Lowe’s Credit Card Review: All The Business And Personal Credit Cards Offered By Lowe’s

Does your business buy at Lowe’s frequently? Or perhaps you require a lot of hardware store shopping? Then one of the home improvement store’s branded credit cards may work for you.

With five options — all sharing the promise of discounted purchases — Lowe’s has built a strong stable of cards. Depending on your business, one may be right for you while other owners might pick something different.

Curious which Lowe’s card is right for you? Keep reading to find out!

Card Name Best For
Lowe’s Advantage Card Businesses that don’t need employee cards
Lowe’s Business Account Credit Card Small businesses
Lowe’s Accounts Receivable Business Credit Card Medium to large businesses
Lowe’s Business Rewards Card Businesses looking for a full credit card
Lowe’s PreLoad Card Businesses that don’t want to undergo a credit check

Lowe’s Advantage Card

Lowe’s Advantage Card


Lowe’s Advantage Card
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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


26.99%, Variable

Technically a personal card, the Lowe’s Advantage Card is a simple store-branded card offered in conjunction with Synchrony Bank. This no-annual-fee card features a 5% discount on eligible purchases at Lowe’s. Note that the 5% discount cannot be used in tandem with coupons, price-matching, or various discounts, including military and employee.

If you’d rather have special financing instead of the 5% discount, Lowe’s offers two ways to opt out of the discount and into special financing. The first way lets you nab six months 0% APR on purchases above $299.

The second way enables you to receive special financing on purchases above $2,000. The APR changes based on how many payments you plan to make:

  • 36 fixed monthly payments at 3.99% APR
  • 60 fixed monthly payments at 5.99% APR
  • 84 fixed monthly payments at 7.99% APR

If you choose either financing option, the 5% discount will be voided. That means you’ll want to use a financing route only when necessary.

Beyond its benefits, this card can only be used at Lowe’s; you won’t be able to buy items from other stores. Additionally, its base APR is relatively high, which could be something to watch out for.

Lowe’s Business Account Credit Card

Lowe’s Business Account


Lowe’s Business Account
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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


16.99%* or 21.99%**, Variable

Just like with the Advantage Card, Lowe’s Business Account Credit Card offers 5% off every eligible purchase you make at Lowe’s. However, unlike the Advantage Card, there are no financing options.

On the flip side, you do gain access to various cardholder promotions. There are also discounted delivery options for both in-store and online orders. As an additional bonus, you won’t need to worry about an annual fee.

Lowe’s further offers an online portal to view details about your account. This portal will let you pay online and view both prior statements and past activity. You’ll also be able to request credit line increases and download up to six months of account activity to Excel, CSV, QuickBooks, or Quicken.

Lowe’s Accounts Receivable Business Credit Card

Lowe’s Accounts Receivable


Lowe’s Accounts Receivable
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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


5% – 18%*, Variable

Lowe’s Accounts Receivable Business Credit Card is very similar to the Business Account card; you’ll collect 5% off every eligible Lowe’s purchase without any special financing options. You’ll get some of the same benefits, too. These include cardholder promotions and discounted delivery on both in-store and online purchases. There’s also no annual fee.

Beyond the 5% discount, however, it does include a few more features. You’ll be able to establish and link accounts to one another in a secondary-parent relationship. You’ll further be able to request and manage authorized buyers, a solid extra for businesses looking to give cards to employees.

Lowe’s also sets you up with in-depth billing features. You’ll be able to track payments, view the details of transactions, and consolidate all statements for all linked accounts. The online portal further lets you request credit line increases and download up to six months of activity to Excel, CSV, Quickbooks, or Quicken.

Lowe’s Business Rewards Card From American Express

Lowe’s Business Rewards Card from American Express



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


17.99% – 26.99%, Variable

The only fully-fledged credit card on the list, Lowe’s Business Rewards Card from American Express offers a way to earn while spending at Lowe’s, as well as with other merchants. You’ll net three points per dollar spent at US restaurants and office supply stores, and on wireless telephone services purchased from US-based service providers. Lowe’s purchases collect two points per dollar while everything else scores one point per dollar.

Points earned with this card can be redeemed for either Lowe’s or American Express gift cards.

On top of the points scheme, you’ll still get the 5% discount when shopping at Lowe’s, discounted delivery, and bulk rate pricing. You’ll also net 5,000 bonus points when you spend $100 in your first 30 days. The card further offers no interest on purchases during your first six months.

There are standard credit card benefits, too. These include employee cards, extended warranty for up to two years, purchase protection against theft and damage, and travel insurance. This card comes with no annual fee, although foreign transactions tack on a 2.7% charge.

Lowe’s PreLoad Card

Lowe’s PreLoad Card


Lowe’s PreLoad Card
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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


N/A (this is a pre-loaded card)

If you’re worried about a credit check, Lowe’s offers their PreLoad Card. This card requires no credit check when signing up. Note that this means it is not an actual credit card; instead, it’s a preloaded card that you top up by adding money to it via a debit, a credit, or a checking account.

Even though it’s not a credit card, you’ll still receive the 5% discount when you shop at Lowe’s. You can also issue cards to employees or subcontractors at any time. Money can be added to employee cards via an online tool that also tracks and allows you to budget employee spending.

While it doesn’t come with many of the standard credit card features, you will have access to Discover’s zero liability policy. This protects you against unauthorized charges when reported promptly.

How To Qualify For A Lowe’s Credit Card

For three basic store cards, you’ll likely want to have fair (also known as “average”) credit or better before applying. That means you’ll need to aim for a credit score of 580 or higher. The Rewards Card from American Express, meanwhile, likely requires a good score or better. For this card, shoot for a score of 680 or higher. The PreLoad card does not require a credit score.

Unsure of your credit score? Find out by visiting one of our favorite (and free!) credit-score-checking sites.

You’ll also need to be a US resident and at least 18 years of age. You can apply online and in-store.

Which Card Should I Get?

Lowe’s aims their cards at different types of customers. As such, what works for one business may not work for yours. Here’s a quick rule of thumb to help you decide:

  • If you are a very small business with no employees, then go with the Lowe’s Advantage Card.
  • If your business is slightly larger but doesn’t require your employees to have a store card, the Lowe’s Business Account Credit Card should be enough.
  • If your business is large enough that your employees need cards, then the Lowe’s Accounts Receivable Business Credit Card should work for you.
  • Businesses that are looking for a card that not only earns Lowe’s rewards but can also be used elsewhere will need to apply for the Lowe’s Business Rewards Card from American Express because that’s the only full-fledged card Lowe’s offers.
  • Businesses that want to avoid a credit check will need to sign up for the Lowe’s PreLoad Card.

The post Lowe’s Credit Card Review: All The Business And Personal Credit Cards Offered By Lowe’s appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Build Credit With A Credit Card

As a business owner, having a solid credit history and a good credit score is important. Potential creditors will often use your credit history to consider if you qualify for a loan or credit card—both of which could be great tools to improve your business.

Unfortunately, life happens and you may find yourself with a weak credit history and a lower-than-desirable credit score. Luckily, not all hope is lost. With some smart moves, you’ll be able to turn your credit history around.

One of the most accessible ways to rebuild credit is with a credit card. Because there are plenty of cards aimed towards users with weak credit, you can obtain a line of credit with ease. Keep reading to find out how a credit card can help you!

Apply For A Secured Or Credit-Building Card

If you don’t have a credit history, or perhaps your score is low, getting a secured card or one designated for credit-building is a great option. While secured cards require a security deposit (usually several hundred dollars), you’ll be able to use them to build credit.

Plus, because these cards are targeted towards low-credit users, you likely won’t need to worry about having your credit card application rejected. Besides that, you normally shouldn’t have to pay an annual fee—meaning that improving your credit score won’t cost anything.

Among the top secured cards include Discover it Secured, Capital One Secured Mastercard, and Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card. If you want a more in-depth breakdown, check out our post on the best secured cards for small businesses.

Don’t Apply For Too Many Cards At Once

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Every time you apply for a credit card, the issuer will do a hard pull on your credit history. Each hard pull can impact your credit score. Too many in quick succession may drop it even further—something someone with an already low credit score should try to avoid.

This happens because creditors will see you attempting to open multiple lines of credit quickly. Doing so makes it appear possible that you are in desperate need of money — and therefore a risky candidate.

Only apply for a card you need and know you will get. After a few months, if you still need another card for whatever reason, then you can apply for a second card.

Keep Accounts Open

Even if you aren’t using a credit card, having an open account can still look good on your credit report. The longer you have an account open, the less risky you’ll appear to creditors. This is because they see your credit history as more predictable.

Additionally, closing an account lowers the average age of your accounts. This can damage your credit score because average account age makes up 15% of your FICO score, the primary credit score calculation used by many creditors.

So if you’ve signed up for a card to get the $200 bonus, keep the account open. Better yet, look for a card with an excellent bonus offer that you’ll actually use in the future. This way you’ll not only have a card with a longer history on your credit report, but you’ll also be consistently utilizing your line of credit.

Maintain A Low Balance

One of the most important factors that impact your credit score is credit utilization. You’ll want to only utilize up to 30% of your available credit. Ideally, you’ll keep the amount you utilize between 1% and 10%.

To determine how much you can spend, determine your card’s maximum credit line. Once you know that, plan to only spend up to 30% of that amount.

Additionally, around 30% of your FICO score is determined by how much of the credit line you use — that’s almost a third of your score! It’s vitally important to keep track of how much credit you’re utilizing—especially if you’re working on improving your score.

Make Timely Payments In Full

There are two very simple things you can to do improve your credit score with a credit card: make on-time payments and pay off the balance in full. A basic goal is to only buy when you know you’ll be able to pay. Instead of thinking of a credit card as “free money” or a loan, think of it like a debit card where you can only spend what you have in your bank account.

It’s also worth noting that if you make repeated late payments, your issuer may report you to credit bureaus. This will put a negative mark on your credit report, ultimately lowering your credit score even further. Plus, your payment history can make up to 35% of your FICO score. This means that making payments on time will positively impact your score more than other factors.

One way to make sure you always pay on time is to set up automatic payments. This way you won’t forget to pay off your balance. Of course, you will still need to make sure there’s enough money in your bank account so that your payment isn’t rejected.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, building up your credit with a credit card is about diligence and patience—this won’t be something that changes overnight.

However, as long as you pick the right card for your business, spend smart, and stay on top of payments, your credit history should and improve and your score should rise. Once this happens, you’ll be able to apply for cards with better rewards and loans with more competitive rates, letting you focus on what matters: your business.

If you’re uncertain of what your credit score is, check out our list of the best free credit score-checking websites. Or perhaps you do know your credit score, but have spotted an error on your history. In that case, find out how to dispute this error.

Good luck!

The post How To Build Credit With A Credit Card appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Step-By-Step Guide To Starting And Funding A Cleaning Business

Entropy is a powerful force. If there’s one thing you can rely on, it’s that everything gets dirty sooner or later. If it doesn’t get dirty, it gets cluttered. Add in the increasing prevalence of two-income households, the pace of modern work, and long commutes and it’s not surprising that more and more people are letting their chores slide. And that’s not even taking into consideration the huge messes businesses make. The fields are ripe for the harvest — why not cut yourself a piece of the action and start a cleaning business?

Luckily, the overhead costs of starting a cleaning business are fairly low (at least up until you start adding staff). Still, you’ll want to have a good sense of what you’re getting into before you dive into the cleaning industry. It’s vital to have a plan to tackle the expenses and challenges you’ll encounter along the way.

Not sure where to start? We’ll break starting and funding a cleaning business into a step-by-step process below.

Make A Business Plan

What separates a business from a side gig? Well, a lot of stuff, but one of the bigger points of delineation is whether or not you have a business plan and a clear strategy.

Creating a business plan can be an intimidating prospect, but you don’t need to have a business degree to write one. You don’t even need to have taken a class.

A business plan is, essentially, an outline documenting what your business is, what it does, how it’s organized, its financial means, and a strategy for how you intend to grow.

There are a lot of resources online that can give you an idea of what a business plan looks like, as well as templates to help you get organized, but a typical business plan has the following parts:

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Market Overview
  • Sales & Marketing Strategy
  • Operating Plan
  • Organizations & Management Team
  • Financials

Calculate Startup Costs

The good news about launching a cleaning business is that it’s possible to start one with relatively little overhead.

At a bare minimum, you’ll need cleaning supplies. This assumes you’ll be doing the cleaning yourself and aren’t taking on any additional employees right away. If you’re cleaning residential homes, these supplies will more or less be the same ones you use to clean your own home. If you’re getting into commercial cleaning right away, you’ll likely have to invest in equipment (and possibly personnel) that can handle larger volume messes and expansive spaces.

If you plan on cleaning as more than a side gig, you’ll also need to pay fees to register your business. This isn’t a very big expense if you’re content with running a sole proprietorship (or partnership, if you’re starting it with someone else) –usually less than $50. You can also file a DBA, which allows you to legally do business under another name (the name of your company). We’ll get a bit deeper into it in the next section.

Additionally, you should factor in any initial advertising costs, as well as transportation costs for getting yourself or your employees to the work sites.

Register Your Business

Registering your business may sound intimidating, but it can actually be one of the easiest parts of starting a business.

Why should you register your business? At minimum, it protects the name you’re using to do business so that no one else in your area can (legally) use it. It can also help you qualify for business-to-business services and services that require an EIN number.

Incorporating, on the other hand, is a more complicated and expensive process that comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Here are the most common types of businesses you can register as:

  • Sole Proprietorship: By default, this is the type of business you’re running when you initially create one. You and your business are, for tax and liability purposes, considered the same entity. In fact, if you want to do business under a name other than your own, you’ll need to file a DBA (doing business as) with your local county clerk.
  • Partnership: Essentially the same as a sole proprietorship, except you started it with one or more other people. By default, you’re each considered to own an equal share of the business for tax and liability purposes.
  • Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs): If you’ve seen LLC after a corporation’s name, you’re dealing with this type of company. LLCs offer limited liability protection for their owners without the full complexity of a corporation. Each state has its own rules for how to start and maintain an LLC, and you don’t necessarily have to register your LLC in the state where you’re doing business (although you’ll generally want to). LLC owners report their business earnings and losses on their personal taxes.
  • C-Corp: This is the “basic,” default form of incorporation. Shareholders are considered the owner(s) of the company and receive limited liability protection; however, the business decisions are made by corporate officers who may or may not be shareholders. The corporation is taxed separately and shareholders pay income tax on dividends. To form a C-corp, you’ll file articles of incorporation with your state.
  • S-Corp: S-corps are similar to C-corps in most ways, but come with a few additional restrictions: you must have fewer than 100 shareholders and they have to all be U.S. citizens or residents. Unlike C-corps, profits and losses are reported on personal taxes, not unlike an LLC. In addition to filing articles of incorporation, you’ll also need to file IRS Form 2553.

Get Business Insurance

Depending on your local and state laws, business insurance may or may not be optional. However, given that cleaning involves a lot of physical contact with valuable items (not to mention the fact that you will be in the profession of making floors slippery), you may want to consider getting insurance even if you’re not required to have it.

General liability insurance can protect you in the case of lawsuits or accidents, including property damage and personal injury claims against your business. It can also make your business seem more professional to prospective clients.

Your own equipment is also subject to wear and tear, as well as accidents, so you may want to consider property insurance for any items that aren’t easily replaced.

While those are the big two worth considering, you may also want to consider other types of business insurance to help cover anything from worker’s comp claims to vehicle damage.

