Venmo For Business: Is It Worth It?

Venmo has earned its status at the top mobile wallet and P2P payments app, ranking along with PayPal and Square Cash as easy, free, and trusted ways to move money around and pay back friends or family.

Venmo launched in 2009 and was eventually acquired by Braintree and then PayPal. Despite being owned by PayPal, Venmo is hardly a PayPal clone. With an estimated 10 million users, Venmo combines a social element with its payments platform, publishing a record of the transaction (though not the amount) to its social feed, along with a note or comment (or sometimes just an emoji). If you want a more detailed look at Venmo, check out our Venmo review for more information!

This social network aspect is one of the ways Venmo sets itself apart from its competitors. The company has also more recently begun allowing merchants to accept payments through Venmo — though with some rather stringent requirements. If you’re wondering whether Venmo could be right for your business, you’re in the right place — we’ll talk about what the requirements are to implement Venmo as a payment option at checkout, and what kinds of businesses Venmo is best suited to.

How Do You Accept Venmo For Businesses?

Venmo is both painfully clear and annoying vague about what kinds of businesses are eligible for accepting Venmo payments. For example, there isn’t a list of prohibited businesses (like you’d find with PayPal, Braintree, and Square). However, Venmo also says that “Venmo can be used to purchase items directly from participating approved apps and online stores.”

Be aware that you can’t natively build Venmo acceptance into your website or app. Instead, you need to go through either Braintree or PayPal for payment processing to add this option. Braintree says that the following use cases are not permitted:

  • Selling goods or services in person.
  • Receiving payment for goods or services through the Venmo app.
  • Facilitating peer-to-peer transactions between two Venmo users.

What does that all mean? Essentially it means you can’t use Venmo directly to accept payments. If you, for example, sell Pampered Chef, Scentsy, LulaRoe, or any other kind of product, your clients can’t just send you a payment via Venmo. If you sell something on Facebook, you can’t meet up with someone and hand them the item in exchange for a Venmo transaction. If you want to accept Venmo for payments, you need to follow the appropriate steps and build the payment option into your website or mobile app.

It also means that you can’t set up a service that says “You send us the money (plus a possible convenience fee) and we’ll send it to someone else for you.” It should be pretty obvious that is a no-no, but generally, those kinds of things need to be clearly stated for legal purposes.

The last requirement? You must be based in the US, which a major difference between Venmo and its global parent company, PayPal. Venmo currently isn’t available to users outside the US at all.

Now that we’ve got the basics covered, let’s talk about how to you can actually implement Venmo payments.

Option 1: Accept Venmo Through Braintree

Braintree Payment Solutions (read our review) is a merchant services provider with a special focus on online and mobile payments. The company, as I mentioned early, is owned by PayPal, and its offerings work pretty seamlessly with PayPal’s, but it is a fairly separate entity. For example, you do get a traditional merchant account. (PayPal is a third-party payment processor, which leads to a greater degree of account stability than merchant accounts.) Braintree is global friendly — even if that’s irrelevant in the case of Venmo payments — and it supports a huge array of payment types, both in apps and on the web. As a result, it will take a developer to implement Braintree payments and get the most out of the Braintree platform.

Braintree specifically says that in order to use Venmo, you must be using one of the following SDKs:

  • iOS v4
  • Android v2
  • Javascript v3 

What this means is you can build Venmo into iOS or Android apps, or into web/mobile web payments that use Javascript. Braintree, on the whole, supports several other programming languages as well. Braintree will also allow customers to save their payment information for subscriptions and recurring billing, including Venmo payments.

Finally, Braintree’s standard pricing applies for Venmo transactions, so most merchants will pay 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction unless they’ve already negotiated special pricing. Venmo transactions are settled according to the same terms as Discover card transactions, but you can identify them in your dashboard by looking for the Venmo logo in the payment type.

Option 2: Accept Venmo Through PayPal Checkout

If Braintree isn’t quite what you’re interested in, you can also implement Venmo Payments using PayPal Checkout (formerly known as Express Checkout). Checkout is PayPal’s recommended option if you are adding payments to an ecommerce shopping cart or offering PayPal as a supplemental option to another credit card processor. Keep in mind that PayPal (read our review) is a third-party payment processor and, as such, comes with an inherent risk of account instability — the potential for holds on funds or even an account freeze if PayPal’s system flags any suspicious behavior.

Also, this option still requires a developer and some code work. PayPal has upgraded its Checkout offering with “Smart” customizable payment buttons and contextual tools that will display multiple checkout options — PayPal, PayPal Credit, or Venmo — based on what it knows about a consumer. Currently, Venmo is only available on mobile devices, though that may change in the future. It’s also worth noting that PayPal Checkout doesn’t allow you to present Venmo as a stand-alone payment option. If you’d like this feature, you’ll need to go with Braintree instead.

With Venmo transactions, you’ll pay your standard PayPal rates, which will be 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for most merchants. (Keep in mind that PayPal does have a micropayments option for merchants whose average transaction sizes are under $10.) PayPal treats them just like all other transactions; currently, they are not identifiable as Venmo transactions. Again, PayPal may change this feature down the line.

Finally, it’s important to note that because Venmo is owned by PayPal, PayPal’s Seller Protection policy applies to Venmo transactions. For buyers, Venmo has its own protection policy, which is the same as PayPal’s in many ways, though Venmo admits there are some differences. Venmo lays out its terms and conditions for merchants in the user agreement if you’d like to take a closer look.

Should You Add Venmo To Your Payments Set Up?

Venmo is a powerful tool. An estimated 10 million users make for a significant userbase that many merchants may want to tap into. But all the same, accepting Venmo for your business only makes sense in certain contexts. You can’t just use the Venmo app to accept payments directly — you can’t process any sort of in-person transaction, as a matter of fact. If you do sell online, adding Venmo only makes sense if you have a very strong mobile user base. For one, PayPal will only display Venmo as a checkout option for mobile devices. Second, there’s no sense in adding Venmo if your customers don’t even know what a mobile wallet is.

However, if you do have a mobile app and your audience is young, tech-savvy and social, adding Venmo as an option makes a lot of sense. It’s available on both Android and iOS, and if you go through Braintree you can present Venmo as a standalone checkout option rather than as a payment option that is linked with PayPal.

It’s pretty likely that we’ll see Venmo sinking more resources into its business platform in the coming year, so we could very easily see some changes to Venmo’s requirements for business. If you’re still on the fence about Venmo, there’s no rush! Familiarize yourself with the product and wait to see what else Venmo has in store before you make a decision.

Have questions or comments? We always love to hear from our reader base, so check out our comment guidelines and leave us your thoughts!

The post Venmo For Business: Is It Worth It? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best CBD Oil Merchant Account Providers

CBD oil

What are CBD oils? Perhaps you’ve heard of this new class of products, and you’re curious about what they are and what benefits they can offer you. Maybe you’re also interested in opening a business that sells CBD-derived products, and you’d like to know more about the special requirements you’ll need to meet in order to be successful. Well, we’re here to help! Cannabidiol (or CBD) is a substance (or phytocannabinoid, to be more precise) that’s derived from hemp (Cannabis sativa) plants.

Now, you’re probably already aware that marijuana is also derived from Cannabis plants. The major difference between CBD products and marijuana is that the former contain little or no THC or any of the other psychoactive ingredients that marijuana contains. In other words, CBD products won’t get you “high.” Despite this rather obvious distinction, CBD-based products have been illegal under Federal law until very recently. In fact, as of the time of this writing, they’re only legal under certain specific conditions.

Although medical marijuana and, by extension, CBD products are now legal in many US states, most banks and credit card processors have been extremely reluctant to approve CBD oil businesses for merchant accounts, and many such businesses have had their accounts suddenly closed without notice. In this article, we’ll update you on the current (as of January 2019) legal status of CBD products and recommend several merchant account providers that accept businesses selling CBD products.

Legal Issues In The CBD Oil Industry

Until just a few weeks ago, CBD-based products were still listed as Schedule I drugs by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), effectively prohibiting their sale, transportation, or use under Federal law. However, many states (33 as of this writing) have passed medical marijuana laws which legalized the use of marijuana and CBD-based products for medicinal purposes. Several other states have gone even further, legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes and removing all prohibitions against CBD-based products.

The recently-passed 2018 Farm Bill changes all of that. Under this legislation, which was signed into law on December 20, 2018, hemp-based products (defined as containing less than 0.3% THC) are now removed from the Schedule I list of controlled substances. However, you must be a licensed grower and comply with all applicable Federal and state laws to produce and sell your product legally. With so many variations in state laws, it’s well beyond the scope of this article to attempt to cover them all. We recommend that you look into the laws of your state and consult with an attorney or qualified consultant to determine the specific requirements that apply to your business.

Needless to say, selling a product that can potentially still be illegal under Federal law makes it very difficult to get approved for a merchant account. Only a small number of high-risk specialists accept CBD businesses, and in many cases, they’ll require you to obtain an offshore merchant account. Of the small number of providers that do accept CBD merchants, there are only a few that we feel comfortable recommending, and we’ll profile them below. Desperate CBD merchants have tried using PayPal or Square (see our review), but this strategy inevitably involves being dishonest about the nature of your business, and providers won’t hesitate to shut you down if and when they catch you.

Before the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considered it illegal to sell or transport CBD products across state lines. This made it nearly impossible to sell CBD products legally through a website, and many eCommerce-focused high-risk providers were reluctant to accept CBD merchants. The new law eases many of these concerns, so we anticipate that the opportunities for CBD merchants to obtain a merchant account will improve dramatically in the coming year. In the past, we’ve seen reports of banks and credit card processors suddenly deciding to shut down accounts en masse, leaving many CBD merchants in the lurch. This situation should improve considerably with the recent legalization of hemp-based products.

For the time being, we’re going to confine our recommendations to processors that we know already accept CBD merchants and that have a strong reputation for providing fair prices and honest service. As legal limitations on CBD products continue to be rolled back, CBD merchants should find expanded opportunities to get approved for merchant accounts. At the same time, you can still expect to be assigned a high-risk merchant account for now. Until the day arrives when CBD products are fully legalized in all 50 states, we don’t anticipate that low-risk merchant accounts will become available.

What Makes A Good High-Risk Merchant Account Provider?

Finding a good high-risk merchant account provider involves the same criteria as a low-risk provider – it’s just harder to find a provider that offers the right combination of reasonable prices, fair contract terms, and high-quality customer service.

  • Pricing: The bottom line here is that any high-risk merchant account is going to cost significantly more than a comparable low-risk one. Be prepared to have to accept a tiered pricing model (although some established businesses might be able to negotiate a more affordable interchange-plus model). You can also expect to be charged higher monthly and annual fees as well, although the difference in these costs isn’t as much as it is with processing rates. Another additional “expense” that most high-risk merchants have to contend with is a rolling reserve, where your processor withholds a certain percentage of your funds every month until the reserve is met. While you’ll eventually receive all your money, rolling reserves can create serious cash flow problems for a small or newly-established business.
  • Contracts: We really like month-to-month billing arrangements that don’t lock you into a long-term contract or force you to pay an early termination fee (ETF) if you close your account early. Unfortunately, CBD merchants (like any other high-risk merchants) will usually have to accept both a long-term contract (typically for three years) and an ETF. Also, be aware that if you have a long-term contract, it will probably also include an automatic renewal clause that extends your contract, typically for one-year periods at a time. If you don’t keep careful track of when your contract is scheduled to auto-renew, you might find yourself locked in for another year or longer.
  • Hardware: If you plan to sell CBD products out of a retail location, you’ll need either a dedicated countertop credit card terminal or a mobile processing system that uses your smartphone or tablet in conjunction with a mobile card reader. Your terminal should be able to accept both magstripe and EMV payments at a minimum, and we also recommend that you consider getting a terminal with NFC-based capabilities so that you can take payment methods such as Apple Pay and Android Pay. For some specific recommendations, check out our article, The Best Credit Card Machines And Terminals. We also highly recommend that you purchase your terminals outright rather than leasing your equipment. Leasing arrangements lock you into noncancelable long-term contracts, and you’ll wind up paying several times more in leasing fees than what your machine is actually worth.
  • eCommerce Support: Naturally, you’ll want to be able to sell your CBD products to as many customers as possible, and selling via a website allows you to do that. As we’ve noted above, there are still some significant restrictions on selling CBD products across state lines that you’ll want to be aware of before you launch your website. At the same time, the recent legalization of hemp-based products is going to open up eCommerce opportunities that weren’t there just a few months ago. All of our recommended providers can set you up with a high-quality payment gateway that will allow you to process transactions over the internet and significantly expand the reach of your business. As not all states have relaxed their marijuana laws, you’ll want to find a gateway that will automatically filter out customer addresses where CBD products are still illegal.
  • Customer Support: In researching dozens of merchant account providers, we’ve found that high-quality customer service is the true “secret ingredient” that separates the merely average providers from the truly outstanding ones. Customer support issues occur more frequently with CBD and other high-risk merchants, so you’ll want to pay particular attention to a provider’s reputation in this area.

Best Merchant Account Providers For CBD Oil

With the above factors in mind, here’s a brief overview of five of the best merchant account providers in the industry that accept CBD merchants:

Easy Pay Direct

Easy Pay Direct logo

Easy Pay Direct is headquartered in Austin, Texas and has been in business since 2000. The company provides merchant accounts for both low-risk and high-risk businesses, and is one of the few providers to advertise service for CBD merchants. The company’s primary product is their proprietary EPD Gateway. While you’ll have to pay a premium in terms of processing rates and account fees, you’ll be set up with a domestic bank or credit card processor. They’re also one of the very few CBD providers to disclose their rates and fees on their website.

You will probably have to pay a $99 account setup fee to get started. While we normally don’t approve of this kind of fee, it’s appropriate in this case given the more extensive effort required to underwrite a CBD account. Processing rates start at a flat 3.95% + $0.25 per transaction, although lower rates are available if your business meets certain monthly processing volume limits. There’s also a $29.99 monthly account fee, but this appears to include the use of the EPD Gateway. You can also expect a standard contract with 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 than they are in the United States, 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 selling CBD products. We particularly recommend the company for eCommerce merchants due to the robust feature set of their EPD Gateway.

Pros

  • No early termination fee
  • Load balancing feature allows higher monthly processing limits
  • High-quality proprietary payment gateway

Cons

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

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

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 (see our review).

Because they work with so many banks and processors to get you approved for an account, the company doesn’t offer any specific 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 CBD oil 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, which can present a formidable barrier to a newly-established CBD business. The company 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. SMB Global appears to accept CBD merchants only through offshore accounts at this time, although this could change quickly with the recent deregulation of hemp-based products.

Pros

  • Accepts CBD businesses through offshore merchant accounts
  • Reasonable pricing and contract terms
  • Excellent customer service

Cons

  • Requires minimum $50,000 monthly processing volume for offshore account
  • No mobile processing system at this time
  • 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.

PaymentCloud

PaymentCloud review logo

PaymentCloud is headquartered in Sherman Oaks, California, and has been in business since 2010. The company specializes in placing high-risk businesses (including CBD oil merchants), relying on a network of third-party processors and acquiring banks both in the United States and offshore to get you approved for an account. While they can’t place every merchant for one reason or another, they have a higher success rate than many of their competitors in getting merchants approved for an account. Best of all, they do the extra work required to accept a high-risk account without charging you any application or account setup fees.

Like almost all high-risk specialists, the company doesn’t disclose its processing rates or account fees, so you’ll have to get a quote from their sales team and do a little negotiating to see how their offer stacks up against other providers. For retail merchants, they’ve de-emphasized expensive credit card terminal leases and now offer a “free” EMV-compliant terminal with each account. Note that in this case, “free” means you’re free to use it for as long as you maintain your account, not that you can keep it even if you later close your account or switch providers. Nonetheless, it’s a pretty good deal if you’re a small CBD business owner who only needs one terminal.

