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 Complete Guide To Credit Bureaus: Equifax VS Experian VS TransUnion

The Complete Guide To Credit Bureaus: Equifax VS Experian VS TransUnion

If you’ve ever applied for a loan — whether it be for a car, a house, or even a small business — then I’m sure you’re well acquainted with the importance of credit scores. But what about credit reports?

Credit reports tell lenders about your credit history and indicate how reliable you are as a borrower. But more than that, credit reports help you understand your credit, improve your credit score, and prevent fraud and identity theft. So how do you get your credit report? That’s where credit bureaus like Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion come in.

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about credit bureaus. Then we’ll break down the “big three” credit bureaus so you can confidently understand your credit report and score.

What Is A Credit Bureau?

Let’s start with the basics.

A credit bureau is a business organization that collects and sells data regarding the credit history of individuals. They typically collect data such as your credit card and loan balances, the number of credit accounts you have, your payment history, any bankruptcies, etc. Today, there are dozens of credit bureaus, but the “big three” are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Credit bureaus arose to help lenders quickly gauge the reliability of a potential borrower. In the past, you could go to the good ol’ general store and the owner would know you, your character, and whether or not putting your items on “charge” (or on credit) was a good idea. That method may have worked in the past, when communities were small and isolated, but there had to be a better way moving forward. Thus credit bureaus were born.

Credit bureaus collect data on potential borrowers and sell it to banks to help them make informed lending decisions. The oldest of the “big three,” Equifax, started capitalizing on this need all the way back in 1899.

Today, the credit bureaus have streamlined and computerized the whole process by compiling the data they collect into a credit report and credit score. While every credit bureau calculates credit scores differently, and every lender has different credit score requirements, credit reports and credits scores allow for a more universal measuring stick to judge potential borrowers by. Recently, credit bureaus also have branched out to providing dozens of additional products to help individuals and businesses alike, including identity protection, business marketing, and more.

How Do Credit Bureaus Collect My Information?

Okay, we admit it all sounds a bit creepy. Big Brother’s always watching, right? Well, yes, but it might comfort you to know how credit bureaus collect and share your information.

Credit bureaus mainly collect information from credit institutions with which you already have a relationship, such as:

  • Banks
  • Credit card companies
  • Student loan providers
  • Auto loan providers

Credit bureaus do not have access to these accounts; instead, the credit institutions share the information with the credit bureaus. Credit institutions are not obligated to share information and can give data to one, two, three, or none of the major credit bureaus. Typically, credit bureaus store data on your balances, available credit, payment history, and the number of open and closed accounts you have. Collection agencies and debt collectors may also report to the credit bureaus if you have any delinquent activity.

The rest of the information credit bureaus collect comes from public court records. They access these records in search of any possible bankruptcies, tax liens, repossessions, and foreclosures.

How Do Credit Bureaus Use My Information?

Now that you know how credit bureaus collect your information, you’re probably wondering how they use your information?

Credit bureaus use your information to create credit reports and credit scores. They then share your information with potential lenders, landlords, and employers for a number of reasons. Your credit report may be pulled up in the following scenarios:

  • When a lender is checking your credit to see if you qualify for a loan
  • When a landlord is deciding whether or not to accept your rental application
  • When a new employer needs to run a background check
  • When a utility provider is about to start a service contract with you

Credit bureaus also sell information for marketing purposes. Say a lender is looking for potential customers with poor credit who might need a credit card. The lender will reach out to a credit bureau, which will then sell the lender a prescreening list of qualifying individuals and their basic contact information. (If you’ve ever wondered how you end up with so many preapproved credit cards flooding your mailbox, this is it.)

However, there are rules that protect you and your data — particularly the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

The FCRA is a law that states you have the right to know your credit report and the right to dispute any errors on your credit report. It also lays out what is a “permissible purpose” for a lender to pull your credit and what is an “impermissible purpose.”

If a potential lender, landlord, utility provider, future employer, insurer — you name it — wants to view your full credit report, they must have a permissible purpose and your permission first. In some cases, a potential lender will simply let you know that they will do a credit pull, and by following through with the application, you grant them permission to do so. In other cases, a landlord might have you use a tenant screening service like ExperianConnect, where you have to download your credit report and share it with them directly.

If you aren’t comfortable with credit bureaus prescreening your information and sending it to third-party lenders, you can use OptOutPrescreen.com to prevent this. Continue onto the “What To To Do In Case of Fraud Or Identity Theft” section to learn more ways to protect your credit report and personal information.

Credit Reports VS Credit Scores

Since credit bureaus use your credit history to compile both a credit report and a credit score, it’s important to know the difference between the two.

Credit Report Credit Score

A report prepared by credit bureaus that shows an individual’s credit history, including payment history, loan balances, credit limits, and personal information (such as your social security number, birth date, and address).

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A number that indicates an individuals creditworthiness and is based on the individual’s credit history, payment history, and other data compiled by credit bureaus.

On a credit report, you’ll see detailed information about your credit history. A typical credit report will give you a full breakdown of all your open or closed credit accounts, bank accounts, loans, and payment history. Below, you’ll se an example of a credit report and what it might include (this is only page 1 of 4, so you can imagine how detailed your full credit report might be):

The Complete Guide To Credit Bureaus: Equifax VS Experian VS TransUnion

A credit score, on the other hand, provides much less detail. You’ll usually be given your credit score in tandem with a graphic indicator of whether your credit score is poor, fair, good, or excellent. You may be able to drill down to see the factors that affect your credit score, and you may not. Here’s an example of a credit score and how it might appear:

The Complete Guide To Credit Bureaus: Equifax VS Experian VS TransUnion

Think of it like this: a credit report is a detailed report of what your credit history is, while a credit score is an interpretation of what your credit history means. Your credit score is one of the biggest factors lenders use when considering loan applications; the higher the score, the more likely you are to pay your loan back — at least, in a lender’s eyes.

It’s worth noting one more key difference between credit reports and credit scores. Credit bureaus are legally obligated to give you a free credit report once a year, whereas there is no law requiring them to provide a credit score. This means you’ll have to pay a fee to access your credit score through one of the “big three.” There are free credit score sites if you want to avoid this fee. Check out our post The Best Free Credit Score Sites to learn more.

Note: In certain situations — like unemployment, identity theft, and fraud — you can access your credit report multiple times a year without charge.

How Credit Scores Are Calculated

Credit scores are all based on similar data but can vary significantly depending on the credit score model. Credit scores are generally affected by the following:

  • Your payment history
  • How much credit you use versus how much credit is available in an account
  • The number of accounts you have open
  • How long your accounts have been open
  • The types of credit you have (such as credit cars, loans, mortgages, etc.)

How this information is transformed into a credit score depends on the credit model being used. There are two main types of credit models: FICO scores and VantageScore.

FICO Scores VS VantageScore

The FICO score model was created by Fair Isaac Corporation in 1989 (hence the name FICO). FICO credit scores range from 350 – 850 and are determined by these five factors, which are ranked in terms of importance by percentage:

  • Payment History: 35%
  • Amounts Allowed: 30%
  • Length Of Credit History: 15%
  • New Credit: 10%
  • Credit Mix: 10%

The VantageScore model was created by Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion in 2006. This model also uses a 350-850 scale. Scores are determined by the following six factors that are ranked by level of importance rather than a percentage:

  • Payment History: Extremely influential
  • Percentage Of Credit Limit Used: Highly influential
  • Age & Type Of Credit: Highly influential
  • Total Balances & Debt: Moderately influential
  • Available Credit: Less influential
  • Recent Credit Behavior & Inquiries: Less influential

VantageScore claims that it is “the scoring model that is more accurate.” However, the FICO scoring model is used more predominantly in the lending industry.

Why Is My Credit Score Different With Each Bureau?

It makes sense that your credit score may vary depending on whether the potential lender is using the FICO or VantageScore model. But when the “big three” all use the VantageScore model, why do you get a different credit score from each credit bureau?

Remember earlier when we said that credit institutions aren’t required to share information with the credit bureaus? They can choose to share data with one, two, three, or none of the “big three.” This means that Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion don’t have access to exactly the same data, which accounts for the difference in credit scores.

This is why it’s important to treat your credit score as a “guesstimation” rather than an end-all number. Credit scores are ever-changing and lenders all have their own way of calculating and evaluating your credit score. Check your credit score so you have a general idea of what it is, and try to keep your score as close to 850 as possible, but don’t stress over-much about the exact three-digit number.

Reasons To Use A Credit Bureau

Now that you know what credit bureaus are and how they work, when should you use one? It’s simple: use a credit bureau anytime you want to know or need to know your credit report or credit score. Here are five of the most common scenarios for when you should use a credit bureau.

 

1. When Applying For A Loan

When applying for a loan, a potential lender is going to consider both your credit report and credit score, so it’s extremely important that you know your credit report and score beforehand. This way, you can correct any errors on your credit report and make sure you meet the lender’s minimum borrower requirements before you apply.

If there are errors, they can take a while to set right. Additionally, if you don’t meet the credit score requirement, raising your credit score can take time. Knowing the state of your credit before applying gives you the time to put your best foot forward and significantly increases your chances of being approved for a loan.

For more tips and tricks about increasing your chances of securing the loan you want, read our post on improving your loan application.

2. Before Renting An Apartment Or House

Potential landlords almost always run a credit report in order to decide if you’re trustworthy enough to make your monthly payments on time. Knowing your credit report beforehand is key. Again, if there are any errors, you can correct them before your future apartment or house is on the line. Or, if there is a missed payment or some other potential red flag on your credit report, you can try to explain the situation to your landlord in advance rather than being flat-out rejected.

3. To Improve Your Credit Score

If you are wanting to monitor and improve your credit score, you need to know your score first. Each of the “big three” allows you to purchase your credit score. They also offer credit monitoring subscriptions that allow you to regularly view your credit score and receive alerts when there are any changes to your credit score.

If you don’t want to pay for a monthly credit monitoring service, check out the best free credit score sites.

4. To Doublecheck For Credit Errors

As we mentioned earlier, you don’t want to be stuck with an error on your credit report right when you’re in the middle of the application approval process for a new loan or mortgage. Check each of the big three credit bureaus for errors as they all collect and maintain different information.

5. To Prevent Fraud & Identity Theft

Another benefit of using a credit bureau is fraud prevention and identity protection. If you stay on top of your credit report, you can pinpoint anything fishy and secure your information. When it comes to fraud and identity theft, the sooner you notice a problem, the better. One of the best parts about using one of the “big three” credit bureaus is that they all offer some form of fraud monitoring and extra security measures (which we will cover in more detail).

Bonus: To Help Run Your Business

As an added bonus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion all offer additional business services to help business owners manage, expand, and secure their small businesses. These services include everything from analytics to customer acquisition to risk management to fraud prevention and more.

