How To Find A Startup Grant

business grants

Startups are inherently risky endeavors. According to Fortune Magazine, close to 60% of new startups fail. Because new businesses are so risky, it is notoriously difficult to obtain startup financing — most banks won’t lend to you unless you’ve been in business at least two years. While some online lenders offer startup loans, startup grants are another option for new business financing. A startup grant is even harder to get than a startup loan, but grants are more desirable because you don’t have to pay the money back.

Want a shot at a startup grant? Follow these steps to find a business grant you might qualify for.

1. Determine Whether You’re Grant-Worthy

Generally, only certain types of businesses qualify for startup grants. If your biz doesn’t fall into one of these categories, it’s unlikely you’ll qualify. For example, while there may be grant money for an innovative hardware manufacturer, when it comes to a run-of-the-mill hardware store…eh, not so much. Then again, if you face the significant hurdles of having a female-owned hardware store opening up shop in an economically distressed region, it’s a lot more likely that a private or public entity might want to give you some free money.

Read my post Do I Qualify For A Startup Grant? to determine if your business falls into one of the industries likely to qualify for startup grant funds. If not, you might want to start considering other alternative financing options, such as crowdfunding.

2. Start Local

City and township governments, business associations, and nonprofits in your immediate region are good places to start looking for grants. Even if you determine that your business doesn’t fit into one of the “grant-worthy” categories I mentioned above, you might be eligible for a grant if you’re starting a business in a certain city or region. For example, the Arch Grants organization awards grants to new businesses in the St. Louis area. There are not too many of these sorts of grants, but it’s always worth checking.

Be sure to scan city, county, and state websites for grant opportunities, as well as your local Chamber of Commerce. If you’re willing to relocate, you can also check local business grant opportunities in the city or cities you’d consider moving to.

3. Search Your Niche

If you can’t find any grant opportunities for businesses in your area, you can search grants by niche; that is, by your particular industry or business type. Your startup may fall into multiple niches — for example, your business may be veteran-owned and also a clean-energy business. Simply searching a phrase like “business grants for green construction” or “grants for home daycare” may deliver results tailored to your specific business niche.

Sometimes grants are for a particular niche and also a particular region. A couple examples of niche business grants include the Halstead Grant for new silver jewelry designers living anywhere in the US, and the Green Technology Business Grant Program for green technology startups in Cleveland, Ohio.

4. Go Corporate

Several large corporations offer business grants or host some kind of small business contest where the best businesses can win free money. These grant programs are highly publicized and thus highly competitive, but they might be worth looking into. FedEx, Miller Lite, and Visa are a few corporations that award business grants; Miller Lite’s grant contest is especially aimed at startups.

Even some popular business lenders offer business grant contests. Veteran-owned businesses, for example, should look into StreetShares‘ annual business contest for veterans.

5. Look At A Federal Level

Small businesses can potentially find grants they are eligible for on Grants.gov, the one-stop-shop for government grants. However, you should know that the vast majority of these are medical research grants. Also, even if you’re eligible for one of these prized federal grants, you’ll likely be competing with nonprofit organizations, and even city and state governments. The reason I listed federal grants last is that there are few, if any, federal grants a typical startup business would be eligible for.

However, at least a couple federal grants are aimed at innovative small businesses, and these are Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants for high-tech businesses involved in scientific research & development. The InnovateHER grant contest is for businesses that benefit women and children.

This blog post on the SBA website explains a little more about US government grants and how most are not really aimed at for-profit businesses. If you want some government help in funding your small business, you might want to look into a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. These loans are low-interest and relatively easy to apply for if you use an online SBA lender like SmartBiz.

Final Considerations

Once you find a list of startup grants you’re eligible for, the next step is to start preparing your grant application package. The application process is slightly different for each type of grant, but usually you will have to submit a business plan and Request for Proposal (RFP). For a large grant, you might even consider hiring a professional grant writer, though this probably wouldn’t be feasible or necessary for a grant contest where you only stand to win $2,000-$5,000, even after beating out thousands of other applicants.

The last thing I’d recommend to anyone searching for startup grants is to review startup grant alternatives, such as small business loans or alternative business financing options like P2P loans or equipment financing. If you have any questions about startup loans or alternative business financing, feel free to email us or ask in the comments!

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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
Visit Site

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
Visit Site

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
Visit Site

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
Visit Site

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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A Guide To Choosing The Best Corporate Credit Cards

Man hands over credit cards for payment

It’s not hard to find articles that compare personal or business credit cards. But where are the ones comparing corporate credit cards?

At the corporate scale, you aren’t usually dealing with pre-designed deals and packages. If you’re big enough to qualify for a corporate account, your business likely has complex and very specific needs. The arrangements you make with your issuing financial institution will probably be unique to your company.

As you can imagine, this makes it very difficult to definitively rank corporate cards. Two businesses may get a corporate card from the same bank and have significantly different terms on their card.

Since we can’t tell you which card is the best for your particular situation, we’ll look at the factors that you should keep in mind when you’re evaluating your corporate credit card offer.

What Are Your Responsibilities?

Most corporate credit cards will require your company to meet some prerequisites to obtain and keep a card. These usually include:

  • Earning over $4 million in revenue annually
  • Opening a minimum number of cards on the corporate account
  • Paying any applicable annual fees

You’ll want to evaluate the costs of the annual fee, which typically consists of a base fee and an additional per card fee. While these fees won’t break the bank for a company earning over $4 million, you don’t want to have to pay more than necessary for the perks you receive.

Who Is The Credit Card Provider?

Visa, Mastercard, and American Express all offer corporate credit cards.

As is the case with personal and small business cards, Visa and Mastercard don’t issue the cards directly, instead selling their services to banking institutions, which in turn issue you a corporate card. Some of the benefits offered by your card will be common to all Visa or Mastercard corporate cards. These include things like auto rental coverage and aspects of your customer service. Overall, the banking institution you choose will be a bigger factor for what services you receive than whether your card is serviced by Visa or Mastercard.

American Express, on the other hand, directly issues their cards. Amex corporate offerings will be more familiar to you if you’ve ever perused their personal and business credit cards. In fact, you’ll notice that their corporate cards are largely scaled-up versions of their personal and business credit cards — there’s a corporate Platinum Card, for example.

How Does The Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver Work?

Commercial vehicle rental coverage is offered with most corporate cards. This is usually offered through the credit card company itself rather than the issuing bank.

These programs will usually cover collision and theft of the vehicle, but not necessarily any contents within the cars. There are restrictions on what types of vehicles are covered and under what circumstances. For example, Visa will cover SUVs, but only so long as they are road-safe.

You’ll also want to know how the coverage works both within the United States and internationally. Again using Visa as an example, your damage waiver will function as primary coverage when you’re out of the country and secondary while you’re within. Secondary insurance policies pick up fees and charges that your primary policy does not.

Look over the fine print of your policy, or better yet, have your accounting team do it so that you’ll be able to create guidelines for how your employees should use their coverage to rent vehicles.

