The Complete Guide to B2B Payment Processing

B2B Payment Processing

Business-to-business (B2B) transactions have been around forever, but with the dramatic increase in credit card usage by corporations, they’ve also become a lot more complicated to deal with for merchants who process them. Traditionally, businesses made their purchases by placing an order in person, through the mail, or over the telephone. The merchant would then ship the products and send the business a paper invoice for payment. They would then wait – sometimes for weeks – for payment to arrive in the form of a paper check. Cashing the check and receiving funds added several more days to the process.

With the advent of the internet, B2B transactions can now be received and processed in very little time. Specialized credit cards designed for small businesses and larger corporations allow nearly instantaneous payments, but also cost more to process than the old paper invoice method. For most merchants, the ability to bring the delay in receiving funds down to just 1-2 business days more than makes up for the extra expense. Accepting credit cards for B2B transactions also leads to a significant increase in overall sales, as more and more companies use credit cards exclusively for their business purchases.

While B2B credit card processing has a reputation for being expensive, you can actually save a very significant amount of money on your processing costs – if you know how to take advantage of the lower interchange rates available to B2B merchants. In this article, we’ll walk you through the basics of B2B processing and show you how you can save hundreds – or possibly even thousands – of dollars in processing costs by properly establishing yourself as a B2B merchant and taking advantage of the discounted rates offered by the major credit card associations.

What Are B2B Transactions?

A B2B transaction is simply a transaction where the customer is another business rather than an individual consumer. The transaction may involve goods, services, or a combination of both. You’ll also hear the term B2G (business-to-government) transaction, which describes transactions between a business and a local, state, or Federal government agency.

The most obvious example of a B2B transaction is when a company purchases supplies for its operations. However, many other types of transactions can also be classified as B2B transactions. For example, when a company hosts a luncheon for employees at a restaurant and uses a business credit card to pay for it, this would be a B2B transaction. The business making a B2B purchase can be anything from a large corporation to a solo freelancer using a business credit card to keep business and personal expenses separate.

In establishing a strategy for dealing with B2B transactions, the most important thing to consider is the percentage of B2B purchases your business expects to experience. Some businesses sell almost exclusively to individual consumers, and see very few, if any, B2B transactions. At the opposite end of the spectrum are businesses that sell almost exclusively to other businesses and make few direct sales to consumers. Most businesses, however, will fall somewhere in the middle, with B2B transactions making up a small, but significant percentage of their overall transactions. As we’ll see below, B2B transactions can entitle you to lower interchange costs and lower overall processing costs. However, you’ll have to jump through several hoops to establish yourself as a B2B merchant, and the specialized software you’ll need to take advantage of those lower rates isn’t free. You’ll want to evaluate very carefully whether it’s cost-effective to add specialized B2B processing services to your merchant account.

Merchant Category Codes (MCC Codes)

Merchant Category Codes (or MCC codes) are assigned by the credit card associations to classify businesses according to the products and services they provide. Before you can take advantage of the lower interchange rates available for B2B transactions, you’ll need to be assigned an MCC code that identifies you as a B2B merchant.

Unfortunately, all the major credit card associations have their own set of MCC codes, and they all treat them differently when it comes to B2B transactions. Visa, for example, will offer you a discounted interchange rate on B2B transactions if you’re assigned a qualifying MCC code and meet certain other criteria. MasterCard also uses MCC codes, but doesn’t offer a discount for B2B transactions.

Because each card association uses its own set of MCC codes, your business will end up with a separate code for each type of credit card you accept. Establishing the proper MCC code for your business is ultimately up to the credit card associations, although your merchant services provider can assist with this task to make sure you’re assigned an appropriate code.

Here’s a list of MCC Codes recognized by Visa as qualifying for B2B merchant status:

  • Accounting, Auditing, and Bookkeeping Services (MCC 8931)
  • Advertising Services (MCC 7311)
  • Books, Periodicals, and Newspapers (MCC 5192)
  • Business Services (MCC 7399)
  • Chemicals and Allied Products (MCC 5169)
  • Cleaning, Maintenance, and Janitorial Services (MCC 7349)
  • Commercial Equipment (MCC 5046)
  • Commercial Footwear (MCC 5139)
  • Commercial Photography, Art, and Graphics (MCC 7333)
  • Computer Maintenance, Repair, and Services (MCC 7379)
  • Computer Programming, Data Processing, and Integrated Systems Design Services (MCC 7372)
  • Construction Materials (MCC 5039)
  • Durable Goods (MCC 5099)
  • Electrical Parts and Equipment (MCC 5065)
  • Employment Agencies and Temporary Help Services (MCC 7361)
  • Florist Supplies, Nursery Stock and Flowers (MCC 5193)
  • Industrial Supplies (MCC 5085)
  • Information Retrieval Services (MCC 7375)
  • Insurance Sales, Underwriting, and Premiums (MCC 6300)
  • Landscaping and Horticultural Services (MCC 0780)
  • Management, Consulting, and Public Relations Services (MCC 7392)
  • Medical, Dental, Ophthalmic and Hospital Equipment and Supplies (MCC 5047)
  • Men’s, Women’s, and Children’s Uniforms and Commercial Clothing (MCC 5137)
  • Metal Service Centers and Offices (MCC 5051)
  • Miscellaneous Publishing and Printing (MCC 2741)
  • Motion Picture and Video Tape Production and Distribution(MCC 7829)
  • Motor Freight Carriers and Trucking (MCC 4214)
  • Nondurable Goods (MCC 5199)
  • Office and Commercial Furniture (MCC 5021)
  • Paints, Varnishes, and Supplies (MCC 5198)
  • Photographic, Photocopy, Microfilm Equipment and Software (MCC 5044)
  • Piece Goods, Notions, and Other Dry Goods (MCC 5131)
  • Plumbing and Heating Equipment and Supplies (MCC 5074)
  • Professional Services (MCC 8999)
  • Special Trade Contractors (MCC 1799)
  • Specialty Cleaning, Polishing and Sanitation Preparations (MCC 2842)
  • Testing Laboratories (Non-Medical Testing) (MCC 8734)
  • Typesetting, Plate Making and Related Services (MCC 2791)

Note that these codes only apply to Visa. MasterCard, American Express, and Discovery use their own separate sets of codes. Also, having an appropriate MCC code to qualify as a B2B merchant doesn’t automatically qualify you for discounted interchange rates on B2B transactions. You’ll also have to submit Level II (and possibly Level III) credit card data, as explained below.

Data Levels

In addition to being a properly-coded B2B merchant, you’ll need to submit additional payment data with each B2B transaction to be eligible for discounted processing rates. Credit card associations recognize three levels of payment data: Level I, Level II, and Level III data. Once again, the major credit card associations have their own separate ways of classifying and treating this data. Visa, for example, refers to these three data categories as “data levels,” while MasterCard calls them “data rates.”

For standard transactions between your business and individual consumers, only Level I data is required to process a transaction. Level II and III data is not submitted, and won’t get you a discount on interchange rates anyway. Because most businesses primarily sell to individuals rather than other businesses, your merchant account will only be set up to handle Level I data unless you add a service to record and transmit Level II and Level III data. Since most businesses won’t need this service, it’s often only available as an optional upgrade, and you’ll usually be charged an additional monthly fee for it. If your business only processes a small number of B2B transactions, you’ll want to weigh carefully whether the discounted interchange rates are worth this added expense. Remember, you’ll be paying the additional fee for Level II/III processing every month regardless of whether you use it regularly or not.

Processing of Level II and III data is further complicated by the fact that once again, the credit card associations have separate policies for handling this additional data. Discover, for example, only handles Level I data and won’t give you any discount on interchange rates for submitting Level II or III data. American Express, on the other hand, accepts both Level I and II data, but not Level III data. Acceptance of Level II data also requires prior approval for your business directly from American Express. Visa and MasterCard have the most liberal policies, accepting all three levels of credit card data without the need for prior approval. Note that you will still need to be properly coded with a Merchant Category Code identifying you as a B2B merchant.

So, just what “data” is included in these various data levels, anyway? Think of transaction processing data as a very large database, with each transaction being a record, and each record consisting of several fields that have to be filled in. All transactions will have to include all required fields for Level I data before they can be approved and processed. Level II and III data require additional fields that have to be filled in for the transaction to be processed as a Level II or III transaction and qualify for a lower interchange rate. Again, there are some slight variations in the data requirements among the various credit card associations. Here’s an overview of the common data requirements for each data level:

Level I data is required for all transactions, B2B or otherwise, and generally includes the following fields:

  • Merchant DBA name
  • Transaction amount
  • Billing zip code

Level II data includes all Level I data, and the following additional fields:

  • Sales tax amount
  • Customer code
  • Merchant postal code
  • Merchant tax identification number
  • Invoice number
  • Order number

Level III data includes all Level I and Level II data, plus the following additional fields:

  • Product commodity code
  • Item ID or SKU
  • Item description
  • Unit price
  • Quantity
  • Unit of measure (each)
  • Extended price
  • Line discount

As you can see, entering Level III data requires a lot of additional data for each transaction. Unfortunately, manually entering this data on a standard countertop credit card terminal is not an easy process. If you’re using a virtual terminal or a payment gateway, it’s a little easier since you’ll have access to a full alphanumeric keyboard. Some merchant services providers can also set you up with a specialized software load for your terminal that automatically captures the required data, but you’ll have to pay extra for it. The bottom line is that manually entering Level II and III data is only a practical option for merchants who only handle the occasional B2B transaction and for whom specialized B2B processing software would not be cost-effective.

B2B Processing Rate Discounts

As we’ve noted above, including Level II and III data when processing a B2B transaction can save you money on processing costs by lowering the interchange rate that you have to pay to the credit card associations for each transaction. How significant are these savings? Perhaps more importantly, are they significant enough to offset the cost of paying for an additional B2B processing service for your merchant account?

To answer these questions, you’ll have to understand interchange fees and how they impact your overall costs for credit card processing. Interchange fees are the fees you’ll have to pay to the credit card association for each transaction. You’ll also have to pay an additional markup to your processor, but in most cases, the interchange fee will constitute a majority of your overall transaction processing cost. For a more in-depth explanation of interchange fees, check out our article Interchange Reimbursement: What You Need to Know About Your Most Costly Merchant Account Fee.

Each credit card association has its own set of interchange fees that apply to a variety of transactions. For our example, we’ll be using the 2018 Visa USA Interchange Reimbursement Fees schedule. You can find similar fee schedules online for the other major credit card associations. Be aware that these fee schedules are frequently updated – usually because the credit card associations have raised their rates. Here’s an extract from Visa’s current interchange fee schedule that applies to B2B transactions:

Visa Level II & III Interchange Rates - 2018

As you can see, a standard Commercial Card-Present transaction made on a business credit card will incur an interchange fee of 2.50% + $0.10 per transaction. However, if you include Level III data when submitting the transaction, the interchange fee drops to 1.90% + $0.10 per transaction. That’s a savings of 0.60%, and even larger savings are possible for other types of B2B transactions. While this may not sound like a significant amount of money, it can really add up quickly, particularly if your business processes a lot of B2B transactions.

Here’s an example of how these savings work. Let’s say you have a single B2B transaction for $1,000. If you only include the Level I data, you’ll pay $25.10 in interchange fees alone. Your actual processing costs will be even higher once you pay whatever markup your processor charges you. For the same transaction, including Level III processing data reduces your interchange fees to $19.10. While that $6.00 savings might not seem like much, it can really add up in a hurry if a significant number of your transactions are B2B.

Large-ticket transactions are common in the B2B world, and the inclusion of Level III data will result in a very significant savings on interchange fees if your transaction amount is large enough to qualify. In the extract above, you’ll see that a Commercial Product Large Ticket transaction incurs an interchange fee of 1.45% + $35.00 per transaction. This special large-ticket rate only applies to single transactions over $6,500.

