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Reviews, Small Business

ForwardLine Small Business Loan Review

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

personal loan_lg

While most “traditional” small business loans are based on factors such as credit, cash flow, and number of years in business, ForwardLine does things a little differently.

It’s a unique small business lender because the loans largely predicated on monthly credit card sales. Unfortunately, this disqualifies businesses that don’t process cards, but it provides an interesting opportunity for those that do.

Details of ForwardLine’s Merchant Loan

ForwardLine calls its small business loan a merchant loan because it’s based on credit card sales volume.

However, this loan is not a merchant cash advance (MCA). The difference is MCA’s are based on the future credit card sales of a company. A percentage of those sales are taken as payment on an ongoing basis until the loan is paid back. For that reason, there’s no repayment term for an MCA; lenders are essentially betting that companies will continue to be profitable. If they’re not, then payments can’t be made.

With a merchant loan, you have a repayment term and a fixed monthly payment amount. Payments are taken from your business bank account. Additionally, you aren’t required to change credit card processors, whereas with an MCA, you are.

However, if you want to pay by a percentage of your credit card sales through the merchant loan, you can. You choose the repayment option at the time of funding.

Let’s get down to the details. You can borrow anywhere from $5,000 to $2,000,000 on terms of 6, 9, and 12 months. In some cases, businesses can qualify for a longer term up to 15 months, but the 12-month term is the most popular.

The fixed fee for these loans starts at an interest rate of 8.99%. Shorter terms have lower rates. How does this translate into an APR? A loan with a fixed fee for 12.99% on a term of 12 months would be around 26% APR.

It’s worth mentioning that ForwardLine guarantees it has the lowest rates you can find, and if it can’t match a similar offer, it will give you $100. It’s also a direct lender – you won’t deal with any brokerages or middlemen during the funding process.

Pros and Cons of a Merchant Loan With ForwardLine

Pro: ForwardLine says it focuses on shorter repayment terms to avoid “unnecessarily long” ones. Since loans start at $5,000, this seems reasonable, but some businesses may not be able to pay back larger amounts in such a short amount of time ($100,000 over 12 months, for example). This is both a pro and a con; the plus side is, you’ll pay less in interest over the life of the loan with a shorter term, and ForwardLine offers a discount for early repayment.

Con: The biggest con is you need $3,000 in monthly credit card sales to qualify for a merchant loan. If you don’t process credit cards at all, or tend to do so on a less frequent basis, you won’t be able to obtain this type of loan.

Pro: ForwardLine guarantees having the lowest interest rates and backs that guarantee up with $100 if you’re able to find a better deal.

Con: ForwardLine focuses on the amount of stability a business shows rather than typical factors like cash flow and credit. That could mean your chances of getting approved for a loan are lower if you own a seasonal business that isn’t doing a ton of sales right now.

Pro: ForwardLine has been around for over a decade and has an A+ rating with the BBB. It was the first lender to ever make a merchant loan back in 2003. It offers same day approvals and next day funding if you need the cash quickly. The online form only takes about 3 minutes to fill out. On average, approvals take about one business day.

Con: There is a flat $275 origination fee on loans less than $15,000. The fee is $550 for loans above that amount. However, most small business loans have origination fees ranging from 3% to 5%.

Who Benefits the Most From a Merchant Loan With ForwardLine?

Businesses that have a greater amount of credit card sales will benefit from this type of arrangement. Typically, that means those in the retail industry, though it can apply to service-based, hospitality, and food industries as well.

In an interview, CEO Craig Coleman stated the average business ForwardLine lends to have between 6 and 12 employees, approximately $1 million in annual sales, and an average of 12 years in business.

You can choose to use the funds for expansion, debt consolidation, working capital, an equipment purchase, or to help with cash flow.

Eligibility Requirements

It doesn’t take much to qualify for a merchant loan with ForwardLine. You must have one year or more in operating history, and process $3,000 in credit card sales per month.

Loans aren’t offered in Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, or the District of Columbia.

There’s no minimum credit score specified, and ForwardLine states on its site that it’s not a FICO driven lender. The stability of your business matters much more, and a large part of that is your sales history.

Consequently, the biggest factor for how much money you’re eligible for is based on your credit card sales. To give you an idea of how much you might qualify for, ForwardLine’s website states, “The maximum financing amount we fund is typically 2x your average monthly credit card sales.” Look through your last 3 to 6 months of credit card statements to get a good average, or 12 months if you’re a seasonal business.

How much interest you’re charged also depends on your industry and time in business. ForwardLine doesn’t have too many industry restrictions, but wholesalers generally don’t qualify because their sales aren’t consistent.

Application Process and Documents Needed

If you’d like a quote, ForwardLine has a short and simple form that takes about 3 minutes to complete online. If you have over $3,000 in monthly credit card volume and have been in business longer than a year, you’re already pre-qualified for a loan.

After submitting your form for a quote, you’ll get a credit decision within 10 minutes. If approved, you’ll hear back from a representative as they need to verify the information you provided.

At the very least, you should have your last 4 months of bank or credit card statements ready, as next day funding is available provided you can submit all the requested documentation. You’ll also need your driver’s license and a voided check to complete the process.

The Fine Print

ForwardLine doesn’t charge any late fees, although there is an origination fee of $275 on loan amounts below $15,000, and $550 for loan amounts above $15,000.

Additionally, specific collateral isn’t needed to secure the loan.

Other Alternative Lenders

ForwardLine is unique as not many other lenders give you the option of repaying your loan through credit card sales or your bank account on a daily basis. Other lenders require monthly, biweekly, weekly, or daily payments solely made through your bank account.

If you’d rather go with a traditional small business loan, there are plenty of other lenders out there to apply with.

Bond Street offers loans from $50,000 to $1,000,000 on terms of 1 to 3 years, with APRs starting at 8%. You need 2 or more years of operating history and $200,000 or more in annual revenue to qualify. Bond Street doesn’t loan in South Dakota, Nevada, Vermont, or North Dakota. The minimum credit score you need to qualify is 660.

Swift Capital has loans on shorter terms. You can borrow $5,000 to $500,000 on 3 to 12 months with pricing as low as 9.9%. You can get funded in 1 hour if you request $10,000 or less. Swift also promises to have the lowest rates on comparable loans or you’ll receive $500. Daily and weekly repayment options are available. To qualify, you need at least one year in business and $5,000 in monthly revenue.

The Bottom Line

As a small business owner, your time is valuable. You want to find the most affordable loan that will allow you to expand and profit. While small business loans are more expensive than traditional bank loans, the convenience and speed of the funding process makes online lenders attractive. Just don’t pull the trigger too early. Spend at least a few hours calling or applying with several lenders to see who can offer you the best terms and rates. As long as you shop around within a 45 day period, all the credit inquiries that occur during that time frame will count as one single inquiry.

Erin Millard
Erin Millard |

Erin Millard is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erinm@magnifymoney.com

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Reviews

Honeydue App Review: A Way to Help Couples With Their Finances?

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Honeydue is an app intended to help with one of the most common sources of conflict in relationships: money.

According to a study by SunTrust bank, finances are a major point of stress and conflict in relationships. The study goes on to say that couples with different money personalities — spender versus saver, for instance — must grapple with even more stress, but communication can lessen the impact of the differences.

Eugene Park, co-creator of the money management app, found that managing finances with his fiancee after she moved in was painful. The pair were using totally different tools to track and manage their finances from day to day. Eugene’s co-founder, Thien Tran, was going through the exact same thing at the same time with his fiancee.

That’s when the idea for Honeydue was born. It officially launched in August for 2017, and the user base has been growing every since.

Through Honeydue, couples can share information like bank accounts and bills to limit confusion and miscommunication around their finances. The app aggregates information like bill payments and transactions via bank feeds to help couples get a true picture of their combined (or separate) finances in real time.

It’s true that there are a lot of financial apps out there that offer similar services — Mint, YNAB and Personal Capital, to name a few. But Eugene insists that Honeydue isn’t just a financial app.

“We think of ourselves as a collaborative tool first and a financial tool second,” he says. “The goal is to create a collaborative environment for couples to develop both financial habits and literacy together.”

The creators of the app noticed that there’s asymmetry among couples when it comes to money. Usually only one partner manages the finances. When this happens, the other partner may feel as if he or she lacks of firm grasp of where their earnings are going, setting the stage for conflict.

For this review, MagnifyMoney decided to put Honeydue through a true stress test — my husband and I used the app for two weeks straight to see if actually helped us manage our money better.

What I liked about the Honeydue app

After having used the app for some time, what stands out most is the convenience of having all bills and accounts in one place.

If you are the kind of person who likes to stay on top of your entire financial situation at a glance, this app does the job. To me, it’s like having a financial health assistant that scans all your accounts and gives you updates like these:

If you’re a busy person and want to stay on top of your finances, but can’t check every account daily, then Honeydue works. Indeed, it works even for the person not managing money with a significant other.