How Is The Rewards Program Set Up?

Though they’re not as big of a selling point for corporate credit cards, rewards programs can still add value to your account by returning a percentage of your expenditures back to you as cash, statement credit, gift cards, flyer miles, or points you can spend through other reward programs.

To get the most out of your reward program, you’ll want to know what types of expenses your employees will be putting on their corporate cards. If they’re concentrated in a particular area — like travel expenses — you’ll want a reward card that reimburses those expenses at a high rate.

Do You Want To Make Individual Or Company Payments?

Because corporate cards are meant to be used by multiple employees, there are two different ways to set up your payment systems. You’ll want to be sure your bank offers the setup of your preference.

One configuration is to have the company directly pay the balance on all of the cards. In this case, you’ll probably want to design a policy to determine what types of expenses the cards can be used for.

The other is to have your employees each be responsible for their own cards and then submit expense reports so the company can reimburse them for qualifying expenses.

In both cases, you can work with your issuer to set spending limits.

Final Thoughts

While you can’t directly compare corporate cards the same way you can compare small business and personal cards, you can approach the negotiations with a firm sense of what features and services you want your issuer to offer. Since you’ll be setting policies for employee usage, you’ll want to be able to clearly define when the cards should or shouldn’t be used.

If your business isn’t up to the corporate scale yet, but you’re still looking for a card, check out our small business, personal credit, and charge card guides.

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Is Invoice Factoring Right For Your Small Business?

invoice factoring small businesses

Invoice factoring — selling unpaid invoices to a factoring company in exchange for immediate cash — is a useful financing tool for certain businesses. If your business, like many others, has slow-paying customers that affect your cash flow, invoice factoring might help you manage your finances. But how, exactly, does invoice factoring work? And should your business use factoring services? Keep reading to find out!

Invoice Factoring Basics

Invoice factoring is essentially a sales transaction in which a business sells their unpaid invoices to a factoring company, at a discount, in exchange for immediate cash. Typically, the factoring company will hold a percentage of the invoice value in reserve; when the customer pays, the company will send you that money, less the factoring fee.

Factoring is generally used to solve cash flow problems caused by slow-paying customers. Instead of waiting 60, 90, or even 180 days for a customer to pay, the business can sell the invoice to a factoring company to get the cash needed to maintain business operations or take on new projects.

A factoring arrangement might look like this: You sell an invoice valued at $5,000 to a factoring company. The factoring company sends you $4,500 (90% of the invoice value) and keeps $500 on reserve. Your factoring fee is 0.06% per week. Your customer pays after 35 days, or 5 weeks, so your fee is $180 ($30 per week). The factor deducts their fee, and sends the remaining reserve, totaling $320, to you.

Invoice Factoring Eligibility

If you run a B2B business and you invoice your customers, chances are you’re a good candidate for invoice factoring.

Unlike with many other types of business financing, your business’s revenue and creditworthiness are not especially large considerations when determining eligibility; invoice factors are more concerned with the creditworthiness of your customers because your customers are the ones paying the bills. So, even if you own a young business without a financial track record, or you don’t make very much money, or you have poor personal credit, you might still be eligible for invoice factoring.

Is Invoice Factoring Right For My Business?

You may be eligible for invoice factoring, but should you use a factoring service? There are a lot of pros to factoring your invoices, but it’s not a perfect fit for all businesses. To determine whether factoring is right for your situation, ask yourself these questions:

Are my finances suffering due to slow-paying customers?

Slow-paying customers can affect many areas of your business. If you aren’t paid for your work until months after you have completed the job, you might have trouble meeting business expenses, purchasing inventory and supplies, paying employees, or paying for overhead costs. If this is the case, invoice factoring can be a simple way to ensure that you have the working capital you need.

However, invoice factoring is not always cheap, which is why you need to consider this next question:

Can I afford invoice factoring?

In general, factoring fees (called discount rates) range from about 1% – 6% of the invoice value per month, depending on the particulars of your factoring arrangement and how high-risk your client is. If you sell an invoice from a particularly slow-paying client, and you have a high factoring rate, you could wind up paying around 18% of the invoice value in fees for the opportunity to get your money sooner.

Many invoice factors also charge additional fees for factoring services. You might be charged money transfer fees, servicing fees, monthly minimums, or other expenses, which can add up over time. Head over to our explanation of factoring rates and fees to learn about discount rates and other commonly charged fees.

All that said, your fees will depend on a number of components, including the factoring company you are working with, the creditworthiness of your customers, the number and size of the invoices you want to sell, the industry your business is in, and other considerations. You will have to look at your options and decide whether the cost is worth it to your business.

Even if you decide that you need a financial solution, invoice factors most likely aren’t your only option.

Would an alternative financing solution work better?

Now, more than ever, businesses have a plethora of financial solutions available. While invoice factoring might seem like the perfect solution to your cash flow problems, the following might be a better fit:

  • Asset-Backed Lines Of Credit: These credit lines can be backed by unpaid invoices or (occasionally) assets like inventory or other receivables. The amount you are able to borrow depends on the value of your collateral. Asset-backed lines of credit work similarly to invoice factoring, but might offer more flexibility in some ways. These credit lines also tend to have lower rates than financing that isn’t backed by anything, so you might qualify for low rates and fees in comparison to other options.
  • Revolving Lines Of Credit: With a revolving line of credit, the amount you are able to borrow replenishes as you repay your debts. While some revolving lines of credit are backed by collateral, some simply require you to sign a personal guarantee and/or pledge general business assets via a blanket lien. With this type of financing, you’ll always have money available when you need it. And because you repay weekly or monthly, you don’t have to worry about getting fined because your customers forgot to pay their bills. Head over to our article on business lines of credit to learn more about this type of financing, or scan this list of our favorite lines of credit if you’re interested in learning about your options.
  • Business Credit Cards: Business credit cards can be useful if you need cash short-term for business expenses. You can put many purchases on credit cards and repay them on a timetable that works for you. However — especially if you tend to carry a balance — you might want to consider other options, because credit cards have notoriously high rates and fees. If you’re looking for a business credit card, check out some of our favorites.
  • Small Business Loans: If you only need funds one time, or if you need a large sum of money, a small business loan might be a good bet. Some lenders have long application processes, but many, including PayPal Working Capital and OnDeck, can let you know if you’re eligible within a very short time period. Most small business loans come in the form of installment loans or short-term loans. Small business loans can be used for a number of purposes, such as working capital, payroll, inventory purchasing, and other uses.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve decided that invoice factoring is a potential solution for your business, good for you! Invoice factoring can be a very viable way to maintain cash flow for your business, especially if you tend to get bogged down by slow-paying customers.

