Business Loans For HVAC Companies

business loans for hvac companies

It’s hard to imagine modern life without the benefit of the work done by the HVAC industry. HVAC companies (HVAC refers to heating, ventilation and air conditioning) are tasked with keeping us warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and breathing safely as we live our lives in the archipelago of enclosed spaces that comprises our indoor universe.

With the economy in a period of expansion, demand for new construction has risen, and where the construction industry goes, so goes HVAC work. After all, these new offices, homes, and transportation systems aren’t going to keep themselves ventilated and comfortable.

As with any industry, HVAC companies have their own particular financing needs. There’s no shortage of loan products out there, offered by banks, online lenders, credit card issuers, and even the federal government. But you probably knew that already. The question most relevant to you is: Which types of loans best fit the specific financing needs you’re going to have in the course of operating your HVAC business?

That’s where Merchant Maverick comes in. We’ll help make sense of the lending market for you and direct you to the loan products that best fit your specific needs. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and delve into how to get a business loan for an HVAC company.

Financing Need Best Loan Type Recommended Lender
Marketing & Advertising Medium-Term Loan Fundation
Equipment Purchasing Equipment Loan Lendio
Business Expansion SBA Loan SmartBiz
Emergency Funds Business Credit Card Chase Ink Business Unlimited
Working Capital Short-Term Loan PayPal LoanBuilder
Covering Payroll Line Of Credit OnDeck

Loans For Marketing & Advertising

business loans for HVAC

Whether your HVAC company is just finding its legs and seeking to generate new leads or is established but working to expand, marketing and advertising are integral to an HVAC business’s success. Of course, such a campaign costs money, and the funds need to come from somewhere.

While we’re not here to tell you how to run your marketing campaign, here’s a quick tip: Reach out to people just before summer and winter begin. It’s when your services will be most in demand — for obvious reasons!

Medium-Term Loans

A medium-term loan is an installment loan (a loan that is repaid periodically over a defined period of time with interest) with a term length of between two and five years. You can typically borrow more with a medium-term loan, but if your anticipated marketing campaign won’t cost that much, a short-term loan would be appropriate.

A medium-term loan can obviously be used for any business purpose. However, since you should be able to more accurately estimate the cost of your marketing campaign than many other types of business expenses, a loan in which you borrow a specific amount of money is particularly appropriate here.

Recommended Option: Fundation

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Founded in 2011, Fundation has since become one of the leading “alternative” lenders, boasting competitive rates, a solid reputation, and fixed-rate pricing (the interest rate will not increase over the life of the loan). Fundation’s term loans max out at $500K; accordingly, Fundation’s borrower qualifications are stricter than those of many online lenders. Fundation also offers lines of credit of up to $100K.

Fundation’s installment loans are offered with terms of one to four years and are fixed-rate, meaning the assigned interest rate will remain unchanged over the life of the loan. Additionally, Fundation sports a rapid time-to-funding, typically between two and seven days.

Loans For Equipment Purchasing

business loans for hvac companies

The HVAC industry relies on heavy equipment — the bigger the building, the heavier the equipment. Of course, these heating and cooling systems don’t come cheap. While any loan products can be used to cover the cost of purchasing HVAC equipment, there’s one type of loan tailored for this purpose: Equipment loans.

Equipment Loans

In many ways, an equipment loan resembles a traditional installment loan — you’ll be paying down the principal plus interest with monthly payments. The advantage of the equipment loan is that the equipment you purchase with the funds serves as collateral. Equipment loans are therefore secured loans, and secured loans typically have better rates and terms than their unsecured counterparts.

With an equipment loan, the lender usually covers most of the cost of purchasing the equipment, leaving around 10% to 20% to be covered by you. On occasion, however, the lender might be willing to cover the entire cost.

Equipment Leases

An equipment lease is another means of equipment financing. Such leases fall into one of two categories: Capital leases and operating leases.

With a capital lease, you are considered to be the owner of the equipment in question, so the arrangement resembles a loan in many ways. You make your monthly payments throughout the course of the lease. Afterward, you pay a small residual to close your account.

An operating lease lets you essentially rent the equipment during the lease, making monthly payments. When the lease ends, you can either return the equipment or buy it at fair market value, giving you a nice degree of flexibility.

See our article on equipment loans vs equipment leases for more information.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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Lendio isn’t your typical lender. In fact, Lendio isn’t a direct lender at all. Lendio is a loan aggregator, which means that you submit a single loan application which Lendio then passes on to multiple lenders, saving you time and effort. Within about three days of submitting your application, you should be fielding multiple equipment financing offers.

Through Lendio, you can find an equipment loan as large as $5 million, with loan terms ranging from one to five years and interest rates as low as 7.5% for highly qualified borrowers.

Loans For Business Expansion

business loans for hvac companies

Let’s say your HVAC company has been thriving and is ready to expand to meet the challenges of our glorious future of relentless climate extremes. Without an infusion of cash, however, your expansion plans may not be feasible. If you’re looking for a sizable loan at a reasonable interest rate, consider an SBA loan.

SBA Loans

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is an agency of the federal government meant to assist small businesses in obtaining funding. For the most part, the SBA does not lend directly to businesses. Rather, it guarantees up to 85% of loans offered by SBA-approved lenders. These lenders are known as intermediaries.

While SBA loans feature competitive rates and terms, be warned that borrower requirements tend to be rather stringent.

Here’s a rundown of four of the main SBA loan programs with links to articles describing the programs in greater detail.

Loan Program Description More

7(a) Loans

Small business loans that can be used for many many business purchases, such as working capital, business expansion, and equipment, inventory, and real estate purchasing.

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Microloans

Small loans, with a maximum of $50,000, which can be used for working capital, inventory, equipment, or other business projects.

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CDC/504 Loans

Large loans used to acquire fixed assets such as real estate or equipment. 504 Loans are offered in partnership with Community Development Companies (CDCs) and banks.

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Disaster Loans

Loans used to rebuild or maintain business following a disaster. 

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Recommended Option: SmartBiz

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There is no shortage of SBA-approved lenders out there. However, if you’re looking to grow your HVAC business with an SBA loan, you might find the complex SBA application process to be intimidating and fraught with peril. The beauty of SmartBiz is that the company helps simplify and streamline the application process for you so that you can make sense of it all.

SmartBiz is not a lender. Describing themselves as the “white knight in small business lending,” SmartBiz will match you with an SBA-approved lender after helping you through the onerous application process. You’ll need to have at least two years of business history behind you and a personal credit score of at least 650, but if you meet these and other requirements, you can get an SBA-backed loan of up to $350,000 with interest rates between 8% and 9%. Not too shabby!

Loans For Emergency Funds

business loans for hvac

Let’s say the construction industry takes a downturn, leaving you with less business. You still have employees to pay and expenses to cover. How should a company in your position deal with unexpected cash flow problems? When you need a flexible funding solution you can draw from on an as-needed basis, consider a business credit card.

Business Credit Cards

As business credit cards tend to feature higher interest rates than business loans, they aren’t an ideal funding mechanism in many instances. But when unexpected situations arise and you need a stop-gap measure to temporarily plug some funding holes, there’s nothing like the ease and convenience of a business credit card. With the right card, you can cover emergencies while earning rewards and/or cash back along the way.

A good credit history will help you get lower interest rates and a higher credit limit. However, even with a less-than-stellar credit history, there are options available to you, including secured credit cards, which require a security deposit.

If you’re unsure of your credit score, whatever you do, don’t pay for a credit check. Here are some websites that let you check your credit score for free.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Chase Ink Business Unlimited


chase ink business unlimited
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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.24% – 21.24%, Variable

The Chase Ink Business Unlimited card is a great way to cover those unexpected expenses while earning 1.5% cash back to boot. If you’re using a credit card to cover emergencies, you’re probably not looking for a card with rotating cash back spending categories or lavish travel benefits. The Ink Business Unlimited comes without these extraneous distractions so you can focus on getting your HVAC business out of a jam while earning cash back on everything you buy.

Keep in mind that you’ll need good to excellent credit to qualify for the Ink Business Unlimited. If your credit doesn’t fit that description, check out these options for business owners with poor credit.

Loans For Working Capital

loans for hvac businesses

Working capital refers to the money you use to keep your business running on a day-to-day basis. When times are good, your cash flow should be sufficient to keep your company running smoothly. The problem is that without extraordinary luck, times will not always be good, particularly in a field prone to seasonal slow-downs like the HVAC industry.

When seeking a loan for this purpose, you’ll want something that affords you a high degree of flexibility in terms of what you can spend your funds on. For this reason, a short-term loan may be worth your consideration.

Short-Term Loans

A short-term loan is an installment loan that must be repaid within 12 months or less. Payments must be made on a weekly or even daily basis and are normally deducted automatically from your business account. If approved, you can usually get your funds within a few days. Short-term loans are all about fast money, both in terms of getting the money and paying it back.

Instead of charging interest on what you borrow, short-term lenders charge you a flat fee known as a factor rate. This factor rate is a multiplier that determines the lender’s fee. I’ll give an example: Take out a $50,000 loan at a 1.2 factor rate, and you’ll be paying $60K for the loan over the agreed-upon term length.

Recommended Option: PayPal LoanBuilder

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PayPal’s LoanBuilder is what the name suggests. You essentially build your own loan by customizing its elements to fit your particular situation. The loans offered range from $5K to $500K and term lengths run from 13 to 52 weeks.

LoanBuilder’s lender requirements aren’t terribly strict. Your business must have been running for at least 9 months. Your annual revenue must be at least $42,000 and your personal credit score must be at least 550. As ever, your credit history and your company’s overall health will determine your maximum borrowing amount and your rates.

Loans For Covering Payroll

 

Heating and cooling systems don’t install themselves. To ensure that our apartments, workplaces, and shopping centers don’t become unlivable nasty hellscapes, an HVAC business needs workers. Workers need to be hired, trained, and paid, all of which costs money.

If you need help hiring new employees (or paying the ones you already have), consider a line of credit.

Lines Of Credit

A line of credit operates on the same principle as a credit card. Instead of receiving a lump sum of dinero all at once, you’re given a credit line you can draw from whenever you feel the need. As with a credit card, you’ll have a credit limit to contend with, and you pay fees and interest only on the funds you use, not the total amount of the line of credit.

Recommended Option: OnDeck

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If you need funding quickly, consider a line of credit from OnDeck. Approval should come in a matter of days, and the credit requirements are not particularly strict. Your credit line can run anywhere from $6K to $100K.

One thing to keep in mind about OnDeck’s lines of credit is that they are a short-term funding mechanism, lasting only about 6 months.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

business loans for hvac businesses

For business owners seeking a loan, there has never been a wider array of funding options. To help narrow down your search, consider the following questions.

Why Do I Need A Loan?

Before you can even start looking at particular options, you need to be certain of the purpose of your loan. Whether you’re looking to expand your business or purchase new equipment, only by defining your precise need can you select a loan product that fits what you seek to accomplish. Otherwise, you’re flying blind without any point of reference.

No one lender or loan makes sense for every business need under the sun. Know what it is that you need and shop accordingly!

Am I Qualified?

There’s no need to examine a lender in detail if you won’t qualify for its loans in the first place. Try to find and examine a lender’s minimum qualifications before going through the terms and fees with a fine-toothed comb.

Vendors of business loans nearly always inquire about your time in business, credit rating, and revenue. On each of these measures, the lender may have a strict cutoff point where, if you don’t meet the benchmark, you don’t qualify. Alternately, they may just use this information to determine your rates. Either way, it’s information you’ll need to provide.

Do The Rates & Terms Meet My Needs?

It’s obviously important to consider a lender’s rates and terms when deciding on what loan to pursue. Make sure you can afford the funding; nothing will give you nightmares like taking out a loan you can’t repay. However, a lender’s reputation and business practices are equally important. To get a sense of just how a lender treats its customers, try to find user feedback on the company in question wherever you can. Read enough reviews (we do business loan reviews, you know!) and borrower feedback and you’ll get a pretty good idea as to whether the lender is an honest broker or a predator fixing to bleed you dry.

What You Need To Apply For HVAC Business Loans

The number of documents you’ll have to round up depends on the lender. Naturally, you’ll need the basics — name, business name, address, telephone number, email address, social security number, and federal tax ID number. Many lenders will require much more, however. Here are some documents you should be prepared to submit, depending on the lender:

  • Business & Personal Credit Reports/Score
  • Business & Personal Bank Statements
  • Business & Personal Tax Returns
  • Profit & Loss Statements
  • Balance Sheets
  • Income Statements
  • Business Licenses
  • Business Owner Resumes
  • A Business Plan

For a more thorough look at how to apply for a business loan, read our in-depth take on business loan requirements.

Final Thoughts

Now more than ever, we need the HVAC industry at the top of its game. As I write this, wind-driven fires have spread dangerously smoky air over large parts of my tinder-dry home state of California, and proper indoor ventilation is literally the last line of defense for many in the affected areas.

When seeking a loan for your HVAC company, do your due diligence, explore all your options, and get your documents in order. This should set you up nicely for getting the loan that paves the way for your success.

The post Business Loans For HVAC Companies appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Financing And Loan Options For Manufacturing Companies

Operating a manufacturing business is extremely rewarding. Whether you’re creating products that ship directly to retailers or you’re working with other manufacturers, the potential for profits is great. However, as you’ve likely already seen in your business, owning a manufacturing company isn’t all smooth sailing. In order to make those big profits, you have to invest in your business.

Once you have steady cash flow, it’s easy to cover day-to-day operating expenses. But what happens when your bank account is running a little low or a major expense poses a threat to your operations? From emergencies to expansions to cash flow shortages, there are multiple scenarios where you fall a little short financially.

Instead of worrying, take action. When your manufacturing business has an expense you can’t handle on your own, there are loan and financing options for any situation. Don’t panic if you’re unsure of where to start. In this post, we’ll cover the types of loans available for your business, how to choose the right lender, and what to expect when it’s time to apply.

Read on to learn more and take the next step to fund your manufacturing business.

Financing Need Best Loan Type Recommended Lender
Purchasing Equipment Equipment Financing Lendio
Purchasing Materials Line Of Credit FundBox
Business Expansion SBA Loan SmartBiz
Cash Shortages Invoice Factoring BlueVine
Hiring, Training & Covering Payroll Term Loan OnDeck
Marketing & Advertising Business Credit Card Chase Ink Preferred

How To Finance A Manufacturing Company

Your business is unique, and so are its financial needs. The type of loan or financial product you select is primarily centered on how you plan to use your funds. For example, if you want to purchase real estate, you should seek out long-term, low-interest options instead of a short-term loan. If you need to cover this month’s payroll, an equipment loan won’t help you out. The key is to identify why you need the money and select the right financial solution for your situation.

Purchasing Equipment

No matter what type of manufacturing business you operate, you need equipment to keep operations running efficiently. If you manufacture clothing or garments, sewing machines and pressing machines are essential equipment. If you operate a furniture manufacturing business, your business needs saws, planers, sanders, and other expensive tools and equipment.

Over time, your equipment may become old and outdated. Or maybe your equipment is still in good working order but you need to add more as part of an expansion. Either way, buying equipment doesn’t come cheap, and funding these expenses out-of-pocket can be tough, if not impossible. Instead of breaking the bank, you have a more affordable option: equipment financing.

Equipment Financing

When you receive an equipment loan, your lender will fund the full purchase price of your equipment. After paying a small down payment of 10% to 20%, you can take possession of the equipment and put it into use immediately. Then, you’ll simply make scheduled payments to your lender, which are applied to the balance of your loan (and toward any additional fees and interest charged for taking the loan).

With a high credit score, you may be able to qualify for $0 down financing. However, if at all possible, you should make a down payment to lower your scheduled payments and reduce the overall cost of borrowing.

Equipment loans can only be used to purchase equipment, including machinery, tools, furniture, fixtures, and vehicles. When you receive equipment financing, additional collateral is typically not required. Instead, the equipment being financed serves as the collateral and can be repossessed if payments are not made as agreed. Once your loan has been paid off, the equipment is yours to keep, sell, or trade.

Equipment leases are another option to consider. When you take out an equipment lease, you can use the equipment for a set period of time, such as 2 years. At the end of your lease, you have two options: pay a lump sum to purchase the equipment or return the equipment and sign another lease for new equipment. Unless you pay the remaining balance at the end of the lease, you will never take ownership of the equipment. This may be a good option for you if you update your equipment frequently or if you desire a lower down payment and lower monthly payments.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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Lendio isn’t a lender; rather, it is a loan aggregator that matches you with a lender that best fits your needs. One of the financial products offered through Lendio’s service is equipment loans.

Through Lendio, you can apply for $5,000 to $5 million to finance your equipment purchase. Repayment terms are available from 1 year to 5 years, with interest rates as low as 7.5%.

To qualify with a lender through Lendio’s network, a time in business of at least 12 months is required. You must also have at least $50,000 in annual revenue and a personal credit score of 650. If your credit score falls below this threshold, solid cash flow and revenue could still help you qualify for financing.

Purchasing Materials

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

As a manufacturer, you need materials to manufacture your goods to sell to other manufacturers or retailers. When you don’t have the right materials, you can’t produce your goods, which negatively affects your revenue. If financial troubles prevent you from buying the materials you need, keep your business operating without a hitch by using a line of credit for your purchases.

Lines Of Credit

A line of credit is a flexible form of revolving credit. Instead of receiving a lump sum payment, your lender will assign a credit limit. You can make draws from your credit line as often as you need for any amount within your set limit. This is ideal when you need to make multiple purchases over a period of time or you’re unsure of the exact amount of money you need.

You can use your line of credit for any business expense, including purchasing supplies, materials, and inventory. Once you make a draw from your line of credit, the funds are typically transferred immediately and will be deposited in your business bank account as soon as the next business day. Interest or fees are charged only on the used portion of the credit line. As you pay down your balance, the funds will become available for you to use again.

It’s easy for most business owners to qualify for a line of credit. However, the best rates and terms and the highest credit limits are given to the most established, creditworthy businesses.

Recommended Option: FundBox

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FundBox provides revolving lines of credit up to $100,000. When you make a draw, payments are made over a period of 12 or 24 weeks. Equal payments are made weekly and are withdrawn directly from your checking account.

Fees for drawing from your Fundbox line of credit start at 4.66% of the total draw amount. Your fee will be based on the health of your business. If you repay early, any remaining fees are waived, helping you save money.

To qualify for a Fundbox line of credit, you must have a business checking account and at least $50,000 in annual revenue. You must show two months of activity in Fundbox-supported accounting software. If you don’t have activity in accounting software, bank statements from the last three months are acceptable.

Business Expansion

Your business is growing, and it’s time to expand. There’s just one problem: expansion costs money that you don’t have. Purchasing commercial real estate, funding improvements for your facility, building an addition, or constructing a new building all come at a price that even the most successful manufacturing companies can’t pay up front. When it’s time to expand your business, move forward with confidence with the help of a Small Business Administration loan.

