The Complete Guide To Credit Bureaus: Equifax VS Experian VS TransUnion

The Complete Guide To Credit Bureaus: Equifax VS Experian VS TransUnion

If you’ve ever applied for a loan — whether it be for a car, a house, or even a small business — then I’m sure you’re well acquainted with the importance of credit scores. But what about credit reports?

Credit reports tell lenders about your credit history and indicate how reliable you are as a borrower. But more than that, credit reports help you understand your credit, improve your credit score, and prevent fraud and identity theft. So how do you get your credit report? That’s where credit bureaus like Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion come in.

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about credit bureaus. Then we’ll break down the “big three” credit bureaus so you can confidently understand your credit report and score.

What Is A Credit Bureau?

Let’s start with the basics.

A credit bureau is a business organization that collects and sells data regarding the credit history of individuals. They typically collect data such as your credit card and loan balances, the number of credit accounts you have, your payment history, any bankruptcies, etc. Today, there are dozens of credit bureaus, but the “big three” are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Credit bureaus arose to help lenders quickly gauge the reliability of a potential borrower. In the past, you could go to the good ol’ general store and the owner would know you, your character, and whether or not putting your items on “charge” (or on credit) was a good idea. That method may have worked in the past, when communities were small and isolated, but there had to be a better way moving forward. Thus credit bureaus were born.

Credit bureaus collect data on potential borrowers and sell it to banks to help them make informed lending decisions. The oldest of the “big three,” Equifax, started capitalizing on this need all the way back in 1899.

Today, the credit bureaus have streamlined and computerized the whole process by compiling the data they collect into a credit report and credit score. While every credit bureau calculates credit scores differently, and every lender has different credit score requirements, credit reports and credits scores allow for a more universal measuring stick to judge potential borrowers by. Recently, credit bureaus also have branched out to providing dozens of additional products to help individuals and businesses alike, including identity protection, business marketing, and more.

How Do Credit Bureaus Collect My Information?

Okay, we admit it all sounds a bit creepy. Big Brother’s always watching, right? Well, yes, but it might comfort you to know how credit bureaus collect and share your information.

Credit bureaus mainly collect information from credit institutions with which you already have a relationship, such as:

  • Banks
  • Credit card companies
  • Student loan providers
  • Auto loan providers

Credit bureaus do not have access to these accounts; instead, the credit institutions share the information with the credit bureaus. Credit institutions are not obligated to share information and can give data to one, two, three, or none of the major credit bureaus. Typically, credit bureaus store data on your balances, available credit, payment history, and the number of open and closed accounts you have. Collection agencies and debt collectors may also report to the credit bureaus if you have any delinquent activity.

The rest of the information credit bureaus collect comes from public court records. They access these records in search of any possible bankruptcies, tax liens, repossessions, and foreclosures.

How Do Credit Bureaus Use My Information?

Now that you know how credit bureaus collect your information, you’re probably wondering how they use your information?

Credit bureaus use your information to create credit reports and credit scores. They then share your information with potential lenders, landlords, and employers for a number of reasons. Your credit report may be pulled up in the following scenarios:

  • When a lender is checking your credit to see if you qualify for a loan
  • When a landlord is deciding whether or not to accept your rental application
  • When a new employer needs to run a background check
  • When a utility provider is about to start a service contract with you

Credit bureaus also sell information for marketing purposes. Say a lender is looking for potential customers with poor credit who might need a credit card. The lender will reach out to a credit bureau, which will then sell the lender a prescreening list of qualifying individuals and their basic contact information. (If you’ve ever wondered how you end up with so many preapproved credit cards flooding your mailbox, this is it.)

However, there are rules that protect you and your data — particularly the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

The FCRA is a law that states you have the right to know your credit report and the right to dispute any errors on your credit report. It also lays out what is a “permissible purpose” for a lender to pull your credit and what is an “impermissible purpose.”

If a potential lender, landlord, utility provider, future employer, insurer — you name it — wants to view your full credit report, they must have a permissible purpose and your permission first. In some cases, a potential lender will simply let you know that they will do a credit pull, and by following through with the application, you grant them permission to do so. In other cases, a landlord might have you use a tenant screening service like ExperianConnect, where you have to download your credit report and share it with them directly.

If you aren’t comfortable with credit bureaus prescreening your information and sending it to third-party lenders, you can use OptOutPrescreen.com to prevent this. Continue onto the “What To To Do In Case of Fraud Or Identity Theft” section to learn more ways to protect your credit report and personal information.

Credit Reports VS Credit Scores

Since credit bureaus use your credit history to compile both a credit report and a credit score, it’s important to know the difference between the two.

Credit Report Credit Score

A report prepared by credit bureaus that shows an individual’s credit history, including payment history, loan balances, credit limits, and personal information (such as your social security number, birth date, and address).

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A number that indicates an individuals creditworthiness and is based on the individual’s credit history, payment history, and other data compiled by credit bureaus.

On a credit report, you’ll see detailed information about your credit history. A typical credit report will give you a full breakdown of all your open or closed credit accounts, bank accounts, loans, and payment history. Below, you’ll se an example of a credit report and what it might include (this is only page 1 of 4, so you can imagine how detailed your full credit report might be):

The Complete Guide To Credit Bureaus: Equifax VS Experian VS TransUnion

A credit score, on the other hand, provides much less detail. You’ll usually be given your credit score in tandem with a graphic indicator of whether your credit score is poor, fair, good, or excellent. You may be able to drill down to see the factors that affect your credit score, and you may not. Here’s an example of a credit score and how it might appear:

The Complete Guide To Credit Bureaus: Equifax VS Experian VS TransUnion

Think of it like this: a credit report is a detailed report of what your credit history is, while a credit score is an interpretation of what your credit history means. Your credit score is one of the biggest factors lenders use when considering loan applications; the higher the score, the more likely you are to pay your loan back — at least, in a lender’s eyes.

It’s worth noting one more key difference between credit reports and credit scores. Credit bureaus are legally obligated to give you a free credit report once a year, whereas there is no law requiring them to provide a credit score. This means you’ll have to pay a fee to access your credit score through one of the “big three.” There are free credit score sites if you want to avoid this fee. Check out our post The Best Free Credit Score Sites to learn more.

Note: In certain situations — like unemployment, identity theft, and fraud — you can access your credit report multiple times a year without charge.

How Credit Scores Are Calculated

Credit scores are all based on similar data but can vary significantly depending on the credit score model. Credit scores are generally affected by the following:

  • Your payment history
  • How much credit you use versus how much credit is available in an account
  • The number of accounts you have open
  • How long your accounts have been open
  • The types of credit you have (such as credit cars, loans, mortgages, etc.)

How this information is transformed into a credit score depends on the credit model being used. There are two main types of credit models: FICO scores and VantageScore.

FICO Scores VS VantageScore

The FICO score model was created by Fair Isaac Corporation in 1989 (hence the name FICO). FICO credit scores range from 350 – 850 and are determined by these five factors, which are ranked in terms of importance by percentage:

  • Payment History: 35%
  • Amounts Allowed: 30%
  • Length Of Credit History: 15%
  • New Credit: 10%
  • Credit Mix: 10%

The VantageScore model was created by Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion in 2006. This model also uses a 350-850 scale. Scores are determined by the following six factors that are ranked by level of importance rather than a percentage:

  • Payment History: Extremely influential
  • Percentage Of Credit Limit Used: Highly influential
  • Age & Type Of Credit: Highly influential
  • Total Balances & Debt: Moderately influential
  • Available Credit: Less influential
  • Recent Credit Behavior & Inquiries: Less influential

VantageScore claims that it is “the scoring model that is more accurate.” However, the FICO scoring model is used more predominantly in the lending industry.

Why Is My Credit Score Different With Each Bureau?

It makes sense that your credit score may vary depending on whether the potential lender is using the FICO or VantageScore model. But when the “big three” all use the VantageScore model, why do you get a different credit score from each credit bureau?

Remember earlier when we said that credit institutions aren’t required to share information with the credit bureaus? They can choose to share data with one, two, three, or none of the “big three.” This means that Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion don’t have access to exactly the same data, which accounts for the difference in credit scores.

This is why it’s important to treat your credit score as a “guesstimation” rather than an end-all number. Credit scores are ever-changing and lenders all have their own way of calculating and evaluating your credit score. Check your credit score so you have a general idea of what it is, and try to keep your score as close to 850 as possible, but don’t stress over-much about the exact three-digit number.

Reasons To Use A Credit Bureau

Now that you know what credit bureaus are and how they work, when should you use one? It’s simple: use a credit bureau anytime you want to know or need to know your credit report or credit score. Here are five of the most common scenarios for when you should use a credit bureau.

 

1. When Applying For A Loan

When applying for a loan, a potential lender is going to consider both your credit report and credit score, so it’s extremely important that you know your credit report and score beforehand. This way, you can correct any errors on your credit report and make sure you meet the lender’s minimum borrower requirements before you apply.

If there are errors, they can take a while to set right. Additionally, if you don’t meet the credit score requirement, raising your credit score can take time. Knowing the state of your credit before applying gives you the time to put your best foot forward and significantly increases your chances of being approved for a loan.

For more tips and tricks about increasing your chances of securing the loan you want, read our post on improving your loan application.

2. Before Renting An Apartment Or House

Potential landlords almost always run a credit report in order to decide if you’re trustworthy enough to make your monthly payments on time. Knowing your credit report beforehand is key. Again, if there are any errors, you can correct them before your future apartment or house is on the line. Or, if there is a missed payment or some other potential red flag on your credit report, you can try to explain the situation to your landlord in advance rather than being flat-out rejected.

3. To Improve Your Credit Score

If you are wanting to monitor and improve your credit score, you need to know your score first. Each of the “big three” allows you to purchase your credit score. They also offer credit monitoring subscriptions that allow you to regularly view your credit score and receive alerts when there are any changes to your credit score.

If you don’t want to pay for a monthly credit monitoring service, check out the best free credit score sites.

4. To Doublecheck For Credit Errors

As we mentioned earlier, you don’t want to be stuck with an error on your credit report right when you’re in the middle of the application approval process for a new loan or mortgage. Check each of the big three credit bureaus for errors as they all collect and maintain different information.

5. To Prevent Fraud & Identity Theft

Another benefit of using a credit bureau is fraud prevention and identity protection. If you stay on top of your credit report, you can pinpoint anything fishy and secure your information. When it comes to fraud and identity theft, the sooner you notice a problem, the better. One of the best parts about using one of the “big three” credit bureaus is that they all offer some form of fraud monitoring and extra security measures (which we will cover in more detail).

Bonus: To Help Run Your Business

As an added bonus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion all offer additional business services to help business owners manage, expand, and secure their small businesses. These services include everything from analytics to customer acquisition to risk management to fraud prevention and more.