Interested in learning more? The following resources provide additional information about invoice factoring and may assist you to find the right factor for your business:

  • A Basic Introduction To Invoice Factoring: Invoice factoring basics, including what to look out for, a basic explanation of fees, and alternative services to factoring
  • Understanding Invoice Factoring Rates & Fees: An in-depth look at factoring rates and fees, including the variables that affect your rates, the three most common fee structures and their differences, and other fees you might have to look out for.
  • Spot Factoring vs. Invoice Factoring: A guide to help you determine whether your business should choose a spot factoring service, a high-volume factoring service, or some other alternative service.
  • Merchant Maverick’s comprehensive reviews of invoice factoring services provide honest and thorough assessments of some of the most popular invoice factoring services available.

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How To Get A Corporate Credit Card

Paying by credit card concept with businessman keeping credit card in his hand isolated on white background

A corporate credit card may sound like a good fit for your situation, but if you’re like many business owners, you probably aren’t sure where to get started.

After all, personal and small business credit cards are ubiquitous, but you’re unlikely to encounter advertisements for corporate credit cards in your casual travels. You also won’t find easy, online sign-up forms for corporate credit cards.

So how do you go about getting one?

Work For A Corporation That Uses One

This sounds a bit like cheating, but it illustrates an important point about corporate credit cards. A company will usually have multiple copies of a corporate card for use by multiple personnel. In fact, one of the big advantages of corporate cards is that they streamline your company’s incidental and travel expenses.

Of course, this advice only applies to people who would be satisfied with simply having access to a corporate credit card. If you own a company and want to open an account, however, there’s a bit more you’re going to have to do.

Incorporate

As obvious as it may sound, you’ll probably need to, you know, incorporate if you have aspirations toward a corporate card.

Regular small business credit cards require you to give the issuing bank your personal guarantee. That means that the bank can come after your personal assets, not just your business assets, should you default on your debt. This isn’t a great deal, but it comes with one major advantage: you don’t actually have to have a business to qualify for a business credit card. Likewise, you can get one if your business is a simple sole proprietorship with no partition between your personal and business identity.

Corporate cards, however, require your business to be formally incorporated as an S-corp, C-corp, or LLC. Your business is solely responsible for corporate credit card debt — the bank cannot come after your personal assets.

Earn Over $4 Million In Annual Revenue

Sadly, there’s no way around this one. Before most banks will issue you a corporate credit card, you’re going to have to demonstrate that your company is raking in some serious cash. Since the issuer will be dedicating premium customer support services to your company–and without even the protection of a personal guarantee–they’re looking for an account with some serious clout.

This can be a blessing in disguise. Corporate cards come with some significant costs that wouldn’t necessarily scale down well to small businesses anyway.

Find A Bank You Want To Work With

Corporate credit cards are issued primarily by large banking institutions, so there are far fewer options than there are with other credit cards. Since you’ll have access to far more customer service than would a personal or small business credit card holder, you’ll want to research those institutions’ corporate customer service policies and reputation.

Most corporate cards come with rewards programs not unlike those of small business credit cards. You’ll still want to factor rewards programs into your calculations, but given the costs of maintaining a corporate credit card, rewards won’t play as significant a role as they do with the lower-tiered cards.

Many issuers will want you to commit to a minimum number of cards and annual spending, so make sure you know what they expect from you.

Once you know what institution you want to get a card from, you’ll need to reach out to them by phone, in person, or submit an inquiry form to begin the process.

Make Sure Your Company’s Credit Score Is Good

Not to beat a dead horse, but you won’t be able to rely on your personal credit score to get a corporate credit card.

You’ll also want to demonstrate good corporate accounting practices. Banks will want to see good cash flow, for example.

Final Thoughts

Corporate credit cards are an elite product for large, stable businesses with numerous employees. Expect a more involved process than you’d get with a personal or small business credit card.

Haven’t hit $4 million yet and still want a card? Consider a small business credit card or even a personal business credit card.

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Should My Business Get A Credit Card Or A Charge Card?

When you swipe your card (or insert your EMV chip into the reader), you’ll have pretty much the same experience whether you’re using a credit card or a charge card. So why would you choose one over the other?

Turns out there are some important differences to consider before you sign up for a card.

What Is A Credit Card?

When most people think of paying by plastic, they’re thinking of a credit card. If you’re “paying with Visa or Mastercard,” and you’re not paying with debit, you’re probably using a credit card. But while those two companies control the infrastructure for making credit card payments, they’re not actually the ones extending the credit.

In fact, “extending credit” is the operative phrase when it comes to credit cards. When a bank issues you a credit card, what they’re effectively doing is proffering a revolving line of credit. Unlike a loan, a line of credit can be tapped at any time, for any amount (up to a set credit limit). The “revolving” part means that, as you pay off your balance, that amount becomes available for you to use again.

Like loans, lines of credit (and credit card balances) accumulate interest over time. Credit cards do, however, have grace periods during which the balance can be paid off without accumulating interest. These can be set by law, as is the case for personal credit cards, or extended as a courtesy, as they are for business credit cards. Just be aware that business credit cards can, and often will, change the terms on you with little notice. And many business credit cards will charge an annual fee.

What Is A Charge Card?

Charge cards are a little different. Unlike credit cards, charge cards are not bank-issued. The “lender” in this case is the same as the card company. With rare exceptions, most charge cards these days are issued by American Express.

Charge cards aren’t lines of credit. Instead, you’re paying an annual fee in exchange to be able to defer your payment for 30 days. Your entire balance is due on your statement date, except in cases where you’ve made special arrangements with the issuer. If you miss a payment, you’ll face a punishing wall of fees and possibly cancellation.

The major selling point of charge cards is that they have no credit limit. Conventional wisdom would dictate that you can put as much on your card in any given month as you want, but that isn’t exactly true.

American Express has a policy called No Pre-Set Spending Limit. What this means is that Amex makes a calculation based on your payment history, credit record, and estimated resources and may put a cap on monthly spending. The company estimates that about 10 percent of their customers have a cap at any given time.

How Else Do Credit Cards and Charge Cards Differ?

The remaining differences tend to be more quantitative than qualitative. Both types of cards offer reward programs. Charge cards traditionally had an edge here, but business credit cards have recently caught up, offering comparable reward programs to all but the most elite charge cards.

Because charge cards can’t rely on interest to earn money, they tend to have higher annual fees than similar business credit cards.

When To Choose A Charge Card

No matter which type of card you choose, you should try to pay off the entirety of your balance each month. Since a charge card doesn’t easily let you carry a balance from month-to-month, you’re encouraged to maintain more disciplined spending habits than you might have with a business credit card. If you miss a charge card payment, you’ll feel the consequences right away. This is an important concept when you’re dealing with rewards cards as interest payments can easily neutralize any financial advantage you might get from the rewards.

Additionally, your payment terms will be clearer and less subject to sudden change. There’s less fine print to keep track of. You’ll always have the same number of days to pay of your balance.

Though the ability to buy as much as you want with a credit limit is overstated, you may prefer the softer limits on your spending habits.

Finally, if you like American Express’s rewards programs and perks, you’ll probably want to consider a charge card.

When To Choose A Credit Card

One of the biggest advantages offered by credit cards is that they’re accepted at far more businesses than charge cards, so if you plan to use a card as a primary means of payment, keep that in mind.

