Low Interest Rate Loans: Top Options This Month

Imagine this scenario: You’re a business owner. You’ve been in business for a year or two, and your business is thriving. Until this point, you’ve not taken out a loan. However, your growing business is at a point where it needs extra capital. Maybe it’s time to hire new employees, purchase equipment, or relocate to a larger building.

Now, picture this: You’re ambitious, you have a solid business plan, and you’re ready to launch your business. You need capital to fund your startup costs, but banks won’t even give your business plan a second glance.

Do either of these situations sound familiar? Business loans are notoriously difficult to receive. In addition to a high personal credit score, your business must have a solid credit score, your annual revenue must hit a certain threshold, and most loans require a time in business of at least two years.

If you don’t meet these requirements, what do you do? Do you have any funding options? Are you stuck with business loans that cost an arm and a leg after high interest and fees? Do you wait months — or years — until you can qualify?

Actually, there’s a better solution. If you have at least a fair credit score, you can apply for a low interest personal loan that can be used to fund your startup, cover your operating expenses, or pay for your expansion.

Ready to learn more? Read on to find out more about personal loans, what you need to qualify, and our picks for the best loans for your credit score.

Lender Rate Required Credit Score Next Steps

8.16% – 35.99% APR

620

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6.95% – 35.99% APR

640

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15.49% – 35.99% APR

600

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9.95% – 35.99% APR

580

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discover personal loans

6.99% – 24.99% APR

660

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6.95% – 35.89% APR

600

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6.26% – 14.87% APR

660

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What Is A Personal Loan?

When you receive a personal loan, a bank, credit union, or online lender will provide you with a lump sum of money. The total borrowing amount is based on the amount you request, your credit score and history, and your ability to pay back the loan. You may qualify for an unsecured loan, which is not backed with collateral. If you have a low credit score or request a high borrowing amount, you may receive a secured loan that is backed by collateral,  an asset of value used to guarantee the loan.

In addition to the amount you borrow, fees and the interest charged by the lender will be added onto the loan. You’ll then repay the loan, plus interest and fees, over a set period of time (typically 2 years or longer). The loan is paid back in installments until the balance, fees, and interest have been repaid.

Personal loans can be used for a variety of purposes. Some borrowers may use the loan to consolidate debt, pay off credit cards or high-interest loans, cover an emergency expense, or for other personal financial needs. However, personal loans can also be used for startup costs and small business expenses.

Receiving an affordable business loan can be extremely difficult. Lenders review your business credit score, personal credit score, time in business, and annual revenues. If you’ve only been in business for a short time or you haven’t yet built a business credit history, your options may be limited  — and expensive.

However, if you have a solid credit score, you can receive an affordable personal loan with great rates and terms. Your personal loan can be used to pay startup costs, purchase equipment, hire new employees, or for working capital.

Personal loans are based on your personal credit score, credit history, and income. Your business will not be a consideration for approval, so taking out a personal loan could be a smart financial move if you face challenges that make it difficult to receive a small business loan.

It is important to remember that not all personal loans can be used for business expenses. If you plan to use a personal loan for business purposes, make sure that the lender has not placed limitations prohibiting loan proceeds to be used for this purpose. The recommended options in this article can all be used for business purposes.

Typical Interest Rates & Fees

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When you receive a personal loan, you not only pay back the amount that you’ve borrowed, but you also pay interest to the lender. Banks, credit unions, and other lenders want to work with low-risk borrowers. These lenders evaluate multiple factors to determine the risk level of each loan applicant.

A low-risk borrower would be someone with a high credit score, a solid credit history free of major blemishes, an annual income large enough to cover the cost of the loan, and a low debt-to-income ratio. A high-risk borrower would be an applicant with a low credit score, a spotty credit history, income challenges, and a high DTI.

Being a high-risk borrower comes at a price, in the form of interest. If a high-risk borrower is approved for a loan, the interest rate will be much higher – think 30% or more for personal loans. On the other hand, if you’re a low-risk borrower, you’ll receive a lower interest rate, which means a lower overall cost of your loan.

Borrowers with excellent credit scores can expect to receive an interest rate of around 6%. Based on your creditworthiness and the interest rates of your lender, this number may rise.

That’s why it’s so important to shop around for options. Many lenders offer a prequalification tool that you can use before applying for your loan. This will give you an idea of whether you’re approved and how much you can expect to pay. We’ll discuss this in more detail later in this article.

Another step you can take before you apply for a personal loan is to find out your credit score. There are multiple websites that allow you to access your credit score at no cost. Pull your score, look over your report, and make sure you have a good understanding of your credit history. If you have some credit challenges, you can take a few easy steps to boost your score before applying if you want to receive the best interest rates. While there are loan options available for borrowers with fair or poor credit, you may pay hundreds (or even thousands) more for your loan than a low-risk borrower.

Other costs may include fees charged by the lender. Some loans, such as Discover Personal Loans, come with no additional fees. However, other options may include fees such as:

  • Origination Fees
  • Application Fees
  • Late Payment Fees
  • Credit Insurance Fees
  • Prepayment Fees

Lenders are required to disclose all fees associated with their financial products, so make sure that you review all paperwork and fee schedules carefully to ensure you’re getting the most affordable option.

The Best Loans For Excellent Credit

Discover Personal Loans

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Discover has moved beyond just credit cards to provide qualified borrowers with affordable personal loans. With Discover, you can receive between $2,500 and $35,000 with fixed rates of 6.99% to 24.99% based on creditworthiness. Repayment terms of 36, 48, 60, 72, and 84 months are available so you can build a loan that best fits your financial needs.

One of the biggest benefits of Discover Personal Loans is that there are no origination fees. In fact, if you pay your loan on time each month, there are no additional fees. With Discover, you can receive a same-day decision, although approvals for some borrowers may take additional time. If you decide that you don’t want to take the loan after acceptance, you can return all funds within 30 days without having to pay any interest.

To qualify for a loan, you must be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. A minimum household income of $25,000 is required. Applicants must have a credit score of 660; however, the average credit score of borrowers of a Discover personal loan is reported as 750.

SoFi

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SoFi is a popular lender for personal loans because of its high borrowing limits. You can apply for a loan between $5,000 and $100,000 through SoFi. The fixed rate APR range is between 6.99% and 14.99%. There are no origination fees, prepayment penalties, late fees, or hidden fees with a SoFi loan. Repayment terms are between 3 and 7 years.

To qualify for a SoFi personal loan, you must live in a state serviced by the lender. You must be employed, have sufficient income, or have an offer for employment that begins within the next 90 days. While there is no hard cut-off for credit score requirements, borrowers must have a solid credit history with a credit score in the high 600s.

The Best Loans For Good Credit

Prosper

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With Prosper, you can apply for personal loans of between $2,000 and $40,000. Repayment terms are set at 3 or 5 years. APRs range between 6.95% and 35.99% and are based on creditworthiness of the borrower. Origination fees (between 2.41% and 5%) apply when accepting a Prosper loan.

To qualify for a Prosper loan, you must have a personal credit score of at least 640. Other credit requirements include a DTI below 50%, no bankruptcies within the last year, fewer than five inquiries over the last 6 months, and at least three open trades on your credit report. If you’ve borrowed from Prosper before, you must meet all of the previous conditions, as well as no previous charge-offs of Prosper loans. If you’re a repeat borrower, you must not have been declined for a loan from Prosper within the last four months as a result of delinquency or returned payments on a Prosper loan.

The underwriting and loan verification process may take up to 7 business days. Once approved, funds are transferred to your bank account and should be received within 1 to 3 business days.

Upstart

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Upstart offers loans of $1,000 to $50,000. Interest rates are between 8.89% and 35.99% for qualified borrowers. Repayment terms are 3 years and 5 years. According to Upstart, 99% of approved applicants receive their funding in just one business day after accepting their loans. A one-time origination fee of 0% to 8% of the loan amount will be deducted from the loan before it is issued. There are no prepayment penalties if you choose to pay your loan off early.

What’s unique about Upstart is that your credit score isn’t the only factor used to approve your loan. This lender looks at your credit score, years of credit history, your education and area of study, and job history to determine if you qualify.

However, this lender still has credit requirements. All applicants must have a FICO or Vantage score of at least 620 to qualify, although Upstart will work with borrowers with limited credit histories. Credit reports should be free of bankruptcies, public records, and delinquent accounts. You must have fewer than 6 credit inquiries on your report within the last 6 months, although vehicle loans, mortgages, and student loans are exempt from this requirement. Upstart will also consider your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) before your loan is approved.

You can be prequalified with Upstart within minutes of submitting your application. The underwriting process generally takes 24 to 48 hours. Once you’re approved, you should receive your loan proceeds within 2 business days.

Lending Club

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Through Lending Club, you can apply for personal loans between $1,000 and $40,000. Your loan can be repaid over 3 years or 5 years. Lending Club’s APRs are between 6.95% and 35.89%. The annual interest rate and a one-time origination fee of 1% to 6% of the loan balance are included in the APR. There are no additional fees when you receive a Lending Club personal loan.

To qualify for a Lending Club personal loan, you must have a credit score of at least 600. As with other personal loans, a higher credit score yields a lower interest rate, APR, and overall cost of borrowing. The entire process from application to approval takes about 7 days, while funding may add an additional few days to the timeline.

The Best Loans For Fair Credit

Lending Point

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Lending Point offers personal loans of $2,000 to $25,000. Interest rates are between 15.49% and 30%. Origination fees are between 0% and 6% when taking out a Lending Point personal loan.

While the interest rate may seem high, Lending Point loans are aimed at borrowers with fair credit scores. To qualify for a loan, all borrowers must have a credit score in the 600s. Borrowers must have a minimum annual income of $20,000. All borrowers must be located in one of the 34 states where Lending Point does business. Applicants in Washington, D.C. are also eligible to apply.

Lending Point loans can be approved immediately. Once approved, additional information and documentation are required for underwriting. In most cases, the underwriting process can be completed and the loan approved within hours. After approval, you may receive your funds in your bank account as soon as the next business day.

Avant

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Avant loans are available in amounts from $2,000 to $35,000, although limits vary by state. Term lengths are between 2 years and 5 years, with APRs of 9.95% to 36.99%. An administration fee of 0.95% to 4.75% is applied to your loan.

To qualify, you must have a minimum credit score of at least 580, although most borrowers have a credit score between 600 and 700. Avant loans are available to borrowers in all states except for Colorado, Iowa, Vermont, and West Virginia.

After applying for an Avant loan, you may receive an immediate loan offer. Verification, underwriting, and funding your loan takes only a few business days.

What You Need To Qualify For A Loan

The great thing about all of the loan options discussed in this article is that you can receive them all from the comfort of your home or office. You don’t have to spend hours in a bank with a huge folder full of documents. Instead, you’ll be able to apply for your loan, complete the underwriting and verification process, and receive loan proceeds online.

The information and documentation needed to receive your loan vary by lender. For all the loans mentioned above, you must be a citizen or permanent resident of the U.S. All applicants must be at least 18 years old. You must reside in a state where your lender conducts business. You must also have verifiable income, although limits vary by lender. A checking account is also required for direct deposit of your funds.

No matter what lender you apply with, some basic personal information is always required. This includes your full legal name, date of birth, Social Security Number, and contact information. You will also need to provide information about your annual income and employment.

While this information may be sufficient to prequalify you for a loan, additional information and documentation are typically required during the underwriting process. Some of the most common requirements include:

  • Copy Of Driver’s License
  • Personal Bank Statements
  • Personal Tax Returns
  • Personal Credit Score & Report
  • Proof Of Address: Lease agreement, voter registration, utility bill, etc.

How To Check Your Eligibility

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You’re shopping around for lenders, and you’re ready to make a commitment. Before you dive into the application process, first find out if you qualify for the loan. Lenders have made this easier than ever by offering ways to prequalify directly from their websites.