Seek Business Funding

Now that you have a sense of what your expenses will be, it’s time to see if you can cover them out of pocket and still pay your rent. If you can’t, and are unable to tighten your belt without sacrificing the tenets of your business plan, you may need to seek some source of external funding.

Where should you look?

Personal Savings

If you’ve saved up for a rainy day, the weather might start looking pretty stormy right about the time you’re starting a business. The nice thing about dipping into your savings is that you’re not taking on debt and all the expenses that go with it.

On the other hand, you are risking your own money, along with the lost-opportunity costs of not being able to invest that money in something else.

And, of course, you may not have been able to save enough to cover your expenses anyway.

Tap Your Support Network

If you don’t have the money handy, another option is to ask your family or friends for a small loan. Generally speaking, your support network will give you a better deal than even the most competitive bank will.

Asking your friends and family for money can be tacky and awkward if you don’t put their concerns at ease. You also may damage your relationships if you aren’t able to pay the money back within the expected period of time. It’s important to take a professional and organized approach.

If you do go this route, strongly consider formalizing any agreements you make so that all parties are fully aware of what they’re risking and stand to gain from the arrangement. Create and sign a contract, just as you would do with a traditional lender.

Credit Cards

For purchases you can pay off quickly, it’s hard to beat the convenience and incentives of credit cards.

Credit cards come in both personal and business varieties. You don’t actually have to own a business to get a business credit card, but their rewards programs are generally more geared towards business expenses.

If you’re going to use credit cards, be sure to use them wisely. That means paying them off within the interest-free grace period offered by your card’s provider. For personal credit cards, this is legally at least 21 days from the time you receive your bill. For business credit cards, there is no legal minimum, but most extend a similar one as a courtesy.

Just remember, if you fail to pay your card off with that window, carrying a balance on a credit card is an extremely expensive way to finance your business. And avoid taking out cash advances on your cards unless absolutely necessary.

Recommended Option: Capital One Spark Cash Select For Business

Capital One Spark Cash Select For Business


capital one spark cash select
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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


14.74% – 22.74%, Variable

Spark Cash Select for Business is great for businesses that don’t have their expenses concentrated in a single area, or that don’t want to worry about complex reward programs. You’ll simply earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make. There’s also no limit on the reward, so you don’t have to worry about exceeding a maximum threshold: whether you spend $20 or $500,000 in a year on your card, you’ll still get 1.5% back.

You will need to have excellent credit to qualify, however.

Recommended Option: Capital One Spark Classic

Capital One Spark Classic For Business


Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


24.74%, Variable

If you don’t qualify for Spark Cash Select for Business, Capital One offers an equally versatile card that’s much easier to qualify for. Spark Classic offers a similar cashback reward program, but the rate of return is 1% rather than 1.5%.

While not the most exciting card, it’s a good one for repairing your credit.

Loans

Business loans are frequently out of reach for brand new businesses–even the more risk-taking lenders generally want to see that you can keep your business together for at least six months before they’ll lend to you. That said, there are exceptions to the rule, with some lenders focusing on new businesses.

And remember, when you’re starting out you don’t necessarily need a “business” loan; personal loans can leverage your personal credit for an early cash infusion even you need it. If you’re buying a specific piece of equipment, you should also consider equipment financing.

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

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Lending Club is a good option for individuals who may not have the strongest credit, but have a good debt-to-income ratio. The borrowing range is fairly narrow at $1k to $40k, but when you’re just starting out you don’t want to go too deeply into debt anyway. You’ll have three-to-five years to pay it off, which makes it fairly manageable while you’re building up your business.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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Lendio takes some of the frustration out of applying for a loan by allowing you to apply to their entire network of lenders all at once. If you’re thinking about tapping the alternative lending market for the first time, it’s a pretty good place to start.

They can’t necessarily help every business, but a shotgun approach can sometimes be easier than finding that one special lender.

Recommended Option: Upstart

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If you’re having trouble finding a lender who will work with you, take a look at Upstart. You’ll need to have at least fair credit and a regular source of income, but otherwise, Upstart’s way of evaluating potential borrowers is pretty unconventional (good news if you’re starting a business).

Better yet, Upstart’s rates are pretty reasonable and you’ll have three or five years (one or the other, not between) to pay your balance off. Unfortunately, they don’t currently lend within West Virginia or Iowa.

Need more options? Check out our feature on startup loans. Need a vehicle for the business? Read our auto loans guide.

Choose The Right Software

As your business grows and becomes more complex, managing the logistics of your company can become quite labor-intensive. If you don’t want to sink too many man-hours into keeping track of all that stuff, you’ll want to delegate it to a software program.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to enroll in a bunch of expensive SaaS platforms if it’s just you cleaning for a handful of clients, but it doesn’t hurt to know what kinds of options are available.

Types of software you may want to consider include:

Field Service Management 

This type of software centralizes processes and workflows for businesses that have employees who are dispatched to external sites for work. They often include features like scheduling, dispatching, and booking. Some also come with invoicing, payment processing, and customer notifications, so it’s quite possible to find an all-in-one service that meets your needs.

Scheduling Software

If field management software sounds like overkill, you can try scheduling software to manage your appointments and those of your employees.

Inventory Tracking

If your business is growing, and you no longer have time to run out to buy supplies every time you need them or use your clients’ stash, you may find it helpful to formally keep track of your inventory.

Accounting Software

It’s always a good idea to keep track of your expenses, accounts receivable, payroll and related issues, especially as your business grows and becomes more complex.

Data QuickBooks Online Xero Wave Zoho Books FreshBooks

Best Cloud Accounting Software

Best Cloud-Based Accounting Software

Best Cloud Accounting Software

Best Cloud-Based Accounting Software

Best Cloud Accounting Software

Pricing

$20 – 150/month

$9 – 60/month

Free

$9 – 29/month

$15 – $50/month

Customer Support Fair Poor Good

Very Good

Very Good

Ease of Use Moderate Moderate Very Easy Very Easy

Very Easy

Accounting Method Cash and Accrual Cash and Accrual Cash and Accrual Cash and Accrual Cash and Accrual
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Bolster Your Web Presence

A cleaning business can get pretty far on word-of-mouth and savvy networking, but expanding your reach in the digital age usually means you’ll want to bolster your web presence.

A website is still a very important way for potential clients to find out information about your business and what services you offer. Happily, for a cleaning service, it doesn’t have to be all that complicated. If you don’t want to contract the job out, there are plenty of services online that make it easy to build your own decent-looking website.

A spiffy website is only one aspect of an online strategy, however. You still need to get people to visit it. You’ll want to consider factors like search engine optimization (SEO) so that, for example, the phrase “kitchen cleaning Rochester” will return your website in the top results.

You may also want to use social media to build brand recognition, steer traffic to your site, and announce specials or changes to your services.

Delegate Work

If it’s just you and a cart full of cleaning supplies, you can skip this part. However, if you’re planning to grow beyond what one mere mortal can clean in a day, you may be taking on more people.

Employees

Taking on additional people as employees come with many advantages: you’ll be able to get significantly more work done, have a larger pool of expertise to draw from, and be more flexible with scheduling. This does come with some additional costs, as you’ll be paying some of the taxes on their salary as well as offering benefits (at least in theory), so be sure to grow your staff wisely and at a pace that fits the amount of business your generating.

In exchange, you’re allowed greater control over the parameters of how your employee works, where, and at what time. Setting a wage that’s fair and not abusing this relationship will generally improve morale and help you avoid the costly process of employee turnover.

Contractors

If you aren’t quite ready to take on employees but need additional help, you can hire contractors. Contractors are free agents who work for themselves even though they may be regularly and continuously used by a particular client (that’s you). Since they’re self-employed, you don’t have to worry about additional expenses beyond paying their fee.

Beware that many businesses make the mistake of treating 1099 contractors as employees, which can get you into pretty serious trouble. If you want to have employees, you have to hire them. As a general rule, you have no say over what jobs a contractor decides to take, the methods they use to complete the job, or the precise time they choose to do it.

Advertise Your Business

A strong web presence and social media campaign can get help get your name out, but we aren’t quite at the point where advertising is obsolete.

Since a cleaning business is constrained by geography, you have to physically send someone out to do the job. That means you can use your modest advertising budget to buy ads in your local market, which is usually cheaper than trying to grab eyeballs from several states away. Ideally, you’ll want to seek ad platforms utilized by the types of people who are likely to buy your services. Cash-strapped kids at the local state college campus probably don’t have a budget for cleaning services, for example (although some fraternities or sororities may), while busy soccer moms might.

Once you know who you’re advertising to, you can select a medium that fits your target demographic. Once you start getting new customers, ask them where they heard about your business so you can get a sense of which ads are working and which aren’t.

Even if you don’t have money to spend on advertising right away, put the word out to your own social network that you’re offering cleaning services. Word can spread fast, especially if you have a reputation as a trustworthy person.

Final Thoughts

We still haven’t invented self-cleaning spaces, so you have a potentially bottomless demand for your services. With relatively low overhead, a housekeeping or cleaning business is one of the more accessible industries to jump into, so if you have the skills and the inclination, why not give it a try?

The post The Step-By-Step Guide To Starting And Funding A Cleaning Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Start And Fund A Catering Business: The Step-By-Step Guide

Does serving delicious food to a crowd of partygoers sound like a dream? Do you want to take your love of desserts to weddings and other special events? If so, becoming a professional caterer could be the right career path for you.

Sure, you could search your local job listings to find a catering position, but wouldn’t it be great to be your own boss? If creating your own menu and serving up delicious food and beverages at events interests you, why not start your own catering business?

Maybe it’s been a lifelong dream to operate your own catering business. Or maybe you just love to cook and want to turn it into a career. Whether you’ve already taken steps to launch your own business or you don’t know quite where to start, this post is for you.

In this article, we’re going to explore exactly what it takes to start and fund your own catering business. We’ll start by discussing how to create a business plan and why a plan is a necessity for a successful business. Then, we’ll delve into the expenses you’ll encounter and how you can cover those costs. We’ll also talk about choosing your business structure, building your web presence, and advertising methods that can bring in new customers.

Ready to go? Let’s get started on your path to entrepreneurship!

Create Your Business Plan

What Information to Bring Accountant for Small Business Taxes

Starting a business without a detailed business plan is similar to taking a cross-country trip without a GPS or a map. In short, it’s not a wise move. Your business plan should not only include details about your business in the present — your management team and your mission statement, for example– but it should also serve as an outline for how your business will hit future targets.

Your business plan acts as a blueprint, outlining how your company will become successful and profitable. For that reason, your business plan won’t look exactly like the plan of another business — even one within the same industry. However, even though details may vary, there are a few common sections that can be found in all business plans. Those include:

  • Executive Summary: Describes the content of the business plan
  • Overview: Includes background of the business, legal structure, and other key details
  • Industry Analysis: Overview of the industry, including the size, nature, and any current trends
  • Competitive Analysis: Overview of your competition
  • Marketing: An outline of your marketing strategy and how you’ll reach customers
  • Operations Plan: Description of the operations of your business
  • Management: Bios and skills of your management team
  • Financials: An overview of current and future revenues

Your business plan not only helps you hit your goals, but it’s also critical when it’s time to obtain financing. Banks, nonprofit lenders, and even some alternative lenders may require a business plan as part of a loan application, especially for startup loans.

Pick Your Niche

While it may be tempting to try to cater for every event in your area, you’re going to stretch yourself thin … and likely set yourself up for failure. Instead of trying to offer services to everyone, pick a niche.

You may already have an idea in mind. For example, maybe it’s always been your dream to be a wedding caterer. Be sure to also consider the type of food you like to make. If you prefer to make salads, sandwiches, and other lighter fare, consider catering for business or school functions, luncheons, and other daytime events. If you prefer to serve fancier entrees, consider catering for weddings and special events.

Another step to take before selecting your niche is to do some market research in your local area. Where are there gaps in catering availability? What niche is overcrowded with the competition? You may find that there a large number of wedding caterers already in your area. Unless you can bring something new to the table (being the only caterer to serve Southern-style barbecue, for example), you might want to consider filling a different customer need.

There are a wide variety of catering niches to consider, including:

  • Weddings
  • Corporate Events
  • Adult Parties
  • School Events
  • Children’s Parties
  • Festivals
  • Sports Events

With an idea of your niche and the type of food you need to prepare, you can move into the next step: planning your menu.

Create Your Menu

KDS Kitchen Display System

Once you have a niche in mind, you’ll be able to narrow down your menu choices. Let’s face it — if you’re planning to focus on children’s parties or school functions, you won’t exactly need filet mignon on the menu.

You also want to consider what type of food you’re experienced at making. While you can certainly test out new ideas in the future, you want to put your best foot forward when starting out. You also want to offer a variety of options while keeping your menu at a manageable size. Having a menu with too many items or items that contain ingredients that are difficult to source could cause unnecessary stress for you and your clients.

It’s also important to remember those with dietary restrictions. Consider adding a few options to your menu that are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or dairy-free to help expand your customer base.

Performing a test run or two can help you further improve your menu. Once you have your menu in place, test it out on a few friends and family members. Get their honest feedback on where you excel, as well as where you fall flat. Tweak recipes as needed, change techniques to become more efficient, and be honest with yourself about what works and what doesn’t. Then, alter your menu accordingly.

Source Your Ingredients

After you create your menu, you’ll have a better idea of the ingredients needed to prepare your food. When you first get your business off the ground, you may be able to get the ingredients you need by purchasing from a wholesale club in your area. However, as your business grows larger and you have more events to cater, you’ll want to purchase your ingredients from other sources.

You can get fresh produce from local farmers. Start building these relationships by visiting your local farmers’ market. You can also build relationships with restaurant suppliers and food service vendors to purchase bulk ingredients at reduced prices.

Calculate Startup Costs

In many states, you will be unable to use a residential kitchen to prepare your food. If you plan to cater from home, you must contact the health department in your area to find out more about the regulations of home-based catering businesses, including inspection and permit requirements.

In most cases, you’ll need to rent space for your kitchen. There are two ways to go about this.

The first is renting your own commercial space. This is the more expensive option but is a necessity if you plan to cater full time.

If you only plan to cater events occasionally or on weekends, you may be able to rent a commercial kitchen for a few hours on the days when you need it. This is a more affordable option since you won’t have to invest in equipment, but it’s not ideal for full-time caterers.

If you aren’t renting space in a kitchen that’s already stocked, you’ll also need industrial equipment that is used to prepare your food. Some of the items you’ll need include:

  • Commercial Ovens
  • Stoves
  • Deep Fryers
  • Sinks
  • Refrigerators
  • Walk-In Freezers
  • Mixers & Blenders
  • Pots & Pans
  • Knives
  • Cooking Utensils & Tools
  • Storage Containers
  • Dishwasher

You’ll also need equipment that you’ll bring on-site for serving and keeping food at the optimum temperature, including:

  • Serving Dishes & Trays
  • Serving Utensils
  • Chafing Dishes
  • Carving Stations
  • Grills
  • Heat Lamps
  • Soup Kettles
  • Beverage Dispensers
  • Coffee Station

An additional cost to add to your list is a catering van. This van will be used to transport your food and equipment to venues. You may save money initially by purchasing a used vehicle. However, you need to ensure that you know the complete history of the vehicle. You may also incur additional costs if your used vehicle needs repairs soon after purchasing it.