What To Do If There’s An Error On Your Credit Report

If you find an error on your credit report, you’ll need to report and dispute that error with each individual bureau since each bureau collects and utilizes different information. Each bureau has their own process for disputing. You’ll need to go to their individual sites to find details on how to fix an error on your credit report.

One of the reasons it’s so important to check your credit report regularly is that it can often take months to properly fix an error on your credit report. For more details on common credit report mistakes and how to dispute credit report errors, visit the FICO website.

What To Do In Case Of Fraud Or Identity Theft

The Complete Guide To Credit Bureaus: Equifax VS Experian VS TransUnion

When it comes to fraud and identity theft, you don’t want to take any chances. If you suspect fraud related to any of your credit cards, bank accounts, or identity — or if your identity has been stolen — it’s important to take action right away. You can do so by submitting a fraud alert or security freeze (sometimes known as a credit freeze).

Both a fraud alert and security freeze are steps to secure your credit report and personal information, but they differ slightly.

Fraud Alert Security Freeze

A fraud alert warns credit bureaus that there might be fraudulent activity, so potential lenders will need to take extra measure to verify your identity before extending credit.

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A security freeze blocks lenders from accessing your credit report at all until the freeze is lifted by you (usually using a pin).

Fraud alerts usually last 90 days (unless you’re an identity theft victim, in which case you can extend the alert). To place a fraud alert, contact Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion and follow their instructions. You only need to contact one of the big three credit bureaus to place a fraud alert as they will notify the other two credit bureaus.

A credit freeze has the advantage of being much more secure. However, you will have to lower the freeze each you time you or a lender need to view your credit report, and you may be required to pay for the service. Unlike a fraud alert, you will have to place a security freeze with each of the three bureaus.

How Do The Big Three Credit Bureaus Compare

Now that you know the basics about credit bureaus and the reasons to use one, how do you know which credit bureau to use? How do the big three compare to each other? And what products do each credit bureau offer? Here’s a basic breakdown that compares Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Read on to learn more about each credit bureau.

Equifax Experian TransUnion

Free Annual Credit Report

✓

✓

✓

Credit Score

$15.95

$19.99

$19.95

Credit Monitoring

✗

Starts at $0/mo

$19.95/mo

Identity Protection

✓

✓

✓

Business Credit Score

✓

✓

✓

Number of Business Services

11

12

15

Equifax

The Complete Guide To Credit Bureaus: Equifax VS Experian VS TransUnion

Best For…

Individuals looking to check their Equifax credit report and score and in need of a free credit lock service.

The oldest of the three credit bureaus, Equifax has been around since 1899. While the company has grown significantly over the years, the Equifax motto to “always focus on its customers” has stayed the same. Today, Equifax offers basic credit report and credit score services as well as several business products. The most notable aspect of Equifax is its free credit lock service that allows individuals to protect their data at no additional cost.

Products Offered

Equifax offers basic credit report and credit score services, as well as a free credit lock service.

  • Credit Report: As with every credit bureau, you can access your free Equifax credit report at annualcreditreport.com.
  • Equifax Credit Score: You can purchase an Equifax credit score for $15.95. This score will be accessible for 30 days.
  • Lock & Alert: This free service allows individuals control over their credit report by locking and unlocking the report as needed. They even have a mobile app and send alerts every time your account is unlocked or locked.

Business Services

You can purchase a single business credit report from Equifax for $99 or a multi-pack for $399.95. You can use this to view your own business credit or to ascertain the credit health of a potential business partner, supplier, or new customer.

In addition to business credit reports, Equifax offers 11 products to help you run your small business. These products range from customer acquisition to risk mitigation to credit monitoring to fraud prevention and more. Visit the Equifax website to learn more about their business offerings.

Experian

The Complete Guide To Credit Bureaus: Equifax VS Experian VS TransUnion

Best For…

Individuals looking to view their Experian credit report or to actively monitor their credit report and credit score from all three credit bureaus.

Equifax began as part of TRW Information Systems and Services INC. back in 1968, and has since had a long history of acquisitions and advancement. Of all three bureaus, Experian offers the most personal products for monitoring and protecting your credit. What really sets Experian apart is that you can monitor your credit report from each of the three bureaus, so you can have all your credit information in one place. Experian also offers a FICO score simulator, which is invaluable for seeing what your FICO score could be if you make changes to your credit.

Products Offered

Experian offers personal credit monitoring and identity protection products as well as loan matching and credit card matching services.

  • Credit Report: As with every credit bureau, you can access your free Experian credit report at annualcreditreport.com.
  • Experian Credit Report & Score: You can purchase your Experian credit report and FICO credit score for $19.99. This purchase is only good for a one-time view.
  • 3 Bureau Credit Report & FICO Score: For $39.99, you can view your Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion credit report as well as your FICO credit score. This purchase is only good for a one-time view.
  • Experian CreditWorks Basic: View your Experian credit report for free every month.
  • Experian CreditWorks Premium: For $24.99/month, you can view your FICO score and gain access to Experian’s credit monitoring, identity protection, and credit lock services. This service includes the 3 Bureaus Credit Report. This product lets you view your credit reports and credit score daily, and it includes a FICO score simulator as well.
  • Experian IdentityWorks Plus: Experian’s identity protection service starts at $9.99/month and includes dark web surveillance, identity theft insurance up to $500,000, lost wallet assistance, credit lock, and identity theft monitoring and alerts. Includes credit monitoring for Experian and FICO score alerts. You can add child identity protection as well.
  • Experian IdentityWorks Premium: Experian’s most expensive identity protection service is $19.99/month and includes dark web surveillance, identity theft insurance up to $1,00,000, lost wallet assistance, credit lock, and identity theft monitoring and alerts. Includes credit monitoring for all three credit bureaus and FICO score alerts. You can add child identity protection as well.

Note: For Experian CreditWorks and IdentityWorks products, you can receive a discount for purchasing an annual subscription rather than a monthly subscription.

Business Services

Experian does offer business credit scores, although they aren’t forthcoming about the cost. The credit bureau also offers Experian Connect (a tenant screening service) and Experian Mailing List Builder (a customer acquisition service).

In addition, Experian offers 11 other business services ranging from customer management to risk management to debt recovery to consulting services and more. Visit the Experian website to learn more about their business offerings.

TransUnionThe Complete Guide To Credit Bureaus: Equifax VS Experian VS TransUnion

Best For…

Individuals looking to check their TransUnion credit report and score and to manage their business and its credit.

TransUnion started back in 1968 as a holding company for a railroad leasing organization known as Union Tank Car Company. Today, TransUnion is the smallest of the three credit bureaus but packs the biggest punch where business services are concerned. TransUnion also offers a credit score simulator — it is a great tool for improving your credit score as you can see how your credit could be affected if you made certain changes to your credit.

Products

TransUnion offers basic credit report and credit score products, as well as a free credit monitoring and identity theft service.

  • Credit Report: As with every credit bureau, you can access your free TransUnion credit report at annualcreditreport.com.
  • TrueIdentity: This is TransUnion’s free credit monitoring and identity theft protection service. It includes unlimitedTransUnion credit reports, a credit lock service, and alerts.
  • Credit Monitoring: For $19.99/month, you can have access to unlimited TransUnion credit report and score views, as well as credit lock, credit change alerts, and a score trending and score simulator tool.

Business Services

TransUnion offers business credit scores, although they aren’t forthcoming about the cost. The credit bureau also offers SmartMove, a tenant screening service.

In addition, TransUnion offers business products covering 14 fields, including marketing, fraud detection, healthcare revenue protection, customer acquisition, and more. Visit the TransUnion website to learn more about their business offerings.

Which Credit Bureau Should I Use?

Now that you know a little more about each of the three credit bureaus, the question becomes: Which credit bureau should I use?

The answer is all three of them.

We promise this isn’t a trick answer. Since each credit bureau collects different data regarding your credit history, it’s incredibly important to check your credit report with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Luckily, you are legally guaranteed a free annual credit report from each bureau.

One recommendation is to stagger your annual free credit report. Check your Equifax report, then your Experian report four months later, and then your TransUnion report after another four months. This way you can always have a rough idea of what your credit report looks like without losing a penny. Another option is to use ExperianCreditWorks, which monitors all three credit bureaus and your FICO score for $24.99 a month.

If you simply want more control over your credit report and credit score, Experian offers the most bang for your buck in terms of personal credit monitoring and identity protection. However, TransUnion offers the most business-related products.

Ultimately, choosing which of the three credit bureaus’ monitoring services is right for you will depend on your budget and the level of control you want. The most important thing is to actually monitor your credit regularly. Take advantage of your free annual credit reports and know your credit score at the very least. Being proactive about your credit report can help ensure your credit report is accurate and can help catch any early signs of fraud, and knowing your credit score is the first step to improving your credit score.

Read our post 5 Ways To Improve Your Personal Credit Score and The Ultimate Guide To Improving Your Business Credit Score to learn more.

The post The Complete Guide To Credit Bureaus: Equifax VS Experian VS TransUnion appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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SBA Loans For Veterans: Everything You Need To Know About VA SBA Loans

After serving their time in the military, many veterans choose to start their own businesses. In fact, military veterans own about 7.5% of the businesses in the United States. Just like any other small business owners, there comes a time when these entrepreneurs need funding, whether it’s for purchasing equipment, expanding the business, or funding a startup project. And like civilians, many veterans are looking for a business loan that will help them expand their business without forcing them to shoulder extra debt. For these business owners, an SBA VA loan could be the answer.

What Is The SBA?

Before going into the specifics of SBA loans for veterans, it’s important to first know what the SBA is and how it offers benefits to small businesses. SBA stands for Small Business Administration. This is a government organization that offers assistance to small businesses. Through the SBA, business owners have access to education, information, and training. The SBA serves as an advocate for small businesses and provides a critical piece of the entrepreneurial puzzle: business financing.

How Can The SBA Benefit Veterans?

Getting a business loan is tough for anyone, but it can be especially difficult for military veterans. This is because traditional loans require a strong financial history. Many veterans and servicemembers on active duty may find that they have gaps in their credit history. If they’ve been deployed for any length of time, they may not have credit cards, utility bills, mortgage payments, or other records credit unions use to judge creditworthiness. This can make obtaining a business loan very difficult, if not impossible.

This is where the SBA can be of service to veterans. While SBA loans require typical paperwork and items such as credit scores and income verification, lenders are able to work with military veterans’ unique situations to provide them with the funding they need. Because these loans are backed by the SBA, lenders are more willing to lend to qualified borrowers, while business owners enjoy VA SBA benefits including low interest rates and flexible terms. (This is ideal because veterans won’t be stuck getting subprime traditional loans that can push them into debt or even bankruptcy.)

Types Of SBA Loan Programs For Veterans

small business loans for veterans

The SBA offers multiple programs that provide money for veterans and servicemembers. SBA disabled veterans loans can also help inactive servicemembers that were injured in the line of duty. SBA loans are often difficult to obtain, but selecting the right product beforehand and knowing what to expect during the application process can help ease the path to obtaining funding.