You should have an idea what types of loans you qualify for before even taking this step by reviewing your credit score and report. If your credit score is in the low 600s and a lender requires a score of 680 to qualify, you’ll know to look at other lending options.

Once you’ve reviewed your score and report and have an understanding of a lender’s requirements, you can fill out a prequalification form on each lender’s website. On this form, you enter basic data such as your name, birthdate, and Social Security Number. You may also need to input the total loan amount you seek, as well as your annual income. Once you’ve submitted the form, you may receive an approval instantly and can proceed with the full application. In some cases, you may be declined for a loan, while other lenders may require additional information.

When you’re shopping around for loans in this way, most lenders only perform a soft credit pull. Make sure this is the case each time you submit a prequalification form. Multiple hard inquiries can not only lower your credit score but can also disqualify you from receiving loans due to a high number of credit inquiries.

Once you’ve been prequalified, most lenders provide you with a tentative loan amount and interest rate. It may be wise to shop around to find the most affordable loan option, also taking into account any additional fees added to the cost of the loan. Once you’ve found the best option for your financial situation, proceed with applying for the loan.

Final Thoughts

Finding a loan for your small business can be tricky. But even when one lender shuts the door, there’s probably another way in (even if it takes a little creativity). With a solid personal credit history, you can find an affordable loan option for your small business via a personal lender — if you take the time to research your options. Good luck and happy borrowing!

The post Low Interest Rate Loans: Top Options This Month appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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A Guide To Square Credit Card Readers And POS Bundles

 

Square made its name offering a free mobile credit card swiper, but the company has expanded so much in the past few years that there is now a massive array of hardware options, catering to all types of businesses. You can still get mobile card readers from Square if you don’t need more than just a phone or tablet and a swiper, but you can also get a countertop POS system complete with a customer-facing display, or a slim, portable credit card terminal with a phone-sized high-resolution screen and built-in receipt printer. And if you’d like to print paper receipts and have an automated cash drawer, Square offers a wide range of compatible hardware. You can even save some money by opting for one of Square’s ready-made bundles of hardware.

Let’s take a look at Square’s hardware options, including its mobile readers, POS systems, and POS kits. We’ll start with simplest options and move on to the most comprehensive kits. We’ll also talk about what you can do to control your costs and manage your cash flow with Square’s financing.

If you’re still curious about Square’s offerings, we also recommend checking out our complete, in-depth review of Square, which covers hardware as well as the software.

Square Mobile Card Readers

Square’s mobile card readers are meant to work with smartphones and tablets — unlike with some of the company’s “all in one” hardware solutions, if you go with a card reader it’s a “bring your own device” situation. Square’s mobile readers are ideal for businesses that are always on the go — farmer’s market stalls, service businesses, food trucks, etc. These card readers work with any of Square’s POS apps as well. However, compatibility with specific tablets or smartphones will vary — and you should check before you buy that a card reader is compatible with your device. Square has a helpful compatibility checker tool on its website for this purpose.

Square Magstripe Readers

Square has been offering free basic magstripe readers for years. The boxy design hasn’t changed significantly over the years and it’s simple to use. Recently, the company added a Lightning connector variant in addition to the 3.5mm headphone jack connector. Square used to sell a 3.5mm adapter, but that’s no longer available (because it’s no longer necessary). However, I will say that adapters from other makers will work for the same purpose.

New Square merchants get 1 free card reader; additional card readers sell for a very reasonable $10. Unlike PayPal Here, Square doesn’t impose any limits or restrictions on transactions processed with a magstripe reader — there’s no limit to the number of swiped transactions you can process before you trigger a hold. That’s a nice touch. However, if you do process large transactions or do a significant volume of credit card payments you should definitely look at upgrading to a chip card-capable reader.

Magstripe Reader Quick Facts 

  • Free for new merchants
  • $10 retail price
  • 3.5mm headphone jack or lightning port connectors
  • Supports magstripe transactions

Square Chip Card Reader

 

Square’s first chip card reader wasn’t particularly fancy, or even all that different from its elder sibling: it was boxy, with a headphone jack connector. And it has since fallen out of favor — partly thanks to Apple and its removal of the headphone jack on its iPhones. However, this entry-level chip card reader is still available at a reasonable price — ideal for merchants who want to accept chip cards but also save some money.

Square doesn’t offer a lightning connector variant for the Chip Card Reader, but as I mentioned, a Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter would work for iPhone users. This reader also requires the occasional battery charge because of the addition of the chip reader.

Chip Card Reader Fast Facts 

  • $35
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack connector
  • Requires battery charging
  • Supports magstripe and chip card transactions

Square Contactless + Chip Reader

Square’s Contactless + Chip Reader is a departure from Square’s earlier mobile credit card readers. First, it connects via Bluetooth. Second, it doesn’t support magstripe transactions at all. Instead, Square includes one of its free magstripe reader in the box as well. (To be honest, this design kind of disappoints me, but I figure that the Contactless + Chip Reader was designed to add EMV support to the Square Stand, which already has an integrated magstripe reader. So building magstripe support into the Contactless + Chip Reader was a moot point. Still, for merchants who don’t have a Square Stand, this might prove to be a small annoyance if the chip reader can’t read a card properly.)

Square also sells a charging dock, which can be plugged into a wall, or into the Square Stand’s USB hub. It sells for $29 separately. You can use it in a countertop retail environment and let customers insert their payment cards themselves, or you can set the dock aside and grab the reader by itself whenever you need to make a transaction.

Contactless + Chip Reader Fast Facts 

  • $49
  • Charging dock sold separately ($29)
  • Bluetooth connection
  • Supports chip card and contactless transactions
  • Basic magstripe reader also included

Square Countertop POS Devices

If you’d like something a little bit more permanent and stationary in your POS setup, Square offer options tailored to different environments. The offerings here get a little more complex, so bear with me!

Square Stand

The Square Stand has been one of the company’s core offerings for a long time — it is a tablet stand with a built-in card reader, all for a reasonable price (at launch, it cost $99). It swivels, it has minimal cords, and it looks good. Square has improved it slightly with the bundling of the Contactless + Chip Reader. That brings the price to $169.

Square doesn’t include a receipt printer for the Stand, but a printer is available in hardware bundles. Likewise, Square doesn’t include an iPad with the Stand, but you can purchase one directly from Square for an additional $329. Keep in mind that the current edition of the Square Stand only works for the most recent iPad models. If you have an older iPad, you can order a legacy stand from Square for $99, but the Contactless + Chip Reader requires iOS 9.3.5 or higher, and that version of iOS isn’t supported on an iPad 2 or other earlier models.

Because the Square Stand runs an iPad, it can also support merchants using Square Point of Sale, Square for Retail, or Square for Restaurants. There are an assortment of recommended hardware bundles for the Square stand, but if you prefer to build your own setup, you will be happy to know that the Square Stand supports USB, Ethernet, WiFi and Bluetooth printers, as well as other devices.

Square Stand Fast Facts 

  • Accepts magstripe, chip card, and contactless transactions
  • $169 (iPad sold separately)
  • Includes Contactless + Chip Reader (integrated magstripe reader in stand)
  • Compatible with Square Point of Sale, Square for Restaurants, Square for Retail, Square Appointments

Square Terminal

Square Terminal (read our review), the newest addition to Square’s lineup of hardware, takes the concept of the Square Stand and the traditional credit card terminal and combines them into one portable machine. The display is large enough to be a fully functioning POS (it runs Square Point of Sale, the free app). It accepts magstripe, chip card, and contactless transactions. It even has a built-in thermal receipt printer.

While you can operate Terminal by keeping it plugged in, Square promises the battery will last all day if you prefer to go wireless. You also get a cleverly-designed power brick and USB hub to connect accessories, such as the USB barcode scanner and cash drawer. Bluetooth accessories aren’t supported, so the USB hub will be important for some merchants.

While Terminal runs Square Point of Sale, it also offers some compatibility with the iPad-based premium POS app, Square for Restaurants. Specifically, Terminal can be used for tableside ordering and payments. It doesn’t support all of Square for Restaurant’s features, though, so it’s important that you make sure Terminal will really fit your needs.

Square Terminal Fast Facts 

  • Accepts magstripe, chip card, and contactless transactions
  • $399
  • $300 processing credit for new merchants
  • 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Compatible with Square Point of Sale (limited compatibility with Square for Restaurants)

Square Register

 

Square Register (read our review) definitely targets a higher-end market, with a price tag of $999 — not counting a cash drawer, receipt printer, or barcode scanner. However, for that price, you get a 13.25-inch screen running Square Point of Sale, as well as a 7-inch consumer-facing screen with integrated support for magstripe, chip card, and contactless transactions.

Square Register runs an Android-based version of Square Point of Sale, which means it’s not compatible with Square for Retail. However, you can take advantage of the back-end features if you opt to subscribe to Square for Retail. Specifically, that means access to the reporting features, including cost of goods sold and profitability reports. Square Register also integrates perfectly with Square Loyalty and allows customers to see the status of their loyalty accounts.

All in all, Square Register is an absolutely gorgeous piece of hardware that would look great in a retail space. The addition of the customer-facing display, combined with all of the supported hardware, brings Register on par with more traditional countertop POS systems.

Square Register Fast Facts

  • Accepts magstripe, chip card, and contactless transactions
  • $999
  • 2.5% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Compatible with Square Point of Sale (back end features compatible with Square for Retail)

Square POS Bundles

Square’s POS Kits are available for the Square Stand and Square Register — but if you’d prefer to use a different tablet stand for an iPad, Square also offers some alternatives. It would be a bit redundant and very overwhelming to go through every single bundle that Square offers, so let’s focus on what they offer, broadly speaking.

Square will first ask you to pick a category for your business. The options are limited — just food and beverages, beauty and wellness, or retail. However, those three categories cover a lot of industries. And honestly, you shouldn’t worry too much about picking the right category because the offerings will be similar. Check the options in each category and see which bundle you like.

After you’ve chosen an industry category, Square will also ask you about your Internet setup, specifically whether your business has a router. If you are relying on cellular data, obviously, there’s no router involved. But this question primarily affects what kind of printer Square includes in its bundles.

The biggest advantage to choosing a Square POS kit is the cost savings. Buying individual accessories from Square will cost more than buying a bundle. Square lists the prices as “starting at” for most bundles, but that’s usually because you have the option of purchasing an iPad direct from Square. (Note that you can only get the most recent model of iPad. Square offers POS bundles that support the iPad 2, for example, but you’ll have to acquire the iPad separately.)

Let’s start by looking at what the Square Register and Square Stand bundles look like, versus the alternative tablet stands.

Square Stand POS Kit

 

Square Stand on its own is pretty affordable, but if you opt for the bundle with the stand over buying individual components, you’ll save a small amount. Square suggests running the Stand with a router setup, which includes a USB hub for accessories, rather than wireless options. Your Square Stand Kit includes the following:

  • Receipt printer paper (25 rolls)
  • USB Receipt Printer
  • 16 in. Printer-Driven Cash Drawer
  • Square Stand for Contactless and Chip

If you decide against the Square Stand Kit, keep in mind that you can use any piece of hardware that works with an iPad running Square Point of Sale, as well as USB-enabled devices. That includes barcode scanners and receipt and kitchen printers in addition to cash drawers.

Square Register POS Kit

The POS kit for Square Register will add $530 to the cost, but it will save you $67 over buying the parts individually. (Also take note: You can’t order just the hardware bundle separate from the Register.)

In addition to the Register itself, the kit includes:

  • 16 in. USB Cash Drawer
  • USB Receipt Printer
  • Receipt printer paper (25 rolls)
  • Square Register

Square only recommends the Register kit for businesses with routers, not mobile setups. That’s not too surprising because it’s clearly not a mobile setup. Register does support some USB and Ethernet printers (and one WiFi printer), but it does not support as many devices as the Square Stand or just a standalone iPad. Square also offers compatible kitchen printers, which aren’t included in the bundles for food and beverage businesses, surprisingly.