Some caterers also provide table settings, glassware, and utensils, but this adds to your initial investment. You may also provide additional items for your events, including chairs and/or chair covers, tablecloths, and centerpieces, but again, this will add to your startup costs.

Before starting your business, sit down and make a list of your total expenses. You can tailor the list to your own business. For example, if you don’t serve fried food, you won’t have to invest in deep fryers. If you specialize in only desserts, you may have pastry tools, cake displays and stands, and bakeware sets on your list.

Once you’ve made your list, start shopping around to get an idea of costs. Check out prices online or visit local commercial kitchen equipment and supply stores. Once you have an idea of how much funding you need, it’s a smart idea to add about 30% to those costs to prepare for the unexpected. For example, if you’ve priced everything at $100,000, apply for a loan of $130,000 to make sure all of your bases are covered.

Register Your Business

Before you begin catering to clients, you need to register your business with federal, state, and local agencies.

First, you need to think of a business name. Brainstorm ideas to find a name that’s catchy and is a reflection of your brand. When you’ve come up with a great name, check your Secretary of State’s website to ensure that this name is not already being used by another business.

Next, you will need to select your business structure. This is an important step because your business structure determines how your business is taxed and your personal liability for debts incurred by the business. The types of business structures include:

Sole Proprietorship

This business is owned and operated by one person. This is the easiest business structure and does not require registration. Setting up a sole proprietorship is easy. However, this structure does not provide you with any protection against the debts and liabilities of your business.

General Partnership

This type of legal structure is made for businesses with two or more owners. These are the easiest to create, have a low cost of operation, and the fewest requirements. No state filing is required for a general partnership.

Limited Partnership

This is another type of structure for businesses with more than one owner. General partners in a limited partnership have unlimited liability. The remaining partners – limited partners – have limited liability. In most cases, the personal assets of limited partners are protected from being used to satisfy the liabilities and debts of the business.

Limited Liability Partnership

This type of structure is designed for professional service businesses. Personal assets of any partner can’t be used to cover the debts and liabilities of the business. However, all partners in an LLP are liable for their own acts, such as medical malpractice.

Limited Liability Company

An LLC is separate from its owners. This type of legal structure protects owners from personal liability without the higher tax rates and stricter requirements of corporations.

Corporation

Owners in a corporation are protected from personal liability for the debts of the business. Corporations are the most difficult to set up. However, it is necessary to choose this business structure if you plan to sell stock or raise large amounts of capital in the future.

The type of business structure you choose for your catering business will vary based on the number of owners and your plans for the future. Consult with an accountant or attorney to learn more about your options and which is best for you.

After you choose your business structure, you will need to register with the state where you will operate. You can register through your state’s Secretary of State website. Application and fee requirements vary by state. If you plan to offer services in more than one state, you will need to register with each state.

Another important step in registering your business is obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. This is a necessary step if your business will have employees now or in the future.

Get Permits & Licenses

After registering your business, it’s time to apply for the permits that you need to legally operate your business. It’s necessary to do this early in the game, as it may take weeks or even months to receive your required permits.

State and local laws surrounding permit and license requirements vary. Some of the permits and licenses you may need to legally operate your business include:

  • Business Licenses
  • Health Permits
  • Food-Handling Licenses
  • Liquor Licenses

You can contact the local health department, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control board, and other state and local agencies to learn more about the licenses required in your area, how to apply, and any applicable fees.

When working with food, you also face inspections from your local health department. The temperature of prepared and stored food, waste disposal, and the safety and condition of your cooking equipment are just a few of the things that will be inspected periodically.

Get Business Insurance

Protecting your catering business is important, and there’s no better way to protect yourself and your business than with business insurance. As a caterer, there are multiple insurance options to consider.

General liability insurance protects you from lawsuits that occur during events. This type of insurance covers physical injuries, property damage, and even damage to your reputation.

Another type of insurance to consider is errors and omission insurance, also known as E&O insurance. This insurance protects you from lawsuits that may be filed if a mistake is made. For example, if a client warns of an allergen and you include an ingredient that triggers an allergic reaction, this insurance would protect you from a potential lawsuit.

Property insurance should also be a consideration. This insurance protects your equipment, fixtures, and other property from damage or theft.

If you have employees, you will also need worker’s compensation insurance. This covers medical costs and lost wages from employees when they are injured or become sick. This also protects your business from lawsuits as a result of injuries.

If your business serves alcohol, you may also be required to carry liquor liability insurance, which protects your company from alcohol-related lawsuits.

Insurance requirements vary by state. Talk to your local insurance agent to find out more about the laws in your state and to create a personalized insurance policy for your new catering business.

Seek Business Funding

We’ve already reviewed many of the costs you’ll encounter when opening your own catering business. Now, it’s time to determine how to pay for those costs. Whether you have money in the bank or your bank account is looking a little slim, there are financing options available for you. Start your search with these options.

Personal Savings

If you’ve been putting away money into a savings account, now may be the perfect time to withdraw your funds. The great thing about personal savings is that you won’t take on debt with a lender. This means no payments, fees, or interest. The downside, though, is that if your business goes downhill, it may take your savings with it.

Friends & Family

Consider taking a loan from a friend or family member that’s willing to invest in a potentially lucrative new opportunity. Prepare your presentation, have your business plan in hand, and explain why your opportunity is worth investing in.

If you come to a mutual agreement, make sure to get everything in writing. It also goes without saying that this friend or family member should be treated like any other lender. That means paying back your loan as scheduled.

Instead of a loan, you may consider equity financing. In this scenario, your friend or family member would own part of your business. The major benefit is that you wouldn’t have to immediately start making loan payments. However, you would give over some ownership (and a slice of your future profits) and control over your business if you go this route. Undecided? Learn more about the pros and cons of debt vs. equity financing.

ROBS

If you have a retirement account, you may be able to leverage these funds for your new venture. Normally, if you withdraw before you reach a certain age, an early withdrawal penalty and income tax penalties apply. However, you can avoid these costs through a rollover as business startups (ROBS) plan.

A ROBS plan allows you to use your retirement funds for starting or expanding your business. Four steps are required to access your funds. First, a C-corporation is created. The next step is to create a retirement plan for the new C-corp. Then, you can roll over funds from your existing retirement account into your newly created plan. Finally, you will use these funds to purchase stock in your C-corporation, giving you access to the capital you need for your new business.

The process isn’t complicated, but there are rules you have to follow to ensure you maintain compliance. To take the guesswork out of ROBS, many aspiring business owners work with a ROBS provider. For a fee, ROBS providers will set up your ROBS account for you and will maintain it to ensure everything is done by the book.

Using your ROBS is a great way to fund startup costs. Other than a setup fee and a monthly maintenance fee charged by your ROBS provider, you do not pay additional fees. After all, you’re using your own money. However, if your business fails, you put your retirement funds at risk.

Recommended Option: Guidant Financial

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Guidant Financial can help you roll over your retirement funds into capital you can use for your catering business. In about three weeks, you can have the funds you need to start or grow your business with Guidant Financial’s ROBS plans.

To qualify, you must have a retirement account worth at least $50,000. Most retirement plans qualify, including:

  • 401(k)
  • 403(b)
  • Traditional IRA
  • TSP
  • SEP
  • Keogh

There are no credit score, time in business, or annual revenue requirements to qualify. However, you must have a business to fund, and you also must be an employee of that business in order to set up your ROBS plan.

Since you’re using your own funds, you don’t have to worry about monthly loan payments. However, you will have to pay a one-time setup fee of $4,995 followed by a maintenance fee of $139 per month to maintain your account.

In addition to ROBS plans, Guidant Financial also offers additional small business loan options including Small Business Administration loans and unsecured business loans.

Equipment Financing

As we discussed earlier, there is a lot of expensive equipment needed to start your catering business, from a catering vehicle to commercial kitchen equipment. A financing option to consider when you need new equipment is equipment financing.

With equipment financing, you can take possession of the equipment you need without paying the full cost up front. Instead, you’ll pay a down payment (typically 10% to 20% of the purchase price), then repay a lender in smaller, more affordable payments over time.

There are two main types of equipment financing to consider: equipment loans and equipment leases. With a loan, you’ll make a small down payment, then put the equipment into use immediately. You’ll make regular payments to the lender that are applied to the principal balance as well as interest and fees. Once you’ve repaid the loan as agreed, the equipment is yours to keep, sell, or trade.

The other type of equipment financing is an equipment lease. You’ll also pay a down payment and regular payments. However, at the end of your lease, you return the equipment. At this time, you can sign another lease for new equipment. This is a better option if you plan to upgrade your equipment frequently, although this option can be more expensive over the long term.

With equipment financing, you typically do not have to put up collateral. Instead, the equipment being financed is the collateral and can be seized by the lender if you don’t make your payments as agreed.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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Lendio’s network of over 75 lenders can provide you with up to $5 million to finance your equipment. Loan terms are between 1 to 5 years with rates starting at 7.5% for the most qualified borrowers. With some lenders, you can get your funding in as little as 24 hours. Some applicants may even qualify for 0% down financing.

To qualify for equipment financing, you must meet the following requirements:

  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue
  • Personal credit score of 650 or above
  • Time in business of at least 12 months

If you have credit challenges, you may still qualify provided you have proof of solid cash flow and revenue for at least 3 months.

The funds can be used to purchase the equipment you need for your catering business, including but not limited to commercial kitchen equipment, office furniture and fixtures, software, appliances, and commercial vehicles.

If you don’t qualify for equipment financing through Lendio’s network, you can shop around for other financing options. Through Lendio, you can apply for financial products including SBA loans, business credit cards, lines of credit, and startup loans.

Lines Of Credit

Running your own catering business comes with its challenges. Some challenges are expected — rushing around to cater a big wedding, for example — while others come when you least expect it. Whether it’s a slow season that has impacted your incoming cash flow, equipment that needs repairs, or an unforeseen emergency, even the most successful business face the unexpected.

For these times, it’s great to have a backup plan, like a flexible line of credit. A line of credit is different from a traditional loan because you don’t receive one lump sum that you immediately start repaying. Instead, a lender assigns you a credit limit — much like a credit card — and you can withdraw money from your line as needed.

Your line of credit is ready to use whenever you need it. You don’t have to immediately draw funds if there’s no need, and most lenders don’t charge fees if you don’t use your line of credit. When you do use your line of credit, you’ll repay your balance plus any fees and interest charged by the lender. Since this is a revolving form of credit, funds will be replenished and available to use again as you pay off your balance.

Recommended Option: Fundbox

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Fundbox offers lines of credit that can be used for any business purpose. One of the standout features of Fundbox is that the lender looks at the performance of your business — not just your credit score. Even if you’ve been turned down by other lenders in the past, you may still qualify for a Fundbox line of credit.

Through Fundbox, you may qualify for up to $100,000. Once approved, you can immediately make draws on your account. Repayment terms are 12 or 24 weeks, and rates start at just 4.66% of the draw amount. Weekly repayments are automatically deducted from your business checking account. There are no prepayment penalties, all remaining fees are waived if you pay off early, and there are never any fees if you don’t make a draw.

To qualify, you must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue
  • Holder of a business checking account
  • At least 2 months of activity in accounting software OR at least 3 months of transactions in a business bank account

Business Credit Card

Another source of financing that’s great for covering unexpected expenses is a business credit card. A business credit card works just like your personal card. You can use your card online and in stores to make purchases anywhere credit cards are accepted. When you use your card, the lender charges interest on the borrowed portion of funds. If you don’t use your card, you aren’t required to pay interest. However, annual fees and other charges may apply.

Business credit cards are great for emergencies or for quickly resolving cash flow issues. You can also use your credit card for recurring expenses, such as gas for your catering van. If you go this route, apply for a low-interest rewards card that gives you cash back or other perks just for using your card.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Cash

Chase Ink Business Cash



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.49% – 21.49%, Variable

With Chase Ink Business Cash, you can earn rewards just for using your card to pay for your business expenses. Using this card gets you 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone services. You can earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 used at gas stations and restaurants. These offers renew each year on your account anniversary. For all other purchases, you can earn unlimited 1% cash back.

New cardmembers can take advantage of a $500 cash back bonus offer when $3,000 is spent within 3 months of opening an account. This card also comes with additional benefits including purchase protection, extended warranty protection, and free employee cards.

There is no annual fee for the Ink Business Cash credit card, and it comes with a 0% introductory APR for the first 12 months. After the introductory period, the card has a variable APR of 15.49% to 21.49%.

This card is recommended for borrowers with good to excellent credit scores.

Vendor Financing

As a caterer, you’ll establish relationships with vendors. You’ll purchase your ingredients, supplies, and other necessary items from these vendors. Many times, you’ll purchase these items up front. Other times, however, you may need a little help in the form of vendor financing.

With vendor financing, a lender will pay your vendors up front so you can get the supplies necessary for running your business. You’ll then be able to spread your purchase out over several smaller payments. Like other financial products, you’ll pay fees and/or interest for the convenience. While the cost of borrowing may be higher than making a purchase up front, the extra expense may be well worth the cost if you’re in a financial bind.

Recommended Option: Behalf

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You can pay your vendors immediately without putting up the money up front by working with Behalf. Through Behalf, you can get up to $50,000 to pay your vendors. Then, you have up to 6 months to repay the lender.

Monthly fees start at 1% of the borrowing amount and are based on your creditworthiness. There are no origination fees, membership fees, or other hidden costs to borrow from Behalf.

There are no time in business, annual revenue, or credit score requirements to qualify. However, Behalf will perform a hard pull on your credit once you submit your application.

Personal Loans For Business

You have a solid credit score, but small business lenders won’t even give you a second glance. What gives?

Many small business loans have time in business and annual revenue requirements. This is fine when your business is already operating, but what do you do when you need a loan before you even open your doors? Try applying for a personal loan for business.

As a startup, you may find it challenging to qualify for a small business loan. However, you can use your own personal credit score and income to qualify for a personal loan that is used for business expenses.

These loans don’t have time in business, annual revenue, or business credit score requirements, so you can qualify even if you’ve not yet catered a single event. Personal loans are available for a wide range of credit scores. However, having a high credit score can help you qualify for the best interest rates and terms.

Recommended Option: LendingPoint

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LendingPoint specializes in personal loans, offering qualified borrowers $2,000 to $25,000. Rates range from 9.99% to 35.99% with repayment terms of 24 to 48 months. An origination fee of 0% to 6% of the borrowing amount may apply. Payments are made twice per month.

You can quickly and easily qualify for a LendingPoint personal loan. To receive an offer in just minutes, you need:

  • Proof of employment & income
  • Bank statements
  • Voided check
  • Driver’s license or government-issued ID

To qualify for a loan, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a social security number
  • Have at least $20,000 in annual income
  • Have a verifiable bank account
  • Live in a state serviced by LendingPoint
  • Have a credit score of at least 585

Choose The Right Software

pos with raw ingredient tracking

From keeping track of events to accepting credit cards, the right software can help you do it all. As a caterer, there are several types of software you should consider investing in to keep operations running efficiently.

Accounting Software

This software allows you to perform functions such as tracking expenses, sending invoices to clients, managing payroll, and keeping up with inventory. With accounting software, you can keep up with your financials and run reports, which is especially helpful when you’re seeking financing from a bank or traditional lender. Accounting software also makes it easier for your business when tax time rolls around.

New to accounting? Download our free eBook, The Beginner’s Guide to Accounting.