What To Do If There’s An Error On Your Credit Report

If you find an error on your credit report, you’ll need to report and dispute that error with each individual bureau since each bureau collects and utilizes different information. Each bureau has their own process for disputing. You’ll need to go to their individual sites to find details on how to fix an error on your credit report.

One of the reasons it’s so important to check your credit report regularly is that it can often take months to properly fix an error on your credit report. For more details on common credit report mistakes and how to dispute credit report errors, visit the FICO website.

What To Do In Case Of Fraud Or Identity Theft

The Complete Guide To Credit Bureaus: Equifax VS Experian VS TransUnion

When it comes to fraud and identity theft, you don’t want to take any chances. If you suspect fraud related to any of your credit cards, bank accounts, or identity — or if your identity has been stolen — it’s important to take action right away. You can do so by submitting a fraud alert or security freeze (sometimes known as a credit freeze).

Both a fraud alert and security freeze are steps to secure your credit report and personal information, but they differ slightly.

Fraud Alert Security Freeze

A fraud alert warns credit bureaus that there might be fraudulent activity, so potential lenders will need to take extra measure to verify your identity before extending credit.

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A security freeze blocks lenders from accessing your credit report at all until the freeze is lifted by you (usually using a pin).

Fraud alerts usually last 90 days (unless you’re an identity theft victim, in which case you can extend the alert). To place a fraud alert, contact Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion and follow their instructions. You only need to contact one of the big three credit bureaus to place a fraud alert as they will notify the other two credit bureaus.

A credit freeze has the advantage of being much more secure. However, you will have to lower the freeze each you time you or a lender need to view your credit report, and you may be required to pay for the service. Unlike a fraud alert, you will have to place a security freeze with each of the three bureaus.

How Do The Big Three Credit Bureaus Compare

Now that you know the basics about credit bureaus and the reasons to use one, how do you know which credit bureau to use? How do the big three compare to each other? And what products do each credit bureau offer? Here’s a basic breakdown that compares Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Read on to learn more about each credit bureau.

Equifax Experian TransUnion

Free Annual Credit Report

✓

✓

✓

Credit Score

$15.95

$19.99

$19.95

Credit Monitoring

✗

Starts at $0/mo

$19.95/mo

Identity Protection

✓

✓

✓

Business Credit Score

✓

✓

✓

Number of Business Services

11

12

15

Equifax

The Complete Guide To Credit Bureaus: Equifax VS Experian VS TransUnion

Best For…

Individuals looking to check their Equifax credit report and score and in need of a free credit lock service.

The oldest of the three credit bureaus, Equifax has been around since 1899. While the company has grown significantly over the years, the Equifax motto to “always focus on its customers” has stayed the same. Today, Equifax offers basic credit report and credit score services as well as several business products. The most notable aspect of Equifax is its free credit lock service that allows individuals to protect their data at no additional cost.

Products Offered

Equifax offers basic credit report and credit score services, as well as a free credit lock service.

  • Credit Report: As with every credit bureau, you can access your free Equifax credit report at annualcreditreport.com.
  • Equifax Credit Score: You can purchase an Equifax credit score for $15.95. This score will be accessible for 30 days.
  • Lock & Alert: This free service allows individuals control over their credit report by locking and unlocking the report as needed. They even have a mobile app and send alerts every time your account is unlocked or locked.

Business Services

You can purchase a single business credit report from Equifax for $99 or a multi-pack for $399.95. You can use this to view your own business credit or to ascertain the credit health of a potential business partner, supplier, or new customer.

In addition to business credit reports, Equifax offers 11 products to help you run your small business. These products range from customer acquisition to risk mitigation to credit monitoring to fraud prevention and more. Visit the Equifax website to learn more about their business offerings.

Experian

The Complete Guide To Credit Bureaus: Equifax VS Experian VS TransUnion

Best For…

Individuals looking to view their Experian credit report or to actively monitor their credit report and credit score from all three credit bureaus.

Equifax began as part of TRW Information Systems and Services INC. back in 1968, and has since had a long history of acquisitions and advancement. Of all three bureaus, Experian offers the most personal products for monitoring and protecting your credit. What really sets Experian apart is that you can monitor your credit report from each of the three bureaus, so you can have all your credit information in one place. Experian also offers a FICO score simulator, which is invaluable for seeing what your FICO score could be if you make changes to your credit.

Products Offered

Experian offers personal credit monitoring and identity protection products as well as loan matching and credit card matching services.

  • Credit Report: As with every credit bureau, you can access your free Experian credit report at annualcreditreport.com.
  • Experian Credit Report & Score: You can purchase your Experian credit report and FICO credit score for $19.99. This purchase is only good for a one-time view.
  • 3 Bureau Credit Report & FICO Score: For $39.99, you can view your Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion credit report as well as your FICO credit score. This purchase is only good for a one-time view.
  • Experian CreditWorks Basic: View your Experian credit report for free every month.
  • Experian CreditWorks Premium: For $24.99/month, you can view your FICO score and gain access to Experian’s credit monitoring, identity protection, and credit lock services. This service includes the 3 Bureaus Credit Report. This product lets you view your credit reports and credit score daily, and it includes a FICO score simulator as well.
  • Experian IdentityWorks Plus: Experian’s identity protection service starts at $9.99/month and includes dark web surveillance, identity theft insurance up to $500,000, lost wallet assistance, credit lock, and identity theft monitoring and alerts. Includes credit monitoring for Experian and FICO score alerts. You can add child identity protection as well.
  • Experian IdentityWorks Premium: Experian’s most expensive identity protection service is $19.99/month and includes dark web surveillance, identity theft insurance up to $1,00,000, lost wallet assistance, credit lock, and identity theft monitoring and alerts. Includes credit monitoring for all three credit bureaus and FICO score alerts. You can add child identity protection as well.

Note: For Experian CreditWorks and IdentityWorks products, you can receive a discount for purchasing an annual subscription rather than a monthly subscription.

Business Services

Experian does offer business credit scores, although they aren’t forthcoming about the cost. The credit bureau also offers Experian Connect (a tenant screening service) and Experian Mailing List Builder (a customer acquisition service).

In addition, Experian offers 11 other business services ranging from customer management to risk management to debt recovery to consulting services and more. Visit the Experian website to learn more about their business offerings.

TransUnionThe Complete Guide To Credit Bureaus: Equifax VS Experian VS TransUnion

Best For…

Individuals looking to check their TransUnion credit report and score and to manage their business and its credit.

TransUnion started back in 1968 as a holding company for a railroad leasing organization known as Union Tank Car Company. Today, TransUnion is the smallest of the three credit bureaus but packs the biggest punch where business services are concerned. TransUnion also offers a credit score simulator — it is a great tool for improving your credit score as you can see how your credit could be affected if you made certain changes to your credit.

Products

TransUnion offers basic credit report and credit score products, as well as a free credit monitoring and identity theft service.

  • Credit Report: As with every credit bureau, you can access your free TransUnion credit report at annualcreditreport.com.
  • TrueIdentity: This is TransUnion’s free credit monitoring and identity theft protection service. It includes unlimitedTransUnion credit reports, a credit lock service, and alerts.
  • Credit Monitoring: For $19.99/month, you can have access to unlimited TransUnion credit report and score views, as well as credit lock, credit change alerts, and a score trending and score simulator tool.

Business Services

TransUnion offers business credit scores, although they aren’t forthcoming about the cost. The credit bureau also offers SmartMove, a tenant screening service.

In addition, TransUnion offers business products covering 14 fields, including marketing, fraud detection, healthcare revenue protection, customer acquisition, and more. Visit the TransUnion website to learn more about their business offerings.

Which Credit Bureau Should I Use?

Now that you know a little more about each of the three credit bureaus, the question becomes: Which credit bureau should I use?

The answer is all three of them.

We promise this isn’t a trick answer. Since each credit bureau collects different data regarding your credit history, it’s incredibly important to check your credit report with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Luckily, you are legally guaranteed a free annual credit report from each bureau.

One recommendation is to stagger your annual free credit report. Check your Equifax report, then your Experian report four months later, and then your TransUnion report after another four months. This way you can always have a rough idea of what your credit report looks like without losing a penny. Another option is to use ExperianCreditWorks, which monitors all three credit bureaus and your FICO score for $24.99 a month.

If you simply want more control over your credit report and credit score, Experian offers the most bang for your buck in terms of personal credit monitoring and identity protection. However, TransUnion offers the most business-related products.

Ultimately, choosing which of the three credit bureaus’ monitoring services is right for you will depend on your budget and the level of control you want. The most important thing is to actually monitor your credit regularly. Take advantage of your free annual credit reports and know your credit score at the very least. Being proactive about your credit report can help ensure your credit report is accurate and can help catch any early signs of fraud, and knowing your credit score is the first step to improving your credit score.

Read our post 5 Ways To Improve Your Personal Credit Score and The Ultimate Guide To Improving Your Business Credit Score to learn more.

The post The Complete Guide To Credit Bureaus: Equifax VS Experian VS TransUnion appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Top 0% APR Introductory Rate Business Credit Cards

Getting your business a 0% APR introductory rate credit card could be helpful, especially if you’re planning to make a big purchase that you can’t pay back right away. Unfortunately, credit cards are packed with complicated rules and regulations, and with so many options available, it can be time-consuming to figure out what’s best for your business. A card that works well for Sammy’s Sandwich Shop down the street might not be the right option for you.

That’s where Merchant Maverick comes in! We’ve parsed through all your various options and come up with a list of the top 0% APR intro rate business credit cards. Besides offering that 0% APR introductory rate, these cards also provide savings via rewards and $0 annual fees, allowing you to stretch your dollar further.

So which one is right for you? Read on to find out!

American Express Blue Business Plus

This card leads the pack with a 0% APR introductory rate of 15 months. It also boasts a rewards program of two points per $1 on all purchases up to $50,000 per year, and one point per $1 on all purchases after $50,000. These points (which are worth $0.01 in many cases) can be redeemed via American Express’ Membership Rewards program in numerous ways, including at checkout for major retailers, gift cards, taxi fare in New York City, and booking travel through American Express Travel.

This card’s variable APR after those 15 months are up can run lower than average. It also grants you expanded buying power, which allows you to spend above your credit level without penalty.

However, Blue Business Plus doesn’t provide a welcome offer. Additionally, some redemptions dish out reward points at less than the standard $0.01. Rewards also start slowing down after spending $50,000 in a year, so this card might not be the best option if your business will break that threshold. International travelers should note that this card does carry a foreign transaction fee of 2.7%.

Want a full breakdown of Blue Business Plus? Check out Merchant Maverick’s comprehensive review to get the deets.

Chase Ink Business Unlimited

chase ink business unlimited

Ink Business Unlimited is a cash back card featuring a 0% APR intro rate for 12 months and no annual fee. Chase has set the cash back reward amount to 1.5% on all purchases—no cap whatsoever. Those rewards can be redeemed via deposit into your bank account or applied on Amazon purchases. Additionally, Ink Business Unlimited also provides a hefty welcome offer of $500 cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.