Other Square POS Kits

If you’d still like to use Square on a tablet — but without the Register or Square Stand — you can get a selection of Heckler brand tablet stands designed for iPads, as well as Galaxy Tab A devices. They contain the following:

  • A tablet stand
  • A printer (Ethernet or Bluetooth)
  • Cash drawer
  • Receipt printer paper
  • Card reader (Magstripe or Contactless + Chip)

Prices vary by the tablet stand model, as well as whether the kit includes an Ethernet or wireless printer. Which card reader Square includes depends on the model of iPad (remember, early models of iPad can’t upgrade to the iOS version required to support the Contactless + Chip Reader). And again, you can mix and match tablet stands and other devices to create a custom setup, though you will ultimately pay more than if you chose one of Square’s pre-made bundles.

Other Square Accessories

When you check out Square’s hardware shop, you can also browse standalone accessories for Square’s products. I like that the site has added the ability to filter compatible accessories by the POS device. The available accessories include kitchen printers, USB and Bluetooth barcode scanners, WiFi routers, and more. However, these are far from your only options. Square actually supports an extensive array of hardware in addition to the options available directly through its own shop. And it’s great about publishing that list of confirmed, supported devices.

Should You Finance Your Square Hardware Purchase?

There’s one last factor to consider when shopping for hardware from Square: the cost. If you are worried about the price of Square’s hardware, or the overall price of accessories, you’ll be glad to know that Square offers financing on purchases of $49 or more. Generally, the limit is $5,000, but you can apply for an increased limit. Depending on the total sum you’re financing, Square offers payback terms of 3, 6, 12 and 24 months.

Square will deduct your payments from your total processing volume before disbursing funds to your bank, so you don’t have to worry about making monthly payments. Eligibility depends on a credit check, and the financing program isn’t available in all U.S. states yet. However, if you are eligible, this could be a great option.

Square’s markup for financing is incredibly reasonable, and the program is managed by Square directly so you don’t have to worry about a shady third-party stepping in. If you can’t afford the upfront investment in hardware, Square’s financing can help you manage your cash flow better. And I like that it’s not a leasing program — when you’re done paying off the hardware, you own it.

Which Square Hardware Is Right For You?

If your business is primarily on the go, you can get a cheap, affordable mobile card reader. If you’d like a countertop setup, there’s Square Terminal with its very small profile, Square Stand for a good entry-level piece of hardware, and of course, Square Register. Plus, the bundled kits from Square allow you to easily add a cash drawer, receipt printer, and any other hardware you need. The number of options can seem overwhelming, but it really comes down to how portable you need your hardware to be and what you can afford.

One of my absolute favorite things about Square is that the company offers a huge array of very affordable hardware for all types of businesses. Some companies might only offer a few options, use expensive leases, or charge an arm and a leg just for a single terminal. You don’t have to worry about that with Square. The price is right and there are hardware options to suit every business that work with all of Square’s Point of Sale apps. That’s a very powerful reason to go with Square already. Throw in the affordable credit card processing and the great customer service, and it’s easy to see why Square is a favorite among small businesses.

If you’re still just learning about Square, be sure to read our complete Square Review! You can also check out our Square Point of Sale, Square for Retail, and Square for Restaurants reviews to learn more about the point of sale systems.

Thanks for reading! Leave us your thoughts and your questions in the comments below!

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Retail Business Loans And Financing Options

Owning a retail business isn’t without its challenges. Whether you’re growing rapidly and need extra money for expansion or you’re in the middle of a slow season that’s impacted your cash flow, one thing is clear: you need money for your business to operate smoothly.

Sure, pulling the money you need from your own bank account is ideal, but this isn’t always possible. Maybe the money’s not there … or maybe you don’t want to put yourself in a bind by tying up your funds. In these situations, what do you do when you need a financial helping hand? Take a cue from other smart retailers and find a retail business loan that’s right for you.

There comes a time when most small businesses have to take out a loan, and retail businesses are no exception. The key is to understand your options to find the best, most affordable loan that you can use to take your store to the next level, cover an unexpected emergency, or even get your business off the ground. Read on to learn more about the retail business loan and financing options available for any situation.

The Best Loans For Retail Businesses

Financing Need Best Loan Type Recommended Lender
Business Expansion SBA Loan SmartBiz
Purchasing Equipment Equipment Financing Lendio
Emergency Funding Short-Term Loan LoanBuilder & IOU Financial
Cash Flow Shortages Business Credit Cards Ink Business Preferred from Chase
Purchasing Inventory Line of Credit OnDeck
Purchasing a Point of Sale System POS Financing CDGcommerce

1. Business Expansion

Business is booming, and you’re ready for an expansion. Maybe you’re an online retailer and you’ve decided it’s time to open your first brick-and-mortar store. Perhaps you want to open an additional location, or you want to do a complete overhaul of your facilities. No matter what the situation, your retail business is growing, which is exciting … but also very expensive.

Instead of hindering your growth by draining your checking account, consider applying for a loan that provides the funds you need, but spread out into affordable monthly payments.

Small Business Administration 7(a) Loans

The Small Business Administration is a government organization that provides resources to small business owners just like you. One of the most popular resources the SBA offers small business owners is low-cost loan options. Although there are several great programs to consider, the SBA 7(a) loan is one of the most popular among small business owners.

The SBA 7(a) loan is a loan that can be used for essentially any business purpose. This includes business expansion, the purchase of equipment, to use as working capital, or to even save money by paying off high-interest debt.

Through the 7(a) program, you can receive up to $5 million. Because up to 85% of the loan proceeds are backed by the government, SBA-approved lenders (known as intermediaries) are more willing to give these loans out. This is ideal if you’ve been unable to qualify for traditional loan options.

SBA 7(a) loans have low interest rates capped at a maximum of 4.75% — added to the prime rate — based on the loan amount and your repayment terms. Repayment terms are available up to 10 years for most uses, while loan proceeds being used for commercial real estate come with maximum terms of 25 years. SBA 7(a) loans are available to qualified borrowers with a credit score in the high 600s.

Recommended Option: SmartBiz

The SBA 7(a) loan sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? If you’re interested in this loan, you could visit an intermediary lender in your area, such as a bank or credit union. However, this process can often be a hassle for the busy retail business owner. Simplify the process of applying for an SBA 7(a) loan by working with SmartBiz.

With SmartBiz, you can fill out an easy online questionnaire to find out if you’re qualified for an SBA loan. Once you’re prequalified, the service will match you with a lender and assign a relationship manager to help you through the application process.

Getting approved and funded takes several weeks for most applicants. Other times, the process may drag out over several months if more information is needed by your lender. Even though the waiting time to receive this type of loan exceeds that of other financing options, the low overall cost and the flexibility that comes with the 7(a) loan is often worth the wait for many small business owners.

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2. Purchasing Equipment

Your technology and equipment are seriously outdated. Or maybe your business is growing so fast that your problem is not replacing equipment, but adding more. Instead of spending thousands out of pocket, there’s a more affordable solution when you need to replace or purchase long-term equipment: equipment financing.

Equipment Financing

Equipment financing is a type of business financing used to purchase new equipment for your business. With equipment financing, you’ll be able to take possession of much-needed new equipment immediately without paying the entire cost up front.

With an equipment loan, you’ll pay a down payment that is usually 10% to 20% of the total cost of the equipment. The remaining amount, along with interest and fees charged by the lender, will be loaned to you and is paid back through scheduled payments over a longer period of time. At the end of your repayment period, you will own the equipment. This makes the purchase of new or replacement equipment much more affordable.

Equipment leases are another form of equipment financing. With equipment leasing, you’re essentially paying to use the equipment. At the end of your lease, you can return the equipment and take out another lease on the latest model. Unlike a loan, you will never own the equipment unless you pay a lump sum at the end of the lease. However, if you upgrade equipment frequently or want a lower down payment, a lease may be the right option for you.

Recommended Option: Lendio

If equipment financing sounds like the right loan option for your business, find a lender using Lendio. Lendio is a loan-matching service that connects you with the right lender that offers loans to best fit your needs.

Equipment financing through Lendio lenders is available in amounts from $5,000 up to $5 million. Terms of up to 5 years are available. Interest rates for the most qualified buyers start at 7.5%.

Column Heading Data

Credit limit:

$5,000 – $5,000,000

Term length:

1 – 5 years

Interest rate:

7.5%+

Origination fee:

By lender

Collateral:

Usually the equipment being financed

When using Lendio, you’ll fill out an application and within 72 hours, you’ll receive loan offers from multiple lenders. This allows you to review your options to find the most affordable loan with the best repayment terms.

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3. Emergency Funding

Even if you’re on top of your business and finances, there may come a time when an unexpected emergency arises. It happens to the best of us, usually when we are least prepared for it. If an emergency pops up and you need extra cash immediately, a short-term loan could offer just what you’re looking for.

Short-Term Loans

A short-term loan is exactly what the name suggests: a loan that comes with short terms of 1 year or less. These loans have their benefits for small business owners. Borrowers with low credit scores, a short time in business, or with low annual revenues often qualify. However, the biggest benefit is how quickly you can receive the money with a short-term loan. With some lenders, you can apply, be approved, and have the money in your bank account in just 24 hours.

However, short-term loans don’t come without their drawbacks. This fast form of financing comes at a cost. Short-term loans do not have interest rates, but instead, use something called a factor rate. This fee is paid back along with the principal balance over a short period of time. Often, this factor fee, along with other costs such as origination fees, can make these loans more expensive than long-term options. However, when you’re in a financial bind and need money quickly to keep your retail business running smoothly, a short-term loan may be your best option.

Recommended Options: PayPal LoanBuilder & IOU Financial

PayPal’s LoanBuilder provides short-term funding up to $500,000, which can be repaid over a period of 13 to 52 weeks based on the amount of the loan received. The LoanBuilder application takes just 10 minutes to complete. Once approved, you can receive your funds as soon as the next business day.

Qualified borrowers must be in business for 9 months and have at least $42,000 in annual revenue. All borrowers must have a minimum credit score of 550.

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Another short-term loan option is IOU Financial. This lender offers loans up to $300,000. Requirements include being in business for a minimum of one year, bringing in revenue of at least $100,000, and making at least 10 deposits per month into your business bank account.

Repayment terms are available from 6 to 18 months, and once your loan is 40% paid off, you can renew if additional funding is needed. Repayments are made through fixed daily or weekly payments.

4. Cash Flow Shortages

From time to time, a retail business may face cash flow shortages due to a slow season or other challenges. When this happens, daily operations may be affected. You have the same expenses, but your revenues are down, posing a financial challenge for your business. You don’t have to sit back and let these situations drag your business down. Instead, a business credit card can help you fill in these gaps.

Business Credit Cards

A business credit card provides you with a revolving line of credit that you can use to pay your suppliers, vendors, and other expenses. The issuer of the credit card will provide you with a credit limit. You can spend up to and including that limit, using the card as often as you need.

A business credit card allows you to make an instant purchase without having to wait for approval from the lender. You’ll only pay interest on the amount of the credit line that has been used. Payments are made monthly and are applied to the interest and the balance on your card.

One great feature about business credit cards is that many offer rewards programs. With qualifying business purchases, you can earn cash back or points that can be redeemed toward rewards.

Recommended Option: Ink Business Preferred from Chase

The Chase Ink Business Preferred credit card is a top choice among retailers and other business owners because of its great rewards program. If you spend $5,000 within three months of opening your account, you receive 80,000 bonus points. For every purchase, you’ll continue to rack up points.

