that are commonly charged separately:

  • AVS Fee: The Address Verification Service is accessed as part of every keyed-in transaction to provide an additional layer of fraud protection. The card’s billing address is requested and verified before authorization is given. eCommerce and telephone-order businesses must use this service every single time they authorize a transaction. Consequently, many quoted rates for eCommerce and card-not-present transactions already have an AVS charge included as part of the flat per-transaction fee. But some don’t! If you run mostly card-not-present transactions, you’ll definitely want this matter clarified up front. Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar merchants will only see an AVS charge on the odd occasion that they must manually key-in the customers’ card info.
  • Gateway Fees: Payment gateways are used to authorize transactions that occur via the internet only. Since not every business needs one, gateways are often separate add-ons to merchant accounts, with separate fees. Gateway fee structures usually involve a monthly fee, and sometimes a flat per-transaction fee as well. You can see how costs could add up quickly for an eCommerce business if there was gateway fee, plus an AVS fee, plus a main transaction fee, plus a separate authorization fee! Thankfully, many eCommerce payment providers will charge a gateway fee in lieu of the AVS fee, or just charge one main “transaction fee” that covers everything. The important thing is to know the exact set-up for your account.
  • Voice Authorization Fee: This is a telephone dial-up service for transaction authorization. When a transaction is outside the normal range of a particular customer’s purchasing behavior, a voice authorization may be triggered. The customer will need to provide additional information over the phone to verify he or she is, in fact, the cardholder. Occasionally, merchants use this service as a backup if their terminal, internet connection, or software isn’t working to authorize transactions. Most businesses will rarely need this service, but it’s typically a per-transaction, flat fee if you do.
  • Other Authorization Fees: You’re gonna hate me for saying this, but there are lots of other authorizations that could be charged in addition to the regular “transaction fee” that’s part of a normal rate quote. Many of these charges come from the large processor behind the scenes of a merchant account, such as First Data, Elavon, or TSYS. This means your smaller merchant account provider might consider them as “pass-through” from their perspective, providing a convenient little excuse not to bring them up. The authorizations are usually named for the way the authorization is communicated, such as over a toll-free number, a “wide area telephone service” (a.k.a. WAT or WATS), a local phone number (LOC), digital data over voice, a dial-up point of sale device, carrier pigeon, stagecoach…you get the idea. So, if that’s the way your transactions are normally processed, you could get charged the corresponding fee every single time.

Final Thoughts: How can I keep my transaction fees under control?

You can’t avoid the fact that when it comes to card processing, multiple entities will whittle away at your profit, one tiny piece at a time. (You were tired of having money anyway, right?) The good news is that with a little time spent educating yourself on transaction fees, you can begin to spot any that are suspiciously high, and perhaps some that shouldn’t be there at all.

Here are a few actions steps, as well as questions to ask your merchant account provider about your transaction fees:

  • Know your pricing model. You should know what type of pricing model you have and which non-negotiable fees (i.e., interchange fees, card brand fees) are already blended into your rates.
  • Before you sign up for a merchant account, ask for a sample processing statement. If they agree to give you one (most good providers will), it may not have every possible transaction fee represented. However, you can still begin to familiarize yourself with their terminology, abbreviations, and categories for fees. It helps to have something concrete in front of you that you can ask questions about. Plus, you’ll have a baseline for spotting unexpected fees later.
  • Ask specifically about transactions fees and authorizations. Don’t be afraid to press your merchant account provider about transaction fees. “Will the transaction fee that’s part of the processing rate I’ve been quoted be the only transaction fee I’ll be charged? Are there any other separate authorization fees I should expect to see on the bulk of my transactions?” POS-WAT or POS-WATS is one that comes up a lot as an extra authorization charge for brick-and-mortar merchants, so you could even ask about that one as an example. If your sales rep can’t adequately answer these questions, ask to be put through to someone who can.
  • Card-not-present merchants: be especially aware of AVS and Gateway fees. All eCommerce and other card-not-present transactions will need to access the Address Verification Service to complete the authorization. This means eCommerce merchants should specifically ask if this fee is already included in your normal transaction fee, or if it will be a separate charge. eCommerce merchants should also inquire as to whether an additional gateway per-transaction fee is part of the pricing plan or if it’s already covered by the main transaction fee in your rate quote. Knowing whether these fees are already included in your rate will also help you better compare costs between providers.
  • Carefully review your statements. Even though this is the Complete Guide to Credit Card Transaction Fees, we couldn’t possibly cover every authorization, strange abbreviation, or totally made-up term your provider may use to identify each of the fees on your statement. Sneaky merchant account providers may mark up card brand fees, or invent tiny transaction fees that add up over time. Then, they’ll name their fees in confusing ways to cover their tracks. If you’re not sure about a certain interchange or card brand fee on your statement, you can usually look it up to see if 1) it’s a valid fee in the first place, and 2) the established price is what you’re being charged. If these wholesale costs were supposed to be blended into your rates, you should still keep an eye out for extra transaction fees charged separately. Compare what you were told when you signed up with what you see on your statement.
  • Watch out for multiple authorizations. Really, you shouldn’t be charged multiple times to authorize one transaction. At most, there may be an extra security step and fee involved (like in the case of AVS for eCommerce transactions). But even in that case, good providers will either charge you one flat per-transaction fee to cover authorization costs, or fully disclose additional fees like AVS, Voice Authorization or a backend processor’s pass-through authorization if it’s charged separately. The most exasperating fees are extra authorizations you were never told about, but that occur on pretty much every transaction. The only way to catch these is to scan your statement carefully for those flat per-transaction charges.

The post The Complete Guide to Credit Card Transaction Fees appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Small Business Taxes: What Information Does My Accountant Need?