PaymentCloud also offers Authorize.Net as their payment gateway, although their system is compatible with other third-party gateways as well. Additionally, they provide a free virtual terminal with each account. While their line-up of products and services isn’t as robust as some other providers, they offer all the essentials you’ll need for a small or medium-sized CBD oil business.

The company doesn’t have a BBB profile, and we’ve found almost no complaints against them on the internet. Feedback from our readers has been overwhelmingly positive – something that’s quite rare in the processing world.

Lastly, PaymentCloud is now recommended by one of our favorite low-risk providers, Dharma Merchant Services (see our review). Dharma recently decided to stop accepting high-risk merchants themselves, and now refers inquiries from businesses in the high-risk category to PaymentCloud. To us, a recommendation from a company as highly respected as Dharma carries a lot of weight, and we give PaymentCloud a strong endorsement as well.

Pros

  • No application or account setup fees
  • “Free” credit card terminal with each retail account
  • Dedicated account manager for customer support

Cons

  • May require offshore account for CBD merchants
  • No online knowledgebase

Be sure to read our full review of PaymentCloud for more details.

eMerchant Broker

eMerchantBroker logo

Los Angeles, California-based eMerchant Broker has been in business since 2011 and is one of the few reputable high-risk merchant account providers that was deliberately marketing to the CBD oil industry before the recent deregulation of hemp products. Although the company has a reputation for charging above-average processing rates and account fees, we’re very impressed with their efforts to educate CBD oil merchants on the ins and outs of high-risk processing. Many CBD merchants are also new to running a business, so the information that eMerchant Broker provides, particularly about chargebacks, is very educational. Even if you don’t sign up with them, we highly recommend that you take a look at the eMerchant Broker website for detailed information about high-risk processing in general, as well as specific issues unique to the CBD oil industry.

eMerchant Broker offers a reasonable lineup of products and services that you’ll need in addition to a high-risk merchant account. Their proprietary eMB Payment Gateway offers an impressive set of features, and they also support Authorize.Net and other popular third-party gateways. The company mainly supports eCommerce and doesn’t appear to offer any credit card terminals or mobile processing systems. They should, however, be able to integrate their processing system with third-party products if you need them.

Don’t expect to save money with eMerchant Broker. They appear to mainly use tiered pricing plans, although interchange-plus pricing might be available to some merchants. The only rate they advertise – 2.99% — represents the lowest available qualified rate. In most cases, your actual rate will be much higher. You can also expect to be saddled with a standard three-year contract with an automatic renewal clause and an early termination fee. Fortunately, they don’t charge application fees, setup fees, or annual fees. Be sure to review your contract thoroughly before signing up, so you’re clear on the assortment of fees you will have to pay.

eMerchant Broker has a good reputation with the BBB and a low complaint volume. Reports from our readers have been mixed, with some praise for their ethical, well-trained sales staff, and some criticism for their customer service department. All in all, eMerchant Broker rates as an above-average high-risk provider, and we’re comfortable recommending them for your CBD oil business.

Pros

  • No application or account setup fees
  • No annual fee
  • Good sales practices

Cons

  • Expensive tiered pricing processing rate plans
  • Long-term contract with early termination fee
  • Some complaints about customer service

For more information about eMerchant Broker, check out our full review.

PayWize

PayWize logo

Another company you should consider in your search for a CBD oil merchant account provider is PayWize. This very small provider is based in Costa Mesa, California and has only been in business since 2017. However, they’re affiliated with Payment Depot (see our review), one of our top choices for low-risk businesses.

At the moment, PayWize offers just a simple, one-page website. However, it does include some significant disclosures that help to set it apart from other high-risk providers. The company markets primarily to medical marijuana dispensaries and CBD oil merchants, so they have more specialized knowledge of the unique issues affecting this industry than many of their competitors.

PayWize offers predictable flat-rate pricing, although they don’t disclose specific rates. Flat-rate pricing is popular among merchants who want to always know in advance how much they’ll pay to process a transaction. At the same time, this pricing model can become very expensive for a large business that has a high monthly processing volume (typically over $5,000 per month). The company also claims not to impose any rolling reserves, which is a real plus for a business that’s just starting up. PayWize offers several credit card terminals and a payment gateway, but discloses very little information about them. Their gateway integrates with a large number of popular online shopping carts, including Shopify, WooCommerce, and many others.

We haven’t produced a full review of PayWize yet, but based on their association with Payment Depot, we’re willing to recommend that you check them out and compare what they have to offer against any quotes from other providers that you obtain.

Pros

  • Predictable flat-rate pricing
  • Appears to offer month-to-month billing
  • Extensive compatibility with third-party online shopping carts

Cons

  • New company with little online feedback from merchants

Final Thoughts

With the very recent deregulation of hemp products by the Federal government, 2019 is shaping up to be a breakout year for the CBD oil industry. Your chances of getting approved for a merchant account have never been better, and it should get even easier as acquiring banks and credit card processors adjust their underwriting guidelines to reflect the diminished risk associated with CBD oils – and cash in on a booming new industry. At the same time, we don’t expect that CBD oils will be treated as a low-risk business any time soon. With products such as diet pills and nutritional supplements still firmly in the high-risk “nutraceutical” category, CBD merchants can expect to have to pay the extra cost of maintaining a high-risk merchant account for the foreseeable future. The only way we see this situation changing is if the Food and Drug Administration ever formally backs up the claims CBD merchants make as to the medicinal value of their products.

In addition to opening the floodgates so more high-risk merchant account providers can accept CBD merchants, the recent deregulation should make it easier to obtain a domestic merchant account rather than having to take on the additional risk and expense of an offshore account. Unless you specifically need to get around monthly processing limits imposed by your provider for a domestic account, we don’t recommend offshore accounts. The added expense and the risk that you might never receive your funds make them a poor choice for most merchants. However, if you do need an offshore account, check out our article The Best Offshore Merchant Account Providers for some recommendations.

Of the five providers we’ve covered in this article, Easy Pay Direct and SMB Global have the best overall reputations for fair pricing and quality service. However, we recommend that you obtain quotes from several providers and compare them closely before deciding which one to sign up with. Also, remember that the CBD oil industry is changing very rapidly now, so there inevitably will be more providers offering merchant accounts to CBD merchants in the coming years than just the ones we’ve profiled here. Finally, if you’re a CBD oil merchant and have had any experience working with the companies listed in this article – or other providers – be sure to tell us about your experience in the Comments section below. Thanks!

The post The Best CBD Oil Merchant Account Providers appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best eCommerce Platforms For Your Small Business

Selecting the best ecommerce platform for building your online store can be tough. I find it helpful to keep in mind that shopping for this type of software is similar to shopping for any other product (you just happen to be shopping for shopping cart software, which I’ll grant is slightly strange). You ultimately need your ecommerce software to do two primary things: to serve your particular online selling needs, and to accomplish this for an affordable price.

If you’ve heard of any ecommerce software up to this point, you’ve probably heard of a platform called Shopify. Shopify often receives top billing in this category, and with good reason. Still, it’s by no means the perfect solution for everyone. Along with Shopify, we’ve compiled a few other great options worth considering in your search for an online home for your store.

Shopify BigCommerce 3dcart Ecwid Wix

3dcart

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Monthly Cost

$9 – $299

$29.95 – $249.95

$19 – $229

Free – $99

$25 – $40

Core Features

Great

Excellent

Excellent

Good

Good

App Store

Very Large

Large

Moderate

Moderate

Small/Moderate

Ease Of Use

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Very Easy

Easy

Web Design

Great

Good

Good

OK

Excellent

Customer Support

Great

Great

Good

Good

Good

From a bird’s-eye view, our main reasons for recommending these platforms are user-friendliness, a solid feature set, and an accessible price. Notice that they’re also all SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms, meaning you are not responsible for downloading, installing, and hosting the shopping cart on your own server. Instead, you subscribe to the service (most often for a monthly fee), and all the hosting and software updates that underpin your online store are automatically handled for you. Easy! eCommerce software has been trending in this direction over the past several years, and the available SaaS options have only become more robust and customizable over time.

What To Look For In An Ecommerce Platform

Before we discuss the individual recommendations further, here’s a quick overview of the key factors we consider when evaluating ecommerce software:

  • Pricing: How does the monthly subscription system work (what factors determine the different pricing levels), and what are the options/costs associated with accepting payments from shoppers?
  • Features & Add-ons: How strong is the core feature set of the software, and how well can these features be expanded upon using the platform’s associated app marketplace?
  • Ease Of Use: How steep is the learning curve for ecommerce beginners (particularly those without any coding experience)? What is the balance between user-friendliness and the capability of the platform to accomplish both basic and advanced tasks?
  • Web Design: How attractive, modern, and functional are the available theme templates for designing storefronts? What customization options are available, and how robust/flexible are these tools?
  • Customer Support: What is the availability and quality of email, live chat, and phone support for the software, along with any other self-help resources provided by the company and user community?

And, of course…

  • User Reviews: What are real store owners (like you!) saying about the software, both good and bad?

That’s our basic guideline. Now, we’ll take a closer look at each platform, highlighting the main benefits and drawbacks of each one, along with the types of online sellers we think the software typically suits best. We’d definitely recommend reading our full review of each platform before making your final choice. We’ve also posted one-on-one comparisons for several of the platforms if you’d like to check out those in-depth articles as well.

1. Shopify

As mentioned, Shopify is our most commonly recommended ecommerce platform. The combination of strong core features, an exhaustive app marketplace, and high ease-of-use put Shopify at or near the top of most SaaS ecommerce platform rankings.

Pricing

There are technically five Shopify plans, but the three subscription levels in the middle are considered the standard options for most SMB owners needing an online store. The price jumps between the three middle plans are based primarily on additional features and the ability to set up more staff accounts. Here are all five levels:

  • Shopify Lite: $9/mo. Embeddable cart, but no standalone store website.
  • Basic Shopify: $29/mo.
  • Shopify: $79/mo.
  • Advanced Shopify: 299/mo.
  • Shopify Plus: Custom pricing. Reserved for enterprise-level customers.

When it comes to accepting payment from your customers, you should note that this is the only platform on our list that charges an extra commission per sale. This goes above and beyond the normal processing fees you’ll need to pay to your credit card processor. Shopify’s commission decreases incrementally as you climb the subscription ladder: 2% on Basic, 1% on Shopify, 0.5% on Advanced.

You can avoid these extra Shopify transaction fees if you sign up for the in-house payment processor — Shopify Payments (powered by Stripe) — but this gateway is only available in 10 countries. In addition to eliminating the extra transaction fee, Shopify struck a deal with Stripe to offer lower payment processing fees with Shopify Payments than if you were to use Stripe (or a similar processor) by itself. These discounts apply to your processing if you’re on the Shopify Plan or the Advanced Shopify Plan.

Shopify does provide over 100 alternative gateway options. You’ll just be saddled with that extra percentage Shopify charges per sale when you stray from Shopify Payments.

Features & Add-Ons

Shopify is defined by a quality core feature set that works well for a wide variety of sellers. Moreover, Shopify has a very large app marketplace (of around 2500 apps) that will provide virtually any additional feature you might need. If there is one disadvantage to this system, it is that these integrations can add to your monthly operating costs. Meanwhile, merchants appreciate how many of Shopify’s third-party apps are fully-fledged software platforms that are commonly used to support ecommerce, rather than just simple extensions that add a small feature or two (the app store does have those as well, though!)

Here are a few Shopify features we like:

  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Built-in shipping software (Shopify Shipping)
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Manual order creation (virtual terminal)
  • Automatic tax calculation
  • Shopify POS & other POS integrations
  • Extensive order fulfillment & dropshipping integrations
  • Coupons, discounts & gift cards

Ease Of Use

Shopify has one of the easiest learning curves in the ecommerce software market. Simplicity is the name of the game for Shopify — it’s clear they’d rather offer the ability to expand the platform’s capability with optional add-ons than to overwhelm the newbie with a complicated dashboard or intricate customization options from the get-go.

The Shopify dashboard is clear and well-organized, and any built-in feature can be manipulated easily with zero coding knowledge.

Web Design

Shopify offers 10 free themes (made by Shopify), as well as 67 paid themes (made by third-parties) that range in price from $140-$180. Technically, the total theme count is a bit higher, because each theme has multiple style variations that swap out colors and whatnot. Shopify themes are some of the more elegant and functional options we’ve seen. As a nice bonus, the theme marketplace can be searched by desired theme features.

While the Shopify theme editor may not be as flexible as that of a top-notch website builder (like Wix), the drag-and-drop editor makes it easy to stack and rearrange page elements, called “Sections.” (Perhaps don’t go quite as far as I did with awkward colors and fonts — just showing you what can be changed):

Beyond the theme editor, you also have the opportunity for more customization with a combination of HTML, CSS, and Shopify’s own theme templating language (called Liquid). Most novices won’t open that coding can of worms straight away, but it’s good to know it’s there.

Customer Support

Shopify offers 24/7 phone, email, and live chat support at all subscription levels. Although no customer support system is perfect, we’ve found Shopify’s responses helpful and timely in the grand scheme. On top of this, the strong community of users and developers currently working with Shopify makes finding resources, reviews, and feedback a breeze. The library of self-help articles, tutorials, courses, and videos produced by Shopify is also impressive.

Who Is Shopify Best For?

If this were a little kids’ recreational sports league, Shopify would receive the “Most Well-Rounded Player” award, if not the full MVP as well. Shopify is suited to the widest variety of store types and sizes. When Shopify works for merchants, it works really well. Store owners who benefit the most from Shopify will most likely be based in one of the 10 countries in which Shopify Payments is available, because that’s the only way Shopify’s extra commission per sale is avoided. However, the quality of Shopify’s platform is strong enough overall that many merchants are willing to accept those extra transaction fees, even if they can’t (or won’t) use Shopify Payments.

Of course, we can’t mention Shopify without also mentioning one type of merchant in particular: dropshippers. Shopify is definitely the dropshipper’s go-to platform.

2. BigCommerce

If you asked most experts at large, they’d probably tell you that BigCommerce is Shopify’s most direct ecommerce SaaS competitor. BigCommerce also has an enterprise solution (BigCommerce Enterprise) that’s comparable with Shopify Plus.

Pricing

Subscription levels with BigCommerce are organized by added features at each level, but also annual revenue caps. This means you’re automatically bumped to a higher subscription once you reach a cap. Here are the plans and their associated sales limits:

  • Standard: $29.95/month (sell up to $50K/yr.)
  • Plus: $79.95/month (sell up to $150K/yr.)
  • Pro: $249.95/month (sell up to $400K/yr.)
    • add $150/mo. for every additional $200K/yr. in sales, up to $3M
  • Enterprise: Custom pricing

Unlike Shopify, BigCommerce never charges an additional commission per sale. For payment processing gateways, you have about 60 options. One of these is Braintree (a division of PayPal), which gives access to discounted processing rates as you move up the BigCommerce subscription ladder.

Features & Add-Ons

BigCommerce has a particularly strong set of native features, while also maintaining a sizable app marketplace for optional add-ons (ballpark 600 in total). The balance of out-of-the-box features versus add-on apps leans more toward the former, especially when compared to Shopify. Offered features include:

  • Faceted (filtered) search
  • Single-page checkout
  • Customer groups & segmentation
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Product ratings & reviews
  • Up to 600 product options/variants
  • Coupons, discounts, & gift certificates
  • Square POS integration

Ease Of Use

Some may argue that the balance toward more features included from the get-go can make BigCommerce harder to use at first. Personally, I wouldn’t let fears about user-friendliness stop a beginner from using this software. Extensive out-of-the-box features don’t complicate BigCommerce dashboard beyond reason, and the included features are intuitively configurable without any coding knowledge.