Other benefits include additional employee cards at no extra cost, as well as travel and roadside assistance. Chase also provides purchase protection to cover new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account. Once the 12 months of 0% APR run dry, this card offers a variable APR that sits right around industry standard.

Marks against this card include a 3% foreign transaction fee, meaning businesses that require overseas travel may want to think twice before dipping into Ink Business Unlimited.

If you need a further breakdown on Chase’s Ink Business Unlimited, we’ve got you covered with our comprehensive review.

American Express SimplyCash Plus

SimplyCash Plus is another cash back card, although its 0% intro APR runs for nine months. It does feature a hefty rewards program for certain categories, however. Purchases at U.S. office supply stores and on wireless telephone earn 5% percent cash back, up to $50,000 per year. Additionally, you can early 3% back on a category of your choosing (airfare, hotel rooms, car rentals, gas stations, restaurants, advertising purchases, shipping, or computer hardware, software, and cloud computing), up to $50,000 per year. All other purchases will nab 1% back.

American Express’ SimplyCash Plus boasts a variable APR that can clock in at below industry standard. Additionally, its expanded buying power will let you buy above your credit limit with no penalty fees. Other benefits include extended warranty and purchase protection, as well as a range of travel benefits, from baggage insurance to a global assist hotline.

Unfortunately, rewards are redeemed through statement credit only—meaning this card won’t work for those wanting to receive cash back as a check. Besides this, SimplyCash Plus doesn’t provide a welcome offer and foreign purchases are subject to a 2.7% transaction fee.

Need more info on American Express SimplyCash Plus? Head on over to Merchant Maverick’s review.

Capital One Spark Cash Select For Business

capital one spark cash select

This is the second card on our list that runs with a 0% APR for the first nine months. Its cash back rewards program features an unlimited 1.5% back on all purchases. Cash back rewards can be applied to your account as statement credits or requested as a check. Those rewards won’t expire while your account is open and can be transferred between Capital One cards.

You can additionally collect a tidy $200 early spend bonus if you spend at least $3,000 within your first three months of opening your accounts. Spark Cash Select further provides extended warranty and purchase protection, as well as access to Visa SavingsEdge, which may offer up to 15% off on some purchases from participating merchants. You can also get employee cards at no extra cost and Capital One charges no foreign transaction fees.

Drawbacks of the Spark Cash Select include a variable APR that may sit a tad higher than industry standard once those nine months of 0% APR are up. Additionally, the flat rate rewards program may not fit within your business if you spend a lot within categories that can earn higher cash back rates with other cards.

Those who want to dig into the nitty-gritty on Spark Cash Select should take a gander at our in-depth review.

Bank Of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard

To round out our list of 0% APR introductory rate business credit cards, we’ll look out our third entry with a 0% intro APR for nine months. This card boasts 3% cash back on purchases at gas stations and office supply stores, 2% back at restaurants, and 1% back for everything else. You’ll be able to redeem your cash rewards via a statement credit, check, or have cash deposited into a Bank of America checking or savings account.

Besides its reward program, this card’s other benefits include travel and emergency services, zero liability protection on unauthorized purchases, and overdraft protection. Clients of BofA’s Business Advantage Relationship Rewards program can get a 25% – 75% rewards bonus on the base cash back rate. This means you could earn up to 3.75% at gas stations and office supply stores, 2.75% at restaurants, and 1.75% everywhere else. There’s additionally a $200 statement credit bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 60 days.

On the negative side, there’s a $250,000 purchase cap for the 3% cash back categories, after which you’ll earn 1% back. Also, for businesses that require international travel, BofA’s card does carry a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Want to learn more about BofA’s Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard? Visit the Merchant Maverick review of the card.

Final Thoughts

That ends our look at five of the top 0% APR introductory rate business credit cards! Still can’t decide on the best option for your business? Check out our small business credit comparison page to compare some of our favorite credit cards and learn more about picking the best card for you.

The post Top 0% APR Introductory Rate Business Credit Cards appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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What’s The Best Chase Ink Business Credit Card? Compare Cards Here!

Chase ink business credit card comparison

Chase’s lineup of Ink Business credit cards is well-regarded in the business credit card industry and by reviewers. After having done the math and the research, we here at Merchant Maverick concur with this assessment. However, that doesn’t answer the question you may be asking: Which Chase business credit card should I get?

We thought we’d explore this question so that you know which of Chase’s small business offerings suits your particular goals. Our Chase Ink business credit card comparison will cover four cards. Let’s take a look at the Chase Ink Business CashSM, the Chase Ink Business UnlimitedSM, and the Chase Ink Business PreferredSM.

Chase Ink Business CashSM

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Bonus Offer: $500 cash back when you spend at least $3,000 within 3 months of opening your account
  • APR: 14.99% – 20.99%, Variable
  • Introductory APR: 0% APR for the first 12 months
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%
  • Rewards:
    • 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone purchases each year
    • 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each year
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases

The main selling point of the Chase Ink Business CashSM credit card is the 5% cash back earning potential — it’s one of the few business cards available to offer such a high cash back rate. You stand to earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent on the purchase categories listed above each year — a potential $1,250 value. Max out the 2% cash back tier, and you’ll be sitting pretty with $1,750 cash back each year. You can continue to earn cash back on your purchases in these categories after spending $25,000 in a year, but at a 1% rate. It’s a great deal for the business owner whose spending is concentrated in these high-earning categories, but if your spending on said categories is significantly above this $25,000 limit, you might want to consider a card offering unlimited cash back.

The Chase Ink Business CashSM has no annual fee. Combine that with the $500 cash back you stand to earn if you spend $3K or more within 3 months — a bar most businesses will clear –and you’ll be rewarded nicely for your card use right off the bat.

When you go to redeem your rewards, you’ll find that your cash back rewards are technically counted as points. 5% cash back is counted as five points per $1 spent, 2% back is two points per $1, etc. Your points will never expire so long as your account is open, and you can redeem your points not only for cash back, but for rewards like gift cards and travel. You can also transfer your points over to other cards with Chase Ultimate Rewards, which could then be transferred over to one of 13 different airline travel partners.

Additional benefits of the Ink Cash card include:

  • Fraud protection
  • Zero liability protection
  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver

Read Our Full Chase Ink Business Cash Review

Apply For Chase Ink Business Cash 

Chase Ink Business UnlimitedSM

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Bonus Offer: $500 cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • APR: 14.99%–20.99% variable APR
  • Introductory Rate: 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers in the first 12 months
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%
  • Rewards: 
    • Earn unlimited 1.5% Cash Back rewards on all purchases

chase ink business unlimitedLaunched in May 2018, the Chase Ink Business Unlimited℠ card is Chase’s newest business credit card. Like the Ink Cash, the Ink Business Unlimited is a cash back business card. However, with the Unlimited card, there are no purchase categories, and you earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no limits on the amount of cash back you can earn. As this card will always draw comparisons with the similar Ink Cash card, let’s take a closer look at the similarities and differences between the two cards.

Chase Ink Business Cash vs Ink Business Unlimited

If you want a Chase Ink business credit card with no annual fee, you’ll have to go with one of these two cards, as the Chase Ink Business PreferredSM carries a $95 annual fee. To compare these two cards, let’s take note of where the Ink Cash and the Ink Business Unlimited don’t differ at all. Neither card carries an annual fee. Both cards offer the same welcome offer ($500 cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months), the same variable APR, the same 12-month introductory 0% APR period, the same 3% foreign transaction fee, and the same package of travel/shopping benefits.

The difference between the two cards lies entirely in their respective cash back reward structures. The Ink Cash offers 5% and 2% cash back spending categories along with 1% cash back on all other purchases, but the amount of annual spending in the 5% and 2% categories that will earn you this extra cash back is limited to $25,000 each. By contrast, the Ink Business Unlimited offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no limits — very simple indeed. If your business spending is diffuse and variable, the Business Unlimited is clearly a better deal, while the business owner whose spending is concentrated in the Ink Cash’s high earning categories will obviously find the Ink Cash to be a better deal. This is true only up to a point, however. Due to the fact that only your first $25,000 in annual purchases in these high-earning categories earns you cash back at these enhanced rates, the Ink Business Unlimited may earn you more cash back even if your spending is concentrated in the Ink Cash’s bonus categories. If you spend over $83,333.33 annually on the Ink Cash’s 5% cash back categories, you’ll actually earn more cash back by charging these same purchases to an Ink Business Unlimited card. Likewise, spend over $33,333.33 annually on the Ink Cash’s 2% cash back categories, and the Ink Business Unlimited starts earning you more cash back.

Essentially, the choice between the Ink Cash and the Ink Business Unlimited comes down to what your business expenses are and the total volume of said business expenses. Spend a light-to-moderate amount on the Ink Cash’s high-earning categories, and the Ink Cash is a better deal. Spend a large amount on these categories (or on other things entirely), and the Ink Business Unlimited will earn you more cash back.

Read Our Full Chase Ink Business Unlimited Review

Apply For Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Chase Ink Business PreferredSM

  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Bonus Offer: 80,000 points (if you spend at least $5,000 within the first three months of opening your account)
  • APR: 17.74% – 22.74%, Variable
  • Introductory Rate: None
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Rewards:
    • 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, internet/cable/phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media and search engines each account anniversary year
    • 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
    • Points are worth 25% more if redeemed for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Chase Ink Business PreferredSM card was introduced by Chase in 2016 as a replacement for the now-discontinued Ink Business PlusSM. Being Chase’s flagship business card, the Ink Business Preferred offers an eye-watering rewards package: 3 points for every dollar spent on the first $150,000 in purchases in the categories listed above, and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else. Plus, your points will be worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards. Let’s compare this card with the first two Chase Ink cards I’ve discussed.

Chase Business Ink Preferred vs Chase Ink Cash vs Chase Ink Unlimited

You’ll notice some significant differences between the Ink Business Preferred and the other two Ink business cards mentioned in this article. Obviously, the reward structure is different, as is the fact that your rewards will be worth 25% more when redeemed for travel. There’s also a more valuable bonus offer (the 80,000 points you’ll earn if you spend over $5K within 3 months are worth $800 or more, depending on what you use them for), and the 3% foreign transaction fee borne by Ink Cash and Ink Unlimited is absent in the Ink Business Preferred. Furthermore, along with all the same travel and shopping benefits of the Cash and Unlimited cards, you’ll get cell phone protection of up to $600 per claim, trip cancellation insurance, and trip delay coverage.

All these extra benefits aren’t free, however. The Ink Business Preferred carries a $95 annual fee. Its variable APR is a bit higher than that of the Ink Cash and Ink Unlimited, and unlike those two cards, the Ink Preferred has no introductory 0% APR period. But if you spend heavily on business travel, the Chase Ink Business PreferredSM should provide you the most value of all the Ink Business cards. And if you already have the Ink Cash or Ink Unlimited, pairing the Ink Preferred with either of them will get you extra points, an 80,000-point signup bonus, cell phone protection, and additional travel benefits you won’t get with Chase’s other two Ink Business cards. If you’re a frequent business traveler, such a pairing may work in your favor. Just bear in mind Chase’s infamous 5/24 rule: if you have opened five or more credit cards (from any bank) within the last 24 months, you won’t be approved for a new Chase card.

