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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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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A Guide To Using Personal Credit Cards For Business Expenses

personal credit cards

It may seem most natural to use a business credit card when you’re making purchases on behalf of a business — whether it’s your business or you’re an employee — but there’s a good case to be made for using personal credit cards to cover business expenses instead.

For one thing, the CARD Act of 2009 provides a number of legal protections to users of personal credit cards — legal protections that don’t apply to business card users. If you use a personal card, you can’t have your introductory APR revoked before six months have passed, nor can you be charged excessive fees for minor infractions. You also can’t have your APR raised without first having 45 days’ notice of the change. While business card issuers often extend these protections to consumers as a courtesy, this isn’t a universal practice.

You might also find that the rewards programs associated with personal credit cards fit your spending patterns more closely than the incentive programs of business card issuers. Whatever the reason, using a personal credit card to cover business purchases is a common practice, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. However, that’s not to say there aren’t any pitfalls to avoid.

Here are some tips for using personal credit cards to cover business expenses.

Use A Separate Card For Business

One thing you’ll want to avoid is comingling business and personal expenses. A good way to avoid this is to use a separate credit card for your business purchases, even if that card is a personal card. This way, you won’t have to go through all your purchases one-by-one on your existing personal card to determine which purchases were business-related and which weren’t.

Keeping your business purchases exclusively confined to one card is helpful in a number of ways. If you’re an employee, you’ll be able to report your business expenditures more easily. And regardless of whether you’re an employee or the owner of a business, confining your business purchases to one separate card will make dealing with the IRS less painful in the event of an audit. If you charge business and personal expenses on the same card, you may have a harder time proving to the IRS that your business charges really were business charges.

Don’t Use Your Debit Card

Even if you don’t get a separate card for business use, whatever you do, don’t make business purchases on your debit card. Doing so is a good way to get a hold placed on your own money.

Entities like hotels and rental car agencies will typically place a hold on your card — often for hundreds of dollars. In this way, work-related purchases can end up sapping your personal funds. Don’t do it!

Be Wary Of Affecting Your Personal Credit Score

Even if you use a separate personal credit card for all your business-related expenses, know that you can negatively impact your personal credit score with your business purchases. If you charge a large business purchase to your card, your credit utilization ratio will be affected until you get reimbursed (your credit utilization ratio is the amount of debt you have vs. the amount of your credit limit).

For this reason, if you’re applying for a loan of some kind, you might want to avoid doing so while you have a large as-yet-unreimbursed business expense on your card. If you do, you may well end up paying a higher interest rate on your loan.

Pay Off Your Card As Soon As You’re Reimbursed

A recent report from CareerBuilder found that 78% of full-time workers in the US live paycheck-to-paycheck. With this as our grim reality, it’s no wonder that many workers are tempted to use their reimbursement funds to pay other bills. However, you should really avoid doing this if at all possible.

If you don’t pay down your card with your full reimbursement amount, you’ll be paying interest on a purchase that wasn’t even for you. Unless doing so would make you homeless, pay off that card as soon as you get that reimbursement check. Otherwise, you’re just throwing money away in the form of interest payments.

Record Everything

A good way to both streamline the reimbursement process and satisfy the IRS in the event of an audit is to be fastidious about record-keeping. Use a smartphone app to save pictures of receipts from all your business purchases, along with pictures of the reimbursement checks you receive (or screenshots of the direct deposit).

You may even want to jot down additional information on your business receipts before archiving them, such as those who were with you and the date/time of the transaction. Generally, the more information you can provide about your business purchases, the better — whether it be to the IRS, or if you’re an employee, to your boss.

Pick The Personal Card That Fits Your Business Spending Profile

Naturally, when you’re considering which credit card to use for business expenses, you’ll be comparing interest rates and fees as you seek the best deal. However, don’t forget to compare the rewards programs of the personal cards you’re considering as well.

The nature of your business will determine the sort of items and services you’ll be charging to your new card, so be sure to choose a card with rewards that align with your anticipated business expenses.