But once you do add a partner, things get interesting. You both can see everything that’s happening in the world of money that affects you as a couple.

For example, I was able to add a brokerage account that my husband can now see updated daily. Once he sees it, it’s a constant reminder that investing is a worthwhile activity with real returns. It’s more motivation to curb our spending and attempt to save and invest more when the numbers are there, at our disposal and updated in real time.

I also like the idea that we both can see all bank account balances and transactions. If I know that my husband will see my financial life and potentially question my spending or account balances, I’m more apt to “behave” and think a little more about my spending choices. The extra layer of accountability is a welcome change for me.

The alerts, notifications and email updates from the app serve as prompts to help us discuss finances with some regularity. There are many times I want to talk about finances and financial decisions with my husband, but it simply slips my mind. Honeydue reminders help make money discussions happen more frequently.

To me, the app sets the stage for a healthy financial relationship for couples struggling with money: Transparency, collaboration and communication are all improved with use.

What I didn’t like about Honeydue

The concept of the app itself is amazing. The execution is pretty top-notch, too. The app didn’t seem to be buggy or prone to inexplicable crashes.

Still, I noticed a few things.

The first issue: how the app interacts with institutions that use two-factor authentication. Many bank protocols ask different security questions or require you to re-authenticate with security codes if a connection needs to be refreshed.

However, I’ve used other apps with the same issue. So I am not sure there is a way around this. It’s a safety measure that I welcome to keep my data secure. However, it’s usually barely noticeable and just takes a few moments to correct.

Further, the transaction history for all accounts only goes back a couple of months. Again, not a super big deal, but something I did notice.

Finally, the budget categories are not that extensive and you could potentially spend a lot of time recategorizing transactions it does assign. That is to say, right now the budget categories are not “smart.” They don’t “learn” from the updates you make to transactions like most financial softwares and apps. Eugene says that the development road map does include plans to make the budget categories more automatic once you edit them.

The Complete Magnifymoney Honeydue App Review

What is Honeydue?

Honeydue allows couples to share financial information, but the partners can select what that information is and the level of detail that is included. So if one person has a bank account he or she doesn’t want visible to a partner through the app, it’s possible to choose not to share those banking details or give a limited view of them (“balance only”).

Here are some additional capabilities of the app:

Track balances

Couples can see all bank balances in one place in the app. They can track both credit card and bank balances, along with individual transactions related to each account. Transactions and balances are updated in real time so there’s always a complete, accurate snapshot of where these accounts stand.

The nice thing about this feature: that ability to choose which accounts your partner can see and at what level of detail. Eugene says many partners feel like it isn’t necessary to share at the transaction level. In his words, “trust doesn’t always mean transparency.” According to a 2014 poll in the magazine Money, surveying more than 1,000 married adults, 55 percent of respondents said finance arguments in their relationships were over purchases. This is exactly why Honeydue built these privacy features into the app.

Categorized spending

This feature allows a couple to see how all of their money is spent. As transactions are completed and updated in the app, Honeydue gives them a category: cash & checks; family & pets; getting around; gifts & charity; miscellaneous; personal & wellness; home & utilities; food & drink; trips & occasions; shopping & fun. If the app assigns a category incorrectly for a transaction, it can be fixed with a quick edit.

Secure banking

Honeydue uses military-grade encryption.

Share expenses

You can share expenses with your partner using Honeydue. Once a transaction appears in your bank feed, you can mark it for sharing and add comments. The app will send the share notification to the partner, as well as periodic reminders to settle up a balance owed with his/her mate.

Bill reminders

You can enter bill due dates and amounts with Honeydue. It will keep a running log of coming bills, so they are not lost in the shuffle of life. In the Settings areas of the app, you can create push notifications for bills as well.

How do you sign up for Honeydue?

The sign-up process is extremely simple. After downloading the Honeydue app for iOS or Android devices, you’ll open the app and enter information it will use for your account settings. Then, you’ll enter your partner’s information so he/she can receive an invite to join the app and view all of your combined financial information.

The rest of the process involves connecting your bank account and setting up bill reminders. The app connects with most major banks. You can even include a PayPal account in your bank feed.

Honeydue fees

At the moment Honeydue is totally free to use for both partners.

There is an “offers” tab in the app where you can apply for credit cards and explore bank new accounts. The app also allows you to look for deals on things like Hulu, Starbucks and Gobble. All the categories in the offers tab include bank accounts, credit cards, loans & insurance, savings and investments and money savers.

According to Park, this monetization model will remain in place to keep the app free to use.

Who should consider using Honeydue?

As my husband and I found, Honeydue gives couples a springboard for constant discussions about money. It gives them practice with communicating, negotiating and saving in money conversations they may not otherwise have.

Final words

Honeydue is another app in the sea of fintech innovation. There are so many tools out there that it might be difficult to add another to the mix for couples already overwhelmed with financial issues.

However, the branding and features that cater to couples can’t be underestimated. When was the last time you were able to stamp bank transactions with a smiley face or a comment for your partner to see? Honeydue let’s you do just that. For the price (free), I think it’s at least worth a try.

Aja McClanahan
Aja McClanahan |

Aja McClanahan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Aja here

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Reviews, Strategies to Save

BB&T CD Rates and Review

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Trying to find BB&T CD rates
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As you may know if you’ve done a search for BB&T CD rates, their website is not a helpful place to turn for information. Beyond a basic overview of their CDs on their website stating that they have CDs with terms ranging from seven days to five years, they do not give details on their current rates. BB&T did not respond to email and phone inquiries from MagnifyMoney asking why the bank does not publish its CD rates online.

When we called their customer service number, a representative said BB&T’s CD rates change on a daily basis and said the best way to learn about CD rates is to call or visit a local branch.

So that’s what we did.

We called BB&T branches on Oct. 3 and, on the same day, compared their CD rates to other banks and the national averages. After conducting this research, it’s not surprising BB&T makes their CD rates hard to find — they’re terrible.

BB&T CD rates and products

BB&T offers CD terms ranging from as short as seven days to as long as five years. They have eight CD options, each with different investment goals.

7-day to 60-month

For short-term investments, BB&T offers CDs ranging from seven days to 60 months. These personal CDs offer a fixed rate of return along with the flexibility to focus on developing either a short- or long-term investment.

BB&T CD Term

APY

Minimum Deposit Amount

3 Months

0.03%

$2,500

6 Months

0.05%

$2,500

1 Year

0.10%

$1,000

18 Months

0.15%

$1,000

2 years

0.20%

$1,000

3 Years

0.40%

$1,000

4 Years

0.45%

$1,000

5 Years

0.50%

$1,000

Rates as of Oct. 3, 2017

Not only can you find better CD rates at other banks and credit unions for each of the terms BB&T offers, you can get those better rates with smaller minimum deposits. BB&T’s offerings are far from the best in every term length above — you can see some of the top options in our monthly roundup of the best CD rates.

With the seven-day to 60-month BB&T CDs, there are no penalty-free options for withdrawing your funds prior to the CD reaching maturity. The early withdrawal penalty is the lesser of $25 or 12 months of interest for longer-term CDs. So with smaller initial deposits, early withdrawal penalties will negate any interest you may have earned.

Can’t Lose

As the name of this CD implies, whether rates go up or down, you can’t lose. Well, actually, you can: The APY is so low, you’re almost certainly going to lose money to inflation.

At the 12-month mark of the CD’s term, you may make one withdrawal without paying any fees. So if the market rate is higher than what you’re currently getting, simply withdraw the money and reinvest at the higher rate.

If, however, the interest rate you’re receiving is better than what’s currently available, you also have the option of making a second deposit into the Can’t Lose CD, up to $10,000. This locks in the rate for the new investment amount for the remainder of the term. So whether rates go up or down, you’ll lock in the higher rate.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

30-month "Can't Lose"

0.25

$1,000

No penalty for one
withdrawal after 12 months

As of Oct. 3, 2017

Still, you can find many CDs with better APYs than BB&T’s Can’t Lose, whether you’re looking for a 12-month investment or longer.

Stepped Rate

Laddering is a way to stagger your CD investments so you’re able to take advantage of increasing rates. With the Stepped Rate option from BB&T, laddering is built into the CD product. The initial CD starts out at a lower rate and increases each year. For example:

Months

APY

12

0.30%

24

0.40%

36

0.55%

48

0.75%

As of Oct. 3, 2017

This product also allows you to make an additional deposit each year (up to $10,000). So if the interest rate you’re receiving is better than the market, you can invest more money into your existing CD to make a higher return. But if the current CD market is offering better rates than your existing CD, you can simply take advantage of that offer and still make a higher return.