Read Our Full Chase Ink Business Preferred Review

Apply For Chase Ink Business Preferred 

An Alternative To Chase’s Ink Business Cards

capital one spark cash selectIf you’re looking for a good cash back business card but aren’t convinced by Chase’s Ink Business offerings, the Capital One Spark® Cash for Business card is a flat-rate cash back business card that lets you earn an unlimited 2% cash back — even more than the Chase Ink Business Unlimited℠. It’s a simple yet attractive advantage, made somewhat less appealing by the $95 annual fee (a fee the Ink Cash and Ink Unlimited do not carry) and the fact that you can’t transfer your rewards to travel rewards programs like you can with Chase’s business offerings. Still, Spark Cash for Business is an attractive proposition for the business owner who can’t be bothered with keeping track of spending categories and wants the highest universal cash back earning rate possible.

Check out our Spark® Cash for Business review to learn more.

Final Thoughts

So, which is the best Chase credit card for business? That depends on the amount and nature of your business spending. I hope the information given here has given you some guidance as to what options make the most sense for your particular business needs.

To compare high-ranking business credit cards in more detail, check out our credit card comparison chart or read the Best Business Credit Cards for 2018.

The post What’s The Best Chase Ink Business Credit Card? Compare Cards Here! appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Business Credit Cards With No Annual Fees: Your Best Options

no annual fee credit card

Most small business owners don’t have a trust fund to draw from, and are therefore concerned with keeping costs to a minimum. Avoiding unnecessary credit card charges is a no-brainer for frugal business owners, which is why you may be looking to get a business credit card that carries no annual fee. After all, given the plethora of business card options out there that deliver great perks and benefits without charging an annual fee, why pay an annual fee simply for the privilege of using a business credit card?

As it turns out, you can find business credit cards offering all manners of rewards (points, cash back, travel benefits, sign-on bonuses, etc.) that do not charge an annual fee. There are certain categories of cards — top-tier travel cards, for instance — that will be out of reach for you if you stick to your no-annual-fee guns, but these cards aren’t likely to be practical for most new business owners anyway.

Let’s take a look at the business credit cards that give you the most value in each rewards category without charging you a yearly fee just for the privilege of using their plastic.

(For a fuller picture of the business credit card scene as it stands, check out our summary of the best business credit cards of 2018.)

Chase Ink Business Cash

Best Free Business Credit Card for Cash Back

Chase’s business credit cards are well-regarded — by us and by others — for the value they provide to small business. The Chase Ink Business Cash card is no exception. With no annual fee and the ability to earn 5% and 2% cash back on select categories of spending, combined with a healthy $500 cash back signup bonus for those who spend the required amount within the first three months of opening your account, you have one formidable business credit card.

Ink Business Cash At A Glance:

  • Annual fee: $0 (duh)
  • Bonus offer: $500 cash back if you spend at least $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR for the first 12 months
  • Rewards: 
    • 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone purchases each account anniversary year
    • 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases with no earning limit

Many business cards with no annual fee don’t offer a sign-up bonus, but the $500 in cash back you can earn after 3 months is one of the more generous welcome offers you’ll find. While you do have to spend $3,000 on purchases within this time to get the bonus, that shouldn’t be a problem for the majority of businesses.

If a goodly portion of your business expenditures goes toward office supply stores and internet, phone, and cable purchases, you’re in luck, because Chase offers 5% cash back on such purchases with the Ink Business Cash. Additionally, you get 2% cash back on purchases at gas stations and restaurants. Both of these cash back options cap off at $25,000 each anniversary year, however. Any purchases in these categories beyond these limits, along with all other purchases, will earn you 1% cash back with no limits on how much cash back you can earn. Nonetheless, the cash back limits on the high-earning categories mean that if your business spends very heavily on these purchase categories, a card that places no limits on high cash back-earning categories may make financial sense for your business (even with an annual fee).

Additional benefits of Ink Business Cash include a 0% introductory APR for the first 12 months and the ability to redeem your points for travel, gift cards, or Amazon purchases. To learn more, read our full Ink Business Cash review.

Apply Now

Capital One Spark Cash Select for Businesscapital one spark cash select

Another Great Free Business Credit Card for Cash Back

Here’s another business credit card with no annual fee that handsomely rewards you with cash back: The Capital One Spark Cash Select for Business. This rewards credit card lets you earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no limits whatsoever on how much cash back you can earn. It’s a good card for business owners who make a large number of diffuse purchases and who can’t be bothered with spending categories.

Spark Cash Select At A Glance:

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Bonus offer: Earn $200 in cash rewards after you spend at least $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR for the first 9 months
  • Rewards: 1.5% cash back on all eligible purchases

The Spark Cash Select is a simple card with a simple reward structure. You can earn $200 if you spend more than $3K in the first three months, and you’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all your purchases with no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn. There isn’t much more to say about this card — either it will benefit you, or it won’t. If you don’t want to be constrained by the amount you can spend on purchases that will be eligible for more than 1% cash back, and if the idea of spending categories gives you a migraine, consider the Spark Cash Select.

Read our full Spark Cash Select review to delve deeper into the card.

Now to spotlight another business rewards card from this credit card issuer…

Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business

Best Free Business Credit Card for Travel

If you’re looking for a business credit card with great travel benefits that doesn’t carry an annual fee, consider the Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business card. The card’s beauty is in its simplicity. You’ll earn 1.5 miles for every dollar spent on every purchase with no limits or category restrictions, so you won’t have to track your spending or concentrate it in certain categories to earn extra miles. You’ll also get a very nice travel signup offer. Let’s take a closer look!

Spark Miles Select At A Glance:

  • Annual fee: $0 (you may notice a theme here)
  • Bonus offer: 20,000 miles (worth $200 for travel) once you spend at least $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR for the first 9 months
  • Rewards: Earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on all eligible purchases

As I said, you’ll earn 1.5 miles for every dollar spent with the Spark Miles Select card. It’s a higher rate of miles-earning than you’ll get with most cards, making Spark Miles Select an excellent choice for business owners who make frequent business trips and want their purchases to help defray the costs of their travel.

Another sweet travel perk is the 20,000 miles you stand to earn if you spend at least $3,000 within the first three months of opening your account. These 20,000 points are worth $200 for travel. So long as you make business purchases on the card at a reasonable rate, you’ll be able to access this perk and get more travel bang for your buck. Miles can be redeemed for travel expenses such as airfare, hotels, and vacation packages, among other purchases. You’ll also have access to all the standard business benefits Capital One and Visa get you.

Interested? Check out our Spark Miles Select review for a deeper look.

American Express Blue Business Plus

Best Free Business Credit Card for Rewards Earning

Best Free Business Credit Card with a Long 0% Intro APR Period

Looking to earn points at a solid rate without having to be concerned with spending categories and the like? Have a look at the American Express Blue Business Plus card. For a low, low annual fee of $0, you’ll be earning double points on your purchases. You probably have better things to do than tracking spending categories.

Blue Business Plus At A Glance:

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Bonus offer: 10,000 points after you spend at least $3,000 within the first three months
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR for the first 15 months
  • Rewards:
    • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on all purchases (up to $50,000 per year)
    • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all purchases after $50,000

Until recently, the Blue Business Plus didn’t offer a signup bonus. Currently, however, Amex offers a welcome bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend at least $3,000 in the first three months of having your card. It’s not the biggest welcome offer but it’s a nice one for a business credit card with no annual fee. The main draw of the card, however, is the double points you’ll be earning on the first $50,000 worth of purchases you make per year. All purchases past $50,000 in a year will still earn one point per dollar spent until the new year rolls around. This makes the Blue Business Plus an excellent card for businesses with spending that doesn’t generally fall neatly into certain categories. Businesses spending significantly more than $50K a year, however, may be better served by a card that doesn’t limit the amount of spending that can earn max points — even if that card carries an annual fee. Alternatively, cardholders could supplement their Blue Business Plus card with another points-oriented business card.

Other perks of Blue Business Plus include the ability to spend above your credit limit — good for the sort of business that suffers from uneven cash flow. Another great benefit of the card? Your APR will be 0% for your first 15 billing cycles — longer than the typical intro APR period!

Go check out our full Blue Business Plus review if this card sounds like it might suit you and your business.

Bank Of America Platinum Visa Business Cardplatinum visa business review

Best Free Business Credit Card with a Low Interest Rate

Overall, the Bank Of America Platinum Visa Business card isn’t the greatest business credit card I’ve ever reviewed. It offers a near-total lack of earnable rewards, so if earning points with your business spending is a priority of yours, don’t get this card. However, the Platinum Visa Business card carries one very significant benefit for the business that carries a significant balance on its card from month to month: a lower interest rate than just about any other business credit card.

Platinum Visa Business At A Glance:

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Bonus offer: $200 statement credit bonus after making at least $500 in net purchases in the first 60 days
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR for the first 7 months
  • Rewards: Unlimited employee cards at no additional cost (just like every other card in this article)

The $200 statement credit you’ll get if you spend $500 within the first 60 days is a decent bonus offer, but the lack of any other earnable rewards means that this isn’t the most impressive business credit around — a fact that is reflected in my review score. So why am I including this mundane card in this article at all? Because the card carries a 10.99% to 21.99% variable APR. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a business credit card offering a possible APR of 10.99%.

Now, it’s obviously not ideal for businesses to carry a large credit card balance month-to-month over a significant period of time. That’s why this card isn’t for most businesses. However, your circumstances may be less than ideal, and you may not have any other choice at the moment. If this is you, getting the BofA Platinum Visa Business card will save you money on monthly payments due to the card’s relatively low APR. It’s not a good card for earning rewards, but the benefit of a low APR might override all other considerations for certain business owners.

Read our Platinum Visa Business review for more information.

Final Thoughts

As it turns out, if you want a business credit card but don’t want to pay an annual fee, you don’t have to settle — you’ve got many solid options to consider. After checking out the cards above, read our article on the best business credit cards of 2018 to get the big picture when it comes to today’s best business credit cards. Now get out there and keep making purchases like your business depends on it!

The post Business Credit Cards With No Annual Fees: Your Best Options appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Business Credit Cards For People With Bad Credit

 

business card for bad credit

According to most of the traditional indicators, the American economy is doing well, or at least as well as it’s been doing in a while. However, with such necessities as housing and healthcare becoming ever more prohibitively expensive for the average person, is it any wonder that, belying the propagandistic happy talk, articles aimed at people with bad credit are some of our most clicked-on pieces of content?

It’s no secret that having bad credit brings serious complications to your life. This is doubly true if you’re trying to start your own business, when access to credit is of paramount importance. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of business credit cards that specifically cater to entrepreneurs with big dreams but poor credit scores.