The credit card industry is more diverse, with tons of lending institutions offering their own cards and reward programs. While American Express does offer variations on its rewards programs, you won’t find the same level of diversity with charge cards as you will with credit cards.

Of course, credit cards do allow you to carry a balance, which provides a lot of flexibility in when you pay off your balance. This can be as much of a curse as a blessing, however, as it’s easy to let balances linger and accrue interest.

You should generally aim to pay your balance off during your interest-free grace period (as you would with a charge card) to get the most out of your credit card. It’s worth noting that this is easier to do with personal credit cards than with business ones as the latter can change your terms with no notice. Unfortunately, business credit cards also tend to have the better reward programs.

Final Thoughts

Both credit cards and charge cards are convenient ways to pay for expenses without carrying wads of cash or taking out complicated loans. Before you sign up for one kind or the other, take some time to analyze your spending habits and determine what type of card is best for your business.

Not sure where to start looking? Check out our personal and business credit card comparisons, as well as our charge card comparisons.

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Personal VS Business Credit Cards

personal vs business credit cards

Let’s say you’re about to take a running leap into the great unknown and launch that business you’ve been thinking about for years. Congratulations! You’re about to join a class of people who receive more performative displays of respect (if nothing else) from the powers that be than anybody this side of The Troops and Olympic gold medalists: small business owners.

As you begin your journey amidst the peril and the pitfalls, you might be tempted to get a business credit card. It’s what you’re supposed to do, right? They wouldn’t put “business” in the name otherwise, would they?

As it happens, a business card may well be a sensible option for you. Or it might not be! A personal credit card may well fit your enterprise just fine. It all depends on the nature of your business, how you plan to use your credit card, and how you weigh the relative risks. Let’s go through some of the ways personal and business credit cards differ from one another.

Personal Credit Cards Have Stronger Consumer Protections

One difference that isn’t widely recognized is the fact that the Credit CARD Act of 2009 gives users of personal credit cards legal protections that do not apply to users of business credit cards. Among other reforms, the Act mandates that credit card companies give cardholders at least 45 days notice of a rate increase, that consumers get at least 21 days to pay their bill, that low introductory rates be offered for at least 6 months, and that payments are applied to the consumer’s highest interest rate balances first.

Now, if you have a business card, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your credit card company is going to engage in all the practices outlawed by the Credit CARD Act. In fact, many issuers of business cards extend most of these protections to consumers as a courtesy. However, not all credit card companies offer such protections, and the majority may not offer all of the protections listed above. For instance, your business card issuer may apply your payment to your lowest interest rate balance so they can leech more in interest charges. What’s more, history and experience suggest that big financial companies aren’t the most meticulous institutions when it comes to protecting consumers’ interests in the absence of legal mandates (and even then, their record is spotty, to put it mildly).

If you plan to sign up for a business credit card, read the fine print on the agreement before pulling the trigger. You should also closely monitor your charges and your monthly statements. Of course, you’re no dummy — you probably knew to do that already!

Personal CCs & Business CCs Tailor Their Rewards Programs Differently

Here’s one difference that shouldn’t come as a surprise: Business credit cards often have rewards programs that offer perks tailored towards the kinds of purchases typically made by businesses, such as office supplies and phone services. Meanwhile, the rewards programs offered by personal credit card issuers normally focus on categories average consumers spend on.

Naturally, many business owners and entrepreneurs will be attracted to business credit cards on this basis. But what if you don’t spend much on typical business categories in your particular enterprise? You might be running your business from home and have little use for, say, rewards programs geared toward office supplies. Suffice it to say, you should pay attention to the rewards categories offered by the credit card company in question (whether it be a personal or business credit card) and think long and hard about whether said rewards make sense for you and your business.

Business Credit Limits Are Often Higher

Businesses tend to spend more money than consumers. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that those applying for business credit cards normally qualify for a higher credit limit than those applying for personal credit cards.

This means that with a business credit card, not only will you be able to spend more and not hit your limit, but this higher credit limit can boost your credit score as well. Business credit-reporting bureaus Equifax and Experian (not Dun & Bradstreet) use your credit utilization to determine your business credit score. A higher credit limit can therefore boost your standing, as you’ll be using less of your total available credit when your high credit limit kicks in.

A Business Credit Card Builds Your Business Credit

One advantage of using a business credit card is that it establishes and helps build your business credit; you cannot build credit for your business by charging business expenses to a personal credit card. Your business credit score can determine whether or not your business qualifies for loans, credit lines, and other financial products. It can also affect the price you’ll pay for business insurance.

If you’re an entrepreneur with no business credit history to your name, a business card can be an essential tool for building credit.

Business Cards Can Affect Your Personal Credit Too

When considering which type of card to use, know that how you use your business credit card can affect your personal credit as well as your business credit.

Getting a business credit card usually involves a personal guarantee, making you personally liable for your business’s debts if your business misses payments, so your business card issuer will likely consider your personal credit score when determining how much credit to extend to you. In addition, some business card issuers, like American Express and Capital One, report your business card activity to both business and personal credit bureaus. Others, like Chase, report your activity to business credit bureaus only. So while using your business card can definitely affect your personal credit, the exact mechanisms by and the degree to which it will do so can differ. Do your due diligence!

Final Thoughts

This is admittedly a familiar refrain at this point, but do your homework and examine the terms and conditions closely when applying for a credit card, whether it be personal or business. As for which one to choose when you’re starting a business, that all depends on your expected spending habits and your priorities.

If your goal is to establish business credit and your business expenses jibe with the reward categories offered by most business cards, a business credit card may be the way to go. If, on the other hand, you’re a sole proprietor who doesn’t anticipate spending much on the reward categories of business cards and building business credit isn’t your priority, you could definitely get by with a personal credit card.

Just remember that credit card issuers are in the game for profit, not public service. Trust your investigative ability, not the purity of their motives.

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The Best Business Grants For Women

business grants for women

Do an online search for “business grants for women” and a slew of articles will come up. But when you click to read the articles, you’ll find that there is scant, if any, information on actual grants. Often, when you do find the name of a specific grant for female-led businesses, like the “Huggies Mom Inspired” grant, there will be no link to apply, because the program has been discontinued. Most of these articles will also toss you a link to Grants.gov — which does not offer any grant expressly for women-owned businesses.

The truth is that while there is a lot of demand for business grants, i.e., free money to help start or continue your business, there are hardly any such programs in existence. While both government and private grants do exist, most of that money goes to not-for-profit organizations, and the majority of these programs do not give preferential treatment to female applicants.

However, there are a select few grants offered specifically to female owners of for-profit businesses. This article includes real grants for women entrepreneurs only. Meaning, there will be an actual link to apply in most cases. Woohoo! Hopefully, this will save you some time scouring the web. I could only find a handful of legit, worthwhile business grant opportunities for women, but if you know of any others, feel free to mention them in the comments!

1. Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant

About

Eileen Fisher is a socially conscious clothing brand that emphasizes sustainability. The clothing brand offers a yearly grant to women-owned businesses, particularly those that focus on using their businesses to bring about environmental and/or social change. Each year, Eileen Fisher awards Women-Owned Business Grants totaling $100,000 to up to 10 recipients, with a minimum grant amount of $10,000. Additionally, grantees are invited to New York City in the spring following their reward for two days of business collaboration with Eileen Fisher.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for an Eileen Fisher grant, businesses must meet the following criteria:

  • At least 51% woman-owned
  • Have been in business at least 3 years
  • Revenues not exceeding $1 million
  • Business founded on principal of creating social and environmental change

Franchises, startups, and past award winners are not eligible to receive the grant.

How To Apply

Visit the Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant website to find more information about the grant and apply.

 

Visit the Eileen Fisher website

 

2. Amber Grants

About

Amber Grants began in 1998. After a young woman named Amber died before being able to fulfill her entrepreneurial dreams, WomensNet started offering grants for women in Amber’s name. These are smaller grants, but they are very accessible and easy to apply for. Amber Grants awards $500 to a woman-owned business every month, and at the end of the year, one of the 12 monthly qualification winners wins another grant for $2,500.

Eligibility Criteria

Amber Grants do not have any particular qualification criteria, other than that recipients must be female entrepreneurs (age 18 and up) living in the United States or Canada. Amber Grants are open to any type of business.

How To Apply

Simply fill out the application template on the Amber Grant Application Page and pay a nominal $7 fee. Amber Grants recommends that rather than trying to “sound professional” in your application, you focus on conveying the passion you have for your business.

Amber Grants receive between 200 and 600 applicants every month. Visit the website for information about application deadlines.

 

Visit the Amber Grant website

 

3. Cartier Women’s Initiative

About

The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, a joint partnership created in 2006 by Cartier, McKinsey & Company, and INSEAD business school, awards annual grants to support projects by women entrepreneurs. This is one of the largest and most prestigious business grants for women, but the competition is steep. The first-place prize in this international business competition is $100,000; second place comes with a $30,000 prize.

Eligibility Criteria

Women entrepreneurs in the initial stages of development (2-3 years old), in any country, of any nationality, and operating in any industry can apply for this grant. The business must have an original concept and the business must have a for-profit model.

You can download the official Cartier Women’s Initiative rules of participation for more details.

How To Apply

When applications are open (which is only during certain times of year), you will be able to apply using the online Cartier Women’s Initiative application form.

From the Cartier Women’s Initiative website:

The call for applications for the 2018 edition of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards is now closed. The call for applications for the 2019 edition of the competition will open in May 2018.

Before applying, be sure to read up on the grant application process. In addition to filling out the application form, you’ll need to supply supporting documentation including your resume, scanned copy of your business registration, proof of patent (if applicable), and detailed financials. Optionally, you can also include three additional attachments, such as your logo, images of your product, press articles, etc.

 

Visit the Cartier Women’s Initiative website

 

4. Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program

About

Fashion designer and philanthropist Tory Burch created the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009 to help empower female entrepreneurs. The Foundation has been quite successful in this goal, and today runs one of the most preeminent business grant competitions.

Each year, up to 10 finalists of this grant competition receive a $10,000 grant for business education, a 1-year Tory Burch Fellowship, and a 3-day business workshop at Tory Burch Headquarters in NYC. Note that the $10,000 grant cannot be used for purposes other than business education. Fellows will also participate in a Shark Tank-style pitch competition before a panel of judges to choose one winner of a $100,000 award, of which 50% is a grant and 50% is a “recoverable grant” (fancy way of saying 0%-interest loan).

Eligibility Requirements

Applicants to this business grant must be female business owners who meet the following criteria:

  • Own a majority stake in for-profit business, from any industry, in early-stage growth (minimum of 1 year and no more than 5 years of operations), generating minimum revenues of $25,000 and maximum revenues of $500,000 per year
  • Manage said business on a day-to-day basis
  • 21 years or older as of the application due date
  • Legal resident of the United States
  • Proficient in English

Read more about Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Grant eligibility.

How To Apply

Here is the application page for the Tory Burch grant. The application period is pretty short — it opens in early fall and closes in November. But that’s okay; in the meantime, you can download the application help guide to start perfecting your business plan and application essay so you will be ready to go when the next round of application opens.

 

Visit the Tory Burch Foundation website

 

5. Girlboss Foundation

About

Launched in 2014, The Girlboss Foundation funds female entrepreneurs pursuing creative endeavors. Specifically, these grants are for women in the fields of art, fashion, design, and music. Every six months, one grant beneficiary receives $15,000 to be used for a creative project within the following 12 months, in addition to online media exposure.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible, Girlboss applicants must be US-based female creative business owners who are 18 or older. Note that the Girlboss Foundation only awards grants to individuals; GB can award the grant to an individual representing a business, but not to a business as an entity.

How To Apply

Fill out the online Girlboss Foundation grant application. First, however, read the information on the selection process so you’ll get a better idea of what to include and how you’ll be judged.

 

Visit the Girlboss website

 

6. Women Founders Network Fast Pitch Competition

About

The WFN is an organization that provides both capital and mentorship to women business owners. The organization’s Fast Pitch competition awards $20,000 in free grant money to a female-led business each year; runners-up receive $7,500, $5,000, and $2,500 respectively. If you make the top 10 finalists, you’ll pitch your business at a live in-person event in Los Angeles.

Eligibility Criteria

These are the criteria for this women’s business grant competition, from the WFN website:

  • Founder/CEO must be a woman or business must be majority-owned by women.
  • Must attend in-person to present in Los Angeles at the Fast Pitch Event.
  • Business must be past the idea stage (revenue preferred)
  • Must have raised no more than $1M in outside funding, excluding research grants.
  • Seeking early stage businesses based in USA with high-growth potential.

How To Apply

You can apply for this grant on the Women Founders Network Fast Pitch website as of May 1, 2018. The next round of applications will be accepted from May 1 – June 10, 2018.

WFN has posted grant application guidelines with detailed information about the contest and tips for applying, but note that these guidelines are for the 2017 contest.

 

Visit the WFN website

 

7. InnovateHER Challenge

About

The InnovateHER Challenge, est. 2015 under the Obama administration, is a national women’s business grant contest hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership. Each year since 2015, InnovateHER has given out three grants to especially worthy women-owned businesses, including a first-place prize of $40,000, a second-place prize of $20,000, and a third-place prize of $10,000. InnovateHER is the only federal grant money earmarked specifically for women-related businesses.

To arrive at the top 10 finalists for this nationwide competition, organizations such as universities and economic development associations run their own local competitions throughout the year. Then, from all of the local winners, 10 national finalists are chosen to pitch their businesses to an expert panel in Washington D.C.

Eligibility Requirements

This contest is for innovative entrepreneurs whose products and services create a measurable impact on the lives of women and families. These business solutions must also “have the potential for commercialization, and fill a need in the marketplace.”