This credit card also offers additional benefits not offered by other credit card issuers, such as cell phone protection. This card comes with a variable APR of 17.99% to 22.99% with a $95 annual fee.

This credit card is reserved for borrowers with good to excellent credit. Check out our other top picks in business credit cards.

Chase Ink Business Preferred



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Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


17.99% – 22.99%, Variable

5. Purchasing Inventory

You need inventory, and you need it now. If you need to purchase inventory to keep your business running and time is of the essence, a business line of credit may be just what you need out of a small business loan.

Line Of Credit

With a line of credit, a lender issues you a credit limit. You can make multiple draws up to and including this limit whenever you want. The funds will typically be in your account within a few business days, although some lenders offer immediate transfers.

Interest is only applied to the portion of the funds that have been withdrawn. Interest rates vary by creditworthiness, with the most qualified borrowers receiving rates around 6% while high-risk borrowers may see rates of 20% or more.

Payments are made on a scheduled basis and are applied toward the principal and interest. Repayment terms and schedules vary by lender.

Recommended Option: OnDeck

OnDeck is an alternative lender that provides lines of credit to business owners. Lines of credit up to $100,000 are available to eligible borrowers. Repayment terms up to 12 months are available. Rates are as low as 13.99%, and weekly payments are automatically deducted from your business bank account.

OnDeck is known for its fast application process and low borrower requirements. Borrowers of this loan must have a credit score of at least 600, have been in business for at least 1 year, and have a minimum revenue of $100,000 per year.

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6. Purchasing A Point Of Sale System

POS hardware

 

If you own a retail business, you already know the importance of a point of sale system. This centralized system allows you to keep track of inventory, receive payments, and provide receipts for purchases.

Whether you’ve opened a new store or you want to upgrade your outdated system, you can receive a new POS system without paying a lot of money up front with POS financing options.

POS Financing

POS financing allows you to purchase or lease a POS system without paying the full amount up front. Depending on the company you work with, full financing options for all hardware and software may be available.

In addition to POS financing, you may also consider a credit card processing app. These are usually more affordable, are less complicated, and don’t require lengthy contracts. This option is best for smaller retail businesses, while larger businesses should stick with a full POS system.

Recommended Option: CDGcommerce

CDGCommerce is a retail credit card processing company that offers affordable point of sale systems. The company offers the Harbortouch Echo featuring the CDG POS+ app that can be rented for just $49.00 per month. An annual equipment insurance fee is also required at a cost of $79.00, but compared to the costs of purchasing a system, these fees are quite affordable.

Ready to upgrade but unsure of which POS is right for you? Read on to learn more about choosing the right retail POS system for your business.

When You Want To Start A Retail Business

All of these options are great for established retail businesses, but what if you haven’t even gotten your business off the ground yet? For most aspiring business owners, financing is the barrier that is holding them back.

It may be difficult to qualify for a startup loan. After all, you don’t have the sales, revenues, and financial documents to back up your success. When you want to start a business, you have to get creative with your funding options.

If you want to apply for a business loan, you can look to options such as the SBA Microloan program, which provides up to $50,000 to small business owners. These low-cost loans aren’t easy to obtain, though. You’ll need to make sure that you’re prepared for the lengthy application process by preparing your personal financial documents, creating a detailed business plan, and outlining future projections. Your score must be in the high 600s to qualify.

SBA 504 Loans

Borrowing Amount

$500 – $50,000

Term Lengths

Up to 6 years

Interest Rates

6.5% – 13%

Borrowing Fees

Possible fees from the loan issuer

Personal Guarantee

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

Collateral

Collateral normally required, but depends on the lender

Down Payment

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

Other startup loan options are available, such as online lenders like Fundwise Capital. For borrowers with a poor credit history, there are other alternative loan options but these often come at a much higher cost.

If you have a high personal credit score, you can also consider taking out a personal loan to fund your startup costs. With a personal loan, your income and personal credit score will be considered. This could potentially help you score a lower cost loan that can be used to start your retail business.

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

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

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

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

lending club logo

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

Ways To Improve Your Chances Of A Successful Application

Improve Business Loan Application

Once you’re ready to apply for your business loan, you can do some prep work in advance to expedite the process. Before you even start filling out an application, the first step is to know your credit score and determine whether it is high enough to qualify for the loan you’re seeking.

You can receive your free credit score online to find out where you stand. Review your credit report carefully for any errors. If there are any negative items on your report, be prepared to explain those to your lender.

If your credit score is low and your funding need isn’t urgent, you may consider taking a few easy steps to raise your credit score. You’ll be rewarded with lower interest rates, better terms, and more financing options.

You can also prepare your paperwork and documentation in advance. Although requirements vary by lender and the type of loan you’ve selected, you’ll generally need a few items, including:

  • Bank Statements
  • Personal Financial Statements
  • Business Balance Sheet
  • Profit & Loss Statement
  • Income Statements
  • Business Licenses
  • Articles Of Incorporation

When the time comes to apply for your loan, you’ll need to know exactly how much you need and why you need the loan. It’s also important to remember that most loans require a blanket lien or personal guarantee. Most lenders require a personal guarantee to be signed by anyone with at least 20% ownership in the business, so be prepared to have all owners ready to sign the contract as needed.

Finally, when you do apply for your loan, be sure to make yourself available to the lender. Sometimes, lenders require additional documentation or have questions about your application. Taking the time to work with your lender will help you finish the process smoothly.

Final Thoughts

Getting a business loan can be tough, whether you’re an established retail business owner or just getting started. However, there are plenty of options available if you take the time to do your research, go into the application process prepared, and have a good reason for taking out the loan which will improve the return on investment for your business.

The post Retail Business Loans And Financing Options appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Square Loyalty Program Review

Square Loyalty Promotional Image

The concept of a punch card is nothing new; coffee shops the world over have been slinging their punched out business cards alongside foamy espresso beverages for decades. Likewise, the concept of companies offering rewards to returning companies goes way back into the annals of entrepreneurship. But as the business sector dives further into the capabilities of digital tools, loyalty programs have come along for the ride.

Square has been tinkering with loyalty features since 2012. About two years ago, they stopped offering a free add-on to the basic Square POS, creating a paid-for loyalty product instead. After some concerns about that initial re-launch, Square Loyalty is back again with a new pricing scheme and feature list.

Square has consistently expanded its business products and generally does a decent job at creating useful tools that people feel confident implementing in their businesses. How well does the new version of Square Loyalty measure up? Let’s find out!

Reader eCommerce Retail Food Service
Free App & Reader Square eCommerce Square for Retail Square for Restaurants
Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and Android Easy integration with popular platforms plus API for customization Specialized software for more complex retail stores Specialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month $0/month $60/month $60/month
Always Free Always Free Free Trial Free Trial

Pricing

The price of Square Loyalty is determined by how many “loyalty visits” you get in a given month. A loyalty visit is exactly what it sounds like: whenever a customer signs up for or returns to your loyalty program, that counts as one visit. Square tracks your visits, then charges you based on the following pricing scheme:

Loyalty Visits Price Per Month
1-50 $25
50-100 $35
101-200 $50
201-500 $75
501-1,000 $125
1,001-2,500 $175
2,501-5,000 $250
5,001-10,000 $500

If you think you will require more than 10,000 loyalty visits in a single month, you will need to get in touch with Square for more information on exact pricing.

Ease Of Use

The team at Square has built their brand on the simplicity of their software; just about anyone can pick Square up and use it with little-to-no training. Not surprisingly, the loyalty rewards program operates with the same simplistic design. This is a system designed for intuitive use on both sides of the register for customers and employees alike. As long as you already use Square products for payment processing and point of sale, this will work just fine for you.

Setting up your rewards account is as simple as determining the economy of your rewards points (how many should customers get after a visit?) and creating the rewards themselves (how will customers spend their points once they have accumulated?). From there, you can refine your system as time goes on, making adjustments as needed–you will want to be clear with your customers about what is going on, though!

On the customer side, simply have new program members enter their phone numbers to sign up. From then on, your Square Register will remember the customer and apportion their points on subsequent views. Speaking as one who has encountered Square loyalty rewards in the wild, I can report that the system works well, and is even a little exciting!

Features

Square Loyalty comes with the following features:

  • Points System: You get to pick between three different loyalty schemes: by visit, by amount spent, or by item. Customers will get text message updates on the number of points they have built up. Basically, your decision for which system to use will come down to your industry and business model. Selling beverages or baked goods? Visit-based rewards might be best. Working retail? Amount-based might be best. Selling niche products? You might want to go by item.
  • Customer Rewards: You can select three different kinds of rewards that align vaguely with the three different loyalty schemes: free item, discount on the entire sale, or discount on a product category. Obviously, some business types will find one of these systems more useful than others; it’s up to you to determine which will be best for you.
  • Customer Data: Once your customers sign up for loyalty rewards, you can begin tracking information about them. In some industries — coffee shops, for example — you get to know repeat customers quickly as a matter of course. In others, it may be valuable indeed to know a bit more about your clientele, particularly things like their most purchased items and how often they visit your shop.
  • Analytics: Square gives you a bird’s eye view of how your loyalty program is helping your business, showing data on all your customers and how often they visit your shop. You can see how many people use your loyalty rewards, how many points they have, and more. This is the feature that will tell you how well your loyalty program is working, so I definitely recommend checking this out.

Final Thoughts

Square boasts that customers who enroll in their loyalty programs spend 37% more than non-enrolled customers. A cynical person might point out that the kind of person who signs up for a loyalty program would be automatically more likely to spend more at a particular store than other, but at the same time, 37% is difficult to argue with.

But is Square’s loyalty feature ultimately worth the price? I definitely found the monthly cost a bit prohibitive; $50 for just over 50 loyalty visits is a lot. It is possible that at higher subscription levels the price comes down and makes more economic sense, but in order for that to be true, you will need more customers to sign up.

On the other hand, from what I can tell, the feature set works reasonably well — especially when you consider how closely it plays with Square’s flagship POS product. That right there might make it worth it to stop and consider coughing up the cash, especially if you are using one of those snazzy new Square Registers. I suspect many Square Loyalty users hop on board the hype train for this very reason; they are already using some kind of Square product in the first place. In fact, one of the biggest caveats to Square Loyalty (apart from price) is the fact that in order to use it, you will have to already be using Square POS (at the very least); if you have a different system, this is not the loyalty program you have been looking for.

As usual, the final decision comes down to you. Are you using a Square product? Is the touted increase in customer engagement worth what might be an excessive price? Fortunately, you can give it a try before deciding for sure. Be warned though! Though Square provides a generous 30-day trial, your customers may feel less than generous if they discover that your rewards program has up and disappeared just as they were about to redeem one of their rewards. Tread carefully then, and make sure you are confident in your decisions before committing even to the free trial.

Reader eCommerce Retail Food Service
Free App & Reader Square eCommerce Square for Retail Square for Restaurants
Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and Android Easy integration with popular platforms plus API for customization Specialized software for more complex retail stores Specialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month $0/month $60/month $60/month
Always Free Always Free Free Trial Free Trial

The post Square Loyalty Program Review appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Business Loans For Trucking Companies

You’re the owner of a trucking company, and it’s time for expansion through the purchase of new equipment, hiring of new employees, or improvements to your facilities. The good news is that this means your business is growing. The bad news? That growth comes at a price, and the costs may be too much for your bank account.

Or maybe your situation is different. An unexpected emergency has cropped up, and you feel trapped. You’ve crunched the numbers, and it looks like you’re facing a major financial hurdle. How do you handle this financial crisis?

Whether you’re growing quickly or life has thrown a curveball your way, you need extra money. Instead of clearing out your checking account, it’s time to consider a financial option that many smart business owners take advantage of every day: a business loan.