Given the hefty $35.00 per transaction charge, you might understandably be skeptical that this “special” rate will save you any money. So, let’s do the math. A transaction for $6,500.01 – barely large enough to qualify – would incur an interchange fee of $162.60 if processed at the standard Commercial Card-Present rate of 2.50% + $0.10. However, under the Commercial Product Large Ticket rate of 1.45% + $35.00 your interchange fee would only be $129.75. That’s a savings of $32.85. At the same time, the same transaction would only cost $123.60 under the Commercial Level III rate of 1.90% + $0.10. The break-even point between the Commercial Product Large Ticket rate and the Commercial Level III rate occurs at $7,758.50. Thus, for any transaction over this amount, the Commercial Product Large Ticket rate will actually save you money in interchange costs. Remember in comparing these rates that the markup you pay to your processor under an interchange-plus pricing plan will add to your overall processing costs, but it will be the same regardless of whether the transaction is B2B or not, and regardless of the ticket size.

How Processing Rate Plans Affect B2B Processing

If your head is spinning a little by now, we understand. There are a lot of variables involved in comparing B2B processing rates against standard business-to-consumer rates. There is, however, one simple and very important point that you need to understand: B2B processing rates will only save you money if you have an interchange-plus or subscription-based pricing plan. With an interchange-plus pricing plan, you pay the applicable interchange rate plus a fixed markup (usually a percentage of the transaction plus a small per-transaction fee) that goes to your merchant services provider. Subscription-based (or membership) pricing plans modify this arrangement by offering much lower per-transaction costs in exchange for a higher monthly subscription fee. One of our favorite providers, Fattmerchant (see our review) only charges a low per-transaction fee with a 0% markup (although their $99 per month subscription fee might not be cost-effective for low-volume businesses). Interchange-plus and subscription-based pricing plans pass the interchange costs directly onto you with a fixed markup. If the interchange costs go down due to using Level III data for B2B transactions, this lower rate is also passed on, meaning you save money.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for flat-rate or tiered pricing plans. Providers such as Square (see our review) will charge you a flat rate for each transaction regardless of the underlying interchange fee. As a result, you won’t see any savings on B2B transactions with Level III data. In fact, if such a transaction does result in a lower interchange fee, your provider gets to keep the savings. Tiered pricing works the same way, with transactions being processed according to fixed rates based on whether a transaction falls under a qualified, mid-qualified, or non-qualified tier. Since these tiers are designed to ensure that the processor makes a profit from each transaction regardless of the underlying interchange rate, you won’t see any decrease in processing costs by using Level III data for B2B transactions. In fact, your processor will get to keep whatever savings result from using Level III data. While we strongly recommend against tiered plans for all merchants, it’s doubly important to avoid them if your business processes a lot of B2B transactions.

B2B Software Applications

As we’ve discussed above, you can save a significant amount of money on processing B2B transactions by including Level III data and ensuring that you have the proper MCC code identifying you as a B2B merchant. However, a standard merchant account designed for business-to-consumer transactions won’t include these features. You’ll have to pay extra for them, and every merchant services provider approaches the problem of serving B2B merchants differently.

While including Level III data can be as simple as installing a special software load on your credit card terminal, merchant services providers are increasingly turning to computer- and web-based software to help B2B merchants get the lower rates to which they’re entitled. A notable trend we’re seeing in the merchant services industry is the switch to integrated processing software that allows merchants to process both retail and online transactions using the same platform. With an integrated payments platform, it’s easy to include B2B processing capability as an option for merchants who need it.

One of the better-integrated services we’ve seen is the MX Merchant platform offered by Dharma Merchant Services (see our review), one of our favorite providers. By adding the optional MX B2B app, B2B merchants can have Level III data automatically populated whenever they submit a B2B transaction. While the app costs an additional $20.00 per month, it can more than pay for itself if you process even a single large-ticket B2B transaction at the lower interchange rates.

Most other merchant services providers will also charge you an additional monthly fee for submitting Level II or III data. While these fees vary, $20.00 per month seems to be the industry average. If you only rarely process B2B transactions and they aren’t for large amounts, this extra service might not be cost-effective. On the other hand, any merchant who processes a significant amount of B2B transactions – particularly large-ticket ones – should realize a net savings by including this feature in their merchant account.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve ever tried to input Level III data on a countertop terminal manually, you’ve probably gotten frustrated and given up on inputting all the required data needed to qualify for a lower interchange rate. You’ve probably also overpaid for processing that transaction. Yes, the world of B2B processing can seem very confusing at first. However, it’s really not all that complicated. Your merchant services provider can help ensure you’re properly coded as a B2B merchant and that your payment processing systems (i.e., terminals, POS systems, virtual terminals, and payment gateways) are set up to include Level III processing data. Whether you want to invest the money into additional B2B services will depend on your overall B2B transaction volume.

For merchants who only see a B2B transaction on rare occasions, it might not be worth the extra monthly fee for a service you’re rarely going to use. In such cases, using a payment gateway or virtual terminal will make it much easier to enter the required Level III data manually. Merchants who process a significant amount of B2B transactions, on the other hand, will save far more money in lower interchange rates than the cost of the additional B2B software. If you can save more than the usual $20 monthly fee for B2B services, we highly recommend that you include this feature when setting up your merchant account. Your merchant services provider should be able to help you get this option set up and running smoothly.

The post The Complete Guide to B2B Payment Processing appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Shopify VS 3dcart

If you’re looking into building an online store, you’ve probably seen mention online of both Shopify and 3dcart. Both of these are fully hosted SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions, and both boast usability and plentiful eCommerce features. These shopping carts call themselves all-in-one solutions, meaning that they will provide you with site hosting, web security, and customer support, all for one monthly fee.

Let’s start with a quick overview of each eCommerce platform:

Shopify VS 3dcart
Tie Pricing Tie
✓ Ease of Use
Features ✓
✓ Web Design
Tie Integrations & Add-Ons Tie
Payment Processing ✓
Tie Customer Service & Technical Support Tie
Tie Negative Reviews & Complaints Tie
Tie Positive Reviews & Testimonials Tie
Tie Final Verdict Tie
Read Review Read Review
Visit Site Visit Site

Shopify and 3dcart clearly offer their users a lot, but how do they stack up against each other? In this article, we’ll go over the price, features, and design editors of each solution. By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear idea of which software better fits your business.

Shopify is a Canadian eCommerce solution, which has grown since 2006 to host more than 600,000 stores worldwide. Shopify’s claim to fame is usability and affordability. Merchants at all stages will be able to access the software and use it to build a site to their liking.

Shopify’s downfall, however, is related to this usability. Because Shopify aims to provide easy-to-use features, they often fail to add more advanced functionality. Users have to add-on these advanced features with integrations and applications.

3dcart3dcart, on the other hand, is a feature-rich eCommerce solution that is built to serve merchants large and small. They offer a range of pricing options so that users can select a plan that fits their budget. 3dcart is a less popular solution than Shopify, currently hosting over 22,000 customers, but it is still a main player in the eCommerce industry.

However, 3dcart is not a perfect solution. While the platform is still relatively easy to learn, it is not quite as intuitive as Shopify. In addition, users often report that 3dcart’s customer support is not reliable.

Keep reading for more in-depth information on each of these platforms. Learn which software is best for you.

Don’t have time to read an entire review? Take a look at our top-rated eCommerce solutions for a few quick recommendations. Every option we present here offers excellent customer support, superb web templates, and easy-to-use software, all for a reasonable price.

Web-Hosted Or Licensed

Both services are web-hosted.

Hardware & Software Requirements

None. You’ll only need a computer, internet access, and an up-to-date web browser.

Pricing

Winner: Tie

Pricing plan for 3dcart and Shopify follow a similar model. Both are available as a monthly subscription in which price is based on features. Neither service requires you to sign a contract, although you can get a discount on your monthly rate if you commit for a year or more. What’s more, Shopify and 3dcart both offer enterprise-level platforms for users who need a higher level of support and capabilities.

Shopify’s plans are billed on a month-by-month basis. If you choose to sign on for one year, you can benefit from a 10% discount on your plan, and if you pay for two years, you’ll get a 20% discount.

One way in which Shopify’s pricing is different from many eCommerce platforms is that Shopify charges transaction fees. You will be charged these fees (0.5%-2.0% based on your plan) in addition to the processing fees that you’ll pay to your payment processor of choice. Shopify will waive these transaction fees if you use their in-house payments solution, Shopify Payments. You will still have to pay processing fees to Shopify Payments, but you won’t be charged the additional transaction fee.

Here’s a quick overview of plans:

  • Shopify Lite Plan (No Online Store Included): $9/month
    • Transaction Fee: 2.0%
  • Basic Shopify Plan: $29/Month
    • Transaction Fee: 2.0%
    • Two Staff Accounts (In Addition To The Owner’s Account)
  • Shopify Plan: $79/Month
    • Transaction Fee: 1.0%
    • Five Staff Accounts (In Addition To The Owner’s Account)
  • Advanced Shopify Plan: $299/Month
    • Transaction Fee: 0.5%
    • Fifteen Staff Accounts (In Addition To The Owner’s Account)

With 3dcart, you’ll be billed monthly. However, if you pay in advance for a full year on the platform, you’ll receive a 10% discount. Keep in mind that 3dcart does not allow refunds, so be sure 3dcart is the right software for you before you commit for a year.

All of 3dcart’s regular plans (excluding the Startup Plan) come with unlimited products and bandwidth, free domain registration, API connectivity, and 24/7 phone support.

  • Startup Plan: $19/Month
    • 1 Staff User
    • 100 Products
    • Sell Up To $10K/Year
  • Basic: $29/Month
    • 2 Staff Users
    • Unlimited Products & Bandwidth
  • Plus: $79/Month
    • 5 Staff Users
  • Pro: $229/Month
    • 15 Staff Users

Pricing for 3dcart and Shopify is very similar. Your choice will depend on how many staff users your business needs and how Shopify’s transaction fees would affect you. For our comparison, we’ll call this a tie.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Shopify

For many merchants looking for eCommerce software, ease of use is the number one priority. Fortunately, both Shopify and 3dcart provide that ease of use to all their users.

Shopify is one of the most intuitive eCommerce platforms on the market. Try out the admin for yourself with a free 14-day trial, no credit card required. Here’s what you’ll find when you first create your account:

Adding products is easy. All of the information you’ll need to enter is available on one page. Just fill in the fields provided.

Discounts are similarly easy to set up, and you can make them specific to certain products or categories. You can limit your discounts to customer groups, number of uses, or minimum order total. There are also BOGO discounts available.

Shopify also makes site customization accessible to all merchants. Read more in our web design section.

3dcart works to make their software accessible to all merchants, regardless of technical experience. Try out the platform with a 15-day free trial, no credit card required.

When you sign into your account, you will immediately be presented with a setup wizard. This wizard and the available tutorial videos will help you locate and learn to use some of the more basic features.

3dcart’s dashboard is user friendly. You can find everything organized in the toolbar on the left. Most of this organization makes sense, but there are a few features that are buried where you wouldn’t expect them. ‘Discounts,’ for example, is under a tab called “Promotion Manager.”

Adding a product with 3dcart is unique because it involves a two step process. You’ll start by entering basic product information like images, product name, and a product description. Once you’ve saved that page, you’ll be able to add more advanced information. On this page, you’ll be able to adjust your shipping and inventory information, write SEO descriptions, and more.

Discounts follow the same two-step model. The more detailed (second) page lets you apply your promotions to specific categories, to an order that includes a specific product, and more.

While we love that 3dcart’s dashboard, we have to award this category to Shopify. 3dcart is just not quite as intuitive as Shopify. There is a slight learning curve to overcome, and a few features are difficult to find in the admin.

Features

Winner: 3dcart

As we’ve stated, Shopify comes with all of the basic features merchants need. However, advanced functionality often requires add-on applications. Let’s take a look at a few of the features that come built-in with Shopify:

Front End Features

  • Language Capabilities: List your site in over 50 different languages.
  • Automatic Shipping Rates: Users on the Advanced Plan can integrate with UPS, USPS, and FedEx to calculate shipping rates. All users have access to Shopify Shipping, which lets you calculate shipping rates, and purchase and print shipping labels.
  • Abandoned Cart Recovery: Automatically send an email to remind customers about items they left in their cart.
  • Integrate With Shopify POS: Sell in person with Shopify’s Point Of Sale (see our review) system.