What Information to Bring Accountant for Small Business Taxes

Preparing small business taxes by yourself can be daunting, so hiring an accountant or tax expert is a great way to save time and create peace of mind this tax season. However, you don’t want to show up to your tax appoinment empty handed. Accountants expect you to bring certain documents and be prepared with the information that is needed to complete your tax return.

In this post, we’ll talk about the specific information an accountant needs in order to file your small business taxes. We’ll also provide expert tips and tricks along the way to help make this the easiest tax season yet.

Personal Information

First things first. You will need to furnish your accountant with basic personal information including your legal name, current address, and social security number. The easiest way to provide this information is to bring your social security card to your tax appointment.

If you have an Employer Identification Number (EIN), you will need to provide it, along with your legal business name.

Previous Year’s Tax Return

Make sure to come with your previous year’s tax return. This 1) helps them get a better understanding of your business and 2) gives quick information about the deductions your company has (or hasn’t) been taking.

Financial Business Reports

Your accountant will need copies of your basic financial reports. These include:

  • Profit and Loss Report (or the Income Statement)
  • Balance Sheet
  • Statement of Cash flows

The profit and loss report shows your business’s overall profit ( or loss) for the year, while the balance sheet displays your company’s assets and liabilities. The statement of cash flows shows all transactions affecting your business’s cash account.

Jessica Kent, of the Houston Chronicle, suggests bringing copies of your general ledger and trial balance report as well.

You should be able to print these basic financial reports from nearly any accounting software program, though report availability varies from software to software. Contact your accountant or tax preparer to see if there are any additional reports they might require or find helpful.

Tax Forms

The tax forms your business is required to fill out depends entirely on your business type. These are the forms that may be required for your business:

  • Freelancers and Sole Proprietors: 1040, Schedule C, Schedule C-EZ, 1040-SE
  • Partnerships: 1065, 940, 941, 943
  • S Corporations: 1120-S, Schedule K-1, 940, 941, 943
  • Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs): 1065, 1120-S, Schedule K
  • Single Member Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs): 1040, Schedule C, Schedule E, Schedule F

To be certain about which forms your company is required to file, visit the IRS’s Forms and Instructions for Filing and Paying Business Taxes page. Here you will find specific forms and instructions for each business type. Bring the necessary forms to your accountant in order to file your tax return.

Note that your tax filing date may be affected by your business type. Read Entrepreneur’s First Time Business Owners: A Brief Guide to Tax Filings to learn more about when your business’s taxes are due.

Asset Infomation

Your accountant will need to know about any assets you’ve bought, sold, or depreciated during the last year. Bring any receipts, documents, or reports related to your assets and fixed assets.

Tip: Some accounting programs have fixed asset reports or fixed asset listing that you can run.

Loan Information

You’ll also need information on your business’s loans. If you’ve acquired a new loan in the last year, bring the loan agreement with you. Also, bring records of any loan payments and/or accrued interest. This will ensure that your accountant is up to date on your company’s total assets and liabilities.

Income Records

To verify the income amount on your profit and loss statement, you will need to provide your accountant with income records. According to Kent:

An accountant may request copies of bank statements, deposit slips or sales invoices.

Be sure to have these records available.

Expense Records

In order for your accountant to verify your company’s expenses and find you the correct deductions, you’ll need to bring several types of expense records as well, including:

  • Receipts
  • Bills
  • Bank statements
  • Credit card statements
  • 1098 Mortgage Interest and Property Taxes form

Be sure to keep these expense record, especially your companies business receipts, well-organized. Not only will your accountant thank you for not handing them a shoebox of receipts, your wallet will thank you too.

What Information to Bring Accountant for Small Business TaxesThe more time your accountant has to spend on your tax return, the more money you pay, so make everything as seamless and easy for them as possible.

Deductible Expense Information

Some business expenses require more than just receipts. So if you’re planning on claiming any of the following deductions, make sure you bring the proper information to your accountant:

  • Home Office Deduction: If you have a separate home office that is used exclusively for business, you may be eligible for the home office deduction. The home office deduction is heavily scrutinized by the IRS. For this reason, make sure you have the proper documentation. The popular credit card processing company Square suggests:

If you have a home office, be sure to take along information related to it. This includes the square footage of your home and the office. In addition, give your accountant the amounts you paid for your mortgage or rent, insurance and utilities, and any repairs you made to your home office.

  • Mileage Log: If you use your vehicle for business purchases, you also may be eligible for a vehicle deduction. Be sure to track all of your mileage throughout the year and bring this log to your accountant or tax professional, along with any receipts related to car expenses. Learn more about how the vehicle deduction is calculated.
  • Travel: Businesses can write off meals, travel, and entertainment expenses. This deduction also can be a red flag for an IRS audit depending whether expenses appear “lavish or extravagant.” For this reason, be sure to bring all receipts and any travel tickets or itineraries to your tax appointment.
  • Donations: If your company makes charitable donations, be sure to bring all documents related to your donations, including receipts and any statements you may receive.

Payroll Data

Your accountant or tax professional will also need your payroll data from the year. Bring copies of your employees W-2s, W-3s, and 1099-MISCs. Also gather health insurance records (as these can count as a business deduction) and any information regarding bonuses.

Inventory Total

Several tax forms require a COGS (Cost of Goods Sold) closing balance for the year. You should already have taken an opening balance of your inventory at the beginning of 2017. Now do another inventory count and bring the results to your accountant so they can properly fill out your tax return.

Other

Bring information related to all stocks and bonds your business has attained or sold during the year. You’ll also need a record of any owner’s investments made into or withdrawn from the company during the year. Square says:

As the owner of a sole proprietorship or LLC, you probably pay yourself by making withdrawals from the business. Your accountant will want to know about these withdrawals made to you personally, plus any information on any investments made by you.