Use It Or Lose It

If you get a personal credit card to use for business expenses, make sure to actually use it. If you go for a long period of time without charging anything to the card, your credit card issuer might shut down your account due to inactivity. This can negatively impact your credit score.

Try To Get Reimbursed As Soon As Possible

If you’ve ever been in a company where you’re expected to cover business expenses, you know how frustrating it can be when your reimbursement doesn’t come in a timely manner. It obviously impacts the amount of credit you have available, and — as I’ve discussed — can affect your credit utilization ratio as well.

Try to ensure that your company’s reimbursement policies are reasonable before agreeing to make business purchases on behalf of the company. And if your reimbursement is delayed and you have to pay finance charges as a result, insist on being reimbursed for that as well. No employee should be made to suffer negative consequences as a result of a company’s lackadaisical reimbursement practices.

Final Thoughts

For both business owners and employees, it’s perfectly reasonable to use a personal credit card to cover business expenses. By following these rules of thumb, you can avoid taking a personal financial hit when charging business expenses to your personal credit card.

The post A Guide To Using Personal Credit Cards For Business Expenses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Cash Back Business Credit Cards

A business credit card is an incredibly valuable tool for small companies. It allows you to keep your business spending separate from your personal charges, and to extend purchasing power to your employees. Furthermore, the right small business credit card can offer you valuable rewards in the form of points, miles, or cash back.

The ability to earn points and miles has its benefits, but many business people still prefer to receive cash back rewards from their credit card. Cash back can be used for anything and is never subject to the whims of the airlines and hotels, which frequently change the terms and conditions of their loyalty programs to make points and miles less valuable. And with cash back cards becoming increasingly competitive, now is the time to look for a card that can offer you the most rewards for your business spending.

Which Kind Of Cash Back Card Should You Choose?

Cash back cards for small businesses can be divided into two different categories. First, there are the cards that offer a single rate of return on all purchases, typically between 1% and 2%. Then there are the small business cards that offer bonus cash back on specific qualifying purchases while earning just 1% on everything else. To make this more complicated, many cards restrict the total dollar amount of purchases each year that qualify for the bonus, and you’ll earn just 1% back on all subsequent purchases. These limits can be imposed based on the calendar year or the cardmember year.

Here’s a list of the best cash back business credit cards. First, we’ll look at the ones that offer strong rewards on everything you buy, followed by those that feature bonus rewards on some purchases.

Cards That Offer The Same Cash Back Rewards On All Purchases

Some small business owners are content to use the same cash back rewards credit card for all purchases and want to earn the highest rate of return they can without having to worry about bonuses. In the past, it was common for small business cards to offer a mere 1% cash back on all purchases, but that is no longer considered to be a competitive rate of return.

Today, the best small business cash back cards that offer the same rewards on all purchases will give you at least 1.5% cash back. Some of these cards will do so with no annual fee, but you should expect to pay more for cards that offer higher returns. It also makes sense to look at the benefits offered by these cards, as well as other possible fees, such as those for foreign transactions.

Capital One Spark Cash

Capital One Spark Cash
capital one spark cash select
Annual Fee $95 ($0 the first year)
APR Variable, 18.24%
Signup Bonus $500 cash back
Rewards 2% cash back on all eligible purchases
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Capital One offers a full line of small business credit cards under its Spark brand, which includes cards that offer points towards travel or cash back. The Capital One Spark Cash small business card offers you 2% cash back on all purchases, with no limits. New cardholders can also earn $500 in cash back after using their card to spend $450 within three months of account opening, one of the best cash back sign-up bonuses offered anywhere. Other benefits include free employee cards as well as quarterly and annual spending reports. Your purchases are also covered by damage and theft protection policies for their first 90 days, and an extended warranty that can add one year to your manufacturer’s warranty.