In addition, you may make a withdrawal from what you initially deposited into your Stepped Rate CD after two years. So, again, if the market changes dramatically, you may withdraw your money with no penalty and reinvest in a better option.

Or you could create a CD ladder on your own, choosing CDs with better rates than BB&T’s — higher rates are certainly available.

Add-on

The Add-on CD option from BB&T offers a 12-month CD at 0.10% and an opening deposit of $100. You’ll need a BB&T checking account and a $50/month automatic deposit from your checking account into the CD. To get a personal account, you’ll just need to set up direct deposit or maintain a $1,500 balance.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

12-month Add-on

0.10%

$100

Greater of $25 or
6 months’ interest

As of Oct. 3, 2017

Home Saver

If you’re in the market for a new home, and you want to earn a little more interest on the money you’re saving, consider the Home Saver CD. Starting with as little as $100, you’ll be able to deposit money earmarked for your new home every month and earn 0.40% APY. With this CD, as long as you’re withdrawing the money for use toward the purchase of your new home, you won’t pay any penalties for the withdrawal. But you will need a BB&T checking account set up for a monthly deposit of $50 into your Home Saver CD.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

36-month Home Saver

0.40%

$100

No penalty for
home purchase

As of Oct. 3, 2017

College Saver

Similar to the Home Saver CD, the College Saver CD is meant for parents or students saving for college. It offers the benefit of starting at a higher APY (0.40%) with the flexibility of withdrawing the money up to four times per year to pay for the cost of attending school. As with the Home Saver, you’ll need to have a BB&T checking account with an automatic monthly deposit of $50. The College Saver offers terms of 36, 48, and 60 months.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

36-month College Saver

0.40%

$100

No penalty for
school costs

48-month College Saver

0.45%

$100

No penalty for
school costs

60-month College Saver

0.50%

$100

No penalty for
school costs

As of Oct. 3, 2017

Treasury

This CD offers the ability to make additional deposits of at least $100 into your CD at any time and one monthly withdrawal without penalty. The CD has a six-month term with a variable interest rate tied to the U.S. Treasury Bill — if the rate goes up, you’ll make more money, but if the rate declines, you’ll make less. Right now, rates start at 0.05% and adjust quarterly. Throughout 2016, Treasury Bill rates increased almost every month and have continued to rise in 2017, reaching 1.035% in August. So this is a great option if you have the $5,000 minimum deposit amount and want a short-term investment with the option to add or remove funds from the CD.

CDARS

CDARS stands for Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service and protects your principal and interest by making sure your money is placed into multiple CDs across a network of banks to keep your CDs insured by the FDIC (maximum limit for each CD is $250,000).

Other things to know about BB&T CDs

Does BB&T allow customers to take advantage of rising rates once they’ve opened a CD?

BB&T has two CD options that allow you to take advantage of rising rates: the 30-month Can’t Lose CD and the 48-month Stepped Rate CD. Both allow you to make a withdrawal before the CD comes to maturity in case rates increase (terms apply). They also allow additional deposits in case rates drop and you want to invest more at the existing rate of your CD. However, the current rates on those products are very low, negating the value of their flexibility.

About BB&T

BB&T (Branch Banking and Trust Co.) is a North Carolina-based bank with locations in 16 states and the District of Columbia, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

BB&T offers a mobile app for both iOS and Android. While their website is easy enough to use, finding specific information, particularly about rates, is impossible. Their customer service number isn’t much help in that regard either, with most questions answered with a suggestion to visit a branch location. As a result, if you don’t live in an area with a branch, we don’t recommend using BB&T’s CDs. To find the BB&T branch closest to you, use their branch locator.

Pros and cons of CDs

A certificate of deposit (CD) may offer a higher return than you’ll get with your savings accounts, without the risk of loss that accompanies other investment options with higher return rates. The drawbacks associated with CDs are the inability to access your funds during the term of the investment without suffering a penalty and the risk of interest rates increasing while your money is locked into a CD for a specified term.

The bottom line: Are BB&T CDs right for you?

BB&T does offer some flexible deals to its customers, but in general, better CD rates can be found at both banks and credit unions with comparable terms. You can find them on our list of the best CD rates, which we update every month.

Ralph Miller
Ralph Miller |

Ralph Miller is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Ralph here

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Best of, Reviews

10 Best NO FEE Rewards Credit Cards of October 2017

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

There are an abundance of no fee rewards credit cards available, so how do you best determine which one to keep in your wallet? Most earn a measly 1% on your spending, while others have no rewards at all. To help, we’ve dug deep into our database of thousands of rewards cards to find the very best no annual fee rewards credit cards of 2017 for each category.

While you might find rewards credit cards with an annual fee can give you the best rewards, we’re sticking to no fee cards that are available even if you don’t have truly excellent credit (good credit should be fine for most of these).

The first cards we list here offer unlimited double rewards on everything you purchase, while the remaining offer 3% or better rewards on spending in popular categories so you can mix and match to maximize your rewards, or they offer the chance for better earning if you use your rewards for travel.

1. Double Rewards on Everything, NO FEE – Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi® Double Cash Card Citi offers you rewards twice. First, you get 1% cash back when you make a purchase. Then, you get another 1% cash back as you pay it off. All with no annual fee and no spending cap. If you pay off in full each month, you’ll get both rewards at the same time. That lets you earn rewards twice as good as standard reward cards.

If you like to maximize things and want to earn more rewards in special spending categories, consider pairing this with one of the no fee cards we list below.

GO TO SITE Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

2. Honorable Mention: 2% Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature, NO FEE

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card Fidelity provides no annual fee 2% cash rewards on purchases if you deposit the cash you earn into a Fidelity account. But you don’t need to have any stocks or investments to have an account. Fidelity has no fee cash accounts where you can deposit your rewards, then withdrawal when you’re ready to spend. Be aware this card is designed for people with Excellent credit, while the Citi Double Cash might be easier to get.

Both cards offer you the flexibility to earn double rewards on anything you purchase; so either one of these is a nice addition to a rewards strategy. The advantage of the Fidelity card over the Citi Double Cash is that its foreign transaction fees are just 1% versus 3% for the Double Cash. But setting up the Fidelity card and rewards is more cumbersome than the dead simple Citi Double Cash.

If you want to earn more than 2% rewards here’s a rundown of the best no fee rewards credit cards that earn 3% or more in the most popular categories. You can click on each category for our take and details:

And if you’re interested in traveling, here are the best no fee rewards credit card deals:

If you like to dig, we also have a complete (and long) list of cards that earn more than 3% on purchases in many more special categories, including cards with an annual fee.

3. Restaurant Spending: Chase AARP Visa – 3% Rewards, NO FEE

AARP Credit Card from Chase Bank Although AARP is known for serving Baby Boomers, foodies of any age can sign up for this card – AARP membership not required. You get 3% cash rewards at restaurants as well as gas stations. You also earn 1% rewards on all other purchases.

The information related to AARP Visa credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

Learn more at AARP.org

4. Travel Spending: AAA Member Rewards Visa – 3% Rewards, NO FEE

AAA Member Rewards Card from Bank Of America No need to be an AAA member to take advantage of this rewards card. You earn cash back when you shop at travel merchants including airlines, car rental agencies, hotels, cruise lines and travel agencies. Along with the 3% cash rewards for travel, you earn 2% cash rewards on gas, grocery and drugstore purchases. On everything else you get 1% rewards.

5. Gas Spending: Fort Knox Credit Union Visa Platinum – 5% Rewards

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card Spend a lot of cash at the pump? The Fort Knox Credit Union Visa Platinum offers 5% cash back for gas. On all other retail purchases, you get 1% cash back. Anyone can join the Fort Knox Credit Union by becoming a member of the American Consumer Council for $5.

GO TO SITE Secured

on Fort Knox Federal’s secure website

6. Grocery Spending: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express – 3% Rewards

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express offers 3% cash back on US supermarket purchases up to $6,000 per year. You also get 2% rewards at US gas stations and select US department stores. On everything else you earn 1% rewards.

GO TO SITE Secured

on American Express’s secure website

7. Honorable Mention: Golden 1 Credit Union Platinum Rewards – Unlimited 3% Grocery Rewards

Golden 1 Platinum Rewards Credit Card If you live in California, the Golden 1 Credit Union Platinum Rewards card will give you 3% cash rewards for purchases on groceries without the caps on the Blue Cash Everyday, along with gas and restaurants and 1% rewards on all other purchases. Also in California, the JCB Marukai Premium card offers unlimited 3% cash rewards on all purchases after your first $3,000 in spending each year. The catch is there’s a $15 annual fee on the card.

5% Cash Rewards in Rotating Categories: NO FEE

Cards with a rotating reward program can give you 5% cash rewards with no annual fee, but you’re limited to spending in special categories each quarter and there’s a cap on how much spending earns the 5%. You also have to opt into the 5% cash back rewards program each quarter.