Web Design

BigCommerce offers around 125 themes, along with close to 500 total variations (or “styles”) of those themes. Seven of these themes (25 styles) are free; the rest are available for $145–$235. Quality of design is always subjective, but BigCommerce definitely has a wide variety of elegant templates from which to choose.

It’s a good thing this variety and quality of templates pre-exists, because customization options without coding knowledge or adding a separate integration are somewhat limited with BigCommerce. The theme editor lacks a drag-and-drop element, and you’ll be stuck with the theme’s fonts and colors for the most part.

Customer Support

Like Shopify, BigCommerce offers 24/7 phone, email, and live chat support at all plan levels. We’ve had mixed experiences with BigCommerce’s support, but find that more users praise the service than knock it. You can definitely make the argument (and we have) that BigCommerce support is just as good or better than Shopify’s. There are also active community forums and plenty of BigCommerce-produced support materials available online.

Who Is BigCommerce Best For?

The target market for BigCommerce overlaps significantly with Shopify’s. Much of your decision will come down to the appeal and specific fit-to-business of the extra features that come built-in with BigCommerce at your targeted subscription level. For example, I think B2B and wholesale merchants would do well to take close look at BigCommerce’s feature set. Support for more product variants or discount types will be interesting to other sellers. If you’re confident you’ll actually use most of the native features BigCommerce offers, you could definitely end up saving money and headaches. You’ll just need to be prepared for the automatic subscription bumps as your revenue grows.

Perhaps the most obvious appeal for BigCommerce is the freedom to choose your payment processor with no penalty of an extra transaction fee. That extra cut Shopify takes from your sales feels especially unfair if you’re not even based in one of the 10 countries where Shopify Payments is supported.

By the same token, maybe you already have a merchant account and/or payment processor that you like, or are looking for a specialized payment processor for your particular sales volume and/or risk profile. We often recommend merchants processing over around $100K per year look into credit card processors that offer your own dedicated merchant account with interchange-plus pricing. These accounts can provide more transparency and account stability (and often cost savings) than a standard flat-rate processor like Shopify Payments, PayPal or Square. With BigCommerce, your payment acceptance options are quite open.

3. 3dcart

3dcart

This platform has been around longer than any other on our list, and I’d actually heard of it before I’d even heard of Shopify. Over the years, 3dcart has developed a substantial and nuanced core feature set and continues to add and improve features at a steady clip. The software’s low monthly cost, extensive features, and plentiful payment gateway options make it worth a look when opening an online store.

Pricing

Subscription packages with 3dcart are delineated mainly by annual online revenue, number of staff accounts, and available features. You can sell up to 100 products on the Startup plan, while the other plans allow you to list unlimited items.

  • Startup: $19/month (sell up to $50K/yr.)
  • Basic: $29/month (sell up to $100K/yr.)
  • Plus: $79/month (sell up to $200K/yr.)
  • Pro: $229/month (sell up to $400K/yr.)
  • Enterprise: Custom

3dcart comes in at a lower starting price than BigCommerce or Shopify (if you exclude the Shopify Lite plan that doesn’t let you build a standalone store website). At the same time, the $29 plan level with 3dcart accommodates twice the annual store revenue of the $29.95 plan on BigCommerce.

On top of this, 3dcart never charges its own fee per sale, regardless which of the over 160 compatible payment gateways you select. For US merchants, there also are several “preferred” processor options (e.g., Square, Stripe, PayPal, and FattMerchant) that may give you access to discounted processing rates at the Plus and Pro subscription level.

Features & Add-Ons

3dcart prides itself on a rich supply of native, built-in features. We can vouch that the feature set is robust, especially for the price. And, while it’s true that 3dcart has managed to avoid some of the excessive “app creep” from which Shopify suffers, you can still connect with lots of useful third-party software via the app store.

We’ve mentioned that packed-in features can result in sacrificed user-friendliness. 3dcart keeps some of its complexity at bay by offering advanced features and modules that can simply be turned on and off depending on whether you need them.

Here are just a few of 3dcart’s noteworthy features:

  • Unlimited product options/variants
  • Single-page checkout
  • Robust discount/coupon engine
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Create/print shipping labels in-dashboard
  • Gift certificates on all plans
  • Wish lists & gift registries
  • Customer reviews & product Q&A
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Waiting list & pre-orders

Ease Of Use

When it comes to actually working with all of 3dcart’s plentiful features, we’re still looking at a user-friendly platform overall. You should just be aware that the learning curve you encounter may be slightly steeper than it is for Shopify (and perhaps BigCommerce as well) depending on your experience.

Like many worthwhile endeavors, 3dcart simply requires you put in a bit more effort in order to get more out of it in the end. The menus go a little deeper, the dashboard screens are more complex, and some advanced functions can be a little tricky to locate and use at first. Still, the basic setup and navigation are comparable to the ecommerce platforms we’ve discussed so far. You won’t need coding knowledge to operate your store.

Web Design

3dcart recently streamlined its entire theme marketplace, resulting in less quantity and more quality. The revamp brought 3dcart into better stylistic alignment with the ecommerce competitors we’ve discussed so far, but we’re still missing a bit of variety and uniqueness amongst the remaining options.

Of the 45 total themes available, about half are free, and more than half were created by 3dcart. Premium themes range from $149-$249.

With 3dcart, you get a very basic theme editor to change out photos and font colors, but you can’t rearrange any page elements:

Beyond these simple changes, you must use HTML and CSS inside the template editor:

Customer Support

Another key reason 3dcart makes our “best” list is the availability of 24/7 phone, live chat, email support. The only subscription that doesn’t offer phone support is the $19/month plan, but you still have the ability to talk to someone in real time with live chat. Support quality and responsiveness receive mixed reviews, but this is typical of all the software apps on our list. No ecommerce solution has cracked the code for keeping 100% of customers satisfied, but we’ll let you know if any of them do!

You’ll also have access to plenty of online resources produced by 3dcart, as well as an active community forum. Just note that while the knowledgebase articles are helpful, they’re sometimes low on screenshots and high on text.

Who Is 3dcart Best For?

We think 3dcart is a solid option for small-to-midsize businesses owners on a budget who still appreciate lots of built-in features. If you’ve experimented with Shopify or BigCommerce and felt a little boxed in when it came to flexibility and customization, and as long as you’re not intimidated by a relatively detail-oriented system, 3dcart opens up options for you. Or, if you’re skeptical of jumping on the Shopify bandwagon just because “everybody’s doing it,” and you balk at feeling hemmed into Shopify Payments lest you pay a penalty, 3dcart may be just the alternative you seek. Not to mention, we appreciate your Maverick spirit!

3dcart has a tried-and-true and even somewhat old school vibe, but without feeling clunky or inflexible. It has managed to stick around amongst an onslaught of newer competitors by quietly improving the quantity and quality of its core offerings over time. Meanwhile, you can still add on plenty of extra features via the app market, or do a bit of template tinkering on your own with basic coding knowledge.

4. Ecwid

Ecwid diverges the most from the software options we’ve discussed so far. At its core, Ecwid is an ecommerce shopping cart plugin (or “widget,” as the name implies) you can embed into an existing website. In this way, Ecwid is similar to WordPress’ WooCommerce, except you can add Ecwid to any website, not just WordPress sites. Ecwid also allows you to create a very basic standalone website and sell up to 10 products — for free! The company claims over 1.5 million users, which is significantly more than Shopify’s 600,ooo. The availability of a free plan likely has a lot to do with that!

Pricing

Subscription levels are organized by several aspects: available features, number of listed products, file storage, customer service access, and number of staff accounts. We’ve described the details of each level in our main Ecwid review, but here’s a quick summary:

  • Free: $0/mo. (10 Products)
  • Venture: $15/mo. (100 Products)
  • Business: $35/mo. (2500 Products)
  • Unlimited: $99/mo. (Unlimited products)

Happily, Ecwid does not charge an additional commission per sale. Along with offering around 50 payment gateway options for your store, Ecwid also has a special partnership with a payments provider called WePay. Together, they created Ecwid Payments, which offers discounted payment processing rates for merchants in the US, UK, and Canada. And, if you accept ACH or direct bank payments at your store (which is cheaper than accepting credit cards), you also qualify for discounted rates on those transactions with Ecwid Payments.

Features & Add-Ons

With Ecwid’s freemium pricing model, you can expect several new features unlocked at each subscription level. The free plan will definitely get you started with a small online store, but we don’t see most serious sellers staying on this plan for long. Fairly basic features such as inventory management, discounts, SEO tools, and access to the Ecwid app store require a paid plan. The Ecwid app store is on the smaller side, but you’ll still find several ecommerce staples in the shipping, tax, and accounting categories. And, don’t forget that if you’re embedding the Ecwid shop widget into another website, you’ll have access to that sitebuilder’s integrations as well.

Noteworthy Ecwid features include:

  • Create & edit orders
  • Several POS integration options, including mobile POS
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Branded shopping app for your store
  • Automatic tax calculations
  • Wholesale pricing groups
  • Mobile store management app

Ease Of Use

Intuitive dashboard navigation and foolproof feature manipulation make Ecwid an extremely user-friendly platform. Ecwid’s ease of use closely rivals Shopify’s. The Ecwid backend was clearly designed with the ecommerce beginner in mind.

Web Design

Remember that Ecwid’s main purpose is to act as a shopping cart plugin for an existing website that already has an established look and feel. That said, Ecwid does provide one theme template for a standalone online store. Here’s my in-progress edit of the starter template:

There aren’t a lot of customizations you can make to this starter website besides adding your own main image, your store name, and your 10 products. If your store is embedded into an existing website, you can purchase a third-party theme that helps your shop tie in with the rest of the site. Basically, unless you’re using the Ecwid Starter Site, web design for your storefront is largely dependent upon whatever existing sitebuilder you’re using.

Customer Support

Availability of customer support with Ecwid depends on which plan you have:

  • Free: Email only
  • Venture: Email & live chat
  • Business: Email, live chat, & phone; 2 hours of custom development (annual plan)
  • Unlimited: Email, live chat, & priority phone support; 12 hours of custom development (annual plan)

Also, note that email and live chat are not open on the weekends, and phone support is on a callback system. Despite these limitations, most users rate the actual quality of Ecwid’s support quite highly. Knowledgebase articles and video tutorials are also good quality.

Who Is Ecwid Best For?

Generally, we think Ecwid is a great option for small-to-midsize sellers. We highly recommend Ecwid for newcomers to online selling — particularly those with an established online presence who simply need to add a store component. If you love the platform your current website is built upon, and you’re already nailing your brand’s image and following, there may be no need to rush off and migrate to an all-in-one “website + ecommerce” system like the ones we’ve covered so far.

If you don’t have a website but would like to dabble in selling a few products online, you could also get an Ecwid starter site going for free while you develop a full-blown website on the side. It’s hard to argue with free! If you’re really on a shoestring budget or you’re just starting out with ecommerce, I’d encourage you to compare Ecwid’s free plan to Shopify Lite (at $9/mo.) to see which system might work best for your needs.

5. Wix

So, Ecwid built an ecommerce shopping cart widget that goes inside other website builders, but Wix is a website builder that actually built its own ecommerce widget (called Wix Stores) to go inside itself. I know, it’s a bit confusing! The point is that Wix began as a traditional sitebuilder, but now has ecommerce capability built in as well. Combining new ecommerce tools with its existing popularity in the no-coding-required-website-design niche, Wix presents quite an attractive (both figuratively and literally) option for online sellers.

Pricing

You may have heard that Wix lets you create a website for free. While this is true, you need a paid plan to use Wix’s ecommerce features. Below are your ecommerce subscription options, defined by file storage, customer support, and whether or not email marketing campaigns are included:

  • Business Basic: $25/month (20GB storage)
  • Business Unlimited: $30/month (35GB storage)
  • Business VIP: $40/month (50GB storage)

We’ve listed the true month-to-month price here, even though Wix advertises its monthly price if you pay for a full year. This drops the prices to $20, $30, and $35, respectively. All of the other platforms we’ve highlighted also offer discounts when paying annually — Wix just leads with these discounted figures in its advertising.

Regardless of which payment processor you choose (there are currently close to 20 options), Wix never charges an extra commission per sale.

Features & Add-Ons

If you choose to build an ecommerce website with Wix from scratch, the core of your site will be built upon the Wix Stores app. If, however, you already have a different type of Wix website (e.g., restaurant, hotel, photography site, etc.) and want to add an online shop, you simply switch to a Business subscription plan and add the Wix Stores app to your dashboard.

Wix is still working on adding some features that are becoming more standard amongst ecommerce platforms (like abandoned cart recovery), but we like a lot of what it has on offer so far:

  • Email marketing
  • Integrate with Square POS
  • Mobile app for store management
  • Send & manage invoices
  • Checkout on your own domain
  • SEO Tools
  • Create discounts & coupons
  • Inventory & order management
  • Library of stock photos for your site

The Wix app marketplace includes hundreds of apps, but not all are ecommerce-specific. You may also notice limited pre-built connections to third-party integrations (shipping and accounting software, for example). These sorts of apps become more indispensable as a store grows, but are not as critical for a store that manages fewer products and orders.

Ease Of Use

Wix Stores integrates seamlessly with the rest of the Wix dashboard. eCommerce features and settings are simply added to the left sidebar menu, like in any other ecommerce platform. Further dashboards open as you explore each individual feature (like adding a product or creating a coupon). Wix is defined in the DIY web design market by its ease-of-use, and this extends to its ecommerce functionality as well.

Web Design

There are actually two ways to design an ecommerce storefront in Wix. The first begins in a familiar fashion — selecting a template.

Wix offers over 500 templates to choose from, with over 70 of these already built upon the Wix Stores app (although you can easily add the app to any template). A nice perk of Wix’s template system is that all are included free with a Business subscription to Wix. The only tricky part is that you can’t switch templates once get your store up and running!

Wix provides the most flexible no-coding-required theme editor of any ecommerce platform we’ve covered here. Rather than simply dragging and dropping elements up and down your pages, you can adjust and place page elements virtually anywhere.

The second (and even easier) method of creating an ecommerce website with Wix is via Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence). If you choose this option, you’ll be asked a series of detailed questions about your business, and Wix will use this information to draft a storefront for you.

Sites created with Wix ADI also have a theme editor available, but this editor’s flexibility is more limited than the standard WIX editor. Nevertheless, it’s comparable to Shopify’s drag-and-drop editor. You can stack and arrange elements up and down your pages.

If you decide you’d like to micromanage your design a bit more after creating your Wix ADI site, you’re welcome to switch over to the more advanced theme editor. You just can’t switch back to Wix ADI without losing your changes.

Customer Support

Here’s a quick rundown of Wix’s customer support channels:

  • Phone: Callback service open Monday-Friday, 5AM-5PM Pacific
  • Email: 24/7
  • Live Chat: None

As you can see, the phone channel is somewhat limited, but we like that you have access to this channel of support on all plans. The Business VIP plan also offers priority support, meaning your emails and callback requests jump to the front of the queue. Wix doesn’t have as thorough a set of self-help resources specifically for ecommerce as some of the other platforms, but the resources it does maintain are well done and useful.

Who is Wix Best For?

Wix may differ from the other ecommerce platforms we’ve discussed, but we see this variety as a very good thing. This platform is a great option for merchants who need a multifunctional (but still user-friendly) website — not just an online store. The way native apps like Wix Stores, Wix Bookings, Wix Restaurants, Wix Hotels, and others weave together to form a seamless dashboard on the backend, plus an elegant web presence on the front end, is really slick.

Speaking of elegance, the other (sometimes overlapping) group of store owners Wix works nicely for are those with a smaller number of visually-detailed products. You’re probably not going to want to run a massive fulfillment and shipping operation with Wix, but small shops with aesthetic priorities are perfect for Wix.

