A good business credit card can be like fertilizer for a budding company, providing access to capital when you need it. By knowing how to use credit properly, you can begin to enjoy the fruits of your labor sooner.
Every company is different, so, in terms of choosing the right business credit card, you’ll want to consider your company’s spending habits. Do travel expenses loom large because your business model lends itself to constant travel for trade shows and sales? Or is your operation fixed to one location, and you need to constantly restock the supply cabinet for your staff?
Business cards all have unique advantages and rewards, which means that some initial comparison shopping before you apply for one can pay off in the long run. There are a few key factors to note before signing up:
Business credit cards certainly have their advantages, such as higher lines of credit than consumer credit cards and greater flexibility than a loan from the bank. But first, you have to qualify for one.
When issuers approve a business credit card, they can sometimes extend as much as $50,000 in credit, which is much riskier than approving a consumer card. Because of this, they’re typically looking for entrepreneurs with excellent personal credit, as that increases the likelihood a creditor will be paid back in full.
Whichever card you choose, it’s smart to allow for some flexibility by asking for a higher credit limit because there might be extra costs you’re not anticipating. Matthew Toren recommends that self-funded entrepreneurs tack on an extra 20% for incidentals, saying that’s a realistic figure for overages when starting a new business.
For example, maybe you’ll need to create marketing materials to spread the word about your venture. But using a cash back card with a Vistaprint promo code can save a lot of money and make your company look more professional to prospective clients.
For those with bad credit or average credit who don’t qualify for a business credit card, using a consumer credit card with robust rewards can be a nice alternative. Some of these cards come with signup bonuses, such as 0% APR for up to 18 months, which is essentially a free loan if you pay it back before that introductory period ends.
If your business needs more than $50,000 of financing, you’re better off taking out a bank or SBA loan. These loans can be for as much as $250,000, but keep in mind that you’ll be paying monthly interest on a flat rate instead of only paying interest on what you’re actually spending month to month. For this reason, it’s wise to only ask for as much as you’ll actually need.
Now that you know more about business credit cards, it’s time to do your research and choose one that offers the most value based on your business model. The best business credit cards have their own rewards and benefits, so it’s important to think about how you’ll be using your card.
For instance, if your business involves sending people to a lot of conferences or if you have sales personnel constantly on the road, it might be wise to pick a card with great travel rewards that can earn you free flights or complimentary airport lounge access.
Maybe you’ll need to set up an e-commerce site and you’ll be making monthly payments to business web hosting services. Or maybe you’ll be going through a steady stream of office supplies. In this case, picking a card with cash back rewards could be the better option.
When it comes to small business credit cards, you’re better off getting the highest credit limit possible because credit agencies factor in how much of your available credit you’re using, among other details, when determining your business credit score. So request a higher line of credit from the issuer even if you don’t need it.
Many business credit cards allow the account holder to set individual limits on employee cards, so you can keep an eye on spending to ensure Bob from Sales isn’t maxing out the company’s credit trying to impress clients.
Regular use of a business credit card and paying the bill on time helps cardholders build their business credit score, which is key to a company’s growth. The better your track record of managing credit as a business owner, the better your chances of securing future investments, such as bank loans and capital raises. And these are the types of strategical moves that can help your company make its ascent to an enterprise-level business.
From the initial seed of a business idea to growing your business into profitability, it’s important to be wise with company finances and use the system to your advantage.
Entrepreneurs can achieve their goals through education, careful planning, and using business credit cards strategically to earn rewards and build business credit.
Lauren Keys is editor-in-chief at DealCrunch.com, an online publication that highlights the retail industry’s movers and shakers, up-and-coming startups, influencers, business solutions, and more. With deep dives into brands and trends, DealCrunch keeps retail executives — from marketing and logistics leads to administrative and business development heads — informed of relevant industry news.