8. Chase Freedom® – 5% in rotating categories, $0 ANNUAL FEE

Chase Freedom<sup>®</sup> Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

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on Chase’s secure website

9. Discover it® Cashback Match™ – 5% in rotating categories, $0 ANNUAL FEE

Discover it® - Cashback Match<sup>TM</sup> With Discover, you can earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter on up to the quarterly maximum ($1,500 of combined purchases) when you activate. All other purchases get 1% cash back. You can redeem your cash back for any amount at any time. And your cash back never expires. Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year on the credit card – only for new cardmembers.

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10. Platinum Cash Rewards Visa from the Nusenda Credit Union – 5% in rotating categories, NO FEE

Cash Rewards Card from Nusenda CU 5% cash rewards on groceries, gas expenses, movies, restaurants, home improvement, education and travel. This quarter, cardholders will earn cash back on restaurants, hotels and airfare purchases. There’s a cash back cap of $1,500 per quarter. Anyone can join the Nusenda Credit Union by donating $10 to the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance; contact a customer representative for details. The advantage of this card is that its categories tend to be more broad, and not store-specific like those on the Chase Freedom and Discover It, so it’s a great way to get you closer to 5% rewards on everything you spend.

If you’re going to go through the effort of enrolling in a rewards program, consider all three cards

to see which categories will benefit you the most. But, if you’re looking for freedom to spend without restrictions, sticking with the Citi Double Cash card may be your best simple bet.

Honorable mentions for travelers

No foreign transaction fees with plain cash back: Quicksilver from Capital One – 1.5% Rewards

Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card Capital One’s Quicksilver gives you 1.5% cash back on all purchases. And like all Capital One credit cards, there are no foreign transaction fees. Even though you earn less rewards than the Citi Double Cash or Fidelity American Express, this card is a better option for your international spending, since you avoid fees of 1 to 3%.

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on Capital One’s secure website

Real airline miles: Amex EveryDay Card

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express is a no annual fee rewards credit card that earns Amex Membership Rewards points, which you can turn into real

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express airline miles with several airlines, including Delta SkyMiles, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, JetBlue True Blue, and Virgin America Elevate. It’s the only no annual fee card you can apply for online that can net you real Delta SkyMiles. When you want to convert points to Delta miles, just go to the Amex site, and transfer your points to Delta or the other participating airline programs any time.

Points for travel on any airline: Bank of America Travel Rewards

BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card The Bank of America Travel Rewards card earns a base 1.5x points per dollar you spend, and you can use the points to erase travel purchases from your statement. Every 10,000 points is worth $100 when you use them for travel, so each point is worth one cent. Where the card gets interesting is if you’re a Bank of America customer with a checking, savings, or IRA account. If you are, you’ll get a 10% bonus on what you earn each year, so the card effectively earns you 1.65x points per dollar. Even better, if you’re a Platinum level member of Bank of America Preferred Rewards (which you get by keeping a lot of your money with them), you can earn up to 2.625x points per dollar, which is an incredible deal. There are also no foreign transaction fees to worry about.

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on Bank Of America’s secure website

How can you get the most value from a rewards credit card?

In order to best benefit from no annual fee rewards credit cards, follow these tips:

  • Narrow your focus: Before choosing a no annual fee rewards credit card (or cards), take a look at your budget and several months’ worth of bank statements. Then, pick cards that’ll offer you the most cash back for things you already buy. You shouldn’t change your spending habits to match a rewards program.
  • Give your rewards cards a job: Don’t spread out your spending onto too many cards without a purpose or you risk making less cash back overall. Choose a few cards and assign them a job so you know what purchases to make on each one to maximize your cash back.
  • Don’t get overzealous: Rewards shouldn’t justify overspending, especially if you’re struggling with debt. It’s a reward for making legitimate purchases. After all, you won’t make enough back to put a big dent in your monthly statement. For instance, $2,500 spent on the Fidelity American Express card equals a $50 deposit. It’s a great perk, but it shouldn’t be your sole reason for buying something.
  • Read the fine print: Understand the implications of each rewards program. For the rotating category cards, you get a huge amount of cash back, but you’ll have to strategize your spending each quarter to earn it. And you have to enroll into the program by the deadline to qualify. Set a reminder on your smartphone or calendar if necessary. You don’t want to miss out on a cash back category for an entire quarter.
Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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Best of, Credit Cards, Reviews

Best Credit Cards for Small Businesses October 2017

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Note from the Editor: The information related to Chase Ink Business Preferred Card credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

 

As a small business owner you know you need to manage your cash flow and plan for financing. Credit cards can be an ideal way to meet those needs. But business owners need to be savvy cardholders. Small business credit cards come with unique risks that personally affect entrepreneurs.

 

In this roundup we cover the risks and advantages of small business credit cards. And we’ll show you what card fits your business needs.

 

Best Cards for Financing

If credit cards are an important source of financing and capital for your business, then you need to be a savvy borrower. Look for cards with compelling terms, and take the time to understand the fine print. Remember, the card may be in the business’s name, but you’re personally liable for the debt. Don’t take on more debt than you can handle.

Best 0% Financing

The American Express Blue for Business card offers an introductory 15 months of 0% APR for financing. If you fail to pay back your purchases within 15 months, your interest rate will move to a variable rate 12.24%, 16.24% or 20.24%, depending on creditworthiness. You lose access to the introductory rate if you make a late payment.

The 15-month 0% intro APR window is one of the most generous offers available. On top of generous financing, you earn rewards for spending.

You can also earn 10,000 Membership Rewards points after making your first purchase on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Every year, you’ll also receive a bonus of 30% of the previous year’s points earned.

The card offers perks including secondary car rental insurance, purchase protection, extended warranties, baggage insurance, trip accident insurance, and travel hotline help.

The Fine Print
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR financing for 15 months. You must pay on time, or you lose this rate.
  • APR: After 15 months, a variable rate 12.24%, 16.24% or 20.24%, depending on your creditworthiness
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent on all purchases.
APPLY NOW 

Low Interest Rates

If you and your business have excellent credit, the Platinum Plus for Business MasterCard from Bank of America offers low ongoing financing. This is a great card for businesses with periodic short-term borrowing needs. Besides interest rates as low as 10.24% variable, it offers a seven-billing-cycle 0% APR promo rate and $200 statement credit if you spend $500 in the first 60 days.

Plus, the card offers travel accident insurance, secondary rental insurance, and automatic downloads to QuickBooks.

Remember, it’s not wise to use a small business credit card for long-term financing. Many credit unions will offer low rates on installment business loans.

The Fine Print
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR financing for seven billing cycles.
  • APR: 10.24%-21.24% variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness (after seven billing cycles)
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Late fee: $19-$49 (depending on your balance)
  • Returned payment fee: $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $10 or 4%
  • Cash advance APR: 25.24% variable
  • Sign-up bonus: $200 statement credit if you spend $500 in your first 60 days
  • Rewards: None
APPLY NOW 

Cash Flow Management

Managing cash flow can be one of the most difficult problems facing small business owners. The Plum Card by American Express makes cash flow easier. You can pay no interest if you take up to 60 days to pay the balance in full. You effectively get a 0% working capital line of credit if you can make your payments within 60 days. And if you are able to pay back your balance sooner – within 10 days – you get a 1.5% early pay discount.

This card is one of our favorites because (a) it has one of the most generous grace periods in the market (60 days), which can really help businesses that have customers who pay on a Net-60 basis. But it is also our favorite because (b) if you pay the balance in full and on time, you are still able to earn really good rewards (a 1.5% discount).

The Fine Print
  • On-time payment bonus: 1.5% discount if you pay balance within 10 days of statement closing
  • Annual fee: $0 for the first year, $250 thereafter
APPLY NOW 

Imperfect Credit

If you’re struggling to get approved for a small business credit card, the Spark Classic from Capital One offers an excellent option. The card has a high variable APR (23.99%) and mediocre rewards (1% cash back). But Capital One will approve business owners with just average credit.

This isn’t a great card for borrowing, even in the short term. However, the Spark Classic will give you some working capital, and it will help your business build its credit. Just remember to pay your bill on time each month and to keep your credit use low.

The Spark Classic also offers perks like purchase protection, free extended warranties, and travel and emergency assistance. These protections offer tremendous value to business owners.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 23.99% variable APR
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Late fee: Up to $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $10 or 3%
  • Cash advance APR: 23.99% variable
  • Rewards: 1% cash back on all purchases
APPLY NOW Secured

Cards for Service Members

Former and current members of any branch of the military can join Navy Federal Credit Union and apply for these high-quality credit cards. The Visa and MasterCard have the same fees and conditions, but they offer different perks.