Your credit score shouldn’t determine your ability to turn your business dreams into reality. The following credit cards claim to help you sidestep bad credit to live the American dream. Let’s see how well they deliver.

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

Here’s a card for the credit-challenged that didn’t leave me wanting to take a Silkwood shower after reading about it: the Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business.

The Spark® Classic for Business is marketed as a business card for people with “average” credit. It carries a high variable APR of 24.49% and a penalty APR of 30.9%. Those are the main drawbacks of the card. On the plus side, you’ll earn an unlimited 1% cash back on every purchase. Now, there are plenty of business credit cards that will see you earning cash back at a higher rate, but the vast majority of those cards are not available to those with more modest credit ratings. The card also carries no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, and you can get additional employee cards at no extra cost.

As for benefits, you’ll get an auto rental collision damage waiver, travel and emergency assistance services, fraud coverage, and purchase security.

Another benefit of the Spark® Classic for Business is that Capital One will report your card activity to several business credit bureaus. This way, if you make your payments, you can improve your business credit.

Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card

The Wells Fargo Secured credit card, as the name suggests, is a card that requires a security deposit that establishes the amount of your credit line. There are no rewards or cash back to earn, but otherwise, the card is a pretty good deal.

A deposit of at least $300 is required, though you can deposit as much as $10,000. The card is available to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and nonresident aliens. It’s also another card that reports your card activity to the credit bureaus, thus helping you build your business credit (assuming you make your payments in a timely manner!)

The card’s purchase APR is a variable 20.74% — a notably smaller APR than that of the cards I’ve listed thus far — and there’s no penalty APR. You’ll have to pay an annual fee of $25, which is not as nice as a $0 annual fee, of course, but lower than the annual fees of many cards. There’s a foreign transaction fee of 3% and a late payment fee of up to $38.

A note about interest: if you’re charged interest, the charge will be no less than one dollar. However, by paying off your entire balance by the due date each month, you can avoid paying interest on purchases.

If you make your payments on time, you may eventually become eligible for an upgrade to an unsecured Wells Fargo card, in which case your security deposit will be refunded to you. Another benefit: you’ll get protection for up to $600 on a cell phone against covered damage or theft.

Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit

The Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit isn’t a business credit card, but it certainly can be used by entrepreneurs with iffy credit as a credit card option. Should they, though? Let’s explore.

The Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® carries a variable APR of 17.49% to 25.49%, the lower end of which is pretty good for a poor-credit card. What’s unfortunate about the Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa®, however, is the fact that your annual fee can be anywhere from $0 to $75 for the first year depending on your credit. For those whose credit score is bad (isn’t that the target audience here?), there will be an immediate $75 fee, reducing the $300 credit line (the minimum credit line Credit One Bank® will issue) to $225. And for each subsequent year, the annual fee can be as high as $99.

The nicest benefit of the card is undoubtedly the 1% cash back you’ll earn on all eligible purchases. However, consider the fact that only certain accounts will be given a grace period as far as interest goes. Without the grace period, interest will start accruing on your purchases immediately, regardless of whether you pay off your entire balance by the due date. There’s also a $19 charge to add another authorized user, which will come into play if you want to authorize an employee to use your card. Not to mention a 3% foreign transaction fee and a fee of up to $38 for late and returned payments. So while using the Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit will see you earning cash back (always a nice bonus for a bad-credit card), it’s not the most consumer-friendly card.

Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card

The Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card is a secured consumer credit card that can be used for business. The minimum deposit is just $200 while the maximum deposit is $5,000. The issuing company specifically states that there are no credit score requirements to apply for this card.

As it is a secured card, the APR is a low 9.99% (the cash advance APR is 18.99%), and the card carries a grace period of 25 days until interest on purchases will start to accrue, so if you pay off your card in full before the payment due date each month, you’ll avoid interest charges. Unfortunately, there’s an annual fee of $49, a foreign transaction fee of 3%, and there are no rewards or cash back to earn. The card does come with auto rental insurance and zero fraud liability, though.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

Here’s another card that doesn’t even check your credit when you apply. The OpenSky® Secured Visa® credit card is a personal credit card you can use to make business purchases. You don’t even need a checking account to get this card. It reports to all three credit bureaus, thus helping you build up your credit.

Though OpenSky deserves kudos for offering a credit card with no regard to the applicant’s credit score, the APR is a variable 18.64%, which is higher than that of some comparable secured cards. The minimum security deposit is $200, there’s a $35 annual fee, a 3% foreign transaction fee, and there’s a 25 day grace period at the start of each billing period in which you can avoid interest on purchases if you pay off your card in full. Not a bad deal for a card that has no credit score requirements whatsoever.

Applied Bank® VISA® Business

One card that comes up a lot in discussions about business credit cards for those with poor credit is the Applied Bank® VISA® Business, which comes in both secured and unsecured versions. On the face of it, the card seems unsexy but reasonable — get the chance to build up your bad credit, and in exchange, you deal with a low maximum credit limit and zero rewards. However, the closer you examine the Applied Bank® VISA® Business, the worse it looks.

The unsecured version of this card comes with a steep APR of 23.99%, while the unsecured version, which requires an initial deposit of between $200 and $1,000 (your credit limit will be equal to the amount of your secured deposit, and the deposit is refundable upon closing the account), comes with an APR of 9.99%. However, if you get the unsecured card, you’ll have to pay an origination fee of $125 just to get the card, along with a $9.95 monthly maintenance fee (that’s $119.40 per year!). There’s also no grace period for the interest, meaning interest will start accruing as soon as you make your first purchase. Oh, and there’s also a late payer APR of 29.99%. The unsecured Applied Bank® VISA® Business seems to be a cynical attempt to gouge vulnerable people with onerous terms and fees.

The secured card doesn’t come with an origination fee, but it does carry a $48 annual fee which comes due on your first billing statement and will reduce your initial credit availability. And while it drops the monthly maintenance fee and the 29.99% late payer APR, the secured card retains the lack of an interest grace period. For both cards, there’s a $30 per card charge to get additional cards for your employees, a minimum interest charge of $0.50 per transaction, a $38 late payment fee (they can do this because business credit cards are exempt from the requirements of the CARD Act, which limits such fees for personal credit cards), and a 3% foreign transaction fee.

There are better options out there if you want a bad-credit business card. In particular, the unsecured Applied Bank® VISA® Business card ought to be illegal.

Final Thoughts

Statistically, it’s harder to start from a position of disadvantage in America than just about anywhere else. Thankfully, there are credit cards out there designed to cater to those whose circumstances have taken a toll on their credit rating. Of course, some of these cards are just attempts to take advantage of the vulnerable, but if you pay attention to the terms and fees, you can avoid the potential pitfalls and start climbing your way out of your credit hole.

The post Business Credit Cards For People With Bad Credit appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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10 Strategies To Improve Cash Flow

10 Strategies To Increase Cash Flow

If you’re reading this blog, then you already know how important cash flow is. Cash flow is the mainstay of your business. Positive cash flow means you can successfully run and grow your business, and negative cash flow — well, that’s bad news.

But what do you do when you have negative cash flow? How do you increase your positive cash flow and get your business where it needs to be?

Cash flow is affected not just by bringing in more cash inflows, but also by limiting your cash outflows. This means you have to manage your expenses just as much as your sales. Read on for ten practical tips to help you improve your cash flow and get your business on the right track.

1. Send Invoices Right Away

Sales and invoices are the lifeblood of a small business. You can’t get paid if you don’t send invoices. Simple as that.

Make sure you stay on top of invoicing your customers. The quicker you send invoices out, the faster the cash comes in. If your current invoicing process is tedious, consider switching to a cloud-based accounting software with attractive, easy to create invoices. Software like QuickBooks Online and Zoho Books both offer great invoicing capabilities which can help you speed up your invoicing process and increase your cash flow.

Our comprehensive accounting software reviews cover QuickBooks products, Xero, Freshbooks, Sage, and more of the top cloud-based and locally-installed accounting solutions on the market today. If you want a quick peek at the top contenders, check out our accounting software comparison chart.

Using an old version of QuickBooks Pro? Save $100 when you upgrade to QuickBooks Desktop 2018.

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2. Get Customers To Pay Invoices On Time

Another key to increasing your cash flow is getting your customer to pay their invoices on time. We know this is easier said than done, but there are plenty of practical strategies to increase the likelihood of getting paid faster. Here are some of our top invoicing tips:

Follow Up With Invoice Reminders

Make sure you remind your customers when their invoices are due. Send email reminders a few days before the invoice is due, the day the invoice is due, and a few days after. If they still haven’t paid, give them a call and continue sending reminders. Many accounting programs have built-in invoice reminders that you can automatically send to late paying customers.

Give Your Customers Incentives

Consider offering a discount to customers who pay their invoices before a certain time. If your invoice terms are Net 30 (due 30 days after the invoice is sent), but you really want your customers to pay their invoices in the first week they receive the invoice, offer a small discount. Customers looking for a deal will be more likely to pay their invoices faster, which means you get cash faster.

Charge A Late Payment Penalty

Another key to successful invoicing is having a strong invoicing policy. Choose a consistent time when invoices are due (ex. due upon receipt, Net-15, Net-30, etc) and stick to it. Have a late payment penalty in place for customers who exceed the due date. Not only will this help increase your chances of getting your money, it will also set you apart as a professional.

When it comes to late payment penalties, be upfront about the penalty, when it will be charged, and how much will be charged. You can often include this in your terms and conditions section on your invoice. Do some research on what a normal late penalty policy looks like for your industry before implementing.

Consider Invoice Factoring

If the above strategies don’t work or you need cash right away, another option is invoice factoring. Invoicing factoring is the process of selling your unpaid invoices to a company in exchange for immediate cash. The factoring company takes a small cut of the money you earn, but the payoff is that you aren’t stuck waiting on customers.

Invoice factoring can be a great cash flow solution, as can invoice financing. Check out one of our favorite invoice factors, BlueVine, to learn more. Or take a look at Fundbox, an invoice financer, for an alternative solution.

3. Increase Prices

If you are hurting for cash flow, it may be time to consider increasing the prices for your products or services. Ask yourself:

  • What are my competitors charging?
  • Have the prices for equipment or inventory increased?
  • How much manpower does my inventory assembly or services require?
  • Do my prices outweigh the time put into my creating my products?
  • Are my prices too low? Do my products come off as cheap or valuable?

You want to strike a balance between keeping your prices competitive and fairly compensating the hard work you and your employees do. At the end of the day, you want to make sales, but you also want to make a profit. If your prices are too low, you may be selling yourself short. In some cases, lower prices can also make your company seem less qualified.

4. Expand Sales Market

Another solution to increasing positive cash flow is to brainstorm new sources of income. Get the dream team together, sit down with some coffee, and consider new ways to expand your sales market. Here are a few new sales possibilities to get the ideas rolling.