Back-End Features

  • Customer Segmentation: Group your customers by location, shopping tendencies, and demographics. Use those customer groups to market more effectively.
  • Dropshipping Apps: Shopify integrates with dropshipping apps like Ordoro, Inventory Source, and eCommHub (now HubLogix). Learn how to start a profitable dropshipping business with Shopify.
  • SEO Best Practices: Shopify includes many SEO tools, including a customizable H1, and automatically generated sitemap.xml, and the ability to write titles, meta tags, and product tags.
  • Discounts: You can create discount codes and coupons, including BOGO (Buy One, Get One) discounts. Gift cards are available at higher plans.
  • Digital Products: Sell physical and digital products on your site.
  • Bulk Import/Export: Make bulk edits to your products, or use the bulk import feature to easily migrate from another software.

3dcart, on the other hand, includes many of the bells and whistles that Shopify is lacking. For example, 3dcart includes the option to enable one-page checkout on your site. Here are some of the features you get with 3dcart:

Front End Features

  • Sell Digital: Let customers download products immediately after purchase.
  • Checkout Options: Choose to enable either one-page or three-page checkout.
  • Product Images: Include multiple product images, image zoom, and videos on product pages.
  • Promotions: Create gift certificates, discounts, and coupons.
  • Automatic Calculators: Provide real-time quotes for taxes and shipping at checkout.
  • Abandoned Cart Saver: Remind customers to complete transactions.
  • Blog: Include a blog on your site to boost your SEO and add value to your site.

Back-End Features

  • Inventory Management: Monitor low stock and make sure inventory is accurate.
  • SEO: Use a variety of tools to optimize your organic traffic.
  • Bulk Import / Export: Migrate platforms and make bulk edits.
  • POS: Sell in-person with 3dcart POS.

This one is close, but 3dcart has a few more features that are not available with Shopify. So, we’re giving the win to 3dcart.

Web Design

Winner: Shopify

Shopify is well-known for its beautiful and responsive web design options. In the Shopify Themes marketplace, you can find 64 theme options, 10 of which are free. Take a look at one premium theme below:

There are a few ways you can go about customizing your theme. Users with little technical experience can use a WYSIWYG editor to make changes to site content. For example, you can update headings, categories, and button text. Shopify’s drag and drop editor, Sections, lets you make larger changes to your storefront. Use Sections to add and move widgets on your storefront. Shopify also offers code editors for the more technologically inclined. Shopify uses a language called Liquid, which some developers like and some don’t.

3dcart, on the other hand, offers 90 free themes, which is many more than Shopify. All of these themes are mobile responsive. In addition, there are a few dozen premium themes available from $99 to $199.

Users sometimes complain that 3dcart’s themes are dated, and I tend to agree. That isn’t to say that the themes are ugly; they just don’t have that sleek look I’m used to finding on modern eCommerce platforms.

You’ll have to edit these templates primarily using the HTML and CSS editors. 3dcart also includes a limited WYSIWYG editor for buttons, tabs, etc., and a drag-and-drop editor for older HTML5 themes (you must request to have this editor enabled). It isn’t a perfect editor (which is why it isn’t automatically available), but it could be a help as you learn your way around the code editors.

Integrations & Add-Ons

Winner: Tie

Both 3dcart and Shopify offer plenty of integrations and add-ons to further functionality.

There are over 1500 apps available in Shopify App Store, which essentially guarantees that there’s an app to fill whatever feature gap you may have. Unfortunately, for many merchants, multiple applications are necessary, and the costs of those add-ons can quickly add up. Shopify also has an API that you can use to develop your own own applications.

In the same way, 3dcart offers integrations for a variety of features (including order management, shipping, security, social media, dropshipping, channel management, advertising, and more.) Users of 3dcart also complain that the cost of these add-ons can quickly become expensive. 3dcart also has a RESTful API available.

Payment Processing

Winner: 3dcart

Shopify integrates with over 100 gateways.

In addition, Shopify has its own in-house payment solution called Shopify Payments. As we stated in the Pricing section of this article, if you use Shopify Payments, Shopify will waive their additional transaction fees. Shopify Payments is currently available to merchants in the US, Puerto Rico, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, and Ireland.

Credit card processing rates for Shopify Payments are based on a user’s Shopify plan. Take a look at the fees for each plan in the screenshot below:

Keep in mind that Shopify Payments is not a perfect solution, and there are many complaints online about withheld payments and cancelled accounts. Read our full review of Shopify Payments for more information.

3dcart connects with over 100 payment gateways. They do not offer an in-house payment solution, but they also don’t ding you with transaction fees if you use a third party processor, which in my opinion is a much bigger deal.

The winner here is 3dcart.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Tie

Merchants using Shopify have access to 24/7 support via email, live chat, and phone. Self help resources include a knowledge base, a community forum, videos, podcasts, and guides. You can also hire a Shopify expert to help you through a particularly rough patch.

I’ve seen mixed reviews of Shopify’s support team. Some users say they’re helpful, while others blame them for reading from a script and being informed about the product.

3dcart also offers 24/7 personalized support via email, live chat, phone. Resolve issues on your own with a knowledge base, video tutorials, a support forum, webinars, and e-university courses.

Not too surprisingly, I have also seen mixed reviews of 3dcart’s quality of support. Users frequently complain about delays in response time via live chat (in my experience “live chat” is more like another way to submit a web ticket), but response times for web tickets and phone calls are decent.

Another tie here, folks.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

Surprisingly, complaints about Shopify and 3dcart are very similar.

Shopify is often blamed for including only the basics in their platform. You’ll have to find a few extensions in the Shopify App Marketplace in order to access more advanced features. And unfortunately, costs for these add-ons can quickly add up. Users also frequently complain about Shopify’s customer service. Some users have less than positive experiences. Finally, that transaction fee continues to be a frustration for many merchants, as does Shopify Payments’s tendencies to cancel accounts and withhold payments.

Users of 3dcart also complain about customer support, saying they are very slow to respond to inquiries. In addition, 3dcart merchants dislike that add-ons can be expensive, especially when you need to use multiple extensions. Finally, some merchants state that 3dcart’s available design templates are dated, and that they’d like to see more current designs.

Because these negatives are so similar, we’re calling it a tie.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Users of Shopify and 3dcart have similar things to say about the advantages of each platform. A few commonalities include the low monthly price of running your store, strong ease of use, and good customer support.

This final advantage may be confusing as we’ve also included it in the complaints section above. It is very common to see a 50/50 split between positive and negative comments on customer service. Both Shopify and 3dcart have these mixed reviews.

One notable difference is that Shopify is celebrated for its themes while 3dcart is praised for its features. If you scroll up to the negatives section you’ll see that users often complain about Shopify’s features and 3dcart’s themes. It’s interesting to see that what is a strength of one platform is a weakness of the other.

The two platforms tie in this category as well.

Final Verdict

Winner: Tie

It’s always disappointing to end on a tie, but with such a close race, we don’t think it’s fair to call a definitive winner. Your decision will depend on your business’s needs.

Are you looking for an easy to use platform with beautiful design templates? Try Shopify.

Are you willing to overcome a slight learning curve to uncover a few more advanced features? 3dcart is your best bet.

We will say that overall we think Shopify better fits the needs of most merchants, which is why we’ve given Shopify a perfect score of 5 stars in our full review while 3dcart has 4.5 (see our review). However, it’s evident here that both shopping carts are strong options. We recommend you sign up for a trial of each eCommerce platform and decide for yourself which option you prefer.

Get Started With Shopify

Get Started With 3dcart

The post Shopify VS 3dcart appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Get Small Business Loans For Restaurants

Restaurants have a (somewhat unfair) reputation for being especially risky businesses that are hard to get off the ground. The good news is that restaurant business loans aren’t especially hard to find, even if you’re looking for a loan to open a restaurant.

Want to know how to get restaurant financing or a loan to open a restaurant? Below, we’ll look at how to finance your restaurant with working capital. If you’re specifically looking to finance restaurant equipment, check out our companion post on restaurant equipment leasing.

Comparison Chart

fundation logo
Read Review Read Review Read Review Read Review Read Review
Borrowing Amount  $10K – $5M $10K – $5M $2K – $100K $20K – $500K $1K – $5M
Term Length Varies by product Varies by product 3 – 36 months 1 – 4 years Varies by product
Required Time In Business Varies by product Varies by product 1 years 12 months 6 months
Required Sales $1.50 for every $1 borrowed $100K/yr $10K/mo
Required Credit Score 640 670 620  660 550

 

kiva logo avant logo
Read Review Read Review Read Review Read Review Read Review
Borrowing Amount  $5K – $500K $5K – $500K $6K – $5M $25 – $10K $1K – $35K
Term Length 3 – 36 months 13 – 52 weeks 6 – 12 months 3 – 36 months 2 – 5 years
Required Time In Business 6 months 9 months 6 months N/A N/A
Required Sales $10K/mo $42K/yr $120K/yr N/A N/A
Required Credit Score 550 550 600  N/A 600

Where To Get Restaurant Business Loans

Most traditional and alternative lenders, at least on paper, offer restaurant lending services. Typically, your ideal option for restaurant funding is a bank or credit union with whom you have an established relationship. In most cases, they’ll offer the best rates and terms.

If you or your business are too risky for a traditional lender, however, there are still restaurant financing options in the form of alternative lenders.

The Cost Of Restaurant Financing

Before we look at your restaurant funding options, you want to be able to compare the offers you might come across.

Here are some of the data points to consider when comparing restaurant loans:

  • Term Length: The amount of time you have to pay back your loan. The longer the term, the higher your interest or factor rate will usually be.
  • Interest/Factor Rate: A percentage or decimal multiplier that determines the amount of money you have to pay back. For short-term loans, this may be a flat fee rather than accumulate over time.
  • Origination Fee: This is a closing fee some lenders charge in addition to interest. It’s either a percentage of the amount you’re borrowing (1% – 5% is typical) or a flat fee. In most cases, it will be deducted from the amount of money you receive from the lender.
  • Administration Fee: This is a fee charged to maintain or set up your account. It may be a percentage or a flat fee. Sometimes charged in place of an origination fee.
  • APR: Annual percentage rate represents what your effective interest rate over a year would be. This can help you determine how expensive a product is relative to another.
  • Payment Schedule: If you’re used to monthly billing, you may be surprised to hear that some lenders expect payments weekly or even daily. May sure you’re prepared for whatever terms you accept.
  • Collateral: An asset, property, or cash deposit used to secure a loan. Not all loans require collateral.

Types Of Restaurant Business Loans

Restaurant loans and related products come in a few different forms. When you’re looking for a lender, you’ll also want an idea of the type of financial product you’re seeking. All of these products will get you the money you’re seeking, but with different terms. Some are cheaper; others are more versatile. Some are more available to applicants with bad credit.

  • Term Loans: Term loans are for a specific amount that, once received, is paid off in regularly scheduled installments (they’re also sometimes called installment loans). Medium and long-term loans usually accrue interest over time while short-term loans have flat fees.
  • Lines Of Credit: Lines of credit are a bit like credit cards. You’ll be approved for credit up to a set limit. You can draw on your account as often as you want as long as you stay below your limit, paying interest only on the outstanding balance.
  • SBA Loans: As is the case for other business types, there are Small Business Administration loans for restaurants. These loans are partially guaranteed by the SBA, allowing you to access better rates. Just bear in mind that the application process is usually more complicated and often slower.
  • Merchant Cash Advance: MCAs aren’t technically loans, but can serve as the financial product of last resort for businesses with bad credit but steady credit card revenue.
  • Equipment Leasing: If you’re looking to finance restaurant equipment, you also have the option to lease it, which you can read about in more detail in our restaurant equipment financing article.