Quick Pricing Comparison

We’ve covered a lot of ground in our comparison of these five good options for building an online store. Before we wrap this baby up, let’s recap the subscription plans for each one, along with the main ways the levels are distinguished from one another. As you’ve clearly seen, pricing is just one component of your final choice, but it’s usually where people start.

eCommerce Platforms Pricing Summary

Pricing Levels Differences Btwn. Levels

Shopify

Lite: $9/mo.

Basic: $29/mo.

Shopify: $79/mo.

Advanced $299/mo.

Plus: Custom

  • Available features
  • Number of staff accounts
  • Payment processing discounts
  • Shopify’s commission per sale

BigCommerce

Standard: $29.95/mo.

Plus: $79.95/mo.

Pro: 249.95/mo.

Enterprise: Custom

  • Available features
  • Annual store revenue

3dcart

Startup: $19/mo.

Basic: $29/mo.

Plus: $79/mo.

Pro: $229/mo.

Enterprise: Custom

  • Available features
  • Annual store revenue
  • Number of products
  • Number of staff accounts

Ecwid

Free: $0/mo.

Venture: $15/mo.

Business: $35/mo.

Unlimited: $99/mo.

  • Available features
  • Number of products
  • Storage
  • Number of staff accounts
  • Customer service

Wix

Business Basic: $25/mo.

Business Unlimited: $30/mo.

Business VIP: $40/mo.

  • Storage
  • Customer service
  • Available features

Final Thoughts

Did you find your ecommerce match? We know it’s a lot to take in at once. The great news is that all of these platforms allow you to test the software before you buy. We’d suggest narrowing down our five suggestions to a couple that look like strong candidates for your store and starting a free trial of each. Test drive all the features you possibly can, work on customizing your storefront, and pepper customer support with questions at all hours. That’s the only way you’ll know which is the best fit, even with our attempts to simplify the decision-making process for you.

Generally speaking, the first three platforms we mentioned (Shopify, BigCommerce, and 3dcart) are quite similar and will work for a lot of the same types and sizes of stores. 3dcart is probably the most complicated and detailed of the three out-of-the-box, and typically requires a bit more out of the user. This is not necessarily bad, though. BigCommerce may be a good middle ground between 3dcart and Shopify, combining ease-of-use with a dense set of out-of-the-box features. And, even with Shopify’s super annoying transaction fees (if you don’t use Shopify Payments), Shopify is still a very solid recommendation — it’s just good software.

Ecwid and Wix each have their own advantages as well, especially for smaller stores. Both are well-designed and user-friendly. Ecwid has an enticing free plan and can be embedded in any existing website, while Wix allows you to develop a particularly elegant and multifunctional storefront using your choice of not one, but two different methods.

We think most small business owners will find a good solution from among these five options. And, we’ll let you in on a rather little-known secret: it’s not the end of the world if you end up needing to migrate platforms. That goes for right now if you’re looking to make a switch, or later if you decide your software isn’t working for you anymore. Nevertheless, you can still head into your decision with the confidence that you’ve done your research and tested the software thoroughly before handing over your credit card. (You’re going to test them first, right? Promise? Good.)

Do you have experience with one or more of these ecommerce platforms? Let us know how you think they compare in the comments. We love feedback from real users like you!

Shopify BigCommerce 3dcart Ecwid Wix

3dcart

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Monthly Cost

$9 – $299

$29.95 – $249.95

$19 – $229

Free – $99

$25 – $40

Core Features

Great

Excellent

Excellent

Good

Good

App Store

Very Large

Large

Moderate

Moderate

Small/Moderate

Ease Of Use

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Very Easy

Easy

Web Design

Great

Good

Good

OK

Excellent

Customer Support

Great

Great

Good

Good

Good

The post The Best eCommerce Platforms For Your Small Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Washington Small Businesses

Washington State is known both for its breathtaking typography and for being one of the biggest tech hubs in the nation (outside of Silicon Valley). With the Seattle metro area experiencing explosive growth, it’s a great time to be doing business in the Evergreen State. Of course, keeping a business running smoothly requires money — sometimes money that you don’t immediately have in hand.

Luckily, Washington is one of the easier states in which to get small business funding. It is well-served by lenders ranging from banks, to credit unions, to alternative online lenders.

We’ll take a look at some of the types of lending available to you in Washington state, as well as some specific lenders you may want to consider.

The Best Online Business Lenders For Washington Businesses

Most online lenders operate nationwide, making them an option for the vast majority of businesses in the United States. Whether or not they’re the right option for you is another matter.

What online lenders offer is speed, convenience, and more lax lending standards than their traditional counterparts. As you might expect, online lending has a somewhat controversial reputation. The truth is there are online lenders with transparent processes and reasonable rates and there are predatory ones who will hide their fee structure and charge usurious rates. Weeding out the bad ones and honing in on the funders who can give you a good deal can be time-consuming.

Washington does regulate the maximum interest that can be charged on a “loan.” What this means for online lending is that lenders who depend on charging very high-interest rates may not offer some (or any) of their products within the Evergreen State. Note that regulations governing loans usually only apply specifically to loans and not to loan-like products like merchant cash advances.

Fundera

If you’re new to the world of online lending, you may have a hard time narrowing down your options. Matchmaking services like Fundera can do that labor for you. You simply fill out one application and Fundera will try to pair you with one of their lending partners. Fundera isn’t the only matchmaking service out there, but there are a couple factors that help them stand out. The first is that there’s no direct fee for using the service (it’s paid by the partner you’re matched with). The second is that they carefully curate their lending partners.

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LoanBuilder

LoanBuilder is a loan service offered by PayPal. With reasonable rates, customizable term lengths, and weekly payments, LoanBuilder is one of the better options in Washington state when you’re in the market for a short-term loan or similar product.

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BlueVine

If you’re looking for something a little less traditional, it might be worth taking a look at BlueVine. BlueVine offers funding in the form of short-term lines of credit and invoice factoring. Invoice factoring lets you sell your invoices in advance for a small fee.

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Lending Point

Washington may be known for hosting innovative businesses, but financing your risky business venture can be extremely challenging. Lending Point offers traditional installment loans in small amounts to individuals with good credit. This is great if you need a little more money to get things off the ground.

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OnDeck

OnDeck is one of the bigger names in online lending, offering a mix of short-term loans and lines-of-credit to businesses that need money quickly. They’re willing to work with businesses with fairly poor credit, while offering transparent and relatively reasonable terms.

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Washington Banks & Credit Unions

Online lending might be shiny and new, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s your best option. Banks and credit unions still offer the best rates, provided you can meet their more stringent qualifications.

Where online lenders are largely unmoored from geography, banks and credit unions usually serve specific markets. Even large, national banks will typically require you to apply for business loans at a local branch. Many will also require you to be a checking/savings account customer as a condition of extending you credit.

If you have a good relationship with your local bank or credit union, be sure to inquire about their business products. National banks with branches in Washington include:

Chase Bank

America’s biggest bank has a healthy presence in Washington State. Despite their size and market share, they’re still pretty traditional when it comes to business loans, so you’ll have to seek out a branch in your area.

If you can meet their requirements and don’t mind dealing with an enormous lender, Chase offers some of the best business loan rates out there.

Borrower requirements:
• Must have excellent credit (high 600s)
• Must have access to a Chase Bank branch
Read our Chase Bank review

Wells Fargo

Widely considered one of the more small-business-friendly big banks, Wells Fargo also has one of the most modern application processes (as far as banks g0). If you need speed combined with traditional banking perks, or don’t have a branch nearby, take a look at what Wells Fargo can offer from a distance.

Just be aware that the bank has been plagued by scandals and poor earnings recently, so factor that into your risk calculations.

Borrower requirements:
• Must have $1.50 in cash flow for every dollar borrowed.
• Must have a personal credit score of 640 or above.
Read our Wells Fargo review

 

US Bank

US Bank is one of the smaller of the big national banks, with a reputation for being a bit more personable and flexible. Their branches are a little scarce in Washington once you get away from the I-5 corridor, however.

Borrower requirements:
• Must be located in a state served by U.S. Bank
• Must have been in business for two years
Read our U.S. Bank review

 

Credit Unions

If you’re looking for the absolute best rates on loans, it’s hard to beat credit unions. As non-profits, they can (at least in theory) offer perks to their members that wouldn’t be possible from an institution concerned about their bottom line. The downside of credit unions is that they tend to be extremely local, with limited branch presence. Though less common than in the past, some credit unions may have restrictions on who can join.

Credit unions offering business loans are uncommon, but many offer personal loans that can be used for smaller business expenses.

Some of the more accessible credit unions in Washington State include:

  • Alaska USA Federal Credit Union 
  • Boeing Employees Federal Credit Union (BECU)
  • First Technology Federal Credit Union
  • OnPoint Community Credit Union 
  • Wings Financial Credit Union

Bad Credit? Your Best Options

According to conventional wisdom, if you have poor credit, you’re out of luck when it comes to financing. These days, that’s not really the case. While good credit will definitely make it easier to find funding, there are numerous lenders and financial products that are more concerned with your cash flow and business fundamentals than they are an abstract number.

If your credit is bad, consider:

  • Online Lenders: The online lending industry grew in the ashes of the 2008 market crash, with many specializing in lending to businesses with good fundamentals but bad credit. Some of the lenders use predatory practices and should be avoided at all costs, but there are many that have established transparent and reasonable lending practices.
  • Non-traditional Products: Loan products like invoice factoring aren’t very concerned about your credit history. If you’re in real estate, hard money is also an option, but keep the risks in mind.
  • Credit Cards: This is not a loan per se, but one of the easier ways to build your credit back up is to get a credit card and pay it off every month. Even if you don’t qualify for the sexiest business credit cards out there, many companies are willing to extend small credit lines to risky customers. In the worst case scenario, there’re still secured credit cards.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

buying a pos system

It’s easy to get into the mindset of having to make yourself look good to a potential lender. But make no mistake, you’re “buying” a product from them. It’s most important that they meet your needs and standards.

Here are some things to keep in mind when seeking a lender:

  • Your Industry: Some lenders specialize in lending to specific industry. Others can’t or won’t lend to certain industries. If they can’t write you a loan, cross them off your list.
  • Borrowing Amount: If you need $5,000, you’ll be looking at different lenders than if you need $5 million. Choose the right tool for the job.
  • Rates & Fees: How much is it going to cost you? Are the lender’s rates in line with the industry standard? Do they tell you what additional fees they charge, or do they hide them?
  • Time To Funding: Do you need the money right away or next quarter? Choose a lender that can work with your timetable.
  • Term Lengths: You’ll want to know how quickly you have to pay the money you’re borrowing back. Make sure you can afford the loan over the long-term.
  • The Type Of Expense Being Financed: Some financial products are limited in what they can be used for. Do you need a lump sum of cash? Or do you need a line of credit that you can draw upon periodically?
  • Collateral: Secured loans and lines of credit require some form of collateral, usually in the form of an asset, real estate, or cash deposit. If you don’t have collateral to put it, you’ll want to look at unsecured loans.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, we’ve helped you get a better sense of the funding options available to businesses in Washington State. Whether you’re just starting or expanding, there should be a lender out there who can fit your needs.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Want to see more options? We can help you compare lenders and credit cards.

Just starting out? Check out our resources for startups.

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

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The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Utah Small Businesses

You’re a business owner in Utah, and you need extra cash for your business. Whether you need capital to get a new business off the ground or you need a financial boost for your established business, there are financing options out there — you just have to know where to look.

If you’ve done some online research and you keep getting the same generic list of lenders, you’re in luck. We’ve compiled a list of the best lenders that serve businesses in Utah. Read on to learn more about the best loan and financing resources for small businesses in your state.

The Best Online Business Lenders For Utah Businesses

Technology has made life easier than ever. Our smartphones keep us connected anywhere in the world, our TVs are smarter, and even our businesses can benefit from technology. The internet allows us to do more than ever when growing our businesses, from employing new advertising techniques to applying for an online loan.

An online business loan is a loan that you apply for and receive online. Online loans eliminate the need for face-to-face meetings at a financial institution. Instead, you can compare, research, and even apply for and receive a loan from the comfort of your home or office.

With an online business loan, you submit your application securely online. For underwriting purposes, you also submit your documentation such as bank statements and tax returns through email or a secure online portal. Your lender can prequalify you, approve your loan, and even disperse loans online.

Even though online lending has opened up new financing opportunities for business owners, it does raise the question: which lender do I choose? Having so many options can be overwhelming, but you can start your research with one of these top picks.

Lendio

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When you’re shopping for loans online, make Lendio one of your first stops. Lendio itself isn’t a lender. Instead, this is a loan aggregation site that connects you with a network of over 75 lenders. With one application, you’ll receive multiple offers from lenders including Bank of America, American Express, and BlueVine. The service is free to use and applying does not affect your credit score.

No matter what type of business loan you need, you can find it on Lendio. Some of the loan options available include:

  • Business Line Of Credit: Up to $500,000 with 1 – 2-year terms
  • Small Business Administration Loans: Up to $5 million with 10 – 25-year terms
  • Equipment Financing: Up to $5 million with 1 – 5-year terms
  • Merchant Cash Advances: Up to $200,000 with terms up to 2 years
  • Term Loans: Up to $2 million with 1 – 5-year terms
  • Business Credit Cards

Through Lendio, you can also apply for invoice financing, acquisition loans, startup loans, and commercial mortgages.

Rates, terms, and fees are determined by each lender that makes an offer and may be based upon your time in business, annual revenue, personal and/or business credit score, and other factors.

SmartBiz

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If you have solid credit and revenue, a Small Business Administration loan is an affordable financing option to consider. However, the application process for an SBA loan is notoriously long and difficult … that is until SmartBiz changed the financing game.

SmartBiz is an online marketplace that specializes in SBA loans. Through SmartBiz, you can apply for 7(a) commercial real estate loans up to $5 million. Rates are between 6.75% and 8%, with repayment terms up to 25 years. Loan proceeds can be used to purchase commercial space or refinance an existing commercial mortgage.

To qualify, the property must be at least 51% owner-occupied. You must be in business for at least 2 years and have a personal credit score of at least 675. You must also be able to show sufficient cash flow to make your monthly loan payment.

SmartBiz also provides SBA debt refinancing and working capital loans with rates of 8% to 9%. With these loans, you can borrow up to $350,000. There are 10-year repayment terms associated with these loans. Funds from your loan can be used to purchase equipment, pay for marketing and advertising costs, cover operating expenses, buy inventory, hire and train employees, or refinance existing debt.

To qualify, you must be in business for at least 2 years and have a minimum credit score of 640. You must also demonstrate sufficient cash flow to cover the monthly payment of your loan.

If you don’t qualify for an SBA loan or you want to pursue another financing option, SmartBiz has bank partners for equipment financing, working capital, and debt refinancing. You can receive up to $200,000 with repayment terms between 2 and 5 years. Fixed interest rates on non-SBA loans are between 7.99% and 24.99%.

To qualify for a non-SBA loan, you must be in business for at least 2 years and have a credit score of at least 640. You must have sufficient cash flow to make your monthly loan payment.

StreetShares

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StreetShares is an online lender that has three financial products to choose from: the Patriot Express line of credit, term loans, and contract financing.

With a Patriot Express line of credit, you can receive up to $250,000 with terms between 3 and 36 months. Interest rates are between 6% and 14% with a draw fee of 2.95%.

StreetShares has installment loans up to $250,000 with terms between 3 and 36 months. The interest rate is between 6% and 14% with a closing fee of 3.95% to 4.95%. If you qualify, you’ll be able to borrow up to 20% of your annual revenue. If you have $100,000 in annual revenue, you’ll be able to borrow up to $20,000.

To qualify for either an installment loan or line of credit, your company must be in business for at least 1 year. Your personal credit score should be at least 620, and you must have a minimum annual revenue of $25,000.

Contract financing with StreetShares is similar to invoice financing. You submit an invoice to the lender for your unpaid contract and receive up to 90% of the invoice amount. Once the invoice is paid, you’ll receive the remaining balance, less lender fees. Rates start as low as 1% for 30-day invoice advances, and there are no limits to the invoices being financed. Federal, state, and commercial contracts are eligible for contract financing. There is no minimum credit score required to qualify.