Add New Services Or Products

Think about the current items or services you offer and consider if there are other items or services you think would be a good addition to your business. Think outside of the box and consider alternate ways to earn income as well.

Maybe your coffee shop starts offering homemade lemonade for the summer; maybe your event planning service adds a cleaning service to maximize on business; maybe your office rents out its large outdoor space for parties and events on the weekends when it’s not in use. Whatever it is, get creative about new ways your business can generate income, which will in turn and increase cash flow.

Create A New Marketing Strategy

Maybe the products you offer are spot on, but your marketing could be expanded. Think of new ways to get the word out about your business. Consider if there are any other groups of people that could benefit from what your business offers. Bringing in more customers is a great way to bring in more cash flow.

Encourage Customers To Buy More

Another great way of improving cash flow is getting your existing customers to spend more. There are two great ways to do this:

  • Bundle Items: Sell similar items together to encourage increased spending.
  • Advertise Related Products: If you use an eCommerce platform, advertise additional products that the buyer “may be interested in” or that “others also purchased.”

Both of these can be great ways to expand your existing sales (rather than having to expand a whole sales market). If you want to start advertising related products or selling your products online, check out our top eCommerce recommendations.

Don’t Forget Your Loyal Customers

Another great way to expand your market is by letting happy customers do it for you. Encourage loyal customers by offering discounts to loyal customers or implementing rewards programs, like stamp cards, for multiple purchases. Also, consider implementing a referral program. This way you can encourage your loyal customers to grow your business for you through word of mouth.

5. Reevaluate Operating Expenses

Managing cash flow isn’t just about getting more cash to come into your business. It’s also important to reduce the cash going out of your business as much as possible. Here are five tips for reducing your business’s operating expenses, so you have more cash to spare.

Cut Out Unnecessary Expenses

Take a careful look at your cash flow statement and analyze your company’s business expenses. Ask yourself these two questions:

  • Are these expenses necessary?
  • If they are necessary, is there a cheaper alternative?

Carefully consider your current expenses. Cut out any that are unnecessary and try to minimize the necessary expenses as much as you can. It may seem difficult to do, but you (and your wallet) will feel much better knowing that you’re managing your cash flow and expenses effectively.

Streamline Your Business Processes

Another important aspect of managing your cash flow is making sure your business is running as efficiently as possible. Focus on cutting time, not just costs. Analyze all of your current business processes and judge how efficient the current process is, and if there’s any way to speed up that process.

Maybe that means implementing accounting software to send invoices faster or rethinking your employees’ inventory assembly process. By using time efficiently, you can get more done, spend less on wages, and avoid excessive overtime pay (which can put a huge dent in your business’s cash)

Purchase More Efficient Equipment

One way to increase your company’s speed and efficiency is to purchase better, updated technology and equipment. While it may cost a bit to purchase the equipment initially, you will save time which cuts back on wage expenses. This may also lead to increased production or the ability to take on extra projects, which leads to more incoming cash.

Looking for equipment financing? Check out our comparison of the top equipment financers for small business.

Ask Suppliers For Bulk Inventory Rates

Some vendors, especially those with whom you have a good relationship, may offer discounts for buying inventory in bulk. These can definitely be worth taking advantage of, so don’t be afraid to ask your suppliers if they have any deals.

Consider Leasing Equipment

If you don’t have the cash to flat out buy equipment or you don’t qualify for a working capital loan, it might be worth considering leasing equipment. You lose the advantage of having the equipment as a fixed asset for your business, but you gain lower monthly payments, which may be what you need to keep your cash flow in check.

6. Liquidate Old Inventory

Inventory is one of the largest business expenses you might encounter. You need inventory to make a profit, but you want to make sure the inventory you’re buying is actually selling. Carefully consider which products sell well and which you have a hard time turning over. Take a look at your sales patterns to see when your busy and non-busy sales times are and order inventory accordingly.

If you have any old inventory that you’re having a hard time getting rid of, consider liquidating the items. Any money coming in is better than no money.

7. Pay Vendors At The Right Time

Be strategic about when you pay your vendors. If your vendor offers a discount for paying early, be sure to pay in the time required time to save some money. If the vendor doesn’t offer a discount, pay when is most favorable for your business.

Say your bill is due on the June 1st. Your cash flow statement records show that May is a slow month for your business, but June has a history of higher sales. Pay your bill the last day it’s due so that you can report a positive cash flow for May.

If you need even more time to pay off bills, you can also consider paying with a business credit card. This way you can pay off the expenses over a period of time rather than all at once. Take a look at our business credit card reviews to find the right card for you.

8. Open A Business Savings Account

If you don’t have one already, open a business savings account where you can earn money on interest. This is a simple way to generate a bit of extra cash and it’s a smart way to ensure you always have a cash flow cushion for your business.

9. Consider A Cash-Back Business Credit Card

Using a cash back business credit card can be a strategic way to earn cash on your expenses. As long as you use the card wisely and can afford to make regular (if not full) payments each month, a cash back credit card is easy money. There are several great cash back rewards cards out there. Here are some of the best cash back business cards for small businesses.

10. Take Out A Small Business Loan

Another option to increase cash flow is to take out a short-term loan or line of credit. With a short-term loan, a lender gives you a lump sum of money that is paid back in regular installments over a short period of time. With a line of credit, a lender grants you a max borrowing amount that you draw from any time you need cash; payments are made only on the money used.

While the prospect of owing money may make you squeamish, there are several great reasons to take out a cash flow loan:

  • To expand your business
  • Purchase inventory
  • Take on a new, profitable project
  • Purchase new equipment
  • Unexpected expenses
  • To cover off-season slumps

If a loan sounds like a good cash flow solution for your business, check out our top small business lenders to find the right loan for you.

All of these tips can help you manage and increase your cash flow. Whether you decide to focus on increasing your sales, decreasing your expenses, gaining capital — or a mix of them all — you’re well on your way to increasing your cash flow and running a more successful business.

The post 10 Strategies To Improve Cash Flow appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Free Credit Score Services

free credit score monitoring service

Having a good credit score is integral to getting goods and services at a reasonable rate. Most creditors will look pull up at least one of your scores, whether you are looking for a loan, housing, a credit card, or some other product or service.

It’s important to have at least a rough idea of your current credit score, whether that’s so you’re prepared for what creditors are going to see when they pull up your history, because you are trying to improve your score, or something else.

There are a number of different services that can help you get a good overall picture of your credit health. But which ones are the best? And what do their scores really tell you? Below, we explain exactly what credit scores are and list some of our favorite places to access your scores for free.

Read on for the details!

What Are Credit Scores?

In short, credit scores are numbers that represent your creditworthiness. Lenders, credit card issuers, and other services that expect payment, like utility companies, cell phone providers, and more, look at your credit score to see how creditworthy you’ve been in the past, which indicates how likely you are to pay on-time in the future. Personal credit scores range anywhere from 300 to 850; the higher the better.

Each creditor has their own ideas about what’s considered “good” credit, but typically if you have a score above 600, you won’t have a terribly difficult time finding creditors willing to work with you. However, the higher your credit, the more services you’ll qualify for, and the better rates you’ll receive.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have just one credit score; in fact, you have many. Credit scores are derived from your credit report — a history of your past debts, payments, and other information gathered by credit reporting agencies. The big three credit reporting agencies are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. While all three agencies gather similar information about you, they might not all have the same information.

A scoring algorithm, usually either VantageScore or FICO, is applied to your credit report to come up with your score. As such, consumers have many different credit scores, depending on the scoring system and the credit report your information was derived from.

VantageScore VS FICO

Credit scores are derived from your credit report using a scoring model, either VantageScore or FICO. Both have scales of 300 to 850, but they might return different scores because they place importance on different factors.

Most free credit score services get their data from VantageScore. However, many creditors will look at your FICO score. If a potential lender pulls your TransUnion FICO score, for example, they will get a different number than what you’re seeing from your free credit score service.

That said, the difference in scores doesn’t tend to be large; if you have a high FICO score, you will also have a high score from VantageScore. Conversely, if you have a poor (or inaccurate) marks on your report, they will be reflected by both VantageScore and FICO as a lower score. For general credit score monitoring, either VantageScore or FICO will suit most consumer’s purposes.

If you need to know your FICO score, for whatever reason, you have a few different options:

  • Some of your FICO scores can be accessed for free via Discover Credit Scorecard (see below). This score is derived from your Experian data.
  • Scores derived from all three credit reporting agencies can be purchased directly from FICO via myFICO. Currently, one-time access to scores from all three agencies can be purchased for $59.85 ($19.95 for scores from one agency).
  • Some credit card issuers, or other places that extend credit, will provide your scores if you are a customer.

Be aware, however, that even if you check your FICO score from the same agency that your lender does, you still might be looking at a different score. FICO offers a number of different credit scores, some of which are not available to consumers.

The Best Free Credit Score Services

The following are our favorite credit score services. These services derive scores from at least one of the three major credit reporting agencies. All offer services for free and are available to all consumers.

Credit Karma

Credit Karma was one of the first online services to offer your credit scores for free. This service offers scores and reports from two agencies: Equifax and TransUnion (both VantageScore). Scores and reports are updated weekly. They also offer free daily credit monitoring, but only for TransUnion.

Credit Karma is the only service we know of that offers free scores from two different agencies; it is also the only one that pulls data from Equifax. Additionally, it offers a number of other useful financial tools for consumers, including personalized credit card and loan recommendations, financial calculators, informative financial blog posts, and even help filing your taxes.

Discover Credit Scorecard

Discover has recently started offering free credit scores to all consumers, regardless of whether or not you are a Discover customer. This is one of the only services to offer a free FICO score; most free credit score services provide your VantageScore. Discover’s FICO score is derived from Experian, and it’s updated on a monthly basis.

Be aware, however, that because FICO offers a number of scores, the score shown on your Discover Credit Scorecard might not be the same score that your creditors are using. However, it might still be worth a look for educational and general credit monitoring purposes.

WalletHub

WalletHub offers a free score and report from TransUnion (VantageScore). This is the only free credit score service that updates on a daily basis.

In addition to your credit score, WalletHub offers other useful services to improve your credit and financials. Customers receive free monitoring of their TransUnion account, as well as services such as customized advice to improve your credit, credit card recommendations, and savings alerts.

Credit Journey from Chase

Chase offers TransUnion scores and reports via Credit Journey. This service is free and available to all consumers (not just Chase customers). Your score is updated on a weekly basis.

Chase also tracks your score over time and has a credit score simulator that shows how your score might change if you take certain actions.

Free Annual Credit Reports

You should know that, by law, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax are required to issue a free copy of your credit report every 12 months. Consumers who request a free copy of their report will receive a full copy, whereas many free services only offer a limited report. You can use your free annual reports to review the information included and contest any mistakes that you find.

Unfortunately, your annual free credit report does not include any actual credit scores. To access this information, you’ll have to sign up for a free credit score service or pay for your scores.