Contact your accountant directly before your tax appointment to see if there is any other information they require.

Final Tax Tips

In addition to having all of your documents ready to go, there are a few other things you can do to be prepared for tax season.

Communicate With Your Accountant

On their blog, Square suggests that talking to your accountant is the key to a successful tax appointment:

…accountants may have a checklist of what they need. When you call to make your appointment, be sure to ask for this checklist.

Start Early

Geoff Williams, in the article 7 Things Tax Preparers Wish We Would Do, says being timely is imperative:

Get your paperwork to your tax preparer early…February is fantastic. March, especially the first half, is fine. But…if you give your material to your tax preparer on April 1, don’t be upset if you end up having to file an extension.

Be Prepared

The popular invoicing software FreshBooks recommends staying on top of your accounting processes:

Keeping proper accounting records throughout the year can make it a lot easier to prepare your return at tax time.

In her article How To Prepare Records for Your Accountant, Susan Ward reminds businesses that being unprepared can cost you, literally:

Accountants are paid by the hour, so the harder you make their job, the more it will cost you.

Stay Organized

One of the biggest ways you can save your business money is by being organized. Having all of your tax information together only goes so far. You accountant or tax preparer needs to be able to find and understand your records with ease. Organizing your business information can make or break a tax appointment.

Final Thoughts

Taking the extra time to gather and organize the proper tax information will help make the tax return process a breeze. If you want to learn how your accounting software can make this process even easier, read How Your Business Accounting Software Can Help You File 2018 Taxes or download our free 2018 Tax Prep Checklist. As always, good luck and happy filing!

The post Small Business Taxes: What Information Does My Accountant Need? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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6 POS Systems That Are Good At Inventory Management

When casually shopping for a new point of sale system it’s easy to focus on things like the software’s price point, its design, and how simple it is to use. But, for any sizable retail or restaurant establishment, one of the most important components of a POS system is its inventory management.

Most of the top systems on the market come with built-in inventory tools, but each one is different in terms of the features and functionality on offer. There’s really no excuse to stick with a system that can’t quickly help you analyze your inventory and determine how to maximize your profits. Read on for a look at a few point of sale systems that have exemplary inventory management functions.

Vend

Vend (see our review) does a lot of things well (that’s why it’s already earned one of our coveted 5-star ratings). It numbers among the most user-friendly systems on the market, requiring very little training to install or operate. Vend is continually updating and integrates with dozens of companies. With a limited free option and plans starting $69 a month, Vend is also budget friendly.

Vend’s inventory management is easy to maneuver without sacrificing functionality. This POS allows you to import a CSV file to easily transfer large amounts of inventory. You can also import existing barcodes or print new ones. There is a wide variety of options for organizing your products, making it possible to build customizable reports. The centralized product catalog is also a nice function.

Vend comes with a built-in way to automate promotions, making it possible to set discounts across multiple stores or create discounts for individual customers. Stock orders can be automatically generated once a certain item dips below a set point. What’s more, Scanner by Vend simplifies stock counts.

Lavu

While Lavu (read our review) is best suited for the restaurant or food service industry, its inventory management feature is robust enough to handle smaller retail stores as well. Lavu has a simple and modern interface and is customizable to your business needs, whether you need table management for a restaurant or are just operating a food cart or cafe. It also starts at just $59 a month with a contract, making it highly affordable. Best of all, its inventory management is top-notch. As you might expect, Lavu has real-time inventory monitoring which immediately informs servers when an item is low or out of stock.

You can choose for purchase orders to automatically update or create them manually. It’s also easy to transfer inventory items from restaurant to restaurant or order items from a warehouse directly from your POS. Lavu provides easy-to-read reports on what items are selling well at individual locations and can track customer trends to help diagnose profitable items.

Hike

Hike (read our review) is an affordable retail system (starting at $49 a month) with surprisingly robust inventory management that could also be utilized for small food carts or cafes. Hike’s mobility makes it a nice option for businesses that want their employees to be able to interact on the floor with customers; its employee management is also strong. The system can handle an unlimited number of products and is custom made to handle large amounts of inventory. Custom barcodes on receipts make it easy to look up products. Virtually everything can be automated, from re-ordering to setting up reminders and shipping items between stores.

Hike’s purchase ordering is intuitive, as is its ability to track orders online. Inventory can be quickly imported in bulk, and a central inventory system makes it possible to keep tabs on your stock across multiple locations from one system. You can schedule a full or partial inventory count in advance to save time as well. There are myriad categories and subcategories that you can place items into, making it easy to search for them.

NCR Silver

NCR Silver Review

NCR is a behemoth of a company, but it has carved out a nice niche in the POS world and continues to impress. NCR Silver (check out our review) offers strong customer support and was created with the business owner in mind, featuring an interface that can get customers through the line quickly. Pricing starts at $79 a month with an annual contract.

NCR is one of the rare products whose inventory management is equally strong for both retail and restaurant establishments. Inventory can be viewed in real-time and, for larger businesses with multiple locations, it’s easy to toggle back and forth from store to store to check product amounts. Like with Hike, many of the inventory functions can be automated to save employee hours. Orders can be made automatically once stock drops below a certain level, and variations for products, like size and color, can easily be added.

For restaurants, forced and optional modifiers can be added to boost sales. The Inventory Snapshot feature also lets you see the total inventory you have on hand at any given moment. NCR Silver’s analytics, predicting item sales and profits from inventory, are also top notch.