Kabbage

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To qualify for many business loans and financial products, a minimum of 2 years in business and a good to excellent credit score is required, but what if you don’t meet these requirements? If this sounds familiar, lenders like Kabbage can help.

Borrowers may receive lines of credit with maximum limits up to $250,000 through Kabbage. Repayment terms are set at 6 months or 12 months based on the amount of the draw. A monthly fee is charged for every month you carry a balance, with fees ranging between 1.5% to 10% based on the performance of your business.

To qualify for a Kabbage line of credit, you must be in business for at least 1 year. Revenue requirements are either: $50,000 annually or $4,200 monthly for the last 3 months. There are no credit score requirements.

Kabbage looks at the performance of your business to determine your eligibility and your credit limit. Kabbage analyzes your business performance through your linked business accounts, including your business checking account, PayPal, Amazon, and accounting software.

Prosper

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If you’re a new business or you haven’t yet opened your doors, getting a business loan can be a major challenge. If you have a good personal credit score, why not consider a personal loan for business?

When you apply for a personal loan for business, the lender will only evaluate your personal credit score and income. Your time in business, business credit score, and business revenues won’t be factors in your approval.

One lender that offers personal loans for business in Utah is Prosper. Through Prosper, you can apply for loans from $2,000 to $40,000. Funds can be used for any business purpose, including purchasing equipment, paying operating costs, or covering an emergency expense. APRs for Prosper loans range from 6.95% for the most creditworthy borrowers to 35.99%. An origination fee of 2.41% to 5% of the total loan amount is added to your loan.

To qualify for a Prosper loan, you must have a personal credit score of at least 640 and a credit history of at least 2 years. Your debt-to-income ratio must be below 50% to be approved for a Prosper loan.

Banks & Credit Unions In Utah

A traditional loan from a bank or credit union is one of the most affordable options for your business. If you have a good credit score, high annual revenue, and a solid time in business, you may qualify for a bank or credit union loan with favorable terms and low interest rates.

Even if you face some challenges that disqualify you from receiving a traditional loan, banks and credit unions have other financing options, such as lines of credit, credit cards, and SBA loans. If you’re a business owner in Utah looking for a financial institution, consider one of these top options

Chase Bank

Chase Bank is one of the nation’s leading financial institutions. There are multiple Chase branch and ATM locations throughout the state of Utah in cities including but not limited to Salt Lake City, Providence, Saratoga Springs, and South Ogden.

Chase Bank offers multiple financial products for business owners. As a Chase Bank customer, you can apply for a business checking or savings account, term loans, equipment loans, and lines of credit. Chase Bank also provides commercial real estate financing and is an intermediary lender of Small Business Administration loans.

You can also apply for business credit cards with some of the best rewards programs in the industry. Qualified borrowers can apply for products including the Chase Ink Business Unlimited card and the Chase Ink Business Preferred card.

Card Card Name Annual Fee Introductory Rate Rewards Next Steps

Chase Ink Business Preferred℠

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

Chase Ink Business Cash℠

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

Chase Ink Business Unlimited℠

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

Zions Bank

Zions First National Bank was originally founded in 1873 in Salt Lake City. Since its founding, the financial institution has expanded to 122 banking centers across the states of Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho.

Zions Bank is a one-stop financial shop for business owners in Utah. Zions Bank offers many services including business checking accounts and credit cards. Zions Bank also has lines of credit up to $50,000, business term loans up to $100,000, and equipment loans and leases. Commercial real estate loans, equity lines of credit, SBA 7(a) loans, and invoice factoring are also available to qualified borrowers.

America First Credit Union

If you’d rather be a credit union member than a bank customer (read about the reasons why a credit union loan may be better), one of the top credit unions in Utah is America First Credit Union. This financial institution was founded in 1939 and since that time has grown to 130 full-service branches. America First Credit Union is ranked as one of the top credit unions by assets and memberships in the United States.

Business owners in Utah can take advantage of the many financial products America First Credit Union has to offer. In addition to checking and savings accounts, members can apply for business credit cards, unsecured lines of credit up to $50,000, and secured lines of credit with 7-year repayment terms in amounts up to $100,000.

Additional products and services include commercial vehicle loans, equipment loans, term loans up to $15,000, business acquisition and franchise loans, commercial real estate loans, and SBA loans.

To be eligible for membership, you must live, work, attend school, or worship in one of the five counties in Utah that are served by the financial institution. You also qualify if you are an owner, employee, or supplier for the foodservice industry in Utah, are employed by Select Employer Group, are employed by America First Credit Union, or have an immediate family member or household member that meets eligibility requirements.

Utah Non-Profit Lenders

Best Nonprofit Integrations For QuickBooks Online

If you don’t qualify for traditional loans, you may find the financing you need through a non-profit lender. From startups to businesses in underserved communities, these non-profit lenders in Utah can help you get the money you need to start or expand your business.

Utah Microloan Fund

The Utah Microloan Fund — also known as the UMLF — has provided entrepreneurs and business owners with low-interest loans since 1991. The UMLF focuses on distributing funds to new businesses and startups, businesses that lack collateral for traditional loans, and businesses that have credit challenges.

The UMLF has several different loan programs available to business owners in Utah. The traditional UMLF loan has maximum borrowing limits of $50,000 with terms up to 72 months. Interest rates are set at the prime rate plus 4% to 7%. An origination fee of 3% to 6% is added to the cost of the loan.

There are two different options for UMLF’s Seed Funding Loan: an unsecured loan and a loan secured with collateral or a cosigner. When secured with collateral or a cosigner, the maximum borrowing amount is $10,000. With no collateral or cosigner, the maximum amount is $7,500. Both loans have terms up to 36 months and interest set at the prime rate plus 7.5% to 8.5%. Each loan has an origination fee of 3% of the loan amount.

To qualify for a loan, all interested business owners must complete loan orientation and the loan application packet. Once submitted, the borrower will be contacted if the application is approved. Once approved, borrowers will work with the organization to refine business plans and cash flow statements. Business plans and cash flow statements will be presented in front of the organization’s loan committee, who will determine if the loan is approved.

Kiva

Kiva is an online non-profit organization that helps entrepreneurs and businesses around the nation get the capital they need when traditional loans aren’t an option. Through Kiva, you can receive up to $10,000 with 0% interest.

To receive a loan, start by filling out the 20-minute application with Kiva. Once approved, invite your friends and family to lend to you through the online platform to prove your creditworthiness. Then, your loan can be viewed by lenders for up to 30 days. Once you receive the money you need, you’ll have up to 36 months to repay your loan.

To qualify, you must live in the US, be at least 18 years old, and use the loan proceeds for business purposes. Your business must be based in the U.S. You must not have any active foreclosures, bankruptcies, or liens on your credit report. Businesses engaged in direct sales, MLM, illegal activities, and financial investing are disqualified. There are no minimum credit score requirements to apply.

Grants For Utah Businesses

startup grants

There are a few grants available for Utah businesses centered on research and development and technology. It’s important to note that there is a lot of competition for these grants, which are awarded to the most innovative small businesses.

Technology Commercialization & Innovation Program

One grant program is the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development’s Technology Commercialization & Innovation Program, or TCIP. Through this program, early-stage companies can receive grants to commercialize cutting-edge technology and bring it to the market.

Grants are awarded in amounts from $50,000 to $200,000 to qualifying small businesses. First-time recipients can request up to $100,000. Companies that have received a TCIP grant in the past can request the maximum $200,000. Past recipients have worked in industries including information technology, outdoor products, and energy and natural resources.

To qualify, businesses must submit an application along with documentation and information. All application packets must include a 10-page PowerPoint, a line item budget, financial projections for the next 5 years, a project overview video, a capitalization table, and current financials.

SBIR-STTR Federal Grants

Business owners in Utah can also consider federal grant programs, such as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants. About $2.5 billion in grants are awarded annually to fund small business research and development. Small businesses that receive these grants can use funds to pay for salaries and benefits, overhead costs, supplies and materials, and consultants and subcontractors.

Money is distributed in phases. In Phase I, businesses receive an average of $150,000 to fund a 6-month project to prove the feasibility and technical merit of their ideas and technology. In Phase II, businesses must receive an average of $1 million to spend on a 24-month project to expand on the results from the previous phase and evaluate the commercial potential of the idea or technology. The third and final phase is not funded through grants, but some federal agencies may offer contracts to commercialize the product.

To qualify for these federal grants, all applicants must have 51% ownership in an American-owned business. All businesses must be for-profit and have no more than 500 employees.

A good resource for business owners in Utah is the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative SBIR-STTR Assistance Center. This center provides training, workshops, seminars, and resources, as well as proposal evaluation and submission assistance.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

business loan reasons

You have an idea of the lenders out there and the loan options available to your business. Maybe you’ve even explored a few options on your own. Before you start sending out applications or head out to your local bank branch, ask yourself the following questions to find the best lender for your financial needs.

Why Do I Need A Loan?

This one is a no-brainer for most people, but the answer to this question could help you narrow down your list of potential lenders. Let’s say that you need a loan to purchase a new commercial property. A lender that specializes in short-term loans, lines of credit, or loans with low borrowing amounts can be crossed off your list. Once you determine how you plan to spend your loan proceeds, you can focus on the lenders that best match your needs.

How Much Money Do I Need?

You can narrow your list down further by calculating the total amount you want to borrow. Let’s say that you need $500,000. A lender that loans no more than $50,000 won’t be a match for you. Remember to also calculate how much you can afford. Not only will this help you avoid taking on too much debt, but this is also a factor lenders consider when deciding whether to approve your loan.

Do I Qualify?

Your credit score is 620, so it doesn’t make sense to apply with a lender that won’t even consider a score below 680. Understand a lender’s requirements and make sure that you meet all of them before applying. Do you have enough annual revenue? Does your time in business align with the lender’s requirements? Do you live in a state that is serviced by the lender? If you don’t meet the requirements of one lender, move on to the next.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a business owner in Utah, there are plenty of financing options for your small business. Determine what type of loan you need, how much money you need (and can afford) to borrow, and evaluate your lending options. Remember, the goal of your loan is to better your business — not add to your financial burden — so take the time to find the right loan to overcome your financial challenge.

What’s Next
    • Learn what you can write off as small business tax deductions
    • Business loan options that don’t require a credit check
    • See which business credit cards topped this year’s list

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Business Loans For HVAC Companies

business loans for hvac companies

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

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

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

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

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

Loans For Marketing & Advertising

business loans for HVAC

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

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

Medium-Term Loans

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

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

Recommended Option: Fundation

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

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

Loans For Equipment Purchasing

business loans for hvac companies

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

Equipment Loans

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

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

Equipment Leases

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

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

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

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

Recommended Option: Lendio

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

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

Loans For Business Expansion

business loans for hvac companies

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

SBA Loans

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

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

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

Loan Program Description More

7(a) Loans

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

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Microloans

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

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CDC/504 Loans

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

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Disaster Loans

Loans used to rebuild or maintain business following a disaster. 

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Recommended Option: SmartBiz

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

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

Loans For Emergency Funds

business loans for hvac

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

Business Credit Cards

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

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

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

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Chase Ink Business Unlimited


chase ink business unlimited
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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.24% – 21.24%, Variable

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

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

Loans For Working Capital

loans for hvac businesses

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

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

Short-Term Loans

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

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

Recommended Option: PayPal LoanBuilder

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Check Eligibility

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

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

Loans For Covering Payroll

 

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

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

Lines Of Credit

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

Recommended Option: OnDeck

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

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

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

business loans for hvac businesses

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

Why Do I Need A Loan?

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

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

Am I Qualified?

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

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

Do The Rates & Terms Meet My Needs?

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

What You Need To Apply For HVAC Business Loans

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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Business Loans And Other Financing Options For Wholesale Distribution Companies

Wholesale distributors play a critical role in the retail supply chain. It is crucial for a wholesale distributing business to be a well-oiled machine: storing manufacturers’ products, then shipping them as needed to retailers, which then sell these products to customers. If the wholesale distributor fails in its critical tasks, retailers won’t have the products they need, leading to many unhappy customers.

Like it is for other businesses, one of the most important resources for the success of a wholesale distribution company is capital. Heavy equipment, warehouse space, and inventory requirements are just a few of the big expenses these companies face. Incoming cash flows certainly help fund day-to-day operations, but what happens when more capital is needed than is readily available in your checking account?

If you’re running short on funds, a business loan can help. Before signing the dotted line for a loan, read on to explore the different types of financing available to you, which options are best for your situation, and how to kick-off the application process.

Financing Need Best Loan Type Recommended Lender
Purchasing Equipment Equipment Financing Lendio
Business Expansion SBA Loan SmartBiz
Purchasing Inventory Line Of Credit Kabbage
Cash Shortages Invoice Financing BlueVine
Emergency Funding Business Credit Card Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Why Take Out A Loan For A Wholesale Distribution Business?

If you’re in the wholesale distribution business, you may be familiar with situations where you’re running a little short on cash. Whether your business is booming and you need to expand your facilities or your bank account is too low to purchase inventory for a seasonal uptick, there will be times when you need extra money.

With a business loan, you’ll receive the money you need right away with the benefit of being able to pay it back over time. Since there are many different types of loans, the type you choose should be based on the unique financial needs of your business.

Purchasing Equipment

As a wholesale distribution company, your business is reliant upon heavy equipment. From forklifts and pallet jacks that are used in your warehouse to delivery vehicles, software, and mailing systems, your business requires equipment to be efficient. Unfortunately, this equipment doesn’t come cheap.

Whether you’re updating your equipment or adding new equipment as part of your expansion, make these large purchases more affordable for your business by applying for equipment financing.

Equipment Financing

Equipment financing is a type of funding that is used for the purchase of equipment. Instead of paying the full cost up front, you’ll pay a smaller down payment — typically 10% to 20% of the equipment’s cost — and be able to put the equipment into use immediately. You’ll make payments on a scheduled basis to your lender on the balance of the loan. Interest is also charged by the lender for providing the service. The equipment purchased with loan proceeds is the collateral for this type of financing.

There are two main types of equipment financing to consider: equipment loans and equipment leases. With an equipment loan, you’ll make a down payment, followed by regularly scheduled payments. At the end of the repayment term, you take ownership of the equipment. At this time, the equipment is yours to keep, sell, or trade. You own it free and clear.

With an equipment lease, you may also pay a down payment, although it’s typically lower than the down payment required with an equipment loan. You’ll make regular payments for the duration of the lease, which is typically around 2 years. Once your lease is over, you return the equipment and upgrade with a new lease, or you may have the option to pay a lump sum to take ownership of the equipment. While you’re essentially “renting” the equipment, a lease may be a consideration if you want a lower down payment or if you upgrade your equipment frequently.

Credit and revenue requirements vary by lender, but borrowers with solid credit histories and strong businesses qualify for the lowest rates, best terms, and lower down payments.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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Lendio isn’t a direct lender. This loan aggregator allows you to submit just one application to connect with multiple lenders, so you can shop for a loan more efficiently. Through Lendio, you’ll find the most affordable equipment loan for your situation.

Lendio offers access to equipment loans from $5,000 to $5 million. Loan terms are spread out over 1 to 5 years, with interest rates as low as 7.5% for the most qualified borrowers.

To qualify, you must be in business for at least 1 year, have a minimum annual revenue of $50,000, and a personal credit score of at least 650. If your credit score doesn’t meet the minimum requirements, you may qualify based on your cash flow and revenue over the last 3 to 6 months.

Business Expansion

Expansion is a good sign — it means that your business is growing. The drawback, however, is that expanding your business takes money, and you may be stalling because you don’t have the funds. When your business is ready to grow, follow the lead of other smart business owners by applying for a Small Business Administration loan.