The Veterans Advantage Loan Program

The Veterans Advantage Loan Program is similar to the 7(a) Loan Program — the most popular option for SBA loans. This is a popular choice for veterans and civilians alike because the loan can be used for just about anything. This includes expanding a business, acquiring a new business, financing a franchise, renovations, construction, equipment, working capital, or even refinancing old debt.

The Veterans Advantage Loan Program offers the same great benefits with reduced guaranty fees for veteran-owned businesses. Under this program, veterans can borrow up to $5 million. SBA 7(a) Veterans Loan for business acquisitions and expansions have terms of up to 10 years; commercial real estate purchases have terms up to 25 years, while equipment financing loans can be paid back over a period of up to 15 years.

For 7(a) Loans less than $125,000, there is no guaranty fee. For loans between $125,001 and $150,000, the fee is just 1%. For loans up to $350,000, the fee is 1.5%. The maximum upfront guaranty under this program is 3.75% for loans from $700,001 up to and including $5 million. Interest rates vary on these loans from 7.25% to 9.75%. Find out more about the terms and rates of SBA 7(a) loans.

One of the biggest drawbacks to an SBA 7(a) Loan is the timeline for receiving the money. The application, approval, and funding process can take months in most cases. However, the SBA does offer SBA Express Loans for veterans, which can provide faster approval, although the timeline for receiving the funds varies from lender to lender. Through the Express program, the SBA guarantees that the application will be processed within 36 hours. SBA Express Loans for veterans are available in amounts up to $350,000, and there is never an upfront guaranty fee for veteran-owned businesses.

The Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program

Reservists and National Guard members have learned to expect the unexpected. Servicemembers know that a deployment could come at any time, forcing them to leave family, friends, and business responsibilities behind. Military reservists and members of the National Guard who face economic hardship during or after a deployment can get the financing they need for their business with an SBA loan.

The Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program is designed to help cover operating costs while a veteran is on active duty. These loans are available in amounts up to $2 million with maximum terms up to 30 years. The maturity of the loan is based on the applicant’s ability to repay the loan. For these loans, collateral is required for any amount over $50,000. It’s important to note that the SBA will not turn down a loan simply for lack of collateral, but the borrower will be required to put up any available collateral, including real estate.

These loans are very attractive to military veterans because of their repayment terms and their low interest rates. SBA Veteran Loan rates are currently set at 4%. These loans provide the working capital needed to pay necessary expenses; funds can not be used for income or profit loss, refinancing debt, or business expansion.

Does The SBA Offer Grants For Veterans?

Unfortunately, there are no SBA grants for veterans. However, the organization provides a variety of resources to give veterans the tools they need to succeed in business. These programs are funded by the SBA and are available to servicemembers, veterans, and in some cases, military spouses.

SBA training programs include Boots to Business, the Women Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program, Service Disabled Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program, and the Veteran Federal Procurement Entrepreneurship Training Program. More details on these training programs are available through the SBA website.

What About The SBA Patriot Express Loan Program?

The SBA Patriot Express Loan program was established in 2007. Under this program, veterans and eligible spouses were able to apply for up to $500,000 in business funding at rates that ranged between 2.25% and 4.75%. Unfortunately, this program was discontinued in 2013 and is no longer available. Veterans that wish to take advantage of a similar program can apply for the SBA Express Loan.

Who Qualifies For A VA SBA Loan?

To qualify for the Veterans Advantage Loan Program, the small business must be at least 51% owned and controlled by veterans, service-disabled veterans, active-duty military in the Transition Assistance Program, or a reservist or National Guard member. Spouses of veterans, active-duty service members, reservists, or National Guard members also qualify, as well as spouses who were widowed because of death during service or death from service-related disabilities. These requirements also apply to SBA Express Loans.

Non-servicemembers and civilians can apply for an SBA 7(a) loan under the traditional terms. They will not receive the discounted guaranty rates provided to veterans.

Veterans and servicemembers applying for the Veterans Advantage Loan Program must meet all requirements set forth for SBA 7(a) Loans. Requirements include a credit score of at least 680 (in most cases) as well as personal collateral. The business must not be delinquent on any debts to the government and should not have any foreclosures or bankruptcies on their credit report. All borrowers should be in business for at least 2 years, although startups are eligible with adequate industry experience and a solid business plan.

Applicants must also have fewer than 500 employees and less than $7.5 million in sales each year. The business must be for-profit and should have a qualifying need to receive funding. It’s also recommended that alternative resources are sought before applying for an SBA loan. Businesses that engage in investments, rentals, and lending are not qualified. Learn more about the requirements for obtaining this type of loan.

The Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program is available to servicemembers, reservists, or National Guard members who are on active duty. The servicemember must apply for the loan while on active duty or for a period of one year following the end of active service or discharge.

Any veteran that has been dishonorably discharged from their branch of service is not eligible to receive funding through the SBA Veteran Loan Programs.

How To Apply For SBA Loans For Veterans

After choosing which VA SBA Loan is right for you, the next step is to be prepared for the application process. Although the process can be tedious, taking the necessary steps and knowing what to expect will help everything go smoothly.

Credit scores do play a factor in receiving SBA loans. Generally, a credit score of 680 or higher is required. There are multiple online resources that can be used to check your score and obtain a free credit report so that any errors can be addressed. Please note that if there are any negative items on your report, the lender will require a valid explanation. Personal and business credit reports are reviewed by all lenders.

For the SBA Veterans Advantage Loan program, a potential borrower must choose a qualified lender. The SBA offers a Lender Match service that connects businesses with a lender in their area. While some applications can be completed online, lenders generally require a phone call or in-office visit by the applicant.

For the Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, applications can be obtained by contacting the Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center via phone or email.

After getting in touch with a lender, it’s time to gather the required paperwork.

  • DD Form 214 is required for veterans, service-disabled veterans, or spouses of veterans.
  • Transitioning active-duty military members, reservists, and National Guard members must have a copy of DD Form 2.
  • DD Form 1173 is required for spouses of transitioning active-duty military members, reservists, or National Guard members.
  • Military widows are required to have documentation from the Department of Defense.

To obtain an SBA VA Loan, you must be prepared to show that you can repay the loan, operate your business successfully, and put up 10% to 25% equity. Other documentation will be required during the application process, including:

  • At least three years of business and personal income tax returns
  • Financial statements, projections, business certificates, and licenses
  • A business plan.

Requirements vary, so you can ask your selected lender about their requirements so you can gather the needed information.

Veterans who choose SBA Express Loans will receive notification of approval within 36 hours, although funding the loan will take weeks or months. On average, the application, approval, and funding process for SVA 7(a) Loans takes a minimum of 60 to 90 days. If this timeline doesn’t work for you or you don’t meet the qualifications of obtaining an SBA loan, find out more about other funding options for veterans.

Final Thoughts

Although the process of applying for an SBA loan isn’t easy, the competitive terms make it worth it for many servicemembers, veterans, and their families. SBA Veteran Loans allow those who serve their country to be able to truly live the American Dream through successful ownership of their own business.

The post SBA Loans For Veterans: Everything You Need To Know About VA SBA Loans 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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Top 0% APR Introductory Rate Business Credit Cards

Getting your business a 0% APR introductory rate credit card could be helpful, especially if you’re planning to make a big purchase that you can’t pay back right away. Unfortunately, credit cards are packed with complicated rules and regulations, and with so many options available, it can be time-consuming to figure out what’s best for your business. A card that works well for Sammy’s Sandwich Shop down the street might not be the right option for you.

That’s where Merchant Maverick comes in! We’ve parsed through all your various options and come up with a list of the top 0% APR intro rate business credit cards. Besides offering that 0% APR introductory rate, these cards also provide savings via rewards and $0 annual fees, allowing you to stretch your dollar further.

So which one is right for you? Read on to find out!

American Express Blue Business Plus

This card leads the pack with a 0% APR introductory rate of 15 months. It also boasts a rewards program of two points per $1 on all purchases up to $50,000 per year, and one point per $1 on all purchases after $50,000. These points (which are worth $0.01 in many cases) can be redeemed via American Express’ Membership Rewards program in numerous ways, including at checkout for major retailers, gift cards, taxi fare in New York City, and booking travel through American Express Travel.

This card’s variable APR after those 15 months are up can run lower than average. It also grants you expanded buying power, which allows you to spend above your credit level without penalty.

However, Blue Business Plus doesn’t provide a welcome offer. Additionally, some redemptions dish out reward points at less than the standard $0.01. Rewards also start slowing down after spending $50,000 in a year, so this card might not be the best option if your business will break that threshold. International travelers should note that this card does carry a foreign transaction fee of 2.7%.

Want a full breakdown of Blue Business Plus? Check out Merchant Maverick’s comprehensive review to get the deets.

Chase Ink Business Unlimited

chase ink business unlimited

Ink Business Unlimited is a cash back card featuring a 0% APR intro rate for 12 months and no annual fee. Chase has set the cash back reward amount to 1.5% on all purchases—no cap whatsoever. Those rewards can be redeemed via deposit into your bank account or applied on Amazon purchases. Additionally, Ink Business Unlimited also provides a hefty welcome offer of $500 cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.

Other benefits include additional employee cards at no extra cost, as well as travel and roadside assistance. Chase also provides purchase protection to cover new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account. Once the 12 months of 0% APR run dry, this card offers a variable APR that sits right around industry standard.

Marks against this card include a 3% foreign transaction fee, meaning businesses that require overseas travel may want to think twice before dipping into Ink Business Unlimited.

If you need a further breakdown on Chase’s Ink Business Unlimited, we’ve got you covered with our comprehensive review.

American Express SimplyCash Plus

SimplyCash Plus is another cash back card, although its 0% intro APR runs for nine months. It does feature a hefty rewards program for certain categories, however. Purchases at U.S. office supply stores and on wireless telephone earn 5% percent cash back, up to $50,000 per year. Additionally, you can early 3% back on a category of your choosing (airfare, hotel rooms, car rentals, gas stations, restaurants, advertising purchases, shipping, or computer hardware, software, and cloud computing), up to $50,000 per year. All other purchases will nab 1% back.

American Express’ SimplyCash Plus boasts a variable APR that can clock in at below industry standard. Additionally, its expanded buying power will let you buy above your credit limit with no penalty fees. Other benefits include extended warranty and purchase protection, as well as a range of travel benefits, from baggage insurance to a global assist hotline.

Unfortunately, rewards are redeemed through statement credit only—meaning this card won’t work for those wanting to receive cash back as a check. Besides this, SimplyCash Plus doesn’t provide a welcome offer and foreign purchases are subject to a 2.7% transaction fee.

Need more info on American Express SimplyCash Plus? Head on over to Merchant Maverick’s review.