Revel

revel systems pos

Revel (read our review) has emerged as one of the big players in the POS world and stays at the forefront of the industry with constant updates and expanding integrations. Featuring a flexible pricing structure, the company is equipped for both restaurant and retail businesses and its inventory management has all of the functions you would want in an easily digestible format.

Revel offers a convenient style matrix for adding large amounts of inventory en masse with customizable category options for easy searches. For restaurants, it’s easy to check out ingredient levels and costs. Revel allows you to create your own purchase orders, including a convenient function where you can note if only a partial order arrives. As with some of the other systems, inventory levels can be viewed in real time and alerts can be set up when products are running low — or you can have the system automatically order new stock. Revel also has an inventory app that can be downloaded, turning your phone into a scanner.

talech

talech review

talech (check out our review) continues to be one of the more underrated POS systems on the market. Like Revel, talech updates constantly and can integrate with virtually every credit card processor. With plans starting at $62 a month with a full year’s payment, it’s also relatively affordable.

This highly customizable and scalable software is a strong option for small to mid-sized food and retail businesses, and one of its biggest pluses is its strong inventory management system. There is an option to create your own barcodes as a PDF, saving money on hardware. The inventory log makes tracking products and assessing their viability simple. Items can also be bundled and sold as a single unit while still tracking and recording each individual item to analyze later. talech is a nice product for businesses with more than one location, as discounts and other pricing changes can all be managed remotely from a single station. While talech isn’t quite as robust in some other features as its competitors, it more than holds its own in terms of inventory management, making it an affordable option.

Final Thoughts

Price, ease-of-use, and aesthetics matter, but depending on what type of business you operate, strong inventory management may actually be the most important feature to look for when shopping for a POS. Before purchasing a new system, do your research and ask as many questions as you can about the inventory features available. Whenever possible, take advantage of free trials.

Good luck, and happy selling!

The post 6 POS Systems That Are Good At Inventory Management appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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12 Tips For Preventing A Business Tax Audit

Tips To Preventing a Tax Audit

As a small business owner during tax season, it can sometimes feel that you’re sitting on a ticking time bomb. Will you be audited this year? When? How? WHY?!

But, while the IRS does review some tax returns at random, most audits are in response to an error or discrepancy — and believe it or not, the percentage of tax returns that get audited is surprisingly small. Still, we don’t want you to be numbered among the few. Stop the audit clock by filing your taxes carefully and avoiding red flags.

In this post, we’ll cover 12 tips that should help you prevent a tax audit and file your taxes with confidence. We’ll also talk about which accounting reports you’ll want on hand if you do happen to get audited so you can survive the ordeal with ease.

1. File On Time

A no-brainer, right? But if you fail to file your taxes on time, you automatically put an audit target on your back. Filing on time also ensures that you don’t have to pay the IRS late filing penalty.

2. Don’t Forget To Sign

This also seems like a no-brainer, but according to Investopedia’s Glenn Curtis, a large number of people forget to actually sign their tax returns. In the article Avoid an Audit: 6 “Red Flags” You Should Know, Curtis says:

Failure to sign the return will almost guarantee that it will receive additional scrutiny. The IRS will wonder what else you might have forgotten to include in the return.

3. Double-Check The Math

When it comes to the totals on your tax forms, it’s imperative to double-check (or even triple-check) your math. The IRS often audits tax returns that contain math errors and discrepancies between forms.

Remember (and this is important): Even if you hire a professional accountant or tax expert, you’ll want to double-check their work. Ensure that all the numbers are correct and consistent before you send off your tax return.

4. Record All Income

When it comes to taxes, honesty really is the best policy. Don’t omit any income in your tax report, no matter how piddling the amount. Report all of the income you’ve earned during the tax year, including any assets you sold.

If your business grosses a large amount of money each year, you automatically incur a higher risk of audit. The BBB (Better Business Bureau) suggests:

If you fall under this category, be mindful of your increased audit potential and take extra time when preparing and reviewing your taxes. Stay organized and keep meticulous records, in case you are audited.

The BBB adds that small business owners need to be extra careful when editing transactions as these can affect the income total reflected on your taxes.

Small businesses should be wary of modifying invoices and payments within their accountings system from prior periods because the adjustments can potentially generate discrepancies in gross sales and the sales tax liabilities for that period.

A great way to avoid this problem is to close out your accounting periods and protect them with security codes. That way, only users with the code (preferably your admin and accountant) can make changes to old invoices and expenses. Software programs like Xero and QuickBooks Pro make closing your accounting periods easy. These programs also allow you to set user permissions to control each user’s access.

5. Don’t Overestimate Expenses

In the same way, don’t overestimate the amount you spent on expenses in an attempt to lower the amount of taxes you owe. Be precise and honest about all business expenses. Keep solid records of your receipts and be sure the expenses you claim truly are business expenses, not personal expenses.

If you use a personal bank account for your business, be sure to carefully separate your personal and business expenses. Some accounting software programs, like Wave and Xero TaxTouch, allow you to easily separate these expenses.

6. Don’t Round Numbers

This goes hand-in-hand with not overestimating expenses. Don’t round numbers on your tax forms, either up or down. If you spent have $792.84 in office supplies expense for the year, put $792.84, not $793.00 (and definitely not $800).

Round numbers can be an indication of laziness, lack of precision, and even dishonesty — not exactly characteristics you want to display to the IRS.

7. Be Careful With Deductions

Tax deductions are great. However, certain often-abused tax deductions can draw the attention the IRS. Here are some of the most scrutinized deductions:

  • Home Office Deduction: If you claim the home office deduction, be sure to deduct the exact amount you qualify for. If you claim too much, or your home office deduction changes year after year, you may risk a tax audit.
  • Meals, Travel & Entertainment: The IRS allows you to write off 50% of your meals, travel, and entertainment business expenses. However, if this deduction seems too excessive for your business type and income bracket, you may risk a task audit.
  • Charitable Donations: While charitable deductions are commendable, incredibly large charitable donations can raise red flags for the IRS.

Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the deductions you are owed (and it especially doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make charitable donations).

Take all of the deductions you qualify for, but be completely honest and especially careful with these  deductions. If you qualify for a deduction that is abnormal for your business size or type, be sure to have clear, precise records to show the IRS in case of a tax audit.

In his article The Top 10 Ways To Avoid An IRS or State Audit, attorney and CPA Mark J. Kohler suggests:

When necessary, include additional information with your return, to substantiate expenses and oddities that might catch the IRS’ attention. If your file gets handed off to an agent for further review, a real human can sometimes choose to bypass your return for an audit because you already provided the support the revenue agent was looking for.

Read What Can I Write Off As A Small Business Tax Deduction? for more details about the deductions you may qualify for.

8. Use Schedule Cs With Caution

If you are a self-employed taxpayer, you are probably very familiar with the Schedule C. Unfortunately, Schedule Cs are heavily scrutinized by the IRS. This means you should take extra care when preparing your Schedule C. Follow the IRS’s Schedule C instructions to the letter and seriously consider hiring an accountant or tax professional to ensure this form is prepared correctly.

If you want to avoid this potential red flag altogether, you could consider incorporating your business instead.

9. Stay On Top Of 1099-MISCs & W-9s

Make sure you meet the 1099-MISC filing deadline on January 31. You’ll need to request W-9s, the Request for Taxpayer Identification Number or Certificate, from each of your contractors in order to complete your 1099-MISCs.

Once completed, you must send a copy of the 1099-MISC form both to your contractor and the IRS. Follow the IRS’s 1099 instructions carefully to properly file all the necessary forms.

10. Consider Using Payroll Software

According to the BBB:

Discrepancies between payroll tax withholdings and payments are common triggers for correspondence audits, meaning one minor error can result in hefty penalties and interest.

The best way to avoid this issue altogether is to use payroll software. The IRS even suggest doing so, saying:

Many employers outsource some of their payroll and related tax duties to third-party payroll service providers. They can help assure filing deadlines and deposit requirements are met and greatly streamline business operations.

Contact your accounting software provider to see what payroll support plans or payroll integrations they offer.

11. Hire An Accountant

This is my biggest suggestion to small business owners — hire an accountant or tax professional to file your taxes. Not only will this increase the chances that your tax return is correct, you stand a better chance of maximizing your tax deductions. When it comes to taxes, the peace of mind is worth the cost.

12. Keep Solid Records

Our last bit of advice is to keep meticulous, well-organized records. There’s no guaranteed way to prevent a tax audit. In the case that you do get audited, the process will be much smoother and faster if all of your records are accessible and well-organized.

If you do get audited, here are the forms the IRS may request (according to the IRS’s audit guide):

  • Bills
  • Receipts
  • Canceled checks
  • Tax preparation or advice papers
  • Property acquisition papers
  • Loan agreements
  • Travel tickets
  • Employment documents

Accounting software can be a huge help in this regard. Most programs allow you to run reports, record bills, and attach copies of receipts to expenses. Some programs also have an audit trail report which shows all of the activity on your company account.

Read our How Your Business Accounting Software Can Help You File 2018 Taxes post to learn which accounting reports you should run and how long to save your accounting records.

The bottom line is this: If you are organized and keep strong records, you should be able to easily defend yourself to the IRS in an audit situation. But hopefully, the 12 tips above will safeguard you from ever having to be in that scenario. We hope you found these tips helpful and will be able to use them to successfully file your 2018 taxes.

As always, contact your accountant or tax professional for specific tax advice. Happy filing!

The post 12 Tips For Preventing A Business Tax Audit appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Which Business Credit Card Rewards Provide The Most Value?

Confused about the different types of business credit card rewards?

Let’s take a look at the three biggest categories of small business credit card rewards and some of their pros and cons. Note that any of these reward types may come with limitations on what you can earn during a given period. You’ll also want to take annual fees into account when making comparisons.

But for now, let’s concentrate on the fun stuff.

Cash Back

The oldest reward incentive program is cash back. The formula is simple: a small percentage of each purchase you make with your card will be returned to you in the form of a check, account credit, or gift card.

Pros

The biggest advantages offered by cash back are simplicity and versatility. Depending on the program, you may still see different reward tiers with a cash back credit card, but it’s not unusual for them to offer a flat return on purchases (often somewhere around the 2 percent mark).

If you find that you don’t have the time, resources, or inclination to micromanage your spending, the simplified cashback reward system can take a lot of the burden off your back. Even better, you’ll face no real limitations on what you can spend your rewards on.

Cash back is a good choice for businesses with variable expenses or expenses that aren’t particularly clustered in one area.

Cons

If you guessed that the cons of cashback are an inversion of the pros, congratulations! The versatility of cash back comes at a price: a lower potential return on your purchases than you could get with a more limited return system.

To compare a cash back system to a rewards system, find out the cash value of each reward point. You’ll then need to itemize your monthly expenses and see how many points or how much cash you’d get back from your purchases. In many cases, you’ll find that you can get a larger return on your purchases with the right rewards card.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you should avoid cash back cards, but be aware of the trade-off.

Another factor to look out for? You may need to manually request reimbursement from your bank or set up the thresholds at which they’ll cut you a check (or credit, or gift card). This usually isn’t very burdensome, but if you end up wondering where your cash is, check your account.

Travel

A very popular category of business credit cards reimburses companies in airline “miles.” These miles can be cashed in for rewards, usually additional flights.