SBA Loans

The Small Business Administration, or SBA, has loan programs to provide affordable, flexible financing for businesses that encounter difficulties when applying for loans from traditional lenders.

Loan Program Description More

7(a) Loans

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

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Microloans

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

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CDC/504 Loans

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

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Disaster Loans

Loans used to rebuild or maintain business following a disaster. 

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SBA loans are backed by the government in amounts up to 85%, so there’s less risk for lenders and higher rates of approval when compared to bank or credit union loans.

There are several programs offered by the SBA. One of the most popular is the 7(a) program. SBA 7(a) loans can be used for almost any business purpose, from real estate purchases to working capital. With a 7(a) loan, you receive up to $5 million with repayment terms up to 25 years. Interest rates are set by the SBA, so these loans are extremely competitive and affordable. SBA 7(a) loans are available through SBA-approved lenders known as intermediaries.

When you’re expanding your business, 7(a) loan funds can be used to purchase land or real estate, pay for improvements in your facilities, or purchase equipment. High borrowing amounts, low interest rates, and flexible usage make 7(a) loans a popular choice among business owners.

For business expansion, another SBA loan to consider is the CDC/504 loan. Through this program, up to 40% of your project costs are funded by an SBA-approved Certified Development Company. A traditional lender provides 50% of the project costs, while you’re responsible for the remaining 10%.

Recommended Option: SmartBiz

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If you’re familiar with SBA loans, you’ve probably heard that the application process is difficult and time-consuming. If the process is intimidating to you, SmartBiz has made it easier for business owners to receive the capital they need.
SmartBiz offers SBA commercial real estate loans for $500,000 to $5 million for qualified borrowers. The interest rate is set at the base rate plus up to 2.75%. As of November 2018, rates are between 6.75% and 8%. Repayment terms are available up to 25 years.

With a commercial real estate loan, you can refinance your commercial mortgage, purchase the property you’re currently occupying, or buy a new commercial property.

SmartBiz also offers working capital and debt refinancing loans between $30,000 and $350,000 with rates between 8% and 9%. Repayment terms for these loans are 10 to 25 years. Loans can be used to purchase equipment, hire new employees, or for other business expansion plans.

To qualify for SBA working capital loans, a minimum credit score of 650 is required. Commercial real estate loans require a credit score of at least 660. The time in business requirement is at least 2 years. No bankruptcies or foreclosures within the last 3 years, open tax liens, and outstanding collections should appear on your credit report.

Anyone who has been delinquent or defaulted on a government loan in the past is not eligible to receive an SBA loan. If real estate is being purchased, the property must be at least 51% owner-occupied. Your business must also be considered a “small business” as defined by the SBA. Depending on the amount of the loan and your credit history, collateral may be required.

Purchasing Inventory

Your retailers depend on you to ship the inventory they need for their brick-and-mortar and online shops. If you don’t have the inventory in stock, you can’t make your shipments. If you don’t make your shipments, you lose business and the revenue that comes with it.

It’s not uncommon to face financial burdens that make purchasing inventory more difficult. A seasonal increase in orders that brings higher expenses, an unexpected emergency, or another situation could prevent you from purchasing needed inventory. Fortunately, there’s a solution: a line of credit that can help you through these tough financial times.

Lines Of Credit

A line of credit works like a credit card. However, instead of using a card to make purchases, you make draws from your line of credit. With every draw, the money is sent directly to your checking account. These funds can be used for any business expense, including the purchase of inventory.

A line of credit is a flexible financing option. Instead of receiving a lump sum for a specific amount, your lender will provide you with a credit limit. You can make multiple draws as needed up to this credit limit. You only pay fees or interest on the portion of the credit that has been used. Most lenders initiate transfers immediately, so you can have funds as soon as the next business day.

Rates, repayment terms, and credit limits vary. With most lenders, a solid credit score yields the best interest rates and terms. If you have a low personal credit score, there are lenders that evaluate the performance of your business to approve your line of credit and set your credit limit.

Recommended Option: Kabbage

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Kabbage provides lines of credit up to $250,000. Depending on the amount borrowed, repayment terms are set at 6 or 12 months. Kabbage charges a monthly fee with rates between 1.5% and 10% on the borrowed portion of funds. If you pay your balance off early, you’ll save money on monthly fees.

To qualify, you must be in business for at least one year. Revenue requirements are as follows: $50,000 in annual revenue or $4,200 in monthly revenues for each of the last three months. When you apply for a line of credit, you’ll link your business accounts — including PayPal, QuickBooks, eBay, and your business checking — so that the lender can assess the health of your business and issue your approval and credit limit. There are no personal credit requirements to qualify.

The application process takes fewer than 10 minutes, and you can be approved immediately. When making draws, transfers are immediate and you can receive your funds as soon as the next business day. However, Kabbage also offers the Kabbage card, which gives you instant access to the funding you need. When using your Kabbage card, a new loan will be taken out with the same rates and terms as traditional draws.

Cash Shortages

Cash shortages happen in any business. In the distribution industry, there are a number of reasons this can occur, including slow-paying customers. It’s not uncommon to have unpaid invoices that have impacted your incoming cash flow. If you’re facing this problem and waiting for payments is affecting your operations, why not use invoice financing to help fill in the gaps?

Invoice Financing

Invoice financing is available for B2B business (like distributors) that are suffering from unpaid invoices and need money immediately to cover business expenses.

The invoices serve as the collateral, and with many lenders, you don’t need a high personal credit score to receive a loan. Instead, the lender will consider the quality and quantity of your unpaid invoices. Your invoices should be of a sufficient amount to cover any fees or interest associated with a loan, and your invoices must be for customers who are likely to pay.

Invoice factoring is one type of invoice financing. The lender pays a portion of the unpaid invoice directly to you. After the lender collects payment from your customer, you’ll receive the remaining balance after fees and interest have been taken out.

With invoice discounting, you’ll receive most of the balance up front. After you collect payment from your customers, you’ll repay the loan along with interest and fees to the lender.

Invoice Financing Invoice Factoring

Uses invoices as collateral for a line of credit

Sell invoices for immediate cash

You are granted a credit facility based on the value of your unpaid invoices, and can draw from your available funds at any time

Factor gives you an advance when the invoice is sent and sends you the rest once the customer pays (minus a factoring fee)

You are responsible for collecting invoice payments

Factor is responsible for collecting invoice payments

Recommended Option: BlueVine

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BlueVine is a lender that provides invoice factoring lines up to $5 million. The factoring fees for receiving the line of credit start at 0.25% per week. BlueVine pays 85% to 90% of your invoice amount up front, and pays the remainder, minus fees, after the invoice is paid.

To qualify, you must have a minimum personal credit score of 530 and a time in business of at least 3 months. You must be a B2B business with qualifying invoices and at least $100,000 in annual revenue. The application process takes about 10 minutes, and you can be approved for financing as quickly as 24 hours after applying.

Emergency Funding

Emergencies happen, and often, these emergencies come with unexpected expenses. When these emergencies occur, time is of the essence. A flexible form of financing, like a business credit card, can help you get over these financial hurdles and even reward you for responsible borrowing.

Business Credit Cards

A business credit card is a great resource to have if an emergency arises. Once you’ve been approved for a business credit card, you can put it into use immediately. You won’t need additional approval to use your card, and you won’t have to wait on money transfers.

Once you’re approved for a business credit card, your lender will set a credit limit. You can make multiple purchases as needed up to this credit limit, so you can cover your emergency, purchase supplies and inventory, or tackle other business expenses. The borrowed portion of funds will incur interest based on the rate assigned by the lender. The sooner you pay down or pay off your balance, the more affordable this financing becomes. As you pay down your balance, funds become available to use again.

With a solid credit history, you’ll receive lower interest rates and a higher credit limit. There are options available for high-risk borrowers with low credit scores, including secured cards, which require a deposit and can help build credit.

Some of the best business credit cards have rewards programs. With every purchase, you’ll receive points to redeem for perks or cash back offers as a reward for responsible use.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Chase Ink Business Unlimited


chase ink business unlimited
Apply Now 

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.24% – 21.24%, Variable

The Chase Ink Business Unlimited card is targeted at borrowers with good to excellent credit. This card comes with no annual fee and an introductory APR of 0% for the first 12 months. After the introductory period, the Chase Ink Business Unlimited has variable APR of 15.24% to 21.24%.

In addition to competitive rates, the Chase Ink Business Unlimited card gives 1.5% cash back on all purchases. The card also has a bonus offer of $500 cash back after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months of opening your account.

If you don’t qualify for the Chase Ink Business Unlimited card due to your credit score, check out other business credit card options for fair credit and bad credit.

The Best Loan Options For Starting A Distribution Business

If you’re an established business with proof of solid performance, getting a business loan isn’t difficult. However, what if your financial needs are different? What do you do when you need money to get your business started?

Getting a loan to start a distribution business can be a challenge. After all, traditional lenders like banks and credit unions want to work with established, low-risk businesses. Because your business is non-existent or very new, you haven’t yet proven yourself to these lenders. But that doesn’t mean you’re completely out of options. You may just have to get a little more creative and dig a little deeper to find a lender that will work with your situation.

In addition to the SBA loans we’ve already discussed, the SBA has a Microloans program that’s suitable for new businesses and startups.

SBA 504 Loans

Borrowing Amount

$500 – $50,000

Term Lengths

Up to 6 years

Interest Rates

6.5% – 13%

Borrowing Fees

Possible fees from the loan issuer

Personal Guarantee

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

Collateral

Collateral normally required, but depends on the lender

Down Payment

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

SBA-approved nonprofit lenders can provide up to $50,000, although the typical loan is around $13,000. Loan proceeds can be used to purchase inventory, supplies, fixtures, furniture, or equipment. Funds can also be used as working capital. Rates can’t exceed the limits set by the SBA and are generally between 8% and 13%. Borrower requirements include a credit score in the high 600s and qualifying as a small business based on the SBA’s definition.

If you don’t qualify for an SBA Microloan, other nonprofit organizations have microloan programs available. Credit requirements, maximum borrowing amounts, rates, and terms vary by lender. In addition to microloans, many nonprofits offer additional resources for new business owners, including training, classes, and mentorships. Looking for a microlender? Check out the options below.

Lender Max. Borrowing Amount Rates Req. Credit Score Next Steps

$500,000

2.9% – 18.72% factor rate

550

Apply Now

$250,000

9% – 36% factor rate

500

Apply Now

$500,000

9.4% – 99.7% APR

500

Apply Now

Another financing option to cover startup expenses is a personal loan. If you have a high credit score, you may be able to obtain a personal loan with low rates that can be used to fund your business. Approval for a personal loan will be based on your personal credit score and history, as well as your personal income. The following lenders offer reasonable rates for personal loans that can be used for business:

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

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

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

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

lending club logo

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

You can also jump online and look into peer-to-peer lending options and crowdfunding. Peer-to-peer loans are often easier to qualify for than traditional bank loans, while crowdfunding allows you to use a platform to raise money from investors.

Finally, loans from a friend or family member could be an option that works for you. Make sure that any loan agreement is on paper and signed by all parties involved. Be careful to treat the loan just as you would any other by paying it back on time as scheduled.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

In order to receive a loan, you have to choose a lender that is willing to work with you. In the past, most business loans were obtained from a bank, credit union, or another traditional lender. Today, there are more options than ever thanks to online lending.

The good news is that with so many lenders, it’s easy to find at least one willing to work with you – even if you have credit challenges, a short time in business, low annual revenues, or other factors that would disqualify you from traditional loans. The bad news is that finding the right lender can be overwhelming. With so many choices, which is best for you? To narrow down the lender pool, ask yourself these key questions to find the best loan for your financial situation.

How Will I Use The Loan?

This should be an easy question to answer. Why do you need a loan? Did an emergency expense pop up out of the blue? Have you been planning an expansion for the last 6 months and you’re ready to take action? By knowing how you plan to use the loan, you’ll be able to select the loan product best for that situation and can narrow down your selection of lenders.

Let’s say you want to expand your business and need a commercial real estate loan. In this case, lenders that offer short-term loans or lines of credit with low limits wouldn’t be the right choice. Instead, you’d want to find lenders that offer long-term loans with low interest rates, like SBA loans.

How Much Money Do I Need?

You should never apply for a loan without an idea of how much you need and how much you can afford to borrow. Taking money just because a lender offers it is can lead to unnecessary debt that can negatively impact your business. Instead, run some calculations and borrow only what you truly need.

Once you’ve figured out how you’re going to use the loan, take the time to figure out what amount would cover that financial need. Going back to the commercial real estate example, you could begin looking at properties online comparable to what you’d like to purchase to get an idea of the market values in your area. If your loan is going to be used to purchase equipment, shop around, get bids and quotes, and have an idea of the total cost of your purchase.

Not only will this help you prevent unnecessary debt, but it can also help whittle down the number of lenders you’re considering. If your loan needs are $500,000, a lender that has maximum borrowing limits of $100,000 can be crossed off of your list.

Do I Meet All Borrower Requirements?

Before you apply for a loan, make yourself familiar with the lender’s borrowing requirements. Time in business, annual revenue, and credit scores are factors considered by most lenders. If you don’t meet the requirements of the lender, you won’t qualify for a loan.

Most lenders perform a soft credit pull when prequalifying you for a loan. A hard credit pull — the kind that shows up on your credit report — is performed further along in the process for most financial products. However, some lenders do perform a hard pull once you hit “Submit” on your application. Avoid an unnecessary inquiry by ensuring that you meet all credit requirements. Before you apply, make sure to check your free credit score online.

Remember, there are many financing options available to business owners, regardless of credit score, time in business, or revenues. Take the time to find the loans that you’re qualified to receive.

Does The Lender Offer Rates & Terms That Work For My Business?

When you select your lender, you want to work with one that will offer you the best rates and terms for your particular situation. A short-term loan that’s funded almost immediately may seem appealing, but a high overall cost of borrowing could put a burden on your business. If you have a solid credit score and a healthy business profile, you should be able to shop around to find rates and terms that are most affordable for you.

If you have credit challenges, there are options available for you. However, there are some drawbacks to these high-risk financial products, like high interest rates and fees or daily payment requirements. If you don’t need the money immediately, you can take steps to boost your credit score so you can apply for a more affordable loan in the future.

What You’ll Need To Apply For A Wholesale Distribution Loan

You’ve decided what type of loan best fits your needs, and you’ve calculated how much you need and can afford. You’ve selected a lender. Now, it’s time to begin the application process. Before you start, there are a few key items the lender will require to approve and fund your loan.

For all loans, you’ll be required to provide basic information about yourself and your business. This includes the name of your business, contact information, your social security number, and your federal tax ID. For some loans, such as business credit cards, this may be the only information you need.

For other loan options, you’ll be required to submit documentation. This documentation will allow the lender to see how your business is performing and if you’ll be able to afford a loan. Documentation requirements vary by lender, but commonly requested documents include:

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

If you’re a new business, you may be required to submit the resumes of all business owners, a detailed business plan, and financial projections. If your loan requires collateral, you’ll submit information about the collateral you’re putting up to back the loan. If no collateral is required, you may still be required to sign a personal guarantee or agree to a blanket lien before receiving your loan. Learn more about business loan requirements.

Application, underwriting, approval, and funding times vary based on the type of loan you’re trying to receive. SBA loans take at least several weeks, while lines of credit and business credit cards may be approved on the spot. During the application process, your lender may need to speak with you to ask questions about information and documentation you’ve submitted or to request additional information. Make sure your lender has current contact information on file and that you make yourself available for calls or emails as needed to continue moving through the loan process.

Final Thoughts

Running a distribution business takes organization, hard work, and capital. As a business owner, it’s your job to bring these things to the table, but it’s understandable when money becomes an issue. A business loan can be an excellent resource to keep operations running smoothly or to grow your business provided you do your planning, shop around for the best rates, and understand what your business can afford.