Restaurant Loans For Start-Ups

If you’re looking for start-up restaurant financing, you’ll face a narrower band of options, but you aren’t completely out of luck. Conservative lenders may still consider approving a loan to start a restaurant if you have a good business plan and credit and are able to put some of your own money into the mix. Additionally, some alternative lenders offer loans specifically geared toward brand new businesses.

Restaurant Loan Providers

Not sure where to start looking for small business loans for restaurants? Here are some lenders to consider.

For Good Rates

Wells Fargo

Borrower Requirements:
• Credit score of 640 or higher
Read Our Review

 

As big banks go, Wells Fargo is one of the easier institutions for small businesses to work with. Due to their size and resources, they can offer a wide range of products for restaurants of any size. Their credit restrictions are higher than those of most of alternative lenders and they require you to show strong month-to-month revenue, but they’re more accessible than many of their conservative competitors.

Chase

Borrower Requirements:
• Excellent credit
Read Our Review

 

Chase has a reputation for offering some of the best business loan rates out there. The trick will be qualifying for them. Despite its size and prominence, Chase is very conservative about who they lend to. You’ll also need to have a branch near you as you’ll need to go to your local branch to apply.

StreetShares

Borrower Requirements:
• 1 year in business
• 620 credit score
Get Started With StreetShares

Read Our Review

 

If you don’t have a bank in your area with whom you’ve built a good relationship, you can still find good rates with online lenders. StreetShares is a bit more selective than many of their competitors, but they offer loans and lines of credits at reasonable rates with no collateral.

Fundation

fundation logo
Borrower Requirements:
• 1 year in business
• 660 credit score
• $100K/yr
Get Started With Fundation

Read Our Review

 

Fundation is another option for borrowers with good credit who would prefer (or have) to avoid dealing with a traditional bank. Fundation offers both installment loans and lines of credit with no collateral needed. Just be prepared for a slightly lengthier application process than you’ll typically experience with alternative lenders.

For Borrowers With Bad Credit

Lendio 

Borrower Requirements:
• 6 months in business
• 550 credit score
• $10K/month
Get Started With Lendio

Read Our Review

 

Lendio is an online lending platform that matches businesses with lending partners. This is a handy service for restaurant owners who don’t have a lot of time to compare loans on their own, or who have bad credit. Lendio’s pool of potential lenders is big enough that you’re more likely than not to find one willing to work with you, even if you haven’t been in business very long. If you’re looking for a loan to open a restaurant, however, you may have to look elsewhere.

OnDeck

Borrower Requirements:
• 12 months in business
• 500 credit or higher
• $100K/year
Get Started With OnDeck 

Read Our Review

OnDeck is one of the bigger names in alternative online lending and a solid choice for borrowers with poor credit but decent cash flow. Just be aware that their factor rates use a per month formula rather than a flat fee, which can make them a little bit difficult to compare to many of their competitors.

OnDeck offers installment loans and lines of credit.

LoanBuilder

Borrower Requirements:
• 9 months in business
• 550 credit or higher
• $42,000K/year
Get Started With LoanBuilder 

Read Our Review

LoanBuilder doesn’t offer as many products as some of the other lenders on the list, but they do give you the freedom to tweak the terms of a short-term loan to your liking. Combined with relatively low qualifications and integration with PayPal’s infrastructure, working with them should be pretty painless.

BlueVine

Borrower Requirements:
• 3 months in business
• 530 credit or higher
• $100,000K/year
Get Started With BlueVine 

Read Our Review

If your company is profitable, but you haven’t been in business long enough to build up a good credit score, BlueVine might be the lender for you. Rather than offering installment loans, BlueVine gives you the option of getting a line of credit or, if you do a lot of B2B business, invoice factoring. Just be aware that their lines of credit aren’t available in every state.

For Borrowers Starting Their Restaurant

Kiva

kiva logo
Borrower Requirements:
• A strong professional and social network
Read Our Review

 

If you’re coming up blank with ideas about how to get a loan to start a restaurant, Kiva is one possible solution. Kiva is a nonprofit microlender that operates worldwide. Rather than measure your income and credit, Kiva uses a process called “social underwriting” to measure your community standing and character. Best of all, the loans have zero interest.

So what’s the catch? Well, Kiva uses a type of crowdfunding to finance your loan, which means you’ll be waiting longer to get your funds than you would with most other lenders. You’ll also be limited to a maximum of $10,000, which may not cut it for your business plan. If you have some of your own money to put into your new business and just need to make up that last few thousand dollars, though, it’s worth a look.

Avant

avant logo
Borrower Requirements:
• Credit score of 600 or higher
Read Our Review

 

Another way around the time in business restrictions you’ll often encounter when seeking new restaurant business loans is to forget the “business” part and get a personal loan. While you won’t be able to borrow the large amounts that you can with a business loan, they can get you a modest ($1,000 – $35,000) amount of money with which to start a restaurant.

Note that you’ll still have to show a strong income relative to the amount of money you’re seeking. Additionally, Avant cannot currently lend to individuals in Colorado, Iowa, Vermont, or West Virginia.

Final Thoughts

If you didn’t find what you were looking in our examples above, don’t fret! We’ve barely scratched the surface of the resources restaurants can tap to find funding. If you don’t have much in the way of collateral, you can try to get an unsecured business loan.

If you’re looking to finance restaurant equipment, check out our resources on leasing and equipment loans. Good luck hunting for restaurant business loans! Do your research and you’re sure to find something that fits your needs.

The post How To Get Small Business Loans For Restaurants appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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5 Shopping Carts For Starting An eCommerce Business In Canada

best canada ecommerce platform

Are you a Canadian seller looking to set up an online store? Or are you an American merchant hoping to sell products in Canada? If so, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we’ll be covering the top 5 eCommerce solutions for Canadian sellers. Each shopping cart included here provides the logistical features that Canadian merchants need for their online stores. What’s more, all of the shopping carts in this article are of top quality, each one earning a perfect five-star review.

Here are a few of the Canada-specific features we’ve looked for in each of the eCommerce solutions presented below:

  • Calculate tax rates for Canada
  • Display prices and accept payment in CAD
  • Integrate with Canada Post for real-time shipping rates
  • Support multiple languages, such as French

We’ll kick off the list with a couple of our favorite Canada-based shopping cart solutions, and then we’ll move onto some American software solutions that also work for Canadian merchants. Let’s get started!

Need a payment processing service? Check out the best and worst Canadian merchant accounts providers. Don’t have time to read an entire review? Take a look at our top-rated eCommerce solutions for a few quick recommendations. Every option we present here offers excellent customer support, superb web templates, and easy-to-use software, all for a reasonable price.

Review
Visit Site
Review
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Review
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Review Review
Visit Site
Best Choice For Small to enterprise businesses with little technical skill Small to large businesses with some technical skill Small to large businesses with some technical skill Small to large businesses with advanced technical skill Large B2B businesses with some technical skill
Based In Canada Yes Yes No No No
SaaS Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Beginning Pricing Structure $29/month + 2.0% transaction fee $19/month for 75 orders $44.95/month Free $299/month
Free Trial Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Ease Of Use Easy to use Moderate learning curve Moderate learning curve Steep learning curve Moderate Learning Curve

Read on for more details about each eCommerce solution.

Shopify

Based out of Ontario, Canada, Shopify is our first recommendation for Canadian merchants seeking an easy to use shopping cart solution. Shopify is the perfect example of an SaaS (software as a service) solution, which means that Shopify handles the technical aspects of running an online store. For a monthly fee (plus transaction fees) Shopify provides hosting, web security, and technical support.

Shopify is designed for merchants with little to no development experience, so it’s perfect for smaller merchants who want to get their products to market quickly. However, that does not mean that Shopify is limited to exclusively these merchants. The software is scalable, so large or enterprise level businesses can also use Shopify to their advantage.

Pricing for Shopify is relatively low, and all plans include unlimited storage, bandwidth, and products. You can subscribe to their Basic Shopify Plan for just $29/month (+ 2.0% transaction fee). For more advanced features, you’ll have to subscribe to a higher level plan. One step up is the Shopify Plan at $79/month and the next step is the Advanced Shopify Plan at $299/month.

Pros

As one of our favorite, most versatile solutions, Shopify has a lot to offer merchants. Here are a few of the biggest perks of using Shopify:

  • Ease Of Use: Shopify is known for their simple UI. Uploading products is a breeze, and you can make changes to your storefront design with a drag-and-drop tool.
  • Elegant Design: The Shopify marketplace comes stocked with beautiful, responsive, ready-to-use themes. Ten of these themes are available free of charge, and the rest cost between $140-$180.
  • Good Customer Service: 24/7 customers support is available on all pricing plans via email, phone, and live chat. Some users report excellent interactions with support reps, although other users have a different experience (see Cons below).

Cons

Despite all of its positives, Shopify is not a perfect solution. There are still many ways Shopify can continue to improve. Here are a few of the things users complain about on online forums:

  • Limited Features: This is the biggest complaint users have about Shopify. While Shopify includes all of the basic features sellers need to initially set up their store, there are not many advanced features available. In order to access more advanced features (like B2B selling options, single page checkout, etc.), you’ll have to purchase the appropriate add-ons. This leads us to our second complaint.
  • Add-Ons Add Up: Although Shopify’s plans are affordably priced, costs of using Shopify for your online store can quickly add up once you start using extensions. Extensions and add-ons from the Shopify marketplace are billed monthly.
  • Poor Customer Support: This contradicts the “pro” I mentioned above. Reviews are mixed when it comes to customer support. Some users have great experiences. Others end up frustrated.

Canada-Specific Features

Because Shopify was created by Canadians, you can expect the software to offer enough features to support Canadian sellers’ specific needs. Here’s how they handle Canada-specific selling:

  • Multi-Lingual Features: Have your storefront, checkout, and emails display in multiple languages. Shopify has also recently introduced a beta for a multi-lingual admin. Languages currently supported include French.
  • Multiple Currencies: Display pricing in multiple currencies using a drop-down currency picker. Accept multiple currencies.
  • Shopify Shipping: Use Shopify Shipping to calculate and display shipping rates for multiple carriers, including Canada Post, UPS, USPS, and DHL.
  • Tax: Set tax rates for countries and provinces.

Get started with Shopify by signing up for a free 14-day trial, no credit card required.

Read our full Shopify review

Visit the Shopify website

LemonStand

Founded in 2010, LemonStand is an SaaS eCommerce solution with headquarters in Vancouver, BC. Like Shopify, LemonStand provides merchants with hosting, customer service, and site security.

One notable trait about LemonStand is that their design templates are completely customizable. The design is all open source, so if you have the proper know-how, you can change nearly every aspect of the look and feel of your store.

Pricing for LemonStand is based on the number of orders you process each month. We like this pricing model because all features are included with all plans. However, merchants who process many orders each month with very narrow profit margins might be turned off by this pricing model. You can begin with the Starter plan ($19/month for 75 orders) or move up to the Growth plan ($69/month for 300 orders) or Professional plan ($199/month for 1000 orders). There’s also a Premium plan available for even larger sellers.

Pros

We deem LemonStand a 5-star solution, and it seems many users would agree. Here’s what current users praise most frequently on comment boards and review sites:

  • Customizability: If you have the technical experience, you can do a lot with LemonStand. In particular, you will be able to change many aspects of the look and feel or your storefront.
  • Progress: LemonStand is constantly working to add new features to their software and improve existing features. This progress is encouraging.
  • Good Customer Service: LemonStand’s representatives are helpful, courteous, and timely.

Cons

LemonStand isn’t a perfect solution, however. Here are a few of the complaints I’ve found:

  • Missing Features: LemonStand is constantly adding new features, in part because the software is still missing some advanced functionality. Users are hopeful that these gaps in features will be filled soon.
  • Technical Skill Required: Web design with LemonStand requires at least some knowledge of HTML and CSS. If you don’t have that knowledge, you should be able to hire someone who can take care of design issues for you.
  • Lacking Documentation: LemonStand provides documentation as a form of self-help technical support. Unfortunately, some of that documentation is not very detailed. Documentation can occasionally be difficult to follow.