Pros 

Airline miles are similar to other rewards programs, but they allow businesses to get a return on their flight expenses. For businesses that do a lot of flying, this can be an extremely efficient type of business reward card. Additionally, many cards will allow you to retroactively add recent flights to your mile total when you sign up. Some will allow you to earn miles with travel-related expenses or by making purchases at approved retailers.

Most airlines also allow you to upgrade your seating with flyer miles.

Cons

Airline miles are probably the most confusing type of reward to quantify and redeem. The first thing to realize is that the “miles” you accumulate don’t represent the number of free miles you can travel: they’re the miles you’ve accumulated through travel. So flying down the coast might earn you 1,000 or so miles, but those miles don’t become a free trip from New York to Miami. Instead, you’ll cash in, say, 20,000 miles or so for a flight.

Flyer miles often lock you into a particular airline, so choose one that goes to the places you want to be and offers a pleasant flying experience. You should also note that airlines usually only make a percentage of their seats available for flyer miles, and often don’t allow them to be spent around the holidays, so plan ahead before you book a flight with your airline miles.

Be aware that you may still be responsible for taxes and fees, and you need to book the flights directly through the airlines to get your points.

Other Rewards

“Rewards,” in this context, is a catch-all for business credit cards programs that don’t fall into one of the previous categories. Many cater to specific types of spending–telecommunications, for example–while others reward more generalized spending.

Rewards cards compensate you in points. These points have a cash value (usually around a penny each) and can be redeemed for a limited selection of rewards.

Pros 

Rewards programs are varied enough to suit a wide array of business spending. In practice, this usually means a tiered system for points. Restaurant expenditures might be compensated at three times the rate of general expenditures, for example. If you pick a card that matches your spending habits, you can earn points very efficiently.

Cons 

The specificity of reward programs can be a straightjacket, especially for businesses that don’t have especially concentrated expenses. You may also find the limited selection of things on which you can spend your reward points uninspiring, or in rare cases, completely useless. Do your due diligence on the rewards card you’re considering to see if they are a good fit for your needs and habits.

Otherwise, you may want to consider a cash back card. See the process of comparing cash back and reward cards above.

Final Thoughts

While there’s no type of business credit card reward that is objectively the best, there probably is one that is best for your business and your habits.

Looking to compare specific cards? Check out our 2018 comparison guide.

The post Which Business Credit Card Rewards Provide The Most Value? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Business Lines Of Credit For 2018

business line of credit loan

A line of credit is one of the most useful tools at a merchant’s disposal. Merchants with a line of credit can have funds available within a few days without going through a long application process every time. These funds can be used for many business reasons, such as working capital, business growth, or emergency funds.

Are you looking to gain access to a line of credit? Or do you have a line of credit already, but want to know what your other options are? You’re in luck! We’ve searched out and evaluated the best credit lines currently available to businesses of all sizes — from microbusinesses and startups to stable and established operations.

The following lines of credit are sorted (roughly) by ease of qualification (from easiest to most difficult). Bear in mind that, in general, the easier it is to qualify for a line of credit, the higher the rates and fees you will be offered.

Best Lines Of Credit (At A Glance)

Products Offered Best For
Fundbox • Invoice-backed lines of credit
• Traditional lines of credit
B2C and B2B startups, microbusinesses, and freelancers
BlueVine • Invoice factoring
• Traditional lines of credit
B2C and B2B businesses over six months old with fair credit
Kabbage • Traditional lines of credit Businesses over a year old
OnDeck • Traditional lines of credit Businesses over a year old
StreetShares • Traditional lines of credit Businesses over a year old with fair credit
Fundation • Traditional lines of credit Businesses over a year old with fair credit
P2Binvestor • Asset-backed lines of credit Large, well-established B2B businesses over two years old
SBA CAPLines • Working capital lines of credit
• Seasonal lines of credit
• Contract lines of credit
• Builder’s lines of credit
Large, well-established businesses
Your Bank Or Credit Union • Various lines of credit Well-established businesses

Fundbox

Gone are the days when you had to have a large, well-established business to qualify for a credit line. With Fundbox (read our review), you might qualify even if you’ve only been in business for three months. This service offers invoice-backed and traditional lines of credit to eligible businesses.

Borrower requirements:
• No revenue or time in business requirements, but must use compatible accounting or invoicing software for at least 3 months, or a compatible business bank account for at least 6 months.
• No credit score requirements.
Visit the Fundbox website

Fundbox currently offers the most accessible business lines of credit available. There is only one specific requirement: you must have been using compatible accounting/invoicing software for at least three months, or a compatible business bank account for six. In most cases, your credit score doesn’t matter — Fundbox doesn’t check your credit at all.

Fundbox also has one of the fastest applications available. Typically, you can create an account, apply, and get a decision within a couple of minutes. Borrowers might be eligible for a credit line up to $100,000 with repayment term lengths up to 24 weeks in length.

Obviously, Fundbox offers a useful service, but it’s not right for all businesses. The fees are higher than those of services that cater to more established businesses, so if you have been in business for a while and have strong financials, you might be able to find better rates elsewhere. Nonetheless, Fundbox is an invaluable source of financing for many businesses.

Check out our full Fundbox Review or head over to the website using the link above for more information.

BlueVine

Founded in 2013, BlueVine (read our review) offers two services to solve cash flow problems: lines of credit and invoice factoring. If your business is at least six months old and you have fair credit, a BlueVine line of credit might be right for your business. Check out the eligibility for their traditional lines of credit below:

bluevine logo
Line of credit borrower requirements:
• Must be in business at least 6 months with a revenue of $10,000 per month.
• Must have a personal credit score of 600 or above.
• Lines of credit are not available in all states. See full review for details.
Visit the BlueVine website

You have a fair chance at qualifying for a line of credit from BlueVine if you meet the above requirements. Borrowers might be eligible for a credit line up to $200,000 with repayment terms of six months. If you invoice your customers, invoice factoring might be worth your consideration — BlueVine doesn’t require monthly minimums or long-term contracts. Check out our full BlueVine review for more information on the invoice factoring services.