As part of the Visa Signature program, the Capital One Spark Cash also offers a range of travel and shopping benefits and discounts. For example, you can receive a third night free and premium benefits at luxury hotels around the world as part of the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel collection. The $95 annual fee for this card is waived the first year, and as with all Capital One cards, there are never any foreign transaction fees.

Capital One Spark Cash Select

Capital One Spark Cash Select
capital one spark cash select
Annual Fee $0
APR Variable, 14.24% – 22.24% (0% introductory APR for the first 9 months)
Signup Bonus $200 cash back
Rewards 1.5% cash back on all eligible purchases
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This card is very similar to the standard Capital One Spark card, but it offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no annual fee. Therefore, this card makes the most sense for those who have more modest spending requirements that don’t justify the annual fee of the standard Spark Cash card.

With this version, new cardholders can earn a $200 cash bonus when they spend $3,000 on their card within three months of account opening. It includes many of the same benefits as the standard Spark Cash card, such as purchase protection and extended warranty coverage. It’s even part of the Visa Signature program, which is rare for a card with no annual fee.

The Plum Card From American Express

The Plum Card from American Express
Annual Fee $250 ($0 for the first year)
APR No APR — charge card
Signup Bonus None
Rewards 1.5% discount when you pay early
60 days to pay purchases that you put on your card
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This small business card offers you cash back in a unique way. First, the Plum Card from American Express is a charge card, not a credit card, so you are required to pay your entire statement balance in full, every month. But when you make your payment within 10 days of your statement closing, you’ll receive 1.5% cash back on all of your purchases. Alternatively, you can take up to 60 days to pay your balance, but without receiving any cash back. This card makes sense for small business owners who may prefer to earn rewards some months and help manage their cash flow and extend payment at other times.

New applicants can earn up to $600 in cash back, but with a large minimum spending requirement. You will earn a $200 statement credit after each $10,000 you spend on the card, up to $30,000, within the first three months of opening your account.

Other benefits include extended warranty coverage and a purchase protection program. The card also comes with an account manager feature that lets you delegate a trusted individual that can manage your business card.

American Express small business cards participate in the OPEN Savings program, which offers discounts on purchases from FedEx Express and FedEx Ground, Hertz®, HP.com, and others. The $250 annual fee is waived the first year, and there are no foreign transaction fees.

Wells Fargo Business Platinum Credit Card

Wells Fargo Business Platinum
Annual Fee $0
APR Variable, 12.49% – 22.49% (0% introductory APR for the first 9 months)
Signup Bonus $500 cash back
Rewards 1.5% cash back on all eligible purchases
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This card features 1.5% cash back on all purchases and has no annual fee. New accounts can earn $500 in bonus cash back after spending $5,000 within three months. Cash back can be applied automatically as a credit to your account or deposited to your eligible checking or savings account each quarter. Or, you can receive your rewards in the form of points that can be redeemed for merchandise, gift cards, or airline tickets, with a 10% bonus when you redeem your points online.

This card also features cash management tools and spending reports that are available online. There’s no annual fee, and you can add up to 99 additional employee cards at no extra cost. There are also no foreign transaction fees.

Cards That Offer Bonus Cash Back Rewards On Some Purchases

When you have a small business rewards card that offers you the same amount of cash back for all purchases, the most you can possibly get is 2%. But when your small business card offers you bonus rewards for buying certain items, it’s possible to earn as much as 5% cash back on some of the purchases you make the most. As a trade-off, you’ll only earn 1% cash back on all purchases that don’t qualify for a bonus.

Other factors you should consider when choosing one of these reward cards are which purchases will qualify for the bonus and any annual maximums on eligible rewards. For example, some credit cards will offer bonuses that are limited to qualifying purchases in the United States only, while others don’t have any restrictions transactions made in other countries. Furthermore, many of the most generous bonuses come with annual limits, after which you’ll only receive 1% cash back. These limits can be relatively large, such as $250,000 in annual purchases, or they can be limited to as little as $25,000 in qualifying purchases each year. 

Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card By Citi

Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card By Citi
Annual Fee $0 (but must have a Costco membership)
APR Variable, 16.49% (0% introductory APR for the first 7 months)
Signup Bonus None
Rewards 4% cash back at gas stations (max $7,000 per year)
3% cash back on restaurants and travel
2% cash back on purchases from Costco in-store and online
1% cash back on all other purchases
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Costco stores are known for their low prices on bulk goods, and this model also appeals to small business owners. The Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card from Citi is one of the strongest cash back small business cards that offers bonuses on many purchases. With this card, you can earn 4% cash back on your first $7,000 spent each year on gas purchases, including those from Costco, and 1% after that. You also earn 3% cash back on all restaurant and travel purchases worldwide, 2% cash back from all Costco purchases and 1% cash back everywhere else.

This card includes damage and theft protection that covers your eligible purchases for 120 days (90 days for New York residents) as well as an extended warranty policy that can add a year to your manufacturer’s warranty. You also receive worldwide auto rental insurance, travel accident insurance and access to a travel and emergency assistance hotline. There’s no annual fee for this card with your paid Costco membership and no foreign transaction fees.

Simplycash Plus from American Express

Simplycash Plus from American Express
Annual Fee $0
APR Variable, 13.49% – 20.49% (0% introductory APR for the first 9 months)
Signup Bonus None
Rewards 5% cash back on office supply stores and wireless telephone services (up to $50,000 per year)
3% cash back on a category of your choosing – see below (up to $50,000 per year)
1% cash back on all other purchases
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This small business card offers a high level of bonus rewards on some of your most frequent business purchases, and with no annual fee. You’ll get 5% cash back at US office supply stores and on wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service providers. You can also receive 3% cash back on the category of your choice from a list of select categories, including:

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

The 5% and 3% cash back offers only apply to your first $50,000 in purchases each calendar year, and you’ll earn 1% thereafter. Note that the cash back earned is automatically credited to your statement each month.

This card also includes 9 months of interest-free financing on new purchases before the standard interest rate applies. Other benefits include a roadside assistance plan, a baggage insurance policy, and car rental insurance. Your purchases will be covered by an extended warranty policy as well as a damage and theft protection plan. There’s no annual fee for this card, but there is a 2.7% foreign transaction fee imposed on all charges processed outside of the United States.

Ink Business Preferred Card From Chase

Ink Business Preferred 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 premium small business card from Chase offers Ultimate Rewards points, and you have the option of redeeming them for cash back or other options. New accounts can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 within three months of account opening. You’ll also earn three points per dollar on your first $150,000 spent in each account anniversary year in combined purchases on travel, purchases, internet service, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines. You can earn one point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Points can be redeemed for one cent each as cash back or statement credits. Other options include transferring your points to miles with nine different frequent flyer programs or using points with four different hotel programs. Notably, your points are worth 25% more when you make travel reservations through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel center. Finally, points can be redeemed for approximately one cent each towards merchandise or gift cards.

Also included in this card’s benefits are trip Interruption and trip cancellation insurance, and a cell phone protection plan. You’ll receive accidental theft and damage insurance, as well as an extended warranty policy that can add up to a year of coverage to your manufacturer’s warranty. This card has a $95 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

The Ink Business Cash Card From Chase

The Ink Business Cash from Chase
 
Annual Fee $0
APR Variable, 14.49% – 20.49% (0% introductory APR for the first 12 months)
Signup Bonus $300 cash bonus
Rewards 5% cash back on office supply stores and internet/phone/cable purchases (up to $25,000 per year)
2% cash back on gas stations and restaurants (up to $25,000 per year)
1% cash back on all other purchases
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This entry-level small business card offers you 5% cash back on your first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year. You’ll earn 2% cash back on your first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year, and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Benefits include purchase protection and extended warranty coverage. When traveling, you also have access to travel and emergency assistance services, as well as a roadside dispatch hotline. There’s no annual fee for this card, but a 3% foreign transaction fee is imposed on charges processed outside of the United States.

The Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard From Bank Of America

The Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard from Bank of America
Annual Fee $0
APR Variable, 12.49% – 22.49% (0% introductory APR for the first 9 months)
Signup Bonus $200 cash back
Rewards 3 pts./$1 for gas stations and office supply stores (up to $250,000 per year)
2 pts./$1 on restaurants
1 pt./$1 on all other purchases
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This small business credit card can offer you up to 3% cash back on some of your business purchases. You’ll earn 3% cash back at gas stations and at office supply stores on up to $250,000 spent each year, and 1% cash back after that. You also earn 2% cash back on purchases at restaurants and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

New accounts can earn $200 in cash back after spending $500 within 60 days of account opening. New accounts will also receive nine months of 0% APR financing on new purchases before the standard interest rate begins to apply.

Points are available for cash back after earning $25, and you can choose to redeem your rewards as a statement credit or have cash deposited into a Bank of America small business checking or savings account. There’s no annual fee for this card, but it does have a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Final Thoughts

For a concept as simple as cash back, there are actually quite a lot of different small business credit card offers available. It’s important to do your research and select the one that will offer you the most benefits. While some small business owners will need to choose between cards with bonus offers and those without, others may be able to maximize cash back by carrying at least one of each. Closely examine the features and benefits of each of the cards above, and you’ll have all the information you need to find the card that best meets the needs of your business.

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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Credit Cards


Image of hands holding credit card and pressing a keys of keyboard

Credit cards are a common sight in wallets and purses, used for nearly a third of all in-person purchases. There’s nothing strange or novel about them.

And yet, despite their ubiquity, there are a lot of misconceptions about how credit cards work and the best way to use them. Should you use them regularly, or only for infrequent, major purchases? Do they help or harm your credit?

Here are five things you may not know about credit cards.

1. There’s No Reason To Carry A Balance If You Don’t Need To

One of the most common bits of conventional wisdom regarding credit cards is just wrong — a lesson I learned all too recently

You’ve probably heard at some point that it’s good to carry a small balance on your card every month, ostensibly to build your credit and keep your credit card company happy. Turns out that’s completely false. Personal credit cards are required to give you a 21-day or more grace period before they can start charging interest on a purchase. Business credit cards don’t have that hard and fast guideline (see below), but they usually do extend a grace period as a courtesy. If you pay your balance off within that time, you won’t owe any interest on your purchase and you’ll still earn whatever reward points your card offers.

But might your credit card company cancel your card if you don’t pay them interest? It’s unlikely. The company still makes money off transaction fees when you swipe your card.

Now, there are times you may find it convenient to put a big purchase on your card and pay it off slowly. There’s nothing wrong with that — just know that you’re not achieving any greater ends by delaying repayment.

2. Your Card May Be Canceled If You Don’t Use It

Since you now know you can safely use your credit card without paying interest, you don’t have to be scared of using it. Which is a good thing!  If you don’t use your card, your credit card company may simply cancel it.

There’s no telling when or if that will happen, but if you haven’t used your card in a couple months, the chances of your card being canceled increase.

If your card is canceled, don’t take it personally. You didn’t do anything “wrong,” you just weren’t making your credit card company any money. It’s often possible to get the decision reversed with a timely phone call.

3. Most Rewards Cards Are Cash Back (Even If They Aren’t Called Cash Back Cards)

Credit card rewards systems can be divided into a number of different categories, but one of the oldest and most popular is the cash back card. It’s a simple reward structure. For every dollar you spend, a small percentage of that payment is returned to you in the form of statement credit, a check, or a gift card.

Turns out most reward cards will let you cash in accumulated reward points for statement credit, even if they aren’t cash back cards. This can be handy when you simply need to shave a few dollars off of your statement for the month.

So why would you ever get a cash back card? Cash back cards tend to reward generic purchases at a higher rate than other reward schemes, which give you a higher return for buying specific types of goods and services (flights, hotel stays, office supplies, etc.). If your purchases are concentrated in a particular area, you may want a rewards card. If there’s not much of a pattern, consider a cash back card.