Further eligibility requirements from last year’s InnovateHer Challenge page are as follows:

  • Citizens or permanent residents of the United States who are at least eighteen (18) years of age at the time of their submission of an entry (or teams of such individuals)
  • Private entities, such as corporations or other organizations, that are incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States. Individuals submitting on behalf of corporations, nonprofits, or groups of individuals (such as an academic class or another team) must meet the eligibility requirements for individual contestants. An individual may belong to more than one team submitting an entry in this Challenge.

Note that the rules don’t say this grant is only for women (even though it’s all about solutions that improve women’s lives). However, all of the past grant winners and finalists have been women, so perhaps this is an unspoken rule.

How To Apply

I assume that once the competition opens for 2018, there will be information about how to apply to any local InnovateHer competitions posted on the official InnovateHer Challenge website.

As of February 2018, this website had no information on the 2018 InnovateHER competition, despite the fact that if things were to follow the same schedule as last year’s and the previous years’ competitions, the contest would have kicked off this past December. I emailed the SBA Office of Women’s Business Ownership about this and they told me that they will get back to me as soon as they have any information regarding the 2018 InnovateHer Challenge; I’ll update this post if/when I hear back from them.

 

Visit the InnovateHER website

 

Runner-Up: Halstead Grant

About

Halstead Grants are given to new jewelry designers who work primarily in silver. While this grant is not strictly for women, I’m including it as a runner-up, as the jewelry industry is mostly female-dominated, and most (but not all) of the past winners of this grant have been women. Plus, there is an actual link to apply for the grant. Score!

The grant consists of $7,500 in start-up capital and $1,000 in Halstead merchandise. Finalists receive $500 cash for Top 5 placement, or $250 for Top 10 placement.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Applicant must have opened business within the past three years.
  • Applicant must be pursuing jewelry design as a full-time career, not as a hobby or part-time job.
  • Applicant must be a US citizen.

How To Apply

Download and fill out the Halstead Grant Application. As part of the application, you must submit a jewelry collection along with answers to 15 questions that form the basis of a business plan.

 

Visit the Halstead Grant website

 

Final Thoughts

Grants represent a viable form of free funding for select, exceptionally talented women business owners. If you can present an especially impressive application, essay, business plan, and in some cases an in-person pitch, you might come away with some free cash to help bring your entrepreneurial dreams to fruition. However, such grants are extremely competitive, and in most cases even if you win a prized spot, you won’t receive a large amount of capital. There are some select grants available to small businesses in general, including grants for startup businesses, but these grant programs are similarly competitive. Generally, there just isn’t a lot of grant money to be had for for-profit businesses.

More attainable small businesses funding options for women include online loans, personal loans, or even alternative financing options such as crowdfunding. If you’re a female entrepreneur reading this article, I strongly recommend you also check out my article on the best loans for women. For more guidance on how to get financing for your women-owned business, feel free to contact us!

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8 Ways To Finance Your Small Business

Business financing is often a necessary part of growing a business, but when it comes to finding capital, it can be difficult to know where to start. Should you get a credit card? What about a loan from your local bank? Is there useful financing out there that you haven’t even heard of?

Read on, and we’ll point you in the right direction. This article discusses the most common (and some less common) ways of getting financing for your business. And, if you find the right type of financing for your business, we’ll give you the next steps to continue your search.

Want help finding a business loan? Apply now to Merchant Maverick’s Community of Lenders. We’ve partnered with banks, credit unions, and other financiers across the country to bring you fast and easy business financing.

1. Business Loans

As you might expect, business loans are one of the most popular and versatile ways of financing your business. Most businesses will qualify for a business loan of one sort or another, and they can be used for many business purposes, from working capital to business expansion to refinancing.

Business loans come from many different places. While everybody knows that you can get a business loan from a bank, you might not be aware that other financial institutions offer business loans. Many offer loans that are easier to qualify for and have faster applications than bank loans. Here are places that commonly offer business loans:

  • Banks and credit unions offer business loans and other types of financing.
  • Nonprofits, not-for-profit institutions, and microlenders offer small business loans and other types of financing to create jobs and fuel community growth.
  • The Small Business Administration partners with financial institutions to offer business loans. Read more about SBA loans in our guide to their programs.
  • Online lenders, also called “alternative lenders,” offer business loans and other types of financing with fast, semi- or fully-automated application processes.

Loans come in many different forms. The most common are installment loans, in which the money is granted to the business in one lump sum and then repaid via incremental, fixed, payments. However, some loans might have special fee and repayment structures — you might find loans with fixed fees (like short-term loans), loans that have repayment rates based on the percentage of money you make every day or month, or other arrangements. In other words, with a little looking, most merchants will be able to find something that is suited to the needs of their business.

For more information on small business loans, check out our free Beginner’s Guide to Small Business Loans. Or, to read reviews of individual lenders, head over to our small business loans review category.

2. Business Lines Of Credit

Business lines of credit are a sort of hybrid between business loans and credit cards. Like business loans, with a line of credit, you can borrow a sum of money which is (normally) repaid along with interest in installments over a set period of time. Like credit cards, you can request funds at any time, up to your available credit limit.

If you occasionally need funds to make ends meet or grow your business, or you simply want a safety net in case of emergencies, a line of credit is an excellent tool at your disposal.

Credit lines can be especially useful to businesses on a timeline because you don’t need to apply every time you need to borrow funds. When you are approved for a credit line, you’re granted access to a certain amount of money from which you can draw at any time. If you have a revolving line of credit, the amount you can borrow will replenish as you repay outstanding debts.

Some credit lines, such as asset-backed lines of credit, can work a little differently. If you have access to a credit line secured by unpaid invoices, inventory, or other assets, the amount you can draw at any given time will depend on the value of the assets you have outstanding. These credit lines are normally best for B2B businesses.

Credit lines carry a few drawbacks — most credit lines have variable interest rates, which mean that your rates might change without notice. And, if you aren’t very good at managing money, you might find that you don’t have emergency funds when you need them. However, lines of credit are useful tools for many businesses.

In the past, it was difficult for all but the most well-established and prosperous businesses to get credit lines. With the advent of online loans, it’s becoming easier for businesses of all sizes to access this useful financing tool. Check out our guide to business lines of credit for more information, or, if you’re interested in procuring one, take a look at our favorite line of credit services.

3. Business Credit Cards

There are many reasons to get a business credit card for your business.

For starters, most credit card issuers offer rewards and benefits to merchants who have signed on with their services. By using the card, you could be earning savings in the form of cash back points (that can be redeemed for travel or other expenses). These rewards add up in the long run, and you might be able to save your business quite a bit of money. Additionally, many credit card issuers offer benefits to cardholders, such as extended warranty, price protection, roadside assistance, and other perks.

Credit cards are also convenient ways to keep track of expenses and smooth out cash flow. If you put all your purchases on your credit card, you can easily see what you’ve been spending money on and where you might be able to cut costs. Because the money isn’t coming out of your own account right away, you can defer payments until a more convenient date. You don’t have to struggle to come up with money for expenses if you don’t have it at the moment, or it would be more convenient to pay later.