Capital One Spark Cash Select For Business

capital one spark cash select

This is the second card on our list that runs with a 0% APR for the first nine months. Its cash back rewards program features an unlimited 1.5% back on all purchases. Cash back rewards can be applied to your account as statement credits or requested as a check. Those rewards won’t expire while your account is open and can be transferred between Capital One cards.

You can additionally collect a tidy $200 early spend bonus if you spend at least $3,000 within your first three months of opening your accounts. Spark Cash Select further provides extended warranty and purchase protection, as well as access to Visa SavingsEdge, which may offer up to 15% off on some purchases from participating merchants. You can also get employee cards at no extra cost and Capital One charges no foreign transaction fees.

Drawbacks of the Spark Cash Select include a variable APR that may sit a tad higher than industry standard once those nine months of 0% APR are up. Additionally, the flat rate rewards program may not fit within your business if you spend a lot within categories that can earn higher cash back rates with other cards.

Those who want to dig into the nitty-gritty on Spark Cash Select should take a gander at our in-depth review.

Bank Of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard

To round out our list of 0% APR introductory rate business credit cards, we’ll look out our third entry with a 0% intro APR for nine months. This card boasts 3% cash back on purchases at gas stations and office supply stores, 2% back at restaurants, and 1% back for everything else. You’ll be able to redeem your cash rewards via a statement credit, check, or have cash deposited into a Bank of America checking or savings account.

Besides its reward program, this card’s other benefits include travel and emergency services, zero liability protection on unauthorized purchases, and overdraft protection. Clients of BofA’s Business Advantage Relationship Rewards program can get a 25% – 75% rewards bonus on the base cash back rate. This means you could earn up to 3.75% at gas stations and office supply stores, 2.75% at restaurants, and 1.75% everywhere else. There’s additionally a $200 statement credit bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 60 days.

On the negative side, there’s a $250,000 purchase cap for the 3% cash back categories, after which you’ll earn 1% back. Also, for businesses that require international travel, BofA’s card does carry a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Want to learn more about BofA’s Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard? Visit the Merchant Maverick review of the card.

Final Thoughts

That ends our look at five of the top 0% APR introductory rate business credit cards! Still can’t decide on the best option for your business? Check out our small business credit comparison page to compare some of our favorite credit cards and learn more about picking the best card for you.

The post Top 0% APR Introductory Rate Business Credit Cards appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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SBA Microloans: A Comprehensive Guide To Terms, Rates, And Eligibility

As a small business owner, you know the importance of financing in order to expand your business — particularly if you’re running a startup, and you know that you need funding in order to start your next project. While there are many options available to provide you with the capital you need to start a new business or grow an existing business, one of the best options is a loan through the Small Business Administration.

For smaller capital requirements, SBA Microloans offer many benefits that make them more desirable than other loan products on the market. Is an SBA Microloan the right choice for your business? Read on to find out more.

What Is The SBA Microloan Program?

Before getting into the details of the SBA Microloan programs, let’s first understand what a microloan is. Microloans are small amounts of money loaned to businesses at low interest rates.

The SBA Microloan program is designed to offer small loans of up to $50,000 to small businesses and startups. A microloan can be the ideal choice for a business that doesn’t require a lot of capital and wants a low-interest loan with great repayment terms. Home-based businesses and even self-employed individuals can obtain microloans through the SBA lending program.

How Do SBA Microloans Work?

While many SBA loan products are available through traditional financial outlets (banks, private lenders, and credit unions), the Microloan program is different in that funds are provided through non-profit or community-based organizations.

A non-profit organization can receive funding of up to $750,000 from the SBA during its first year in the Microloan program. After the first year, up to $1,250,000 can be borrowed annually, with a cap of $5 million at any one time. The nonprofit organization then acts as an intermediary, providing loans to small business owners.

Small business owners and startups can apply for up to $50,000 through a nonprofit’s loan program. The minimum microloan amount available is $500. On average, businesses obtain loans of $13,000 to $14,000 through the Microloan program.

One thing that is different about the SBA Microloan program when compared to other SBA funding programs is that rates and terms are not set by the SBA. The $50,000 borrowing cap is set by the Small Business Administration, but further details — including terms, rates, and eligibility requirements — are set by the intermediary organization.

Funds from the SBA Microloan program can only be used for certain purposes. This includes the purchase of inventory, supplies, fixtures, furniture, or equipment, or for use as working capital or startup capital.

SBA Microloan Eligibility

The SBA Microloan program is designed for established small businesses and for-profit startups. It is a great option for small businesses that need only a small amount of funding but still want to enjoy the benefits of an SBA loan product, including competitive interest rates and longer payment terms.

Because the loan amounts are small, the Microloan program is great for home-based businesses and the self-employed. Nonprofit day care centers are also eligible to receive these loans. In fact, all small businesses and startups are eligible to apply for an SBA Microloan. However, companies that need larger funding amounts (up to $5 million) or would like to purchase a business or refinance debt should consider other SBA options, such as the 7(a) loan. All businesses receiving an SBA Microloan should have a minimum of two years of industry experience and must be able to show sufficient income for repayment of the loan.

Since the terms of micro-funding for small businesses are set by the lender, SBA Microloan credit requirements vary. On average, though, an applicant should have a credit score of at least 640 when applying for one of these loans. Some lenders may be more flexible in determining the creditworthiness of applicants, so it’s important for interested business owners to speak with their local nonprofit lender to find out more specific details.

Any derogatory entries on a credit report will need to be explained to potential lenders. In some cases, a co-signer with sufficient credit and income to repay the loan may be required. It’s also important to note that there must be no bankruptcies or foreclosures listed on a credit report from the last one to two years, in most cases.

Some lenders will provide SBA Microloan bad-credit funding for those with less-than-desirable credit scores. Personal credit scores as low as 575 have been approved on occasion when all other requirements for SBA Microloans are met. To know where you stand in terms of credit, you can easily obtain your free credit score online. From there, you can determine what you need to do in order to clean up your credit and raise your score, if necessary.

Most lenders also require some form of collateral, but again, this is at the discretion of the lender. A lien on personal property, such as a vehicle or house, may be required. A personal guarantee from all owners with a 20% stake in the business is typically required as a condition of obtaining one of these loans.

In addition to having a good credit score, collateral, and a personal guarantee, applicants for SBA Microloans should be able to show a positive financial outlook for the future of their business. This is why it is important to have a solid business plan prepared to show to potential lenders, especially for startups.

Cleaning up your credit score, creating a professional and solid business plan, and being prepared to offer up collateral or a personal guarantee are all ways that you can boost your odds for receiving an SBA Microloans.

SBA Microloan Terms & Rates

Unlike with other SBA loan products, Microloan terms and rates vary from lender to lender. This is because the SBA does not set these standards. However, there are some averages across lenders to give you a better idea of what you should expect when it comes to repaying your loan.

The interest rates for SBA Microloans vary from 6.5% to 13%, making them competitive with other types of business loan products. The repayment terms are set by the lender, so this value varies, but the maximum repayment term for any SBA Microloan is 6 years. As mentioned earlier, the maximum loan amount that can be obtained through this program is $50,000, although the average loan given is less than half this amount.

A down payment is not always necessary for obtaining an SBA Microloan. For startup micro-funding, an average of 20% of the project will be required as a down payment. Business acquisitions may require 10% down payment. However, in many cases, 100% financing is available with no required down payment from the borrower, assuming that all other conditions are met.

How To Apply For SBA Microloans

Before getting into the specifics of the application process, it’s important to remember that the entire process for receiving funding through the SBA Microloan program generally takes between 30 to 90 days. To avoid potential delays, it’s important to gather all the information you’ll need to submit ahead of time.

To begin the application process, the first step is to find an SBA microloan intermediary that lends in your area.  To do this, you can get referrals from any financial institution where you have an established relationship. You can also use the Small Business Administration’s Lender Match tool, which can help you find lenders for Microloans and other SBA loan products.

Some nonprofit intermediaries will allow you to apply online, but most will require you to appear in person or speak to a lending specialist over the phone. While the lender you work with will provide you with the details of their requirements and all documents needed for processing, there are a few items you can prepare in advance, including:

  • Minimum of two years of business and personal income tax returns
  • Balance sheets
  • Profit and loss statements
  • Personal financial statements
  • Personal credit report
  • Business plan and financial projections
  • Business licenses and permits

Please note that this is not a comprehensive list and because there are no set requirements by the SBA for microloans, necessary documentation will vary by lender.

Once you have gathered all the information required by the lender, your application will be complete. As previously noted, the entire application and funding process generally takes between 30 to 90 days, although some loans may be processed, approved and funded within two to three weeks depending on the lender. Some lenders may require classes, workshops, or other training as part of the application process. Others offer these programs but may not require them to disperse funding. This training offers great opportunities for startups and small businesses and should be taken advantage of whenever possible.

Is An SBA Microloan The Right Choice For Me?

While an SBA Microloan offers a great funding opportunity for many small businesses and startups, it may not always be the right choice for your particular situation. If you’re looking for more than $50,000 in funding or need faster funding, an SBA Microloan may not be the best choice for you.

Some other options to consider include:

Business Credit Cards

If you want more flexibility with your funds, a business credit card may be a more attractive option. Business credit cards can be spent any way you want without the limitations you may encounter with an SBA Microloans. Business credit cards are quickly obtainable and can be put into use immediately, making them an ideal choice for those who need funding fast. Many credit cards offer high credit limits close to or even exceeding the $50,000 limit of SBA Microloans.

It’s important if you go this route to shop around for the best rates. Some business credit cards offer 0% introductory APRs followed by interest rates that are similar to SBA Microloan rates. Some cards also offer extra benefits to the borrower—think airline miles, cash bonuses, and other perks just for using the card.

Equipment Financing

If you need to purchase equipment for your business, equipment financing may be an option. Equipment financing typically doesn’t have as many stringent requirements as obtaining an SBA loan, and funding can be acquired much faster. This can be a great option for someone who needs equipment immediately or who may not have the credit score or other requirements needed for the SBA Microloan program.

If you decide to get financing for equipment, you have two options: equipment loans and equipment leases. Equipment loans typically require a higher payment, but when the load is paid off, you own the equipment free and clear. With leases, monthly payments may be lower, but you’re only borrowing the equipment. If what you are purchasing is something that is needed for your business at all times, a loan may be the better option.

Peer-To-Peer Lending

If you have a decent credit score and you want to receive funding fast, peer-to-peer lending is an option you can explore. The typical credit score requirement for this type of loan is 670, but will vary by lender. With this option, you can receive comparable interest rates and payment terms to SBA Microloans without having to wait weeks for the approval and release of funding. There are no limitations on how peer-to-peer loan funds are used.

Invoice Factoring

If you have unpaid invoices that are affecting your cash flow, invoice factoring is something you may consider. With invoice factoring, you work with a lender who pays money on your unpaid invoices in exchange for a fee, which varies by lender. This immediately gives you the capital you need for any business expense without having to wait for payment on outstanding invoices. There are typically very few requirements for this type of loan, making it an appealing option for anyone with fair or poor credit. Usually, a business must be in operation for at least three months to qualify for this type of loan. Once the money is received, it can be used for any purpose with no limitations.