SBA Loans

The Small Business Administration provides a variety of resources to help small business owners succeed. One of the best resources is the organization’s low-cost, flexible loan options. SBA loans are available through lenders known as intermediaries. This could be banks, credit unions, or nonprofit organizations.

If you’ve applied for a business loan through a traditional lender like a bank, you may have been turned down. With an SBA loan, your chances for approval are higher because these loans are guaranteed by the government in amounts up to 85%, so there’s less risk for the lender.

One of the most popular types of loans for large expenses like business expansion is the 7(a) loan. With a 7(a) loan, up to $5 million is available to qualified businesses for nearly any business purchase, including commercial real estate, land development, improvements and upgrades, equipment, and more. Loan terms are set at 10 years for most purposes, although real estate purchases have terms up to 25 years.

The cost of borrowing varies based on the type of loan you select and the amount borrowed. The SBA has a set of standards used by its intermediary lenders to keep interest rates low, making loans more affordable for business owners.

Recommended Option: SmartBiz

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Applying for an SBA loan doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful when you work with a lender like SmartBiz. SmartBiz simplifies the SBA application process, helping you get the money you need as quickly as possible.
There are two types of SBA loans available through SmartBiz: working capital and debt refinancing loans and SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loans.

With working capital and debt refinancing loans, you can apply for $30,000 to $350,000 to use for business expansion, marketing, hiring employees, purchasing inventory, or refinancing existing debt. Interest rates are between 8% and 9% with repayment terms of 10 years. To qualify, you must be in business for at least 2 years and have a personal credit score of at least 650.

SmartBiz also offers SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loans from $500,000 to $5 million. You can use these funds to purchase a new commercial property or refinance your existing property. Rates are between 6.75% and 8% with repayment terms of 25 years. To qualify for this loan, you must be in business for at least 2 years with a credit score of at least 675. Any property funded with loan proceeds must be at least 51% owner-occupied.

Additional requirements for SBA loans include no outstanding tax liens, recent charge-offs, or defaults on government loans. You must not have any bankruptcies or foreclosures within the last 3 years. You must also qualify as a small business based on the SBA’s definition, which limits your company’s net worth, number of employees, and annual revenues.

Cash Shortages

Cash shortages happen to everyone. A seasonal drop in sales, an unexpected emergency expense, or another situation could leave your bank account running a little short. Sometimes, the real problem is your unpaid invoices. For times when money is tight, invoice factoring can help make up for these shortages.

Invoice Factoring

Unpaid invoices can leave you in a financial bind. Instead of waiting weeks or months to receive payment, consider invoice factoring. If you’re a B2B business and you have unpaid invoices, you may qualify for this type of financing. With invoice factoring, a lender pays a large portion of an unpaid invoice directly to you. Once the invoice is paid by the customer, the remaining amount of the invoice is paid to you after the lender takes any fees charged for the service.

With invoice factoring, the invoices are the collateral for the loan. A high credit score is typically not needed to qualify. Your invoices are the most important factor in this type of financing. A lender will ensure that your invoices are a sufficient amount to cover any fees. Lenders will also make sure that your invoices are for customers who are likely to pay.

Recommended Option: BlueVine

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BlueVine has invoice factoring lines up to $5 million. Rates may be as low as 0.25% per week. You can receive approval in as little as 24 hours when working with BlueVine.

To qualify, you must be in business for at least 3 months and have at least $100,000 in annual revenue. You must be a B2B business and have a personal credit score of at least 530.

Hiring, Training & Covering Payroll

It’s time to expand your business, which means hiring and training new employees, but your funding falls short. Maybe you’re not ready for expansion, and your business is struggling just to cover your current payroll. No matter the situation, a term loan can help.

Term Loans

When you apply for a term loan, you’ll receive a lump sum of money that can be used for any purpose, including hiring, training, covering payroll, or for use as working capital. The terms of these loans vary. While some lenders provide loans for up to 12 months, other lenders may offer repayment terms of several years.

If you’re applying for a short-term loan, one difference you may notice is that a factor rate is used to calculate how much you owe. This multiplier is used to determine the one-time fee that is added to the cost of your loan, replacing a traditional interest rate. The factor rate is based on the lender’s policies, as well as the creditworthiness of the borrower.

Other term loans have a traditional interest rate. Your interest rate and repayment terms will be based upon your creditworthiness and ability to pay back the loan.

One thing to note is that some term loans, such as short-term loans with low borrowing requirements, come at a very high cost. As with any other type of financing, shop around to find the best rates and terms for your business.

Recommended Option: OnDeck

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OnDeck has loan options up to $500,000 for qualified borrowers. There are two different loan options available. Short-term loans come with repayment terms between 3 and 12 months. These loans have simple interest starting at 9%.

Loan options with longer terms are also available. These loans come with terms of 15 to 36 months with annual interest rates starting at 9.99%.

For all loans, origination fees are charged by the lender. For the first loan, fees are between 2.5% and 4% of the total loan amount. Subsequent loans have reduced fees.

To qualify, you must be in business for at least one year and have a gross annual revenue of $100,000. You must have a personal credit score of at least 500 to qualify. Daily or weekly payments are automatically deducted from your checking account.

If you’re looking for other financing options, OnDeck also has lines of credit up to $100,000.

Marketing & Advertising

You want to get the word out about your business to bring in more customers and increase your revenue. Word-of-mouth and free social media advertising may bring more customers your way, but you’re not going to scale at a higher level until you launch a paid marketing and advertising campaign.

Marketing and advertising can get expensive very quickly, although the return on investment is often high enough to justify this expense. But what happens when you just don’t have the extra funds to market and advertise your business and services? A business credit card can help, and you can even be rewarded just for using it.

Business Credit Cards

One of the best things about a business credit card is that it can be used any time for any business purpose. When you have marketing and advertising expenses that need to be covered, you won’t have to wait days or weeks to get financing approval. Instead, you’ll be able to use your credit card immediately to cover the expense.

A business credit card is great for marketing and advertising campaigns because you won’t have to request a specific amount. You can use your card as needed to cover any expense, whether it’s marketing and advertising costs or an emergency expense.

When you’re approved for a business credit card, your lender will provide you with a credit limit. Your purchases can’t exceed the credit limit assigned to your card. You can make multiple purchases with different vendors as needed provided you don’t exceed your credit limit. Each month, you’ll pay at least a minimum payment that will be applied to the borrowed balance and the interest charged on used funds.

Business credit cards can be a very expensive form of financing if you only make the minimum payment each month. Cut down on the amount of interest you pay and the overall cost of borrowing by using your credit card responsibly and paying all or a significant portion of your balance each month.

Business credit cards are available for all types of credit situations. Borrowers with the highest scores will receive the lowest rates and highest credit limits, in addition to the best rewards cards, introductory rates, and bonus offers. There are options available for fair credit scores that come with higher rates and lower limits. For bad credit borrowers, a secured card requires a cash deposit but helps you rebuild your credit and qualify for additional cards and financial products with responsible use.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Preferred

Chase Ink Business Preferred



Apply Now 

Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


17.99% – 22.99%, Variable

If you have good to excellent credit and need a business credit card, consider applying for the Chase Ink Business Preferred card. This card has a variable APR of 17.99% to 22.99%. There is a $95 annual fee associated with this card.

This credit card is great for marketing and advertising expenses. You’ll earn 3 points for every $1 spent on advertising purchases with search engines and social media platforms. You’ll also earn 3 points for every $1 for shipping purchases, travel, cable, internet, and phone purchases. It’s important to note that this offer is only valid for the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases.

For all other purchases, you’ll receive 1 point for every $1 spent. If you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, they’re worth 25% more, giving you the most bang for your buck.

The Chase Ink Business Preferred Card also has a bonus offer of 80,000 points when you spend at least $5,000 within three months of opening the account.

Does The Government Offer Loans For Manufacturing Companies?

There are so many options when it comes to financing your manufacturing company. You have traditional lenders like banks and credit unions. You have alternative lenders that you can seek out online. You even have government loan options available to you.

One of the most popular government loan options has already been discussed in this post: SBA loans. These loans are backed by the government, so lenders feel more comfortable approving them since there’s less risk. In addition to the 7(a) loan that is open to any qualified small business owner, the SBA has programs for veterans, startups, and businesses operating in underserved areas.

Another option to consider is the United States Department of Agriculture’s Business & Industry Loan Program. This government-backed loan program allows lenders to provide affordable loans to businesses that don’t qualify for traditional financing. Any business that saves or creates jobs in a rural area is eligible to apply. This includes manufacturing businesses.

These loans can be used for almost any purpose, including acquiring a business, updating or constructing facilities, purchasing equipment and supplies, paying startup costs, or for use as working capital. Loan proceeds can also be used to refinance certain types of debt. These loans come with terms between 7 and 30 years. Most loans distributed through this program are between $200,000 and $5 million.

The Best Loan Options For Starting A Manufacturing Business

The options previously discussed work well for established businesses, but what happens when you need financing for a manufacturing business that hasn’t even been started yet? You need capital to fund your venture, but it seems impossible to receive a loan … or is it?

If you need capital to start a manufacturing business, you have to know where to look. At times, you may even have to get a little creative. Since traditional lenders like banks prefer to work with low-risk borrowers, you won’t be able to receive a loan, right? Not exactly. If you have a high personal credit score, you can apply for a personal loan through your bank, credit union, or another lender for money to start your business. Since it’s a personal loan and not a business loan, your business information — or lack thereof — won’t be a consideration for approval. You will, however, need a solid credit score and income that is sufficient to pay back the loan.

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Interest Rate Min. Credit Score Next Steps

$2K – $25K 2 – 4 years 15.49% to 30% 600 Apply Now

$1K – $50K 3 or 5 years 8.16% – 27.99% 620 Apply Now

$2K – $35K 3 or 5 years 6.95% – 35.99% APR 640 Apply Now

lending club logo

$1K – $40K 3 or 5 years 5.32% – 30.99% 640 Compare

If you don’t want to go that route, there are additional options. Microloans are perfect for startups and new businesses. The SBA Microloans program provides up to $50,000 for startups, new businesses, and established companies. These loans are available through nonprofit intermediary lenders. Other nonprofit organizations also provide microloans to eligible business and startup owners.

You can also look to private investors. Peer-to-peer loans have less stringent requirements than traditional loans and may be an option to explore. You can also spread the word about your business and appeal to investors with crowdfunding. If you have a family member or friend that believes in your business and has money to invest, a loan from that person is a possibility. Just remember, no matter who gives you the money, borrow responsibly, read and understand all contracts, and pay your loan as agreed to start your business off on the right foot.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

5 C's of Credit: What Lenders Look For

Now that you’re familiar with the types of loans available for your manufacturing business, you may be tempted to jump online and start an application. Before you apply, you still need to choose a lender. The internet gives us access to more lenders than ever, so you may be tempted to just pick and choose based on what your search engine pulls up. However, a smart business owner knows the importance of shopping around for the best rates and terms.

Before you choose a lender, consider these factors to help narrow down your choices so you can feel confident that you’ve selected the most affordable financing option for your situation.

What Is The Loan Used For?

This question should be easy to answer. Why do you need money? Once you know how you’re using the money, you can choose the type of loan that’s best for the situation. For example, if you need a more flexible option for making purchases or in case of an emergency, apply for a line of credit or credit card. If you want to make an expensive real estate purchase, you don’t want a high-cost, short-term option. Instead, an SBA loan would be the best choice.

Once you know which type of loan you need, you can narrow your search to include only those lenders offering these products. You won’t apply with a short-term lender for an SBA loan or a lender that specializes in equipment loans when you need a flexible line of credit. Choose your loan, then narrow down your pool of lenders based on your business needs.

How Much Money Do I Need?

This is another simple question. How much money do you need? If you want to purchase equipment that costs $150,000, a lender that has maximum loan amounts of $100,000 won’t be a match. Before you fill out an application, calculate how much you need, how much you can afford, and find a lender that offers that amount.

Do I Qualify?

Applying for loans you won’t qualify for is simply a waste of time. If a lender has annual revenue, time in business, or credit requirements you just don’t meet, move on to another option. If you have challenges in these areas, find a lender that works with your specific situation. For example, if your credit score is low, consider loan options that are based on the performance of your business. If you have a new business, apply for loan options that work for startups and new businesses, like microloans. Also, take collateral and down payment requirements into account when selecting your lender and applying for a loan.

One important step to take before you apply for a loan is to know your credit score. Pull your free credit score online and review your credit report for errors. If your financing need isn’t immediate, take steps to raise your score if it’s low. With an improved credit score, you’ll qualify for more financing options that are more affordable and come with more favorable terms.

Do The Rates & Terms Work For My Business?

A loan may help you out right now, but you have to consider whether it will benefit your business over the long term. You want to select a lender that offers loans with the lowest rates and best terms you are qualified to receive. A short-term loan may be funded fast, but daily payments and a high factor rate could become a burden. In this situation, you could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by waiting for a long-term option with better rates and terms.

Of course, in some situations, getting a loan quickly is important. Even so, shop around to make sure that you get a loan that you’ll be able to afford that has payment terms that are best for your business.

What You’ll Need To Apply For A Loan

Some types of financing for your manufacturing business require very little information about yourself and your business. For example, your name, business name, federal tax ID, social security number, contact information, and annual revenue may be all that’s required to qualify for a business credit card. However, there are other loans that require much more information and documentation before you’re approved.

Before you apply, you can get the specific requirements from your lender. However, you may want to go ahead and gather a few documents, including:

  • Business & Personal Tax Returns
  • Business & Personal Credit Scores/Reports
  • Business & Personal Bank Statements
  • Profit & Loss Statements
  • Balance Sheets
  • Licenses & Articles Of Incorporation
  • Business Plan
  • Future Projections
  • Account Numbers & Balances If Refinancing Debt

Your requirements may vary based on the lender you select, the type of loan you’re applying to receive, and the amount of your loan. Sometimes, a lender may even require additional information after you’ve submitted your application and documentation. Be prepared to offer this additional information promptly to move one step closer to approval and funding.

Final Thoughts

You need money just to keep your manufacturing business operating each day. This amount increases even more when you face a challenging situation, from growth and expansion to emergency expenses.

When you need money, it’s important to not stress yourself out over the situation and remember that you have financial options. Take a deep breath, run some calculations, pick your lender, and apply for the financing you need. You’ll be out of your financial rut and heading toward success again in no time.

The post Financing And Loan Options For Manufacturing Companies appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Shopify VS Squarespace

Shopify VS Squarespace

Pricing

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Tie

Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed

Tie

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Specific Size Of Business

Tie

Hardware & Software Requirements

Tie

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Ease Of Use

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Features

Web Design

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Integrations & Add-Ons

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Payment Processing

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Customer Service & Technical Support

Negative Reviews & Testimonials

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Tie

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

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Security

Winner

Final Verdict

Review

Visit Site

Review

Compare

Right away, Shopify and Squarespace both score points in my book for their names. Shopify is all about helping you build an online store where customers can shop — “shop-ify-ing” a regular website, as it were. Squarespace, by comparison, is a more traditional website builder, allowing you to create a literal “square space” (or series of square spaces) where people can view your content and images on the internet.

Thank you, Shopify and Squarespace. Your names actually make sense.

Indeed, Shopify is a household name in the world of shopping cart software, whereas Squarespace is well-known for its attractive and modern site design capabilities. Squarespace is more than just a pretty face, though. In the last few years, this platform has added ecommerce functionality at a surprising level of sophistication.

If you’re here for an epic cage match between Squarespace and Shopify, I’m guessing you’re thinking about both of these platforms in terms of ecommerce. You’re in luck, because this is the precise focus of our comparison. How does Squarespace’s ecommerce functionality and design measure up to the ecommerce powerhouse that is Shopify? How do they compare in terms of pricing, customer service, and payment processing? Keep reading for our take on these and other key facets of Shopify and Squarespace.

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

 

Pricing

Winner: Squarespace

Both Shopify and Squarespace offer free 14-day trials with no credit card required, and neither charge setup or cancellation fees. From there, the two platforms begin to diverge. Here’s how the differences play out:

Shopify

  • Price Range: Choose from $29/month (Basic), $79/month (Shopify), or $299/month (Advanced) plans. There’s also a $9/month plan (Lite) for selling in-person, for embedding little “buy” buttons on other sites, and for selling on Facebook — but you don’t get an actual online store at all, so we’re leaving this plan out of our comparison for the most part.
  • Annual Subscription Discount: Save 10% when your subscription is paid annually upfront, or 20% if you pony up for two full years. For example, the Basic Plan becomes $26 or $23/month, and the Shopify Plan becomes $71 or $63/month.
  • Subscription Structure: All Basic ($29/month) plans and above include unlimited storage, products, and bandwidth. Higher subscription levels add a few features and additional staff accounts. Subscription levels also affect your Shopify transaction fees and your payment processing fees. Which leads us to…
  • Additional Transaction Fees: If you choose Shopify Payments (powered by Stripe) as your payment gateway, you are not charged any separate transaction fees. As an added bonus, you also see a gradual decrease in your payment processing fees with Shopify Payments as you climb the subscription ladder. However, if you use an alternative payment processor and not Shopify Payments, Shopify does charge extra transaction fees, beginning at 2.0% on the Basic plan. Thankfully, these fees gradually decrease to 1.0% and 0.5% as you increase your subscription.

Squarespace

  • Price Range: For ecommerce capability, you must skip over the $16/month plan and start at the $26/month (Business) level. However, merchants who’d really want to take advantage of Squarespace’s ecommerce features in a manner that’s comparable to Shopify are likely opting for the $30/month (Commerce Basic) or $46/month (Commerce Advanced) plans.
  • Annual Subscription Discount: The Business plan drops to $18, Commerce Basic to $26, and Commerce Advanced to $40 per month when paid upfront in one annual lump sum. You also qualify for a free domain registration for one year when you pay your main subscription annually.
  • Subscription Structure: Similar to Shopify, features are added as you increase your Squarespace subscription level. Bumping up to Commerce Basic or Advanced will eliminate separate Squarespace transaction fees.
  • Additional Transaction Fees: A 3.0% fee (above your gateway fees) is incurred by Squarespace on every purchase if you’re on the Business Plan. This additional transaction fee is eliminated, however, on Commerce Basic and Advanced.

For a direct comparison with Shopify, use the smaller print, month-to-month figures for Squarespace (Commerce Basic $30 and Commerce Advanced $46). Shopify promotes month-to-month figures ($29, $79, or $299).

Confusing enough for you? With all these pricing components, you can’t actually perform a true apples-to-apples comparison of cost. In truth, both Shopify and Squarespace offer a fair market price for their services. I will say that the transaction fee issue is problematic with both companies, especially since many competing platforms have eliminated these extra charges altogether. The good news is that each platform at least offers some way out of these fees.

In the end, I’m primarily basing my pricing verdict on one key factor: Squarespace offers its complete arsenal of features for only $46/month ($40/month if paid annually). In contrast, Shopify reserves its premium features for sellers with much deeper pockets (six and a half times deeper, to be exact). The big question is: does Squarespace offer enough ecommerce features at that $46/month level? The answer will depend on your business needs, but you can keep reading to develop a clearer picture of each platform.

Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed

Winner: Tie

Your Shopify or Squarespace store will be fully-hosted. No need to download and install either one locally.

Specific Size Of Business

Winner: Shopify

Both platforms allow unlimited bandwidth and products, but Shopify is better at accommodating a wider range of business sizes and product catalogs. In addition, Shopify provides a natural growth option via Shopify Plus, whereas Squarespace offers no enterprise-level plan at this time. On the other hand, if you happen to sell a handful of very expensive products (and that’s what makes your business “big”), Squarespace could still work swimmingly for you.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Tie

Since Squarespace and Shopify are both SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms, you only need a computer, an internet connection, and an up-to-date browser to use either service. Both also provide Android and iOS apps for managing and editing your store.

Regarding supported browsers, Squarespace edges out Shopify by offering Chrome and Safari support on Linux operating systems, while Shopify only works with Windows and Mac. Meanwhile, Shopify stores are optimized for Samsung Internet in addition to Chrome and Safari browsers when viewed on mobile. Depending on your point of view, these finer points may or may not make a difference, so I’m still calling it a draw in this category.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Shopify

With both platforms specializing in general ease of use, we really need to examine Squarespace and Shopify in terms of usability for ecommerce.

Neither platform has a dedicated setup tutorial inside the dashboard, but both have documentation and instructional videos handy. If you’re accustomed to using or testing popular ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Squarespace will definitely have its own learning curve. Once I got the hang of it, though, I could operate the backend quite smoothly.

When you create a trial account with Shopify, you’re taken to the main admin panel. Shopify’s admin is structured like most ecommerce dashboards I’ve seen. Although you can preview your storefront at any time, your backend functions are kept separate from the storefront.

Shopify Dashboard:

With Squarespace, however, you must choose a theme (you can change it later) before you even get to see your admin panel. Once the admin opens, your dashboard is actually a combination of your backend control panel on the left, and your storefront preview on the right.

Squarespace Dashboard:

Although I can vouch that both platforms are very easy to use in the grand scheme, I find navigation of Squarespace’s backend to be slightly trickier than Shopify’s. The Squarespace UI is structured so that there are more dashboard layers to dig through — and then dig back out of again. Additionally, the left control panel menu changes (or even disappears) depending on what layer you happen to be in at the moment, which can be disorienting. This is in contrast to Shopify’s menu, which remains a fixed anchor point for admin navigation.

Take a quick look at the following screens from each platform to see what I mean:

Add A Product — Shopify:

You can see above that my main menu remains fixed on the left side of the dashboard as I enter my product details.

Add A Product — Squarespace:

With Squarespace, I’m already a couple of dashboard layers in, my left sidebar is gone, and I must dive one more screen deep from here to even enter my price. Also, what is not shown above is that you can’t just jump right in and start adding products with Squarespace like you can with Shopify and other online store builders. Even with Squarespace’s ecommerce-friendly templates, you must create a separate product page for your website first. I admit I had to resort to Squarespace’s documentation to figure this out, since I’m accustomed to ecommerce dashboards that make adding your first product a completely frictionless process.

Adding and managing inventory is just one piece of running an online store, but it remains a reliable ease of use test case. While you can list unlimited products with Squarespace, I think the backend interface is better designed for sellers offering a relatively small number of aesthetically-oriented products. Merchants with a large inventory will appreciate Shopify’s clear menus, efficient navigation, and the way in which product data is ultimately organized.

Features

Winner: Shopify

Shopify is the deserving winner in the features category. With solid out-of-the-box functionality and a rich add-on ecosystem, the blunt truth is that Shopify has spent much more time and resources cultivating features specifically for online sellers.

That said, there are a few features Squarespace offers that even Shopify lacks. Another thing to keep in mind is that Squarespace’s comparatively small feature set may still be just right for certain sizes and types of companies.

Key features of both platforms include:

  • Unlimited products, bandwidth, and storage
  • Free SSL certificate
  • Sell physical or digital products
  • Shipping & accounting integrations
  • Inventory & order management
  • Offer gift cards
  • Create discounts and coupons
  • Checkout on your domain
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Guest checkout & customer accounts
  • Real-time, carrier-calculated shipping
  • Analytics & reports
  • SEO tools

I’d say the Shopify versions of some of the above features are stronger or more versatile than the Squarespace versions. For example, the discount engine is much more flexible with Shopify.

Now, here are a few features that differentiate the two platforms:

Shopify

  • App store with thousands of integrations
  • Point of sale integration (Shopify POS or third-party POS)
  • Manual order creation (virtual terminal)
  • Proprietary shipping platform (Shopify Shipping) for carrier discounts and label printing
  • Extensive dropshipping capability
  • Enterprise expansion available via Shopify Plus
  • Abandoned cart recovery at cheaper plan level

Squarespace

  • Unlimited staff contributors on all ecommerce plans
  • G Suite integration (full year free)
  • $100 Google AdWords voucher
  • Free domain for a year if you pay annually
  • Customizable checkout forms
  • In-dashboard product image editing
  • Third-party calculated shipping rates at cheaper plan level

Web Design

Winner: Squarespace

Both platforms offer elegant, modern templates that are fully mobile responsive. Here’s a quick comparison of template stats:

Shopify Themes

  • 67 total templates, most with 2-4 style variations
  • 10 templates are free and supported by Shopify developers
  • Remaining third-party themes cost $140-$180

Squarespace Themes

  • 90 templates organized into 21 template families
  • All templates are free and supported by Squarespace developers

Within these themes, both platforms facilitate the adjustment of fonts, colors, and layouts without any coding experience. In fact, I’d say both services offer more flexibility in this area than the average ecommerce store builder. If you still run into design limitations or simply want to alter the code, each site builder makes it relatively easy to customize your store with HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

The overall web design winner is a tough one to call, because that decision really depends on the type and number of products you intend to sell, with Squarespace catering to smaller catalogs with visual interest. If we were deciding strictly based on the variety of pre-made templates designed for stores selling lots of stuff, Shopify would snag the win.

That said, here are some ways Squarespace stands out when it comes to design:

  • All templates are free, and all are created and supported by Squarespace.
  • Offers a more versatile drag-and-drop editor for page layout customization.
  • Allows you to edit your product images from within your dashboard.
  • Uses a common templating language (JSON), versus Shopify’s own invented language (Liquid).

Was this category too close to call? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Integrations & Add-Ons

Winner: Shopify

Shopify has an impressive app store with around 2500 integrations — more than the vast majority of SaaS ecommerce platforms at large. While add-ons can certainly increase your monthly expenditure with Shopify, there’s no denying that your choices are plentiful. Plus, since a huge community of developers and merchants interact with Shopify apps, you also have access to thousands upon thousands of detailed user reviews.

Squarespace takes a completely different approach to integrations. No app store is offered, but Squarespace spins this as an advantage. Any pre-built integrations (about 70 in total) are already incorporated into your dashboard and fully tech-supported by Squarespace. Aside from payment providers (Stripe, PayPal, Apple Pay) and shipping carriers (UPS, USPS, and FedEx), there are just a small handful of official Squarespace integrations specifically related to ecommerce. Here are a few key add-ons:

  • ShipStation: Order fulfillment
  • Xero: Accounting
  • MailChimp: Email marketing
  • Zapier: Workflow automation, multi-app connector

Just like many Shopify apps, several Squarespace apps have monthly subscription fees of their own. And, just like with Shopify, you can always build custom integrations if you have those skills or can hire someone who does. To put things in quick perspective, however, Squarespace has one official shipping/fulfillment app in ShipStation. Shopify has over 280 choices in its “Orders & Shipping” category, and over 600 results pop up if I simply type “shipping” in the app store’s search bar.

The win in this category goes to Shopify, the reigning monarch of ecommerce integrations. Besides keeping decision-making overload at bay, the trick with Shopify add-ons is to always check the quality (including quality of developer support) and ongoing cost of each integration.

Payment Processing

Winner: Shopify

Shopify wins at payment processing for one primary reason: flexibility. Consider the sheer number of gateway options with Shopify — over 100. With Squarespace, Stripe and PayPal are your only choices. More gateway options means availability in more countries and currencies, more ways for your customers to pay, better odds of finding the perfect processor for your specific needs, and even the opportunity to customize your own pricing model and rates in some cases. With Shopify, you can also accept cryptocurrencies or set up manual payment methods like cash on delivery, money orders, and bank transfers.

This is not the end of the story, however. Factor in the additional transaction fees that may be charged by either platform depending on your situation, as well as Shopify’s payment processing discounts with Shopify Payments (powered by Stripe), and the comparison becomes more nuanced.

As we examine these complications further, keep in mind that the going rate to process ecommerce transactions with most gateways these days is 2.9% + $0.30.

Here’s how your processing will work with Squarespace according to your subscription level:

Squarespace + PayPal and/or Stripe

  • Business ($26/mo.): 2.9% + $0.30, + 3.0% Squarespace fee = 5.9% + $0.30 per transaction
  • Commerce Basic ($30/mo.): 2.9% + $0.30
  • Commerce Advanced ($46/mo.): 2.9% + $0.30

Those are the only potential processing costs you’re looking at with Squarespace. That additional 3.0% Squarespace fee on the Business plan is pretty brutal, but as soon as you upgrade to Commerce Basic for an extra $4/month, it disappears. For this reason, I don’t think the Business plan is a sustainable option for most ecommerce stores.

Now, let’s take a quick look at Shopify, remembering that using Shopify Payments as your gateway provides two perks: 1) no extra Shopify transaction fee on any plan, and 2) decreased payment processing fees as you upgrade your overall Shopify subscription.

Shopify + Shopify Payments

  • Basic ($29/mo.): 2.9% + $0.30
  • Shopify ($79/mo.): 2.6% + $0.30
  • Advanced ($299/mo.): 2.4% + $0.30

Shopify + Alternative Gateway (Generic Example)

  • Basic ($29/mo.): 2.9% + $0.30, + 2.0% Shopify fee = 4.9% + $0.30
  • Shopify ($79/mo.): 2.9% + $0.30, + 1.0% Shopify fee = 3.9% + $0.30
  • Advanced ($299/mo.): 2.9% + 0.30, + 0.5% Shopify fee = 3.4% + $0.30

Another twist is that Shopify Payments is currently only available for businesses located in 10 countries, so you’re stuck with an alternative gateway and that pesky Shopify transaction fee if your country isn’t included. (Squarespace at least doesn’t punish you for something you can’t control — your location.) On the flip side, if you are in one of the supported countries, you could opt to use Shopify Payments in addition to any of the other gateways Shopify offers to increase your customers’ payment options.

In a perfect world, both platforms would let you pick your own processor from among many, and never penalize you with extra transaction fees for any reason! Both Shopify and Squarespace have their own flaws in this regard.

So, what does this all mean for your business? The short answer is math. To determine the real winner in this category for your own company, you must consider your monthly subscription cost to either platform, your average number of transactions per month, and your average transaction size — not to mention the countries and currencies involved. Because the best platform and subscription level for your business depends on these and other factors, I award Shopify the payment processing win for at least making things interesting!

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Shopify

In terms of overall quality of customer support, both Shopify and Squarespace receive mixed user reviews. That said, Merchant Maverick’s own experiences with customer service and technical support would award Shopify the victory in this category. We’ve had better luck contacting the Shopify support team through the available channels — even when they’ve been unaware that we are software reviewers on the prowl.

Shopify also has more available support channels and more open-hours. Take a look:

Shopify

  • Phone: 24/7
  • Email: 24/7
  • Live Chat: 24/7

Squarespace

  • Phone: None
  • Email: 24/7
  • Live Chat: Monday-Friday, 4AM-8PM

Squarespace publishes a whole manifesto on its website explaining why no phone support is offered if you’d like to read it for yourself. Although they don’t come right out and say it, the bottom line is that this helps keep overall costs down. Meanwhile, not being able to contact a live person (even via live chat) after 5pm Pacific time is pretty brutal if you’re running an online store. Squarespace should know better — ecommerce never sleeps:

One final note in this category: both platforms provide several self-help resources — community forums, blogs, video tutorials, webinars, knowledgebase articles, and the like. However, note that Shopify resources are 100% geared toward ecommerce, whereas you’ll have to wade through other topics to find ecommerce resources at the Squarespace site.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Squarespace

When comparing user reviews for these platforms, it’s important to keep in mind the difficulty in teasing out feedback on Squarespace that is specifically related to ecommerce. Despite its growing ecommerce capability, Squarespace typically ends up in the generic website builder category on most review sites, with users discussing traditional website building issues.

Those caveats aside, here are some of the most common issues that come up for each platform:

Shopify

  • Extra transaction fees when not using Shopify Payments
  • Costly add-ons
  • Poor customer support
  • Frustration with Shopify Payments

Squarespace

  • Glitches & bugs
  • Poor/limited customer support
  • Limited theme customization

Of course, traditional website builders tend to get raked over the coals for the slightest theme customization limitations. We’ve already said Squarespace’s design capability is quite good overall, particularly when compared to a lot of shopping cart builders. When customers do criticize Squarespace specifically on ecommerce, there are no consistent patterns emerging so far. For this reason, I award this category to Squarespace based on a “no news is good news” argument. We’ll keep checking back for patterns.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Both Shopify and Squarespace tend to rate highly for overall customer satisfaction on user review websites. On top of that, both platforms are known for their ease of use and elegant templates. And, along with all the negative review of customer support both software programs have received, users of both platforms have been known to also sing praises for customer support. The combination of these factors led me to call this one a draw.

Once again, we’re faced with the dilemma that there’s not a whole lot of feedback about Squarespace’s ecommerce offerings. I have definitely seen several generic comments, such as “good for ecommerce!” Honestly, I think people are mostly pleased (and perhaps a bit surprised) that there’s some solid ecommerce capability available with Squarespace at all. I haven’t come across many users directly comparing their experiences with the two platforms.

Security

Winner: Shopify

Our combatants are quite close in this category. Both offer PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance, a free SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate for your site, two-factor authentication for logging in to your account, a CDN (Content Delivery Network), and even provide methods for complying with the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) laws implemented by the EU in 2018.

The main difference I can see is that Shopify’s checkout pages are covered by an industry-standard, 256-bit shared SSL certificate. Squarespace’s checkout pages are covered by a less-robust, 128-bit certificate. My understanding is that while 128-bit encryption may end up working slightly faster, it’s technically less secure.

Final Verdict

Winner: Shopify

Squarespace put up a good fight in several categories, but Shopify emerges victorious as the better ecommerce website builder. Shopify’s pricing, core feature set, and vast app store can serve budding sellers on the Lite plan, all the way up to enterprise clients using Shopify Plus. Meanwhile, ecommerce was quite literally an afterthought for Squarespace. The platform’s developers have done an admirable job adding features for online selling, but they just can’t compete with Shopify’s dominance here.

As we’ve said time and again in this comparison, Squarespace still provides an interesting option for sellers who’d like to feature a small number of products with aesthetic appeal. Especially if you’ve already been using Squarespace to develop your company story and brand, I’d definitely recommend fully exploring the ecommerce feature set — perhaps by bumping up your subscription for just month or two — before completely abandoning ship for Shopify or another dedicated shopping cart builder.

I’ll offer one more interesting twist before you head off to test Shopify and/or Squarespace for yourself. Some users have actually used the two services in combination. How? By integrating those “buy now” buttons from a $9/month Shopify Lite plan into an existing Squarespace website. It’s a roundabout option, to be sure, but it also gives you access to in-person selling with the Shopify POS app. At any rate, take that as some final food for thought, and best of luck in your search for the perfect ecommerce platform.

The post Shopify VS Squarespace appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Business Auto Loans: Rates, Terms And Where To Find Them

From equipment to commercial real estate, it takes many resources to successfully run a business. For many businesses, vehicles are just another important part of operations. Whether it’s to deliver products to customers, drive sales, or to commute from one location to another, many businesses need reliable, dependable vehicles.

However, most small businesses don’t have the capital to purchase a vehicle with cash. This becomes an even bigger problem when multiple vehicles need to be purchased. In these situations, there is a solution: obtaining a business auto loan. Read on to find out more about the types of business auto loans, why you should consider a loan, and what to expect during the loan process.

What Are Business Auto Loans?

Business auto loans, or commercial auto loans, are a type of financing used to purchase vehicles used for business purposes. A business auto loan provides business owners with money that can be used to buy a vehicle from a dealership or private seller.

The advantage of commercial vehicle loans is that the business does not have to pay the full purchase price up front in order to take possession of the vehicle. Instead, the lender provides the needed funding, allowing the business owner to pay the total loan amount, plus interest and fees, over a longer period of time.

This is extremely beneficial for business owners, as they won’t have to pay tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket. Instead, they will have more manageable monthly payments while being allowed to use the vehicle. Essentially, the process works exactly as it would for a personal auto loan, only it is more tailored to businesses.

Business car loans can be obtained by businesses that need vehicles for any purpose. Whether it’s for delivery vehicles, commuter vehicles for employees, or vehicles to be used by salespeople, a business can receive one or even multiple loans in order to fund these purchases.

Commercial Auto Loans VS Leases

When evaluating funding options for business vehicles, there are two major options to consider: commercial auto loans and commercial auto leases. It’s important for a business owner to understand the differences between the two before starting the application process.

Commercial vehicle loans are used to pay for the vehicle over a period of time (typically 5 years, though terms can be longer or shorter). The borrower pays a set payment each month for the entire length of the term. This loan payment applies to both the principal amount that was loaned, as well as the interest paid to the lender for advancing the money.

While payments are being made, the lender will be listed as a lienholder on the title of the vehicle. This gives the lender the right to repossess the vehicle if the borrower goes into default. However, once the balance is paid in full, the lender will no longer be a lienholder. The title will be given to the borrower, who will then have full ownership of the car and can continue to use the vehicle, trade it in for another vehicle, or sell it outright.

The other type of financing is leasing. Leasing is more like a long-term rental. A lessee (in this case, the business owner) agrees to make monthly payments on the vehicle. The lease period will be for a set period of time, such as 3 years; during that time, a set number of miles per year can be driven. The car must be well-taken care of and not damaged while in use.

At the end of the lease period, the business owner has two options: they can pay off the balance of the lease and own the vehicle, or they can return it. When business owners return leased vehicles, they have the option to enter into another lease for a newer vehicle. Through a lease, the business owner will never own the car unless the vehicle is paid for with cash at the end of the lease period.

When Should I Get An Auto Loan?

An auto loan is a great choice for businesses that want to keep the vehicle for a longer period of time. Making payments to eventually own the vehicle is typically the best option for businesses that aren’t concerned about having the latest and greatest cars.

Auto loans are also the better choice for businesses that will rack up a lot of mileage. Since a lease restricts the number of miles driven annually, business owners that travel extensively in their leased vehicle could end up paying 10 to 20 cents per additional mile – costs that really rack up through the year.

A commercial auto loan may be the best choice for anyone that has a higher risk of damaging the car. Damage to the interior or exterior of the vehicle would result in wear-and-tear fees, which could add hundreds to the cost of a leased vehicle.