 

Navy Federal Credit Union’s Visa for Business credit card gives former service members access to low interest rates and rewards spending. This can be an excellent choice for service members with excellent credit who may have to borrow for short-term needs.

The card gives access to the Visa SavingsEdge program, which gives up to 15% off business purchases at qualifying retailers. However, the card doesn’t offer extended warranties or other protections, so it isn’t always the best choice.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 9.99%-18.0% variable
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Late fee: Up to $20
  • Returned payment fee: Up to $20
  • Cash advance fee: $0 at Navy Federal Credit Union branch ATM, 50 cents domestic, $1 foreign
  • Cash advance APR: APR + 2%
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent
APPLY NOW 

Navy Federal Credit Union’s MasterCard for Business credit card gives former service members access to low interest rates and rewards. The low interest rates make it a compelling choice for service members with short-term borrowing needs.

The card gives access to the MasterCard Easy Savings program, which gives automatic 10% rebates at a network of gas stations, auto repair shops, and shipping companies. This can lead to significant savings. The card also connects to the MasterCard Business Network, which makes expense reports easy. However, the card doesn’t offer extended warranties or other protections.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 9.99%-18.0% variable
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Late fee: Up to $20
  • Returned payment fee: Up to $20
  • Cash advance fee: $0 at Navy Federal Credit Union branch ATM, 50 cents domestic, $1 foreign
  • Cash advance APR: APR + 2%
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent
APPLY NOW 

Best Cards for Rewards

Many small business credit cards offer compelling rewards to cardholders. These rewards can allow you to reinvest in your business, or you can take them for personal use. If you choose to use a rewards credit card, try to avoid paying interest. Most of these cards are not good choices for short-term borrowing.

Travel Perks

If you’re a frequent traveler, these small business credit cards give you access to incredible perks. But be sure to read the fine print. These cards have a few gotchas attached.

 

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express is a charge card with a premium price tag ($450 per year) and premium benefits. Please note, it is not a credit card; you should not plan to borrow money with this card. These are the most significant perks:

  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points.1.5 Points per dollar on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. Up to 1 million additional points per calendar year. 1 point for every dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Global Lounge Collection access, which includes access to Delta Sky Club lounges and American Express Centurion lounges
  • $200 airline fee credit (for checked bags, inflight refreshment, etc.)
  • One free Global Entry or TSA Pre-check application fee (allows you to expedite security at select airports and U.S. Customs)
  • 10 free passes per year to inflight Gogo Wi-Fi and unlimited Boingo (land-based Wi-Fi) access
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Gold Elite Status, which also gets you Marriott Rewards Gold status for room upgrades and free breakfast. It also gets you access to the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program (perks like in-room WiFi, complimentary breakfast, and other hotel perks at participating luxury hotels).
  • Annual fee: $450
  • Rewards: Earn Membership Rewards® points
APPLY NOW 

As a business owner, little incidentals can add up in a big way. The Chase Ink Business Preferred Card mitigates these costs by providing high-value insurance protection to you and your employees. Not only will you earn rewards (outlined in the fine print), you’ll enjoy these perks, too.

Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance
If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather, or other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $5,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels.

Trip Delay Reimbursement
If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.

Travel Accident Insurance
When you pay for your air, bus, train, or cruise transportation with your card, you are eligible to receive accidental death or dismemberment coverage of up to $500,000.

Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver
Decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card. Coverage is primary when renting for business purposes and provides reimbursement up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage for most cars in the U.S. and abroad.

Baggage Delay Insurance
You are reimbursed for essential purchases like toiletries and clothing for baggage delays over six hours by passenger carrier up to $100 a day for five days.

Lost Luggage Reimbursement
If you or an immediate family member check or carry on luggage that is damaged or lost by the carrier, you’re covered up to $3,000 per passenger.

Extended Warranty Protection
This warranty extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year on eligible warranties of three years or less.

Cellphone Protection
Get up to $600 per claim in cellphone protection against covered theft or damage for you and your employees listed on your monthly cellphone bill when you pay it with your Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. There is a maximum of three claims in a 12-month period with a $100 deductible per claim.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 16.99%-21.99% variable
  • Annual fee: $95 per year
  • Late fee: $15-$39, depending on balance
  • Returned payment fee: $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $15 or 5% of transaction
  • Cash advance APR: 25.99% variable
  • Sign-up bonus: 80,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent, 3 points per dollar spent on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable or phone services, or online advertising (social media or search engines)
  • Bonus: Points worth 25% more when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards (Chase’s travel website)

Big Introductory Bonuses

Business owners who know they’ll spend a lot in a short period of time should take note of these cards. These bonuses provide excellent value if you can meet the spending requirements. But be wary: these cards have high interest rates. You won’t come out ahead if you end up financing a big purchase with these cards.

The Business Platinum Card offers excellent travel perks, but it offers an unparalleled sign-up bonus, too. Right now, you can earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $10,000 within three months of card membership. You’ll also earn 25,000 more points after spending an additional $10,000 within your first three months.

If you plan to spend $20,000 or more in the next three months, this bonus is worth the highest value when redeemed for travel rewards. Depending on which option you choose, this bonus may offset annual fees. You need to churn through a lot of money to meet the spending minimums, but this is a lucrative bonus.

Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

The Chase Ink Business Preferred Card offers ideal perks for frequent travelers, but right now you can get a great sign-up bonus, too. By spending $5,000 in three months, you’ll earn 80,000 points. This bonus is worth $1,000 if you spend your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards for travel or $800 if you redeem for cash back. You can also transfer the points to airline partners like United and Virgin Atlantic and hotel partners like Marriott and Hyatt.

In addition to the lucrative bonus, you can earn everyday spending rewards (including 3 points per dollar spent in certain categories) and valuable trip insurance.

Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

Cash Back Rewards

Every business owner can benefit from more cash in their pocket. These cards give you the best cash back offers for everyday spending. You can find better rewards if you use multiple cards, but these have excellent rewards for those who don’t want to mess around with multiple cards. Plus, these cards have excellent protections, too. But be careful when you finance with these cards; they don’t offer great terms for borrowing.

 

The Spark Cash card from Capital One offers unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases, and it is free for the first year. Plus, if you spend more than $4,500 in the first three months of holding the card, you get a $500 cash bonus. After the first year, you’ll pay $59 to hold the card. After the first year, if you spent more than $3,000 per year, it’s worth it.

The Spark Cash card also offers valuable protective features like purchase protection, free extended warranties, primary auto rental collision coverage, and more. Overall, the Spark Cash card gives straightforward rewards to business owners with excellent credit.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 17.99% variable APR
  • Penalty APR: 30.4% (applied if you make a late payment)
  • Annual fee: Free for the first year, $59 per year afterward
  • Late fee: Up to $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $10 or 3% of transaction
  • Cash advance APR: 23.99% variable
  • Sign-up bonus: $500 reward when you spend $4,500 in the first three months
  • Rewards: 2% cash back on all spending
APPLY NOW Secured

The Spark Cash Select card from Capital One offers a rare combination of friendly financing terms and rewards. You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards on all purchases, and you’ll receive a $200 sign-up bonus if you spend $3,000 or more in your first three months.

On top of that, you’ll have a 0% APR financing rate for nine months, and an APR as low as 13.99% variable afterward.

This isn’t the most lucrative rewards card, but you won’t pay an annual fee. This makes it a great card for businesses that don’t spend as much on a credit card.

The Fine Print
  • Promo APR: 0% for nine months
  • APR: 13.99%-21.99% variable, depending on your creditworthiness
  • Penalty APR: 30.4% variable (applied if you make a late payment)
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Late fee: Up to $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $10 or 3% of transaction
  • Cash advance APR: 23.99% variable
  • Sign-up bonus: $200 reward when you spend $3,000 in the first three months
  • Rewards: 1.5% cash back on all spending
APPLY NOW 

Best Category Bonuses

If you and your employees spend a lot of money in a limited number of categories, you might want to consider a rewards card with heavy bonuses in those categories. These cards offer at least 3 points for every dollar you spend in a given category. That’s the equivalent of a 3% reward.

Remember, rewards cards aren’t usually a good choice for financing purchases. Look to pay off these cards every month.

Online Advertising

Businesses that regularly advertise on social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or via search engines (Google, Bing) can earn impressive rewards on their marketing spending. These are the best cards for heavy online advertisers.

 

You’ll earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on online advertising. In addition, you’ll be eligible for travel perks, sign-up bonuses, and more.Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

The American Express Business Gold Rewards Card allows you to choose to earn 3 points per dollar spent on any one of the following categories: airfare purchased directly from airlines, U.S. advertising in select media, U.S. gas stations, U.S. shipping, or U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers. You’ll earn 2 points per dollar on the four remaining categories.

All other spending earns 1 point per dollar you spend.