A business loan is a great way to expand your trucking business or get you out of a financial bind. The key is to know what type of loan best fits your needs, is the most affordable, and provides the greatest return on investment. Whether you own a large trucking business with multiple drivers or you’re an owner-operator with one vehicle, read on to learn more about the loan options available for your business.

Loan Type What Is It?

SBA Loans

Low-cost loans offered by the Small Business Administration in partnership with financial institutions. Can be used for most business financing purposes.

Equipment Loans

Loans used to purchase equipment such as semi-trucks.

Medium-Term Installment Loans

Traditional term loans that can be used for most business financing purposes.

Business Lines of Credit

Credit lines from which the business can draw funds at any time, without going through an application process. Used for working capital or other short-term needs.

Short-Term Business Loans

Quick business loans used for working capital or other short-term needs.

Business Credit Cards

Small business credit lines used for everyday business expenses such as fuel and maintenance costs.

Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans

Best for…

Business owners with high credit scores who need to make a large purchase with affordable monthly payments.

Types Of Loans Offered By The SBA

The Small Business Administration offers several programs that provide funding for trucking companies. SBA loans are backed by the government, opening up new financing opportunities for small businesses that don’t qualify for conventional business loans.

The SBA 7(a) loan program is one of the SBA’s most popular offerings. With a 7(a) loan, borrowers can receive up to $5 million to be used for almost any business purpose, including the purchase of equipment or machinery, real estate or land purchases, or even acquiring another business.

If you run a smaller trucking operation or you’re an owner-operator and you have an expense that requires $50,000 or less, the SBA microloans program may be an option for you. The average loan distributed through this program is $13,000. Funds can be used toward the purchase of machinery or equipment, working capital, or supplies.

SBA Loan Terms & Fees

Interest rates for the 7(a) loan program are set at the prime rate plus a maximum markup of 4.75% based on the amount of the loan and the repayment terms. Currently, interest rates fall between 7.5% and 10%. Interest rates can be fixed or variable. Repayment terms are up to 10 years or 25 years for real estate purchases. A down payment of 10% to 20% is typically required.

Intermediary lenders can charge various fees for a 7(a) loan, including origination fees, loan packaging fees, and guarantee fees up to 3.5%. Veteran-owned small businesses can apply for the Veterans Advantage loan, which offers the same rates and terms as the 7(a) program but with reduced guarantee fees.

On average, interest rates for SBA Microloans fall between 8% and 13%. The maximum repayment term for this type of loan is 6 years. Lenders may charge fees for a microloan such as application fees, loan processing fees, and closing costs.

SBA Loan Borrower Eligibility

To qualify for an SBA loan, a borrower should have a credit score of at least 680. The borrower’s credit report should be free of bankruptcies, foreclosures, and past defaults on government loans.

The borrower must be an owner of a for-profit business that is based in the United States. All borrowers must also meet the guidelines for a small business as defined by the SBA. This limits the number of employees, net worth, and annual revenues of the business.

Borrowers must have a legitimate purpose for taking the loan, and they must have exhausted all other options before applying for an SBA loan. Both startups and established businesses are eligible for SBA loans. All borrowers will be required to sign a personal guarantee.

Where To Find SBA Loans

SBA 7(a) loans are available through SBA intermediary lenders. These lenders could be banks, credit unions, or private lenders. The SBA offers its Lender Match tool which matches you with a lender in your area. You can also apply online through a service like SmartBiz.

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Streamlines SBA loan process for:

  • Debt refinancing
  • Working capital
  • Commercial real-estate

Highlights:

  • Suited for small and large businesses
  • Excellent terms and fees
  • No prepayment penalty

SBA microloans are available through participating non-profit organizations.

Equipment Loans

Best for…

Businesses that need to purchase expensive equipment (including a new or used truck) but don’t have the money to buy it outright.

Equipment Loan Uses

An equipment loan is exactly what it sounds like: a loan that is used to purchase equipment. In the trucking industry, this could mean the purchase of a new or used truck, a trailer, or other long-term physical assets that are necessary for operations. This type of loan allows you to break down the cost of expensive equipment into smaller payments that are easier to manage.

Equipment Loan Terms, Fees, & Down Payment

Equipment loan terms and rates vary based on the lender selected, the amount of the loan, and the creditworthiness of the buyer. The most qualified buyers may be eligible for interest rates as low as 5%. However, applicants that face challenges, such as a low credit score, may be stuck with an interest rate of 24% or higher. The average repayment terms are between 3 and 7 years.

Fees that may be associated with taking out an equipment loan include origination fees and administrative fees. Down payment requirements also vary. Borrowers with very high credit scores and a long time in business may qualify for 100% financing with $0 down. Other borrowers may have to pay an average down payment of 10% to 20%.

Even if you qualify for 100% financing, it’s usually a smart move to put some money down for your loan. This will reduce your amount of debt immediately and can also help prevent a situation where the equipment becomes obsolete before you’ve fully repaid the loan.

There is typically no additional collateral required, as the equipment being purchased with the loan serves as the collateral.

Borrower Eligibility For Equipment Loans

One of the benefits of equipment loans is that there are options available for everyone, even if you have a low credit score or haven’t been in business for very long. It should be noted that borrowers with these challenges will face higher interest rates, increased down payments, and an overall more expensive loan.

Equipment loans are available to borrowers with credit scores as low as the mid-500s. Time in business requirements vary, but most lenders require at least 6 months in business, although there are other options for startups and new businesses.

Borrowers must use the loan funds to purchase eligible equipment. As previously discussed, a down payment may also be required in order to receive the loan.

Equipment Loans VS Leases

There are two types of equipment financing you may consider: equipment loans and equipment leases. The type you choose is based on the specific needs of your business.

With a loan, you’ll make scheduled payments that go toward the principal balance and interest. This is a smart option if you need equipment but don’t want to foot the entire bill immediately. Although this ultimately costs more than an outright purchase, it allows you to make lower, more affordable payments. Once all payments have been made, the equipment is yours. If you plan to keep your equipment for many years, this is the best option for you.

When you lease equipment, you’re essentially renting from the lender. You make payments each month to be able to use the equipment. Once your lease is over, you’ll return the equipment and can upgrade to the latest model. In some cases, you may be able to pay the remaining balance if you’d like to own the equipment outright.

With leases, monthly payments may be more affordable and it’s possible to find leases that don’t require a down payment. However, the total cost of the lease typically winds up being more expensive than loans due to higher interest rates.

Leases are a good choice for you if you need to upgrade your equipment frequently to have the latest and greatest model. It may also be an option if you don’t have the down payment required for an equipment loan.

Where To Find Equipment Loans

There are several options for finding equipment loans. Many banks and credit unions offer equipment financing programs. There are also lenders that specialize in equipment financing. Some equipment manufacturers even have their own finance programs in place. Check out our comparison of equipment financing to find the best rates and terms for your business. Or get the process started with one of the lenders below:

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Interest/Factor Rate Additional Fees Next Steps

$2K – $5M Varies As low as 2% Varies Visit Site

$5K – $500K 24 – 72 months Starts at 5% Yes Compare

Up to $250K 1 – 72 months Starts at 5.49% Varies Compare

Medium-Term Installment Loans

Best for…

Businesses that need funds to purchase equipment, refinancing existing debt, or use as working capital.

Medium-Term Installment Loan Uses

A medium-term installment loan is a loan that is paid off over a period of 1 to 5 years. With this type of loan, you can break down the cost of a purchase or receive working capital while repaying with low monthly payments.

Medium-term installment loans can be used for any business purpose. These loans can be used for the purchase of new equipment. You can use the funds for working capital. Loan proceeds can be used for business expansion or acquisitions. You can even use these loans to refinance existing debt.

Medium-Term Loan Terms & Fees

Loan terms and fees vary by lender and creditworthiness. Borrowers with the highest credit scores can receive loans with rates of about 6%. Borrowers with lower credit scores may receive interest rates up to 30%.

Typical fees you may be required to pay to receive a medium-term loan include application fees and origination fees. Collateral may be required based on your credit score and the amount of the loan. A personal guarantee or blanket lien is typically required.

Borrower Eligibility For Medium-Term Loans

Although medium-term loans may have higher interest rates and be more expensive than long-term options, qualifying is not as difficult. To qualify, you should have a minimum credit score of 600 with at least $100,000 in annual revenue, although these requirements may vary by lender.

Where To Find Medium-Term Loans

Some banks and credit unions offer medium-term loans, but these loans require high revenues and credit scores. If you don’t qualify, you can seek out an alternative lender that provides medium-term loans for less-qualified borrowers or try your luck with one of the online lenders below:

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Interest/Factor Rate Req. Time in Business Min. Credit Score Next Steps

$5K – $500K 13 – 52 weeks x1.029 – x1.1872 9 months 550 Apply Now

$5K – $500K 3 – 36 months x1.003 – x1.04/mo 12 months 500 Apply Now

$2K – $5M Varies As low as 2% 6 months 550 Apply Now

$20K – $500K 1 – 4 years 7.99% – 29.99% APR 2 years 660 Apply Now

Business Lines Of Credit

Best merchant online credit card processing companies image

Best for…

Businesses that want access to capital on demand.

Business Line Of Credit Uses

A business line of credit is similar to a credit card. A borrower has a credit limit set by the lender and can make multiple draws as needed up to and including the credit limit. The money can be used for any business expense, from unexpected emergencies to covering operational expenses or purchasing equipment.

Business Line Of Credit Terms & Fees

With a business line of credit, you only pay interest and fees on the borrowed amount. For example, if you have a total credit line of $200,000 but have only spent $50,000, you’ll only pay interest or fees on the $50,000. Fees and interest vary by lender and range from 1% to over 30%. The more creditworthy you are, the better rates you will receive.

Repayment terms also vary, but most lenders offer terms of 6 months or 12 months depending on the amount borrowed. Some lenders may offer longer repayment terms. However, it’s wise to pay off your balance as quickly as possible to avoid unnecessary fees and interest and lower the overall cost of your loan.

Borrower Eligibility For Business Lines Of Credit

Eligibility for lines of credit varies by lender. Some lenders, such as banks, may require credit scores in the 600s to qualify for a line of credit. Alternative lenders typically have much lower requirements. Some of these lenders do not have credit score requirements at all, and instead, look at the performance of the business to determine eligibility and maximum credit limits.

Time in business requirements may be as low as three months, while annual revenue requirements may be $50,000 or less, depending on the lender’s policies.

Where To Find Business Lines Of Credit

Some banks offer business lines of credit to borrowers with high credit scores. Alternative online lenders also have lines of credit available for borrowers with poor scores or who are looking for immediate funding. Read our full reviews of line of credit providers or get the ball rolling with one of the lenders below:

Lender Borrowing Amount Draw Term Draw Fee APR Next Steps

$6K – $100K 6 months None Starts at 13.99% Apply Now

$2K – $5M Varies Varies Varies Apply Now

$5K – $5M 6 months 1.50% per draw 21% – 65% Apply Now

$1K – $100K 12 weeks None 12% – 54% Apply Now

Short-Term Business Loans

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

Best for…

Business owners that are forced to cover emergency expenses.

Short-Term Business Loan Uses

Short-term business loans are loans that are paid back over a very short period of time. This period of time varies, but it will not exceed one year.

Short-term loans are one of the most expensive forms of credit, so it is best to only use these loans when absolutely necessary. Because funding is fast (potentially as short as 24 hours), a short-term loan is best for emergency situations when time is of the essence.

Borrowers that have not been in business long or have low personal or business credit scores may have no other options than to seek a short-term loan. If this is the case, the return on investment should be calculated to determine if the loan is worth the high cost.

Short-Term Loan Terms & Fees

Terms and fees for short-term loans vary by lender and creditworthiness. Most short-term loans come with a factor rate that determines the total amount that will be repaid. Learn more about factor rates for short-term loans and how to calculate repayments.