Canada-Specific Features

Here’s how LemonStand supports Canadian merchants:

  • Canada Post: LemonStand integrates with Canada Post so you can provide real-time shipping rates.
  • Taxes: Use tax classes to define tax rates by location. Alternatively, you can integrate with Avalara for more detailed tax calculation.

Surprisingly, I was not able to find any information about displaying your storefront in multiple languages and currencies. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are unavailable (especially since LemonStand is a Canadian based company). Comment below if you have any information on the matter.

Test out the software for yourself with a free, commitment-free 14 day trial. Or, read our full review for more information!

Read our full LemonStand review

Visit the LemonStand website

PinnacleCart

PinnacleCart was developed with the intention of helping merchants promote and sell their products, regardless of technical ability. As SaaS software, PinnacleCart gives you the ability to add and edit products, process orders, create marketing materials, and customize your site design. And although PinnacleCart is not a Canadian company, they do provide many of the logistical features that Canadian merchants need.

Pricing for PinnacleCart is based on traffic and storage. All features come included with every plan. These features include unlimited products, daily backups, phone and email support, and an SSL certificate. Pricing is available in three tiers: $44.95/month, $94.95/month, and $199.95/month.

Pros

Pinnacle Cart is another five-star solution. Find out what makes it great:

  • Ease Of Use: Once you conquer the initial learning curve, using your PinnacleCart admin should be second nature.
  • Customer Support: Users are happy with the support they receive from PinnacleCart.
  • Good Marketing Features: Use widgets to market your products on any website, and integrate with social media to further your reach. PinnacleCart’s SEO features are also generally well praised.

Cons

Some PinnacleCart users, however, may have a different experience. Here are a few cons we’ve noticed:

  • Learning Curve: Users who are new to PinnacleCart (and new to eCommerce in general) will have to overcome a slight learning curve when they first begin using the software.
  • Difficult Customization: Some users have trouble customizing their design.
  • Not International Friendly: PinnacleCart does not offer many languages or currency options. In addition, users have some difficulty accepting payments outside of the US and Canada.

Canada-Specific Features

Although PinnacleCart is not the best solution for cross-continental selling, they offer plenty of features for selling within Canada:

  • Canada Post: Add real-time shipping for Canada Post.
  • Automatic Tax Calculation: Use flat-rate tax options to set up tax rates by state and province. Integrate with Avalara Ava Tax or Exactor Tax for more detailed tax estimates.
  • Accept Multiple Currencies: List your prices in multiple currencies and accept payments in multiple currencies.
  • Add French Language Options: Choose to display your site in multiple languages.

Try out the platform for free for two weeks, no need to hand over any credit card information. For more details on pricing and features, view our full review.

Read our full PinnacleCart review

Get Started With PinnacleCart 

Magento

Until now, we’ve discussed exclusively SaaS platforms that favor ease of use over customizability. Magento is the opposite. As one of the eCommerce industry’s most popular open-source software, Magento is highly customizable and scalable, and it’s perfect for merchants with greater developing skills.

Another advantage to Magento is that it’s totally free to download. However, that doesn’t mean Magento costs $0 to implement. Because Magento is open-source, you will be responsible for finding hosting, maintaining security, and hiring developers (or being your own developer) to design your site and add necessary features. There is no Magento support available. Your only options are to resolve issues on your own or pay a developer to fix things for you.

As you might imagine, Magento is more difficult to implement than the SaaS solutions we’ve discussed above. However, Magento’s strong feature set and customizability make it a good option for fearless merchants.

Pros

Take a look at the advantages that come with Magento:

  • Features: Magento provides a robust feature set right out of the box. Add even more advanced features through integrations or develop your own extensions with the available API.
  • Strong User Community: Magento is used by 240,000 merchants around the world. Join a wide community of sellers and developers. Find solutions in Magento’s community forum or hire a Magento developer for select jobs.
  • Scalable & Customizable: Use Magento to build the online store system that your business needs.

Cons

As you might expect, Magento comes with its challenges. Many of these challenges relate to ease of use. Take a look:

  • Steep Learning Curve: Many sellers find Magento difficult to learn. You will need to have some experience with coding or be able to hire a developer.
  • Expensive: Although the software is free to download, there are always expenses related to operating an online store. Be sure to consider web developer costs as well as the expense of hosting, adding integrations, and maintaining security.
  • No Customer Support: You can use self-help support routes or hire a developer. Magento does not provide customer support for their open source software.

Canada-Specific Features

Magento is built for merchants worldwide. The software includes many international selling features, which benefit Canadian sellers.

  • Languages: Choose from many, many available languages. Set up multi-language store views so that you can feature multiple languages without creating multiple sites.
  • Accept CAD: Accept CAD. Implement “dual currencies” to accept both USD and CAD easily.
  • Taxes: Manually add tax rates and rules, or integrate with AvaTax for more detailed (and easier) tax calculations.
  • Canada Post: Use integrations from the Magento Marketplace to add Canada Post shipping calculations to your store.

Magento does not offer a free trial because the software itself is totally free to download. Test out the software by downloading it for free, or read our review for more information.

Read our full Magento review

Zoey

If Magento sounds great, but you’re turned off by that “steep learning curve,” you might look into Zoey. Zoey offers the functionality of Magento paired with an ease of use that rivals Shopify. Sound perfect, doesn’t it? The only downfall: the price. Zoey is designed to be a B2B eCommerce platform with B2C capabilities. It is therefore intended for merchants beyond the startup phase, and the price reflects that.

Nevertheless, we think Zoey is a fantastic option. In particular, we love Zoey’s robust drag-and-drop storefront design tool, which lets all merchants make changes to their sites with zero coding. In addition, we love Zoey’s extensive feature set that includes strong capabilities for wholesale selling.

Pricing for Zoey is divided into two tiers: Entry ($299/month) and Power ($499/month). A step up in pricing includes more staff account permissions, the ability to list more SKUs, priority customer support, and more.

Something important to note: Multi-language and multi-currency features are only available on the Power plan.

Pros

There’s a lot to love about Zoey. Here are just a few of those positives:

  • Easy Setup: It’s easy to get your store up and running. Zoey also offers migration services to make the transition from another eCommerce platform easier.
  • Feature Rich: Zoey comes with lots and lots of features already built-in, so you won’t have to use so many add-ons.
  • Drag & Drop Editor: Zoey’s drag and drop editor gives you control over your site’s look and feel. You can use it to change many, many aspects of your storefront.

Cons

However, there a few drawbacks to using Zoey. We’ve compiled a few potential issues:

  • Pricey For Smaller Sellers: Zoey’s monthly subscription rates are significantly higher than any of the other solutions in this list. These rates are likely too high for merchants who are just starting out.
  • Limited Customizability: Although Zoey is similar to Magento in its features, it is not similar in customizability. Since Zoey is not open source, you will not be able to customize every aspect of your store. So, if you want any additional features, you’ll have to add them via integrations or wait until Zoey releases those features in an update.
  • “Heavy” Platform: If you add on lots of extensions, your platform can get a bit bogged down and not run as smoothly as you’d like.

Canada-Specific Features

Zoey provides sellers with multiple international sales tools, which Canadian merchants can use to their advantage.

  • Multi-Lingual: Sell in 80+ languages.
  • Multiple Currencies: Display prices in 168+ currencies and accept payments with 50+ international payment gateways.
  • Taxes: Zoey includes tax support for many countries, including Canada.
  • Shipping Integrations: Zoey does not offer a direct link to Canada Post, which is unfortunate. Access Canada Post with a shipping software extension like Ordoro or ShipStation.

As you’d expect, Zoey offers a 14-day free trial, no credit card required. Test the platform out for yourself or learn more with our full review.

Read our full Zoey review

Get Started With  Zoey

Final Thoughts

We hope you’ve found one or two shopping carts that might fit your business’s needs. Take a look into our full review of each potential eCommerce solution to learn the details about pricing, features, and customer service.

And when you have a better idea of what each shopping cart provides, we always recommend you take advantage of a free trial to test out the software yourself. Test out your daily operations, and try to “stump” the software with complex products and promotions.

Best of luck in your search for a Canadian-friendly eCommerce platform! There are lots of great options out there, you just have to find the one that works for you!

Need a payment processing service? Check out the best and worst Canadian merchant accounts providers.

The post 5 Shopping Carts For Starting An eCommerce Business In Canada appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Box VS Dropbox: Storage Wars

Cloud storage. It is the kind of thing you don’t want to think about when setting up your business; you want to focus on the exciting things like prototyping products, hiring employees, and making sales. But, as with so many other parts of life, the fundamentals can often make the biggest difference. In the world of cloud storage and file sharing, that means figuring out which provider offers the best value for money, the best supplemental features, and the one that best suits the style of your team.

While there are plenty of options out there if you want to store your files and other documents online, two apps, in particular, seem to have the most brand recognition at the moment: Dropbox and Box. They share frustratingly similar names (seriously, whose idea was that?), and they aim to achieve similar goals: secure storage of files and folders. To learn which is best, we need to go in for a closer look. This is storage wars: Box vs. Dropbox.

Pricing

Right off the bat, Box jumps into the lead with a $5 pricing option. Described as a small-team subscription, this comes with just 100 GB of storage, so for some businesses, particularly those with lots of files, this will not be enough. The next steps up for Box are their Business and Business Plus plans, which cost $15 and $25 respectively. The difference between these plans is not in the amount of storage available, since both offer unlimited data, but rather in the supplemental features that accompany them. The Business Plus plan has more admin features and allows for unlimited external users and collaborators. If you work in graphic design or closely with clients in any field, this might be the subscription for you.

In the other corner, Dropbox begins their business subscriptions with the “standard” level at $12.50/user/month. For that price, you get two TB storage, as well as Dropbox Paper and a number of other snazzy features. As starting subscriptions go, this one isn’t too bad, though you’ll note it is significantly more expensive than the basic Box subscription. Having said that, though, I feel that the “standard” Dropbox account subscription is better compared with Box’s Business level. Both come with plenty of storage space for files, and both include basic admin tools.  With that as our premise, I think Dropbox might squeak by with the win. Two terabytes will be sufficient for most teams, and Dropbox Paper is pretty interesting (more on that later). If the “standard” level is not enough, you might opt for the “advanced” subscription. This comes with “as much space as your team needs,” which, I’ll note, is not the same as claiming unlimited storage. The advanced plan also comes with an array of security features all designed to keep your precious data safe.

Verdict: This is pretty much a tie. Box starts out cheaper, but with much less storage available. In terms of value for money, Box and Dropbox are basically even.

Features

Obviously, both Box and Dropbox offer cloud-based document storage. Within that broad umbrella, each offers slightly different approaches to the general goal of allowing remote collaboration on a variety of file and document formats. Both boast seamless integrations with Microsoft office and both claim they are designed to allow keep everyone connected across all devices. To pick which is best for you, though, we need to understand what makes them different. Let’s start with Box.

The team at Box would rather you refer to their product not as “cloud storage,” but as “content management.” Sure, you can store your pdfs and Microsoft Word documents here, but Box is also optimized to view 3D files as well. Box’s website is filled with case studies and testimonials from multiple industries sharing how Box allowed them to consolidate and streamline their process. In particular, though, I found that Box seems to have two major strengths in comparison with Dropbox. First, this app allows users to have greater collaboration on files with non-account holders. Basically, you can create guest accounts to allow clients to join in on the collaborative process. Dropbox also has this capability, but with Box, you are not limited in the number of external users. Second, Box seems better suited for integrations and customization. If your team includes people comfortable with coding, or if you use a particular their-party app, Box is well situated to fit in well with your needs.