Annual credit reports can be requested at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Final Thoughts

Because free score services only offer scores derived from one or two agencies and don’t always offer a full credit report, it’s a good idea to also request free copies of your credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com on a yearly basis and contest any mistakes that you have found.

That said, free credit score services are useful for educational purposes and general credit monitoring — just remember that the specific score shown is unlikely to be the same score that your creditors see. However, a free score service can give you the tools you need to improve and maintain your credit score. All the services listed above are free, easy to use, and offer useful services in addition to your credit score.

Do you need to improve your credit? Read about five ways to improve your score.

The post The Best Free Credit Score Services appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best American Express Business Credit Cards

American Express is best known for their charge cards. These are cards with no hard credit limit that have to be paid off in total every month. But they don’t represent the full extent of Amex’s product line.

Like its competitors Visa and MasterCard, Amex offers credit cards, on which you can carry a balance from month to month if you so choose (note, you shouldn’t if you can help it). Compared to charge cards, credit cards tend to have lower annual fees and less aggressive rewards programs, although this isn’t always the case. And one particularly nice perk offered to Amex business credit cardholders is the OPEN Savings program.

But which American Express business credit cards are the best? Read on.

American Express Blue Business Plus

If you’re overwhelmed by myriad rewards options provided by business credit cards and your business expenses aren’t concentrated in any one area, you may want to try Amex’s Blue Business Plus card. With 2% back on all purchases up to $50,000 and no annual fee, it’s one of the better cash back business cards on the market.

American Express Blue Business Plus
Annual Fee $0
APR 12.24% – 20.24% variable (0% first 15 months)
Signup Bonus $0
Rewards 2 pts./$1 spent on all purchases up to $50K/yr
1 pt./$1 spent on all purchases after $50K/yr
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The American Express Blue Business Plus is a great first business credit card as it offers both a simplified reward system and no annual fee. In fact, it’s the perfect credit card for businesses that don’t plan to make many charges. (There’s no signup bonus encouraging you to spend a ton of money in the first few months.)

Most cash back credit cards offer a roughly 1.5 pt. return per dollar. Blue Business Plus instead frontloads your rate, giving you a 2 pt. return on your $50,000 worth of purchases per year. This comes at the expense of a subpar 1 pt. rate after you hit that limit. If you anticipate putting more than $50K per year on your business card, you may want to consider a different card (or an additional card).

American Express Blue Business Plus reward points can be redeemed for travel, shopping, or statement credit.

American Express SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card

Another great option for businesses with modest credit card spending habits is Amex’s SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card, particularly if you want your rewards in the form of cash back.

American Express SimplyCash Plus Business 
Annual Fee $0
APR 12.24% – 20.29% variable (0% first 9 months)
Signup Bonus $250 statement credit after you spend $5K in first 6 months, and an additional $250 if you spend $10K in the first year
Rewards 5% cash back on wireless telephone services from U.S. providers, 3% cash back on selected category for first 50K/yr
1 pt./$1 spent on all purchases after $50K/yr
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SimplyCash dispenses with a point-based reward system, automatically applying a percentage of your purchases to your account as statement credit instead.

This card had an unusually complex reward system for a cash back program. A 5% cash back reward tier is huge, but it’s limited to hardware, equipment, and services purchased directly from U.S. providers.

You’ll also get 3% back in one of the following categories you choose (you can change this category once per year):

  • Airfare directly purchased from airlines
  • Hotel rooms purchased directly from hotels
  • Car rentals from select rental companies
  • U.S. gas stations
  • U.S. restaurants
  • U.S. purchases in select media
  • U.S. purchases for shipping
  • U.S computer hardware, software, and cloud computing from select providers

Be aware that the 5% and 3% tiers are limited to the first $50K you spend each year, combined. So if you spend $20,000 on the 5% tier and $30,000 on the 3% tier, you’ll have exhausted both tiers for the year. If you think you’ll be charging more than that on a business card each year, you may want a backup card, or another card entirely.

Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card

Moving into cards that cater to more specific business behavior, we have the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express. It provides a very generous reward system for travelers who frequently stay at Starwood or other Marriott brand hotels.

Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card
 
Annual Fee $95/yr ($0 the first year)
APR 16.49% – 20.24% variable
Signup Bonus 25,000 pts. if you spend $3K within first 3 months
Rewards 2 pts./$1 at participating Starwood and Marriott hotels (in addition to points earned as a Starwood Preferred Guest)
1 pt./$1 on all other purchases
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With a reasonable annual fee and a generous signup bonus, the Starwood Preferred card offers a lot of benefits to cardholders who travel. It’s not quite as flexible as the cards we’ve looked at so far, but if you use it strategically, it can rack up tons of points with no limit. Starpoints can be redeemed at participating hotels and resorts and on flights with participating airlines through the SPG Airline Transfer Program.

Additional perks that come with the card include:

  • Credit toward SPG Elite status (5 nights and 2 stays annually)
  • Unlimited Boingo wi-fi on up to four devices
  • Complimentary premium Internet service at participating SPG hotels
  • Access to the Sheraton Club Lounge
  • Free nights at participating SPG hotels with no blackout dates
  • No foreign transaction fees

If these perks complement your traveling habits, this card is a great choice. Otherwise, its specificity, annual fee, slightly higher rates, and lack of introductory APR may not make it as appetizing.

American Express Platinum Delta Skymiles Credit Card

Airline travel-based rewards are some of the most popular types of credit card rewards programs. American Express partners with Delta for their credit card rewards programs, offering three flavors of the card (Gold, Platinum, and Reserve).

American Express Platinum Delta Skymiles Credit Card
Annual Fee $195/yr
APR 16.49% – 20.49% variable
Signup Bonus 70,000 miles + 10,000 Medallion Qualification miles if you spend $3K within first 3 months, and $100 statement credit if you make a Delta purchase within the first 3 months
Rewards 2 pts./$1 directly spent with Delta
1 pt./$1 on all other purchases
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Amex’s Platinum Delta card offers a huge signup bonus to businesses that spend $3,000 within the first three months, and an additional $100 in statement credit if you make a purchase directly with Delta.

Additional perks of this card include:

  • Priority boarding
  • First checked bag is free
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 20% statement credit on qualifying in-flight purchases
  • Baggage insurance
  • 1 Companion Airfare certificate each year, rewarded upon card renewal

For the heavy traveler, I believe the Platinum Delta card offers the most value, though prospective cardholders who want to save a little money on their annual fee may want to consider the Gold version. The Reserve version’s premium fee will probably only be justifiable for elite first-class travelers.

Final Thoughts

While they may not be quite as well-known as the iconic Green, Gold, and Platinum charge cards, Amex’s credit cards offer their own suite of appealing rewards programs to customers who want the option of carrying a balance.

Didn’t find what you were looking for here? Check out our comparison guides to business credit cards, charge cards, and personal cards that are good for business expenses.

The post The Best American Express Business Credit Cards appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Business Credit Cards For Travel

It can be really hard to be a road warrior. Frequent business travelers have to constantly endure the hassles of modern travel, including security lines, flight delays, and cramped airline seats, but they do it because it’s necessary to build and maintain client relationships or to further other company goals.

If there’s one tool that can make business travel a lot easier for you and your employees, it’s a small business card. The right small business credit card can offer travelers incredibly valuable benefits. For example, some cards will offer credits towards the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck applications, allowing you to skip the lines at security and immigration. A small business credit card can also grant you priority boarding, a free checked bag, and other airline perks. Finally, small business credit cards can offer you valuable points or miles that can be redeemed for travel rewards by you, your family, or even your employees.

Choosing The Right Small Business Card For Travel

The credit card industry is competitive, and there are many cards targeted at business travelers. To select the right card for your needs, you have to decide which features and benefits will be most valuable to you.

Travelers who are loyal to a particular airline will certainly appreciate the brand specific perks offered by hotel and airline credit cards. However, the reward miles you earn can only be redeemed for flights on that airline and its partners. And unfortunately, airlines have a habit of regularly adjusting their award charts to make their miles less valuable. Likewise, a hotel rewards credit cards can offer benefits such as room upgrades, late checkouts, and even free breakfast. But once again, the rewards you earn can only be used within that hotel chain.

Those who consider themselves “free agents” will often prefer the non-affiliate credit cards. Many of these travel reward cards offer points that can be transferred to airline miles or hotel points with several different programs, or can be used to book travel reservations directly with the card issuer’s designated travel agency.

Co-Branded Business Cards

Credit cards that are co-branded with airlines and hotels can offer the best travel benefits. For example, airline credit cards offer benefits — like priority boarding, free checked bags and credit towards elite status — when you travel on a certain carrier.

 

JetBlue Business Card from Barclaycard
 
Annual Fee $99
APR Variable, 17.24% or 21.24%
Signup Bonus 30,000 points
Rewards 6 pts./$1 spent on JetBlue purchases
2 pts./$1 spent at restaurant and office supply stores
1 pt./$1 on all other purchases
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JetBlue has attracted a loyal following among business travelers who appreciate its low prices, great service, and strong rewards program. This card offers new applicants 30,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on new purchases within 90 days of account opening. You also earn 6x points on JetBlue purchases, 2x points at restaurants and office supply stores and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. Rewards don’t expire, and there are no blackout dates with this program.

Benefits include 10% of your points back every time you redeem, and the first bag checked free for yourself and up to three companions. You’ll be given 5,000 bonus miles each year on your account anniversary. You also receive TrueBlue Mosaic elite status when you use your card to spend $50,000 or more in a calendar year and a 50% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases. There’s a $99 annual fee for this card and no foreign transaction fees.

Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card from American Express
Annual Fee $450
APR Variable, 16.99% 25.99%
Signup Bonus 40,000 miles
10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles
Rewards 2 pts./$1 for Delta purchases
1 pt./$1 on all other purchases
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This card offers several exclusive benefits when flying on Delta. You start with the chance to earn 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you make $3,000 in purchases on your new card within three months of account opening. This card also offers you 2x miles on all Delta purchases and one mile per dollar spent elsewhere. The Miles Boost gives you the chance to earn 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 bonus miles after you spend $30,000 within a calendar year, and another 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 bonus miles once you reach a total of $60,000 in spending during the same year.

Other benefits include complimentary Delta SkyClub access, priority boarding, and a 20% savings on in-flight saving purchases. You also receive a companion certificate each year (upon renewal) that’s good for a free companion ticket (not including taxes) on a round-trip flight in economy or business class within the contiguous 48 states. Finally, this card offers you upgrade priority over other travelers with the same Medallion status who aren’t cardholders. There’s a $450 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

United MileagePlus Club Business Card from Chase
Annual Fee $450
APR Variable, 17.24% – 24.24%
Signup Bonus 40,000 miles
Rewards 2 pts./$1 for United purchases
1.5 pts./$1 on all other purchases
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This premium travel rewards card offers both impressive rewards and benefits when traveling on United. New applicants receive a $100 statement credit after their first purchase and earn 2x miles on all United Airlines purchases. But one of the things that makes this card truly remarkable is the 1.5x miles earned on all other purchases — 50% more than you’ll get from any other airline credit card.

