5 Tips for Choosing and Using a Business Credit CardMarc Prosser
A business credit card can be a convenient way to pay for business expenses, but convenience isn’t the only benefit. Surprisingly, business credit cards are also less expensive than many of the financing options available to small businesses. Plus, they establish credit in your business’ name, allow you to issue employee cards, and help separate business from personal expenses
There are more than 20 business credit cards on the market. How do you choose among them? If you have a business banking account, one option is to check out what cards they offer. You don’t necessarily have to go through your bank, though, and in any case, you’ll want to look around for the best deal. Here are 5 tips for choosing a business credit card and getting the most out of it.
1. Figure out what rewards are best for you.
Business credit cards often have rewards and cashback programs that are designed specifically for businesses. It’s not uncommon for credit card companies to offer the same card in consumer and business versions, but the business version will offer rewards in business-related categories.
The best way to begin is to take a close look at your previous year’s business expenses and see what types of purchases made up the largest share. Then, choose a card tailored to that pattern of spending.
For example, at my company, we recently started using Amex’s Business Gold Rewards Card because it offers 3% cashback on online advertising, which makes up a major part of our annual spending. If your business spends a lot on air travel, we recommend you consider a card that offers rewards focused on airline miles. If you make daily runs to Staples or OfficeMax, you might want to consider Chase Ink business cards. They offer 5% cash back on office supply purchases.
On a related note, a lot of business owners shy away from business credit cards because of the annual fees that most of them have. Ironically, business cards with annual fees typically offer the most attractive rewards programs, including sign-up points bonuses. That can end up saving you money over time.
2. Be smart about balance transfers.
Balance transfers allow you to move credit card debt or other loans to one low-interest credit card. Balance transfers can be a great way to lower your debt level, but only if used in the right way.
If balance transfers are your primary reason for getting a new credit card, it actually may save you more money to get a consumer credit card. Normally, credit card companies charge 3% of the balance transfer amount as a fee. Chase Slate waives balance transfer fees for 60 days and offers 0% APR for 15 months. It’s probably the best balance transfer card on the market right now.
There are a few business cards that offer 0% APR on balance transfers, but you can’t escape the standard 3% transfer fee. Chase Ink Cash offers 0% APR on balance transfers for 12 months. If you pay back as much of the transferred debt as possible during that window of time, you won’t incur any interest, saving you a nice chunk of change. After the introductory window, the normal balance transfer APR will apply.
3. Take advantage of introductory 0% APR on purchases.
As an incentive for cardholders, several credit card companies offer 0% interest on purchases for a limited period of time (not to be confused with 0% APR on balance transfers).
Amex’s Blue for Business credit card offers 0% interest on purchases for 9 months. Let’s say you purchase $20,000 worth of business equipment on the card right when you open the account. If you pay back that balance in full by the 9th month, you won’t pay any interest. That’s essentially like getting an interest-free loan!
Just keep in mind that once the introductory period ends, the normal APR will apply. And if you don’t make timely monthly payments, the credit card issuer may even charge a higher penalty APR.
4. Don’t forget the other perks that the card offers.
Business owners too often forget that credit cards offer ancillary cardholder benefits, such as rental car insurance, lost baggage compensation, and theft and damage protection. Obviously, no one hopes to need these services, but when things go wrong, they can save you time, money, and heartburn.
Amex business cards offer some of the most useful services. If you’re traveling on business and the airline loses your baggage, Amex will reimburse you up to $1,250 for carry-on baggage and $500 for checked baggage when the airfare is charged to your card. If an urgent legal or financial need arises while traveling, Amex’s 24/7 Global Assistance Hotline will put you in touch with the right people. They even offer an additional 1-year warranty on top of the original manufacturer’s warranty for eligible purchases, such as business equipment.
5. Don’t apply for too many cards at once–it can hurt your credit score.
One final tip when shopping around for a business credit card is to not shop around too much. Each time you apply for a business credit card, the credit card company will do a “hard credit check.” A hard credit check pulls up your entire credit history, and each check dings your personal credit score by up to 5 points. 5 points may not seem like a lot, but it adds up for each credit card application. Moreover, if you have borderline credit or are looking to get another loan in the near future, even a small decrease in your credit score can have a negative impact.
When you receive pre-approval credit card offers in the mail, those are “soft credit checks” that don’t affect your credit. One good strategy is to collect pre-approval offers over a few months and then submit a full application for your favorite card or two among the bunch. That will protect your credit score.
By choosing the right business card and using it wisely, you can pay for business purchases while simultaneously saving money and earning rewards. The tips and recommendations above should help you get started in your search for the small business credit card that is best suited to your business.