With other short-term options, borrowers with high credit scores may find short-term options with interest rates below 10%. However, borrowers that are viewed as “risky” by the lender may be hit with interest rates up to 80%.

Repayment terms vary. For some short-term loans, the full loan is repaid within a few weeks. For other loans, the amount is repaid up to a year. Repayment schedules may be daily, weekly, or monthly.

For short-term loans, some fees may be required, including origination fees and maintenance fees. A personal guarantee or blanket lien is typically required.

Borrower Eligibility For Short-Term Loans

Qualifying for a short-term loan isn’t difficult. There are loans available to borrowers with credit scores as low as 500. Some lenders also have very low monthly or annual revenue requirements, as well as shorter time in business requirements.

Where To Find Short-Term Loans

You can receive a short-term loan by applying with online alternative lenders or one of the lenders below:

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Interest/Factor Rate Req. Time in Business Min. Credit Score Next Steps

$5K – $500K 13 – 52 weeks x1.029 – x1.1872 9 months 550 Apply Now

$5K – $500K 3 – 36 months x1.003 – x1.04/mo 12 months 500 Apply Now

$2K – $5M Varies As low as 2% 6 months 550 Apply Now

$20K – $500K 1 – 4 years 7.99% – 29.99% APR 2 years 660 Apply Now

Business Credit Cards

Best for…

Covering emergencies that require immediate funding or for recurring expenses, like fuel purchases.

Business Credit Card Uses

When used responsibly, a business credit card can be an enormous asset to a trucking business. A business credit card offers a revolving line of credit that can be used any time it’s needed. This is especially helpful when an emergency arises.

Business credit cards can also be used to earn rewards on your business’s recurring expenses, such as gas to fuel your rigs.

However, even though you can use your credit card whenever you want doesn’t mean that you should. The interest rates on credit cards can really stack up, and you could end up paying hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in interest over time. Keeping high balances can even lower your credit score due to high credit utilization.

However, with responsible use that includes paying off (or paying down) your card each month, you’ll even be able to boost your credit score while having access to extra capital when you need it. In addition, many credit cards offer rewards programs that allow you to earn points or cash back after every qualifying purchase.

Business Credit Card Terms & Fees

Like other types of loans, terms and fees vary based on the lender and creditworthiness of the borrower. Interest rates typically start around 14% and rise to over 25%. Many cards have introductory APR offers of 0% for qualified borrowers.

You may have to pay fees based on the card that you select, including annual fees, foreign transaction fees, cash advance fees, and balance transfer fees. Some lenders may also charge fees to issue employee cards.

Borrower Eligibility For Business Credit Cards

To qualify for the best interest rates, borrowers should have a credit score at least in the high 600s. Lenders will evaluate your income and your business revenue to determine your credit limit. You will also need a federal tax ID. If you’re a sole proprietor, you will be required to give your social security number.

If you have bad credit or revenue challenges, you may qualify for a card with a higher APR or a secured card. A secured card will require a refundable cash deposit before it is issued. As you use your secured card responsibly, your credit limit will increase and you may become eligible for an unsecured card.

Where To Find Business Credit Cards

The first place to look for a business credit card is at your own bank or credit union. However, if your financial institution does not offer this product or you fail to qualify, you can apply online with other credit card issuers. Learn more about the top business credit cards or check out the cards below, which are perfect for new business owners.

Card Name Best For Next Steps

SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express

Cash back

Compare

Chase Ink Business Preferred

Travel rewards

Apply Now

Chase Ink Business Cash

No annual fee

Apply Now

Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express

0% introductory rate

Compare

Capital One Spark Classic For Business

Fair credit

Compare

Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card

Bad credit

Compare

Trucking Business Loan FAQs

Can I get a trucking business loan if I have bad credit?

If you have a lower credit score due to past mistakes, there are still loan options available to you. While higher credit scores are required for SBA loans, borrowers with poor credit can qualify for other loans, including short-term options, lines of credit, and business credit cards.

In order to get the most affordable loan and the best repayment terms, it’s best to go into the application process with a solid credit score. If possible, take steps to rebuild your credit before applying to lower your financing costs.

I am an owner-operator. What are my best business loan options?

As an owner-operator, there are several business loan options available for you. For the purchase of a truck, you should consider equipment financing. You may also be able to qualify for the SBA Microloans program, which provides up to $50,000 in financing for expenses.

Short-term loans, lines of credit, and business credit cards are also available to you, but these typically come at a higher cost.

I’m starting a trucking company. Am I eligible for a trucking startup loan? What are my best options?

There are many options available for trucking startup companies. The best option for borrowers with credit scores in the high 600s are loans from the SBA. SBA loans provide low interest rates and flexible repayment terms for startups and established businesses.

Because you won’t have traditional documentation like business tax returns and financial statements, your application will need to include a detailed business plan and future financial projections. You’ll also need to prove that you have industry experience in order to qualify.

If you have a good credit score, you could also consider taking out a personal loan. With a personal loan, qualifying will be based on your own income and credit score, with no requirements for annual revenues, business credit score, or time in business. This is another affordable loan for borrowers that want to start their own business.

Can I get a grant for my trucking company?

Most businesses do not qualify for grants. If you find a grant that you are eligible for, it’s important to note that competition will be stiff. The process for receiving a grant also doesn’t happen overnight, so if you need money for your trucking company fast, you’ll want to explore other options, including the loans mentioned in this post or other options, such as P2P lending or crowdfunding.

Final Thoughts

No matter what your financial needs, there’s a loan available to help you start or expand your trucking business. The key is to understand your options, shop around, and determine if the return on investment exceeds the cost of the loan. Even if your funding needs are urgent, it’s critical to borrow responsibly to put your trucking business on the road to success.

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

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Zoho Books VS Wave

ZohoBooks-vs-Wave

Zoho Books VS Wave

Accounting

✓

✓

Features

Pricing

✓

Tie

Hardware & Software Requirements

Tie

✓

Users & Permissions

Ease of Use

✓

✓

Mobile Apps

✓

Customer Service & Support

Tie

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Tie

Tie

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Tie

✓

Integrations

✓

Security

?

Final Verdict

?

When you think of accounting software, you usually think of big names like Xero or QuickBooks. But what about the programs that are designed specifically with the small business owner in mind? In this post, we’re going to put two of the top small business accounting software programs face to face: Zoho Books and Wave.

Redesigned in 2014, Zoho Books is a scalable, full-featured accounting software that even gives QuickBooks Online a run for its money. The software has only improved over the years. It features beautiful invoicing, strong mobile apps, excellent customer support, and decent integrations. It also gives users the unique ability to send invoices in over 10 different languages.

Wave is free accounting software that has only gotten better as time goes on. The software has grown to support over 3.5 million users and offers a robust feature set with unique additions like lending, scheduling recurring invoices by timezone, and a brand-new light ecommerce tool. The software also offers professional bookkeeping services and supports personal and business accounting.

But which service comes out on top? And more importantly, which is right for your business?

Read on to find out.

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

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

Accounting

Winner: Wave

Both Zoho Books and Wave offer strong accounting features. Each software uses double-entry accounting and offers both cash-basis and accrual accounting. Both support accounting reports, a customizable chart of accounts, journal entries, bank reconciliation, and fixed asset management.

The two are almost neck and neck in this area, although Wave sets itself apart by having recently added an additional bookkeeping service called Wave+ where users can purchase additional accounting help from professional bookkeepers. Wave also has built-in personal accounting tools.

Features

Winner: Zoho Books

Zoho Books Features Wave

✓

Invoicing

✓

✓

Multiple Invoice Languages

✘

✓

Estimates

✓

✓

Expense Tracking

✓

✓

Bank Reconciliation

✓

✓

Chart Of Accounts

✓

✓

Fixed Asset Management

✓

✓

Contact Management

✓

✓

Accounts Payable

✓

✓

Time Tracking

✓

✓

Project Management

✘

✓

Inventory

✓

✓

Reports

✓

✘

eCommerce Checkouts

✓

✓

Tracking Categories

✘

✓

Multi-Currency Support

✓

✓

Sales Tax

✓

✓

Tax Support

✘

✓

Importing & Exporting

✓

✘

Lending

✓

Zoho Books and Wave have a lot of similar features. Both offer expense tracking, invoicing, contact management, and more. The difference is the depth and functionality of these features.

While Wave has a strong feature set and unique additions like a lightweight ecommerce tool and lending, Zoho Books’ features are far more advanced. Zoho Books offers some of the best invoicing on the market with 15 different templates and international invoicing. The software also offers project management (which Wave lacks entirely), better inventory, better time tracking, and better reporting, making it the clear winner here.

Pricing

Winner: Wave

Zoho Books offers three scalable pricing plans ranging from $9 – $29/month. Wave is completely free. The only additional costs are payroll, payment processing, and Wave+.

When it comes to pricing, you can’t beat free. And unlike most free software, Wave doesn’t put artificial limits on features like invoicing and estimates. You get complete access to fully-functioning features for $0/month. Another point in favor of Wave is that the software actually offers payroll. The service may cost extra, but in contrast, Zoho Books doesn’t have any payroll support or payroll integrations.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Zoho Books

As cloud-based software, both Zoho Books and Wave work with nearly any device so long as you have an internet connection.

Users & Permissions

Winner: Zoho Books

Depending on your plan, Zoho Books supports between 1 and 10 users, although you can purchase additional users for an extra cost. The software offers very basic user permissions. Wave is designed for the small business owner, meaning there are no additional users. You can technically invite “collaborators” who can have “view-only” or “view & edit” access to your Wave account, but the features they are able to access are limited, making Zoho Books the winner here.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Wave

Both Wave and Zoho Books are easy to use. They each have a modern UI that is well-organized, and setup is quick. However, because of Zoho Books’ sheer number of features, the software is a bit harder to navigate and get used to. Wave, on the other hand, is easy enough for anyone to use, no matter what their accounting background (or lack thereof) looks like.

Mobile Apps

Winner: Zoho Books

It’s no question that Zoho Books is the winner here. Zoho Books has always been known for strong, fully-featured mobile apps. Their Android and iPhone apps receive high ratings across the board, and the company supports smartwatch, Microsoft, and Kindle apps as well.

Wave’s mobile apps could stand improvement. Right now, there are two separate apps, one for invoices and one for receipts. Existing Wave users complain that they want one, full-featured app.

Customer Service & Support

Winner: Zoho Books

Zoho Books offers the most excellent customer support by far. Zoho Books’ phone support has hardly any wait times, and in my experience, representatives are friendly and helpful. The company also has an expansive help center, email, live chat, videos, and more.

While Wave does offer good resources like a well-developed help center and strong blog, you can only contact Wave support by email (unless you purchase payroll or credit card processing, in which case you get phone and chat support). Wave’s email response times often take over a day.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Books and Wave receive mostly positive customer reviews from satisfied customers. They have a similar ratio of negative to positive reviews, resulting in a tie for this section.

The few complaints Zoho Books users have are about the lack of payroll and limited integrations. Complaints about Wave revolve around poor mobile apps, limited integrations, and limited features.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Books and Wave have many satisfied customers and high customer ratings. Zoho Books receives 4.5/5 stars on Capterra and 4.6/5 stars on G2Crowd, while Wave receives 4.4/5 stars on G2Crowd and 9/10 stars on TrustRadius.

Zoho Books users appreciate the software’s ease of use, strong mobile apps, affordable price plans, and constant updates. Wave users praise the software for its ease of use, free price, personal accounting, and feature selection.

Integrations

Winner: Tie

Zoho Books offers 33 integrations while Wave only has 3 integrations. However, both Zoho Books users and Wave users complain about a lack of integrations. Each software’s saving grace is that they both connect with Zapier, an integration that connects them to 1000+ other third-party apps.