When Should I Get An Auto Lease?

A commercial auto lease may be the wiser choice for businesses that want to upgrade every few years to a newer model. If the car is taken care of and not driven too many miles each year, a lease could be a financially-sound decision.

A lease is also less expensive in the short-term. Down payments are often much cheaper for a lease, while monthly payments may be reduced as well. For short-term use, this may be ideal for business owners. At the end of a lease, the car can be purchased for a large lump sum payment. If the business doesn’t have the money, another lease can be signed for a different vehicle. However, this will start the cycle all over again; entering into leases repeatedly is ill-advised as it will result in thousands of dollars in payments without ever actually owning the car.

Business Auto Loan Borrower Requirements

While business car loan requirements vary by lender, an applicant should expect to gather similar documentation regardless of the chosen lender. Business and personal documentation are required to receive a business auto loan. Items such as business licenses and articles of incorporation will be required to prove ownership of the business. A federal Employer Identification Number will also be needed for the application. Sole proprietors without an EIN will be required to submit their Social Security numbers.

The borrower will need to prove that they are able to make the monthly payments on the loan or lease by submitting documents like tax returns, cash flow statements, and bank statements.

Business credit history will be considered during the loan process. In most cases, the personal credit history and score of the applicant will also be evaluated.

It’s important to note that there may be limitations on the financed vehicle if the business plans to save money by purchasing a used car. The borrower may be limited on the age of the vehicle, the mileage, and the value of the vehicle when purchasing a pre-owned car.

Can I Get A Business Auto Loan If I Have Bad Credit?

Business auto lenders will evaluate the credit score of the business. If the score is bad or limited, personal credit will be considered. But what happens if the applicant has a low credit score?

Commercial vehicle loans for bad credit do exist. However, business owners with poor credit should expect to receive higher commercial vehicle loan rates, which will increase the monthly payment amount. Higher down payments may also be required for borrowers with low credit scores. This is because an applicant with bad credit is seen as a higher risk to the lender.

Business owners with poor credit scores should evaluate the affordability of the loan. Acquiring a commercial vehicle will not only result in a monthly loan payment but also other expenses, including property taxes, insurance premiums, gas expenses, and maintenance and repair costs. High monthly payments could prove to be too much for a small business, leading to a default on the loan. This would result in another hit to credit scores, as well as repossession of the vehicle and possible legal action by the lender. In most cases, it makes more sense for a business owner to at least get their personal credit in order before accepting an auto loan.

Business Auto Loan Interest Rates & Terms

The best commercial auto loan rates are reserved for borrowers with the strongest credit histories and proven track records of cash flow. Currently, rates for the most qualified borrowers are under 3%. This rate could go as high as 18% or more for borrowers with poor credit scores or startup businesses. On average, most borrowers receive a rate of just over 4% over a 5-year repayment term.

Business owners who choose to refinance their loans in the future can save on payments with interest rates starting at 2.99%. Refinancing is a great option for small business owners that have high-interest loans and would like to reduce their monthly payments after building a positive credit history.

On average, business owners should expect to put 10% of the total vehicle cost toward the down payment. Maximum terms vary, but 60 months is a typical repayment term for most auto loans. However, this term may be longer or shorter depending on the policies of the lender.

Commercial truck loan rates may be different than for commercial vehicle loans. If a commercial truck is needed, a business owner will need to inquire as to the rates on these heavy-duty vehicles. Currently, interest rates for the most qualified borrowers are below 5%. On average, a 15% down payment on a commercial truck loan is required, but down payments may be as high as 25% of the total cost of the truck. In some cases, a lower down payment or even no down payment may be required, but this would only be available to applicants with strong credit histories and cash flow.

Can I Get A Business Auto Loan Without Signing A Personal Guarantee?

With most business auto loans, all owners with at least a 20% stake in the business are required to sign a personal guarantee. This means that all owners will be held personally liable for the debt. This is almost always the case for applicants with low business or personal credit scores.

Businesses with high credit scores may qualify for business auto loans without personal guarantees. This policy varies by lender and is typically reserved for applicants with the best credit scores. In some cases, a business auto loan refinance is possible after multiple payments have been made on time. During the refinance process, it is possible to put the loan solely under the name of the business without a personal guarantee.

Can I Get a Business Auto Loan Without Making A Down Payment?

Some lenders may offer no down payment options for the most qualified buyers. However, before accepting this offer, it’s important to think about the potential drawbacks.

Financing a vehicle with no down payment will result in higher monthly payments. Also, if the business wants to sell or trade in the vehicle during the life of the loan, they may be unable to do so without putting their own money into the transaction. This is because the loan payment may be “upside down,” which means that more money is owed on the vehicle than what it is actually worth. Entering into a loan with no down payment increases the odds of being upside down on the loan.

If the business doesn’t have the funds to pay a down payment, there are several options available. The first is to wait until there is enough money to make a sizable down payment of at least 10% of the total cost of the vehicle. If a car is needed immediately, other options can be explored, such as taking out a business car lease, which often has lower down payment requirements. Vehicles that are owned by the business and will no longer be in use can also be traded in at a dealership. Financed vehicles may be traded in toward the purchase of a new vehicle as long as there is equity.

Where To Get Business Auto Loans

Once a business has made the decision to move forward with a commercial auto loan, it’s time to begin the application process. The first step is to find a reputable lender to work with. While it is possible to go to an auto dealership to obtain a commercial vehicle loan, this usually results in multiple inquiries on a credit report, which can lower a credit score. Instead, business owners should shop around on their own and have funding in place before making the purchase. There are several options available.

The Small Business Administration (SBA)

Smart small business owners know that loans through Small Business Administration programs are extremely competitive. Though these loans can be difficult to obtain, they often come with great interest rates and repayment terms. While there isn’t a specific SBA commercial vehicle loans program, there are several programs available that provide loans that can be used toward the purchase of a commercial vehicle.

The 7(a) program, for example, offers up to $5 million for almost any business expense, including the purchase of equipment and vehicles. The SBA Express loan program is another option, providing up to $350,000 in funding and a guaranteed approval decision within 36 hours. These loans are obtained through intermediary partners of the SBA, including banks and credit unions.

SBA Microloans are another program to consider for smaller funding needs. If the vehicle to be purchased costs less than $50,000, this may be an option. These loans can be received through SBA-approved non-profit intermediary lenders.

Interest rates and terms are kept low due to the SBA’s program standards. SBA-approved loans are also backed by the government, so intermediary lenders are more willing to work with small businesses, even providing options for new businesses that have been in operations for under 2 years.

One potential drawback is that, with the exception of Express Loans, approval for these loans can take a long period of time. These loans are also reserved for business owners with higher credit scores at least in the high-600s. Think an SBA loan sounds right for your business? Read on to learn more about more about the pros and cons of SBA loans.

Banks & Credit Unions

Most banks and credit unions offer commercial vehicle loan options. Getting a commercial vehicle business loan from a financial institution is much the same as getting a personal auto loan. An application is filled out and documentation is required, including proof of ownership of the business and proof of cash flow.

Banks and credit unions will calculate a Loan-to-Value ratio. This equation involves dividing the total dollar value of the loan by the actual cash value of the vehicle. This percentage can be reduced with the down payment made toward the vehicle. Most banks and credit unions have limitations on the LTV of a financed vehicle, which varies by lender.
When applying for an auto loan through a bank or credit union, business and personal credit will be considered.

Interest rates and terms will be reliant on the applicant’s credit history. Applicants should have at least a credit score of 650 before applying. Lower scores may be accepted but will come at an increased cost. Commercial vehicle finance rates vary by lender; these loans can be approved more quickly than SBA loans but for larger amounts or more complicated credit situations, the process from application to funding can take several weeks or longer.

Most businesses opt to work with the financial institutions with which they have existing relationships. However, business owners that want to shop the best rates should read on to find out more about the banks with the best rates on business loans.

Alternative Lenders

Alternative lenders can be considered when a business doesn’t have a high credit score or a long time in operations. These lenders focus less on credit scores and the length of time in business and more on incoming cash flow. Typically, applications can be filled out online and the loans are funded in a short period of time.

However, there are drawbacks to working with alternative lenders. Typically, business auto loan rates and fees are much higher through these lenders. The overall cost of the loan may be much higher than it would be with a bank, credit union, or an SBA-approved lender. However, if obtaining the auto loan will benefit the business by improving operations and cash flow, this is a high return on investment that outweighs the cost of the loan.

With so many alternative lenders offering loans, it’s hard to decide which is best for business. Check out the top small business lenders that can help you purchase your next commercial vehicle.

Final Thoughts

There comes a time for many businesses when the purchase of a commercial vehicle is necessary. While it’s easy to want to rush the process and accept the first loan offer available, it’s important for a business owner to fully evaluate the needs of the business, as well as the overall cost of the loan.

Interest rates and requirements of business auto loans lenders should be fully understood before you sign on the dotted line. When applying for and accepting a commercial auto loan, the smart business owner will make a careful, calculated decision that will boost the business, not draw it deep into debt.

The post Business Auto Loans: Rates, Terms And Where To Find Them appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Credit Union Small Business Loans: Types Of Loans And How To Qualify

For many business owners, a bank is the first stop when it’s time to take out a business loan. After all, with the ready availability of business bank accounts, credit cards, and loan options, a bank is a one-stop shop for financial services.

However, more business owners are moving away from traditional banks and are turning to credit unions for their business financing needs. In fact, nearly 6,000 credit unions across the United States have over 100 million members. Offering many of the same services as traditional banks, credit unions are becoming the go-to resources for smart business owners.

Why should you consider applying for a business loan with a credit union? Read on to find out more about the benefits and drawbacks, how to apply, and the loans offered by these financial cooperatives.

What Are Credit Unions?

Before taking out a business loan from a credit union, it’s important to understand how credit unions work. Although they appear to work in similar ways as banks, there are big differences between the two. Unlike banks, which operate for profit, credit unions are non-profit cooperatives.

Because the account holders at a credit union are also technically the owners, they are members, not customers. Any profit that is made by a credit union is reinvested or given as a dividend to its members. As non-profit organizations, credit unions do not have to pay taxes, so they are able to offer extremely competitive interest rates to members.

Credit unions offer many of the same financial services as banks, including business and personal checking and savings accounts, vehicle loans, personal and business credit cards, mortgages, and business loans.

How Do I Qualify For A Loan From A Credit Union?

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Another way credit unions differ from banks is in how to join. With a bank, most people can simply supply personal information, deposit money into the account, and become a customer. Remember, though, account holders at credit unions are members, not customers. In order to become a member, certain membership requirements must be met.

This sounds difficult, but it’s usually surprisingly easy to join a credit union. Consumers and business owners can be eligible to join a credit union through:

  • Employers or industries
  • Military affiliation
  • Alumni associations
  • Religious institutions
  • Geographic location
  • Family members
  • Other group memberships, including labor unions and homeowners associations

When a suitable credit union has been found, an application must be filled out to open a checking and/or savings account. This application process is very similar to the process for opening a bank account. Once the application has been submitted and approved, a deposit is usually required in order to open the accounts.

After the applicant becomes a member of the credit union, they are then eligible to apply for additional financial services, including personal and business loans.

Types Of Business Loans Offered By Credit Unions

Like banks and other lenders, credit unions offer a variety of different loan options targeted at businesses. Since each loan comes with its own set of requirements, terms, and limitations, having an understanding of the available financing options out there will be beneficial for business owners seeking a loan that fits their own unique needs.

Installment Loans

An installment loan is one of the most common types of loans, and one that most business owners have probably had experience with in the past. With an installment loan, sometimes called a term loan, the credit union loans a specific lump sum of money. Regular payments, or installments, are made by the borrower on a scheduled basis, which is typically every month on the same day. This payment will be applied to the principal amount (or the amount that was borrowed), as well as to interest charged by the credit union. Mortgages and car loans are just two examples of installment loans.

Rates and terms vary on installment loans. Smaller installment loans may be paid off within a few months, while larger loans may be paid over a lengthier term, such as 20 years or longer. Interest rates on these loans vary and are primarily determined by creditworthiness. Installment loans are available in various amounts, with some limits at credit unions reaching $50,000 or higher, depending on the institution’s lending policies. Installment loans are best used for larger purchases, such as long-term equipment, that will allow a business to purchase the asset without paying the full sum up front.

For larger installment loans, collateral from the borrower is typically required. This could include business assets such as equipment or personal assets like real estate. Collateral policies vary by lender.

Lines Of Credit

A business line of credit from a credit union is very similar to a credit card. With a line of credit, a borrower is given a credit limit. Multiple draws can be made on the account by the borrower up to and including this amount. This differs slightly from installment loans and other types of loans, which are distributed as one lump sum payment.

Lines of credit for businesses can be used in multiple ways, from covering emergency expenses to resolving cash flow issues during slow seasons. A line of credit can also be used to purchase supplies, inventory, or pay for other business expenses.

Interest rates for lines of credit are typically higher than for other financial products such as installment loans, since they are considered a bigger risk. Interest will only be applied to the portion of the credit line that has been used by the borrower. Learn more about how lines of credit can give a financial boost to businesses.

The application process for a line of credit is usually much easier than the process for a term loan, and credit requirements may not be as strict. For many businesses, collateral for a line of credit is not required. However, borrowers with lower credit scores or that are otherwise seen as “high risk” by lenders may be required to pay a security deposit or put up assets or property as collateral to use the line of credit.

SBA Loans

Small business owners with a strong credit history and an established business can turn to credit unions for Small Business Administration loans. These loans have become popular throughout the small business world for their low rates and extremely favorable terms. The SBA does not lend directly to business owners. Instead, intermediary lenders — like credit unions — provide the loans. A large percentage of each loan (up to 85%) is guaranteed by the government, making it less risky for credit unions and other lenders to loan money to small businesses.

The application process for obtaining an SBA loan is notoriously long and difficult, but it’s not impossible. Small businesses that are lucky enough to get these loans will enjoy some of the most competitive interest rates on the market through a number of programs designed to help small businesses succeed. Since SBA loans are so competitive, businesses with strong business and personal credit histories have the best odds of approval.

There are several programs to choose from when applying for an SBA loan. This includes the standard 7(a) program, which provides up to $5 million for almost any business expense, as well as the 504 program that provides up to 40% of funding for commercial real estate improvements or purchases. Types of loans and requirements vary by credit union. Learn more about the rates, terms, requirements, and how to apply for SBA loans.

Startup Loans

Business loans are difficult for any business to obtain, but new businesses and startups face a greater challenge. Most businesses are already viewed as risky by lenders, but a business without a history of solid financial documentation presents an even higher risk.

Whether you’ve been operating for a just few months or haven’t actually opened your doors yet, there are options available. Startup loans are available through credit unions. Some institutions have their own programs, while others offer SBA loans to qualified startups. You may also consider getting a personal loan through your credit union and use the money to fund startup projects and business expenses.

Because new businesses won’t have much of the documentation typically required by credit unions to receive a loan, other documentation will be required, which we’ll discuss a little later in this article.

Business Credit Cards

Many credit unions offer business credit cards to qualified business owners. A business credit card works just like a personal credit card, but can be used by business owners and other named cardholders for business expenses.

Business credit cards come with a maximum credit limit. Borrowers can spend up to this limit at any location where major credit cards are accepted. Interest rates are applied against the balance of current charges, not against the entire line of credit. Monthly payments are used to pay off the balance, plus the interest. As the balance is paid down, the funds again become available for use by the borrower.

Credit card interest rates through credit unions are competitive with those of other lenders. However, rates may be higher for credit cards than you’ll see with other financing options (like installment loans or traditional lines of credit).

Commercial Mortgages

Businesses that need a loan to purchase land or commercial real estate, add on to their existing building(s), or even refinance an existing commercial mortgage can often do so through a credit union. Many credit unions offer commercial mortgages that can be used to purchase real estate or fund improvements to expand a business.

These loans have competitive down payment requirements and interest rates. In addition to offering their own programs, credit unions may also offer 504 or 7(a) SBA loans that can be used toward commercial real estate. Rates, terms, and requirements vary by lender.

Pros & Cons Of Getting A Business Loan From A Credit Union

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The choice to take out a business loan should always be carefully weighed-out by a business owner. You should consider the return on investment, or ROI, of the loan. In other words, will borrowing money help your business prosper in the long run, or will it drag the company into a cycle of debt?

In addition to deciding how much to borrow, how the funds will be used, and what type of loan to pursue, smart business owners also need to decide what lender to work with. Credit unions are often at the top of the list, but before diving into the application process, businesses should have a full understanding of the pros and cons of getting a business loan from a credit union.

Pros

One of the biggest benefits of getting a loan from a credit union is the very low interest rates for qualified borrowers. Because credit unions are non-profit organizations, they do not have to pay state and federal taxes. This allows these financial institutions to offer extremely competitive interest rates to their members, often beating out the rates offered by banks.

Another benefit is that credit union account holders are seen as members and not just as customers. Because of this, there’s usually better customer service, and the institution may be more flexible and willing to accommodate its members when it comes to lending policies. Working with a credit union to receive a loan can be easier and more effective for new businesses or for members who have made mistakes on prior credit reports.

Cons

One of the biggest drawbacks of getting a loan from a credit union is actually finding one that offers the lending services that are needed. Credit unions are often very small and do not have multiple branches all throughout the country. Not only does a business owner have to qualify for membership, they also need to make sure that the credit union offers the lending service they seek, such as a commercial mortgage or SBA loan. Not all credit unions are the same and each have their own lending programs and policies in place.

Another potential drawback is the requirements set by some credit unions before a member can apply for a loan. This could include building up a savings account or being a member for a set period of time. A credit union may also offer loans that don’t quite fit the needs of the borrower. For example, a business owner seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in financing will be out of luck if the credit union offers maximum loans of $50,000. This is why it’s important to shop around for a credit union that offers many lending services for businesses, in addition to competitive interest rates and great terms.

Working with a credit union may be easier than getting a loan from a bank, but some loans still have limitations. Borrowers with very low or limited credit or low revenues may encounter challenges when applying for credit union loans. If this occurs, you can consider other options through the credit union, or explore additional small business loan options from alternative lenders.

What Interest Rates Can I Expect From A Credit Union?

Like banks and other lenders, credit unions offer different interest rates to their members based on a number of factors, including, not limited to, the type of loan, the loan amount, and the borrower’s creditworthiness.

In general, credit union members should expect to pay interest rates that are competitive with banks, and in many cases, even lower. For the most qualified, low-risk borrowers, interest rates below 5% are available for installment loans. For SBA loans, credit unions base their interest rates on the standards set by the SBA, which are extremely competitive.

Interest rates also vary by the type of loan selected. For instance, installment loans will almost always have lower rates than other types of financing like lines of credit or credit cards.

How To Apply For A Business Loan From A Credit Union

The application process varies from lender to lender, but there is some documentation that is required by all lenders when applying for a business loan.

The business owner will need to prove that they own the business and can do that with documents including business licenses and articles of incorporation. The business will also need to state how much money they are seeking and how the funds will be used.