Of course, credit cards do have some downsides: the APRs can be expensive, so if you don’t pay your bills in time you could wind up with hefty fees that can be difficult to pay off. Additionally, some credit cards carry extra fees, like annual fees and balance transfer fees, which could eat into the money you save by using the card in the first place. However, if you are good at managing money, and spend time choosing a card that will maximize your savings based on how much you plan to utilize the card, credit cards can be excellent tools for many businesses.

Interested in getting a business credit card? Check out a list of our favorite business credit cards. Or, if you are starting a business, you might be interested in our favorite personal credit cards that can be used for business.

4. Merchant Cash Advances

If you need a one-time amount of funds, it might be worth considering a merchant cash advance. This type of financing can be useful for B2C businesses with strong daily sales.

In practice, merchant cash advances are similar to business loans, with the exception of how they’re repaid. Cash advances are repaid by deducting a small percentage of your daily sales; the amount you are repaying each day will vary along with your cash flow. These financial products don’t have a set repayment date, but are normally repaid in a year or less.

Merchant cash advances are an excellent tool for B2C businesses that need a small infusion of cash for working capital, business growth, or other reasons. Know, however, that cash advances have a few downsides: they can be very expensive, and the cost might not be immediately apparent because the fee structure is different than a traditional loan. Instead of interest, cash advance fees are calculated using a factor rate, which can obscure the true cost of the advance.

Head over to our comprehensive article on merchant cash advances for more information, or take a look at our reviews of merchant cash advance providers if you’re interested in finding an advance.

5. Personal Loans

While business loans are based on the credibility and strength of your business, personal loans are based on your personal creditworthiness and financial health. For this reason, these loans can be useful for entrepreneurs, startups, and other businesses that don’t yet have a credit history. You’ll want to give this option a pass if you have separated your business and personal finances, but if you’re not there yet, a personal loan can help you get your business up and going.

Personal loans are normally available from banks, credit unions, and online lenders. You’ll have to have a steady source of income, a solid debt-to-income ratio, and fair credit to qualify for reasonable rates.

Take a look at our guide to personal loans for business for more information, or check out our startup business loan reviews for reviews on personal lenders.

6. Crowdfunding

Rising to prominence due to the internet and some changes in legislature, crowdfunding allows you to finance your business via a network of your peers.

Crowdfunding is normally used by entrepreneurs to get a startup off the ground, or by creators who need money to fund a product. In a crowdfunding arrangement, the entrepreneur creates a campaign, which usually includes a description of their business or product, information about the founders and their partners, a rough timeline, potential problems, and other frequently asked questions.

Perhaps the most well-known type of crowdfunding, popularized by services such as Kickstarter (read our review) and Indiegogo (read our review), is rewards crowdfunding. You may not be aware that there are actually quite a few different type of crowdfunding available:

  • Rewards crowdfunding, from services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, allows contributors to receive products in exchange for backing the business or project.
  • Donation crowdfunding, on sites like Razoo (read our review), involves funds that are donated to your cause. This type of crowdfunding is typically only used for nonprofits or other charitable projects.
  • Debt crowdfunding, from services such as Kiva U.S. (read our review), works similarly to a business loan — backers contribute money with the expectation that it will be paid back, normally with interest.
  • Equity crowdfunding, from company’s like Fundable (read our review), works when backers contribute money in exchange for equity in your business.

Between all the different types available, most entrepreneurs should be able to find a type of crowdfunding that will suit their business or project. Some less-than-sexy businesses, however, might find that they have trouble appealing to casual investors. While debt and equity crowdfunding — which tends to attract more serious backers — might solve that problem, some businesses might still need to look at other financing options.

Crowdfunding also tends to take a long time. Typically, the entrepreneur has to create a campaign and enter into a one- to three-month funding period. The funding period might require a fair amount of marketing, networking, communicating with current and potential backers, and other work to get your project funded.

Interested in crowdfunding? Head over to our startup business loans review category to read reviews of crowdfunding services.

7. Invoice Factoring

Invoice factoring is a financial solution for B2B businesses that invoice their customers. If you have cash flow struggles due to slow-paying customers, invoice factoring is a potential solution. Factoring is commonly used in industries such as construction, manufacturing, printing, and other B2B businesses.

Invoice factors purchase your unpaid invoices at a discount. While you’ll have to take a bit of a loss, invoice factoring can get you the money you need, when you need it, to keep your business going.

When you sell an invoice to a factoring company, you will receive most of the money up-front, and the factor will place a small amount on reserve. Then, when your customer pays the invoice, the funds are diverted to the factoring company, and you will receive the rest of the money in the reserve, minus the invoice factor’s fee.

There are many invoice factoring arrangements, depending on the factoring company and the needs of your business. You can find factors that require you to sell a lot of invoices or ones that let you pick and choose more carefully. Some factors require that your customers know about the arrangement, while others will keep it a secret, and so on.

Invoice factoring has gotten a bad rap in the past because some factoring companies employed poor practices, such as failing to disclose extra fees, requiring long-term contracts and monthly minimums, and other reasons. However, if you do your due diligence, you will be able to find an invoice factor that suits your business’s needs without employing poor tactics. Check out our Basic Introduction To Invoice Factoring to learn what to look for, and take a look at our comprehensive invoice factoring reviews to learn about individual factors.

8. Equipment Financing

If you run a business that relies on computers, manufacturing equipment, restaurant equipment, vehicles, or other equipment that might be difficult to pay for out of your business’s own pocket, equipment financing might be right for you.

Equipment financing covers two types of financing: equipment loans and equipment leases.

Equipment loans are similar to traditional business loans, but the equipment is generally used as collateral. In a typical equipment loan arrangement, the lender will cover 80% to 90% of the equipment, and you will be responsible for paying the other 10% to 20%.

Equipment leases are arrangements in which you rent the equipment for a certain period of time. In practice, some lease arrangements are similar to loans, because you have the opportunity to buy the equipment at the end of the leading period, but other arrangements are designed so that you can return or trade in the equipment after a certain period of time. Because you don’t have to purchase the equipment, leases can be a good option for businesses that only need equipment for a short time, or frequently need to upgrade expensive equipment (like computers) due to changes in technology.

Equipment financing, especially equipment loans, will most likely be more expensive in the long run than purchasing the equipment outright. However, if you can’t afford what you need, an equipment loan or lease is an excellent way to get financing.

Head over to What Is Equipment Financing? to learn more about this type of financing, or our equipment financing review category to learn about individual financiers.

Final Thoughts

Business owners have many financing tools at their disposal, but finding the right tool for the job can take some work. The above resources will point you in the right direction.

Need some more help? Merchant Maverick’s Community of Lenders is there for you. We’ve teamed up with banks, credit unions, and other financiers across the country to provide our readers with fast and easy business financing. With one short application, you can check your eligibility for all participating financial institutions. Read more about the service, including a step-by-step guide through the application process, in Mirador Finance & Merchant Maverick: Making Small Business Loans Easier.