4. Business Credit Cards Play By A Different Set Of Rules

In 2009, Congress passed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act. The legislation established standards for personal credit cards. These include things like:

  • Giving customers enough time to pay their bills.
  • No retroactive rate increases.
  • Payments are applied to the highest-interest debt first.

They’re great protections for credit card users. And they don’t apply to business credit cards.

Business credit cards are still something of a wild frontier, with terms and rates that can change with little notice. To entice customers into this riskier landscape, credit card companies will usually reserve their best reward programs for business credit cards. If you’re someone who reliably pays off your credit card every month, the risks are small. If you carry balances — and especially if you miss payments — you may find yourself facing very unfavorable terms.

5. You Don’t Have To Own A Business To Get A Business Credit Card

Just like there’s no duck in that packet of duck sauce, there’s no business in business credit cards. Okay, that analogy isn’t great, but the fact remains that (most) business credit cards can be acquired by individuals who don’t actually have businesses.

In fact, even if you do have a business, you have to sign a personal guarantee to get a business credit card. That means you are personally accepting liability for the debt, which essentially waives the financial partition you would otherwise enjoy between your business and yourself if you were incorporated.

On the other hand, if you’re purchasing a high volume of goods and services as an individual and want to cash in on business card rewards and perks, you’re able to do so.

If you want a credit card that respects corporate protections, what you need is a corporate credit card. Just be aware that you’ll have to be doing over $4 million/year in revenue to qualify for most of them.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you’ve found one or more of these credit card tidbits illuminating and have some new ideas about how to make the best use of your plastic.

If you’re looking for a card for your business, check out our business and personal credit card comparisons.

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Choosing An American Express Corporate Card

American Express Website Menu

Unlike their small business counterparts, corporate cards are highly customizable. When it comes to Visa and Mastercard, your corporate card benefits will largely be based on the arrangements you make with your bank. American Express, however, directly issues corporate cards, so you can do more comparing upfront than you otherwise could with a Visa or Mastercard.

How Do Amex Corporate Charge Cards Work?

For the most part, corporate cards are scaled-up versions of Amex’s personal and business credit cards, tailored to meet the needs of a larger business. To get a corporate card, your company will need to be formally incorporated as an LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp. It will also need to have good credit and do over $4 million in revenue annually.

Be aware that Amex’s rewards system works a little differently for corporate cards. You won’t automatically be enrolled in the Corporate Membership Rewards program. You’ll have to sign up for the program and designate a primary account as the Master Program Administrator (MPA). The MPA can then designate up to five corporate cards for the program, including their own as program administrator (PA). These cardholders will have permission to redeem rewards. Three more cardholders can be designated as offline redeemers; these people can redeem points for certificates, gift cards, statement credit, and pay-with-points through telephone request only.

Up to 98 cards in total can be enrolled in a single Corporate Membership Rewards program. Unlike business and personal cards, there are no reward tiers. You spend $1, you get 1 point. The redemption value of a point varies depending on how you spend your rewards. For example, 20,000 points translate to a $100 statement credit ($0.005 per point).

Now that we know how American Express corporate cards work on a basic level, let’s compare some specific corporate cards.

American Express Corporate Platinum

The prestige charge card of the Amex brand has long been Platinum. Like its personal and business counterparts, the Corporate Platinum card is centered around international travel and resort stays.

American Express Corporate Platinum
Annual Fee $395/card
APR N/A
Corporate Membership Reward Cost Per Card $0
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If you like the Amex Platinum perks and have the annual revenue to qualify, the Corporate Platinum card is actually the cheapest version, at least on a per card basis. The personal and business cards come with annual fees of $550 and $450, respectively. Of course, $395 per card can add up pretty quickly, so you probably won’t be handing one of these to every employee in your organization.