The credit reports of the business and any owner of at least 20% of the company will be required to determine loan eligibility and interest rates. Documentation will also need to be provided to prove that revenue is high enough to pay back the loan plus interest, taking into account the company’s current debt obligations. Common documentation needed for a loan application include profit and loss statements, personal and business financial statements, balance sheets, and income tax returns.

Depending on the loan selected and the borrower’s credit history, collateral may be required. If the business is seeking a loan to purchase real estate or improve existing facilities, items including vendor and contractor quotes and purchase agreements may also need to be provided.

For most loans, a personal guarantee by all owners with at least a 20% stake in the company is required. This simply means that if the loan goes into default, the owners of the business will be held personally liable for the debt.

For new businesses and startups, some business documentation may not be available. For these businesses, a solid business plan will need to be submitted with the application. The borrower should also be prepared to prove that he or she has sufficient industry experience. Financial projections for at least one year may also be required.

After submitting all documentation and an application, the credit union will make an approval decision. If approved, the underwriting process will begin and the loan will be funded. The length of the entire process depends on the type of loan selected. For example, a line of credit or credit card may be approved and used within days, while an installment loan, commercial mortgage, or SBA loan may take several weeks or months from start to finish.

Final Thoughts

In addition to offering checking and savings accounts for business owners, credit unions can provide many affordable loan options for business expenses. With more personalized customer service and a wide range of financial services available, credit unions should always be a consideration for any business owner seeking a competitive loan.

The post Credit Union Small Business Loans: Types Of Loans And How To Qualify appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Apply For An SBA Loan: A Complete Guide

You’re ready to take your business to the next level. Perhaps you want to add to your team of all-stars, or you want to upgrade your equipment with the latest and greatest technology. Maybe you’re a startup and you’re ready to bring that next great idea to life. No matter how you slice it, starting or upgrading your business hinges on one big question: how are you going to pay for it?

Most of us don’t have unlimited amounts of cash at our disposal, so we have to rely on outside help to fund new projects, renovations, and other expensive initiatives to launch and grow our businesses. When it comes to financing, smart small business owners know that you can’t go wrong with a loan from the Small Business Administration.

That’s why you’re here. You’ve heard about the benefits of SBA loans and now you’re ready to get funded. There’s just one problem: you don’t know how to begin when it comes to the application process.

While it may be intimidating, the SBA loan application process isn’t that much different from getting a loan from your bank. However, knowing what to expect before you get started can help the process go much more smoothly and eliminate the hassles and headaches that come with being unprepared.

Take a deep breath and read on to find out how to complete the SBA loan process from start to finish.

The Basic SBA Loan Application Process, Step-by-Step

1. Determine Whether You Meet The SBA’s Lending Requirements

Before you even fill out an application or talk to a lender, the first step to obtaining an SBA loan is to make sure that you’re qualified to receive one. In order to obtain a loan from the SBA, your business must qualify as a small business under the organization’s guidelines. Typically, this means that your business must have no more than 500 employees, although this number could rise based on your industry. Net annual income should not exceed $5 million, while the business’ net worth shouldn’t be more than $15 million.

To be eligible for an SBA loan, the business must also be operated and headquartered in the United States. The small business should be for-profit (although non-profit child care centers qualify for SBA Microloans) and not engaged in illegal activities. Businesses involved in lending, investing, and real estate rentals do not qualify for most programs.

Depending on which loan program you select, there may be additional requirements. For example, only veterans, service members, or the spouses or widows of veterans or service members can apply for the Veterans Advantage program. The Community Advantage program is limited to underserved areas, which include low-income communities and businesses owned by women, minorities, and veterans.

One of the most important factors in the SBA lending equation is your credit report and score. Because SBA loans offer such competitive terms, it should come as no surprise that you need a good credit score to qualify. In general, a minimum score of 680 is required to even be considered for these loans.

Your score isn’t all that comes into play, though. Your full credit report (both personal and business) will be evaluated by a lender to determine if you qualify. Defaults on previous government-backed loans will disqualify you from receiving an SBA loan. Foreclosures or bankruptcies may also prevent you from receiving an SBA-backed loan. Negative items on your report, such as collections or past due accounts, won’t necessarily bar you from receiving a loan, but a valid explanation for each negative item will be required by the lender.

This is why it’s so important to know your score and review your report before even starting the process. It’s easy to obtain a free credit score and report so that you can make sure you qualify and dispute any erroneous items. If you find that your credit score is low, you can begin taking steps toward improving your credit before you apply.

2. Choose An SBA Loan Program

You’ve determined that you fit all of the requirements for obtaining an SBA loan. Now, the next step is to understand the SBA loan programs that are available and which works best for you. Each program has specific rates, terms, and maximum loan amounts, as well as requirements for how the money is used.

You’ll need to evaluate your business needs to decide which program is the best fit.

Loan Program Description More

7(a) Loans

Small business loans that can be used for many many business purchases, such as working capital, business expansion, and equipment, inventory, and real estate purchasing.

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Microloans

Small loans, with a maximum of $50,000, which can be used for working capital, inventory, equipment, or other business projects.

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CDC/504 Loans

Large loans used to acquire fixed assets such as real estate or equipment. 504 Loans are offered in partnership with Community Development Companies (CDCs) and banks.

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Disaster Loans

Loans used to rebuild or maintain business following a disaster. 

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7(a) Loans

SBA 7(a) loans are the most popular among small business owners. This is primarily because of the extremely favorable terms and the flexibility with how funds can be used. With the 7(a) program, loan proceeds can be used toward just about any business expense. This includes purchasing equipment or inventory, acquiring a new business, renovating new facilities, working capital, or even refinancing old, high-interest debt. Standard 7(a) loans have a maximum loan amount of $5 million.

Through the Community Advantage program, underserved communities can receive financing when traditional lending isn’t a good fit. The Veterans Advantage program offers the same great benefits along with reduced guarantee fees. Express loans offer less funding but guarantee an approval response within 36 hours. It’s important to note that loans through the Express program come with a slightly higher but still competitive interest rate than other 7(a) loans.

In general, expect to pay between 7% to 9% interest on standard 7(a) loans. Repayment terms are up to 10 years for most purposes and 25 years for real estate purchases. Startups and established businesses are eligible to apply for 7(a) loans. This program is a good fit for almost any small business because these loans are the most flexible. SBA 7(a) loans are available through SBA-approved lenders, including banks and credit unions. Read more about SBA 7(a) loan programs.

Loan Amount Less Than Seven Years More Than 7 Years

Up to $25,000

Base rate + 4.25%

Base rate + 4.75%

$25,000 – $50,000

Base rate + 3.25%

Base rate + 3.75%

$50,000 or More

Base rate + 2.25%

Base rate + 2.75%

Microloans

Small businesses requiring smaller amounts can apply for an SBA Microloan. Microloans are available through participating nonprofit organizations. The maximum borrowing amount through this program is $50,000. This money can be used for a variety of purposes, including the purchase of supplies, materials, and equipment. It can also be used as working capital. Microloans can’t be used for the purchase of real estate or paying delinquent taxes.

Like other SBA loan programs, SBA Microloans come with competitive interest rates. These rates are based on the intermediary lender’s cost of funds. The average rate is about 7.5%.

These loans are best for startups and small businesses that need smaller loans. This is also an excellent choice for non-profit childcare centers that are ineligible to apply for loans through the 7(a) program. If a microloan program seems like the right fit for your business, read on to learn more.

SBA 504 Loans

Borrowing Amount

$500 – $50,000

Term Lengths

Up to 6 years

Interest Rates

6.5% – 13%

Borrowing Fees

Possible fees from the loan issuer

Personal Guarantee

Guarantee required from anybody who owns at least 20% of the business

Collateral

Collateral normally required, but depends on the lender

Down Payment

  • No down payment for most businesses
  • Possible 20% down payment for startups
  • Possible 10% down payment for business acquisition loan

504 Loans

The SBA’s 504 loan program is designed for businesses that want to expand or upgrade their facilities or equipment. Funding of up to $5 million is available through the SBA’s 504 program to purchase buildings or fixed assets, to build or update new facilities, or to purchase or improve land. Proceeds can also be used toward refinancing existing debt related to renovating, purchasing, or building new facilities or equipment.

Through the 504 program, the SBA will provide up to 40% of the total project cost through a Certified Development Company. Fifty percent of the project costs must be financed through a traditional lender. The remaining 10% of costs are the responsibility of the borrower. Interest rates for SBA 504 loans are based on 5-year and 10-year Treasury issues. Repayment terms are set at 10 years and 20 years.

Small business owners that wish to update or expand their facilities or equipment are the best candidates for this loan program. If this sounds like you, learn more about the terms, eligibility, and requirements of SBA 504 loans.

SBA 504 Loans

Borrowing Amount

No maximum, but the SBA will only fund up to $5 million

Term Lengths

10 or 20 years

Interest Rates

Fixed rate based on US Treasury rates

Borrowing Fees

  • CDC servicing fee, CSA fee, guarantee fee, third party fees (however, most of these fees are rolled into the interest rate or cost of the loan)
  • Possible prepayment penalty

Personal Guarantee

Guarantee required from anybody who owns at least 20% of the business

Collateral

Collateral required; usually the real estate/equipment financed

Down Payment

10% – 30%

SBA Disaster Loans

Sometimes, the unexpected happens. Whether it’s a sudden deployment, a natural disaster, or changes within the economy, these unforeseen events can have damaging effects on a business, even leading some owners to shut their doors for good.

The SBA understands these situations and offers various Disaster Loan programs designed to help small businesses weather the storm. These loans include Physical Disaster Loans, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and Military Reservists Economic Injury Loans.

Through the Physical Disaster Loan program, businesses and nonprofit organizations can receive up to $2 million for the repair or replacement of damaged property. This includes real estate, fixtures, inventory, and equipment used to operate the business. Loan proceeds can be increased to offer protection from future disasters, covering losses that are uninsured or under-insured and providing business owners with an extra level of protection. Repayment terms can be set up to 30 years, and interest rates are set at 4% and 8%.

Through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, businesses and nonprofit organizations can apply for up to $2 million if economic injury occurs. This money can be used to cover financial obligations that would have been paid by the business had it not been affected by the disaster. Repayment terms are up to 30 years with interest rates set by the SBA at 4% and 8%.

The Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan is designed for reservists who have been called for active duty. These loans are used for the working capital needed to pay business expenses until the employee returns from active duty and business operations recover. They cannot be used for refinancing debt, business expansions, or to cover income or profit losses. The total amount of the loan is based on the actual economic injury as determined by the SBA. Interest rates for these loans are set at 4% with a maximum repayment term of 30 years.

Term Rate/fee

Borrowing Amount

Maximum $2 million

Term Lengths

  • Max 30 years if no credit available elsewhere
  • Max 7 years if credit available elsewhere

Interest Rates

  • Maximum 4% if no credit available elsewhere
  • Maximum 8% if credit available elsewhere

Fees

None from the SBA; possible fees from outside agencies

3. Decide On An SBA Partner Lender

Once you’ve narrowed down your loan options and have selected the program that’s right for your business, you’ll need to find an intermediary. SBA loans do not come directly from the SBA to the borrower. Instead, these government-backed loans are provided through approved lenders including banks, credit unions, private lenders, CDCs, and nonprofits. Because the SBA guarantees at least 50% of loan proceeds (and in most cases, 85%), lenders are more willing to provide these loans to qualified small businesses.

This doesn’t mean that you can just walk into any bank and receive an SBA loan. You have to find an SBA lender partner that services your area. There are a few different ways that you can do this.

The first thing you can do is consult any financial institution with which you have a working relationship. Explain the type of SBA loan that you’re looking for and ask for a referral for local SBA intermediaries.

You can also visit the SBA website, which offers a Lender Match service. Simply input a small amount of personal information, and this tool will match you to a lender that services your area.

SmartBiz is another option you can consider. You can quickly and easily find, apply for, and receive an SBA loan through this service. This online loan marketplace can also match you up with other sources of funding if you don’t qualify for an SBA loan. There are also loan matching services and online brokers that can help you find a lender and offer support through the application process.

4. Compile An SBA Loan Application

Once you’ve found an SBA-approved lender, it’s time to dive into the actual application process. This process can be a little intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be difficult provided you know what to expect going in. The most important thing is to make sure you come prepared with the proper documentation.

SBA borrower information forms are required for every partner, director, managing member, or owner of the company. All owners with at least a 20% stake in the company should also be prepared to sign a personal guarantee and have their resumes available. Personal financial statements will also need to be provided.

For the business, an income statement, balance sheet, and federal income tax returns for the last three years must be provided. A cash flow projection for a period of one year will also need to be included with the application. Business and personal credit reports will also be used to determine your creditworthiness.

For collateral requirements, real estate appraisals, lease agreements, and environmental reports are required. Additional documentation including Articles of Organization, all business licenses, and information pertaining to judgments and lawsuits may also be needed. Affiliated and subsidiary business information will need to be provided during the application process.

Before meeting with the lender, you can inquire about any additional documentation that is needed so that it can all be compiled prior to filling out the application.

5. Be Available For Follow-Up Questions

Once the application has been submitted for your SBA loan, the next step is to wait for your approval. Depending on the loan you’ve applied for, approval can take several weeks, although some options — like SBA Express loans — will be approved within 36 hours.

During this time, you should communicate with your lender and make yourself available for any additional follow-up questions. More documentation may be required by the lender, so make sure that you deliver this in a timely manner to avoid delays in the application process. Typically, you should expect the entire process from application to funding to take 30 to 90 days.

How To Apply For An SBA 504 Loan

The SBA 504 loan process is a bit different than the standard SBA loan process. More documentation is required for these loans. This includes but is not limited to estimates, quotes, and costs from vendors and contractors that will be working on the funded project. For real estate purchases, an independent appraisal is required.

Because the borrower will also be working with another lender, a letter of intent from the lender will need to be submitted with the SBA application. The lender will also need to provide a reason for why it will not provide financing for the entire project.

If debt is to be refinanced using 504 loan proceeds, the borrower must provide information on the current debt, including lien instruments and account transcripts.

How To Apply For An SBA Loan To Buy A Business

When SBA loan proceeds are used to purchase a business, the process does not differ much from what it would be when applying for any other loan. Credit reports and financial documentation will be required to determine eligibility. However, there are a few additional documents needed for approval of the loan.

If real estate is being purchased using the loan, business, stock, and asset purchase agreements are required. A real estate purchase agreement is also needed and will be submitted along with other documentation and the SBA loan application.

A business plan is also typically required. The applicant must also show that they have experience in the industry of the business they plan to acquire.

How To Apply For An SBA Loan For A Startup

If you’re a startup business (defined by the SBA as a business that has been in operation for 2 years or less), there are a few different requirements for applying for an SBA-backed loan.

There are certain documents that startups simply won’t have, such as three years’ worth of business income tax returns. However, alternative documentation can be used to qualify a new business, including a detailed business plan, a cash flow analysis, and financial projections of at least one year.

To qualify for SBA loans, startups must be able to show through this documentation that they will be successful and profitable, despite their short operating history. The applicant must also show proof of industry experience.

How To Apply For An SBA Loan For A Franchise

SBA loans are available for franchises. In many cases, loans for a franchise are easier to obtain than for the purchase of other new businesses because the franchise has a proven business model.

The organization has its own SBA Franchise Directory. This directory has a listing of all brands that are eligible to receive financing from the SBA. This list includes everything from restaurants to dry cleaners and insurance agencies. All brands that meet the FTC definition of a franchise are included on the list.

Some franchises do not fit under the FTC’s definition of a franchise. In these cases, the SBA has the option to add brands to the directory if it meets other requirements.

Financing, including the 7(a) standard loan, can be obtained to purchase a franchise. The same documentation for other SBA loans applies. In addition, agreements between the franchisor and franchisee will also need to be produced, as well as other documentation.

SBA Loan Application Process FAQs

How long does it take to get an SBA loan approved?

The time it takes to get approval on your SBA loan varies. Gathering the needed documentation may take weeks, while the approval process itself can several weeks or even months, especially if more information is required.
Applicants who need approval in a hurry can turn to the SBA Express loan. Even though this provides lower maximum funding than other SBA loan options, approval is guaranteed within 36 hours. However, it’s important to note that the actual underwriting and funding of the loan will take additional time.

Where do I apply for an SBA loan?

To apply for an SBA loan, you will need to work with an SBA-approved lender. Use the SBA Lender Match tool, a loan broker like Lendio, or consult with your existing financial institution to find a lender near you.

You can also use the SmartBiz marketplace online to prequalify and apply for SBA loans. If you don’t qualify, other lending options are available through SmartBiz.

I have bad credit. Can I still be approved for an SBA loan?

Your creditworthiness is an important factor in getting approved for an SBA loan. If you have a credit score that falls below 680, it’s unlikely that you’ll be approved.

If you need a loan but don’t qualify for an SBA loan, don’t worry – you have options. The first thing to do is begin working on your credit. Obtain your free report and score, then follow these helpful hints for boosting your score.

In the meantime, you can also check out your other business loan options. Online small business loans can be obtained with credit scores as low as 500. While the terms may not be as favorable as with SBA loans, there are still some great options out there that will help you get the financing you need today.

What if I need assistance with my SBA loan application?

Navigating the SBA loan application process can be difficult, but you don’t have to do it alone. If you have questions about completing your loan application, you can always ask your SBA-approved lender. If you haven’t yet found a lender to work with, SCORE is a great resource. This nonprofit organization provides resources and services including free business mentors that can help you through every step of the process.

I don’t qualify for an SBA loan/my application was rejected. What are my options?

If you don’t qualify for an SBA loan or your application was rejected, you’re not alone. SBA loans are extremely competitive and getting this type of funding can be difficult. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re stuck without the financing you need. Instead, you can apply for a non-SBA business loan.

Online business loans have less stringent requirements. Terms vary depending on the lender you work with and your creditworthiness. Installment loans, short-term loans, lines of credit, credit cards, and other financing options are available through online business lenders. To find the loan that’s right for you, check out this comparison of the most popular small business loans.

Final Thoughts

SBA loans are a great option for small business owners, but the application process can be frustrating when you don’t know what to expect. Being prepared, gathering your documentation in advance, and knowing what to expect beforehand can help simplify the process, putting you on the path to financing for your small business.

The post How To Apply For An SBA Loan: A Complete Guide appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Accept Credit Cards Online

So you’ve realized you want to start selling online. Good for you! The ecommerce market is certainly booming. But before you can start raking in the money, you probably have a few questions, like “how do I make a website?” and “how do I accept credit cards online?” Here’s the good news: There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from! The bad news? There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from. So how do you choose?

As always, there’s no one perfect solution for everyone. You need to know your business (and where you want to go with it) and have a rough idea of what you need. If you have no idea where to start, never fear! In this article, we’ll cover some of the basic considerations about accepting credit card payments online, as well as types of payment processors and how to accept credit card payments online with and without a website. We’ll also discuss some of our favorite solutions for ecommerce and provide resources to help you learn more.