Catering Software

There are specific software programs designed to help caterers manage all aspects of their businesses. Features include invoicing, billing, employee scheduling, event bookings, and other tools to keep your catering business on track.

Payment Processing Software

Not all of your clients will have cash, especially when they’re paying off large bills for their catering expenses. To make payments easier for your clients, invest in payment processing software. This software acts as the communicator between your bank and your customer’s bank, allowing you to accept debit cards, credit cards, and other methods of payment. Most payment processing software comes with monthly subscription fees, and some companies even offer free hardware that makes it easier than ever to accept multiple forms of payment.

Hire Employees

When you first start your business, you may be a one-man operation until you start bringing in revenue. However, you will eventually need to hire employees if you want to grow and scale. If you’re like many caterers, you may opt to hire an employee or two right from the start.

Employees that you may hire for your business — either now or in the future — include:

  • Chef: Your chef will be in charge of preparing the food. For large events, consider hiring sou chefs for additional assistance.
  • Servers: Bring food and drinks to guests
  • Bartenders: Serve alcoholic beverages to guests
  • Busboys: Responsible for clearing off tables
  • Host/Hostess: Help guests find their seats
  • Event Planner: Meets with the client to discuss details about the event
  • Supervisor: Ensures that other staff members are doing their jobs efficiently

Until your business grows and brings in revenue, you may opt to hire just a few staff members, such as a chef and a server. As your business gains more customers and becomes profitable, you can add additional employees to your staff.

Do your research to get an idea of the average pay range in your area for each position. It’s also important to remember that other expenses come with hiring staff, including workman’s compensation insurance, training costs, and benefits.

To find employees for your business, ask friends, family members, and colleagues for referrals. You may also post a job advertisement on online job boards. You can even contact local temporary agencies to find the help you need.

Bolster Your Web Presence

Your plans for a catering business are coming together, so now it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to bring in clients. There’s no better place to start than the internet.

Just think about it. If you’re looking for a local company to work with, where is one of the first places you look? The internet, of course.

You can quickly build your web presence with these easy steps.

Launch Your Social Media Profiles

Social media is a great way to reach new customers, and best of all, setting up your profiles is free! Create business pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Pinterest. Make sure to include critical details such as your contact information, service areas, and types of events catered. You can build up your profiles to include information such as menus, pricing lists, and photos of your food and past events.

An added bonus on social media is that you can communicate with potential customers through comments or direct messaging.

As you begin to grow your business, you can later invest in social media ads, but in the beginning, focus on getting your profiles up and running.

Want to get the most out of your social media profiles? Check out our Guide to Social Media Marketing.

Build Your Website

In addition to your social media profiles, you also need to build a website. This doesn’t have to be overly complicated. In fact, there are lots of website builders that make it easy to choose a template, customize your font and colors, and drag and drop images, text boxes, and tools — no design experience required.

Make sure that the design of your website reflects your branding. You also want to include important details, including the name of your business and contact details. You can also add additional features and information, including a live chat option, photo galleries, and reviews and testimonials.

Advertise Your Business

Boosting your web presence is a great start to advertising your business, but make sure that you don’t stop there. There are several ways that you can advertise your business — both online and off.

Fliers

Pass out or hang flyers advertising your catering services throughout your area. Make sure that you understand the regulations in your area surrounding posting and/or distributing flyers.

Online Ads

Purchase ad space on Facebook, pay-per-click ads on search engines, or even post advertisements on local online forums and social media groups.

Newspaper Ads

This is an oldie but goodie: pay for ad space in your local newspaper.

Attend Wedding Shows

Many cities and towns have bridal shows where vendors can advertise their services. Research events in your area, rent booth space, and advertise your business in-person to newly engaged couples.

Wedding & Event Websites

Submit your business information to wedding and event websites to draw in new customers.

Word-Of-Mouth

Word-of-mouth advertising is the best form of advertising. Ask your past customers for testimonials and reviews, and always make sure to go above and beyond to provide exceptional service.

Final Thoughts

Starting your own catering business is exciting but venturing out on your own can also be a little scary, especially if you lack business experience. However, you can be on track to owning and operating a successful catering business with careful planning, preparation, and strategic borrowing. Good luck!

The post How To Start And Fund A Catering Business: The Step-By-Step Guide appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Colorado Small Businesses

Colorado is one of the fastest-growing states in the nation. Not only is its population burgeoning, but its economy is flourishing and only expected to grow into the future. Professional and business services, the tech industry, and agriculture are among the sectors that will continue to bring new jobs and contribute to the state’s economy.

It isn’t just big business that’s helping the economy grow, either. Small businesses play an extremely important role throughout the state. Unfortunately, these smaller businesses — businesses just like yours — may struggle to find the financing and resources they need to be successful.

The good news is that there are plenty of financing options available to small business owners. The key is knowing where to find them. Instead of spending hours wading through lenders, scratching your head over interest rates and terms, or struggling to get the capital you need, keep reading this post — we’ve taken the guesswork out of small business financing. From online and traditional lenders to grants and more, read on to learn about the resources available to Coloradans.

Online Business Lenders For Colorado Businesses

You probably already use the internet for business — from communicating with clients and suppliers via email to placing orders for inventory and paying utility bills. Why not use it to find financing for your business?

Online lenders make it more convenient than ever to apply for small business loans and financing. You can fill out your application, submit your documentation, and even receive funds in your bank account — all without ever leaving your home or office.

It’s possible to get the financing you need in as little as 24 hours by working with an online lender. Even if you’ve had trouble qualifying for financing in the past, there are online options available to you. Start by checking out these recommended lenders.

Lendio

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Lendio makes shopping around for financing easier than ever. A single application connects you with over 75 lending partners, allowing you to compare rates and find the most affordable financing options in just minutes. Applying with Lendio is free, there’s no obligation, and your credit score isn’t affected by checking your offers.

No matter what type of small business financing you need, you can connect with the right lender through Lendio. Financial products available through Lendio include:

  • Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans: $50,000 to $5 million
  • Term Loans: $5,000 to $2 million
  • Short-Term Loans: $2,500 to $500,000
  • Lines Of Credit: $1,000 to $500,000
  • Equipment Financing: $5,000 to $5 million
  • Commercial Mortgages: $250,000 to $5 million
  • Accounts Receivable Financing: Up to 80% of receivables
  • Startup Loans: $500 to $750,000
  • Business Credit Cards: $1,000 to $500,000
  • Merchant Cash Advances: $5,000 to $200,000

Rates, terms, and borrower requirements vary. You may receive your funds in as little as 24 hours based on the product you select.

SmartBiz

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If you don’t qualify for a low-interest bank loan, there may be an alternative: Small Business Administration loans.
The SBA guarantees a portion of the loans provided through its various loan programs, so lenders feel more confident in financing small businesses. Meanwhile, you’ll get the benefit of a low-interest, long-term loan, even if you’ve been turned down by banks and traditional lenders in the past.

Navigating the SBA application process can be a challenge, but SmartBiz has simplified it through its online marketplace. You can prequalify in minutes, receive funds quickly, and easily move through the SBA loan process by working with SmartBiz.

Through SmartBiz, you can apply for a loan used for working capital or to refinance debt. Loans are available for $30,000 to $350,000 with interest rates of 8.25% to 9.25%. Repayment terms are up to 10 years.

Funds for these loans can be used to refinance existing debt, purchase inventory or equipment, launch a marketing campaign, hire new employees, or cover operating expenses. Loan funds can’t be used to pay unpaid taxes.

To qualify for this loan, you must meet these minimum requirements:

  • At least 2 years in business
  • U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident
  • Personal credit score of 640 or above
  • Cash flow to cover loan payments
  • No bankruptcies or foreclosures within 3 years
  • No defaults on government-backed loans
  • No outstanding tax liens

If you want to purchase, expand, or refinance your commercial property, you can apply for an SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loan. Through SmartBiz, you can apply to receive $500,000 to $5 million with interest rates of 7% to 8.25%. Repayment terms are up to 25 years.

These minimum requirements apply to all borrowers:

  • At least 51% of the property is occupied & used by your business
  • Time in business of at least 3 years
  • Personal credit score of 675 or above
  • Cash flow to cover loan payments
  • Purchase price exceeds $500,000
  • U.S. resident or legal permanent resident
  • No bankruptcies or foreclosures within the last 3 years
  • No outstanding tax liens
  • No defaults on government-backed loans

Funds from these loans can’t be used to purchase investment properties or to fund new construction costs.

OnDeck

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OnDeck offers two loan options for small business owners in Colorado: term loans and lines of credit. Let’s start off by looking at the options for OnDeck’s term loans.

With a term loan, you can receive a lump sum in amounts up to $500,000. OnDeck offers short-term loans with terms of 3 to 12 months and simple interest rates starting at 9%. This means that your interest rate is a percentage of your loan amount. If you borrow $20,000 at a simple interest rate of 9%, you’ll pay $1,800 in interest — or a total of $21,800 before any additional fees are applied.

Short-term loans are best for projects with an immediate return, such as seasonal hiring, inventory purchases, or launching a marketing campaign.

OnDeck also offers long-term loans. These loans have terms of 15 to 36 months with annual interest rates starting at 9.99%. Long-term loan funds are best for expanding your business, making large-scale inventory purchases, or buying equipment.

To qualify for a term loan, you must have:

  • Time in business of at least 1 year
  • At least $100,000 in annual revenue
  • Personal credit score of 500 or above

If you want a more flexible form of financing, apply for OnDeck’s line of credit. You can receive up to $100,000 with APRs starting at 13.99%. A line of credit is best for filling revenue gaps or paying unexpected expenses.

You only pay interest on borrowed funds, and payments are made each week through automatic deductions. A $20 monthly maintenance fee is required but will be waived for 6 months if you draw at least $5,000 within 5 days of opening your account. There are no draw fees for using your line of credit.

To qualify for a line of credit, you must meet these requirements:

  • Time in business of at least 1 year
  • At least $100,000 in annual revenue
  • Personal credit score of 600 or above

Breakout Capital

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Breakout Capital provides qualified small business owners with up to $250,000 with its small business loans. Daily, weekly, and monthly repayment terms up to 2 years are available. Breakout Capital loans have a fee of 1.25% to 3.5% of the borrowing amount each month.

To qualify for a small business loan, you must have:

  • A time in business of at least 1 year
  • A personal credit score of 600 or above
  • At least $10,000 in monthly revenue

If you need more capital, you may want to consider FactorAdvantage. This service combines invoice factoring and a business loan to provide qualified borrowers with up to $500,000. Fees start at 1.25% of the borrowing amount per month, and repayment terms are available up to 2 years.

If neither of these options seem right for you, Breakout Capital’s lending experts can connect you with other financing options including:

  • SBA 7(a) Loans
  • Equipment Leases
  • Merchant Cash Advances
  • Lines Of Credit

Fundbox

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If you want a fast, flexible line of credit that you can access in just minutes, take a look at what Fundbox has to offer.
You can qualify for a line of credit up to $100,000 when you apply with Fundbox. Repayments are made over a 12- or 24-month period, and payments are automatically withdrawn from your business bank account each week.

Fees for using your Fundbox line of credit start at just 4.66% of the draw amount and are based on the performance of your business. If you don’t use your line of credit, you never pay any fees. As you repay your line of credit, funds are replenished and become available to use again.

Fundbox has a fast and easy application process with minimum borrower requirements. To qualify, you must have:

  • Business checking account
  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue
  • At least 3 months of transactions from your business bank account OR at least 2 months of activity in accounting software

Amex Merchant Financing

American Express OptBlue

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If your small business accepts American Express, you may qualify for a business loan up to $2 million with American Express Merchant Financing.

One of the best things about Amex Merchant Financing is you don’t have to worry about confusing interest rates or fees. Instead, you pay one fixed fee for your loan. Fees are based on the terms you select and range from 1.75% to 20% of the borrowing amount. If you repay your loan early, you could receive a rebate of up to 25% of your fee.

Repayment terms of 6, 12, and 24 months are available. A fixed amount will be automatically deducted from your bank account each business day to repay your loan.

Borrowers must meet the following requirements to qualify:

  • Accept American Express Cards
  • Have at least $12,000 in annual credit & debit receivables
  • Have at least $50,000 in annual business revenue
  • Have a time in business of at least 2 years

Credibly

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Credibly is a lender that doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution for small businesses. Instead, this lender offers three products to give small business owners the capital they need: working capital loans, business expansion loans, and merchant cash advances.

A working capital loan is ideal for covering operational expenses and fueling business growth. Under this program, you may qualify for up to $400,000 that can be repaid over terms of 6 to 18 months. Automatic payments are withdrawn from your account daily or weekly.

Instead of a traditional interest rate, these loans come with factor rates that start at 1.15. Learn more about how factor rates affect the cost of your loan.

The requirements for a Credibly working capital loan are:

  • Personal credit score of 500 or above
  • Time in business of at least 6 months
  • At least $15,000 in average monthly bank deposits

If you’re ready to expand your business, consider applying for Credibly’s business expansion loan. You can receive up to $250,000 with terms of 18 or 24 months. Repayments are automatically deducted each week. Interest rates for these loans start at 9.99%.

For Credibly’s business expansion loans, you must have:

  • A personal credit score of 600 or above
  • Time in business of at least 3 years
  • At least $15,000 in average monthly bank deposits
  • At least $3,000 in average daily balances

The final option that may work best for you is a merchant cash advance, or MCA. Credibly purchases a percentage of your future receivables. Daily remittances are made until your loan plus any applicable fees are repaid. The estimated duration of this type of financing is 3 to 18 months.

With this type of financing, you can qualify for up to $400,000. Factor rates start at 1.15.

Requirements for a Credibly MCA are:

  • Personal credit score of 500 or above
  • Time in business of at least 6 months
  • At least $15,000 in average monthly bank deposits

Upstart

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Having trouble finding a low-interest loan option? Consider using your own personal credit score and income to qualify for a personal loan for business. Whether you’re operating a brand new business or you can’t meet the requirements of small business lenders, getting a personal loan could be the hassle-free, affordable option you’re looking for.

Upstart is an online lender that offers personal loans that you can use for your business expenses. You can borrow between $1,000 and $50,000 with APRs starting at 8.09% for the most qualified borrowers. Don’t have perfect credit? It’s no problem. You can still qualify for a loan with APRs up to 35.99%.

One of the unique things about Upstart is that the lender considers more than just your credit score when approving your loan. Upstart looks at overall credit history, area of study, job history, and education to determine if you qualify for a loan.

To qualify for an Upstart personal loan, you must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • A source of income
  • Personal credit score of 620 or above
  • No bankruptcies or public records
  • Less than 6 inquiries within the last 6 months on your credit report
  • A solid debt-to-income ratio

Banks, Credit Unions, & Nonprofit Lenders In Colorado

If you’d rather work with a traditional lender, there’s no shortage of them in Colorado. Work with your own bank or credit union, or consider one of these options for your business financing.

Bank Of Colorado

The Bank of Colorado has branches located all throughout the state, including cities like Akron, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and Denver. The Bank of Colorado offers multiple financial products for small business owners. In addition to business checking and savings accounts, you can apply for:

  • Business Credit Cards
  • Business Loans
  • Lines Of Credit
  • Agriculture Loans & Lines Of Credit
  • Equipment Loans
  • Real Estate Loans
  • Livestock Loans

Bank of Colorado also offers merchant card processing, employee benefits, and other small business services. Visit your local branch to apply for Bank of Colorado’s small business banking services.