If you’re still unsure of which business loan is right for you, do some research online before signing on the dotted line. You can compare the different types of small business loans to find out which offer the terms, rates, and other details that will best benefit you and your small business.

Final Thoughts on SBA Microloans

SBA Microloans can provide startups and small businesses with the capital they need to further grow their business. The low-interest rates and repayment terms up to 6 years make it an appealing funding option for the business that doesn’t want to take on piles of debt. With the right paperwork, a decent credit score, and a solid business plan in place, many businesses won’t have any problem obtaining competitive financing through this program.

The post SBA Microloans: A Comprehensive Guide To Terms, Rates, And Eligibility appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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What’s The Best Chase Ink Business Credit Card? Compare Cards Here!

Chase ink business credit card comparison

Chase’s lineup of Ink Business credit cards is well-regarded in the business credit card industry and by reviewers. After having done the math and the research, we here at Merchant Maverick concur with this assessment. However, that doesn’t answer the question you may be asking: Which Chase business credit card should I get?

We thought we’d explore this question so that you know which of Chase’s small business offerings suits your particular goals. Our Chase Ink business credit card comparison will cover four cards. Let’s take a look at the Chase Ink Business CashSM, the Chase Ink Business UnlimitedSM, and the Chase Ink Business PreferredSM.

Chase Ink Business CashSM

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Bonus Offer: $500 cash back when you spend at least $3,000 within 3 months of opening your account
  • APR: 14.99% – 20.99%, Variable
  • Introductory APR: 0% APR for the first 12 months
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%
  • Rewards:
    • 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone purchases each year
    • 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each year
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases

The main selling point of the Chase Ink Business CashSM credit card is the 5% cash back earning potential — it’s one of the few business cards available to offer such a high cash back rate. You stand to earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent on the purchase categories listed above each year — a potential $1,250 value. Max out the 2% cash back tier, and you’ll be sitting pretty with $1,750 cash back each year. You can continue to earn cash back on your purchases in these categories after spending $25,000 in a year, but at a 1% rate. It’s a great deal for the business owner whose spending is concentrated in these high-earning categories, but if your spending on said categories is significantly above this $25,000 limit, you might want to consider a card offering unlimited cash back.

The Chase Ink Business CashSM has no annual fee. Combine that with the $500 cash back you stand to earn if you spend $3K or more within 3 months — a bar most businesses will clear –and you’ll be rewarded nicely for your card use right off the bat.

When you go to redeem your rewards, you’ll find that your cash back rewards are technically counted as points. 5% cash back is counted as five points per $1 spent, 2% back is two points per $1, etc. Your points will never expire so long as your account is open, and you can redeem your points not only for cash back, but for rewards like gift cards and travel. You can also transfer your points over to other cards with Chase Ultimate Rewards, which could then be transferred over to one of 13 different airline travel partners.

Additional benefits of the Ink Cash card include:

  • Fraud protection
  • Zero liability protection
  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver

Read Our Full Chase Ink Business Cash Review

Apply For Chase Ink Business Cash 

Chase Ink Business UnlimitedSM

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Bonus Offer: $500 cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • APR: 14.99%–20.99% variable APR
  • Introductory Rate: 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers in the first 12 months
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%
  • Rewards: 
    • Earn unlimited 1.5% Cash Back rewards on all purchases

chase ink business unlimitedLaunched in May 2018, the Chase Ink Business Unlimited℠ card is Chase’s newest business credit card. Like the Ink Cash, the Ink Business Unlimited is a cash back business card. However, with the Unlimited card, there are no purchase categories, and you earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no limits on the amount of cash back you can earn. As this card will always draw comparisons with the similar Ink Cash card, let’s take a closer look at the similarities and differences between the two cards.

Chase Ink Business Cash vs Ink Business Unlimited

If you want a Chase Ink business credit card with no annual fee, you’ll have to go with one of these two cards, as the Chase Ink Business PreferredSM carries a $95 annual fee. To compare these two cards, let’s take note of where the Ink Cash and the Ink Business Unlimited don’t differ at all. Neither card carries an annual fee. Both cards offer the same welcome offer ($500 cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months), the same variable APR, the same 12-month introductory 0% APR period, the same 3% foreign transaction fee, and the same package of travel/shopping benefits.

The difference between the two cards lies entirely in their respective cash back reward structures. The Ink Cash offers 5% and 2% cash back spending categories along with 1% cash back on all other purchases, but the amount of annual spending in the 5% and 2% categories that will earn you this extra cash back is limited to $25,000 each. By contrast, the Ink Business Unlimited offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no limits — very simple indeed. If your business spending is diffuse and variable, the Business Unlimited is clearly a better deal, while the business owner whose spending is concentrated in the Ink Cash’s high earning categories will obviously find the Ink Cash to be a better deal. This is true only up to a point, however. Due to the fact that only your first $25,000 in annual purchases in these high-earning categories earns you cash back at these enhanced rates, the Ink Business Unlimited may earn you more cash back even if your spending is concentrated in the Ink Cash’s bonus categories. If you spend over $83,333.33 annually on the Ink Cash’s 5% cash back categories, you’ll actually earn more cash back by charging these same purchases to an Ink Business Unlimited card. Likewise, spend over $33,333.33 annually on the Ink Cash’s 2% cash back categories, and the Ink Business Unlimited starts earning you more cash back.

Essentially, the choice between the Ink Cash and the Ink Business Unlimited comes down to what your business expenses are and the total volume of said business expenses. Spend a light-to-moderate amount on the Ink Cash’s high-earning categories, and the Ink Cash is a better deal. Spend a large amount on these categories (or on other things entirely), and the Ink Business Unlimited will earn you more cash back.

Read Our Full Chase Ink Business Unlimited Review

Apply For Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Chase Ink Business PreferredSM

  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Bonus Offer: 80,000 points (if you spend at least $5,000 within the first three months of opening your account)
  • APR: 17.74% – 22.74%, Variable
  • Introductory Rate: None
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Rewards:
    • 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, internet/cable/phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media and search engines each account anniversary year
    • 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
    • Points are worth 25% more if redeemed for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Chase Ink Business PreferredSM card was introduced by Chase in 2016 as a replacement for the now-discontinued Ink Business PlusSM. Being Chase’s flagship business card, the Ink Business Preferred offers an eye-watering rewards package: 3 points for every dollar spent on the first $150,000 in purchases in the categories listed above, and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else. Plus, your points will be worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards. Let’s compare this card with the first two Chase Ink cards I’ve discussed.

Chase Business Ink Preferred vs Chase Ink Cash vs Chase Ink Unlimited

You’ll notice some significant differences between the Ink Business Preferred and the other two Ink business cards mentioned in this article. Obviously, the reward structure is different, as is the fact that your rewards will be worth 25% more when redeemed for travel. There’s also a more valuable bonus offer (the 80,000 points you’ll earn if you spend over $5K within 3 months are worth $800 or more, depending on what you use them for), and the 3% foreign transaction fee borne by Ink Cash and Ink Unlimited is absent in the Ink Business Preferred. Furthermore, along with all the same travel and shopping benefits of the Cash and Unlimited cards, you’ll get cell phone protection of up to $600 per claim, trip cancellation insurance, and trip delay coverage.

All these extra benefits aren’t free, however. The Ink Business Preferred carries a $95 annual fee. Its variable APR is a bit higher than that of the Ink Cash and Ink Unlimited, and unlike those two cards, the Ink Preferred has no introductory 0% APR period. But if you spend heavily on business travel, the Chase Ink Business PreferredSM should provide you the most value of all the Ink Business cards. And if you already have the Ink Cash or Ink Unlimited, pairing the Ink Preferred with either of them will get you extra points, an 80,000-point signup bonus, cell phone protection, and additional travel benefits you won’t get with Chase’s other two Ink Business cards. If you’re a frequent business traveler, such a pairing may work in your favor. Just bear in mind Chase’s infamous 5/24 rule: if you have opened five or more credit cards (from any bank) within the last 24 months, you won’t be approved for a new Chase card.

Read Our Full Chase Ink Business Preferred Review

Apply For Chase Ink Business Preferred 

An Alternative To Chase’s Ink Business Cards

capital one spark cash selectIf you’re looking for a good cash back business card but aren’t convinced by Chase’s Ink Business offerings, the Capital One Spark® Cash for Business card is a flat-rate cash back business card that lets you earn an unlimited 2% cash back — even more than the Chase Ink Business Unlimited℠. It’s a simple yet attractive advantage, made somewhat less appealing by the $95 annual fee (a fee the Ink Cash and Ink Unlimited do not carry) and the fact that you can’t transfer your rewards to travel rewards programs like you can with Chase’s business offerings. Still, Spark Cash for Business is an attractive proposition for the business owner who can’t be bothered with keeping track of spending categories and wants the highest universal cash back earning rate possible.

Check out our Spark® Cash for Business review to learn more.

Final Thoughts

So, which is the best Chase credit card for business? That depends on the amount and nature of your business spending. I hope the information given here has given you some guidance as to what options make the most sense for your particular business needs.

To compare high-ranking business credit cards in more detail, check out our credit card comparison chart or read the Best Business Credit Cards for 2018.

The post What’s The Best Chase Ink Business Credit Card? Compare Cards Here! appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Quick Business Loans: The 6 Best Lenders And 10 Tips For Fast Approval

Good things take time. Patience is a virtue. We all know the sayings. But let’s face it, when it comes to making critical business investments—whether it’s new technology/equipment, a new location, or even just a new employee on the payroll—you usually don’t have unlimited time to come up with the needed funds. A quick loan or line of credit is often the best bet to take your business to the next level (or simply keep your company afloat).

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably in a hurry, so let’s dive right in. Here is a list of the quickest small business lenders, followed by a list of general tips for fast loan approval.

6 Best Lenders For Quick Business Loans

The following are some of the fastest and most reputable small business lenders. There are a lot of speedy “payday” loans out there, but most of them are dodgy at best (and outright scams at worst) and will end in you paying back way more money than you anticipated. The following lenders are reputable, and while the fees might be higher than what you’d pay with a bank, the financing offered is much faster and easier to qualify for than a bank loan.

We chose these lenders based on their stellar reputation and user feedback, as well as our own experiences reviewing their services.

One term you need to understand before we get started is “time to funding.” This refers to the amount of time from submitting the initial application to when the funds arrive in your account.