Dropbox, on the other hand, brings an important feature to the battlefield: Dropbox Paper. Paper is a collaborative tool allowing you and your team members to clearly track and process your work. Basically, Paper is a timeline with a record of your projects and tasks. That’s right; Dropbox business plans come with light project management tools. For me, that is the biggest strength of Dropbox for business. You can assign various documents to different team members and monitor their progress in completing their task. Dropbox also has more admin tools that can restrict or grant access to users as situations demand.

Verdict: It really depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you are looking for a flexible platform to work on and view all sorts of documents, pick Box. If you want a more focused approach to getting work done, a Dropbox folder may be the better choice for you.

Final Thoughts

Some wars are fought with decisive victories that bring the conflict to a conclusive end. Others drag on for years, decades, even centuries (hey, they didn’t call it the 100 years war for nothing, right?). The conflict between Box and Dropbox is one of those, where both sides trade blows without any clear end in sight.

The problem is these apps basically accomplish the same thing. Though they are priced differently and seem to have different strengths when compared directly, the reality of the matter is that both Dropbox and Box allow you to store your files in the cloud and access them from any of your devices. From that macro perspective, there is very little difference between the two. In their marketing materials, they both even use the same example of collaborating on a slide show! From a micro perspective, I would say that Dropbox offers tighter control over your documents, especially if you opt for the “advanced” subscription. Box, though, seems more flexible and allows for greater customer interaction.

Fortunately, both offer free trials, which will allow you to try them out and see which one you prefer for yourself. My recommendation: use this comparison to pick the one you think will be a better fit for your business. If you aren’t satisfied, opt out and try the other option. Happy storing! Stay safe out there.

The post Box VS Dropbox: Storage Wars appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Best Cash Flow Loans For Small Businesses 2018

Best Cash Flow Loans For Small Businesses

You can’t run your business with an empty wallet. In life, money isn’t everything, but in business, cold hard cash is what makes the world go round. It’s what lets you continue your sales operations, pay your employees on time, manage your operating expenses, and turn a profit.

But what do you do when cash is running low or not coming in as quickly as you like? One option is to take out a business cash flow loan.

Not sure which type of cash flow loan is right for you, or where to find the best cash flow loan lender? We’ve got you covered. The article discusses the top seven cash flow loans for small businesses.

Let’s start by taking a look at this quick comparison chart of cash flow lenders.

StreetShares OnDeck LoanBuilder
Products Offered • Term loans
• Lines of credit
• Contract financing
• Term loans
• Lines of credit
• Short-term loans
Best For Small- to medium-sized businesses looking for a working capital loan or line of credit. Small- to medium-sized business looking for fast funding. Small businesses looking for a short-term loan with weekly repayments.
Required Time in Business 12 months 12 months 9 months
Required Revenue $25,000 /year $100,000 /year $42,000 /year
Required Credit Score 620 500 550
Read Review Read Review Read Review
Visit Site  Visit Site  Visit Site
Fundation BlueVine Fundbox
fora financial logo
Products Offered • Term loans
• Lines of credit/td>
• Lines of credit
• Invoice factoring
• Lines of credit
• Invoice financing
Best For Established businesses looking with good credit looking for installment loans or lines of credit. Small businesses looking for a line of credit or invoice factoring for consistent cash flow. Small businesses looking for a line of credit or invoice factoring for consistent cash flow.
Required Time in Business 12 months 6 months N/A
Required Revenue $100,000 /year $120,000 /year N/A
Required Credit Score 600 600 N/A
Read Review Read Review Read Review
Visit Site  Visit Site  Visit Site

There are more details about each lender below. Read on to learn which cash flow solution is right for you.

Best Types of Loans For Cash Flow

There are several types of loans that can be great options for increasing cash flow:

  • Installment loans
  • Short-term loans
  • Lines of credit
  • Invoicing financing

We’ll go over each type of loan so you can know exactly what to expect and choose which type fits your business’s needs best.

Installment Loans

Installment loans, also called term loans, are loans in which the borrower receives a lump sum of money that is paid back in regular installments. Interest is charged throughout the duration of the loan. Many times, you can save money by paying the loan back early (so long as your lender doesn’t charge a pre-payment penalty).

Installment loans are paid back in regular installments, usually on a monthly basis. Each payment goes to paying a portion of the principal (the borrowing amount) and the interest (a fee based on a percentage of your remaining principal). Most installments loans have term lengths between 1 and 25 years.

Installment loans can be used for multiple business needs, including short-term cash flow and long-term business growth plans. Common uses for installment loans include:

  • Working capital (or everyday expenses)
  • Inventory purchasing
  • Equipment
  • Business expansion
  • Business acquisition
  • Debt refinancing

Because of the longer term lengths, installment loans are considered higher risk than other types of loans, and young and unstable businesses might have trouble qualifying. These loans are best for established businesses that want a longer period of time to repay their debt.

Short-Term Loans

A short-term loan is a lump sum of money granted to a borrower and paid back in frequent, regular installments over a short period of time. Unlike an installment loan, a short-term loan does not have an interest rate; instead, this type of loan has a factor rate — a multiplier used to calculate a fixed fee that is added to your loan. The fixed fee is only calculated once and is repaid in along with the principal.

Short-term loans are paid back in regular fixed installments on a weekly, or even daily basis. For this reason, short-term loans are ideal for businesses with enough cash flow to afford these payments. Most short-term loans have term lengths between 3 and 18 months (with some up 24 or 36 months).

Short-term loans can be valuable for multiple types of business needs. Common uses for short-term loans include:

  • Working capital
  • Inventory purchasing
  • Equipment purchasing
  • Business expansion
  • Hiring or training new employees

Short-term loans are considered low risk and are generally known for low borrower requirements, fast funding, and no specific collateral. This type of loan can be ideal for businesses in need of extra cash who have the existing cash flow to make frequent repayments.

Lines of Credit

Unlike short-term loans and installment loans, lines of credit aren’t lump-sums of money handed to you all at once by a lender. Instead, when you are approved for a line of credit, a lender gives you access to a credit line with a certain amount of money that you can draw from at any time. 

Any draws made on a line of credit are paid in regular installments. Most lines of credit are revolving — as soon as you pay off the amount you used, it’ll be added back into the total available on your credit line. This means you can keep using the same funds again and again without reapplying for a loan.

Lines of credit are great for short-term, everyday business need, making them a great cash flow solution. Lines of credit also are a great cash cushion for unexpected expenses and emergencies. Common uses of a line of credit include:

  • Working capital
  • Payroll
  • Overhead costs
  • Seasonal expenses
  • Inventory purchasing
  • Unexpected expenses

Lines of credit are fairly easy to qualify for because they are offered by such a wide variety of lenders. They are ideal for nearly any type of business in need of a cash flow solution or looking for peace of mind regarding unexpected expenses. The only downside is that if you use up all of your credit line at once, you may not have access to the cash you need until you pay some of it back.

Invoice Factoring

Invoice factoring is a cash flow solution in which you sell your unpaid invoices to an invoice factor in exchange for immediate cash. The tradeoff is that the invoice factor keeps a portion of the cash from the invoice on reserve until your customer pays. Once paid, the factor will grant you the rest of the reserve, minus a small fee.

Contract lengths, and the invoices eligible for factoring, vary by lender.

Invoice factoring allows businesses to receive cash faster than they normally would. The money received from invoice factors can be used to meet various business needs:

  • Working capital
  • Payroll
  • Inventory purchasing

Invoice factoring is a great solution for businesses that suffer from slow paying customers and are in need of immediate cash. You do lose a small portion of your invoice sale to the factor’s fees, but this can be more than worth the cost for many businesses that rely heavily on invoices.

The Best Cash Flow Loan Lenders

StreetShares

Best For…

Small- to medium-sized businesses looking for a working capital loan or line of credit.

Products Offered

  • Installment loans (or term loans)
  • Lines of credit
  • Contract financing

Founded in 2013, StreetShares is a peer-to-peer (P2P) lender created by veterans for veterans, although now any eligible merchant can access funding. This lender offers installment loans, lines of credit, and contract financing (similar to invoice factoring). StreetShares boasts no prepayment penalties, an easy application process, and excellent customer service.

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
Read our StreetShares review

Here are the rates for StreetShares installment loans and lines of credit:

Borrowing amount: Up to $100K
Term length: 3 – 36 months
Interest rate: About 6% – 14%
Closing fee: 3.95% or 4.95% (installment loans)
1.5% draw fee (lines of credit)
APR range: 7% –  39.99%

These are the rates and fees for StreetShares’ contract financing:

Credit facility size: Max $500K per invoice
Advance rate: Up to 90%
Discount rate: Varies
Max overdue account: 180 days
Additional fees: None
Contract length: N/A
Monthly minimums/maximums: None
Factor all invoices: No
Recourse or non-recourse: Non-recourse
Notification or non-notification: Notification

How To Apply For A StreetShares Loan

To apply for funding from StreetShares, you’ll need to fill out an initial questionnaire. If approved, you’ll be asked to provide additional information, and then StreetShares will come back with an offer (or offers). The whole process takes between two and seven days on average.

Takeaway

StretShares offers competitive installment loans, lines of credit, and contract financing to eligible small and medium businesses. If you have fair credit and a need for additional cash flow, StreetShares is a great business financing option.

OnDeck

Best For…

Small- to medium-sized business looking for fast funding.

Products Offered

  • Short-term loans
  • Lines of credit

One of the first online lenders, OnDeck offers fast approval for lines of credit and short-term business loans. Although OnDeck’s fees can get a little pricey, the service is a convenient and quick way for businesses to access cash. Eligible OnDeck applicants usually receive funding 24 to 48 hours after their initial application.

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
Read our OnDeck review

Here’s what to expect from an OnDeck short-term loan:

Borrowing amount: $5K – $500K
Term length: 3 – 36 months
Fixed fee: x1.003 – x1.04 per month
Origination fee: 0% – 4%
APR: Approx. 7% – 98%
Collateral: UCC-1 blanket lien, personal guarantee

And here’s what to expect from an OnDeck line of credit:

Borrowing amount: $15K – $100K
Draw term length: 6 months
Draw fee: None
Maintenance fee: $20/month
APR range: 13.99% – 39.9%
Collateral: Personal guarantee

How To Apply For An OnDeck Loan

To apply for OnDeck financing, fill out an application online and OnDeck will let you know if you’re approved (usually in less than 24 hours). You may then need to provide additional documentation before receiving your funding. Typically, the loan can be approved and funded within one to two days.

Takeaway

If you’re looking for quick cash to cover working capital expenses or expand your business, OnDeck could be a great option. While the fees may get a bit spendy, the convenient, quick approval and low borrower requirements are more than worth it for some small business owners.

LoanBuilder

Best For…

Small businesses looking for a short-term loan with weekly repayments.

Products Offered

  • Short-term loans

Acquired by PayPal in 2017, LoanBuilder is a lending service offering short-term business loans to both PayPal users and non-PayPal users alike. LoanBuilder offers low borrower requirements and fairly reasonable rate and fees.

Borrowing amount: $5K – $500K
Term length: 13 – 52 weeks
Flat fee: 2.9% – 18.72%
Origination fee:  N/A
Effective APR: Learn more
Collateral: UCC-1 blanket lien

How To Apply For A LoanBuilder Loan

LoanBuilder allows potential borrowers to investigate their potential loan before applying. You simply enter some basic contact information and use their tool to check your eligibility, and then you can finish your application online.

Takeaway

With low borrower requirements and competitive rates, LoanBuilder can be a great option for small businesses looking for a short-term loan. Unlike some short-term loans, LoanBuilder offers weekly repayments instead of daily repayments which may make this loan more manageable.

Fundation

Best For…

Established businesses looking with good credit looking for installment loans or lines of credit.