Ent Credit Union

Ent Credit Union was founded in 1957 and has grown to over 30 branches throughout the state with more than 330,000 members. Service centers can be found in cities including Aurora, Denver, Colorado Springs, and Parker.

You can apply for small business checking, savings, and money market accounts. If you need extra capital for your business, you may also qualify for one of Ent’s financial products including:

  • Business Auto Loans
  • Business Credit Cards
  • Lines Of Credit
  • Commercial Real Estate Loans
  • Business Term Loans
  • Equipment Loans
  • SBA 504 Loans

To apply for any type of financing, you must be an Ent Credit Union member. To qualify for membership, you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Live, work, attend school, or worship in one of the counties served by Ent
  • Be civilian or military personnel of the Colorado Air National Guard or Colorado Army National Guard
  • Be associated with Buckley Air Force Base
  • Have a family member that is a member of Ent

You can sign up for membership online, by phone, or through a service center.

Colorado Enterprise Fund

Colorado Enterprise Fund is a nonprofit lender that specializes in lending to small businesses that may not qualify for traditional financing. Since 1976, this lender has closed over 2,000 loans for small business owners in Colorado.

There are multiple financing options available through the Colorado Enterprise Fund, including:

  • Dream Big Microloans: Up to $50,000 with terms up to 7 years
  • Step Up Loans: Up to $500,000 with terms up to 10 years
  • Healthy Food Loans: Up to $500,000
  • Valor Loans For Veterans: Up to $500,000 with terms up to 10 years
  • SBA Community Advantage Loans: Up to $250,000 with terms up to 25 years
  • Just In Time Lines Of Credit: Up to $100,000 with terms up to 2 years
  • GAP Loans: Up to $500,000 with terms up to 25 years
  • Commercial Real Estate Loans: Up to $500,000 with terms up to 7 years

Startups and existing businesses may be eligible to receive funding. Colorado Enterprise Fund will evaluate several factors when determining whether to approve an application, including:

  • Personal Credit Score
  • Equity
  • Industry Experience
  • Payment History
  • Cash Flow & Profitability
  • Collateral

The online application and all requirements can be found on the Colorado Enterprise Fund website.

Small Business Grants In Colorado

startup grants

Nothing in life is free … or is it? If you qualify for a small business grant, you could get the financing your business needs without having to repay the funds. No interest rates, no debt, no problem, right?

Unfortunately, many small business owners find that the process of finding, qualifying for, and receiving a small business grant is extremely difficult. Even if you meet the stringent criteria, you’ll have to compete with many other small business owners.

This doesn’t mean that you should just forget about small business grants. If you qualify, you certainly should take the time to apply. However, just understand that you also need to consider other sources of capital for your business.
In the state of Colorado, there are several grant opportunities available to small business owners. Get started with these options.

LEADING EDGE For International Opportunities

Leading Edge for International Opportunities is a grant program administered by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. The proceeds from these grants are used for covering the costs of export projects. Minority, veteran, and women-owned businesses are eligible to apply.

Through this program, grant recipients can receive up to $10,000 to pay for costs associated with international business development and marketing projects, including foreign trade show exhibition and conference costs, advertising in overseas industry trade publications, and foreign business-to-business matchmaking services.

To qualify, businesses must meet the following requirements:

  • Employ fewer than 100 employees globally
  • Headquarters in Colorado OR at least 50% of employees based in Colorado
  • Registered with the Colorado Secretary of State
  • At least 51% ownership by minorities, veterans, or women
  • Time in business of at least 1 year

All information and the online application are available through the Colorado Minority Business Office.

Colorado First & Existing Industry Customized Job Training Grant Program

The Colorado First & Existing Industry Customized Job Training Grant Program is open to new or existing Colorado businesses. Through this program, grant funds can be used for training permanent, full-time employees. Businesses can receive up to $1,400 per eligible employee.

There are several requirements a business must meet to receive this grant, including:

  • Contributions of at least 40% to the total costs of grant-funded training
  • Must pay at least $13 per hour in urban counties and at least minimum wage in rural counties
  • Must offer health insurance to employees

To learn more about this grant and to apply, you must contact a CFEI college representative through the Colorado Community College System website.

Colorado Creative Industries Grants

Colorado Creative Industries offers multiple grant opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs. One of the most notable grant programs is the Career Advancement Grant. Through this program, you can receive matching funds up to $2,500 to stimulate a commercial creative business.

To qualify for this grant, you must meet these requirements:

  • A resident of Colorado
  • At least 18 years old
  • Have a creative sector business
  • Received no funding from CCI within 12 months of the application deadline

An online application for this grant and information on additional funding programs is available on the Colorado Creative Industries website.

Loans & Resources For Startups In Colorado

You have your business plan in place, you’re motivated and focused, and you’re ready to launch your new business. There’s just one thing missing from the entrepreneurial equation: capital.

Getting a loan through your bank or even alternative lenders can be a challenge for startup businesses. But don’t let that get you down because there ARE options available to you if you know where to look.

Start your search for funding with these organizations. In addition to funding, you’ll also have access to loads of resources including business training, one-on-one consultations, and educational materials to help you start and operate a successful small business.

Colorado Small Business Development Center Network

If you need business consulting, look no further than the Colorado Small Business Development Center Network. There are more than 80 centers located throughout Colorado that offer free one-on-one consulting on topics including:

  • Marketing
  • Financial Assistance
  • QuickBooks
  • Business Plan Writing
  • Certifications
  • Social Media Strategies

Workshops, scholarships, strategic planning courses, eLearning videos, and special events are also offered through the Colorado SBDC Network. Visit the official website or your local center for more information on the resources available to small business owners.

SCORE

Whether you need help starting your own business or advice for your existing business, check out SCORE to connect with a business mentor. You’ll receive free advice online, over the phone, or at a SCORE office near you.

Mentorships aren’t all that SCORE has to offer. You can also sign up for workshops, classes, and webinars. SCORE also has a large library of business resources to access. All services are available for free or for a low fee.

In Colorado, there are several offices throughout the state in cities including Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. You can call or visit your local office or go online to request a mentor.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

As you can see, there are plenty of small business financing options and resources for Coloradans. However, narrowing down your choice to just one is still a daunting task. Whittle down your choices by considering the following:

Does The Lender’s Products Fit My Needs?

One of the first steps you should take before seeking financing is to determine what product works best for you. If you want capital that’s available when you need it, work with a lender that offers business credit cards or lines of credit. If you need a large amount of capital, find lenders that offer long-term, low-interest loan options. By determining what type of financing works for your business beforehand, you can eliminate lenders that don’t offer the financial products you need.

Do The Rates & Terms Work For Me?

Shop around to compare rates and terms of lenders that are at the top of your list. Would you rather make one monthly payment? Cross off the lenders that require weekly, daily, or bi-weekly payments. Have a good credit score? Avoid lenders that specialize in financing to less creditworthy borrowers, since interest rates will often be much higher.

Always take the full cost of financing into consideration, including additional fees charged by the lender. Then, analyze your other business debts. You should ensure that your business can comfortably afford to take on additional debt before signing on the dotted line.

Will The Funding Be Enough For My Business?

How much capital do you need for your business? Once you’ve determined the amount you’re seeking, you can narrow down your list of lenders. If you need $100,000 to purchase new equipment, a lender with loans that max out at $50,000 won’t cut it. Calculate how much you need to borrow, then select a lender that can meet your financial needs.

Do I Meet The Lender’s Requirements?

Before you apply for financing, check your credit score, understand any negative items on your credit report, and have a grasp of the financials of your business. Most lenders look at factors including personal and business credit scores, personal and business credit history, time in business, and annual revenue. If you fall short with one lender, find a lender with requirements you can meet.

One last thing to note is that if you’re unable to meet the criteria of multiple lenders, it may be time to evaluate if now is the right time for financing. Break down your finances, work to build up your credit score, and explore all financial options before signing on to a high-interest loan with unfavorable terms.

Final Thoughts

Building a business is never easy. However, with the many resources available to Coloradans, you can increase your chances for success whether you’re just getting started or you’re ready to expand your business. Always do your research, consider all options available to you, and take the time to determine what steps to take next to best benefit your business.

The post The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Colorado Small Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Step-By-Step Guide To Starting And Funding A Tutoring Business

The news cycle is full of hype about the “knowledge economy” but often light on details about how the average person can catch a piece of the tutoring action. Do you have a skill you’ve carefully honed over the years — or even one you have accidentally cultivated through repetition at your job? Don’t have state certification and six years of college handy? No worries; you don’t have to have an MA in education to be an effective teacher. One of the more accessible points of entry to a career in education is to teach those skills to other people via the increasingly lucrative tutoring industry.

Have you considered starting a tutoring business? Tutoring may be one of the easier avenues to make a little cash in the knowledge-selling economy, but expanding a part-time coaching gig to full-time, lucrative business can take a surprising amount of planning and resources. Not sure where to start? We’ll walk you through a step-by-step process for planning your tutoring business. We’ll also give you some ideas for where you can turn for funding when you need it.

Ready? Let’s go!

Pick A Tutoring Niche

Life is full of paradoxes, but one key part of thinking big is to narrow your focus. Creativity is as informed by limitation as it is by possibility.

As you would when starting any kind of business, think about where you can add value and what problems your skill set can solve. Are people in your area already doing what you’re planning to do? Is there an X-factor you could offer? A different spin on the familiar? Or is there a niche that’s unserved or under-served, particularly in your local area? For that matter, does your area have needs for specific skill sets?

Don’t have the skills or the local demand to create a flute tutoring business?

You can always fall back on subjects that are in high demand. Languages. Writing. Math. Science. And remember, each of these subjects can be broken down farther into sub-categories like algebra, chemistry, conversational Spanish, etc.

Another safe approach is to tutor students who are studying for standardized tests like the SATs, GREs, and LSATs or even trade certification tests like CompTIA A+ for IT technicians. The possibilities aren’t quite endless, but they are numerous.

Choose A Business Location

One of the great things about tutoring is that you can do it just about anywhere: at a dedicated business site, at a college library, at a coffee shop, at your home, or remotely over the internet.

Early on, your choice of location may not be critical–you can tailor your work environment to meet your own needs and the needs of your clients. Obviously, some of those options will disappear once your business gets large enough–your local coffee shop may or may not appreciate you using their space to run your business–so you’ll want to have a growth strategy in mind if you’re planning on turning your business into a tutoring empire down the road.

At the same time, you’ll want to avoid spending more on overhead than your business strategy requires. If you don’t need a brick and mortar space or a fancy interactive website right away, it may be best to hold off on those investments while you build your brand and reputation.

You’ll also want to consider the demographics of your clientele. Are they easily distracted teenagers who may have a hard time concentrating with a lot of background noise? Are they older adults who aren’t as tech-savvy as you are? Are they dependent on public transportation or parents to get to you? Does your subject matter require extra space for demonstrations? Are you working with clients with learning or physical disabilities? Are you going to need WiFi?

Keep all of these factors in mind when you’re considering a location for your tutoring business.

Create A Business Plan (If You’re Going Big)

If you’re going to be tutoring as a side gig, you can probably skip this part, but it’s not a bad exercise for anyone to try, even if they aren’t planning to incorporate anytime soon.

A business plan is simply a written, organized description of your planned business and business strategy. It’s your vision of how your business will develop, operate, and finance itself. It can also help show prospective financiers and grant-money sources that you’re organized and serious about your operation.

You can find a lot of guidance online about how to organize your business plan. Likewise, your local chamber of commerce and government economic development agencies (and similar organizations) often have resources you can tap.

A typical business plan includes the following:

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Market Overview
  • Sales & Marketing Strategy
  • Operating Plan
  • Organizations & Management Team
  • Financials

Calculate Starting Costs

Once you have a basic idea of how your business will operate, it’s time to calculate your starting costs. Does your subject require materials, teaching aids, or similar items? Are you renting a workspace? Are you paying employees or subcontractors? Shelling out for a web host? Purchasing hardware or software? Buying insurance?

Some of these costs may be trivial enough to finance out of pocket, while others may require additional effort. As a new business owner, finding funding can be especially challenging. Many traditional sources of funding, bank loans in particular, usually aren’t available to businesses that are newer than two years old.

Funding Options For Tutoring Businesses

So what do you do if you need money? Here are some options:

Personal Savings

Obvious? Maybe, but tapping your personal savings has distinct advantages over going into debt. You may be accessing your rainy funds, but you won’t be losing additional money on interest payments.

Of course, you are taking a risk using your own money to finance your business. If your business fails, you’ve effectively lost that money. For that reason, and as a general best practice, it’s a good idea to separate your business finances from your personal ones.

Tap Your Support Network

Another option, especially if you don’t have much in personal savings, is to ask friends and family for a loan. Unlike a private lender, your support system probably isn’t trying to make a profit off of you.

Keep in mind that this comes with its own risks. You may stress your relationships, especially if you aren’t able to pay back these so-called friendly loans quickly. One way to avoid this is to formalize any agreements you make with friends and family so that everyone fully understands what they’re getting into and what the expectations are. You may even want to draw up a formal contract that outlines any expected payments and return on investment.

Credit Cards

One of the easier–and riskier–ways to fund your startup expenses is with personal or business credit cards (you don’t actually have to own a business to get a business credit card). Credit cards offer a lot of flexibility and convenience when it comes to making purchases. Even better, many credit cards offer reward programs that can actually save judicious users money.

However, keep in mind that credit cards carry very high interest rates on any balances you carry from month to month. Most business credit cards — and all personal credit cards — offer a grace period of at least 21 days. Purchases that you pay off within that window do not accrue interest. This makes credit cards ideal for purchases you can pay off quickly, and problematic for ones that you can’t.

Note: Avoid taking out cash advances on your cards unless absolutely necessary. They come at a very high cost.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Cash

Chase Ink Business Cash



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.49% – 21.49%, Variable

Business credit cards often have aggressive rewards programs, but rarely will you find one that offers 5 percent cash back on qualified purchases. And since that includes office supplies, the card’s not a bad fit for tutoring.

There’s a $25,000 cap on the higher rates of return, but with no annual fee, it’s quite a bargain.

Recommended Option: Capital One Spark Classic

Capital One Spark Classic For Business


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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


24.74%, Variable

If you don’t qualify for the Chase Ink Business Cash, Capital One’s Spark Classic is an easy-to-qualify-for, no-frills cash back card that can help you save money on purchases while building up your credit.

You’re only getting 1 percent back on purchases, but it’s not a bad place to start if you’re coming off a year or two of hard luck.

Personal Loans

Traditional business loans may not be an option for new businesses, but you can often use personal loans to cover some of your startup expenses. Since you don’t have to worry about business-oriented qualifying factors like the amount of time you’ve been in business, these loans can be easier to get when you’re first starting out.

The downside is you won’t have the liability protection you’d theoretically have if you applied as a business. You may also be more limited in terms of the amount of money you can take out.

Still, if you need a little money to get started and don’t have funds on hand, it’s not a bad option.

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

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Lending Club is a good option for individuals who may not have the strongest credit, but have a good debt-to-income ratio. The borrowing range is fairly narrow at $1k to $40k, but when you’re just starting out you don’t want to go too deeply into debt anyway. You’ll have three-to-five years to pay it off, which makes it fairly manageable when you’re first starting out.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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If you’re just entering the alternative loan market for the first time, it can be pretty overwhelming. Lendio takes some of that burden off of you by allowing you to effectively apply to their whole network of lenders with one application.