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The Best Charge Cards For Small Businesses

You may have heard the terms used interchangeably in casual conversation, but charge cards and credit cards aren’t the same thing. While small businesses can make great use of both types of cards, charge cards come with a unique set of risks and rewards.

A credit card is a revolving line of credit. A bank extends you a credit line, and you can spend up to your limit, paying interest on any balance you carry beyond the first month. When you pay off your debt, the full line of credit becomes available to you once more.

A charge card, on the other hand, doesn’t come with a credit limit. Instead, it may have a limit that can vary month to month based on a variety of factors ranging from your payment history to prevailing economic conditions. The catch? You need to pay off your entire balance every month. If you don’t, you’ll be hit with fees and interest rates that usually far exceed anything you’d see with a credit card. You will likely forfeit your reward points as well. In some cases, you may be able to spread out your payment on certain purchases through programs like American Express’s Extended Payment Option. Because they’re less likely to earn money on carried balances, charge card companies tend to have higher annual fees.

Note that charge cards aren’t quite as widely accepted as credit cards, so it’s best to have another payment method as a backup.

Think a charge card is right for your business? Here are some of our favorite options.

American Express Platinum

Charge cards are American Express’s wheelhouse, and its Platinum Card is one of the most well-known and prestigious charge cards around. With extremely generous reward tiers and a laundry list of benefits, it’s quite a powerful little piece of plastic for travelers. Be prepared for some sticker shock when you look at the annual fee, however.

American Express Platinum
Annual Fee $550
APR N/A
Signup Bonus 60,000 points
Rewards 5 pts./$1 on flights and hotels through Amex Travel; 2 pts./$1 on other travel
1 pt./$1 on all other purchases
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A glance at Amex Platinum will tell you that it’s a card heavily weighted toward people on the go. The 5x reward tier offers an insane return on travel expenses, as long as you can make them through Amex’s first party system. The 2x return on expenses that you don’t book through Amex isn’t too shabby either. Points can be transferred to participating reward programs at variable rates. They can also be used as statement credit as long as you have at least 1,000 points.

The $550 annual fee is pretty brutal, but if you make strategic use of the card’s other perks, it’s not quite as bad as it looks. You’ll get:

  • $15 worth of Uber rides/mo, plus $20 in December
  • $200 airline fee credit
  • Hotel and resort benefits/upgrades
  • $100 TSA fee credit for global entry

If you aren’t a heavy traveler, however, this card is probably not a great investment. Businesses that are less focused on travel and more focused on large purchases may want to consider the business version of the platinum card. It replaces the 2 point tier with a 1.5 point tier for qualifying purchases. You’ll lose the Uber credits and some of the other perks, however. On the bright side, the Platinum Business Card is $100 cheaper per year.

American Express OPEN Business Gold Rewards

If the Platinum Card sounds too expensive and travel focused, Amex also offers more general-purpose charge cards. Amex OPEN Business Gold may not come with the incredible 5x reward tier of Platinum, but it’s cheaper and extends a 3x reward tier to a broader variety of purchases.

American Express OPEN Business Gold Rewards
Annual Fee $175 ($0 first year)
APR N/A
Signup Bonus 50,000 points
Rewards 3 pts./$1 for the first $100,000 spent on a category of your choice–airfare, advertising, shipping, gas stations, or computer hardware and software; 2 pts./$1 for the first $100,000 spent on the other four categories.
 1 pt./$1 on all other purchase
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The American Express OPEN Business Gold Rewards card is one of the more interesting pieces of business plastic on the market. Rather than coming out of the box with a set reward tier structure, it lets you choose one of five different categories to be your 3x reward tier. You don’t even have to worry too much about buyer’s remorse, because the other four categories will still be rewarded at 2x. It gives the card a modular, customizable feel that can be fitted to most types of business.

The $175 annual price tag is still on the steep side, though Amex waives the fee for the first year. Note that you’ll have to spend at least $5,000 during the first month to qualify for the 50,000 point signup bonus, so plan your purchases accordingly if you decide to go with this card.

Overall, Amex OPEN Business Gold provides a pretty good value–and more versatility–at a lower annual price than some of their elite cards. The trade-off is that you won’t be getting the 5x reward tiers, statement credits, and some of the perks that come with a card like Amex Platinum.

American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card

If the Platinum Card looks like overkill and the OPEN Business Rewards Gold Card too unfocused, you may want to consider the Premier Rewards Gold. Like Platinum, it’s oriented around travel, but it comes in at a more affordable annual fee.

American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card
Annual Fee $195 ($0 first year)
APR N/A
Signup Bonus 25,000 point
Rewards 3 pts./$1 on directly booked flights; 2 pts/$1 at supermarkets, gas stations, and restaurants in the U.S.
 1 pt./$1 for all other purchases
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If the Platinum card caters to the well-heeled, international jet-setter, Gold Premier is for the business owner whose work takes them around the US. You’ll still get some nice airline-related perks, so long as you book those flights directly; no Kayak or Priceline bookings. You’ll also get a smaller version of the Platinum card’s airline credit, giving you $100/yr. in statement credits for things like baggage fees, which can offset more than half of the significant annual fee.

Rather than rewarding you for fancy resort spending, the Premier card’s 2x tier is focused on more pragmatic expenses you’re likely to encounter during your domestic travels.

As is usually the case, you’ll need to spend a minimum amount of money in the first three months to get the signup bonus ($2,000 in this case).

As is the case for all Amex charge cards, remember that they’re not as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard credit/debit, so be sure to have a plan B in your wallet.

American Express Plum Card

If the reward programs outlined above sound like more trouble than they’re worth, or if your spending habits and cash flow would make those cards hard to use, there’s another option. Enter American Express’s Plum Card, a charge card that sacrifices lavish words for flexibility.

American Express Plum Card
Annual Fee $250 ($0 the first year)
APR N/A
Signup Bonus None
Rewards 1.5% early payment discount
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If a charge card could be “controversial,” the American Express Plum card would be a top contender for that title. Why is that?

While the Plum Card is a technically a charge card, it functions almost more like a cash back credit card. For starters, you’re given 60 days to pay off your balance without incurring a late fee. Pretty neat, right?

Well, there’s a catch. If you pay off your card early, within 10 days of your statement closing date, you’ll get a 1.5% discount on your bill. This is comparable to the 1.5% return you’ll see with most business credit cards that offer cash back, but with a little less leeway for earning your rewards. If you want that type of reward system in a charge card, however, the Plum Card can accommodate you.

Final Thoughts

Charge cards fill an increasingly small but still popular niche, offering some distinct advantages and drawbacks to the businesses that use them. Though business credit cards have been rapidly closing the gap, charge cards still offer some of the highest rewards tiers, albeit with high annual fees.

Looking for other options? Check out our business credit card and personal credit card comparisons.

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