5 Questions To Ask Before You Start

It’s really important, before you dive headlong into any kind of financial investment in your business, to sit down and make sure that you know what you want and what you need. I say that a lot, but with selling online it’s especially important to look before you leap because if you get any component of your setup wrong, redoing it will cost time and money.

So before anything, here are some questions to consider:

  1. How technologically savvy are you? Simply put, are you even able to build and maintain your website yourself? If you’re not exactly a technological wizard, your priority should be finding an easy-to-manage solution. You can also outsource tasks you can’t handle yourself, such as design or even data entry for the creation of products. Of course, if you have an ambitious idea and no ready-made solution exists, or you need a lot of customization, you might need a developer who can work with software APIs to create what you need. You can find freelance developers to help out as you go, but the more high-tech you go, obviously, the more you should consider having a full-time developer.
  2. Do you already have a website? If yes, do you like your website? Would you rather abandon it for a better site with more features? If you already have a site and don’t want to go through the effort of creating a new site to sell a handful of products, payment buttons or plug-ins are better options. If you don’t have a site or you don’t mind nixing your current site in favor of something better, shopping cart software might meet the brief nicely. But of course, you don’t need a website to accept payments online. We’ll talk about all of these options more below.
  3. What’s your budget? When it comes to numbers, you need to look at both upfront costs and monthly (or yearly) costs. How much can you spend at the outset, and how much do you expect to be able to afford on a monthly or annual basis? Keep in mind the more technically advanced your website, the more you can expect to pay to build and maintain it. Likewise, the busier your site — the more products you have and the more sales you make — the more you can expect to pay. Don’t forget the tangential costs, such as hiring a designer or a developer, or data entry, and of course, the costs of payment processing itself!
  4. What are you selling? Whether you’re offering digital goods, subscriptions/services, or retail products, look for service providers that cater to your industry so you don’t have to find creative workarounds. Many solutions are generalized for a broad array of merchants, but with add-ons and integrations to make them more tailored. You can also find payment processors and software that offer ready-made specialized solutions and service plans, such as micropayments for merchants who sell low-priced digital goods.
  5. How comfortable are you with handling security features? If you want to sell online, you have to make sure your website is secure. That means ensuring your site is PCI compliant. The more involved you are in the payments process and the more sensitive information your website handles, the more of a burden you are taking upon yourself. Fortunately, many payment processors and other software providers offer solutions to keep your customers’ information secure and reduce your PCI burden — in some cases, you may not need to do anything at all.

Once you’ve got the answers to these questions and a list of the features you need and want, it’s time to actually start looking at your options. One of your primary considerations should be finding a payment processor. However, depending on your business model, you might want to first look at what kind of ecommerce options work for you and then select a payment processor from the available options.

We’ll begin by talking about payment processors and go on to look at what other software or platforms you should explore.

Types Of Payment Processors

No matter how you go about finding a payment processor — choosing a standalone, going with the default processor included with your shopping cart, or choosing a recommended partner from a software provider — you need to consider what kind of business model the processor uses. If you’ve been here before and read any of my other articles, you know that I am talking about the difference between third-party payment processors versus traditional merchant accounts.

Traditional merchant accounts are very stable. It would take a clear violation of either your contract or card network rules in order to trigger an account termination, and you’re unlikely to encounter a hold on funds unless you’ve had a series of issues with chargebacks or fraudulent transactions. However, most merchant account providers expect you to have an established business and a monthly volume of $10,000 in credit card transactions. Plus, setting up a merchant account will typically take a few days. It could take longer depending on how many processors are on your short list and how much negotiation is required.

Third-party processors are not quite as stable as merchant accounts. That’s because instead of issuing separate accounts for each of their merchants, everything is lumped together in one giant, communal merchant account. It takes very little effort to apply for an account with one of these processors, and you can often get approved and set up to accept credit cards online within a day. Factor in no monthly minimum volume requirements and third-party processors provide a great way for new businesses to take payments. However, the trade-off is that you’ll face greater scrutiny and a higher risk for account holds or terminations, often with no warning. Check out our article on how to prevent merchant account hold and freezes to learn how to reduce your risk.

While third-party processors are riskier than merchant accounts, they are a great option for new businesses who don’t know what sort of volume they can expect and don’t have an established history. Even for established businesses, there are some advantages: namely, third-party processors offer predictable, flat-rate pricing, so you know exactly how much you’ll pay. The best merchant account providers typically offer interchange-plus pricing, which, while clear and transparent, doesn’t make it easy to accurately estimate processing because interchange rates vary.

It’s up to you to decide which type of processor is right for your business. I do want to point out that some software companies (ecommerce shopping carts, point of sale solutions, invoice platforms, and more) often build white-label payments into their solutions. These solutions can take the form of third-party processors or merchant accounts, so make sure you investigate before just going with the default processor. In addition to their native payment processing services, most ecommerce software providers support integrations with an assortment of merchant accounts and third-party payment processors.

Square is our top-pick for third-party payment processor. In addition to predictable, flat-rate pricing with no monthly fees or contracts, Square offers a whole suite of seamlessly integrated apps to address in-person and online sales at no charge at all. eCommerce transactions process at 2.9% + $0.30 each.

For merchant accounts, we recommend CDGcommerce, which offers flat-rate pricing and an interchange-plus option depending on the merchant’s payment volume. There are no monthly minimums and no contracts, just a $10 monthly fee. Low-volume merchants will pay 1.95% + $0.30 for most transactions, or 2.95% + $0.30 for premium, corporate, or international cards. Merchants who process more than $10,000/month are eligible for interchange-plus pricing with a 0.30% + $0.10 markup.

Does Your Payment Processor Include a Gateway?

If you want to accept credit card payments online, it’s not enough to find a credit card processor. You also need a gateway. As the name suggests, a gateway is an intermediary software program that transfers the payment data from your website to the customer’s bank to be approved or declined (and then routes the money to your merchant account).

Many payment processors offer gateways as part of their services. For example, PayPal, Square, and Stripe all offer gateways bundled with the rest of their services at no additional cost. CDGcommerce offers its Quantum gateway as part of its services for online merchants.

However, some processors will charge you a setup fee and/or a monthly fee for use of the gateway. While it’s fair and legitimate to charge for this service (especially if you’re being offered other discounts or freebies in exchange), there’s no reason for you to overpay, either. Make sure you know how much a gateway service will cost if it’s not offered for free.

While it’s rare to find a processor that doesn’t include some sort of gateway access, they do exist. In the event that you find yourself leaning toward one of these processors, you can find your own gateway. Authorize.net is nearly universally compatible and reasonably priced, which makes it a good option for most merchants. (Worth noting: CDGcommerce’s gateway, Quantum, also includes an Authorize.net emulation mode to maximize compatibility.)

Want to know more about how payment gateways figure into your ecommerce setup? Check out our article, The Complete Guide to Online Credit Card Processing With a Payment Gateway, for more information.

How To Accept Online Payments With A Website

A website is a pretty integral part of selling online (but it’s not 100% necessary — we’ll look at some alternatives in the next section). As mentioned above, the first question to consider is: Do I already have a website? Then ask yourself: Do I like that website, or would I rather start over completely? Fortunately, there are solutions for both of these scenarios. For existing sites, you can implement payment buttons or seek out a plug-in or extension that supports ecommerce.

Adding Payments To An Existing Site

best templates

If you’ve used a site builder such as WordPress, Weebly, Wix, or Squarespace, it’s fairly simple to implement online payments. Simply check out the sitebuilder’s available third-party apps, extensions, and plugins. If you already know which payment processor you want to use, you can search directly for an available add-on. Otherwise, you can browse and see what options are ready-made for you. These add-ons will allow you to securely collect payment information from your customers as well as manage the order fulfillment process. Do your research and go with solutions from your site builder rather than third parties, if possible. Check reviews of any plugins or extensions you add and make sure they are well supported and any glitches are fixed in a timely manner.

If you run a WordPress site, WooCommerce or Ecwid could be good starter options. WooCommerce is actually a free plug-in to add to your site, with a basic theme and your choice of payment processors. It’s a very modular setup, so you can choose from a mix of free and paid extensions that allow you to customize WooCommerce to your needs. That includes payment processors, subscription tools, the ability to create add-ons (such as gift wrap for products), and more. Most WooCommerce add-ons are charged on an annual basis, which could require more of an up-front investment than a monthly subscription, so be aware of this fact.

Ecwid is another plug-in designed for WordPress. However, it also works on an assortment of other website-building platforms, including Wix and Weebly, Ecwid does offer a free plan for businesses with 10 or fewer products, but for higher-tiered plans you’ll pay a monthly subscription fee. Ecwid supports a wide assortment of integrations, including payment gateways. With higher plan tiers, you also get access to expanded sales channels.

Wix and Weebly’s website builders can be used for blogging, personal portfolios, and any other purposes. They both offer online store modules. Online stores from Wix start at $20/month with no transaction fees and your choice of processors. Upgrading to an eCommerce plan is fairly simple from within the Wix dashboard and won’t require any substantial reworking. Simply add the “My Store” module to your dashboard, make the upgrade, and start creating products.

Finally, there’s Weebly. Square actually bought Weebly in the spring of 2018, so it’s possible we could see Weebly start to favor Square pretty heavily in the future. For now, though, Weebly’s online store plans start at $8/month (on a yearly plan), with a 3% transaction fee on top of your processing costs. The transaction fee drops off with higher-tier plans, leaving just the monthly fee.

The other way to add payments to an existing site is to look for a payment processor that supports customizable payment buttons. A good payment button creator will give you power over the appearance of the buttons as well as the settings for transactions. The obvious, go-to solution for many is PayPal, which offers a pretty powerful array of tools. PayPal’s buttons are a good option whether you are selling a single product or multiple ones. You can set up payment buttons to allow products to be added to a cart or to go directly to checkout. PayPal even allows nonprofits to create a “Donate” button for their site, which can be configured for one-time and recurring donations.

An alternative to PayPal is Shopify Lite, an entry-level solution. For $9/month plus transaction costs (2.9% + $0.30), you can accept payments on your website by adding payment buttons. The plan also includes access to Shopify’s mPOS app and the ability to sell on Facebook (we’ll talk about that option in the next section, too.) And it’s worth mentioning that Ecwid also supports the creation of custom buy buttons.

While adding payments to an existing site is incredibly convenient and often requires little work, you won’t get quite as many tools as you would with a hosted ecommerce software solution. Which brings us to the best solution if you would rather build a new site or have no website to start with:

Building A New Site With Shopping Cart Software

eCommerce software apps, sometimes also called shopping carts or shopping cart software, are hosted, all-in-one solutions to online sales. Adding an ecommerce feature to an existing website requires you to choose a platform, buy the domain, and pay for hosting, but with shopping carts, you’ll get everything in a single package: online sales and product management, hosting, and sometimes even the ability to buy a domain name directly. Typically, shopping carts will also help you centralize control of sales across multiple channels, so that if you sell on social media, on eBay, or through another channel, you can handle order fulfillment through a single platform. That even includes buying postage (at a discounted rate) and printing the shipping labels. Some shopping carts will offer marketing tools or integrations with marketing platforms, as well as integrations with point of sale systems.

As far as payment processing goes, some shopping carts have opted to include their own white-label payments as a default part of their services. One such cart is Shopify, which offers its own Shopify Payments service (read our review). However, this is just a white-label version of Stripe. Be aware that choosing a payment processor other than the default can incur additional fees.

Generally speaking, even if a shopping cart doesn’t offer all of the features you want, you can search the app market for available extensions and integrations to get what you need. It’s worth researching the available add-ons as well as the native software features.

There’s a lot to consider and compare with a shopping cart. Obviously, you can use a sitebuilder such as Weebly or Wix, which both offer eCommerce modules. Then there are ecommerce-exclusive platforms, including Shopify and BigCommerce, which make it easy to build your site and customize the design (and even offer blogging so you can centralize control of your website).

If you want a whole lot of freedom and have coding knowledge, an open-source platform such as Magento might be more to your liking. Open-source platforms tend to be chock-full of specialized features (particularly if they have attracted active user communities) and you have almost limitless control of your site. A closed-source, SaaS platform is certainly a lot easier and more convenient for business owners who are just starting out and want to go the DIY route.

If you aren’t sure what you want, we recommend you start by checking out Shopify and BigCommerce, both of which are affordably priced for new businesses and offer extensive customer support resources. They also both offer multi-channel sales manage so you can sell through your own site and through other platforms but manage all of your orders from a single portal.

If you’re still curious about what makes a great ecommerce platform, check out some of our other resources!

  • The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store (eBook)
  • Shopping Cart Flowchart: Choose the Right eCommerce Software for Your Business (Infographic)
  • Shopping Carts 101: How to Choose a Shopping Cart for Your Business (Article)
  • Questions to Ask Before You Commit to a Shopping Cart (Article)

Managing Services, Subscriptions & Other Recurring Charges

A lot of merchants, from accountants and other professional service provideres to lawn care and cleaning services, could benefit from being able to automate recurring charges. And of course, the ability to automate charges is essential for SaaS providers and subscription-box sellers.

Generally speaking, the ability to accept recurring payments — for monthly services or subscriptions — isn’t a default option for payment processors or shopping carts, which tend to be retail-focused. However, you can find plenty of solutions that will work with your existing eCommerce setup. For example, Stripe and Braintree both offer extensive subscription management tools along with their payment gateway and processing services. Add-on services such as Chargify, Recurly, and ChargeBee work with a variety of processors. Zoho Subscriptions and Freshbooks also offer recurring billing tools. PayPal offers recurring billing tools for its merchants; Square offers “recurring invoices” but not a lot of advanced customization for subscription billing.

Proper research will be very important when selecting a provider that offers all of the features you need, whether you require metered billing for usage-based online services, the ability for customers to upgrade to a higher tiered plan mid-billing cycle, the ability to offer free trial periods and extend them, or a way to calculate taxes. Tools that automatically update expired cards can also help reduce failed charges and therefore improve revenues and reduce customer loss.

Accepting Online Payments Without A Website

Most people equate taking payments online with having a website. That is the most common option, but you don’t actually need your own website. Let’s talk about a few of the alternatives for how to accept credit cards online.

Creating Online Invoices

You could create your own invoices in Microsoft Office and send them out via email, but then you’ve got to keep track of which invoices have been sent and which have been paid — and you’ve still got to deal with waiting for the check in the mail. Online invoicing solutions can eliminate every single one of these hassles.

Generally speaking, invoicing software is cloud-based, so you can access it anywhere. You can customize invoices and send them via email (or generate a shareable link to the invoice). But unlike old-fashioned invoicing, these invoices include a link to pay directly in the invoice. Your customers follow the link, enter their payment details, and bam! You get paid much quicker.

Depending on which invoicing software you choose, you can get some powerful features. For example, PayPal allows you to enable partial payments on an invoice if you are willing to accept installment payments. Square’s invoicing links up with the platform’s customer database, allowing you to send recurring invoices and even store customer cards on file to make getting paid even easier. Zoho Invoice, which starts at $0/month, also allows for a customer database, as well as project management (so you can generate an invoice based on the number of hours worked). Shopify offers invoice creation within its platform at no additional charge as well — and this feature is even available on the Lite plan.

For most merchants, Square Invoices may be the most appealing, as it’s available with a Square account at no additional charge. However, Shopify’s built-in invoicing will work for merchants who want to sell with or without a website. Merchants who need project management as part of their invoicing should look at Zoho Invoice.

Using Online Form Builders

So you don’t have a website, but you still need to collect user information and accept payment. Online form builders offer an easy way to do both. Plus, you can post links to forms on social media or send them out via email.

Off the top of your head, you might think of Google Forms, which is free to use and quite advanced for a freemium software. However, it doesn’t integrate seamlessly with payment processors. Your best option, in this case, would be to use PayPal’s embeddable buy buttons and include the button in the form’s submission confirmation page as a second step. However, you’ll have to manually reconcile the payment records versus form submissions.

Subscription-based form builders will cost you money but offer far more capabilities than Google Forms, including direct integrations with payment processors/gateways such as PayPal, Stripe, Square, and Authorize.net. Subscriptions generally work on annual or monthly plans, but one option, Cognito Forms, offers an entry-level plan that charges 1% of the transaction amount instead. (Note, that’s in addition to any processing fees.) Other form solutions worth looking into are Zoho Forms and Jotform. Zoho Forms starts at $10/month and includes unlimited forms and up to 10,000 submissions. It integrates with both PayPal and Stripe. Jotform’s paid plans start at $19/month and are limited to 1,000 submissions, but include integrations for quite a few payment processors, including PayPal, Stripe, Square, and even Dwolla. Cognito Forms’ paid plans start at $10/month plus 1% of the transactions and include up to 2,000 form submissions. Integrations include PayPal and Stripe.

And we haven’t even talked about event registration sites. There are a lot of them, but the one many people are likely familiar with is EventBrite. EventBrite allows you to put all the details of your event online and sell tickets — including setting multiple tiers of admission and promotion cards, automatically setting price changes for registration deadlines, and so on. You can even collect marketing data about your patrons, from their zip codes to how they heard about the event. Your event is searchable from within the EventBrite platform, allowing people searching for something to do to discover your event as well. EventBrite does charge fees on top of processing costs, but these can actually be passed onto event registrees, saving you some money at least.

Selling On Social Media

It wasn’t all that long ago that the idea of being able to buy products directly through social media channels was novel and experimental, but nowadays you can create your own online shop through Facebook, or sell on Instagram or even Pinterest.

With Facebook, you just need a Facebook business page to get started. You can choose your payment processor (PayPal or Stripe) and start manually uploading products, all of which have to be reviewed by Facebook before they can go live. An easier option is to link your Facebook shop to an online store builder such as BigCommerce, Ecwid, or Shopify.

Shopify is actually an interesting solution because, while its core offering is an online shopping cart, it offers a “Lite” plan for $9/month that includes access to its mPOS app, buy buttons for a website, and a Facebook store with automated tools to make the process easier. You wouldn’t necessarily have to go through the hassle of building a website with Shopify just to sell on Facebook, but you still get more tools than you would by going through Facebook directly. Check out our Shopify Lite review for an in-depth look at the plan and all its features.

Selling on Instagram requires you to have a Facebook shop (because Facebook owns Instagram) to create what it calls “Shoppable posts.” That shop can be managed directly via Facebook itself, or via Shopify or BigCommerce as one of multiple sales channels. I’d like to point out that Instagram isn’t available as a sales channel with the Lite plan; you’ll need to upgrade to Shopify Basic at $29/month to be able to manage sales via Instagram.

Lastly, Pinterest allows merchants with a business account to create “Buyable pins,” so you can sell from your Pinterest page. Unlike Facebook, where you can manage the buyable pins from the platform, to sell through Pinterest you will need to go through either Shopify or BigCommerce and actually apply for approval before you can start selling.

Shopify Lite is an ideal option if you want to start with Facebook and maybe add buy buttons to a website. You can upgrade to Shopify Basic ($29/month) to get your own site, plus access to Instagram and Pinterest if that appeals to you.