Recommended Option: Upstart

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Another solid option for non-traditional borrowers is Upstart. So long as you have fair credit (620+), a stable source of income, and live in a state other than West Virginia or Iowa, there’s a pretty good chance Upstart will work with you.

Flexibility is the name of Upstart’s game. How so? They’ll use non-traditional means to get a picture of your credit worthiness and they’ll allow you to select between different payment schedules. And with three to five years to settle your loan, you won’t have to worry about paying it off right away.

Need more options? Check out our feature on startup loans.

Grants

Nothing’s better than “free” money, and grants might be the closest thing to that in the real world. Grants usually require a fairly involved application/writing process and, as you might expect, are often highly competitive. So while you may not have to worry about interest with grants, you do want to factor in the amount of time you have to spend trying to get a grant, especially considering there’s a high chance that you won’t be selected for the grant.

On the other hand, being awarded a grant comes with some prestige that you can then use in your marketing efforts. And it is “free” money, after all.

If you need some help figuring out where to look for grants, check out our feature on the topic.

ROBS

Not your neighbor-with-the-nice-car Rob, but Rollovers as Business Startups. If you haven’t heard of ROBS, don’t feel bad. They’re extremely niche products for entrepreneurs with retirement accounts like 401(k)s.

For a fee, a ROBS provider allows you to use money from your retirement account to pay for startup costs without incurring the tax penalty you normally would by tapping those funds early.

As is the case with personal savings, you are risking your own money.

ROBS will be overkill for most new tutoring businesses, but if your startup costs look like they’re going to pile up, keep them in mind.

Recommended Option: Guidant Financial

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If you’re in the market for a ROBS, it’s worth checking out Guidant Financial. If your retirement account has at least $40k in it, you can roll over up to 100 percent of your funds.

Register Your Business

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This part is technically optional, but if you’re planning to build your tutoring business into more than an occasional source of freelance income, you should probably register your business.

If you do nothing at all, your business will default to a sole proprietorship (or a partnership, if you’re starting it with someone else). This essentially means that you’ve started a business with your own name. Sole proprietorships have the advantage of being cheap and easy to start. Your taxes will also be easier to file (and lower) than they would generally be with other forms of incorporation. Keep in mind, however, that for liability purposes, sole proprietorships and the individuals behind them are essentially one and the same. While it won’t separate your personal and business finances, you should consider filing a DBA (Doing Business As) with your local county clerk. This will allow you to legally operate your business under its own name (Uber Math Works as opposed to Barry Holgram, for example).

Other forms of incorporation will require a bit more work and come with their own advantages and disadvantages. This is where the business plan we talked about earlier will come in handy, because you’ll need one if you’re going to incorporate. Keep in mind that incorporation comes with costs and additional responsibilities, so make sure you’re at the point where it makes sense for your business.

Here are the most popular ways to incorporate:

  • Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs): If you’ve seen LLC after a corporation’s name, you’re dealing with this type of company. LLCs offer limited liability protection for their owners without the full complexity of a corporation. Each state has its own rules for how to start and maintain an LLC, and you don’t necessarily have to register your LLC in the state where you’re doing business (although you’ll generally want to). LLC owners report their business earnings and losses on their personal taxes.
  • C-Corp: This is the “basic,” default form of incorporation. Shareholders are considered the owner(s) of the company and receive limited liability protection; however, the business decisions are made by corporate officers who may or may not be shareholders. The corporation is taxed separately and shareholders pay income tax on dividends. To form a C-corp, you’ll file articles of incorporation with your state.
  • S-Corp: S-corps are similar to C-corps in most ways, but come with a few additional restrictions: you have to have fewer than 100 shareholders and they have to all be U.S. citizens or residents. Unlike C-corps, profits and losses are reported on personal taxes, not unlike an LLC. In addition to filing articles of incorporation, you’ll also need to file IRS Form 2553.

Separate Personal And Business Finances

Even if you’re going to run your tutoring business as a sole proprietorship, you should take steps to separate your business finances from your personal ones. A separate business checking and/or savings account can save you a ton of headache when it’s time to pay your taxes. And even for your own edification, it will make your profits and losses much easier to track.

Choose An Hourly Rate

Get your merchant funds fast. Image description: Clock with money underneath it

Figuring out how much to charge for your tutoring services can be one of the more challenging parts of getting your business up and running.

A good place to start is to do some research on the prevailing rate for similar services in your area and then figure out a strategy for your business. Are you going to try to undersell the competition? Charge more but offer something your competitors don’t? You can glean this information often from your competitors’ websites or by checking out third-party sites that do regional salary comparisons for different industries. You may also want to speak to local colleges and schools about how they handle independent tutors.

It sounds obvious, but you don’t want to charge so little that you’re breaking even, or even losing money, on your gig. Take into account the transportation costs of meeting your clients, any money you’re spending on coffee, etc. And be sure to deduct those expenses when it comes time to pay your self-employment taxes!

Bolster Your Web Presence

Word of mouth can still go a long way in the tutoring business, but these days there’s really no way to avoid the necessity of building a strong digital presence.

It never hurts to have a sleek, attractive website. Indeed, it can make your operation look professional as well as help build hype for your services. Luckily there are user-friendly and cost-effective ways to build a website.

That said, a website is not the only way to use the internet to build up your tutoring business.

Remember that the web is, itself, a medium for instruction and tutoring. You may want to consider offering some freebies on YouTube, for example, to build up your reputation. In addition, free services can function as advertisements for your paid services. Just make sure you don’t make your paid services extraneous.

Social media strategy is too complex to go into in great depth here, but making posts that are fun to read and interact with is a good place to start.

Advertise Your Business

In addition to what we covered above in web presence, you’ll also want to get your name out there in other ways. If you’re just starting out, you’re probably not looking at expensive media buys on TV, radio, or even your local newspaper.

Let your network know what you’re up to so they can spread the word about your new tutoring. Make a Facebook page. Get yourself a Twitter account. Offer free consultations with curious parties. Even cheap, low-tech solution like flyers with tear-off tags can be powerful if you post them in the right places.

Final Thoughts

Does helping someone grow and learn while earning money sound like a dream job? Tutoring can be one of the more rewarding and flexible businesses you can get into. But while the demand for expertise is often high, you’ll still want to approach the industry with a strategic mindset. Take your time, narrow down your niche, and build your reputation and tutoring can turn into so much more than just a side gig.

The post The Step-By-Step Guide To Starting And Funding A Tutoring Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Complete Guide To Disputing Errors On Your Credit Report

Worried that your credit history may have errors that could negatively affect your business? Luckily, the companies that produce credit reports offer ways to dispute errors.

While it might be time-consuming to correct a report, a successful dispute can only be advantageous in the long run. A little time spent now could save you and your business from a major headache down the road—especially when applying for loans or credit cards.

Want to know how you can dispute a problem on your credit report? We’ve got all the information you need below.

What Is A Credit Report?

A credit report details your credit history. It can include information regarding your past loan payments, current status of credit accounts, and other financial records, such as foreclosures or bankruptcies.

Credit bureaus compile credit reports by collecting and selling various data regarding individual credit histories. While there are numerous bureaus around today, three are the most well-known and influential: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. We’ve gone over credit bureaus in more depth before.

Credit reports play an important role when you are looking for a loan, a new credit card, or insurance. If you have a history of failing to make payments, or perhaps you have a lot of credit tied up already, potential creditors may think twice before working with you.

These reports also help calculate your credit score. A credit score is an important tool that summarizes the health of your credit history. Many potential lenders or credit card issuers will heavily consider your credit score when you apply. If your score is too low, you may need to work on improving it.

How To Get Your Credit Report

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Fortunately, it doesn’t cost much to request a credit report. In fact, in many cases, you’ll be able to ask for a copy of your credit report for free.

Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax are legally required to issue you a no-cost credit report every 12 months. This free report will be your full credit report—although it won’t include credit scores. To request a report, you’ll need to visit annualcreditreport.com and select which of the three major bureaus you’d like to request a report from.

In addition, if you apply for credit and are denied, you’ll have the ability to request the credit report used in the decision. You’ll have 60 days to order this credit report from the bureau that supplied the report reviewed by the creditor. This type of report is known as an “adverse action credit report.” Going this route is free and does not count against your annual report tally.

On top of those free credit report options, there are websites dedicated to sharing details regarding your credit history. Some of the big websites include Credit Karma, WalletHub, and Credit Journey from Chase. Most of these websites are free and we’ve previously discussed our favorite ones. However, note that in many cases you can’t get a full credit report through these places; instead, they’ll likely share a credit score alongside some supplemental information.

How To Dispute Errors On Your Report

If you’ve spotted an error on your credit report—say you notice a misspelled name or an account that has been incorrectly deemed delinquent—the question comes up: how do you dispute errors on a report?

Here’s our step-by-step guide:

1. Contact The Credit Bureau

There are several ways to contact a credit bureau to submit a dispute.

Most commonly, you can send a letter. If you choose this path,  include all the necessary documentation that supports your dispute. Additionally, clearly outline which item or items you dispute, state why you dispute the information, and make it obvious that you wish for the information to be removed or changed.

If sending a letter, make sure to send it via certified mail. This way you’ll have a record once it’s received, giving you a paper trail. Plus, it’s also a good idea to keep a copy of the letter for your personal records.

The three major credit bureaus also offer online tools to submit a dispute. However, this process varies for each bureau so you’ll need to check the website of the bureau you plan to submit a dispute with.

In some cases, sending a fax may be another option. Bureaus also often let you call to start a dispute claim. However, it is generally recommended to leave a paper trail when possible, something that may not be possible with a phone call.

2. Wait For And Review The Results Of The Investigation

In most cases, the credit bureau will have 30 days to investigate after receiving your dispute. You’ll then want to give them up to two weeks before their response reaches you. As such, you may need to wait up to 45 days before you hear anything from the credit bureau.

When the investigation is finished, the credit bureau will send you the results in writing. Additionally, you’ll also receive an updated credit report if the dispute is found accurate. This updated copy is free and does not count towards your one free annual report. You’ll also receive a copy of the name, address, and phone number of the provider that reported the erroneous information.

You may additionally ask that notifications of any corrections be sent out to anyone who has received a copy of your credit report in the previous six months. For employment purposes, you may also request that anyone who received a copy in the last two years be sent the updated report.

3. Check Your Reports For Changes

Several months after your dispute has been fixed by the credit bureau in question, you’ll want to make sure your actual reports have been updated. Note that the time a report updates may depend on the specific credit bureau’s update cycle and when the provider sends information to bureaus.

If you don’t see any changes to your reports from other bureaus, it is possible the provider did not report the update to other bureaus. Should this happen, you’ll want to inform the provider that you disputed an inaccurate item on your credit report. If the provider continues sending disputed information to other bureaus, they must note that the information has been disputed. Assuming your dispute is accurate, the provider must tell bureaus to delete or update the information in question.

As long as the provider verifies the accuracy of your dispute, the credit bureau cannot continue to place that information in your credit report. This means that future reports should show the updated information. It just may take several months for an updated report to become accurate.

Final Thoughts

It’s important you get an error fixed promptly when you spot one on your credit report. If you leave the error untouched, you may have difficulty applying for loans or credit cards. This in turn may impact your business’s ability to run smoothly and efficiently. As such, a successful dispute can only mean good things for your business in the future—even if the process does seem a bit cumbersome.

The post The Complete Guide To Disputing Errors On Your Credit Report appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Deferred Interest: What You Need To Know

 

When hunting for a credit card, a loan, or another financing arrangement, you may come across offers advertising “no interest for 12 months” or “same as cash” financing. Take care, because often times, this arrangement will entail deferred interest. Deferred interest financing carries risks that are typically not well understood and often not explained clearly by the lender.

In this article, we’re going to tackle the murky subject of deferred interest.

What Is Deferred Interest?

Deferred interest is defined by Investopedia in the following way:

Deferred interest is the amount of interest added to the principal balance of a loan when the contractual terms of the loan allow for a scheduled payment to be made that is less than the interest due.

That’s the textbook definition of the deferred interest — interest that has accrued on a loan but hasn’t been paid. But how does deferred interest actually work in the real world? Let’s explore.

How Deferred Interest Works

Let’s say you purchased some exercise equipment with a store credit card offering deferred interest for 12 months in order to avoid having to pay the full cost up front. As the months go by without your balance being paid in full, interest will accrue on your card, but you won’t be responsible for paying it off — yet.

Now, if you pay off your balance within 12 months, this accumulated interest will not come due, and you will have paid for your purchase with what is essentially an interest-free loan. However, if you don’t pay off your purchase in its entirety within that 12 months, all the interest accumulated over that 12-month period (not just the interest on the portion of the balance you have yet to pay) is then added to the amount you owe.

One insidious aspect of this arrangement is that the kind of store credit cards that typically offer deferred interest financing normally have high APRs, thus increasing the interest charges you’ll be hit with if you don’t pay the balance in full within 12 months.

Deferred Interest VS 0% APR Introductory Rate

A credit card offering deferred interest financing under the sophistry of “no interest for 12 months” is not the same thing as a credit card offering an introductory 0% APR. I explained how deferred interest works in this particular context with the above example, but let’s say that instead, you purchased the exercise equipment with a newly-obtained credit card that sports a 12-month intro 0% APR period.

You’ll be able to pay off your balance over the course of your first 12 months without being responsible for any interest payments, just as with the deferred interest card. The difference comes after your first 12 months are up. After this point, you’ll become responsible for any interest that accumulates on the remaining balance of your card, but not for the interest you didn’t pay during your initial 12 months with the card.

If that sounds like a better, fairer, and safer arrangement, that’s because it is.

Pros & Cons of Deferred Interest

If everything goes right and you’re able to pay back the principal of a deferred interest loan in full before the period of deferred interest ends, congratulations! Your deferred interest loan has worked out for you and has not caused you any harm.

However, lenders bank (literally) on the increasingly high likelihood that everything will not go right for you during this period. Americans, particularly working-class families, face constant unexpected financial “challenges” from which they enjoy little to no protection. So if you lose your job or your child gets sick and you can’t pay your balance in full before the end of your deferred interest period, your lender will reap the financial benefits of your misfortune and you will be left high and dry.

Best Practices When Using Deferred Interest

Before signing up for a deferred interest loan or credit card, seek out all possible alternative financing arrangements first. If you’ve exhausted these alternatives and find yourself in the unenviable position of having to rely on a deferred interest loan to pay for an expense, make absolutely sure you can pay off the purchase before the deferred interest period ends to avoid being hit with retroactively-applied interest charges.

Additionally, if you use a deferred interest credit card to finance a purchase, avoid charging anything else to this card if you possibly can. That’s because if you ring up additional charges on your card after your initial purchase, the standard purchase APR may apply to those additional charges, and under the terms of the CARD Act (legislation meant to protect consumers in other contexts), any payments you make on your debt will apply first to these additional charges, not to your initial purchase (the purchase on which the unpaid deferred interest is accumulating). That’s because the CARD Act mandates that when you make a payment on your card greater than the minimum due, the amount beyond the minimum due must be applied to the balance with the highest interest rate first.

So while you might assume that your payments will first apply to your initial balance, this is not the case. To go back to my example, you might think that you’ve paid off that exercise equipment you purchased once you’ve made payments on your card equal to the amount of said purchase. But if you’ve made any subsequent purchases on that card, a portion of what you’ve paid will go towards those balances first, leaving a portion of your initial balance unpaid.