Top Quick Business Loans At A Glance

categories OnDeck/Credibly LoanBuilder/BlueVine Fundbox/Kabbage

Borrowing Amount

$5,000 – $500,000

$5,000 – $500,000

Up to $100,000

Term Length

3 – 36 months

13 – 52 weeks

12 or 24 weeks

Required Time in Business

12 months

9 months

N/A

Required Sales

$10,000 per year

$42,000 per year

N/A

Required Credit Score

550

550

N/A

Review

Review

Review

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Borrowing Amount

$5,000 – $250,000

Up to $5 million

Up to $250,000

Term Length

6 – 24 months

13 weeks (invoice factoring)

6 – 12 months (line of credit)

6 or 12 months

Required Time in Business

6 months

3 months (invoice factoring)

6 months (line of credit)

12 months

Required Sales

$15,000 per month

$100,000 per year (invoice factoring)

$120,000 per year (line of credit)

$4,200 per month

Required Credit Score

500

350 (invoice factoring)

600 (line of credit)

N/A

Review Review Review

Visit Site

Visit Site

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1. OnDeck

ondeck logo

Time To Funding: 2–5 days

The Basics: OnDeck is one of the few reputable online lenders willing to lend to less-than-qualified candidates: to qualify for a short-term loan ranging from $5,000 to $500,000 or a line of credit up to $100,000, you’ll only need a credit score of 500, 12 months in business, and $100,000 annual revenue. OnDeck has somewhat higher factor rates than some its competitors in the short-term lending space, but they have a good reputation for transparency, and it might be worth paying the extra cost if you have poor credit and need fast funds.

The Application: OnDeck’s application is fast and easy, and they don’t ask for a lot in terms of documents.  To make the process even faster, have all of this information ready to submit:

  • Business Tax ID
  • Bank statements for the previous 3 months
  • Social Security number of business owner(s)
  • Driver’s license number and state of issue

When applying, take advantage of the live chat feature so that the rep can guide you through the application and answer any questions you might have. After you submit your application, a rep will typically reply with an offer within 24 hours, and after you accept the offer, the money will be in your account within one or two days.

Another cool thing about OnDeck for customers who want fast funds? If you have an eligible debit card linked to your business bank account, you can take advantage of OnDeck’s Instant Funding, wherein you can transfer your line of credit funds to your account instantly, rather than waiting the standard 1-2 days for an ACH transfer.

Apply For An OnDeck Loan

2. LoanBuilder: A PayPal Service

loanbuilder logo

Time To Funding: 1–3 days

The Basics: LoanBuilder, a business financing service offered by PayPal, can potentially put money in your account in just a day. Like OnDeck, LoanBuilder offers short-term loans of $5,000–$500,000. They will lend to applicants with bad credit and newer businesses as well (minimum credit score of 550 and 9 months in business).

LoanBuilder has moderately high rates, but these are competitive with or lower than those of similar lenders. Additionally, this lender does not charge an origination fee, which means no money will be subtracted from the total loan amount. Also, repayments are automatically deducted from your account on a weekly, rather than daily basis (unlike many other short-term lenders). Keep in mind that you will have a maximum of 12 months to finish repaying your loan, and the combination of weekly repayments plus a short repayment term means your loan repayments will be higher than they would be with other types of business financing products.

One great thing about LoanBuilder is that what you see really is what you get. All fees and terms are spelled out before you see the loan and you even have the option to adjust the loan terms to your liking to “build” the perfect loan. LoanBuilder has a tool that lets you tinker around with your prospective loan before applying. For example, if you want longer repayment terms, you can adjust the term and see how that will affect your weekly repayments.

The Application: To apply for a LoanBuilder loan, simply fill out a 5-10 minute online questionnaire. If your business is eligible, you will be able to fill out a complete application. In some cases, the only required documents might be four months of your recent business bank statements. LoanBuilder says that signed contracts received before 5 PM will lead to funds being deposited the next day so long as all documentation is in order.

In terms of ease, transparency, and the reputation for speed and quality synonymous with the PayPal name, LoanBuilder is a great choice for small businesses who want fast funding, even those with bad credit.

Apply For A LoanBuilder Loan

3. Fundbox

fundbox loans

Time To Funding: 1–2 days

The Basics: Fundbox provides invoice financing and revolving lines of credit up to $100,000. Repayment terms are for 12 or 24 weeks, depending on the product and what works better for your business.

Fundbox has no minimum credit score requirement or time-in-business requirement, making its line of credit product, “Direct Draw,” a good loan for businesses with poor credit or little time in business. Meanwhile, Fundbox’s invoice financing offering, “Fundbox Credit,” is a favorite of companies that have cash flow problems due to outstanding invoices; Fundbox will lend you the full value of the unpaid invoice(s) with a 0.5–0.7% weekly borrowing fee.

The only borrower requirement to qualify for Fundbox financing is that you use compatible accounting or invoicing software for at least 3 months, or a compatible bank account for at least six months.

The Application: To apply, simply make an account, enter some basic information (such as your name, email, and phone number), and hook up your accounting or invoicing software account or your business bank account. Fundbox typically makes a decision within minutes of receiving your application, after which you can start requesting funds immediately should you accept their offer.

Fundbox requires very few fees—you will not have to pay a draw fee or a prepayment penalty. Although Fundbox’s borrowing rates are higher than what you’d get from a bank, they are in line with other online lenders’ fees. Having a revolving line of credit like the kind Fundbox offers is also a good way to ensure you never need to take out another fast business loan, because you’ll always have access to cash on-demand.

All in all, Fundbox is one of the fastest small business loans around. It’s an excellent option for businesses that struggle with cash flow issues, especially less-established businesses that can’t qualify for a bank line of credit.

Apply For A Fundbox Loan

4. Credibly

credibly loan

Time To Funding: 2–5 days

The Basics: Credibly offers short-term loans and merchant cash advances with loan amounts of up to $250,000. This lender has relaxed borrower qualifications—to be approved for their business expansion or working capital loan, you only need a credit score of 500, 6 months in business, and revenue of $15,000 per month. For expansion loans, your average daily balance needs to be at least $1,000. As is the case with most business lenders, more qualified applicants will receive better interest rates.

The Application: To prequalify for a Credibly loan, use the easy online application to enter some basic information about yourself and your business. Credibly will then let you know whether you’re eligible and how much money you qualify for. If you’re eligible, a representative will call you and work with you to get the rest of the documentation you need. The docs you might need to supply include:

  • Business lease agreement or business mortgage statement
  • Picture ID of all business owners
  • Most recent business tax return
  • Bank statements for the last 3 months

After you send all the documents, it typically takes about a day to receive a finalized quote. Should you accept the offer, it takes about 1-3 days to receive the funds in your account. Note that while Credibly advertises 48-hour funding, that means you will receive the funds within 48 hours from the moment your loan application is approved.

We like Credibly for their transparent terms, easy application, low borrowing prerequisites, and responsive customer service.  Credibly is one of the few, well, credible players in the short-term lending space.

Apply For A Credibly Loan

5. BlueVine

Time To Funding: 2–7 days

The Basics: BlueVine offers invoice factoring as well as traditional lines of credit up to $5 million. Borrower qualifications vary by product. The minimum required personal credit score for a 6-month line of credit is 600. The minimum score for invoice financing is just 530; for this type of financing, your customers’ creditworthiness is a bigger consideration than your own.

The Application: The process to pre-apply for either the invoice financing or line of credit service is fast and simple: simply create an online account and answer some basic questions about yourself and your business. You’ll also need to provide either the most recent three months of bank statements or allow read-only access to your bank account. A BlueVine rep will then call you and walk you through the process and answer any questions.

Initial approval for either service takes about a day. Once you are approved, you can begin drawing from your credit line or selling invoices immediately. Money transfers normally take one to three business days. If you’re selling an invoice from a customer unfamiliar to BlueVine, it will take an additional 24 hours to see the funds in your account, because BlueVine has to assess your customer’s creditworthiness.

Apply For BlueVine Financing

6. Kabbage

Time To Funding: 2–3 days

The Basics: Kabbage is one of the quickest channels to get a business line of credit. Kabbage sells lines of credit up to $250,000, with zero required collateral – no blanket lien and no personal guarantee. Kabbage also provides borrowers with a spending card so you can spend funds from your line of credit instantly, without having to wait the typical 2–3 days for an ACH transfer period.

Note that Kabbage is bad-credit friendly and does not have a specific credit score requirement. However, the service not suitable for startups; to qualify, you need 1 year in business and must have made at least $4,200 for the last 3 months. It’s also important to keep in mind that while Kabbage is super convenient, this convenience isn’t free—fees are on the high side, and you’ll have to pay back your loan in just 6 to 12 monthly payments. Nevertheless, Kabbage a fast and easy way to get a line of credit if you don’t qualify elsewhere.

The Application: When applying for Kabbage financing, you will have to allow read-only access to your business bank account and any other data channels you use (such as PayPal or QuickBooks). Kabbage uses this information to determine your monthly fee and maximum credit line. Usually, it only takes a few minutes for the system to decide whether to approve or deny your application. Kabbage might request additional information in order to grant you a credit line larger than $150,000.

When you have been approved, you can begin requesting funds immediately. As mentioned, you can also request a Kabbage Card free of charge to pay for goods and services right from your credit line.

Apply For A Kabbage Line Of Credit

Which Loan Should I Apply For?

So, now you know of some quality lenders that can put money in your account within days of your application. To determine which loan is right for your business, consider the services they offer (and how well these services meet your needs) and whether you meet the lender’s minimum qualifications, which are as follows:

  • OnDeck: Short-term loans up to $500,000 and lines of credit up to $100,000; need 12 months in business, 500 credit score, and $100,000 in annual revenue
  • LoanBuilder: Short-term loans up to $500,000; need 9 months in business, 550 credit score, and $42,000 in annual revenue
  • Fundbox: Revolving LOC and invoice financing up to $100,000; need to have been using compatible invoice or accounting software for 3+ months, or compatible business bank account for 6+ months.
  • Credibly: Short-term loans up to $250,000; need 6 months in business, 500 credit score, and $15,000 in monthly revenue.
  • Bluevine: Lines of credit and invoice financing up to $5 million; for invoice financing need 3 months in business, 530 credit score, and $100,000 in annual revenue; for 6-month line of credit need 6 months in business, 600 credit score, and $120,000 in annual revenue.
  • Kabbage: Lines of credit up to $250,000; need 12 months in business and monthly revenue of $4,200 for the last three months, or $50,000 annually (no specific credit score requirement).

Note that if you only meet the bare minimum requirements, you may not be eligible to borrow the maximum amount advertised by each lender; your qualifications will determine how much money you can borrow.

The above loans are unsecured (meaning they don’t require you to list any specific business collateral), though borrowers may have to sign a blanket lien and/or a personal guarantee.

Fast Loan Approval Tips

How fast your loan is approved and received depends in large part on you. For example, if you procrastinate in turning in the necessary documents needed to get approved for a loan, or you apply for loans you aren’t qualified for, you will be wasting precious time!