This card also comes with a variety of cardholder benefits that are equal to or better than most other airline cards. First, you receive a United Club airport lounge membership that’s valid for yourself and your immediate family, or up to two guests. When traveling, you also receive Premier Access travel services, which includes priority check-in, security screening, boarding and baggage handling. You’ll get two free checked bags for yourself and a traveling companion, as well as expanded award availability, a waiver of close-in award booking fees on United tickets, and the ability to receive Premier upgrades on award tickets.

Other travel benefits include Discoverist Status with Hyatt and President’s Circle Elite status with Hertz car rentals. There’s a $450 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®
Annual Fee $95 ($0 the first year)
APR Variable, 16.99% – 24.99%
Signup Bonus 60,000 miles
Rewards 2 pts./$1 for American Airlines purchases, gas stations, and some phone and car rental services
1 pt./$1 on all other purchases
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This small business card offers strong benefits when traveling on American Airlines. You start with the chance to earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within three months of account opening. You also earn 2x miles on all American Airlines purchases and one mile per dollar spent elsewhere.

Benefits include preferred boarding, a free checked bag, and a companion certificate each year when you use your card to spend $30,000 or more. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card (waived the first year) and no foreign transaction fees.

Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express
 
Annual Fee $95 ($0 the first year)
APR Variable, 16.49% 20.49%
Signup Bonus 25,000 points
Rewards 5 pts./$1 spent at eligible SPG hotels
2 pts./$1 spent at eligible Marriott hotels
1 pt./$1 on all other purchases
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This small business card has a loyal following among award travel enthusiasts, primarily due to the strength of the Starwood Preferred Guest program. New cardholders can earn 25,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on new purchases within three months of account opening. This card offers up to five points per dollar spent at Starwood hotels, 2x points at participating Marriott Rewards hotels, and one point per dollar spent elsewhere.

Points can be redeemed for free nights at Starwood and Marriott Rewards properties or can be converted to miles with over 30 different frequent flyer programs. When you redeem four consecutive award nights, you get the fifth night free, and if you transfer 20,000 points to miles, you get a 5,000-mile bonus. Other benefits include free access to the Sheraton Club lounges and a chance to earn Gold Elite status by spending $30,000 on your card in a calendar year. There’s a $95 annual fee (waived the first year) and no foreign transaction fees.

Hilton Honors American Express Business card
 
Annual Fee $95
APR Variable, 16.99% – 25.99%
Signup Bonus 100,000 points
Rewards 12 pts./$1 spent at Hilton hotels and resorts
6 pts./$1 spent on gas stations, wireless phone services, shipping, restaurants, flights booked via AmexTravel.com, and car rentals
3 pts./$1 on all other purchases
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This card offers up to 100,000 Hilton Honors points as a sign-up bonus, and complimentary Gold status. New accounts can earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 within three months of account opening, and another 25,000 points after spending an additional $1,000 within the first six months. You also earn 12x points for purchases from Hilton hotels and resorts, and 6x points for purchases at US gas stations, on wireless telephone services from US service providers, and on US purchases for shipping. You also earn 6x points at US restaurants, on flights booked through AmexTravel.com, and on rental cars booked directly from select rental car companies.

Benefits include complimentary Gold elite status (room upgrades, points bonuses, and even free breakfast at some properties). You can upgrade to Diamond status after using your card to spend $40,000 in a calendar year. You also get a free weekend night reward when you spend $15,000 on your card during a calendar year, and a second weekend night reward when you reach 60,000 in purchases within the same calendar year. You’ll receive 10 free Priority Pass airport lounge visits valid at over 1,000 locations around the world. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card (waived the first year) and no foreign transaction fees.

Unaffiliated Business Cards

Credit cards that aren’t affiliated with specific travel providers offer much more flexible travel rewards and benefits, while lacking perks with specific airlines and hotels.

Ink Preferred Card from Chase
Annual Fee $95
APR Variable, 17.24% – 22.24%
Signup Bonus 80,000 points
Rewards 3 pts./$1 for travel; shipping; internet, cable, and phone; and social media and search engine advertising (up to $150,000 per year)
1 pt./$1 on all other purchases
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This card offers you valuable Ultimate Rewards points and numerous cardholder benefits. New accounts can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. You also earn 3x points on your first $150,000 spent each account anniversary year in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines. You also earn one point per dollar spent elsewhere.

Points are earned in Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program and can be redeemed for 1.25 cents towards travel reservations booked through Chase. Or, you can convert your points to miles with nine different airline programs or points with four different hotel programs. Other benefits include trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance, cell phone protection, purchase protection and extended warranty coverage. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card and no foreign transaction fees.

American Express Business Platinum
 
Annual Fee $450
APR Charge card, no interest
Signup Bonus 75,000 points
Rewards 5 pts./$1 spent on flights and prepaid hotels booked via AmexTravel.com
1.5 pts./$1 spent on purchases of $5,000 or more
1 pt./$1 on all other purchases
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The business version of American Express’s premium rewards card offers many valuable cardholder benefits. New applicants receive up to 75,000 bonus points, including 50,000 points after spending $10,000 within three months of account opening and another $25,000 points after spending an additional $10,000 during the same three month period. You also earn one point per dollar spent on all purchases, with a 50% bonus on purchases greater than $5,000. Points can be redeemed for travel reservations with a 35% bonus on airline reservations. You can also convert your points to miles with 16 different frequent flyer programs.

Benefits include a $200 annual airline fee credit and a $100 credit towards the application fee for the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck applications. You also receive access to the Delta SkyClubs lounges, Priority Pass Select lounges, and American Express Centurion lounges. There’s a $450 annual fee for this card and no foreign transaction fees.

American Express Blue Business Plus
Annual Fee $0
APR Variable, 12.49% – 20.49% (0% APR for the first 15 months)
Signup Bonus None
Rewards 2 pts./$1 spent on all purchases (up to $50,000 per year)
1 pt./$1 on purchases after $50,000
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This is a simple card that substitutes superior rewards for other cardholder benefits. You earn 2x rewards on all purchases up to $50,000 per calendar year. Points are earned in the same Membership Rewards program that the Platinum card offers, but this card has no annual fee. It still comes with cardholder benefits such as extended warranty coverage and a purchase protection plan. However, it does have a 2.7% foreign transaction fee.

Spark Miles Card from Capital One
Annual Fee $95 ($0 the first year)
APR Variable, 18.24%
Signup Bonus 50,000 miles
Rewards 2 miles/$1 on all eligible purchases
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This is a straightforward travel rewards card, offering miles you can redeem for any travel reservation. New accounts receive 50,000 bonus miles, worth $500 in travel, once you spend $4,500 on new purchases within three months of account opening. You earn 2x miles on every purchase, with no limits. To redeem your miles, simply purchase travel the way you normally would, and then use your miles for one cent each as statement credits.

Benefits include purchase protection and extended warranty coverage as well as numerous travel and shopping discounts offered by the Visa Signature program. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card (waived the first year) and no foreign transaction fees.

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Should You Pay For Business Expenses With A Line Of Credit Or A Credit Card?

Two worried friends having problems buying on line with credit card and a laptop sitting on a couch in the living room at home
Credit cards and lines of credit share many characteristics. You may even be wondering how they differ at all, and whether it’s better to make your business purchases with one or the other.

In fact, there are a few key differences that can help you determine when to use one or the other.

Similarities Between Lines Of Credit & Credit Cards

Credit cards are technically revolving lines of credit, though they aren’t often called that. As you pay off your balance, that credit becomes available to use again.

Beyond that, both credit cards and lines of credit accrue interest on any outstanding debt.

Differences Between Lines Of Credit & Credit Cards

The most obvious difference is that not all lines of credit are “revolving.” When a bank extends you a line of credit, it may be a one time offer. Usually, when a financial institution extends a non-revolving line of credit it’s to cover a specific expense the borrower is seeking to fund. Unlike a loan, a line of credit gives the borrower some extra flexibility to negotiate with vendors.

The differences between revolving lines of credit and credit cards are a bit more subtle. For starters, a line of credit often comes with more fees than does a credit card. You may, for example, have to pay a monthly or annual fee to keep your line of credit open. While some credit cards (particularly business credit cards) do come with annual fees, it’s not hard to find ones that don’t. Some lines of credit will also charge a fee every time you make a withdrawal.

Though it will vary from case to case, you can also generally get a higher credit limit through a line of credit than with a credit card. Both credit cards and lines of credit come in secured and unsecured forms, though with credit cards you’ll only want to go the secured route if poor credit keeps you from qualifying for a traditional card.

Since lines of credit can be secured by assets, it’s not unusual to see better interest rates there than with credit cards.

Note that it’s a lot easier to get a credit card than a line of credit, although getting an elite credit card can be challenging in its own right.

When To Use A Credit Card

The biggest difference between a line of credit and a credit card is convenience. Credit cards are designed to make retail purchases easy. Most businesses these days are equipped to swipe your card (or read your chip) at the point of sale. With some rare exceptions, it’s not easy to apply for a loan at the time of purchase.

Credit cards are also more ubiquitous in this card-driven online market. Chances are you’ve regularly used your credit card on Amazon, to pay your cell phone bill, or make a security deposit. It’s just as easy to use your credit card for common expenses. In fact, credit card companies try to encourage you to do so through reward programs. The terms of these programs vary, but essentially they all return a small percentage of the money you spend in the form of statement credit, cash, gift certificates, or other products.

Another perk you’ll see with credit cards that you won’t often get with lines of credit are introductory offers like 0% APRs. If your card is still within that introductory window and you expect you’ll be paying your bill off over the course of several months, the credit card is a clear winner.

When To Use A Line Of Credit

At this point, it may look like credit cards have a clear advantage over lines of credit. Not so fast.

One thing credit cards are really inefficient at is cash transactions. Most credit cards will only let you cash advance a fraction of your total limits. Even then you’ll usually incur very high-interest fees on that cash.

Lines of credit, on the other hand, are convenient whenever you need to produce a good chunk of cash on short notice. You won’t incur premium fees for withdrawing that money and you won’t be limited to only a fraction of your credit limit.

A line of credit’s lower interest rates may also make it preferable when we’re talking about big ticket items you can’t pay off quickly. If you’re using your credit card optimally, you shouldn’t be paying any interest on it at all; you’ll be paying it off in full each month. If you can’t do that, a line of credit may often be cheaper over the long run and have a more structured repayment scheme than a credit card.

Final Thoughts

Credit cards and lines of credit can both provide additional financial heft for your business. Knowing when to use each one could make the difference between convenience and unnecessary debt for your business.

Check out our comparison features if you need help finding a credit card or a line of credit.

The post Should You Pay For Business Expenses With A Line Of Credit Or A Credit Card? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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