Products Offered

  • Installment loans
  • Lines of credit

Founded in 2011, Fundation is an online lender that offers competitive installment loans and lines of credit without the long, complicated process of applying for a bank loan. Fundation also offers strong customer support and has very few negative complaints.

fundation logo
Borrower requirements:
• Must be in business at least 12 months and make at least $100,000 annually.
• Must have a personal credit score of 600 or above.
• Must have at least three full-time employees (yourself included).
Visit the Fundation website
Read our Fundation review

These are the terms and fees for Fundation’s installment loans:

Borrowing amount: $20K – $500K
Term length: 1 – 4 years
Origination fee: Up to 5%
APR: 7.99% – 29.99%
Collateral:  Personal guarantee, UCC-1 blanket lien

Here’s what to expect from Fundation’s lines of credit:

Borrowing amount: $20K – $100K
Term length: 18 months
Additional fees: $500 closing fee
2% draw fee
APR: 7.99% – 29.99%
Collateral:  Personal guarantee, UCC-1 blanket lien

How To Apply For A Fundation Loan

The Fundation application process includes filling out an online application, documenting your business’s ID and finances, and speaking with a representative directly to see if you’re a good fit for a Fundation loan. After speaking to a rep, your application will go through to underwriting and you may hear back in as early as 24 hours.

Takeaway

Fundation is a great option for established businesses looking for rates and fees as competitive as bank loans, without the long, complicated application process. Because of the more stringent borrower requirements, Fundation is not ideal for startups; but, if you do qualify, this financing option is well worth looking into.

BlueVine

Best For…

Small businesses looking for a line of credit or invoice factoring for consistent cash flow.

Products Offered

  • Lines of credit
  • Invoice factoring

Founded in 2013 on the idea that small business financing should be easy, BlueVine offers lines of credit and invoice factoring for small businesses. The company is known for revolutionizing the invoice factoring world and helping business owners get quick cash for unpaid invoices. With relaxed borrower requirements, BlueVine may be ideal for young businesses.

bluevine logo
Invoice factoring borrower requirements:
• Must be in business at least 3 months with a revenue of $100,000 per year.
• Must have a personal credit score of 530 or above.
• Business must be B2B and invoice customers.
Line of credit borrower requirements:
• Must be in business at least 6 months with a revenue of $120,000 per year.
• 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
Read our BlueVine review

Here are the rates for BlueVine’s lines of credit:

Credit facility size: $6K – $5M
Term length: 6 or 12 months
Interest rate: 0.3% – 1.5% per week
Draw fee: 1.6% – 2.5% per draw
APR: 15% – 78%
Personal guarantee: Yes

Here are the rates for BlueVine’s invoice factoring:

Credit facility size: $20K – $5M
Advance rate: 85% – 95%
Discount rate: 0.3% – 1% per week
Max overdue account: 13 weeks (91 days)
Additional fees: $15 wire transfer fee (no charge for ACH transfers)
Contract length: N/A
Monthly minimums: No
Factor all invoices: No
Recourse or non-recourse: Recourse
Notification or non-notification: Both (see below)

How To Apply For A BlueVine Loan

To apply for BlueVine funding, you’ll need to answer a few basic questions about yourself and your business. You’ll then speak with a representative who will ask several additional questions. Typically, you’ll hear back in about 24 hours.

Takeaway

With relaxed borrower requirements and an easy application process, BlueVine can be a great choice for small businesses looking to increase their cash flow with invoice factoring or a line of credit. Be sure to check that BlueVine lines of credit are supported in your specific state before applying.

Fundbox

Best For…

Microbusinesses looking for invoice financing or a line of credit to increase cash flow.

Products Offered

  • Lines of credit
  • Invoice financing

Similar to BlueVine, Fundbox is an invoice financing solution created to help small businesses have more consistent cash flow. Since its inception in 2013, Fundbox now offers lines of credit as well. Fundbox offers relaxed borrower qualifications, making it ideal for less established businesses, and there are no additional fees.

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 specific credit score requirements.
Visit the Fundbox website
Read our Fundbox review

Here are the rates for Fundbox’s invoicing financing (called Fundbox Credit):

Credit facility size: Up to $100K
Advance rate: 100%
Advance fee: 0.4% – 0.7% per week
Term length: 12 or 24 weeks
Additional fees: None
Contract length: N/A
Monthly minimums: No
Factor all invoices: No
Recourse or non-recourse: Recourse
Notification or non-notification: Non-notification

Here are the rates for Fundbox’s lines of credit (called Direct Draw):

Borrowing Amount: $1K – $100K
Term Length: 12 weeks
Borrowing Fee: 0.5% – 0.7% per week
Draw Fee: None
Effective APR: 12% – 54%

How To Apply For A Fundbox Loan

Fundbox’s application is a bit unique. To apply, you simply create an account and hook it up to your existing accounting software or bank account. Fundbox then uses the information to determine whether you qualify for a loan. This process is extremely quick and most applicants will receive a funding decision in minutes.

Takeaway

Fundbox can be a great financing solution for small businesses in need of low borrower qualifications and quick cash. Fundbox’s borrowing amounts may be too small and the rates too steep for larger businesses, but for less established businesses that don’t qualify elsewhere, Fundbox can be a cash flow solution.

Which Cash Flow Loan Is Right For My Business?

With seven great options, it can be hard to know which is right for your business. When choosing a cash flow loan, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the purpose of the loan?
  • Which type of loan is best for my business needs?
  • What’s my credit score and monthly/yearly revenue?
  • How much do I need to borrow? (And especially, how much can I afford to borrow?)
  • How quickly do I need the funding?

All of these factors will play a role in deciding which lender you should go after. If you need additional help or want to see even more financing options, check out our comprehensive small business loan reviews.

The post Best Cash Flow Loans For Small Businesses 2018 appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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What is WordPress Hosting?

What is WordPress Hosting

WordPress Hosting is a hosting product that is pre-configured to host a WordPress powered website efficiently. There is no industry-standard definition for “WordPress Hosting” so the exact product will vary by host. WordPress Hosting is usually used for the 3 “s’s” – to simplify, to secure, and to speed up a WordPress install compared to a WordPress install on typical Linux server.

How WordPress Hosting Works

There is no industry-definition for what “WordPress Hosting” – it varies by hosting company. Since WordPress is simply software that can run on any Linux hosting server that supports PHP / MySQL – the “WordPress Hosting” is often used as an empty upsell.

However, WordPress websites do use some resources differently than other web applications – so there is plenty of scope to create a hosting product that runs a WordPress install more efficiently than a traditional install on shared / VPS hosting.

Imagine real-world housing for a second. Buying hosting is kind of like purchasing a condominium, townhome or detached house. You buy it and live in it and do whatever you want.

But now – imagine you are the builder of these homes. And you notice that most of your homeowners are all elderly couples (or couples with children – whatever piques your imagination).

Sure, these elderly couples live in your condos, townhomes, and houses all just fine with standard amenities. But you see lots of these couples making the same changes over and over. So you start selling “active adult” homes. These have ramps instead of outdoor stairs. They have reinforced bathroom rails. They have wider hallways and more functional appliances.

WordPress Hosting is kind of like that. Good hosting companies will really think through what will make a WordPress install more secure, speedier, and simpler right off the bat.

They’ll have all those features pre-configured and pre-allocated. They’ll have support staff who will dig into a WordPress install rather than only dealing with the hosting support.

With a good product, this setup works well for hosting companies because they can charge a bit more – and they know exactly how to handle a group of servers. And it works better for customers since a lot of minor WordPress headaches go away.

What Is Managed WordPress Hosting?

Now – and this gets kind of crazy and confusing – there are a bunch of hosting companies who go a step further. They will not only pre-configure your hosting account for WordPress – they will actively manage your install for speed, performance, and security.

It’s like bundled intensive support. They are typically a separate “thing” from hosting companies selling WordPress Hosting. In fact, the most well-known is WordPress.com which is owned by Matt Mullenweg – the “founder” of WordPress software. WordPress.com provides a customized but heavily controlled install of WordPress that is bundled with themes, plugins, hosting, etc for a flat monthly fee. There’s limitations and rules – but everything is done and done.

Usually the biggest installs of WordPress will live with a managed host – think the New York Times’ blogs, etc.

But they are also popular with WordPress websites that drive a lot of traffic and want hands-on support. One of my clients uses WP Engine – he loves it, he has budget for it – and it fits his site.

However, it’s important to treat managed WordPress hosting as a different beast compared to the WordPress hosting that most companies sell.

What WordPress Hosting Is Used For

WordPress Hosting is used for running WordPress powered websites at a predictable price point.

Most WordPress Hosting plans base the pricing on the projected number of visits or the number of installs – rather than allocated resources.

This makes shopping a little bit easier to do – but also means that you have to reframe what you are paying for compared to traditional web hosting.

For example, on a shared hosting plan with no limit on domains, I might be able to sustainably run 12 microsites powered by WordPress – or even a single site with 30,000 visits per month. Since I’m handling how the resources are allocated – that’s my choice. My price per website or per visit will be much, much lower than someone who pays for a WordPress Hosting plan with a limit of 2 websites and 20,000 visits.

Again – your money and your value. WordPress Hosting is used to take care of pre-configurations, speed issues, and security issues that many website owners simply don’t want to deal with.

WordPress Hosting Differences

WordPress Hosting, like reseller hosting, does not exist on the spectrum of hosting products. Instead, it’s an add-on to the traditional feature spectrum. Here’s how it differs.

WordPress Hosting vs. Shared / VPS / Dedicated / Cloud Hosting

I wrote an entire explainer on this topic here – in addition to touching on it above.

You can run WordPress on shared, VPS, dedicated, or even cloud hosting. But WordPress Hosting is always going to be some sort of customized setup for WordPress. Sometimes it’s useful – and sometimes it’s not. Here’s what to look for.

What To Look for in WordPress Hosting

Since you are paying for a customized setup and for use, shopping for WordPress Hosting can be a bit more complex than other hosting products.

You are really looking for –

  • Server Resources (memory, bandwidth, processors, etc)
  • Unique & Hard to Create Configurations (staging, NGINX, etc)
  • Dedicated Support
  • Specifics on Memory Allocation, Caching, etc
  • Plan Bonuses (ie, themes, plugins, builders, etc)

WordPress Hosting Providers

I’ve used quite a few WordPress Hosting providers both for my own projects and for clients. Here’s the main 4 companies that I’ve used & really liked. I receive customer referral fees, but all the data & opinion is based on my professional experience.

Name Best if you want… Features!
InMotion …high-performance & independent-owned w/ great customer support. See Features.
SiteGround …high-speed w/ global data centers & developer-friendly features. See Features.
Bluehost …name-brand hosting w/ good support & full product suite. See Features.
WP Engine …fully managed WordPress hosting focused on speed. See Features.
WordPress.com …fully hosted, but also limited, version of WordPress. See Features.

I also created a more in-depth best WordPress hosting guide with a quiz here.

Additionally, using a WordPress Hosting plan will not automatically solve your website speed issues. I wrote a Beginner’s Guide to Website Speed & Performance here.

The post What is WordPress Hosting? appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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What is Shared Hosting?

What is Shared Hosting

Shared Hosting is a hosting product that shares server resources across several hosting accounts. Shared Hosting is used as an affordable, straightforward hosting solution for the majority of websites.

How Shared Hosting Works

Shared hosting is quite literal. There’s no technical meaning – you are simply sharing a server with other websites. A shared hosting server runs resource management software that is configured & maintained by a hosting company. They allocate & manage resources across accounts. The accounts are fully private & do not interact with other accounts.

Imagine real-world housing for a second. A shared hosting server is kind of like a condominium. Even though each owner fully owns the unit as a property owner – the actual structure & property is shared as commons. Each condo can come with its own amenities & floorplan. The owner can do whatever they want as long as it does not impact the overall building or trash the common property.

A shared server is configured to operate smoothly & without interruption across accounts. But since resources are shared, the hosting company can (and does) impose limits & rules on each account to prevent any downtime for all accounts.

What Shared Hosting Is Used For

Shared Hosting is used for running most of the websites on the Internet. Given the resources of a typical server and the demands of a typical website, most website owners do not need anything else. With a shared server – you know generally what rules & limits you have, and you trust the hosting company to provide those resources to run your website.