As a sign-up bonus, you’ll earn 50,000 points if you spend $5,000 or more in your first three months of holding the card. In addition to the rewards, you get trip accident insurance, extended warranties, and purchase protection.

Since the Business Gold Rewards Card is a charge card, you shouldn’t plan to borrow with the card. But the rewards for online advertisers are excellent. Just watch out for the $175 annual fee that kicks in after the first year.

The Fine Print
  • Annual fee: $0 for the first year, then $175
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent
  • Bonus rewards: 3 points in one category (pick between airfare purchased directly from airlines, U.S. advertising in select media, U.S. gas stations, U.S. shipping, or U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers).
  • 2 points rewards on remaining four categories.
APPLY NOW 
Dining and Travel

Dining and travel cost a lot, but these cards offer enticing rewards. The cards we recommend offer more than 3% cash back on restaurant spending, travel, or both. Plus, they have other compelling perks. But most of these cards aren’t great for borrowing, so check the fine print.

 

Looking to thin down your wallet? A Sam’s Club Business MasterCard, doubles as your membership card. But it’s not just for wholesale shopping. Spending on the Sam’s Club Business MasterCard gives you the opportunity to earn 3% cash back rewards on all restaurant spending worldwide. It also gives 5% cash back rewards on gas (except when purchased at other wholesalers) and 1% on all other spending.

Road warriors and frequent business entertainers will love this card. Plus, the $45 statement credit (if you spend $100 the day you open it) pays for your annual Sam’s Club membership.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 15.90%-23.90% (assigned upon aproval)
  • Penalty APR: 29.99% (applied if you make a late payment)
  • Annual fee: $0 (requires $45 Sam’s Club membership)
  • Late fee: Up to $39.99
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $5 or 3% of transaction
  • Cash advance APR: 20.90%-26.90%
  • Sign-up bonus: $45 statement credit when you spend $45 on a single-receipt purchase the same day you open your account.
  • Rewards: 1% cash back on all spending. Maximum of $5,000 back in a given year.
  • Bonus rewards: 3% on dining and travel expenses. 5% on gas (up to $6,000 in gas purchases). Gas cannot be purchased from other wholesale clubs.
APPLY NOW 

If you prefer Costco to Sam’s Club, the Costco Anywhere Visa Card offers similar terms. Their 4-3-2-1 program includes 4% on gas purchases (up to $7,000 per year), 3% cash rewards for all dining and travel expenses, 2% on Costco purchases, and 1% on all other spending.

While the rewards are sweet, the terms can be expensive. This is not a good card for borrowing, so be sure to pay it off each month.

The Fine Print
  • APR: Introductory 0% for seven months, then 16.24% variable
  • Penalty APR: up to 29.99% variable (applied if you make a late payment)
  • Annual fee: $0 with your paid Costco membership
  • Late fee: Up to $37
  • Returned payment fee: Up to $37
  • Cash advance fee: Either $10 or 5% of the amount of each cash advance, whichever is greater
  • Cash advance APR: 26.24% variable
  • Rewards: 1% cash back on all spending.
  • Bonus rewards: 4% on gas (up to $7,000 in gas purchases). Gas cannot be purchased from other wholesale clubs. 3% on dining and travel expenses. 2% rewards on all purchases from Costco and Costco.com.
APPLY NOW 

If you’re a frequent business traveller, Chase Ink offers the best rewards. You earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on travel, but you get a travel bonus. Every point is worth 1.25 points when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Travel perks also include trip insurance, auto rental collision damage waivers (this is primary coverage), and more.

Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

Gas

 

As a small business owner, you know that driving can be an economical choice, but you can also earn rewards for all those miles on the road. Sam’s Club Business MasterCard gives 5% cash back rewards on gas (except when purchased at other wholesalers), and 1% on all other spending.

Even if you don’t frequent Sam’s Club, this is the best category for rewards for gas purchases.

Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

Learn More

Risks of Using Small Business Credit Cards

Many business owners see credit cards as an easy solution to their capital needs. But small business credit cards have unique risks. Savvy entrepreneurs will consider the risks before opening a new line of credit. These are the most important considerations.

 

1. Personal Liability

As a small business owner, you’re personally liable for credit card debt. Business bankruptcy won’t protect you. Whether your business succeeds or fails, you have to pay back the debt.

The only way to get rid of small business credit card debt is to declare personal bankruptcy. Bankruptcy destroys your credit history for a few years, and it stays on your report for 7-10 years.

Don’t treat a credit card like venture capital. It’s not. You need to repay it.

2. Credit Bureau Reporting

Small business cards don’t report to the credit bureaus the same way personal cards do. Depending on which card you choose, if you pay your credit card on time, you may not see any information on your personal report. For most business owners, that is a good thing. It will keep your personal credit utilization low.

However, an unpaid bill will show up on your personal credit report. A bill that goes unpaid for 60 days will generally appear on your personal credit report. Some banks offer more generous reporting and some less. You can speak with a banker to determine your bank’s reporting standards. Still, your personal credit score can take a hit at the same time that your business credit runs afoul.

When you take out a business credit card, put precautions in place to protect yourself. You can limit employee spending, and remove authorized users. You can also set up automatic payments each month.

3. Not Protected by the Credit CARD Act

In 2009, Congress passed the Credit CARD Act. The act curtailed predatory lending behaviors, including raising interest rates on existing balances. It also required credit cards to be more transparent about rates and fees.

This act does not apply to business credit cards. With a small business card, banks can raise the interest rate on your existing balance at any time. A higher interest rate means a bigger minimum payment and a longer time to pay off your debt. If you’re using your small business credit card to finance something, you could be at risk.

Still, many banks will not raise your rate if you have an excellent history of on-time payments. It is simply a risk to understand.

Another risk related to the Credit CARD Act is the possibility of double-cycle billing. Business credit cards do not require an interest accrual grace period. This means you may begin accruing interest on purchases right away. We only recommend cards that have a grace period of at least 23 days built in. If you choose a different card, be sure to check for this in the rates and fees schedule.

4. Employee Risk

Small business credit cards make it easy to watch employee spending. Still, they pose serious risks. You’re personally liable for any employee spending on a credit card. If you wouldn’t trust an employee with your wallet, don’t trust them with a company card. Employees can rack up debt and leave the company. That leaves you with a bill and no recourse to get the money back.

The Best Ways Use Small Business Credit Cards

Once you understand the risks of small business credit cards, you can also understand their best uses. Over 65% of small businesses use credit cards on a regular basis. Some use them for rewards, and some for financing. In fact, close to 10% of all small business financing comes from credit cards.

Here are some of the best ways to use a small business credit card.

 

1. Earning Rewards and Protection

If you pay your small business credit card in full each month, you can earn substantial rewards. Many business credit cards offer perks, including cash back, travel rewards, extended warranties, trip insurance, and more. As a business owner, you can reinvest the rewards into your business or take them for personal use.

2. Managing Cash Flow

Cash flow problems destroy small businesses, but credit cards provide short-term working capital. If you have a sales cycle that lasts 30 days or less, a credit card can fund inventory purchases. By the time your bill comes due, you’ll have money to pay it off. If you follow this practice, you’ll pay no interest, and you’ll manage your cash flow.

Credit cards can simplify employee monitoring, too. Most business credit cards allow you to place individual restrictions on employee use. That means you can limit how much and where employees can use company cards. But your employees may manage to misuse the cards. If they do, you will be stuck with the bill.

3. Building Business Credit

Businesses have credit reports just like people. Business credit cards can help you build your score. To build your business credit, hold the card under your employer identification number (EIN).

When your EIN establishes a record of paying its bills on time, it makes your business creditworthy. That means you’ll have an easier time finding long-term loans at great rates.

63% of all small businesses carry debt. Having a lower interest rate on that debt could make the difference between success and failure. This means every small business should take their credit history seriously from the outset. Small business credit cards may allow you to build that history without paying interest or fees.

4. Short-Term Borrowing

Small business credit cards have high interest rates, but they can work for short-term borrowing. If you know that you’ll only carry debt for a few months, you may want to finance something with a credit card.

Credit cards do not have origination fees or prepayment penalties. Sometimes this means that they offer the best terms for short-term borrowing. Just be careful when you borrow, and pay it back quickly. High interest debt compounds over time.

If possible, borrow on a card with a 0% introductory offer. Remember, failing to pay off 0% interest purchases may result in back interest. Be sure you understand the risks before you borrow.

The Worst Ways to Use Small Business Credit Cards

Small business credit cards aren’t always the best tool to get the job done. These are a few times when you should avoid using credit cards.

 

1. Personal Expenses

Bad accounting sinks many entrepreneurs. Always keep your personal spending off of your business credit cards. This will simplify bookkeeping, and it will keep your business credit utilization low. If you need to borrow for personal expenses, look for a low-interest credit card instead.