Security

Winner: Zoho Books

Both Zoho Books and Wave offer strong security. Each uses 256-bit SSL encryption, regular data backups, and 24/7 data monitoring. We gave Zoho Books the victory in this section because Zoho Books is far more forthcoming about their security information so users can be 100% confident that their data is protected.

And The Winner Is…

Zoho Books VS Wave

Wave is powerful software that puts up quite the fight, but it just doesn’t have the features and capabilities of Zoho Books — at least not yet. A more robust feature set, strong mobile apps, more integrations, forthright security, and excellent customer service give Zoho Books the advantage.

Zoho Books is ideal for small to medium businesses in need of strong accounting that want the capabilities of QuickBooks Online without having to pay the price. Zoho Books is an affordable QBO alternative with a robust feature set and some of the best invoicing on the market, which is why we’ve named it the Best Accounting Software for Invoicing. Zoho Books’ invoicing features make it ideal for business in need of international invoicing. The only drawback is the lack of payroll, which could be a deal-breaker for some businesses.

If your business does need payroll or if you’re looking for free accounting software, Wave might be the better choice for your business. Wave is ideal for small business owners looking for easy bookkeeping software to manage their businesses with. There’s a reason we’ve named it the Best Free Accounting Software. Wave has an impressive features set — particularly for a free app — and offers a few key additions that Zoho Books lacks(payroll, lending, and the brand new eCommerce checkouts tool). It also has a strong Etsy integration, making it ideal for Etsy sellers.

Maybe after reading about Zoho Books and Wave, neither option seems like the perfect fit for your business. Don’t worry! Our comprehensive accounting reviews can help you find the best software for your business. If you need extra help deciding, read our Complete Guide To Choose Online Accounting Software.

Check out our full Zoho Books and Wave reviews for more information. Take advantage of Zoho Books’ free trial or start a free account with Wave to get a feel for each software, and feel free to reach out with any questions you may have.

The post Zoho Books VS Wave appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Emergency Business Loans: 7 Ways To Get Business Funding Fast

No matter how good you are at planning, it’s impossible to prepare for every possible emergency that may affect your business. Acts of God like hurricanes, floods, and fires aside, invoice payments might be late. You may have experienced a fluke sales slump. Or maybe you just need to restock before a big event next week to maximize your sales.

You’ve already shaken out your pants for loose change, so now what do you do? Where do you look for an emergency business loan?

Read on and we’ll try to help you out. Here are seven ways to get business funding fast.

1. Get A Short-Term Loan

fast business loans

If it has been a while since you last looked for financing, you’re probably imagining long, drawn-out loan applications with high credit restrictions.

Those traditionally-structured loans still exist–and tend to have excellent rates–but they’re not much help when you need money fast. An easier way for most businesses to get a lump sum of cash quickly is to get a short-term loan.

Short-term loans usually last less than a year, feature simplified (and usually online) applications, and can get cash into your account within 24 to 72 hours. Most of them don’t even require collateral in the traditional sense.

So what’s the catch? Well, you’ll probably be going through an alternative lender. That means higher rates and fewer regulatory protections than you’d find with a bank.

Because the repayment schedule is accelerated, these loans charge a flat fee instead of instead of interest. This fee is a percentage of the amount you borrowed ($10,000 x 20% = $2,000, so you’ll be on the hook for $12,000). You’ll also be paying it back much more quickly. Repayment intervals are weekly or even daily, with fixed payments automatically withdrawn from your business bank account.

Think a short-term loan is right for you? Check out the following short-term lenders:

Lender Borrowing Amount Min Credit Score Time To Funding Next Steps

$2K – $5M 550 1-2 Days Apply Now

$5K – $500K 550 1-3 Days Apply Now

$5K – $500K 500 2-5 Days Apply Now

$5K – $250K 500 2-5 Days Apply Now

2. Get A Merchant Cash Advance

how to get a merchant cash advance

I know we’re technically talking about “loans,” but if you need money quickly, you’re probably not that concerned with semantics. For the pedantic, a merchant cash advance (MCA) is the purchase of your future credit/debit card sales. So you’re technically selling something, not taking on debt. Confusing, right?

An MCA fulfills a similar niche to a short-term loan and shares a few characteristics with it. MCAs also feature simplified applications and qualifications; they’re even less governed by financial regulations than short-term loans. You’ll also usually have your money in a day or two. MCAs and short-term loans even share a flat fee approach, where the amount you owe is the amount you “borrowed” plus a percentage of that amount ($10,000 x 20% = $2,000, for a total of $12,000).

But wait, didn’t I say the MCA company was actually buying a percentage of your future receivables? How does that work? Rather than making payments, the MCA company will collect a percentage of your daily credit- and debt-based sales until they’ve collected the lump sum they gave you, plus their flat fee. Because your sales may vary from day to day, MCAs don’t have exact term lengths. If your sales are good, you’ll pay the debt off more quickly; if they’re poor, it will take longer to pay off.

Be aware, however, that MCAs are one of the most expensive ways to borrow money.

Want to explore your options? Check out the following providers of merchant cash advances:

Lender Borrowing Amount Min Credit Score Time To Funding Next Steps

$2K – $5M 550 1-2 Days Apply Now

$5K – $500K 550 1-3 Days Apply Now

$5K – $500K 500 2-5 Days Apply Now

$5K – $250K 500 2-5 Days Apply Now

3. Get An Express Bank Loan

What’s an express loan? The definition varies by lender, but in general, this is an option offered by many traditional banks. Thanks, in part, to pressure from alternative lenders, banks have made efforts to speed up the application processes of some of their products. If you need a small amount of money relatively quickly, it may be the way to go.

These loans typically aren’t short-term loans, but medium-term installment loans. That means monthly payments and interest accruing over time.

Compared to short-term loans, express loans will often have better rates but aren’t as easy to qualify for. Depending on the bank, the speed with which you can get funding may be competitive with those of alternative lenders, while others might be a little bit slower. Note that SBA Express loans, while quicker than other SBA loans, probably aren’t going to be fast enough to cover an emergency expense. On the other hand, if your emergency is the result of a regional disaster, you may want to check out SBA disaster loans.

4. Get An Installment Loan From An Alternative Lender

installment loans

Wait, aren’t installment loans–express loans notwithstanding–too slow to be much help in an emergency?

Alternative lenders don’t only deal in short-term loans and merchant cash advances. Some offer products that more closely resemble traditional installment loans. These loans feature longer-terms and regular monthly (sometimes weekly) payments.

Installment loans, even those from alternative lenders, don’t necessarily promise the 24-48 hour turnarounds that are common with short-term loans and merchant cash advances. Some do, however. And even the ones that don’t may still be fast enough to help resolve your emergency.

These alternative lenders offer loan products that might work for your situation:

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Interest/Factor Rate Req. Time in Business Min. Credit Score Next Steps

$5K – $500K 3 – 36 months x1.003 – x1.04/mo 12 months 500 Apply Now

$5K – $500K 13 – 52 weeks x1.029 – x1.1872 9 months 550 Apply Now

$2K – $5M Varies As low as 2% 6 months 550 Apply Now

$20K – $500K 1 – 4 years 7.99% – 29.99% APR 2 years 660 Apply Now

5. Use A Business Credit Card

Best merchant online credit card processing companies image

Another way to handle emergency expenses is to have lines of credit in place ahead of time. The easiest to use are probably business credit cards.

Business credit cards can be a convenient way to pay for emergencies, provided the emergency costs are on the smaller side and can be paid with plastic. A balance that sits on your card month after month will quickly become more expensive than a loan. On the other hand, if you’re able to pay your business credit card off in full within your grace period (usually 20-25 days after you make the purchase), you won’t owe any interest at all. Better yet, you can take advantage of the rewards programs most of these cards offered.

Avoid taking out a cash advance with your credit card, though, as the fees and interest rates on those transactions make them a very expensive way to bail your business out.

Looking for a business credit card? Chase Bank offers some of the best options for small business:

Card Card Name Annual Fee Introductory Rate Rewards Next Steps

Chase Ink Business Preferred℠

$95 None
  • 3 points per $1 on travel, shipping, internet/cable/phone, and internet advertising (max $150,000 per year)
  • 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
Apply Now

Chase Ink Business Cash℠

$0 0% APR for the first 12 months
  • 5% cash back on internet/phone/cable and purchases at office supply stores (max $25,000 per year)
  • 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations (max $25,000 per year)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Apply Now

Chase Ink Business Unlimited℠

$0 0% APR for the first 12 months
  • 1.5% cash back on all purchases
Apply Now

6. Set Up A Line Of Credit

Business credit cards aren’t the only way to set up an “insurance policy” against unplanned expenses. In fact, they may not even be the best way, especially if you encounter expenses you can’t easily pay for with a card.

Banks and some alternative lenders offer business lines of credit. A revolving line of credit is a lot like a credit card (technically a credit card is a revolving line of credit, but not all revolving lines of credit are credit cards. Make sense?). Your lender will approve your business for a certain amount of credit, for a certain period of time, typically a year. During that time, you can draw upon your line of credit in any increments you want so long as the total amount you’ve drawn doesn’t exceed your credit limit. You only make payments and owe interest on the amount of credit you’re using. As you pay off your balance, that credit becomes available to use again. A non-revolving line of credit works the same way, except that once you use your credit, it does not become available again after you pay it off.

Some lines of credit are easier to use than others. Depending on your lender, you may have to pay a draw fee each time you withdraw cash. Some lenders charge annual, or even monthly, fees to maintain your line of credit. It’s not uncommon for banks to link a line of credit to a Visa or Mastercard, allowing you to use it almost exactly like a credit card. Some lenders may let you write checks against your line, while others will necessitate a cash transfer from your line to, say, a checking account.

The following lenders offer lines of credit to businesses at reasonable rates:

Lender Borrowing Amount Draw Term Draw Fee APR Next Steps

$6K – $100K 6 months None Starts at 13.99% Apply Now

$2K – $5M Varies Varies Varies Apply Now

$5K – $5M 6 months 1.50% per draw 21% – 65% Apply Now

$1K – $100K 12 weeks None 12% – 54% Apply Now

7. Use Invoice Factoring

Do what now? A quick and unorthodox way to get emergency financing without putting yourself at too much risk is invoice factoring. Factoring companies will purchase your unpaid invoices for around 80 percent of their face value, minus a small fee. It’s essentially getting an advance on your invoices by signing them over to a third party.

What about the remaining 20 percent? The factoring company will pay you that balance when the invoice is paid by your customer.

The catch is that you’ll need to have unpaid invoices in hand for invoice factoring to be of any use to you.

If you think invoice factoring might be the right choice for your business emergency, we recommend starting with a reputable company like BlueVine.

Get Started With BlueVine

Final Thoughts

It’s easier than ever to get emergency funding for your business. The trick is making sure you get it on the schedule you need, at a rate you can afford.

Not sure where to start looking?

We can help you out.

Loan Type What Is It? Typical Time To Funding

Short-Term Business Loans

Loans disbursed in one lump sum and repaid in periodic, fixed installments. Fees for borrowing are determined by a factor rate.

2 – 5 days

Online Lines of Credit

Credit lines from which the business can draw funds at any time, without going through an application process.

2 – 7 days for the initial application; 1 – 2 days for funds when the credit line is secured

Invoice Financing

Financing in which the business’s unpaid invoices are leveraged to access business funds.

2 – 5 days

Bridge Loans

Fast business loans used to fulfill funding needs until slower financing comes in.

2 – 7 days

Traditional Installment Loans

Loans disbursed in one lump sum and repaid in periodic, fixed installments. Borrowing fees are determined by an interest rate.

1 – 3 weeks

Business Credit Cards

Credit lines for everyday business expenses.

About 7 days

SBA Disaster Loans

Loans offered by the SBA to businesses that have been affected by a disaster.