What follows are some general recommendations to ensure a speedy time to funding. This includes pre-application preparedness tips to make your application process quicker, advice on what to include in your application in order to get approved fast, and considerations as to which type of quick loan you should apply for.

1. Check Your Credit Score

First, you want to check your personal credit score so you don’t waste time applying for loans you’re not eligible for. Of course, if you want to position your business to get good rates on a “quick” loan, you’ll want to your credit score to be as high as possible. While improving your credit is not something you can do overnight, before applying for loans, be sure to at least check your credit history to see if there are any major issues. Also, pay off whatever outstanding debts you might have (if you can afford to do so).

To check your credit score before you start applying for fast loans, you can use one or more of these Best Free Credit Score Sites. And whatever you find, don’t worry—there are still plenty quick financing options even if your credit score isn’t high enough to qualify for every loan.

2. Have Your Documents Ready

Having all your business documents ready and in one place will make for a speedier application process. Here are some examples of documentation the lender might ask for:

  • Tax returns (personal and business)
  • Seller’s permit
  • EIN certificate
  • Business license
  • Balance sheets
  • Bank statements
  • Proof of ID
  • Proof of address
  • Incorporation paperwork
  • Copy of business lease

Different lenders may require different and more/fewer documents. It’s a good idea to find out what paperwork the lender requires before you get pre-approved.

3. Prepare A Proposal

Many lenders require your loan application to include a detailed proposal and/or a business plan. This is often true even of “quick” loans. A proposal generally includes information such as how much money you need, what you will use the money for, and how you will repay the loan. As with your all your important business documents, the loan application process will be speedier and smoother if you have this information prepared and ready to go before you apply.

This resource from the SBA includes the information you should include in a loan proposal – although you should note that the SBA requires more information than do most “fast loan” options.

4. Be Thorough On Your Application

The more relevant information you reveal about yourself and your business on your loan application, the better. The whole process will be faster and less painful if you provide everything upfront. That way, there will be less back and forth between you and the lender as they work with you to get the information you didn’t supply initially. You are also more likely to get approved for a loan if you have a more thorough application.

5. Consider All Your Options (Even Unconventional Ones)

Assuming you have all your ducks (and docs) in a row, it’s time to look at your best options in terms of financing. In some cases, you might not even want to get a “loan” in the traditional sense; a line of credit or cash advance might be a faster or better option for you, depending on your situation. If speed is of the essence, you should consider the following loan products, through which you can potentially get funds as soon as a day or two of applying:

  • Short-term installment loan
  • Short-term line of credit
  • Merchant cash advance
  • Equipment financing
  • Invoice financing

You also might want to consider the following unconventional financing options:

  • Peer-to-peer loans
  • Business crowdfunding
  • Personal loan
  • Microloan

All fast financing options have their own pros and cons, of course. Merchant cash advances, for example, tend to be some of the most expensive forms of capital, though they are usually the fastest. Of the unconventional options, P2P loans and personal loans tend to be the fastest, but you’ll generally need to have good personal credit in order to qualify for these options.

6. Apply For Online-Only Loans

So here’s the quick-and-dirty about bank loans vs. online loans: bank loans are not only much more difficult to qualify for, they also take a lot longer to come through than online loans. If you want your loan fast – potentially even as soon as a day or two – online is the way to go. Interest rates are typically higher than with bank loans, but if you shop around, you might be able to get a low-interest small business loan online, especially if you have good credit.

7. Use A Loan Aggregator

A loan aggregator service lets you apply for multiple online business loans at once. Using a service lendio logolike Lendio you can fill out a single application with your business information and be pre-approved for multiple loan options. This is one of the quickest way to apply for online loans, as you save the time it takes to apply for multiple loans individually. Loan matchmaking services are also typically free; if you do accept a loan offer, the lender pays a referral fee to the matchmaker. You never have to pay the matchmaker directly.

Compare loans with Lendio

8. Consider An Online/SBA Loan Hybrid 

If you’re looking to borrow from the SBA, you probably know this isn’t the fastest form of financing around. And if speed is your top priority, you probably shouldn’t bother applying for an SBA loan, bank loan, or any other type of long-term loan. With that said, the SBA offers high quality, low-interest loans, and if you qualify for one, it might be worth waiting a little extra time for. To make the SBA loan application process faster and easier, you can apply for an online/SBA loan hybrid.

SmartBiz is one example of an online service that facilitates SBA-backed loans. Your funds might still take up to a few weeks to come through, but it will be quicker than applying directly through the SBA.

9. Don’t Forget About Your Business Credit Card

Taking out a business loan isn’t your only option if you need fast cash. You can also charge major expenses on your business credit card and pay them off later as you are able. Be sure to check out the Best Business Credit Cards for 2018 to find a good credit card that earns rewards and doesn’t charge an exorbitant amount of interest.

If you need a large sum of liquid cash, you might also consider a credit card cash advance. You need minimal qualifications in order to qualify for such an advance; if you have a business credit card, you will probably be approved for an advance. Once you sign up for your card’s cash advance program, you can typically begin withdrawing cash right away.

The downside to credit card cash advances is that the APR and cash advance fees are usually quite high. Since you’re borrowing against your own credit limit, this can also temporarily lower your credit score by affecting your credit utilization ratio. Nevertheless, credit card advances are a fast and easy business loan alternative available to virtually anyone who has a credit card.

10. Don’t Be Too Hasty

Finally, when getting a fast business loan, it’s important to take your time and read the fine print. In many cases, the super-quick “next-day” loans you find online will have less than ideal terms. You’ll likely have to pay your loan back rapidly at a high rate of interest.

Ideally, of course, you will find a great lender that gives you a fair rate and terms. Check out our Small Business Loan Calculators to calculate your total repayment, financing cost, daily/weekly/monthly payments, APR, and cents on the dollar.

Final Thoughts

Fast business loans can serve as a lifesaver for businesses that need working capital, have cash flow problems, and other financing issues. Although banks can take weeks to issue business loans (if you can even get approved for one), alternative lenders can put money in your bank account within a couple days. However, the reason that online/alternative lenders are willing to give you money so quickly is that you are paying a premium for speed—meaning, you’ll pay more than you would for a bank loan, and you’ll pay the loan back much quicker than you would other types of financing.

To avoid getting ripped off by a predatory lender or agreeing to a bad loan because you are desperate, be sure to compare multiple loan offers. It’s important to do your due diligence to ensure you get the best loan possible, i.e., the one with the lowest fee and repayments you can reasonably afford. Remember that you can pre-apply for multiple loans online without affecting your credit score.

Bear in mind that there are indeed some legitimate, quality lenders (like the ones on this list) that provide quick capital. What’s more, you can take certain actions to speed up your loan application process and time to funding. Be sure to organize and present all your business documentation at the start of the application process. And save time by applying for multiple loans at once with a loan matchmaker service like Lendio.

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Interest/Factor Rate Req. Time in Business Min. Credit Score Next Steps
$2K – $5M Varies As low as 2% 6 months 550 Apply Now
$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
$20K – $500K 1 – 4 years 7.99% – 29.99% APR 2 years 660 Apply Now

The post Quick Business Loans: The 6 Best Lenders And 10 Tips For Fast Approval appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Mint VS Quicken

Managing personal finances can be hard, and choosing the right personal accounting tool can seem even harder. That’s why we’re here to compare two of the most popular personal finance management tools out there: Mint and Quicken.

Mint is a cloud-based, easy to use finance tool that’s been around since 2007. The software was acquired by Intuit in 2009 and today it features expense tracking, investment tracking, budgeting, planning, and more. Mint also offers well-developed mobile apps, so you can easily check your spending on the go. The icing on the cake? Mint is completely free.

Quicken has been the big name in personal accounting from the beginning. Created in 1988, this software was also run by Intuit until 2016 when it was acquired by H.I.G. Capital. Quicken offers an incredible number of features and amazing customer support. Although Quicken is a locally-installed software, there are still mobile apps available.

But which software is better? And more importantly, which is right for you? That’s what we’re here 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 put Mint and Quicken head to head by comparing features, pricing, customer experience, reputation, and more, so you don’t have to.

Mint VS Quicken
Features ✓

✓

Pricing

✓

Hardware & Software Requirements

✓

Ease Of Use

✓

Mobile Apps
Customer Service & Support ✓
Negative Reviews & Complaints ✓

✓

Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Integrations ✓

✓

Security

?

And The Overall Winner Is… ?

Features

Winner: Quicken

Mint Quicken

Expenses Tracking

✓

✓

Transactions Imported Automatically

✓

✘

Income Tracking

✓

✓

Spending Trends

✓

✓

Bank Reconciliation

✘

✓

Manage Bills

✓

✓

Online Bill Pay

✘

✓

Budgeting

✓

✓

Savings Goals

✓

✓

Property Management

✓

✓

Investment Tracking

✓

✓

Reports

✘

✓

Credit Score

✓

✓

Debt Reduction Planner

✘

✓

Print Checks

✘

✓

In many ways, the programs are similar. Each offers income and expense tracking, bill management,  budgeting, credit score checks, and investment tracking. However, while Mint offers a ton of great features, Quicken’s features are far more developed.

For example, Mint only allows you to create one budget and it has to be for the current month, while Quicken allows you to create multiple budgets for the current month, next month, quarter, or year. Quicken also offers additional features like bank reconciliation, reports, a debt reduction planner, and online bill pay.

Pricing

Winner: Mint

Mint is completely free to use. There are no monthly payments or hidden fees. The software makes money by advertising credit cards, Turbo Tax, and investment accounts to users.

While you can’t beat free, Quicken is still an affordable option. Quicken offers three pricing plans that range from $34.99 – $74.99/year. The company also often sells the software at a discount. Still, Mint is the cheapest way to manage your personal finances.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Mint

As cloud-based software, Mint is compatible with nearly any computer, so long as you have an internet connection.

Quicken has more specific software requirements as the program is locally-installed onto a single computer. Quicken is compatible with:

  • Windows 7
  • Windows 8
  • Windows 8.1
  • Windows 10
  • Macs with El Capitan 10.11+

Mint wins this category since its requirements are less strict, making it accessible for nearly any user.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Mint

Mint is the clear winner here. Mint has a beautiful, modern UI that is easy to navigate. The features are intuitive and well-organized, and the software offers time-saving automations as well. Quicken is also well-organized, but the UI is a bit more dated and some features are unitive and difficult to figure out.

Mobile Apps

Winner: Mint

Both Mint and Quicken have mobile apps for Apple and Android products. However, Mint’s mobile apps receive much more positive attention from customers, and Quicken’s apps receive low ratings on both iTunes and Google Play. If mobility is one of the key factors in your personal accounting software decision, then Mint is the clear winner.

Customer Service & Support

Winner: Quicken

Quicken not only has better support but also has far more support options. Quicken offers phone support, in-software help, tons of guides, a help center, a community forum, and live chat. In my experience, phone wait times were short and most representatives were knowledgeable and helpful.