What’s Next
    • Check out the top 8 small business startup loan options
    • Business loan options that don’t require a credit check
    • Your guide to low-cost SBA loans

The post Business Loans And Other Financing Options For Wholesale Distribution Companies appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Top Business Financing Options For Contractors

As a professional contractor, it takes the right resources to complete each job. From equipment to employees and insurance, careful planning, preparation, and the right tools for the job are always required. No matter what type of contractor you are, you have one thing in common with other contractors and business owners: the need for capital to operate and expand your business.

While it’s great to be able to pull the funds you need from your own bank account to cover your expenses, this isn’t always a possibility. For times when you need financial help, consider a business loan for contractors. A business loan can be used to expand your business, fund daily operating expenses, or fill in gaps during seasonal lulls.

Before you start your loan application, first understand the types of loans available to you and which is best for boosting your business. Whether you’re an electrician, carpenter, plumber, painter, or another type of contractor, you have financing options.

Read on to learn more about business loans for contractors, choosing your lender, and how to apply for the financing you need.

Financing Need Best Loan Type Recommended Lender
Purchasing Equipment Equipment Loan Lendio
Supplies & Inventory Line of Credit Kabbage
Working Capital SBA Loan SmartBiz
Marketing & Advertising Short-Term Loan LoanBuilder
Emergency Funds Business Credit Card Chase Ink Business Cash
Cash Shortages Invoice Financing BlueVine
Hiring, Training & Payroll Installment Loan OnDeck

Purchasing Equipment

No matter what industry you’re in, as a contractor, heavy equipment is a must for your business. If you specialize in land grading, a skid steer is necessary to complete each job. Maybe you need a work van or truck to move from job to job or even an equipment trailer to transport your equipment around town. Regardless of what type of equipment you need for your projects, one thing is certain: equipment can be expensive.

Even if your business is successful, tying up tens of thousands – or even hundreds of thousands – of dollars from your own pocket could be financially damaging to your company. Instead of shouldering this financial burden alone, consider applying for an equipment loan.

Equipment Loans

With an equipment loan, the lender provides funding to purchase equipment. You’ll pay just a small down payment — typically 10% to 20% of the purchase price — and can then put the equipment into use immediately. You’ll then repay the loan with interest through regularly scheduled payments that are typically made monthly or weekly.

Equipment loans can be used to purchase all types of equipment, from heavy equipment to vehicles. The equipment purchased with loan proceeds is used as the collateral. Repayment terms, interest rates, and down payment requirements are determined by the lender and are typically based on creditworthiness, annual revenue, and other factors.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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When you’re shopping around for business loans, Lendio is an excellent resource. Lendio is a loan aggregator, which means that you’ll connect with multiple lenders with just one application. Once you’ve filled out the application, you’ll receive offers and can easily compare which are the best for your business.

Lendio connects contractors and other business owners with a variety of financial products, including equipment loans. Interest rates start at 7.5%. Borrowers can apply to receive between $5,000 and $5 million. Repayment terms of 1 to 5 years are available. Loan proceeds can be used for the purchase of any type of equipment, including heavy equipment, software, office furniture and fixtures, vehicles, appliances, and more.

To qualify, you must have $50,000 in annual revenue. You must be in business for at least 12 months, and a minimum credit score of 650 is required. If your credit score is lower than 650, you may be matched with a lender if you have solid cash flow and revenue.

Supplies & Inventory

In addition to equipment, supplies and inventory are also important to the operations of your business. No matter what type of supplies you need — lumber, hand tools, paint, ladders — these expenses can pile up quickly.

If you’re in need of inventory and supplies but your cash flow is a little short, you can receive a loan to cover this expense. A financial product that works well for supply and inventory purchases is a line of credit.

Lines Of Credit

A line of credit is a flexible financing option that can be used as needed. When you receive a line of credit, you can make multiple draws up to and including your assigned credit limit. Once a draw is initiated, most lenders transfer funds immediately, which are then available in your business checking account as soon as the next business day.

A line of credit can be used to purchase supplies and inventory and comes in handy when you’re unsure of exactly how much money you need. Interest is only charged on the borrowed amount. As you repay your line of credit, funds become available for you to use again as needed.

Credit score, time in business, and annual revenue requirements vary by lender. Some lenders put more weight on incoming cash flow over personal credit score, making it possible for business owners with credit challenges to receive a loan.

Recommended Option: Kabbage

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Kabbage is a lender that offers lines of credit up to $250,000 to qualified borrowers. Repayments are made on a monthly basis over a period of 6 or 12 months, which is determined by the amount borrowed. Fee rates vary from 1.5% to 10% based on business performance.

One of the benefits of working with Kabbage is access to the Kabbage card. This card gives you instant access to funding. Use your Kabbage card like a credit card for on-the-spot payments without waiting for a transfer. Once you’ve made a purchase, a new loan will be created under your account with the same rates and terms as traditional draws.

To qualify for a Kabbage line of credit, you must have either $50,000 in annual revenue or $4,200 in monthly revenue for the last 3 months. You must be in business for at least 1 year to qualify. During the application process, your business accounts — such as business checking, PayPal, Amazon, and Stripe — are connected to determine your maximum credit limit.

Working Capital

Every business needs working capital — money that’s used to pay day-to-day operating expenses. While your incoming cash flow should cover these regular expenses, it’s not uncommon to come up a little short from time to time. A slow season, unexpected expenses, and other issues could affect your incoming cash flow and your amount of working capital. When you don’t have adequate working capital, operations can slow … or come to a screeching halt.

If you need working capital and you have a solid credit score, one option to consider is a Small Business Administration loan.

SBA Loans

The Small Business Administration, or SBA, helps business owners succeed through its resources and programs, including small business loans. The SBA offers multiple loan options for small business owners. All loans are distributed through SBA-approved lenders known as intermediaries.

Loan Program Description More

7(a) Loans

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

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Microloans

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

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CDC/504 Loans

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

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Disaster Loans

Loans used to rebuild or maintain business following a disaster. 

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The 7(a) loan program provides up to $5 million for any business purpose with repayment terms of 10 or 25 years. The Express loan is similar to the 7(a) loan but is available in amounts up to $350,000 and comes with an approval decision guaranteed within 36 hours. The SBA Microloans program provides up to $50,000 for smaller capital needs. There are also financing opportunities for veterans, service members, and businesses operating in underserved areas.

While SBA loans have more stringent borrower requirements than other loans, those who qualify will receive competitive interest rates and terms. Many SBA loans, including the ones previously mentioned, can be used for working capital needs.

Recommended Option: SmartBiz

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SmartBiz makes the SBA loan application process easier than ever. Through this lender, you can apply for loans between $30,000 and $350,000 to use for working capital or debt refinancing.

Interest rates are currently 8% to 9% — the prime rate plus 2.75% to 3.75%. Fees will need to be paid to receive a loan, including a packaging fee, referral fee, and guarantee fee. Specific collateral is not needed but a blanket lien is required.

To qualify for a SmartBiz SBA loan, you must be in business for at least 2 years. A minimum personal credit score of 650 is required. Other credit requirements include no bankruptcies or foreclosures in the last 3 years, no open tax liens, and no outstanding collections. Business owners that have past defaults or delinquencies on government loans are ineligible. You must meet the standards of a small business as defined by the SBA, which limits annual revenues, number of employees, and company net worth. You must also show that you have sufficient cash flow and can afford to pay the loan.

Marketing & Advertising

You can’t grow your contracting business without marketing and advertising. To gain new clients and increase your revenue, a marketing and advertising campaign is a must.

Unfortunately, this comes at a price. Of course, you could rely on free methods to get the word out about your business. However, to efficiently and effectively scale your business, a paid campaign is key. A short-term loan could provide you with the extra funds you need to launch your marketing and advertising campaign.

Short-Term Loans

A short-term loan is a loan for a specific amount of money that is paid back over time. While many short-term loans have repayment terms of 12 months or less, more lenders are loaning money with longer terms up to 3 years.

Short-term loans can be used for any business purpose, including funding a marketing and advertising campaign. Many short-term lenders have fewer requirements and can release funds quickly – sometimes even within 24 hours.

One difference with short-term loans, when compared to other financing options, is that a factor rate is used in place of an interest rate. This factor rate is a multiplier that determines the lender’s fee, which is added to the loan balance.

If you pursue a short-term loan for marketing and advertising, it’s necessary to plan out your campaign. Since your loan will be for a specific amount, you’ll need to know exactly how much you plan to spend. If you’re looking for a more flexible option, consider a line of credit to fund your next campaign.

Recommended Option: LoanBuilder

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LoanBuilder, by PayPal, offers short-term loans for $5,000 to $500,000. Repayment terms are between 13 to 52 weeks. Repayment terms are based on the amount of the loan. A one-time fee of 2.9% to 18.72% of the borrowed amount is added to the loan. A blanket lien is required to receive this loan. Once approved, funds can be transferred to your banking account as soon as the next business day.

To qualify for a LoanBuilder loan, your business must be in operations for at least 9 months. An annual revenue of $42,000 and a personal credit score of at least 550 is required. You can’t have any active bankruptcies in order to qualify. The lender will review your credit history and the health of your business to determine your maximum loan amount and rates.

Emergency Funds

An unexpected expense pops up, and you don’t have the money in your account to cover it. This is a scenario that can be stressful for the most level-headed and prepared business owner.

If you don’t have an emergency fund of your own and shuffling your finances to cover an emergency expense isn’t working out, take control of the situation by applying for a business credit card.

Business Credit Cards

If you’ve ever had a personal credit card, you already know how this works. After approval, the lender gives you a credit card that can be used anywhere credit cards are accepted. Your credit card comes with a credit limit. You can make multiple purchases up to and including this limit.

Each month, you make a payment toward the balance and the interest charged by the lender. As you pay down the balance, funds become available to use again. Interest is charged only on the borrowed portion of funds. A credit card can be used for any business expense, such as purchasing supplies or paying recurring expenses. A credit card is a good choice for emergency expenses because it’s available to use immediately. Once you’re approved by the lender and have received your card, you can use it whenever you want without having to wait.

Interest rates are based on your creditworthiness. Credit cards for fair credit scores are available. If your score is very low, you may qualify for a secured card, which requires a cash deposit. By using and paying your card off responsibly, you can increase your credit limit, improve your credit score, and qualify for additional cards or loans with better rates and terms.

Many credit cards even come with rewards programs, which reward you for using and paying off your card. You’ll rack up points to receive cash back, hotel stays, or other benefits with responsible use of your card.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Cash

Chase Ink Business Cash



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.24% – 21.24%, Variable

The Chase Ink Business Cash credit card is a popular choice with business owners that have good to excellent personal credit. The Chase Ink Business Cash card comes with an introductory 0% APR for the first 12 months. After the introductory period, rates are 15.24% to 21.24%.

If you spend $3,000 or more within the first 3 months of opening your account, you’ll receive $500 cash back. The rewards continue with 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent toward internet, cable, phone, and office supply store purchases every year. You’ll receive 2% cash back for the first $25,000 spent at restaurants and gas stations every year, and 1% cash back on every other purchase.

Cash Shortages

From time to time, cash shortages occur in your business. Even when cash flow slows, expenses still need to be paid. Cash flow shortages occur for a number of reasons, from winter slowdowns to slow-paying customers.

If your issue is the latter and you’re waiting to receive payment for completed jobs, cut down your waiting time by applying for invoice financing.

Invoice Financing

Invoice financing is a type of loan that is borrowed against unpaid invoices. There are two types of invoice financing: invoice factoring and invoice discounting.

Invoice Financing Invoice Factoring

Uses invoices as collateral for a line of credit

Sell invoices for immediate cash

You are granted a credit facility based on the value of your unpaid invoices, and can draw from your available funds at any time

Factor gives you an advance when the invoice is sent and sends you the rest once the customer pays (minus a factoring fee)

You are responsible for collecting invoice payments

Factor is responsible for collecting invoice payments

With invoice factoring, you’ll receive a partial payment for your unpaid invoices. Once the lender collects the total invoice amount from your customer, you’ll be paid the remaining amount, minus fees and interest.

With invoice discounting, you’ll receive approximately 90% to 95% of the total invoice. Once you collect full payment from the customer, you’ll repay the lender for the loan, including interest and fees.

Personal credit often doesn’t play a significant role in qualifying for invoice financing. Instead, the quantity and quality of the invoices are most important. That is, are the invoice totals enough to cover fees and interest charged by the lender, and are your customers likely to pay? You also must be a B2B business in order to qualify for invoice financing.

Recommended Option: BlueVine

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BlueVine provides invoice factoring lines up to $5 million. Rates are as low as 0.25% per week, with funding approvals as fast as 24 hours.

With BlueVine’s invoice factoring, you’ll receive 80% to 85% of your invoice total immediately. Once the invoice is paid, you’ll receive the remaining amount after fees have been paid to the lender.

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

If you don’t qualify for invoice factoring from BlueVine, the lender also offers lines of credit up to $250,000 with rates starting at 4.8%.

Hiring, Training & Covering Payroll

Your business is growing, and you’re taking on new projects. This is what you’ve worked so hard to achieve, but what happens when you don’t have the manpower to complete all your jobs? The logical answer is to hire and train new employees, but what do you do when you don’t have the funds to bring on new hires?

Whether you’re stalling on hiring and training new employees due to financial issues or you’re struggling to cover your current payroll, an installment loan may be the solution.

Installment Loans

An installment loan is a loan that is paid in regularly scheduled installments. You’ll receive a lump sum of money, which is paid back over time along with interest.

Installment loans provide you with the money you need for any business expense. You’ll have money in your account to pay your expenses, such as covering payroll or hiring new employees, and can repay it through more manageable daily, weekly, or monthly payments. Rates, terms, and borrowing limits vary by lender and are typically based on creditworthiness and your ability to repay the loan.

Recommended Option: OnDeck

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OnDeck offers small business installment loans up to $500,000. Eligible borrowers can apply for short-term loans with repayment terms of 3 to 12 months or long-term options with repayment terms of 15 to 36 months. Daily or weekly repayment plans are available.

Short-term loans have simple interest rates starting at 9%, while long-term loans have annual rates as low as 9.99%. An origination fee between 2.5% and 4% of the total loan amount is required, and fees are reduced for repeat customers. Interest rates are based on business and personal credit scores, as well as the performance of your business.

To qualify, your business must be in operations for at least one year. You also need a personal credit score of at least 500 and $100,000 in annual revenue.

Best Financing Options For Contractor Startups

You have the skills, you have the drive, and you’re ready to start your contracting business. There’s just one problem: you don’t have the money to start your business and traditional lenders aren’t taking you seriously. Before you throw in the towel, know that there are financing options that will help you get your business off the ground.

Startup and new business owners can look into SBA Microloans, which provide up to $50,000 to cover startup expenses. The average loan amount given through this program is $13,000. SBA Microloans are available through SBA-approved nonprofit intermediary lenders.

SBA 504 Loans

Borrowing Amount

$500 – $50,000

Term Lengths

Up to 6 years

Interest Rates

6.5% – 13%

Borrowing Fees

Possible fees from the loan issuer

Personal Guarantee

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

Collateral

Collateral normally required, but depends on the lender

Down Payment

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

If you don’t qualify for an SBA loan, you can also apply for microloans through nonprofit organizations and alternative lenders like those below:

Lender Max. Borrowing Amount Rates Req. Credit Score Next Steps

$500,000

2.9% – 18.72% factor rate

550

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$250,000

9% – 36% factor rate

500

Apply Now

$500,000

9.4% – 99.7% APR

500

Apply Now

Another option to consider is taking out a personal loan to use for startup expenses. With this strategy, you can receive an affordable loan with favorable terms (if you have a solid credit score) from lenders like these:

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

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

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

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

lending club logo

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

Peer-to-peer, or P2P, loans may be another option for funding your new business venture. Crowdfunding and loans from friends and family are additional loan options available to cover startup costs.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

5 C's of Credit: What Lenders Look For

Before you begin the application process, you must choose the right lender. The internet gives you access to more lenders than ever. While this gives you more choices, it can also complicate the process of finding the right lender that offers the loan you need.