7 – 21 days

The post Emergency Business Loans: 7 Ways To Get Business Funding Fast appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Do High-Risk Merchant Accounts With Instant Approval Exist?

Instant approval

It all started with the telegraph. Invented in 1837, this technological advance enabled nearly-instantaneous communication across vast distances for the first time ever. Its introduction into commercial use disrupted a courier system that had been the only available method of communicating from one distant place to another for thousands of years. In 1861, the completion of a telegraph line connecting the west and east coasts of the United States rendered the fledgling Pony Express obsolete practically overnight.

Today, of course, we take instantaneous communication for granted. Thanks to computers and the internet (and the fiber optic cables that actually connect them), we can send huge amounts of data anywhere in the world in practically no time at all. Given all this wonderful technology, if you’re a high-risk merchant, you might be wondering why it takes so long to get approved for a merchant account. You might also be sorely tempted by claims of “instant approval” from merchant account providers who advertise directly to the high-risk community, especially if you’re running an eCommerce business and you absolutely need to be able to accept credit cards. In this post, we’ll explain what “instant approval” really means and why it’s usually not a good idea, no matter how desperate you are to get a merchant account. We’ll also delve into how the high-risk merchant account approval process works and what you can do to make it run a little smoother – and faster. Finally, we’ll recommend a few reputable high-risk specialists that can get you set up with a stable and fairly priced merchant account.

What Is “Instant Approval”?

We get it. It’s no fun trying to run your business with an “In God we trust; all others pay cash” sign posted next to your cash register because you can’t get a merchant account. It also means disappointed customers and lost sales. Under these circumstances, the temptation to sign up with the first provider who will actually accept your business can be pretty overwhelming. Unfortunately, it’s also a really bad idea.

The simple reality is that it always takes longer to obtain final approval for a high-risk merchant account than it does for a low-risk business. While traditional low-risk businesses can expect to be approved within a day or two, high-risk merchant accounts require a minimum of three to five business days to be approved, and this process can sometimes take as long as three to five weeks. Why so long? Approving a high-risk business requires a far more extensive investigation into the credit history of both the business and the business owner. Poor personal credit on the part of the owner is one of several reasons why a business might be classified as high-risk in the first place. You’ll have to submit far more documentation and wait far longer for this process to be completed than a low-risk business would.

So, how can some providers even claim to offer “instant approval”? Well, for one thing, it’s not really instantaneous at all. If you see a provider advertising “instant approval,” there’s usually some fine print included with the offer specifying that approval actually takes 24-48 hours. While that’s a lot faster than the normal time-frame, it’s still not exactly “instant.” What these providers aren’t telling you is that approval for your merchant account is actually a two-step process. First, you must be approved by your merchant account provider. Second, you must be approved by the acquiring bank or backend processor that is actually going to underwrite your account and process your transactions.

Getting approved by your merchant account provider is actually pretty easy, but not for good reasons. The truth is that your merchant account provider’s business model is based on signing up as many merchants as possible in order to generate a profit. They’re also quite eager to have you sign a long-term contract, guaranteeing that you’ll be on the hook for three years or even longer. And if you close your account or go out of business, they’ll usually collect a hefty early termination fee (ETF). Because these early termination fees can run into the hundreds of dollars, it’s possible in some circumstances that your provider will make more money from the ETF than they will from your processing fees. High-risk businesses tend to fail at a higher rate than low-risk enterprises, and most of these providers will not hesitate to charge you the full ETF even if you’re going out of business. Although more and more providers are now offering month-to-month billing with no early termination fees to low-risk businesses, it’s still very unusual not to be required to sign a long-term contract – with an ETF – if you’re a high-risk business. Even the most reputable high-risk specialists almost always impose these terms, so be prepared for it and be sure to review your contract documents very carefully before you sign up for an account, even with a reputable provider.

The second step of the approval process, getting your acquiring bank or processor to approve you, is where the delays and difficulties come into play. The risk departments at these institutions really don’t like to approve high-risk merchant accounts due to the increased chance that you’ll run into problems later on. Every processor has their own criteria for determining whether you’re high-risk, and their own documentation requirements you’ll need to meet before they’ll even consider approving you for an account. While your merchant account provider is highly motivated to approve your account, your processor has every reason in the world not to approve it. Getting approved for a high-risk merchant account is an uphill battle, and the chance of being turned down is very high. Fortunately, there are some really good providers out there who specialize in getting high-risk accounts approved, and they’ll work with you to get your paperwork in order and find a bank that can approve you for an account.

Unfortunately, providers offering “instant approval” sometimes take some shortcuts with this process so they can get you on the hook for that long-term contract (and usually that ETF as well). What they advertise as “instant approval” (or being “pre-approved”) in most cases really means that they’re approving your account – and getting you to sign your contract – before your acquiring bank or backend processor has completed all the necessary steps to determine whether to approve your account. In some cases, your merchant account provider won’t even complete a credit check before approving your account.

This practice is all fine and dandy as long as your processor eventually approves your account. However, there’s a high chance that they won’t approve you, and by the time they make that determination you may very well be up and running with your credit card terminal or payment gateway. If this happens, you may suddenly find your account frozen and your funds being withheld. Even worse, you may have your merchant account closed altogether. (Note that in this case, you usually won’t be liable for an early termination fee since you aren’t the party deciding to close the account). In some cases, depending on the reason for your processor closing your account, you may even find yourself being placed on the Terminated Merchant File (TMF, also known as the MATCH List). Getting put on this list is really bad news, as it can completely prevent you from getting approved for a merchant account, even with another provider, for up to five years.

If you haven’t guessed by now, we highly recommend that you avoid any merchant account provider claiming to offer “instant approval” of your high-risk merchant account. This approval process is incomplete and can easily lead to your account getting shut down shortly after you start using it. No matter how inconvenient it is to wait for the approval process to run its course, in the long run, it’s a worthwhile trade-off to get a fully-approved account that will be stable and reliable.

How To Expedite Approval Of Your High-Risk Merchant Account

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

While the approval process is unavoidably a lengthy one, there are steps you can take as a merchant to move things along a little quicker. These actions mainly serve to avoid the kinds of problems that might lead to delays in getting your account approved. Here’s what you’ll want to do:

  • Work With A Reputable High-Risk Specialist: The signup process can be sped up by ensuring there is a good chance of approval beforehand. This means working with a partner that has a proven track record and experience in your industry. High-risk specialists such as Durango Merchant Services will work with you to ensure that your paperwork is in order and can also work with a network of acquiring banks and processors to find one that will approve your business.
  • Have Your Paperwork In Order: You’ll need to provide far more information when applying for a merchant account as a high-risk business owner. If you can present all of this information with your initial application, it will save a significant amount of time during the approval process. We recommend that you scan all required documents as PDF files so you can simply email everything you need to your provider as part of your application. See below for a discussion of specific documentation requirements.
  • Be Completely Honest About Your Business: Are you selling medical marijuana (in a jurisdiction where it’s legal)? Do you have a personal bankruptcy on your record? Have you previously had a merchant account shut down by your provider? High-risk merchants who are desperate to get approved for a merchant account are often tempted to misrepresent these and other facts that might lead to them being disapproved for an account. Don’t do it! Intentionally failing to disclose important information or getting caught in a lie will almost always lead to you being turned down for an account — or having your account closed immediately once the processor discovers your dishonesty. You’re much better off being completely honest about your background. In many cases, you can still be approved for an account despite a little negative information.

As we’ve mentioned above, there’s a lot of paperwork involved with getting approved for a high-risk merchant account. While specific requirements vary from one provider to the next, here’s a generic list of the most commonly requested information:

  • Completed Merchant Account Application (from your merchant account provider)
  • Résumé or CV of business owner
  • Photo ID or Passport
  • Business Plan
  • Personal Utility Bill (used to verify your address)
  • Processing statements for at least the last three months (if you’re switching providers)
  • Copies of supplier’s agreements (for retail merchants)
  • Copies of your personal banking statements (usually for the last three months)
  • Personal reference letter from your bank
  • Copies of your business bank account statements (usually for the last three months)
  • Articles of Incorporation (or sole proprietorship documentation)
  • Articles of Association (if applicable)
  • Screenshot of your business website’s home page (if applicable)

Final Thoughts

If you’re a high-risk merchant, we understand that merchant accounts are not easy for you. Okay, they’re not easy for anyone, but high-risk factors make them even more complicated (and expensive) than they are for everyone else. Unfortunately, it’s too easy to get turned down a few times and start feeling like you have to sign up with any provider who will take you. Also, the inevitable delays in getting your account approved can make the possibility of “instant approval” seem very tempting. Resist that temptation. Instant approval isn’t what its promoters claim it is, and it’s a good way to set yourself up for much more serious problems down the road.

The difficulties that high-risk merchants encounter in getting a merchant account have, unfortunately, created a market opportunity for unscrupulous providers who use the lure of “instant approval” (or, sometimes, “guaranteed approval”) to lock you into a prohibitively expensive long-term contract with high fees, high processing rates, and an onerous early termination fee to discourage you from canceling your account on your own. Do a Google search for “high risk merchant” account, and you’ll quickly find ads from plenty of predatory merchant account providers looking to take advantage of your desperation.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are reputable providers who specialize in working with the high-risk community and will go out of their way to get you fully approved for an account. While their prices and contract terms won’t be as great as what a low-risk business could obtain, they’re still reasonable and backed up by top-notch customer support. We’d also note that none of the high-risk specialists we’ve found offer “instant approval.” Instead, they’ll work with you and help you to get your documentation squared away so you can be approved by one of their partner processors for a stable account that won’t get shut down the moment you actually try to use it.

Of all the high-risk specialists we’ve reviewed, we’ve found Durango Merchant Services and Easy Pay Direct to be among the best of the best. They both have strong track records of providing high-quality service at reasonable prices. For more recommendations, check out our post The Best High-Risk Merchant Account Providers or see the chart below.

Durango SMB Global Host Merchant Services Soar Payments

Review Visit Site Review Visit Site Review Visit Site Review Visit Site
Specialities International, Offshore, Credit Repair, Bad Credit, Vape/E-cigarettes, Fantasy Sports, Forex International, Offshore, Travel Businesses, Nutraceuticals, Multilevel Marketing, Kratom, CBD Oil Debt Collection, Life Coaching, Airlines, Loan Modification, SEO Services Antiques & Collectibles, Credit Repair, Debt Consolidation, Firearms & Ammunition, Precious Metals

The post Do High-Risk Merchant Accounts With Instant Approval Exist? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Accept Credit Cards Online

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

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

5 Questions To Ask Before You Start

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

So before anything, here are some questions to consider:

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

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

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

Types Of Payment Processors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does Your Payment Processor Include a Gateway?

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

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

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

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

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

How To Accept Online Payments With A Website

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

Adding Payments To An Existing Site

best templates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building A New Site With Shopping Cart Software

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Managing Services, Subscriptions & Other Recurring Charges

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

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

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

Accepting Online Payments Without A Website

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

Creating Online Invoices

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

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

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

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

Using Online Form Builders

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

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

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

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

Selling On Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selling In Marketplaces

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

A few popular marketplaces include:

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

Accepting Payments Through Virtual Terminals 

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

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

Beyond Credit Cards: Alternative Online Payment Methods

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

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

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

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

Some of these alternative payment methods include:

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

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

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

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

Begin Accepting Payments Online

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

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

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

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

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

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The Best Offshore Merchant Account Providers

Offshore Merchant Account Providers

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

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

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

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

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

Factors To Consider When Selecting An Offshore Merchant Account

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Features Of Offshore Merchant Accounts

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

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

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

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

Durango Merchant Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

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

SMB Global

SMB Global logo

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

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

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

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

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

Host Merchant Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

For more information, see our complete review.

Easy Pay Direct

Easy Pay Direct logo

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

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

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

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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