2. Long-Term Financing

Due to the high interest rates, most businesses should not finance long-term commitments using credit cards. Instead, consider an installment loan from a local credit union or a bank.

Applying for an installment loan can be a pain, but the lower interest rate will be worth it in the long run. Keep money in your pocket and avoid small business credit cards for long-term financing.

3. Cash Advances

Cash advances are the most expensive way to use a credit card. Banks begin charging interest right away, and the advance has a higher interest rate. Cash advances also have high fees of up to 10% of the amount you withdraw.

If you need cash, withdraw it from your business checking account instead, or take out a traditional loan.

4. Financing a Failing Business

Do not use credit cards to help a failing business limp along. Too many people will not give up on their idea even when the execution doesn’t work out. Credit card debt will bury a failing company and erode your personal wealth.

Remember, negative credit behavior will show up on your personal credit report. Plus, courts hold you liable for all credit card debt your business incurs. Use an objective lens to decide whether you need to shut down your business.

Hannah Rounds
Hannah Rounds |

Hannah Rounds is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Hannah at hannah@magnifymoney.com

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Credit Cards, Reviews

PayPal Launches a 2% Cash Back Rewards Card: Double is the New Rewards Standard

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: iStock

PayPal’s new Cashback Mastercard, launched Aug. 30, is packed with features that pin it head to head with the current highest no-fee flat-rate cash back credit card on the market.

The PayPal Cashback Mastercard® is a no-fee rewards card that offers users a flat 2 percent cash back upfront on all eligible purchases made using the credit card. The offer is a step up from the current leading cash back card, the Citi® Double Cash Card, which credits 1 percent upfront and another 1 percent on what cardholders pay off each billing cycle.

The digital and mobile payment company partnered with Synchrony Bank to launch the Cashback Mastercard, which grants users benefits exclusive to PayPal and Mastercard members.

Although it boasts a generous cash back offer, the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® has its drawbacks.

“The 2 percent cash back rate is a solid offer. But the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® falls short in three main ways: no sign-up bonus, high APR and no 0% introductory period,” says Chris Mettler, president of our sister site CompareCards.com.

How the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® works

PayPal is clearly targeting PayPal users with this new cash back rewards card. The application for PayPal’s new credit card is only open to existing PayPal customers. Access to the application is granted after users submit a username and password to log in to a PayPal account.

They are then redirected to an application on the Synchrony Bank website. After filling in sensitive information, applicants have the option to set the card as a default payment option in their PayPal wallet and purchase Synchrony Bank’s card security program before submitting the form.

If approved, customers are charged one of three variable interest rates — 16.99%, 24.99% or 27.99% — based on creditworthiness and other factors like income. PayPal doesn’t charge cardholders an annual fee.

Cardholders can earn an unlimited, flat 2 percent cash back on all eligible purchases made using the PayPal Cashback Mastercard®. The cash back rewards are credited directly to the user’s digital wallet on PayPal. The money stored on PayPal wallet can be used to make purchases where PayPal is accepted, sent to peers, or cashed out to a bank account.

Cardholders don’t need to wait for a physical card to show up in the mail before they can start earning rewards. Users have immediate access to the line of credit through their PayPal account. PayPal’s Cashback Mastercard will show up right away in their PayPal wallet, where it can be used to make purchases or pay bills online.

How to qualify for the PayPal Cashback Mastercard®

Borrowers with good or excellent credit scores are most likely to qualify for the PayPal Cashback Mastercard, but those working to better a poor credit score may qualify for a card, too.

Applicants are approved for one of three interest rates, based on creditworthiness and other factors. The lowest rate, 16.99%, is offered to applicants with the best scores, whereas the highest rate, 27.99%, is reserved for applicants who are a greater credit risk.There is a 24.99% APR that’s likely to go to anyone that falls in between.

What we like about the PayPal Cashback Mastercard®

2 percent cash back on all eligible purchases

PayPal’s Cashback Mastercard® is now the highest, no-fee rewards card on the market. The 2 percent cash back feature is the greatest value to credit card users who want a simple, straightforward way to earn rewards. This cash back card is ideal for users who make most of their everyday purchases on a credit card and pay off the card’s balance each month.

Cardholders will get 2 percent cash back on all eligible purchases made at Paypal.com, eBay.com and anywhere Mastercard is accepted using the PayPal Cashback Mastercard®.

Automatically added to PayPal Wallet

The credit card is automatically linked and added to the PayPal wallet, a digital wallet that lets users pay for purchases online with linked bank accounts, credit and debit cards, or money on the account balance. That means users opening the card to make a purchase can gain access to the line of credit and earn rewards for spending right away.

Redeem cash rewards to PayPal balance

To use any cash back earned, users must transfer the money to their PayPal balance. Once in the digital wallet, that money can be used to complete online purchases, pay bills, or send money to peers all over the world.

No cash back restrictions

PayPal doesn’t cap the amount of cash back users can earn or set a minimum on the amount of cash back a user can redeem. Plus, cash back rewards won’t expire, so users aren’t pressured to use the money or lose it by a certain date.

Mastercard benefits

PayPal Cashback Mastercard® users also gain exclusive Mastercard cardholder benefits. They include doubling the length of warranty coverage on purchases up to one year, 60-day price protection, and Mastercard’s identity theft protection service.

What we don’t like about the PayPal Cashback Mastercard®

For PayPal customers only

You must have a PayPal account in order to apply for a PayPal Cashback Mastercard® account and keep the account open to maintain the credit account.

If your PayPal account is closed, or you unlink the card from your PayPal account, your card account will be closed. If you have cash back available, you won’t be able to redeem those awards, and they will be forfeited.

If your PayPal account is suspended for any reason, you won’t be able to redeem cash back to your PayPal balance until the account is back in good standing.

No sign-up bonus

The PayPal Cashback Mastercard® misses an opportunity to offer users even more value by omitting a sign-up bonus. If users are looking to earn a boost in credit rewards after a few months of use, they may have more luck with a cash back card like Chase Freedom®, which offers 1 percent back on all purchases and a $150 signing bonus after cardholders spend $500 in the first three months the account is open.

No interest-free period

The card’s benefits also exclude an interest-free period. So while users can make a purchase with the line of credit immediately after opening the account using the PayPal wallet, they should avoid making large purchases as interest will begin to accrue right away.

Credit users should instead use a credit card with an interest-free period like the Discover it® Cashback Match™ credit card, so they have more time to pay off the balance of the purchase before interest kicks in. The card offers an 0% introductory APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers.

A high APR

Cardholders should be careful not to carry a balance on this card to avoid getting hit with interest charges. For borrowers with a poor credit rating, the card charges a super high 27.99% APR, which trumps any 2 percent cash back earned that period. To avoid paying interest and make the most of the Cashback Mastercard, cardholders should make sure to pay off the card balance each period.

3 percent foreign transaction fee

It costs cardholders 3 percent to swipe the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® overseas. Even with 2 percent cash back, users end up paying 1 percent to make foreign purchases.

Who the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® is best for

The PayPal Cashback Mastercard® is best for existing PayPal customers who want a straightforward way to earn cashback on all of their everyday purchases.

If a cardholder is a heavy online shopper, the Cashback Mastercard may also be a good choice because they can easily earn cash back from using the card as a payment option when they pay online using PayPal, then credit the cash back to their PayPal balance for future purchases.

PayPal Cashback Mastercard<sup>®</sup>

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Alternatives to the PayPal Cashback Mastercard

PayPal Extras MasterCard

If you prefer to earn credit card rewards in points instead of cash back, you can apply for PayPal’s other no-fee credit rewards option, the PayPal Extras MasterCard®. This card has a traditional points reward structure. It awards cardholders three times points on each dollar spent at gas stations and restaurants, double points on purchases made through PayPal or eBay, and one point per dollar spent everywhere else.

Unlike the cash back card, rewards earned on the PayPal Extras Mastercard expire® within two years if unused or if no purchases are made using the card for one year.

Citi® Double Cash Card

PayPal’s 2 percent Cashback Mastercard is only for PayPal account holders. If the benefits and 2 percent cash back upfront aren’t enough to rope you into creating a PayPal account, the Citi Double Cash Card® is a good alternative.

The card rewards 2 percent cash back on all purchases, but not all at once like PayPal’s Cashback Mastercard® does. Cardholders earn 1 percent cash back when they spend, and then 1 percent cash back when they pay, instead of awarding the entire 2 percent upfront. The Citi® Double Cash Card also omits an interest-free period for purchases and a sign-on bonus. However, it does offer a 0% introductory 18-month balance transfer.

PayPal Cashback Mastercard® FAQ

Cardholders receive 2 percent cash back on all eligible purchases made at Paypal.com, eBay.com and anywhere Mastercard is accepted using the PayPal Cashback Mastercard®.