The application process for BlueVine is fast and straightforward. In most cases, you can expect to have a decision regarding your application within 24 hours. Unlike with some other services, you will not have to submit a lot of documentation to be considered for a credit line.

As you might expect, larger organizations will want to give BlueVine a pass. With APRs between 21% and 65%, well-established businesses will be able to find lower rates elsewhere. However, smaller companies will find this service worth considering.

Head over to the website above, or check out our full BlueVine Review for more information.

Kabbage

Kabbage (read our review) offers one of the most popular and well-known lines of credit available. This service is known for having a fast, easy application process, and for being a convenient and easy way to access funds. You might be eligible for a Kabbage line of credit if you meet the following requirements:

Borrower requirements:
• Must be in business at least 12 months and make at least $50,000 annually (or $4,500 for the last 3 months).
• No specific credit score requirements.
Visit the Kabbage website

With relatively low revenue and time in business requirements, a lot of businesses will qualify for a credit line from Kabbage. This lender does not enforce a specific minimum credit score, but it will run a check on your credit before giving you a final decision on your eligibility, rates, and fees.

Like Fundbox, Kabbage’s application process is completely automated. Most potential borrowers will be able to make an account, fill out an application, and check their eligibility within a few minutes.

With APRs that range from approximately 20% to 106%, Kabbage lines of credit have the potential to be the most expensive on this list. However, your personal rates will depend on your creditworthiness, the strength of your financials, and some other factors, so you might be eligible for lower rates. Regardless of the potentially high rates, Kabbage is worth checking out if you need fast access to a convenient line of credit.

Check out our full Kabbage Review for more information, or head over to their website using the link above.

OnDeck

OnDeck (read our review) is known for offering short-term loans, but it has also been offering lines of credit for the last few years. Because OnDeck will consider applicants that have personal credit scores as low as 500, it’s a good choice for businesses that don’t qualify for other credit lines because of poor credit.

Borrower requirements:
• Must be in business at least 12 months with a revenue of $100,000 per year.
• Must have a personal credit score of 500 or above.
• Must not be in one of OnDeck’s restricted industries.
Visit the OnDeck website

OnDeck’s credit lines currently range from $6,000 to $100,000, with repayment terms of six months. Unlike the lender’s short-term loans, which are usually repaid daily, draws from your credit like are repaid on a weekly basis. OnDeck does not charge a fee for drawing from your line, but they do charge a monthly maintenance fee.

Although slower overall than Kabbage or Fundbox, OnDeck has a relatively fast application process. Most borrowers will have a final decision within 24 hours after applying.

OnDeck’s rates and fees are competitive with similar lines of credit. So while you still might wind up with a rate that is higher than you would like, you will not come across fees that are overly expensive.

Head over to our full OnDeck Review or their website for more information.

StreetShares

StreetShares (read our review) is a P2P lender that offers many financial products to small businesses, including lines of credit. This lender has very low revenue requirements, so if you have at least 12 months in business and fair credit, you might be able to qualify for a credit line.

Borrower requirements:
• Must be in business at least 12 months with a revenue of $25,000 per year (sometimes StreetShares will make exceptions for high-earning businesses at least 6 months old).
• Must have a personal credit score of 620 or above.
Visit the StreetShares website

Like those of many other lenders, StreetShares credit lines max out at $100,000, but the amount you will personally be offered will be about 20% of your annual revenue. StreetShares APRs range from 7% to 39.99%, which is competitive with many other online lines of credit. Draws have a maximum repayment length of 36 months, which is the longest draw term-length on this list.

StreetShares’ application process generally takes less than a week. Naturally, once you have access to a credit line, you can draw at any time without going through an application, although StreetShares will occasionally request to see your financials if you haven’t drawn from your line in a while.

Check out our full StreetShares Review for more information, or head over to their website using the link above.

Fundation

Fundation (read our review) is an online lender that offers installment loans and lines of credit to eligible businesses. Here are the requirements you’ll have to meet to qualify for the latter:

fundation logo
Borrower Requirements:
• Must be in business at least 12 months with a revenue of $100,000 per year.
• Must have a personal credit score of 600 or above.
• Must have at least three full-time employees (including yourself).
Visit the Fundation website

Because of the employee requirement, Fundation might be a little more difficult to qualify for, but eligible borrowers will benefit from favorable terms and fees. Fundation offers credit lines between $20,000 and $100,000. Draws have repayment terms of 18 months, which is longer than most other lenders on this list. Additionally, with APRs that range from 7.99% to 29.99%, Fundation’s rates are lower than those of most of the above lenders.

The application process to gain access to a line of credit is short, and most applicants can expect a decision in fewer than seven days. Between the low rates and the fast application process, this is definitely a lender worth checking out if you aren’t yet big enough to get a line of credit from a bank or the SBA.

Check out our full Fundation Review or their website using the link above.

P2Binvestor

P2Binvestor (read our review), which began as a modern take on invoice factoring, offers lines of credit that are backed by assets. Currently, P2Binvestor (P2Bi for short) offers credit lines backed by unpaid invoices or inventory. Check out the qualifications below:

P2Binvestor P2Bi logo
Borrower Requirements:
• Must be in business at least 12 months with a revenue of $500,000 per year.
• Must be a US-based B2B business.
Visit the P2Binvestor website

P2Bi is a little more difficult to qualify for than the above lenders, but eligible merchants will discover that P2Bi offers low rates and fees in comparison to others on this list.