Each employee with a Corporate Platinum card will enjoy the following perks:

  • Lounge Access: Access to all locations of The Centurion Lounge. Access to Delta Sky Clubs, Priority Pass Select, and Airspace Lounges.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit: Amex will reimburse the cardholder up to $100/yr. for incidental flight charges with a qualifying, selected airline.
  • Fine Hotels & Resorts Program: Members who pay in full with their Platinum Card receive complimentary upgrades and services at participating locations, subject to availability. This includes things like in-room Wi-Fi, breakfast amenities, room upgrades, and noon check-ins.
  • Fee Credit For Global Entry Or TSA Prev: Cardholders get one statement credit per four years for an application fee charged to the card.

American Express Corporate Gold

If the Corporate Platinum card is meant to keep the globetrotting, pampered executive in style, the Corporate Gold card is more oriented toward helping workers stay productive on the road.

American Express Corporate Gold
Annual Fee $125/card
APR N/A
Corporate Membership Reward Cost Per Card $90
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You can get three Corporate Gold cards for the price of a single Corporate Platinum card, so it’s a good choice for frugal corporations that want to reap Amex travel benefits for a large number of employees without breaking the bank. Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay a surcharge on each card you enroll in the Corporate Membership Reward program. If you also factor in the $100 airline credit you get with the Platinum Card, the savings you’d get from going with the Gold Card evaporate pretty quickly. On the other hand, you may prefer the a la carte approach to your benefits.

Each employee with a Corporate Gold Card will enjoy the following perks:

  • Fee Credit For Global Entry Or TSA Prev: Cardholders get one statement credit per four years for an application fee charged to the card.
  • Boingo American Express Preferred Plan: Complimentary, unlimited Wi-Fi access at Boingo hotspots. You’ll also give five in-flight internet passes each year.

American Express Corporate Green Card

The Corporate Green Card is marketed toward occasional travelers and core employees. You won’t find a ton of frills here, but the Green Card may align with certain spending strategies.

American Express Corporate Green
Annual Fee $55/card
APR N/A
Corporate Membership Reward Cost Per Card $90
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The Corporate Green Card’s benefits are pretty sparse and enrolling in the reward’s program ends up being more expensive than your annual fee, so you’ll probably only be passing these out to streamline your employees’ travel expenses.

Each employee with a Corporate Gold Card will enjoy the following perks:

  • Business Travel Accident Insurance: Covers flights, cruises, train, or bus travel charged on the card
  • Baggage Insurance: Covers lost, stolen, or damaged baggage on flights, cruises, trains, or bus trip charged on the card.

American Express Business Extra Corporate Card

The Business Extra Card is specifically focused on corporations that use American Airlines and its partner carriers.

American Express Business Extra Corporate Card
Annual Fee Up to $55/card
APR N/A
Corporate Membership Reward Cost Per Card N/A
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Unlike the other three cards we’ve covered, the Business Extra Corporate Card comes with its own rewards program and is ineligible for the Corporate Membership Reward Program. If you don’t mind sacrificing the flexibility, it offers some nice perks at a low cost.

Each employee with a Corporate Gold Card will enjoy the following perks:

  • American Express Busines Extra Rebate: 1% – 4% rebate on the first $1.5 million spent on qualifying American Airlines flights.
  • Business Extra Reward Program: Your cards will be enrolled in this reward program. You’ll also get four points for every $20 spent on eligible American Airlines flights and one point per $20 spent on other eligible purchases.
  • American Airlines Flight Discounts: $50 discount for every $5,000 of eligible purchases, up to a maximum of $1,000 in discounts each year.

Final Thoughts

American Express’s Corporate Card offerings provide several different ways for large corporations to optimize their travel spending. Since they’re mostly just scaled-up versions of existing cards, smaller businesses that grow into larger corporations may find it easy to transition from business to corporate class cards.

Not big enough for a corporate card? Check out our comparison guides to business credit cards, charge cards, and personal cards that are good for business expenses.

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