Selling In Marketplaces

Online marketplaces are a good alternative to having your own website if you’re selling retail goods. You don’t have to pay for hosting or invest anything in web design. You simply create your product listings using the tools provided and publish them. Marketplaces allow you to get your products in front of a large audience without you having to build a stream of traffic yourself. However, the trade-offs are that you generally pay more in fees (listing fees, seller’s fees, and payment processing) than you would with your own website, and you have zero control over the design of the site or even how your products are displayed. Generally speaking, you are limited to using whatever payment processing the marketplace offers as well.

A few popular marketplaces include:

  • eBay
  • Etsy
  • Amazon
  • Jet (owned by Walmart)
  • Ruby Lane

Accepting Payments Through Virtual Terminals 

The final alternative is a bit of a stretch, I’ll admit, but it can be a powerful tool for some merchants. A virtual terminal is a web portal where you can manually enter credit card information to process a transaction. (There’s the stretch: VTs require an internet connection, so they’re technically online payments.)  Virtual terminals are a necessity for merchants who want to accept payments over the phone (or even by mail).

Some payment processors offer a virtual terminal as part of their software package, others as an add-on. These providers include PayPal, Payline Mobile, Square, and Fattmerchant. However, if you want the best value for a virtual terminal, we recommend Square. You pay only the payment processing costs (3.5% + $0.15) and it is interoperable with the rest of Square’s platform.

Beyond Credit Cards: Alternative Online Payment Methods

Credit cards are the go-to for accepting payments online, but they aren’t the only options. For starters, there are ACH bank transfers, which are generally less expensive for merchants to process. They’re often preferred in B2B environments, but some consumers favor them too.

Offering ACH processing as an additional option, especially if you’re in the B2B space, could win you more customers. According to a 2017 Payment Benchmarks Survey by the Credit Research Foundation and the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA), ACH transfers currently account for 32 percent of B2B transactions, lagging behind checks, which took the no. 1 spot at 50 percent. Credit cards account for just 11 percent of B2B transactions. By 2020, the survey estimates that ACH will take the top spot and account for 45 percent of B2B transactions.

Despite this, most merchant accounts or even third-party processors don’t offer ACH by default. Some offer it as an add-on plan, others may require you to look for a supplemental option for ACH acceptance.

ACH is far from the only option as far as “alternative” payment processing now, too. Mobile wallets are bridging the gap between in-person and online payments, and card networks have implemented their own online checkout options for cardholders. The major advantage to accepting these options is that they offer an extra layer of security for consumers. For example, Apple Pay on the web still requires biometric authentication before approval.

Some of these alternative payment methods include:

  • Apple Pay on the Web
  • Google Pay
  • Microsoft Pay
  • Chase Pay
  • MasterPass
  • Visa Checkout
  • Amex Express checkout

Apple Pay and Google Pay are fairly widely supported, but you may not see the other options on this list everywhere.

Two noteworthy providers that offer ACH, as well as other alternative payment options, are Stripe and Braintree. However, both are developer-focused platforms, so you’ll need someone with the technical know-how to implement them. Merchant accounts that specialize in eCommerce and provide a solid gateway might offer these options too.

We recommend Stripe because of its extensive developer tools, customizable checkout, and resources for recurring billing. The company also offers round-the-clock customer support (an admittedly recent addition to its feature set). Plus, Stripe is great for international merchants who want to be able to accept localized currencies in Europe and Asia.

Begin Accepting Payments Online

Starting an online store and learning how to accept credit cards online can seem like a daunting task! There are so many factors to consider, but I hope I’ve been able to shed some light on the process and point you in the direction of some good options. A merchant account can give you security and stability, but it may not be the most cost-effective option for low-volume merchants. A third-party processor can get you set up quickly with predictable pricing that often favors low-volume merchants, but the trade-off is account stability. And of course there’s the matter of compatibility: You need to make sure that whatever payment processor you choose offers a gateway compatible with the software (and sales channels) you want to use.

But you also need to have a good idea of what you can afford to spend up front and on a monthly basis and understand your limitations when it comes to technology and software. If you want to go the DIY route, you’ll need to be fairly tech-savvy. Otherwise, be prepared to outsource tasks to designers, developers, and even admin assistants. Some software solutions make it incredibly easy to do everything yourself, others will require lots of hands-on effort to make them work.

If you’re still not sure where to go from here, we recommend you check out our article: The Best Online Credit Card Payment Processing Companies. You can also view our merchant account comparison chart for a quick look at our favorite providers.

Have questions? We’re always happy to hear from our readers, so please leave us a comment!

The post How To Accept Credit Cards Online appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Choose The Best Products to Sell Online

Best Products to Sell Online

You’ve probably landed here on this beautiful wall of text because you’re wanting to start an online store and are wondering, “What are the best products to sell online?”

The short version – it depends 🙂

The long version – keep reading for specific ideas to find the best product for you to sell online.

There are hundreds of articles out there talking about trending products for [insert year here], the best all-time products, rising products, etc., but these resources are typically 100% based on what’s happening now.

So, how do you know what the best products are in general?

Again, spoiler alert: there is no such thing as a best product to sell online!

Sure, there are basic principles to stick to, such as

  • products with a high average order value
  • things that can be drop shipped / don’t require a high-touch in store experience
  • products that can be shipped cheaply and easily, etc.

But with that said, if you look at the brands that are killing it online right now, like Native, Dollar Shave Club, and Tuft & Needle… they break all of those “rules”. Native sells deodorant, Dollar Shave Club built an entire business on super-cheap razors, and Tuft & Needle sells mattresses (a product that typically requires a high-touch in-store experience with high shipping costs).

I’m a firm believer that there’s no such thing as the “best” anything — instead, I operate from “best for your skills, knowledge, resources, and goals”.

So when it comes to starting your online store, the key is to move out of the “best product to sell online” mindset and into the “best product for ME to sell online” mindset. And that’s a product that fits your skill set, knowledge, resources, timeline, and market demand.

There are several approaches to finding the best product to sell online for you… and that’s what I’ll be breaking down in this post.

How to Find the Best Products to Sell Online (For You)

The Product Research Route (Amazon scraping, Adplexity, etc)

Thanks to platforms like Amazon, anyone can sell something online — and luckily for you, there is a giant trove of product data just waiting for you on the Internet.

One way to figure out what to sell is by looking at other products that are performing well and weighing those against your own wants and needs.

The goal here is to collect data on what’s working already, then reverse engineer an ecommerce strategy to sell it.

For example, let’s say you’re looking on Amazon for bestselling dog toys. You could look at niches within dog toys to niche-down into subcategories, look at best-selling products within those subcategories, see top sellers to identify competitors — the opportunities are endless.

Amazon Bestselling Dog Toys

The bonus here is you don’t have to do this manually — and you’re not limited to Amazon’s data. Spy tools like Adplexity and Jungle Scout can aggregate product data across several ecommerce platforms and even show you competitor’s ads so you can reverse engineer a marketing strategy that works.

With that said, keep in mind that everyone has access to this data, which means you won’t be the only one reverse engineering a successful product. What’s really going to set you apart is choosing a successful product that fits your own criteria and knocking your marketing strategy out of the park.

The Persona Research Route

People are constantly searching for things online. Think about your own behavior — where do you go when you’re looking for the “best swimsuits for speed” or “most durable dog toys for puppies”?

As a business owner, you can use this data to figure out what people actually want and give it to them. In marketing, this approach is known as creating a persona (marketing jargon for a description of your ideal customer).

An effective persona defines what your ideal customer actually wants. Who are they? What problems do they have? How can you solve these problems.

Use tools like Facebook Audience Insights, Pinterest, Google Display Planner, Trend Hunter, and basic keyword research (see here) to create 2-4 personas that outline your ideal customers. Be as descriptive as possible by including things like job title, favorite device, pay scale, main frustrations & problems, end goals, what they do in their spare time, etc. Use this detailed guide by Moz to guide you through the process.

Remember that your personas don’t have to be the end all be all. The focus here is to define your initial target market that’s small enough you can effectively reach them but large enough to get some insight on what products will fit their needs (and to get some initial sales and feedback on those products so you can polish what you’re offering).

Nearly every business started this way (think about how Facebook started by targeting college students). Here’s a podcast episode explaining this concept [skip to the ~ 11-minute mark].

The Sell What You Know Route

Perhaps the most self-explanatory method for finding the best product to sell online is selling what you know. What are you good at? Passionate about? Experienced with? Use that experience, channel it into a need, and sell it.

Take Quad Lock, a bike mount designed by a biker who was unsatisfied with the mounts on the market, so he designed one he wanted and sold it. The founder used used his own experience (biking) and pain point (ineffective mounts for his iPhone) to create a product that others love too.

Keep in mind though, it isn’t just about the product. Quad Lock leveraged reviews and Facebook and Google ads to get the right people to the product. You’ll need to have a proper and realistic marketing funnel behind whatever it is you’re selling.

The Build an Audience Route

Traditionally, ecommerce business owners take a “build it and they will come” approach to product development and selling online. This method takes the opposite approach. Instead of creating a product and finding an audience to sell it to, you’ll first build an audience and bring them a product they actually want.

Both approaches have advantages — again, there is no blanket “best” way or “best” product to sell online. Once again, it depends on your goals.

Building your product first and selling it to an audience could bring in revenue faster (as long as you build a product that actually sells). However, you do run a higher risk of creating a product that doesn’t fit the market as well as it might if you were to build an audience first, learn about them, and give them what you want.

The tradeoff here is time vs. money. If you have the time to build out an audience, nurture them, and build a minimally viable product to get feedback on, this route can save you the headache of launching a product that no one wants (see The $100 Startup). However, if you need to generate revenue quickly, this path might not be the best option.

The Rapid Product Testing Route

If you’ve ever donated to a kickstarter campaign, or if you know anything about Tim Ferris and the 4-Hour Work Week, then you know how successful rapid testing a bunch of product ideas can be.

Ferriss did it with different ads, headlines, and even book titles until he found what worked, and you can take the same approach with your own product development. The goal here is to get a ton of data quickly. What are people clicking on? What are they signing up to learn more about? What’s sticking? Once you have that info, keep what works and get rid of what doesn’t.

Again, the tradeoff here is time and/or money. You have to give yourself enough of a runway to actually test and get the data, whether you’re starting a campaign on Kickstarter, offering email and social demos to find that one customer with a new idea, or running multiple Google Adwords campaigns to test which promotions get the most traction.

The Niche / Tailwind Route

Sometimes it’s worth sticking to what’s already working. Similar to reverse engineering products that are performing well and fit your criteria, you can also find a growing niche and/or company and build out products that complement them.

A classic example of this is the cell phone case industry. Before the iPhone blew up, cell phone cases were practically non-existent. But once the iPhone took off, an entire niche industry was born.

This is happening all the time. Think about Peloton — the at home spin bike that’s building an entire submarket that needs attention. There are constantly new opportunities to hop on board with what’s working and complement it with submarket products of your own.

The Supplier / Numbers Route

Keep in mind that you don’t always have to supply a product. Sometimes the best product to sell online could be one that someone else has created. In this scenario, you’d focus on building a killer marketing strategy for the product.

For example, let’s say you have a dentist friend who has a patented a new mouthguard that’s amazing, but he has no idea how to sell it. You could start an ecommerce business with exclusive access to the product at a price that makes sense. He’d be your supplier while you’d focus on getting sales.

Even if you don’t know someone directly who has an amazing product, you could always research suppliers on AliExpress or Alibaba, or connect to people who have great industry contacts in a niche you know well enough to navigate profit margins and create a marketing strategy that gets the products to move.

Alibaba

Either way, you’re removing yourself from the product definition. Instead, you’re looking at suppliers who have already created a killer product and need someone (AKA you) to sell it.

Next Steps / Takeaways

Finding the best products to sell online really has less to do with there being a “best” product and more to do with having a system and approach to finding a product that fits your own needs, skills, and means.

Instead of randomly brainstorming and endlessly searching online for that one big idea, take time to do an inventory of your own needs. Think about your skill set, knowledge, resources, and timeline to launch your product. Then, choose one of the methods above to find the product that best aligns with your defined criteria.

You also want to find the best way to sell – here’s how to choose the best ecommerce platform.

The post How To Choose The Best Products to Sell Online appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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The Best Offshore Merchant Account Providers

Offshore Merchant Account Providers

Ordinary payment processing is complicated. But finding good offshore, international, or high-risk payment solutions can be a real nightmare. If you fall into one of these categories, you’ve likely had your merchant account applications denied at least a few times. Even worse, perhaps you’ve had your processing service terminated and your money withheld from you for months. We understand your struggle. We’ve seen hundreds of businesses go through the exact same thing, and we’re here to help you find the perfect offshore merchant account for your high-risk business.

If you’re just looking for a run-of-the-mill high-risk merchant account for your business, you’ll want to check out our article The Best High-Risk Merchant Account Providers. The high-risk category often includes business types that you wouldn’t normally associate with the term “high-risk,” such as airlines or online furniture sales. While these types of businesses are usually treated as high-risk by banks and processors, they can usually be approved for a domestic merchant account by working with a high-risk specialist.

For our purposes, we’ll use the terms offshore merchant account and international merchant account interchangeably, as they mean the same thing. Both terms refer to a merchant account that is underwritten by a bank or processor that is situated in a different country from the one where the business is located. The most common reasons for needing an offshore account include the following:

  • You do a significant amount of business in a foreign country and need to accept payments in the local currency.
  • Your business has offices in multiple countries, and you need separate merchant accounts for each location.
  • Your business is considered to be so risky that you cannot obtain a regular high-risk merchant account in your own country.

Below, we’ll discuss the factors to evaluate when considering an offshore merchant account and several special features that you’ll want to include in your service. We’ll also profile four offshore merchant account providers that we feel offer superior service and overall value in comparison to their competitors.

Factors To Consider When Selecting An Offshore Merchant Account

While many offshore merchant account providers also specialize in high-risk accounts more generally, not all high-risk processors work with international merchants or provide offshore accounts for domestic merchants. Many high-risk specialists only work with US-based businesses, and only provide accounts through US-based banks and processors. Before you apply for an offshore account, you’ll want to confirm that the company you’re considering works with businesses located in your country. This information might be spelled out explicitly on the provider’s website, or you might have to talk to their sales staff to get a confirmation.

Providers that specialize in setting up offshore merchant accounts can usually get you an account in just about any country around the world, though obviously, there are exceptions. As a US-based merchant, don’t expect to set up your offshore account in a place like Afghanistan or North Korea. It’s simply not going to happen. With the exception of countries limited by political considerations or a high level of instability, however, the possibilities are wide open.

In most cases, you should aim to get an account in a country where you expect to do a significant amount of business. On the other hand, if your business is going to operate exclusively in the United States, an offshore account serves mainly as a last resort for getting a merchant account when you simply can’t get approved for a domestic high-risk account. Banking regulations are more relaxed in certain other countries, and the willingness on the part of banks and processors to work with high-risk businesses is also more favorable. At the same time, you should be aware that setting up an offshore account under these circumstances, while it might be your only option for accepting credit cards, can present some serious risks to you as well. Your ability to pursue a legal remedy against a foreign bank or processor might be severely limited – or even nonexistent. At a minimum, you should consider legally registering your business in the country where your account will be located. Even with legal standing in the country, however, be aware that it might be extremely inconvenient and expensive to pursue a legal action outside of your own country.

There’s also an increased risk that you could become the victim of fraud or identity theft. Banks in other countries collect the same personal data about you and your business that US-based banks do, but they don’t always do as good a job of protecting it. You’ll want to keep an especially close eye on your merchant account, your business account, and any personal accounts about which you’ve released information to get approved for an offshore merchant account.

High-risk merchant accounts are notorious for including higher processing rates and account fees, and offshore accounts can be even worse. Providers know you’re particularly desperate and some, but not all, will take advantage of your situation by charging you as much as they think they can get away with. We recommend that you shop around and compare multiple quotes when looking for an offshore account. Don’t accept the first offer from a bank or processor just because they’re the first one that hasn’t rejected your application due to the nature of your business.

Note that merchant account providers who market offshore accounts often downplay or fail to mention these risk factors, so it’s up to you to look out for yourself. Do your own independent research, compare multiple offers, and thoroughly review all contract documents before you sign up for an account.

Special Features Of Offshore Merchant Accounts

For the most part, you’ll want the same services and features for an offshore account that you would want for a traditional merchant account. This includes processing hardware such as credit card terminals and POS systems for retail merchants, and a robust payment gateway for eCommerce merchants. You’ll also want an online account dashboard of some kind that allows you to monitor your sales in real-time. While online account access is now a standard feature in the United States, you might not always find this feature with an offshore account. Mail-order and telephone-order (MOTO) businesses often find a virtual terminal to be the most cost-effective method for inputting transactions. Depending on the needs of your business, a smartphone- or tablet-based mobile processing system might also be important. Almost all providers offer some type of mobile processing system these days, either as a proprietary product or through a partnership with a third-party provider. Be aware that very few mobile processing systems have begun to offer EMV-compatible card readers, and you’ll often be stuck with a magstripe-only reader.

In addition to these basic merchant account features, there are several special features that your offshore merchant account might (or might not) include. How important these features are to your business will be determined by how you intend to use your account. Extra features to look for in an offshore merchant account include the following:

  • Multi-Currency Support: If you’re going to do business in a foreign country, it only makes sense that you’ll want your customers to be able to pay in their local currency. Multi-currency accounts allow you to maintain balances in multiple currencies and can save you a ton of money in currency conversion costs.
  • Currency Conversion Services: Having an offshore account will invariably require you to convert funds into your own local currency at some point. Most offshore account providers include built-in currency conversion services that allow you to convert foreign funds when it comes time to transfer them to your business account. While these services can sometimes offer you much lower conversion fees than what a bank would charge you, it still pays to shop around for the best deal on this service. You might save money by using an international transfer service such as TransferWise or OFX.
  • Expanded Anti-Fraud Features: Offshore merchant accounts invariably involve a higher degree of risk of fraud than their traditional counterparts, so you’ll want as many extra services to avoid it as you can get. Most offshore account providers offer a number of enhanced anti-fraud features as a standard part of their service. These features automatically detect suspicious activity, hopefully stopping any fraudulent activity before it can affect your business. Providers are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) features to improve their ability to detect potential fraud beyond what would be possible with a traditional algorithm.

With these considerations in mind, let’s take a brief look at four of our overall favorite offshore merchant account providers:

Durango Merchant Services

Durango Merchant Services is a small merchant account provider headquartered in Durango, Colorado. Established in 1999, the company specializes in providing high-risk and offshore merchant accounts to hard-to-place businesses. They work with a wide variety of banks and processors to find a suitable account for almost any business. While they can’t place 100% of the merchants who apply to them, their track record is very good, and their sales process is so transparent and honest that we’ve even seen praise for the company from merchants who’ve been turned down for an account.

If you need an offshore account, Durango has you covered. Their accounts include multicurrency support as well as enhanced anti-fraud features to keep you protected. They can set up accounts in countries as diverse as Germany, Panama, Spain, and many others.