This service is useful for businesses that are growing fast (and need funds to continue that growth), but don’t yet qualify for a bank line of credit. P2Binvestor’s credit lines, which range from $250,000 to $10,000,000 (or even higher) can give you the money you need to keep your business growing. While P2Bi does charge an early termination fee, they will waive it if you are able to find lower rates with a line of credit from a bank.

Check out our full review of P2Binvestor for more information, or head over to their website using the link above.

SBA CAPLines

The Small Business Administration (SBA) works with partner lenders, such as banks and credit unions, to offer loans to small businesses at affordable prices. The SBA’s lines of credit (part of their 7(a) loan programs) are called CAPLines. Currently, the SBA offers four different lines of credit:

  • Working Capital CAPLines: Lines of credit for working capital and/or operating needs.
  • Seasonal CAPLines: Lines of credit to help your business get through your busy season. This line cannot be used during your business’s slow period.
  • Contract CAPLines: Lines of credit used to finance specific contracts.
  • Builder’s CAPLines: Lines of credit used for construction and renovation.

CAPLines max out at $5,000,000. The SBA will guarantee a maximum of 75% or 85%, depending on the size of the credit facility.

The SBA borrower requirements for a CAPLine are the same as those for other 7(a) loans:

  • Your business must be for-profit
  • You must do business in the United States or its territories
  • You must have reasonable owner equity
  • You must have used personal savings and other alternative financial assets before seeking an SBA loan

However, the partner you’re working with will have other requirements you need to meet. You’ll need to be able to prove 1) that your financials are strong enough to qualify for a credit line, and 2) that you have the necessary collateral.

To apply for an SBA CAPLine, you’ll have to find a partner lender that offers CAPLines. The best place to start your search is the SBA’s Lender Match platform.

Your Bank Or Credit Union

If your company is stable and well-established, you might be able to qualify for a credit line from your bank or credit union. Banks and credit unions are notoriously risk-averse, but for qualified businesses, banks can offer credit lines with favorable terms and fees.

Final Thoughts

Lines of credit are useful tools for businesses of any size, whether you’re just starting out or have been running a successful organization for a while. The above lines of credit will work for most businesses, but if you’re not seeing one that works for you, check out our full library of business line of credit reviews.

The post The Best Business Lines Of Credit For 2018 appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Team Bio Series — Jessica Dinsmore (The Old Woman In The Shoe)

This week, we’re continuing our Merchant Maverick team interview series with Jessica Dinsmore, our favorite customer service rep. Jessica supports our team in virtually every possible way, but she’s so much more than just a de facto office manager and internet troll-slayer. She’s also a bargain shopper who thinks Costco would be a fun destination for a no-holds-barred shopping spree. She’s weird, in fact, which means she fits right in here. Read on for a more in-depth look at what Jessica brings to the table.

Name: Jessica Dinsmore

Title: Girl Friday

Hometown: I spent my younger years in Southern California, but I consider my hometown to be the small farming community of Canby, Oregon.

Current city: Canby, Oregon

Education and background: I studied Real Estate Law at Portland Community College, and worked in residential and commercial real estate for several years, both as a broker and an assistant.  I also spent nearly a decade in healthcare administration and employee staffing.

Merchant Maverick department/specialty: Customer Support, administrative support, and just about anything that isn’t writing reviews. I work behind the scenes doing outreach, blog moderation, responding to reader comments and emails, updating links and lots more.

How did you discover Merchant Maverick?: Craigslist!  Honestly, I thought the opportunity was too good to be true, and therefore a scam.  Shortly after I was hired, I met our managing editor, Julie, for coffee in real life, and she confirmed that the company was, in fact, both legit and amazing.

Proudest professional moment: I think it was probably closing my first real estate deal. Finally getting paid for months of work and out of pocket expenses felt pretty great. However, I now feel more pride working for Merchant Maverick. It is really an incredible company.

Favorite Merchant Maverick post/moment/opportunity: Meeting our team in real life, after months of co-working remotely, and realizing what a genuinely bright and interesting group of people I work with!

What do you do for fun?: I love interior design and bargain shopping! I’m a sucker for a good deal.  If you compliment me on something, I will most likely respond enthusiastically with how little I paid for said item. The better the deal, the more I enjoy it.

What literary character do you identify most with and why? Does the old woman who lived in a shoe count? Just the first two lines, I promise! I’m a tired mama; it’s relatable.

Favorite movie: That’s too hard!  I wouldn’t say I have a favorite, but I did enjoy Amelie, and Fiddler on the roof is a classic.

Favorite ‘90s song: Strangelove by Depeche Mode, though it is technically from the late 80’s, I didn’t hear it until the 90’s, so I’ve decided it qualifies.

What would you eat for your last meal?: Avocado Eggs Benedict and/or all the side dishes from a traditional Thanksgiving feast… plus wine and cookies.

What place have you always wanted to live?: Switzerland seems like a good choice; happiest place to live in the world!

If you could have lunch with any person, past or present, who would it be?: My dad.

Mac or Windows?: Windows

You’re given an unlimited budget at one retail store. Where do you go? What do you buy?: The obvious and practical choice would be Costco. I’d literally buy multiples of everything!

Well, there you have it. Jessica Dinsmore: Craigslist-answerer, avocado lover, bargain shopper-extraordinaire. Despite her claims otherwise, Jessica is neither old nor a shoe-dweller, and our team is so much richer because of her (our comment boards are sure less intimidating).

Interested in reading about other members of the Merchant Maverick staff? Check out our team interview series.

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