And remember, even if you have just one dollar of that initial purchase left outstanding at the end of your deferred interest period, you’ll become responsible for paying all the interest that has accumulated over 12 months on that entire purchase, not just on that one dollar left unpaid.

In short, if you make a purchase on a deferred interest card, don’t use that card to make any further purchases. It can only get you in trouble.

Final Thoughts

The parasitic purveyors of deferred interest loans know that the consumers their products are aimed at are overworked, harried, and dealing with an unholy myriad of escalating financial demands — housing, education, health care, etc. These consumers often don’t have the financial literacy required to make sense of deferred interest offers and can easily find themselves hit with large interest charges on purchases they believed to be interest-free, leaving the most vulnerable people in our society open to being fleeced by unscrupulous lenders.

As a result, the cosseted 1% benefits at the expense of the beleaguered 99%. It’s as if a familiar pattern were at play here.

The most direct advice I can give on the subject of deferred interest financial products: Get a traditional credit card with a 0% introductory APR offer instead. Many popular credit cards (both business and personal) are offered with a 0% intro APR period of 9-12 months, though there are other cards offering 15 or even 21-month 0% APR periods. With these cards, you’ll never have to pay retroactive interest, only interest that accumulates on your card’s balance after your 0% APR period ends.

Credit Card 0% Introductory Period Next Steps
American Express Blue Business Plus 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months Compare
Chase Ink Business Unlimited 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months Apply Now
American Express SimplyCash Plus 0% APR on purchases for the first 9 months Compare
Capital One Spark Cash Select For Business 0% APR on purchases for the first 9 months Compare
Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 9 months Compare

If such a credit card appeals to you, let Merchant Maverick help you out in your search!

  • Best Business Credit Cards For 2019
  • APR VS Interest Rate: Know The Difference
  • Top Business Credit Card Balance Transfer Offers
  • Credit Card Balance Transfers Demystified

The post Deferred Interest: What You Need To Know appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Start And Finance An Auto Body Shop Business

You’re an experienced mechanic that’s been working for someone else for your entire career. You’re ready to spread your wings and fly (or drive) right to your own auto body shop. Sound like you? If you’ve been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, then maybe it’s time to set out on your own.

Even if you’re the best at what you do, venturing out into the small business world can be scary. If you’re an employee at a collision center, you probably feel like you have some stability. Why risk a “sure thing” to start your own shop, especially if you don’t have any previous experience running your own business?

Starting your own business is risky and it takes hard work (and a lot of it). But opening your own auto collision shop can be an extremely lucrative venture. The automotive collision repair market brings in billions of dollars in revenue each year, and studies show that revenue will only continue to grow in the years ahead. Isn’t it time you got your share?

If you’re thinking about starting your own auto body shop, this guide is for you. We’ll go through all of the steps of starting your own business, from creating a business plan to finding the right lender. We’ll review potential costs, hiring employees, and other critical steps to building a successful business. If you’re ready to take the next step into entrepreneurship, read on to find out how to get started.

Create A Business Plan

You’ve made up your mind: you’re ready to open your own collision or auto body center and you have an idea of how to do it. That’s good enough, right? Actually, you need to be more prepared before you even begin to move on to other steps in building your business. The best way to be prepared? Create a detailed business plan.

Let’s illustrate the importance of a business plan with an example. You’re going on a hike in the woods. There are lots of paths to choose from. Some of these paths may bring you out of the woods — your end goal — but there may be additional challenges along the way, like steep terrain. Some paths may be wrong altogether … and you’ll have to backtrack to right your course. In short, you can enter the woods without a map and risk getting lost. Or you can get a map ahead of time, plot out your course, and set out only after you’ve planned your route and know what to expect.

A business plan works in the same way. A good business plan outlines how to get from your starting point (launching your business) to your goal. Every entrepreneur has a different goal. Maybe yours is to run a successful local business that sets your family up for life. Maybe you have bigger goals — starting your own chain of auto body shops, for example. The most important thing is to set a concrete goal and create a map of how to get there.

Not only will a business plan keep you on the right track, but you must have a plan to present to investors or lenders when you’re seeking capital.

New to writing a business plan? At a minimum, here’s what you should include:

  • Executive Summary: A concise summary detailing each section of your business plan
  • Overview: A description of your business, including the legal structure, location, and type of business
  • Market Analysis: An overview of your market and a definition of your target market
  • Competitive Analysis: Strength and weaknesses of your competition
  • Management Team: The members of your management team and their responsibilities within your organization
  • Financial Projections: A forecast of the financial future of your business

Find A Location

As realtors say, “Location, location, location!” As you plan your own body shop, location is key, but there are a few other considerations to weigh before you put your name on that lease or mortgage.

You want to make sure that you purchase or lease the best location you can afford. Sure, that commercial property on the outskirts of town is much cheaper, but your customers have to be able to find you. Find a property that’s convenient for your customers and is located in a high-traffic area or at least off of a major road.

Another consideration is whether you’re going to buy an existing business or start from scratch. Buying an existing business comes with definite perks, including an established clientele, equipment, and even licenses and permits. However, there are a few drawbacks. This is one of the most expensive options, especially if the business is successful. You may also have to put additional costs into the business for renovations, like replacing outdated equipment.

If you start from scratch, you’ll rack up costs with the price of equipment, licenses, and building renovations.
Unsure of which to choose? Build a business plan looking at both options, calculate costs, and determine which makes the most sense financially, both in the short- and long-term.

Another option to consider is opening a franchise. With a franchise, you have less flexibility in terms of designing your brand and shop. However, you’ll have a working business model that takes a lot of the guesswork out of owning your own business.

Register Your Business

Before you open your auto body shop to the public, you need to register your business. Not only will you be seen as a legitimate business by your customers, but registering is also required when you want to hire employees, protect your assets, or seek capital from investors.

To register your business, you need to first determine what form of business entity to establish. There are several structures to choose from, including:

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest business structure. This is best for businesses with just one owner. Sole proprietors can file their business profits and losses on their personal income tax returns. No paperwork is required to register as a sole proprietorship. However, this structure isn’t without its drawbacks. Raising money as a sole proprietorship is difficult, and you are personally responsible for the liabilities of your business.

Partnership

A partnership is a good choice for companies that will be owned and operated by two or more people. There are several different partnership types to consider:

  • General Partnership: Doesn’t require filing with the state and has few requirements
  • Limited Partnership (LP): One partner has unlimited liability and the others have limited liability. The personal assets of the limited partners can’t be used to satisfy the debts and liabilities of the business.
  • Limited Liability Partnership (LLP): Used by professional service businesses, this type of partnership offers personal asset protection for all partners.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC has several benefits for business owners. With an LLC, a business owner will receive liability protection without paying the high tax requirements of corporations.

Corporation

This is the most complex and expensive business structure. More regulations and tax requirements are put in place for corporations. This structure is best for businesses that plan to raise capital through the sale of stock.

The type of structure you select for your business varies by the number of owners that you have and the future plans for your business. In most cases, however, single owners of auto body shops lean toward LLCs, while businesses with more than one partner select the partnership business structure. Before choosing your business structure, talk to your accountant and/or lawyer to find out which makes the most sense for your business.

Once you’ve determined your business structure, you’ll need to select a name for your business. Choose a name that reflects your brand and the services you offer. You also want to choose something that’s catchy and/or easy for customers to remember.

Your business will need to be registered with city, state, and federal governments. You’ll need to sign up for an employer ID number through the Internal Revenue Service if you plan to hire employees. To learn about the specific business license and permit requirements in your area, contact your local Chamber of Commerce, Department of Revenue, or Small Business Administration office to learn more.

Calculate Your Startup Costs

Every new business has one thing in common: the need for capital. In order to start your own collision center, you need money. The big question, though, is how much do you need?

One of the first steps to starting your own business is to calculate your startup costs. In order to do that, begin by making a list of everything you need for your business.

One of the biggest expenses for your new business will be equipment and tools. While your list may look a little different, some of the most common equipment and tools in this industry include:

  • Hydraulic Lifts
  • Hand Tools
  • Pneumatic Tools (Air Tools)
  • Air Compressors
  • Diagnostic Machines
  • Wheel Balancers
  • Paint Guns

Additional startup costs to consider include your business licenses and certifications, insurance, hiring employees, and shop rental or mortgage fees. You should expect to spend at least $50,000 to get your shop up and running. However, as you make a list of your costs and research pricing, this number could potentially rise.

Before you seek funding for your business, a good rule of thumb is to always overestimate your costs by about 30 percent. For example, if you calculate that your expenses will be $200,000, plan to seek $260,000 in funding. In other words, always plan for the unexpected.

Seek Funding

Now that you’ve calculated your startup costs, it’s time to figure out how to pay for it all. If your bank account looks a little low, don’t worry. Most entrepreneurs don’t have the funds to cover these costs out-of-pocket. Instead, they turn to a lender to get the financing they need. Consider these loans and other funding options when you need capital to start your new body shop.

And if you can’t find the option you’re looking for here? Check out more recommendations in the post, Business Loans For Auto Repair Shops.

Personal Savings

If you have money in a savings account, consider using these funds to pay your startup costs. There are several benefits to using your own money. You won’t be indebted to a lender, so there are no monthly or weekly payments to worry about. You also won’t have to pay interest or fees. On the downside, though, if your business fails, you risk losing your savings.

Friends & Family

If you have a friend or family member with extra money to invest, consider pitching your business to them. Present your business plan and tell them why they should invest in you.

There are two ways to go about this. You can stick with traditional debt financing. This means that you would take a loan from your friend, family member, or colleague and pay it back over a set period of time, along with interest and fees.

You may also consider equity financing. Instead of taking out a loan, you’d receive capital in exchange for ownership in your business. The investor would get their money back over time through a share of your profits. While the risk falls on the investor and you wouldn’t have to begin paying back money immediately, you would have to share your profits and lose some control over your business.

Unsure of which option is right for you? Learn more about debt financing vs. equity financing.

Personal Loans For Business

One of the biggest challenges a new business owner faces is meeting the requirements for a business loan. Many lenders – especially the ones with the lowest rates and best terms – want to work with established businesses with high revenues and solid business and personal credit histories. If you haven’t even opened your doors to a single customer, meeting these requirements is impossible.

However, if you have a high personal credit score, you can take out a personal loan to use for your startup costs. Time in business, annual revenue, and business credit history aren’t required to qualify for personal loans. Instead, you use your personal credit score and your own income to qualify.

If you choose this option, it’s important to make sure that your lender doesn’t have any restrictions prohibiting you from using funds to pay startup costs or other business expenses. Most personal loans don’t have restrictions and can be used to purchase equipment, hire employees, pay operating costs, or use as working capital.

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

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Lending Club is a peer-to-peer lender that provides personal loans up to $40,000 to qualified borrowers. Repayment terms are 3 years or 5 years with APRs starting at 6.95% for the most creditworthy applicants. APRs for less creditworthy borrowers go up to 35.89%.

To qualify for a Lending Club personal loan, you must meet these minimum requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or live in the U.S. on a long-term visa
  • Have a verifiable bank account
  • Have a personal credit score of at least 600

In some cases, Lending Club may recommend adding a co-borrower to increase your chances for approval. If you meet all requirements, you can get funded in as little as 7 days.

As you grow a more established business, you can later take advantage of Lending Club’s business loans. Lending Club offers up to $300,000 in business funding with terms of up to 5 years and fixed monthly payments.

Lines Of Credit

A line of credit is a form of financing you should consider if you want instant access to cash without having to wait for lender approvals. Once you’ve been approved for a line of credit, you can make draws as needed to inject cash into your business.

Here’s how it works. You apply for a line of credit with a lender. The lender looks at a number of factors, such as your personal credit score or business performance, when determining whether to approve your application. These factors will also be considered when setting your credit limit.

Once you’ve been approved, you can initiate as many draws as you’d like from your line of credit up to and including the credit limit. Funds are typically transferred to your bank account immediately, and you can access the money in 1 to 3 business days with most lenders.

As you repay the borrowed funds plus fees and interest charged by the lender, the funds replenish and become available to use again.

Lines of credit are useful for unexpected expenses, emergencies, or to fill revenue gaps. Having a line of credit allows you to access money when you need it without having to go through the application and approval process over and over again.

Recommended Option: Fundbox

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Fundbox offers lines of credit up to $100,000 for qualified businesses. The lender charges a one-time fee for each draw that starts at just 4.66% of the draw amount. Terms of 12 weeks or 24 weeks are available, and automatic payments are drawn from your bank account each week. You can save by paying your loan off early, as Fundbox will waive all remaining fees.

There are two ways to qualify for a Fundbox line of credit. The first is by linking your business bank account or submitting bank statements. These will be used by the lender to evaluate the performance of your business. If you have unpaid accounts receivables, you can use these to qualify. All you have to do is link your supported accounting software.

Minimum requirements to receive a Fundbox line of credit are:

  • Business checking account
  • U.S.-based business
  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue
  • At least 3 months of transactions in a business bank account OR at least 2 months of activity in accounting software

Once you’ve filled out Fundbox’s quick application and have linked your accounts or submitted documentation, you can be approved in just minutes. Then, you can instantly put your line of credit to work for your business.

Business Credit Cards

Another option for fast funding is a business credit card. Once you’ve been approved for a business credit card, you can use it any time. You can use your card as often as you wish provided you stay within your set credit limit.

Business credit cards can be used anywhere credit cards are accepted. You can make purchases online or in-person. You can also use your card for recurring payments, such as utility bills, which is even smarter when you use a rewards card that gives cash back or other perks.

Like lines of credit, business credit cards are revolving forms of credit. This means that as you pay down your principal balance and interest, funds will become available to use again. Once you’re approved for a business credit card, your card is ready to use immediately whenever you need it. This makes it a great payment option for emergency expenses, purchasing supplies or inventory, or for paying recurring expenses.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Preferred

Chase Ink Business Preferred



Apply Now 

Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


18.24% – 23.24%, Variable

If you have excellent credit, consider applying for the Chase Ink Preferred card. With this rewards card, you can receive 3 points for every dollar spent on combined purchases in travel, shipping, cable, internet, phone services, and advertising. Even though earning three points on these purchases is capped at $150,000 per year, you can still earn one point per dollar spent with no limitations on all purchases.

If you’re approved for the Chase Ink Preferred card and spend $5,000 within 3 months of opening your account, you’ll receive an additional 80,000 bonus points. Points can be redeemed for rewards including vacation packages, gift cards, Amazon purchases, and cash back.

This credit card comes with a variable APR of 18.24% to 23.24%. A $95 annual membership fee is required.

To qualify for Chase Ink Business Preferred, you must have good to excellent personal credit.

Rollovers As Business Startups (ROBS)

Withdrawing retirement funds may be tempting, but who wants to pay penalties and taxes for early withdrawal? Luckily, there’s a way that you can leverage these funds to put capital into your new business. This method is known as rollovers as business startups, or ROBS.

How does ROBS work? The first step is to create a C-corporation. Then, a new retirement plan is created for the C-corp. Next, the funds from your existing retirement plan are rolled over into the new plan. These funds are used to purchase stock in the new C-corp, giving you access to the capital you need to get your business running.

Sound too complicated for you? Then consider working with a ROBS provider. A ROBS provider will get everything set up for you legally and ensure you maintain compliance. In exchange, you’ll pay a one-time setup fee and a monthly maintenance fee with most ROBS providers.