Durango doesn’t try to set you up with expensive leases when it comes to processing equipment. Instead, they offer a variety of terminals for sale right on their website. Options include both wired and wireless models, with some offerings that support NFC payments. They also sell the iPS Mobile Card Terminal, which connects to a smartphone to provide mobile payments capability in conjunction with the iProcess mobile app. If you’re using a virtual terminal, they sell the MagTek DynaMag, a USB-connected magstripe card reader that attaches to your computer. Unfortunately, it’s Windows-only. Durango currently doesn’t offer any POS systems for sale.

The company supports eCommerce through its proprietary Durango Pay payment gateway, which integrates with the numerous processors the company uses and includes support for most of the popular online shopping carts. Durango’s gateway also features an Authorize.Net Emulator, which allows it to interface with any shopping cart that works with Authorize.Net (see our review).

Because Durango works with such a wide variety of third-party processors to set you up with an offshore merchant account, they don’t list rates or fees on their website. These will vary tremendously depending on which processor they set you up with. While we normally like to see more transparency from merchant account providers, in this case, it’s understandable. Depending on your qualifications, you can expect either an interchange-plus pricing plan or a tiered one. Merchant accounts through Durango don’t seem to have standardized fees. Again, these will depend on the terms that your backend processor imposes.

Durango assigns a dedicated account manager to every one of their merchants, which means you’ll be talking to the same person every time you have an issue. While this can sometimes be problematic outside of regular business hours and when your account manager isn’t available, overall it provides a much higher level of service than you’ll get from a random customer service representative.

Pros

  • Direct sales of processing equipment
  • Reasonable rates and fees based on your business and your backend processor
  • Dedicated account manager for customer service and support

Cons

  • No support for POS systems
  • USB card reader not compatible with Mac computers

For more information about Durango Merchant Services, read our complete review.

SMB Global

SMB Global logo

SMB Global is a new high-risk provider that was spun off from one of our favorite providers, Payline Data in 2016. Headquartered in South Jordan, Utah, the company specializes in providing merchant accounts to high-risk and offshore businesses. Using a variety of backend processors, they’re able to approve a merchant account for almost any high-risk business (including those selling CBD oils). They have an excellent reputation for fair prices and top-notch customer service.

As a newly-established business, SMB Global is still a little rough around the edges, lacking a mobile processing system and credit card terminals for retail merchants. At the same time, they offer a full range of services for eCommerce merchants, including a choice between the NMI Gateway and Authorize.Net.

Because they work with so many banks and processors to get you approved for an account, the company doesn’t offer any pricing information. Processing rates, account fees, and contract terms will all vary widely depending on which backend processor is handling your account. While we highly recommend that you request an interchange-plus pricing plan, be prepared to have to accept a tiered plan instead, particularly if you haven’t been in business for very long. Likewise, you can also expect to have a standard three-year contract with an automatic renewal clause and an early termination fee if you close your account early. As a high-risk merchant, you should be prepared to have a rolling reserve included in your account agreement.

SMB Global requires a minimum processing volume of $50,000 per month for an offshore merchant account, although they will occasionally waive this requirement if your business has a very strong financial history. Offshore accounts support multi-currency processing, allowing you to avoid cross-border fees. They also feature dynamic currency conversion, letting your customers pay in either their local currency or the currency in which you bill them.

Pros

  • Offers international merchant accounts to a wide variety of industries
  • Reasonable pricing and contract terms
  • Excellent customer service

Cons

  • No mobile app
  • No information available about credit card terminals or POS systems

For a more detailed look at SMB Global, be sure to check out our full review.

Host Merchant Services

Host Merchant Services is a relative newcomer to the merchant accounts business, first opening in 2009. The company is headquartered in Newark, Delaware and has a second office in Naples, Florida. While they primarily cater to traditional, low-risk businesses, they can accommodate several categories of high-risk businesses and also offer offshore accounts. Their interchange-plus-only pricing and a full range of products and services make them an excellent choice – if you can get approved. A former web hosting company, HMS is ideally suited for eCommerce merchants. They use TSYS as their primary backend processor, but can also work with several international banks and processors to get you an account.

For retail merchants, HMS offers a variety of Verifone and Equinox (formerly Hypercom) terminals. Terminals are offered for sale, and the company does not lease its equipment. While prices are not disclosed on the HMS website, you should be able to negotiate a very reasonable deal on terminals, especially if you need more than one. If you already have a compatible terminal, they’ll reprogram it for free.

HMS also offers a variety of POS systems that utilize either tablets or touchscreen displays. Choices range from an 8” tablet-based system up to a 17” touchscreen monitor. The company’s Starter, Plus, TouchStation Plus, and Custom POS options should meet the requirements of just about any business that needs or wants a POS system.

If you need a mobile processing capability for your business, HMS has you covered, offering the ProcessNow mobile payments system via a partnership with TSYS. ProcessNow works with either iOS or Android phones, but the current card reader is magstripe-only and requires a headphone jack to plug into.

As a tech-focused company, eCommerce is HMS’ specialty. The company has recently introduced their proprietary Transaction Express payment gateway, which includes a free virtual terminal. HMS also supports a large number of third-party gateways, including Authorize.Net.

HMS uses interchange-plus pricing exclusively for its low-risk merchants, but you might have to pay tiered rates if you have an offshore account. While they don’t disclose their rates on their website, they’re based primarily on monthly processing volume and are very competitive. Fees are not disclosed either, but include a $24.00 annual fee, a $14.99 monthly account fee (which includes PCI compliance), a variable payment gateway fee ($5.00 per month for Transaction Express, $7.50 per month plus $0.05 per transaction for Authorize.Net) and the usual incidental fees (i.e., chargebacks, voice authorizations, etc.). High-risk and offshore merchants should expect to pay higher fees than these, and possibly additional fees as well. In particular, be prepared to have a rolling reserve included as part of your account.

HMS provides customer service and support via 24/7 telephone and email. Chat is available via the HMS website during regular business hours. They also feature an extensive collection of articles and blog posts on their site for customer education. Support quality appears to be well-above-average, based on the almost complete absence of complaints about it on the BBB and other consumer protection websites. If your business falls into one of the categories of high-risk activities that the company can accommodate, HMS is an excellent choice for an offshore merchant account.

Pros

  • Full range of products and services for retail and eCommerce businesses
  • Exclusive interchange-plus pricing plans (for low-risk businesses)
  • Excellent customer service and support

Cons

  • Rates and fees not disclosed on website
  • Can only accommodate a small number of high-risk business categories
  • Mobile card reader not EMV-compliant

For more information, see our complete review.

Easy Pay Direct

Easy Pay Direct logo

Easy Pay Direct is headquartered in Austin, Texas and has been in business since 2000. The company’s primary product is their proprietary EPD Gateway, but they also provide full-service merchant accounts for international, high-risk, and traditional non-high-risk merchants. High-risk merchants will have to pay a premium in terms of processing rates and account fees, whether they’re partnered with a domestic or offshore bank or processor. However, the additional expense is entirely reasonable under the circumstances.

Like most offshore merchant account specialists, Easy Pay Direct works with a variety of banks and processors, both domestic and international, to find one that’s a match for the needs of your business. You’ll have to pay a $99 account setup fee to get started, but considering the extra effort required to underwrite a high-risk or offshore account, we feel the expense is justified in this case. Processing rates will be under a tiered pricing plan, but you should still have some room to negotiate your rates, especially if you have a high monthly processing volume. Contracts generally follow the industry standard, or a three-year initial term that automatically renews for one-year periods after that. One very positive feature about Easy Pay Direct’s contracts is that they do not have an early termination fee, even for high-risk businesses. While this isn’t quite the same thing as true month-to-month billing, it does make it much easier to close your account without penalty if you have to.

One helpful feature offered by Easy Pay Direct is called load balancing, where a business can divide its incoming funds among multiple merchant accounts. This is particularly helpful for high-risk businesses that often exceed the monthly processing volume limits imposed by the processor underwriting their account. Just be aware that you’ll usually have to pay separate monthly fees for each account, so it might not be cost-effective for some merchants. Also, be aware that you might not need this feature if you opt for an offshore account. Underwriting guidelines in some (but by no means all) foreign countries are more relaxed, and you might not have a monthly processing limit imposed on your account at all.

Although Easy Pay Direct doesn’t get as much attention as other, better-known processors, it’s a solid choice for merchants in the high-risk category or those who need an offshore account. We particularly recommend the company for high-risk eCommerce businesses due to the robust feature set of their EPD Gateway.

Pros

  • Load balancing feature for high-risk merchants
  • No equipment leases
  • No early termination fee

Cons

  • $99 account setup fee
  • Three-year contract with automatic renewal clause

Check out our full review of Easy Pay Direct for more information.

Final Thoughts

Having a hard-to-place business doesn’t mean you have to run your company through Bitcoin. You can accept credit card payments just like any other business by finding a payment processor that will set you up with the right acquiring banks. At the same time, you need to be fully aware that, for a US-based business, signing up for an offshore merchant account is a risky endeavor. You’ll want to be very cautious and carefully research any provider you consider, even the ones we’ve recommended above. Take extra care to protect your sensitive personal financial data and be sure your account includes additional fraud prevention features. You might also want to consider registering your business in the country where your merchant account is located – just in case. Having a merchant account in Panama might sound very tempting if you’ve been repeatedly turned down by domestic providers, but it will be very expensive to have to travel there in person if you later run into legal troubles with your account provider.

Of the four offshore merchant account providers we’ve reviewed above, Durango Merchant Services is undoubtedly the best all-around provider of the group. They disclose more detailed information about offshore accounts than any of the other providers. SMB Global is also an excellent choice. While the company itself is very new, they have an impressive track record from their days operating as the high-risk division of Payline Data. Finally, both Easy Pay Direct and Host Merchant Services offer a solid line-up of products and services for both eCommerce and retail merchants. If you need an offshore account to break into the world of accepting credit cards, they both have everything you need to get started.

Finally, we can’t caution you strongly enough that selecting and setting up an offshore merchant account involves a higher level of risk on your part, and you’ll need to be extra cautious in choosing a company to go with. Relaxed underwriting guidelines and a general lack of monthly processing limits make offshore accounts very tempting to merchants who’ve had a hard time getting their business approved for a traditional account, but these advantages come at a price. If anything goes wrong in your relationship with your provider, you might face some real challenges in pursuing a legal remedy. You should also be aware that if this happens, the US-based provider that brokered your account will not be able to help you in most cases.

Do your homework! Research your provider thoroughly and review all contract documents very carefully before signing up. While these steps won’t eliminate the chance of things going sideways somewhere down the road, they will shift the odds considerably in your favor.

The post The Best Offshore Merchant Account Providers appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Zoho Books VS QuickBooks Online

Zoho Books VS QuickBooks Online

Tie

Accounting

Tie

Features

✓

✓

Pricing

✓

Hardware & Software Requirements

User Permissions

✓

✓

Ease of Use

✓

Mobile Apps

✓

Customer Service & Support

Negative Reviews & Complaints

✓

✓

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Integrations

✓

Tie

Security

Tie

?

Final Verdict

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Review Visit

Review Visit

We all love a good underdog story. But when underdog Zoho Books takes on one of the biggest names in accounting, QuickBooks Online, can this lesser-known software give QBO a run for its money? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out.

Redesigned and relaunched in 2014, Zoho Books continues to only get better. The software offers ample features, the most beautiful invoicing out there (including the ability to send invoices in multiple languages), excellent customer service, and strong mobile apps.

QuickBooks Online has been around since 2004. With advanced accounting, an impressive feature set, almost 280 integrations, and a brand new lending feature, it’s easy to see why QuickBooks Online is so popular.

But which accounting software is better, Zoho Books or QuickBooks?

At Merchant Maverick, our goal is to help you to find the best software for your small business needs. To make your decision easier, we’ve carefully researched and tested both products. We’ll compare Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online (QBO) based on features, pricing, customer experience, reputation, and more, so you don’t have to.

Don’t have time to read the whole post? Or looking for a different accounting option? Check out our top-rated accounting solutions to see our favorite recommendations.

Accounting

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Books and QuickBooks offer strong accounting. Each uses double-entry accounting and supports both accrual and cash-basis accounting. In terms of accounting features, both offer a customizable chart of accounts, ample reports, journal entries, and bank reconciliation.

Features

Winner: QuickBooks Online

Zoho Books VS QuickBooks Online

✓

Invoicing

✓

✓

Multiple Invoice Languages

✘

✓

Estimates

✓

✓

Expense Tracking

✓

✓

Bank Reconciliation

✓

✓

Chart Of Accounts

✓

✓

Fixed Asset Management

✓

✘

Depreciation

✓

✓

Contact Management

✓

✓

Accounts Payable

✓

✓

Time Tracking

✓

✓

Project Management

✓

✓

Inventory

✓

✓

Reports

✓

✓

Tracking Categories

✓

✘

Budgeting

✓

✓

Print Checks

✓

✓

Multi-Currency Support

✓

✓

Sales Tax

✓

✓

Tax Support

✓

✓

Importing & Exporting

✓

✘

Lending

✓

Note: Feature availability varies by pricing plan.

Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online are mostly on par in terms of features. Each offers beautiful invoicing templates and invoicing automation, as well as inventory, contact management, expense tracking, accounts payable, and project management. While Zoho Books puts up a great effort, QuickBooks Online edges out the competition — but just barely.

QuickBooks Online offers several features that Zoho doesn’t, including budgeting and small business lending. In addition, QuickBooks Online has a much more developed time tracking feature and more tax support. QuickBooks Online gives users the option to add payroll to their software (for an extra cost), whereas Zoho Books has no payroll support.

One place where Zoho Books actually trumps QuickBooks is international invoicing. QuickBooks doesn’t allow you to send invoices in multiple languages whereas Zoho Books does. However, this unique touch isn’t enough to make up for the lack of budgeting and limited time tracking.

Pricing

Winner: Zoho Books

QuickBooks Online offers three pricing plans ranging from $15 – $50/month, with payroll support costing an extra $39 – $99/month (plus $2/month per employee). Zoho Books offers three pricing plans as well ranging from $9 – $29/month.

Zoho Books takes the cake as far a pricing goes, especially considering that you get nearly all of the same features as QuickBooks Online for almost half the cost.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Zoho Books

As cloud-based software, QuickBooks Online works with nearly any device so long as you have an internet connection and are using one of the following browsers:

  • Google Chrome
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Internet Explorer 10+
  • Safari 6.1+

Similarly, Zoho Books is also cloud-based and compatible with nearly any device and works with these browsers:

  • Internet Explorer
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Safari
  • Google Chrome
  • Opera

Both also offer mobile apps available for Apple products and Androids, although Zoho takes it up a level by offering mobile apps for Microsoft phones and Kindles as well. This, along with supporting Opera, is why Zoho Books wins in terms of hardware and software requirements.

Users & Permissions

Winner: QuickBooks Online

Zoho Books’ largest plan offers 9 users plus one accountant; QuickBooks Online’s largest plan offers 5 users plus two accountants. Additional users can be added to each plan.

Zoho Books offers very limited users permissions, making QuickBooks Online the clear winner here. With QuickBooks Online you can set multiple user roles and control each user’s access to certain features. Because of this important distinction, QBO wins this category despite offering few users.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Zoho Books

Both Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online are relatively easy to use. Both have modern UIs that are well-organized and easy to learn. However, each software suffers from the occasional navigational difficulty. That being said, Zoho Books has far better customer support and fewer bugs and glitches making it easier to learn and navigate.

Mobile Apps

Winner: Zoho Books

Both Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online offer strong mobile apps. Zoho Books receives 4.8/5 stars on iTunes and 4.5/5 stars on the Google Play Store. QuickBooks Online receives 4.7/5 stars on iTunes and 4.3/5 stars on the Google Play Store.

While both company’s apps are fairly close in ratings, Zoho Books’ mobile apps are full-featured and compatible with Microsoft phones and Kindles in addition to iPhone and Androids, making it the winner here.

Customer Service & Support

Winner: Zoho Books

Zoho Books has the better customer support by far. In my experience, representatives respond quickly to emails and I have hardly ever been put on hold when calling their support team. Representatives are generally kind and informative. Additionally, Zoho Books has a well-developed knowledge base with tons of articles, videos, guides, and more — and it all can be accessed directly from within the software to boot.

In the past, QuickBooks Online had notoriously poor customer support and extremely long phone wait times. While the company has been remedying this over the last year or so, QBO still has a ways to go if they want to top Zoho Books in the customer service arena.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: QuickBooks Online

This is one category QuickBooks Online should not want to win. QuickBooks Online has received many complaints. Most complaints revolve around poor customer service experiences, bugs, limited apps, and even a few unauthorized charges.

Zoho Books, on the other hand, has received far fewer customer complaints (granted Zoho Books has far fewer customer reviews in general, but the ratio of negative to positive reviews is smaller). The complaints that do exist revolve around the lack of payroll and limited integrations.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Zoho Books

While QuickBooks Online has a higher number of positive reviews overall, Zoho Books has a higher percentage of positive reviews, which is why it wins this category. Zoho Books receives 4.5/5 stars on Capterra and 4.6/5 stars on G2Crowd. Users love that the software is easy to use, affordable, and updated frequently. They also like the mobile apps.

Integrations

Winner: QuickBooks Online

There’s no question here. QuickBooks Online offers around 280 integrations as opposed to Zoho Books’ 33.

Security

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online implement strong security measures. Each uses data encryption, redundancy, routing testing, and physical security measures to protect their data centers.

To learn more about cloud security read our posts Is My Accounting Safe In The Cloud? and What Is SSL? A First Look At Online Security.

And The Winner Is…

Zoho Books VS QuickBooks Online

Zoho Books definitely gives QBO a run for its money. However, there a few areas where QuickBooks Online beats out its opponent. QuickBooks Online offers more integrations, more advanced features, better tax support, and payroll. The lack of payroll, or any payroll integrations, seriously rules Zoho Books as an option for many businesses, solidifying QuickBooks Online’s place as the winner.

QuickBooks Online is ideal for small to medium-sized businesses in need of strong accounting, so much so that we’ve named it the Best Accounting Software for Small Businesses. The software offers strong accounting, decent mobile apps, ample integrations, and beautiful invoicing. QuickBooks Online also has a unique new lending feature, QuickBooks Capital, so you can potentially have your small business accounting and financing all in one place.

However, just because we named QuickBooks Online the winner, doesn’t mean that Zoho Books isn’t the better choice for your business. Zoho Books is ideal for small businesses looking for an easy-to-use accounting software with strong mobile apps and plenty of features. It’s also a great choice if you need international invoicing. If you don’t require payroll or budgeting, you could save a chunk of change by going with Zoho Books instead of QuickBooks — plus, you’ll get much better customer support.

Or, maybe after reading this post, neither option seems right for you. Don’t worry! Our comprehensive accounting software reviews can help you find the perfect bookkeeping solution for your business. If you need extra help deciding, read our Complete Guide To Choose Online Accounting Software.

Check out our full Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online reviews for more information. Be sure to take advantage of the free trials each software provides and feel free to reach out with any questions you might have.

The post Zoho Books VS QuickBooks Online appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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