If you know how many visits you receive, and how efficient your website is – then you can pay a locked-in price for those resources.

Going back to the condominium analogy, as long as you know how many people will be living at your condo and what your typical day looks like (which is most people) – the shared structure makes sense.

Often I’ll see publishers switch away from a shared hosting plan around 25,000 to 30,000 visits per month (that’s when I upgraded). For an ecommerce site, I’ll often see the switch happening around 10,000 visits per month.

Now – both of those numbers are not benchmarks. Your numbers can vary wildly depending on the exact specifications of your website. It always pays to check your own memory, bandwidth, and CPU usage on your hosting account’s cPanel page.

It also pays to understand your traffic patterns, your hosting company’s customer support – and how your website runs.

Shared hosting has some notoriety for crashing under high traffic spikes. But that misses the bigger story. Usually all the accounts on a given server are not spiking at the same time. Unless you are wildly out of proportion with your website – even a good shared host can handle plenty of traffic.

Back in 2013, I wrote a personal blog post that went viral – in quite a big way. I was on a shared server at HostGator. I gave support a heads up when a big website picked up the piece. I implemented a static cache of the page. My site handled 10,000 visits in an one hour fine.

Now shared hosting certainly can (and does) crash. Plenty of sites outgrow them – and there are plenty of other flavors of hosting products.

Shared Hosting Differences

Shared Hosting exists on a spectrum of hosting products. Here’s how it differs.

Shared Hosting vs. VPS Hosting

Shared Hosting offers fewer dedicated resources than VPS hosting. Often they will be the same server – but with VPS, more is pre-allocated rather than shared. It’s kind of like a townhome vs. a condominium. They are both private property within a building. But – with a townhome, everything is allocated (including the land and attic space). With a condominium, a lot more is shared.

With shared hosting, you have to share all of a server’s resources with the other websites on your server. This means that you can usually get a much better price than VPS – and you can usually get the same performance since the hosting company will work to keep the server load balanced.

However, a VPS hosting plan will offer more control and more freedom. You’ll know exactly how much your website can handle – because you know that another spiking website won’t affect yours.

Shared Hosting vs. Dedicated Hosting

Shared Hosting offers dedicated resources on a single server that is shared with other accounts. Dedicated hosting offers the entire server for your use. You are basically leasing a server with support & top tier connection to the Internet.

Shared Hosting vs. Cloud Hosting

Shared Hosting offers dedicated resources on a single server whereas Cloud Hosting decentralizes your website files & databases across thousands of servers everywhere. With shared Hosting, you pay for agreed-upon resources. With Cloud Hosting, you pay for use.

It’s kind of like purchasing a townhome vs. having some sort of AirBnB subscription where you can stay anywhere, anytime, as long as you pay.

With Cloud Hosting, you basically have unlimited resources – but you pay for each use. With Shared Hosting, you pay a stable price for stable resources. It’s like an a la carte all you can eat buffet vs. ordering an entree for a single price.

Confusingly, many hosting companies mix and match the advantages and disadvantages of each. A common combination is to use Cloud Hosting as backup for Shared Hosting for a set price.

Cloud Hosting is also rarely bundled with customer support. Cloud providers are all the big tech companies like Google, Amazon, Oracle, and Microsoft. It’s a commodity for sale.

Now – some hosting companies are creating innovative hosting plans that bundle support and pre-purchased credits for a single priced Cloud Hosting plan.

However, in that case, you are still paying for uses rather that resources. It’s just that you are pre-purchasing the uses.

What To Look for in Shared Hosting

Since you are paying for shared resources, shopping for Shared Hosting is simpler than shopping for other hosting products.

You are really looking for –

  • Server Resources & Performance (memory, bandwidth, processors, etc)
  • Account Rules & Limits (ie, databases, domains, disk space)
  • Customer & Technical Support
  • Account Management & Ease of Use
  • Server Configurations & Software
  • Plan Bonuses (ie, automated backups, etc)

Shared Hosting Providers

I’ve used quite a few Shared Hosting providers both for my own projects and for clients. Here’s the main 4 companies that I’ve used & really liked. I receive customer referral fees, but all the data & opinion is based on my professional experience.

Name Best if you want… Features!
InMotion …high-performance & independent-owned w/ great support. See Features.
HostGator …overall value w/ good pricing, support & unmetered features. See Features.
SiteGround …good support & advanced features w/ plans to grow. See Features.
Bluehost …name-brand hosting w/ good support, pricing & clean interface. See Features.

I also created a more in-depth best shared hosting guide with a quiz here.

Additionally, using a shared host will perform much better if you understand the basics of how servers & speed works. I wrote a Beginner’s Guide to Website Speed & Performance here.

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What is Cloud Hosting?

What is Cloud Hosting

Cloud Hosting is a hosting product that distributes your website data among an entire network of data centers with near infinite resources. Cloud hosting usually charge per use rather than per resource feature. Cloud hosting is provided by the big tech companies like Amazon, Google, Oracle, Microsoft and IBM – but is sometimes resold via traditional hosting brands who bundle customer support.

How Cloud Hosting Works

Usually website files live on a hosting server that is leased by a hosting company. A cloud is an entire network of data centers that host website files in a distributed & decentralized fashion. It gets way more technical than that – but basically it’s just raw server resources for rent based on use rather than renting a part of a server.

Imagine real-world housing for a second. Traditional hosting is like buying a house, townhouse or condominium. You buy it and you can do whatever you want. Cloud hosting is like having access to any house anywhere in the world whenever and wherever – you just have to pay per night for whatever house you use.

The actual cloud is built by the biggest tech companies in the world. There are not that many. Amazon is the biggest. They are closely followed by Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM.

Cloud hosting as a product is also something sold by traditional hosting companies. They usually do not have their own clouds. Instead, they pre-purchase and bundle credits on a big tech cloud.

This product works because none of the big cloud providers give tech support – at all. None. Also, you never really know how much your bill will be. I’ve had a small site on Google’s cloud for over a year. I think it has cost a few dozen dollars – all covered by my sign up credit. But most sites with a few thousand visits per month can run between $10 and $40 per month depending on how big and complex their site is.

What Cloud Hosting Is Used For

Cloud Hosting is used for running websites that need varying resources and want unlimited performance. The only time your site will ever go down is if Google or Amazon go down. That happens – but it’s usually only for minutes and it makes international news.

If you know how many visits you receive, and how efficient your website is – then cloud hosting can be insanely cheap. You can host a site on the cloud directly for pennies. But if you have even a bit of traffic – then your costs will be in the ballpark of traditional hosting…with no real cap.

Moving to the cloud is usually done by website owners who know & find an advantage in managing their website’s performance. You can get very responsive and very reliable websites in the cloud. But there’s also a tradeoff with complexity, overall value, and cost.

I’ve had my most maddening consulting work on 100% cloud hosted websites (I’m looking at you Microsoft Azure) when the client absolutely did not need cloud hosting.

But cloud hosting will also serve a really useful complementary role – especially for storage or mirroring. Some hosts provide cloud credits for automated backups, media storage, and traffic spikes.

What To Look for in Cloud Hosting

Since you are paying for use, shopping for cloud hosting is different in many ways.

You are really looking for –

  • Cloud Setup
  • Customer Support (how much they’ll help with setup)
  • Prices per Projected Use
  • Plan Bonuses (ie, automated backups, etc)

Best Cloud Hosting Providers

I’ve used a few Cloud Hosting providers both for my own projects and for clients. Here’s the main 5 companies that I’ve used & really liked. I receive customer referral fees, but all the data & opinion is based on my professional experience.

Name Best if you want… Features!
SiteGround …great overall value, high resources w/ great customer support. See Features.
HostGator …unlimited bandwidth w/ affordable pricing tiers. See Features.
CloudWays …very high performance w/ great customer support. See Features.
Google …to run your site on the cloud that runs Google. See Features.
Digital Ocean …developer-focused platform w/ fast, global deployment. See Features.

Additionally, using a cloud hosting plan will not automatically solve your website speed issues. I wrote a Beginner’s Guide to Website Speed & Performance here.

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What is Reseller Hosting?

What is Reseller Hosting

Reseller Hosting is a hosting product that dedicates specific server resources to an administrator who can create shared hosting accounts. Reseller Hosting is typically used as a stable, affordable product for freelancers & agencies to provide to clients. It allows agencies & freelancers to generate recurring revenue via hosting, maintenance & turn-key solutions while providing clients with world-class infrastructure & technical expertise.

How Reseller Hosting Works

Reseller Hosting is a variation of a shared, VPS or Dedicated Hosting plan where the customer has an administrator account to create new individual hosting accounts. It is literally reselling hosting to a 3rd party. A reseller account has specific server management software so that the administrator can dedicate specific resources to each account and bill them individually.

Imagine real-world housing for a second. Ok – imagine a house or condominium building that is leased to someone who sub-leases the rooms to individuals. Reseller hosting is like that. The individuals could buy their own condo or rent their own house. But if they simply don’t want to deal with leasing agreements or property management – and would rather deal with their friend, then it makes more sense to sub-lease.

That analogy makes Reseller Hosting sound informal and unprofessional. It’s not. It’s actually a very common service for freelancers & agencies who have clients who simply don’t want to even *hear* the words FTP or DNS. Clients get hands-off hosting. Resellers get recurring revenue and a long-term relationship. Hosting companies lease servers to someone who can pay, knows what they need, and will usually be around for a while.

Reseller Hosting can be part of a shared, VPS, dedicated or cloud server. It all depends on what the customer is using it for.

What Reseller Hosting Is Used For

Reseller Hosting is typically used for running known client websites at a predictable price. With a Reseller Hosting account, the customer will know what types of websites will be on the account, so they’ll be able to allocate exactly what each site needs. Ideally, the reseller will have strong influence over the websites on the account. They’ll be able to set the billing and manage the traffic & resource use.

If you know how many visits you receive, and how efficient your website is – then you can pay a locked-in price for those resources. And you can rebill clients for very high-value add.

For example, if an agency has 10 local business clients with only 500 visits per month each – then the agency could easily put them *all* on a $20/mo reseller account with a solid hosting company. The agency could charge $50/mo for hosting, light tech support & WordPress updates. That’s $480/mo profit for the agency. And also quite a deal for each client. You can see how this could scale – especially if you charge more, provide more value, or balance more websites on the account.

Reseller Hosting Differences

Reseller Hosting sort of exists separately from other hosting products. Here’s how it differs.

Reseller Hosting vs. Shared Hosting / VPS Hosting / Dedicated Hosting

Unlike other hosting products, Reseller Hosting accounts are built to resell part of your server’s resources in a dedicated account. You can have a Reseller Shared plan where you are reselling accounts on a shared server. You can have a Reseller VPS plan where you are reselling accounts on a dedicated allocation of a single server. And so on – the key is to know what kind of resources your business and your clients’ businesses need.

What To Look for in Reseller Hosting

Since you are paying for type of hosting product resources, shopping for Reseller Hosting is simpler than other products in many ways.

You are really looking for –

  • Server Resources (memory, bandwidth, processors, etc)
  • Server Management Support (how much they’ll help with setup)
  • Server, Website & Billing Software (WHMCS, domain resells, WHM, cPanel, etc)
  • Data Center Location & Security Setup
  • Plan Bonuses (ie, automated backups, white labeling, etc)

Reseller Hosting Providers

I’ve used quite a few hosting providers both for my own projects and for clients. Here’s the main 4 companies that I’ve used & really liked. I receive customer referral fees, but all the data & opinion is based on my professional experience.

Name Best if you want… Features!
InMotion …great overall value, bundled reseller features, solid support. See Features.
SiteGround …unique program setup w/ diverse international data centers. See Features.
HostGator …great pricing, solid bundled features and known brand. See Features.
NameCheap …cheap plans with low-commitment & UK data centers. See Features.

I also created a more in-depth best reseller hosting guide with a quiz here.

Additionally, using a reseller host will not automatically solve your clients’ website speed issues. I wrote a Beginner’s Guide to Website Speed & Performance here.

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