Mint, on the other hand, offers very few customer support options. And if you need to talk to an actual person, you’re out of luck. You’ll have to make do with live chat and FAQs. It’s easy to see who the winner is here.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Quicken

This is one category Quicken should not want to win. Quicken has far more customer complaints. Most complaints are from long-time users who don’t like Quicken’s new subscription pricing structure. Though there are complaints about glitches, issues loading transactions, and limited mobile apps as well.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Mint

While both programs have many satisfied users, Mint has more positive reviews and a higher percentage of positive to negative reviews. Mint users love the software’s usability, price, feature set, and mobility.

Integrations

Winner: Quicken

Both Mint and Quicken connect with thousands of banks and online lenders so that you can track your spending and upcoming bills. However, in terms of additional add-ons, Quicken offers seven, while Mint only offers two.

Security

Winner: Mint

This category is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. With a locally-installed software like Quicken, you are responsible for keeping your data secure. Quicken does use data encryption for the data involved in its online features, and the software offers password protection for your Quicken files, but other than that, you’re on your own.

As a cloud-based software, Mint has security built-in from the beginning. We figure that for most people, the convenience of having security taken care of for you outweighs all of the extra efforts of securing your locally-installed software.

And The Overall Winner Is…

Winner: Quicken

Quicken Review

With advanced features, good customer support, and affordable pricing, Quicken is ultimately the better software. However, I still have a hard time naming this tried-and-true program the absolute winner. Unlike most software comparisons we do, in this case, it’s not about which software is better. It’s about what type of person you are.

For people looking for a detailed way to actively manage every aspect of their finances, Quicken is a great choice. It is ideal for users who are used to QuickBooks or who enjoy the complexity of locally-installed software.  If you want to create multiple budgets, track savings goals, and run reports, Quicken has far more to offer than Mint.

For people who want a simpler way to keep their spending in check and manage the basics of their finances, Mint is the winner. It is ideal for users who like cloud-based software and strong mobile apps that can keep up with a mobile lifestyle.

In the end, it all comes down to the level of detail you want and what type of software you’re more comfortable with.

More Accounting Options:

Compare Top Accounting Software

See All Accounting Reviews

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Business Credit Cards With No Annual Fees: Your Best Options

no annual fee credit card

Most small business owners don’t have a trust fund to draw from, and are therefore concerned with keeping costs to a minimum. Avoiding unnecessary credit card charges is a no-brainer for frugal business owners, which is why you may be looking to get a business credit card that carries no annual fee. After all, given the plethora of business card options out there that deliver great perks and benefits without charging an annual fee, why pay an annual fee simply for the privilege of using a business credit card?

As it turns out, you can find business credit cards offering all manners of rewards (points, cash back, travel benefits, sign-on bonuses, etc.) that do not charge an annual fee. There are certain categories of cards — top-tier travel cards, for instance — that will be out of reach for you if you stick to your no-annual-fee guns, but these cards aren’t likely to be practical for most new business owners anyway.

Let’s take a look at the business credit cards that give you the most value in each rewards category without charging you a yearly fee just for the privilege of using their plastic.

(For a fuller picture of the business credit card scene as it stands, check out our summary of the best business credit cards of 2018.)

Chase Ink Business Cash

Best Free Business Credit Card for Cash Back

Chase’s business credit cards are well-regarded — by us and by others — for the value they provide to small business. The Chase Ink Business Cash card is no exception. With no annual fee and the ability to earn 5% and 2% cash back on select categories of spending, combined with a healthy $500 cash back signup bonus for those who spend the required amount within the first three months of opening your account, you have one formidable business credit card.

Ink Business Cash At A Glance:

  • Annual fee: $0 (duh)
  • Bonus offer: $500 cash back if you spend at least $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR for the first 12 months
  • Rewards: 
    • 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone purchases each account anniversary year
    • 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases with no earning limit

Many business cards with no annual fee don’t offer a sign-up bonus, but the $500 in cash back you can earn after 3 months is one of the more generous welcome offers you’ll find. While you do have to spend $3,000 on purchases within this time to get the bonus, that shouldn’t be a problem for the majority of businesses.

If a goodly portion of your business expenditures goes toward office supply stores and internet, phone, and cable purchases, you’re in luck, because Chase offers 5% cash back on such purchases with the Ink Business Cash. Additionally, you get 2% cash back on purchases at gas stations and restaurants. Both of these cash back options cap off at $25,000 each anniversary year, however. Any purchases in these categories beyond these limits, along with all other purchases, will earn you 1% cash back with no limits on how much cash back you can earn. Nonetheless, the cash back limits on the high-earning categories mean that if your business spends very heavily on these purchase categories, a card that places no limits on high cash back-earning categories may make financial sense for your business (even with an annual fee).

Additional benefits of Ink Business Cash include a 0% introductory APR for the first 12 months and the ability to redeem your points for travel, gift cards, or Amazon purchases. To learn more, read our full Ink Business Cash review.

Apply Now

Capital One Spark Cash Select for Businesscapital one spark cash select

Another Great Free Business Credit Card for Cash Back

Here’s another business credit card with no annual fee that handsomely rewards you with cash back: The Capital One Spark Cash Select for Business. This rewards credit card lets you earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no limits whatsoever on how much cash back you can earn. It’s a good card for business owners who make a large number of diffuse purchases and who can’t be bothered with spending categories.

Spark Cash Select At A Glance:

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Bonus offer: Earn $200 in cash rewards after you spend at least $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR for the first 9 months
  • Rewards: 1.5% cash back on all eligible purchases

The Spark Cash Select is a simple card with a simple reward structure. You can earn $200 if you spend more than $3K in the first three months, and you’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all your purchases with no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn. There isn’t much more to say about this card — either it will benefit you, or it won’t. If you don’t want to be constrained by the amount you can spend on purchases that will be eligible for more than 1% cash back, and if the idea of spending categories gives you a migraine, consider the Spark Cash Select.

Read our full Spark Cash Select review to delve deeper into the card.

Now to spotlight another business rewards card from this credit card issuer…

Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business

Best Free Business Credit Card for Travel

If you’re looking for a business credit card with great travel benefits that doesn’t carry an annual fee, consider the Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business card. The card’s beauty is in its simplicity. You’ll earn 1.5 miles for every dollar spent on every purchase with no limits or category restrictions, so you won’t have to track your spending or concentrate it in certain categories to earn extra miles. You’ll also get a very nice travel signup offer. Let’s take a closer look!

Spark Miles Select At A Glance:

  • Annual fee: $0 (you may notice a theme here)
  • Bonus offer: 20,000 miles (worth $200 for travel) once you spend at least $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR for the first 9 months
  • Rewards: Earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on all eligible purchases

As I said, you’ll earn 1.5 miles for every dollar spent with the Spark Miles Select card. It’s a higher rate of miles-earning than you’ll get with most cards, making Spark Miles Select an excellent choice for business owners who make frequent business trips and want their purchases to help defray the costs of their travel.

Another sweet travel perk is the 20,000 miles you stand to earn if you spend at least $3,000 within the first three months of opening your account. These 20,000 points are worth $200 for travel. So long as you make business purchases on the card at a reasonable rate, you’ll be able to access this perk and get more travel bang for your buck. Miles can be redeemed for travel expenses such as airfare, hotels, and vacation packages, among other purchases. You’ll also have access to all the standard business benefits Capital One and Visa get you.

Interested? Check out our Spark Miles Select review for a deeper look.

American Express Blue Business Plus

Best Free Business Credit Card for Rewards Earning

Best Free Business Credit Card with a Long 0% Intro APR Period

Looking to earn points at a solid rate without having to be concerned with spending categories and the like? Have a look at the American Express Blue Business Plus card. For a low, low annual fee of $0, you’ll be earning double points on your purchases. You probably have better things to do than tracking spending categories.

Blue Business Plus At A Glance:

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Bonus offer: 10,000 points after you spend at least $3,000 within the first three months
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR for the first 15 months
  • Rewards:
    • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on all purchases (up to $50,000 per year)
    • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all purchases after $50,000

Until recently, the Blue Business Plus didn’t offer a signup bonus. Currently, however, Amex offers a welcome bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend at least $3,000 in the first three months of having your card. It’s not the biggest welcome offer but it’s a nice one for a business credit card with no annual fee. The main draw of the card, however, is the double points you’ll be earning on the first $50,000 worth of purchases you make per year. All purchases past $50,000 in a year will still earn one point per dollar spent until the new year rolls around. This makes the Blue Business Plus an excellent card for businesses with spending that doesn’t generally fall neatly into certain categories. Businesses spending significantly more than $50K a year, however, may be better served by a card that doesn’t limit the amount of spending that can earn max points — even if that card carries an annual fee. Alternatively, cardholders could supplement their Blue Business Plus card with another points-oriented business card.

Other perks of Blue Business Plus include the ability to spend above your credit limit — good for the sort of business that suffers from uneven cash flow. Another great benefit of the card? Your APR will be 0% for your first 15 billing cycles — longer than the typical intro APR period!

Go check out our full Blue Business Plus review if this card sounds like it might suit you and your business.

Bank Of America Platinum Visa Business Cardplatinum visa business review

Best Free Business Credit Card with a Low Interest Rate

Overall, the Bank Of America Platinum Visa Business card isn’t the greatest business credit card I’ve ever reviewed. It offers a near-total lack of earnable rewards, so if earning points with your business spending is a priority of yours, don’t get this card. However, the Platinum Visa Business card carries one very significant benefit for the business that carries a significant balance on its card from month to month: a lower interest rate than just about any other business credit card.

Platinum Visa Business At A Glance:

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Bonus offer: $200 statement credit bonus after making at least $500 in net purchases in the first 60 days
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR for the first 7 months
  • Rewards: Unlimited employee cards at no additional cost (just like every other card in this article)

The $200 statement credit you’ll get if you spend $500 within the first 60 days is a decent bonus offer, but the lack of any other earnable rewards means that this isn’t the most impressive business credit around — a fact that is reflected in my review score. So why am I including this mundane card in this article at all? Because the card carries a 10.99% to 21.99% variable APR. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a business credit card offering a possible APR of 10.99%.

Now, it’s obviously not ideal for businesses to carry a large credit card balance month-to-month over a significant period of time. That’s why this card isn’t for most businesses. However, your circumstances may be less than ideal, and you may not have any other choice at the moment. If this is you, getting the BofA Platinum Visa Business card will save you money on monthly payments due to the card’s relatively low APR. It’s not a good card for earning rewards, but the benefit of a low APR might override all other considerations for certain business owners.

Read our Platinum Visa Business review for more information.

Final Thoughts

As it turns out, if you want a business credit card but don’t want to pay an annual fee, you don’t have to settle — you’ve got many solid options to consider. After checking out the cards above, read our article on the best business credit cards of 2018 to get the big picture when it comes to today’s best business credit cards. Now get out there and keep making purchases like your business depends on it!

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