The goal of your loan is to advance your business. You want to ensure that your return on investment is worth the cost of the loan. You also want to make sure that you work with a lender that provides the best rates and terms for your financial situation.

To narrow down your choices, ask yourself a few key questions. Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll be one step closer to selecting your lender and applying for your business loan.

Why Do I Need A Loan?

Before you apply for a loan, ask yourself why you need the money. Having a plan for loan proceeds is the first step in responsible borrowing. When you apply for a loan, you’ll need to communicate with your lender how you plan to use the funds.

Knowing how you will use the money will also help you choose a lender. Let’s say you’re seeking a line of credit. A lender that only offers short-term or installment loans won’t fit your needs, so you can scratch this lender off the list and keep shopping.

How Much Money Do I Need?

Calculating how much money you need before applying for a loan is just a financially responsible move. You never want to take money just because it’s offered to you.

For most loans, you need to request a specific amount from your lender during the application process. Before filling out an application, calculate how much money you need. For example, if you’re purchasing supplies or equipment, shop around and gather quotes and bids. While you’re making your calculations, also figure out how big of a loan you can afford.

By determining how much money you need, you’ll be able to immediately eliminate multiple lenders. If you need $150,000 but a lender has maximum borrowing limits of $100,000, you can simply move on to the next financing option.

Am I Qualified?

Every lender will review your personal information and documentation to determine if you are qualified to receive a loan. Applying to a lender with requirements that you simply don’t meet is a waste of time … and creates an unnecessary inquiry on your credit report.

For every lender you’re considering, evaluate all requirements. Is your personal credit score high enough? How about revenue? Does the lender have a time in business requirement, and if so, do you meet it? Can you provide all documentation that is required by the lender? Pull your free credit score, evaluate your finances, and search for a lender based on this information.

If you don’t qualify with one lender — or several — don’t worry. There are plenty of other options available for your specific financial situation.

Do The Rates & Terms Meet My Needs?

Taking out a loan that you can’t afford is a recipe for disaster. While the loan may be helpful over the short-term, the long-term effects can be damaging. This is why you need to make sure that the rates and terms best fit your needs.

Compare interest rates and repayment terms to make sure you’re receiving the most affordable loan for your situation. For example, a short-term loan that’s funded quickly may seem like a great option when you need quick cash. However, a loan with a high factor rate, short repayment terms, and weekly payments may quickly become too much for your business to handle. Be smart, be responsible, and shop around before signing on the dotted line.

What You Need To Apply For Contractor Business Loans

The process for applying for a contractor business loan differs based on your chosen loan product and the lender you select. For some loans — such as lines of credit and business credit cards – the application process is quick and easy, and you can be approved minutes after applying. For other financing options – such as SBA loans – the application, underwriting, and approval process may take several weeks or longer.

During the application process, you’ll submit information and documentation to the lender. At the most basic level, you’ll provide basic information including your name, business name, address, telephone number, email address, social security number, and federal tax ID number.

While this may be sufficient for some loans, other loans require more documentation. These requirements include:

  • Personal & Business Credit Reports/Scores
  • Personal & Business Bank Statements
  • Income Statements
  • Profit & Loss Statements
  • Balance Sheets
  • Business Licenses
  • Business Owner Resumes
  • Business Plan

Requirements vary by lender. During the underwriting process, your lender may require additional information. Make sure to make yourself available through email or over the phone to provide additional details and documentation as needed to expedite your loan request.

Final Thoughts

Being a contractor certainly has its advantages and can be a profitable venture. However, running your own business doesn’t come without its challenges — especially when it comes to finances. No matter what scenario you face, knowing your loan options, taking the time to find a lender that meets your needs, and borrowing responsibly can help you clear these financial hurdles.

The post Top Business Financing Options For Contractors appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Business Loans For Auto Repair Shops

Cars may be starting to look more like computers, but they still won’t stay on the road long without the help of a trusty local auto repair shop.

If you’re in the auto repair business, you know that the volume of work — as well as the types of problems you’ll encounter — can vary greatly by the day. Even the most prepared shop may run into emergencies where funds aren’t readily available. When that happens, you may need a quick loan to keep things running smoothly. Or you may just need a traditional loan for a large, planned expense.

No matter your need, navigating through the vast market of traditional and alternative lenders can be daunting. Read on and we’ll walk you through how to get business loans for auto repair shops.

Financing Need Best Loan Type Recommended Lender
Purchasing Equipment Equipment Financing Lendio
Supplies and Inventory Short-term Loans PayPal LoanBuilder
Working Capital Lines of Credit OnDeck
Marketing and Advertising Business Credit Card Chase Ink Business Preferred
Business Startup/Expansion/Remodeling SBA Loan SmartBiz

Loan For Equipment Purchasing

We’re not talking parts for your customers’ vehicles. A loan of this type can help you buy the bigger stuff you’ll be keeping in-house and using regularly — things like air compressors, vehicles lifts, brake lathes, and engine hoists.

In most cases, you won’t be purchasing heavy equipment on the fly; you’ll purchase it when you’re first opening your shop, or you’ll have a general idea of when an old piece of equipment needs to be replaced. In these cases, you’re probably less concerned about speed than you are about getting a good deal that fits the needs of your shop.

Equipment Loans

If you prefer to own your equipment, you may want to look into equipment loans. These resemble traditional installment loans in many ways: they’ll accrue interest over time, you’ll make monthly payments, etc. But these loans have a built-in advantage; the equipment you’re purchasing with them can serve as collateral. Collateral is an asset the borrower puts up as security when they take on debt. Secured loans generally have better rates and terms than comparable unsecured loans.

Traditionally, equipment loans cover around 85 percent of the equipment’s costs, but some lenders may cover the entire cost. In most cases, this does not include transportation costs.

Equipment Leases

These are not loans strictly speaking, but they are a popular way to finance heavy equipment. (Read more about equipment loans vs equipment leases.) Leases fall into two broad categories.

Capital leases are essentially an alternative way to buy your equipment. In most cases, you are considered the owner of the equipment under this type of lease. You’ll make monthly payments for the length of the lease, at the end of which you’ll pay a small residual (sometimes as low as $1) to close your account.

Operating leases are closer to the traditional definition of a lease. In this case, you’ll effectively “rent” the equipment over the course of the lease, making monthly payments. At the end, however, you’ll have the option to return the equipment or buy it at fair market value. This type of lease is useful for equipment that becomes obsolete quickly.

Recommended Option: Lendio

If you’re not working with a captive lessor or your preferred bank, it’s nice to be able to hit a bunch of potential equipment financers with one easy application. Lendio is a great way to do just that. Within 72 hours of your application, you should have multiple equipment financing offers on your screen. Funds are typically dispensed within a week of accepting an offer.

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Loans For Supplies & Inventory

You never want to be in a position where your auto body shop is suffering from too much business. Whether you’re facing a very high volume of customers, or an unusual number of customers all presenting with similar car problems, you may find your supplies depleted more quickly than you can collect on your invoices.

When this happens, you may want to consider a short-term loan.

Short-term Loans

Fast, streamlined, and (relatively) expensive, short-term loans are handy when you need a loan fast and want to pay it back quickly.

Short-term loans can usually get money into your hands within a day or two, which makes them a good choice for unplanned emergency financing. Rather than charge interest, short-term loans use a flat fee formula, or factor rate, to calculate the amount of money you’ll owe. For example, if you take out $10,000 at a 1.2 factor rate, you’ll need to pay back $12,000.

Short-term loans usually have terms shorter than a year, so their repayment schedule is much faster than those of medium and long-term loans. If you take out a short-term loan, you’ll be making weekly or daily payments, which, in most cases, will be automatically deducted from your business account.

Recommended Options: PayPal LoanBuilder

Because short-term loans are so fast and volatile, you’ll want some flexibility over the terms of your loan. PayPal’s LoanBuilder product is built around the idea of customization. You’ll be able to customize many elements of your loan to fit your need. Better yet, their rates are reasonable (as short-term loans go).

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Loans For Working Capital

merchant cash advance industry

Working capital is a wonky term for the money you have on hand for daily operational expenses. If everything’s going well, you probably don’t have to give it a lot of thought. But if emergency expenses have tapped into your reserves, you may find yourself unable to pay some small, recurring expense.

Working capital loans tend to be some of the most flexible when it comes to what you can spend your money on.

Lines Of Credit

Since working capital expenses come in many different forms and amounts, it’s nice to have a flexible financial cushion to fall back on. Rather than giving you a lump sum, a business line of credit pre-approves you for a certain amount of money, called your credit limit. While your account is active, you can draw on your credit line as much or as little as you want so long as the total amount you’ve borrowed doesn’t exceed your credit limit.

In most cases, you’ll only pay interest on the amount of money you’ve borrowed, though some lenders do charge administrative and access fees. Revolving credit lines let you reuse credit after you pay off your balance, similar to a credit card. Non-revolving lines of credit don’t have this feature and tend to be extended for specific expenses where the final cost is uncertain.

OnDeck

OnDeck offers quick and easy access to lines of credit, even for businesses with fairly poor credit. Depending on your revenue and other qualifications, you can get a credit limit between $6K and $100K with no draw fee. Just be aware that these are short-term credit lines lasting only about 6 months, but considering the approval process only takes a few days, you don’t need to plan too far ahead. The major downside is the $20/mo administrative fee, but OnDeck will waive that if you withdraw at least $5,000 within the first five days of opening your account.

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Loans For Marketing & Advertising

Word of mouth may be the ideal form of advertising, but sometimes you need to reach outside of your normal sphere of influence to draw in new customers. Or maybe you’re a new business that needs to establish a customer base.

Designing and running an effective advertising campaign is outside of the purview of this article, but most of the good ones require spending some money.

Business Credit Cards

Surprised? Business credit cards are often suggested as a way to smooth out your business’s cash flow, but they also have some other features that make them ideal for certain types of expenses. Namely, rewards programs that allow you to get a return on specific expenses — expenses like advertising.

Just be sure to pay off your balance within your business credit card’s grace period, or the cost in interest will exceed your rewards savings.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Preferred

Chase’s Ink Business Preferred credit card is at the top of most business credit card lists, and for a good reason. It offers one of the most lucrative rewards programs out there. Advertising expenses spent on social media sites and search engines earn triple points (as do travel, shipping, and telecom expenses). Those points can be redeemed on travel, on Amazon, as gift cards, statement credit, or cash back.

The card has an annual fee of $95 and an APR between 17.99% and 22.99%.

Chase Ink Business Preferred



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Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


17.99% – 22.99%, Variable

Loans For Business Startups, Remodeling, Or Expansion

Like equipment purchases, business remodeling and expansion (or starting your business up in the first place) falls under the category of “large, planned expenses.” One of the bigger and more daunting business expenses occurs when you’ve outgrown your space.

If you need additional bays, or even a larger overflow lot, you’ll want a loan that can offer you a large sum of money at a low interest rate. Your best bet is probably an SBA loan.

SBA Loans

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a government agency tasked with advising and assisting small businesses. The SBA doesn’t usually directly lend to businesses. Instead, it guarantees a portion of an SBA-approved lender’s loan. This guarantee allows you to access better rates and terms than your credit rating or business size might otherwise allow.

The two most common forms of SBA loan are the SBA 7(a) and the SBA 504.

SBA 7(a) Loans SBA 504 Loans
  • Working capital
  • Commercial real estate purchasing
  • Equipment purchasing
  • Purchasing a pre-existing business
  • Refinancing debt
  • Purchase an existing building
  • Purchase land and land improvements
  • Construct new facilities
  • Renovate existing facilities
  • Purchase machinery and equipment for long-term use
  • Refinance debt in connection with renovating facilities or equipment

The 7(a) offers the most flexibility in terms of what it can be used for. This can include anything from equipment to non-investment real estate, leasehold improvements, business acquisition, or start-up costs. Depending on your needs, however, you may want to look into the SBA 504 loan, which has a higher maximum borrowing amount. These loans can be used to purchase land and buildings, buy long-term equipment, or make improvements to your lot.

Be prepared to play the long game with an SBA loan, though. They take far longer to close than the other financial products we’ve discussed.

Recommended Option: SmartBiz

You have a lot of choices when it comes to SBA-approved lenders, which likely includes your preferred local bank or credit union. You don’t need our advice for that, right?

But if you need help navigating the complexity of the SBA application process and don’t have a lender specifically in mind, you may want to give SmartBiz a look. SmartBiz can’t do a full end-run around the massive amounts of paperwork required to get an SBA loan, but what they can do is keep the process as organized and streamlined as possible on your behalf. Most importantly, they’ll match you with a lender that fits your needs.

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What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

If you didn’t see a lender you liked above, you can always hunt for one on your own. Though it can be a time-intensive task, there are some ways to strategically narrow your search.

Why Do I Need A Loan?

Lenders serve a variety of needs, but not every lender can serve yours. Even if you don’t like the lenders we recommended, the type of financial products discussed above can be a guide for finding a lender.

A slow, traditional lender may not be able to help you get emergency funds, while a fast, expensive alternative lender may be a poor choice for financing an expensive renovation.

Am I Qualified?

One of the easiest ways to rule out a lender is to figure out if they’ll rule you out.

Most lenders have minimum qualifications for borrowers. The most common ones are:

  • Time In business: Lenders want to know you’ll be around long enough to pay them back.
  • Credit Rating: Some lenders use credit rating as a line in the sand, while others use it mainly to help determine rates.
  • Revenue: Lenders want to make sure you can pay off your debt. Sometimes this number is an absolute minimum (like $100,000/yr); other times it’s relative to the amount of money you want to borrow ($1.50 for every $1).

Additional factors may include the number of other loans you currently have, the industry or state you’re in, and whether you’ve had any recent bankruptcies.

Do The Terms & Rates Meet My Needs?

While it might seem that lenders have the upper hand, remember that you are ultimately the one who gets to decide whether or not the transaction happens.

If a lender charges usurious rates, if they pile on unnecessary fees, or if they demand repayment on a schedule you can’t accommodate, you’ll probably want to keep looking.

Try to get a sense of whether your prospective lender will be a flexible partner or a predatory animal looking to cash-in on any small mistake you make. Do they offer early payment incentives? Incentives for repeat business? Is customer service available and helpful?

Final Thoughts

When it comes to keeping your auto repair shop’s engines purring, you have a ton of potential financial solutions at your disposal. With a little patience, you can find a deal that fits your needs.

Didn’t find a lender you were looking for above? Here are some overviews of our contenders for loans, lines of credit, credit cards, and startup financing.

The post Business Loans For Auto Repair Shops appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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A Guide To Square Credit Card Readers And POS Bundles

 

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

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

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

Square Mobile Card Readers

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

Square Magstripe Readers

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

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

Magstripe Reader Quick Facts 

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

Square Chip Card Reader

 

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

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

Chip Card Reader Fast Facts 

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

Square Contactless + Chip Reader

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

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

Contactless + Chip Reader Fast Facts 

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

Square Countertop POS Devices

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

Square Stand

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

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

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

Square Stand Fast Facts 

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

Square Terminal

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

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

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

Square Terminal Fast Facts 

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

Square Register

 

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

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

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

Square Register Fast Facts

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

Square POS Bundles

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

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

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

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

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

Square Stand POS Kit

 

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

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

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

Square Register POS Kit

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

In addition to the Register itself, the kit includes:

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

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

Other Square POS Kits

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

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

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

Other Square Accessories

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

Should You Finance Your Square Hardware Purchase?

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

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

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

Which Square Hardware Is Right For You?

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

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

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

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

The post A Guide To Square Credit Card Readers And POS Bundles appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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