When you use this type of financing to fuel your business, you don’t have to worry about repaying a lender. After all, you’re using your own funds. However, be aware that if your business is unsuccessful, you risk losing your retirement funds.

Recommended Option: Guidant Financial

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Guidant Financial is a ROBS provider that can help you leverage your retirement funds. All you need is a qualifying retirement or pension account. Qualifying accounts include:

  • 401(k)
  • 403(b)
  • Traditional IRA
  • TSP
  • SEP
  • Keogh

Qualifying accounts must have a minimum of $50,000. You must also be an employee of the business.
By working with Guidant Financial, you can receive funds in as little as 3 weeks. The setup fee is $4,995. You must also pay a Plan Administration fee of $139 per month.

Unsure if a ROBS plan is right for you? Don’t worry — Guidant Financial offers other business financing options including:

  • SBA 7(a) Loans
  • SBA Working Capital Loans
  • Unsecured Business Loans
  • Equipment Leases

Purchase Financing

If you’re looking for a way to pay your vendors that frees up some of your cash flow, purchase financing might be the solution you’re looking for. With purchase financing, your vendor gets paid immediately for your purchases – think tools, fluids, and other critical shop supplies. In the meantime, you’ll get additional time to pay. Instead of paying off the full balance of your purchase up front, you’ll be able to split it into more affordable regular payments.

Purchase financing gives you more control over your cash flow, freeing up funds and allowing you to pay back on a schedule that works best for your business. Of course, like with other financing, you do have to pay interest and fees for this service.

Recommended Option: Behalf

behalf logo

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Behalf offers purchase financing of $300 up to $50,000. You’ll receive up to 6 months to repay the lender and can choose between weekly or monthly payments.

Monthly fees for the service start at 1% and are based on creditworthiness. There are no additional fees for using Behalf’s financing.

There are no time in business or revenue requirements to qualify. However, Behalf performs a hard pull on your credit, considers business credit history, and looks at other business performance factors to determine if you are eligible for financing.

Choose Business Software

Small Business Online Accounting Software

To keep operations flowing smoothly, you need to pick the right business software for your repair shop. Business software helps you more efficiently run your business, from keeping up with customers to tracking your finances for tax purposes.

Accounting Software

Accounting software allows you to perform various accounting functions so that you can track and record all financial transactions. With accounting software, you can track accounts receivable and accounts payable. Most modern accounting software also offers additional tools including bill payment, payroll, and invoicing. You can purchase accounting software or pay a fee to subscribe to an online service.

Accounting software not only allows you to keep track of your finances at any time, but it also can be used to run financial reports that may be required to receive financing. These reports will also serve you well when it comes time to do your taxes.

No experience in accounting? Don’t worry — we have you covered. Check out our free eBook “The Beginner’s Guide to Accounting” that breaks complicated accounting concepts into ones that are easy to understand.

Auto Repair Invoice Software

Accounting software often has a feature that allows you to create and send invoices. However, you might want to invest in specialty software for auto body repair shops.

Auto repair invoice software includes a variety of tools that can be used to track service requests, create invoices and estimates, track leads, and manage inventory and orders.

Payment Processing Software

No longer do we live in a cash-only world. Now, customers almost always make their purchases using debit cards, credit cards, and even smartphones.

In order to be able to accept these forms of payment, you’re going to need a payment processing service. The payment processor serves as the communicator between your customer’s bank and your own bank, allowing you to process credit, debit, and other forms of payment.

For your auto collision business, you might want to consider getting a point-of-sale system. With POS software, you’ll be able to process credit cards, scan barcodes, print receipts, track inventory, run reports, and perform other functions. For a fee, your business can receive the software and hardware needed to best serve your customers.

Hire Employees

While you may start your collision center as a one-man operation, you have to hire employees if you want to grow.

One of the first hires you’ll make is a mechanic that will work on repairing vehicles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mechanics make approximately $39,550 per year. An auto body and glass repairer averages around $40,580 annually.

As you bring in more employees, you’ll also want to hire a manager to oversee them all. Salaries for managers vary widely based on experience and how many employees they will be overseeing. Managers may bring in anywhere from $45,000 upwards of $60,000 per year.

Eventually, you may also want to hire a front-desk receptionist. The role of the receptionist is to greet customers, answer the phone, and make appointments. This employee may also take payments from customers and handle some of the company’s bookkeeping. The average salary of a receptionist is around $27,000 per year.

Do some research to find out more about salaries in your area, as these numbers can vary. You also need to take into consideration that there are additional expenses associated with hiring employees including:

  • Onboarding & Training
  • Background Checks
  • Drug Testing
  • Taxes
  • Benefits

When you’re ready to hire an employee, there are a few ways you can find quality candidates. The first is to ask for referrals. If you know someone in the industry, ask if they know of any potential employees. Even if you don’t have connections with anyone in the industry, ask around among your friends, family members, and colleagues.

You can also post your jobs on online job boards. Make sure that your job listing has an overview of responsibilities and requirements for all candidates. As resumes hit your inbox, you can set up interviews and hire new employees for your business.

Bolster Your Web Presence

Before you even hold your grand opening, you need to start your marketing efforts. The best place to start is the internet. When researching new businesses, most people use their laptops or smartphones. If you don’t have a web presence, how will your customers find you?

Getting your business online is easy. Start with these simple steps.

Create Social Media Profiles

It seems like everyone’s on social media these days, from your teenage nephew to your grandmother. Social media doesn’t just connect friends and family members, either. It’s also a great place for users to find new brands and businesses.

Setting up your social media profiles is free and easy. Consider starting with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Add your logo, contact details, and important information like services provided and hours of operation. As you build your business, you can update your profiles with specials, coupons, photos of your completed work, and other information.

Create A Website

You also want to make sure that you have a website that provides important details to your customers such as your shop hours, specials, and services provided.

No web design experience? No problem. These days, any small business owner can create a professional website with easy web builders that feature templates, drag-and-drop design, and other tools to create a website in just minutes.

Your website should be a reflection of your brand, so make sure to choose templates, photos, and colors that best represent your shop. Your domain name should also represent your brand, so make sure it’s easy to remember and avoid numbers, symbols, or very long URLs.

Your website shouldn’t be overly complicated, and it should be easy to navigate. You don’t have to load down your site with lots of information. Start off by including key info such as hours of operation, services performed, and contact information. Also make sure to highlight any features that make your shop stand out, such as certifications, free estimates, or rental car/shuttle services offered to your customers. In the future, you can add additional features such as a signup option for email newsletters or online scheduling.

This is all just the tip of the iceberg. Learn more about creating and maintaining an online web presence for your business.

Advertise Your Business

Your website and social media profiles are a great way to start advertising your business, but in order to grow and scale, you can’t stop there. You need to plan a marketing and advertising campaign to get the word out about your business.

Consider paying for social media ads or pay-per-click ads on search engines, or sign up with Yelp For Business. These options can be affordable for new businesses and are easy to set up.

You can also look beyond the internet to advertise your business. Consider placing flyers or door hangers in the area around your business to bring in new customers. Before you take this route, though, make sure to understand the local laws in your area regarding the posting of flyers on public and private property.

As your business grows and becomes more successful, you can explore options including radio and TV advertisements and mailers. However, these ads are typically quite expensive, so hold off on these options until your business is bringing in steady revenue.

One of the most important things to remember here is that word-of-mouth advertising is one of the best forms of advertising. If you perform a great service, your customers will tell others about your business. Keep customer satisfaction high to increase those referrals and draw in more revenue for your body shop.

Final Thoughts

While you may be itching to get your auto body shop off the ground immediately, a business isn’t born overnight. Take the time to plan out your business, and you’ll increase your chances for success. The hard work doesn’t stop after your grand opening, either. You’ll need to continue working hard to bring in customers, increase your revenue, and become a successful entrepreneur.

The post How To Start And Finance An Auto Body Shop Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Top No Transfer Fee Credit Cards Worth Your Look

no transfer fee credit cards

If you’re looking for a credit card that can help you claw your way out of debt, you might consider transferring your debt to a card with no balance transfer fees and a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers.

With a typical credit card, interest payments on your debt can keep you stuck in that debt hole. If you can transfer your balance to a card with a nice long 0% intro balance transfer APR, you stand to save money. And if that card charges no balance transfer fees, all the better!

Generally, credit cards with 0% intro rates on balance transfers are more common than cards with no transfer fees whatsoever. In fact, with business credit cards, it’s quite uncommon to find a card with no balance transfer fee. Nonetheless, when it comes to transferring a balance from another card, some business cards are better than others.

In this article, we’re going to look at the best credit cards for balance transfers, both business and personal. However, here’s something I should mention at the outset: Most credit card issuers don’t allow you to transfer a balance from one of their cards to another. For example, you can’t transfer a balance from one American Express card to another Amex card.

For more details on how balance transfers work, go read our handy guide on balance transfers for small business owners. (Non-business-owners can take advantage of these tips too!)

Credit Card Balance Transfer Fee Balance Transfer 0% Intro Rate
Spark Cash from Capital One 0% None
Amex Blue Business Plus 3% 0% APR for 15 months
Chase Ink Business Cash 5% 0% APR for 12 months
Amex EveryDay Credit Card 0% for the first 60 days 0% APR for 15 months
Chase Slate 0% for the first 60 days 0% APR for 15 months
BankAmericard Credit Card for Students 0% for the first 60 days 0% APR for 15 months
SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card 0% for the first 60 days Prime Rate (currently 5.50%) APR for 3 years

Best Business Credit Card With No Transfer Fees

Spark Cash from Capital One

Capital One Spark Cash For Business


capital one spark cash select
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Annual Fee:


$95 ($0 the first year)

 

Purchase APR:


19.24%, Variable

Spark Cash from Capital One is one of the very few business credit cards on the market that does not charge a transaction fee on balances transferred to the card. As such, it must be the best business credit card for balance transfers, right?

Not so fast. While the lack of transaction fees applied to balance transfers is beneficial to entrepreneurs trying to climb out of debt, the card doesn’t carry a 0% intro APR on balance transfers (or purchases for that matter). So while you won’t be assessed a fee for transferring a balance to this card, the monthly APR on your transferred balance will be 19.24% starting the first billing period. If you don’t envision being able to pay off your balance within a few months, you may be better served by Amex’s Blue Business Plus card despite that card’s 3% fee on balance transfers.

The Spark Cash business card offers a great cash back deal: 2% cash back on all purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn. It’s great for business owners who just want cash back without having to consider which category their spending falls into. On the downside, a $95 annual fee kicks in after the first year.

Best Business Credit Cards With 0% APR On Balance Transfers

Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express

Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


13.49% – 21.49%, Variable

The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express might just be the best business credit card currently available for the purposes of transferring a balance. Why?

Two reasons.

First, the card offers a lengthy 15-month 0% APR period for balance transfers. (The card’s business competitors offer, at best, 12 months of 0% APR on balance transfers.) Second, the card applies a 3% fee (or $5, whichever is greater) to balances transferred to the card. While it’s true that there are plenty of personal credit cards that impose no balance transfer fees whatsoever, the Blue Business Plus’s 3% fee is lower than that of most competing business credit cards, most of which charge a 5% balance transfer fee.

Along with being a great business card for balance transfers, the Blue Business Plus also gives you 2 rewards points for every $1 you spend on your first $50,000 worth of purchases per year. What’s more, cardholders are able to purchase above their credit limit so long as they pay the full amount purchased above their credit limit each month (along with the minimum payment).

Chase Ink Business Cash

Chase Ink Business Cash



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.49% – 21.49%, Variable

The Chase Ink Business Cash card offers 0% APR on all balance transfers for 12 months. While this doesn’t quite match the Blue Business Plus’s 15 months, it’s still quite competitive as business cards go. In fact, many business cards offer an introductory 0% rate for purchases only (or not at all).

Unfortunately, the Ink Business Cash charges a 5% (or $5) fee on all balance transfers.

Apart from balance transfers, the Ink Business Cash is a top-of-the-line cash back business card. Here’s what your business spending will get you:

  • 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone purchases each year
  • 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each year
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

Best Personal Credit Cards With No Transfer Fees

Amex EveryDay Credit Card

Amex EveryDay Credit Card


Amex EveryDay Credit Card
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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.24% – 26.24%, Variable

The Amex EveryDay Credit Card is a uniquely valuable personal credit card for those striving to get out of debt.

The EveryDay card lets you transfer a balance over with no balance transfer fee, provided you transfer the balance within 60 days of opening your account (a 3% charge will apply thereafter). You’ll also enjoy a 0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months and no annual fee.

While the Amex EveryDay card is a great card for cost-free balance transfers, you’ll also get a remarkable level of rewards for such a practical card. You’ll get 2 Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent at a) US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases and on b) travel purchases booked through AmexTravel.com. Furthermore, if you make 20 or more purchases with your card in a billing period, you get 20% extra points on those purchases (minus returns and credits).

Of course, such inducements to spend may be said to run counter to the goal of helping you out of debt, but that’s an existential issue outside the purview of this article!

Chase Slate

Chase Slate



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


17.24% – 25.99%, Variable

The Chase Slate card is a credit card specifically designed to help you manage your credit card debt.

It’s not an exciting card. There’s no cash back to earn and there are no fancy benefits to accrue. However, the card offers the debt-burdened cardholder three benefits. First, the Chase Slate card lets you transfer a balance over with no balance transfer fee so long as you do so during the first 60 days your account is open. After 60 days, a 5% fee will be applied, so transfer those balances early.

Second, the Chase Slate features a 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers and purchases so you’ll have a decent amount of time to pay off that balance before any interest charges accrue.

Finally, the card carries no annual fee.

BankAmericard Credit Card for Students

BankAmericard Credit Card For Students



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.24% – 25.24%, Variable

The BankAmericard Credit Card for Students should be of interest to any student (yes, you must be a student to qualify) looking to consolidate credit card debt.

With the BankAmericard student credit card, you can transfer a balance to the card with no fees (provided you do so within 60 days of opening your account.) A 3% charge (or $10, whichever is greater) applies to balance transfers after the initial 60 days. You’ll also get an introductory 0% APR for 15 months on all balances transferred within 60 days of opening your account and on all purchases.

Additionally, the card has no annual fee and you’ll be able to check your FICO score for free with your Mobile Banking app or in Online Banking. There are no rewards to earn.

SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card

SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


13.49% – 23.49%, Variable

The SunTrust Prime Rewards credit card offers a unique deal to debt-addled consumers looking to consolidate credit card debt.

Like several other cards listed here, the SunTrust Prime Rewards card won’t charge you a balance transfer fee on any balances transferred within 60 days of your account opening. However, when it comes to paying off your transferred debt, all balances transferred within 60 days of opening your account will be subject to a Prime Rate (currently 5.50% variable) intro APR for 36 months. Now, 5.50% interest isn’t as good as 0% interest, but you’ll have a full 3 years to pay off your debt at this low rate.

The card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee, and you’ll get an unlimited 1% cash back on all qualifying purchases.

Final Thoughts

It may seem odd to use credit cards to work your way out of debt considering the fact that credit cards got you into debt in the first place. However, transferring your debt to the right card can, indeed, save you money on interest payments — provided you play your cards right. [Pause for laughter.]

Still looking for a credit card to fit your small business needs? Check out these helpful articles on the subject!

  • Top Business Credit Card Balance Transfer Offers
  • Best Credit Card Offers For Businesses: January 2019
  • The Best Free Credit Score Sites

The post The Top No Transfer Fee Credit Cards Worth Your Look appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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