No, cash back rewards don’t expire and can be redeemed to your PayPal balance at any time.

If you are unable to pay off your statement balance in full, you will be charged a variable interest rate of either 16.99%, 24.99% or 27.99% on purchases made in the billing period and be required to make a minimum payment.

Cardholders can redeem cash back by transferring the cash back balance to their PayPal account balance. The funds can then be used to make purchases anywhere PayPal is accepted or transfer money to peers using PayPal.

Use a cash back credit card that fits your day-to-day spending needs best, pay your bill in full each month, and spend only what you can afford to pay off.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

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Reviews

What You Should Know Before Using CareCredit to Pay for Medical Expenses

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: iStock

It’s no secret that medical expenses can be very costly in the United States. Since 2011, average family insurance premiums, even for people with employer-provided plans, have increased by 20 percent.

With out-of-pocket health care costs and insurance premiums skyrocketing, many people are turning to credit cards designated for medical expenses like CareCredit to help them pay for health care expenses over time.

But before you sign up for CareCredit to cover your next medical bill, here’s what you need to know.

A warning about those 0% financing offers

CareCredit is a credit card you can use at any of more than 200,000 health and wellness providers in the United States — from doctor’s offices to drugstores like Rite Aid.

Why turn to CareCredit instead of a regular credit card for medical expenses?

The biggest draw is the company’s frequent 0% financing specials for six to 24 months on qualifying purchases $200 or more, when you make the minimum monthly payments and pay the full amount due by the end of the promotional period.

The opportunity to put approved medical expenses on a 0% credit card and breathe easy for up to two years has huge appeal. But there’s one big caveat everyone should understand when it comes to CareCredit — deferred interest.

When you sign up for the CareCredit financing on a purchase of $200 to $999, deferred interest rate applies. This means that if you don’t have the full purchase paid off by the end of the promotional period, you will be charged retroactive interest at an APR of 26.99% from the date of your original purchase on the card. (We give an example of how the math works out below.)

Unfortunately, this is something customers could easily forget about, and it doesn’t help that the minimum monthly payment shown on your statement isn’t necessarily enough to get the entire balance paid off on or before the end of the special financing period. You should do the math yourself to make sure you’re paying enough each month to make the most of interest-free financing.

How CareCredit works

Now that you understand the risk that comes with a CareCredit account, let’s cover some of the details of what the company offers.

For larger purchases of $1,000 or more, CareCredit offers terms of up to 60 months with a reduced APR and fixed monthly payments until paid in full.

$200 to $999: Borrow at 0% for 6, 12, 18, and 24 months. Variable rate of 26.99% applies after promotional period ends.

$1,000 to $2,499: Borrow at 0% for 24, 36, or 48 months with an APR of 14.9%.

$2,500 and up: Borrow at 0% for 24, 36, 48, or 60 months with an APR of 16.9%.

How to apply

You can apply online on the CareCredit website or by phone at 1-800-677-0718. You can also apply at most health care providers’ offices if they are part of the network that accepts CareCredit to pay for services.

Like most credit card applications, you will need to supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, net income and housing information. But unlike most credit card applications, you will also need to specify your doctor’s name and how you plan to use your CareCredit credit card if you aren’t applying in a doctor’s office. Once approved, you can use your CareCredit credit card again and again at participating health care providers.

CareCredit approvals are usually immediate, so you can find out right away if you can pay for your medical services with CareCredit. Synchrony, the bank that issues CareCredit, did not respond to phone and email requests for information on the credit standing needed to qualify for CareCredit.

What can CareCredit be used for?

As mentioned earlier, there are more than 200,000 enrolled providers that accept CareCredit in the United States. These include many different types of medical and health care providers and procedures, such as:

  • Chiropractic
  • Cosmetic
  • Dentistry
  • Hearing
  • LASIK and Vision
  • Primary and Urgent Care
  • Weight Loss
  • Health Care Specialists

You might even be able to use CareCredit to pay for veterinary care for your four-legged family members, if your veterinarian participates and accepts CareCredit in their office.

Fine print alert

While there’s no application fee or fee for using the special financing offered by CareCredit, there are still some things you need to watch out for.

The first, which we covered previously, is the high interest rate charged if you don’t pay your balance off in full by the end of the promotional period. The interest rate of 26.99% is very high, and as mentioned, it will be charged in arrears from the time you made your purchase.

For example, if you charge $1,200 to your CareCredit at 0% for six months and only pay the minimum payment each month (between $39 and $33), your balance will be $982 at the end of the six-month period, plus accrued interest of $152, totaling $1,134. If you continue making only the minimum payment, it will take you 96 months (eight years) to pay off your balance and cost you $2,693. However, if you paid $200 a month, you’d pay off the $1,200 bill within six months at no extra cost.

Source: CareCredit

The late payment fee for CareCredit can be up to $38. Plus, paying late even once may result in you losing your promotional 0% interest rate.

Who is CareCredit best for?

Because of the fact that CareCredit will charge interest from the time of your purchase if your balance is not paid in full by the end of a promotional period, the only time you should use CareCredit to finance your medical costs is if you are 100 percent certain you can pay it off within or before the end of that time frame.

This might be a good idea if you have already saved up the cash for a medical procedure and you can continue earning interest on it in your savings account. By earning interest on your savings and paying 0% interest with CareCredit, you can actually save money on your medical bill. This could still be risky: You never know if something might happen that could cause you to no longer be able to afford to pay off your CareCredit balance as you had planned.

Alternatives to CareCredit

Ask the billing department for a payment plan

Many health care providers offer patients no-interest payment plans, but you may not know about it unless you ask. Tell the billing department what you can afford to pay monthly and see what your options are for spreading out the cost of your treatment.

Use your emergency fund

If you know you incur a lot of medical bills or don’t want to rely on credit when they come around, make saving for medical expenses or adding to your emergency fund part of your regular budget. That way, if an emergency happens, you’re much less likely to go into debt paying for it.

Open a credit card with 0% financing for purchases or balance transfers

There are many credit cards available with 0% interest rates from six months to 21 months that don’t require you to pay off your purchase in full to avoid interest from back when you first made the purchase. Even if you can’t pay off the entire purchase before the end of the 0% interest period, you could try doing a balance transfer to keep your interest rate low, but even if you leave your balance on that credit card, it probably has a lower interest rate than the 26.99% offered by CareCredit. Here are some of your best options for a 0% credit card.

Take out a personal loan

If you can qualify for a personal loan with a low interest rate, you’ll have fixed monthly payments, and you may be able to extend them longer than the terms offered by CareCredit. We’ve rounded up some of the places you can get the best personal loan rates online, and you can read about them here.

Don’t get caught at the checkout counter at your doctor’s office and end up making the wrong decision. Make sure you’ve carefully considered your options before you decide if you want to sign up for CareCredit to pay for your medical costs.

Kayla Sloan
Kayla Sloan |

Kayla Sloan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kayla at Kayla@magnifymoney.com

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College Students and Recent Grads, Pay Down My Debt, Reviews

CommonBond Student Loan Refinance Loan Review

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

CommonBond Grad Student Loan Refinance Loan Review

Updated September 7, 2017

CommonBond was founded by three Wharton MBAs who felt the sting of student loans after they graduated. The founders decided to provide a better solution for graduates, as they thought the student loan system was broken and in need of reform. As a result, they strive to make the refinance (and borrowing) process as simple and straightforward for graduates as possible.

CommonBond* began by servicing students from just one school, and has rapidly expanded. Today, CommonBond loans are available to graduates of over 2,000 schools nationwide. Although the company traditionally offered loan refinancing to undergraduate and graduate students, CommonBond recently started offering loans for current students as well (both undergraduates and graduates).

CommonBond is one of the top four lenders identified by MagnifyMoney to refinance student loans.

As you might be able to tell by the name, CommonBond thinks of its community as family. There is a network of alumni and professionals within the community that want to help borrowers. This alone sets it apart from other lenders, as members often meet for events.

While these are all great things, we know you’re more interested in how CommonBond might be able to help you make your student loans more affordable. Let’s take a look at what terms and rates they offer, eligibility requirements, and how they compare against other lenders.

Refinance Terms Offered

CommonBond offers low variable and fixed rate loans. Variable rates range from 2.81% – 6.74% APR, and fixed rates range from 3.35% – 7.12% APR.

Note that these rates take a 0.25% auto pay discount into consideration.

There is no maximum loan amount. CommonBond will lend what you can afford to repay. CommonBond offers fixed and variable rates with terms of 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years.

The hybrid loan is only offered on a 10 year term – the first 5 years will have a fixed rate, and the 5 years after that will have a variable rate.

CommonBond has a great chart listing repayment examples based off of borrowing $10,000, which can be found on its rates and terms page.

To pull an example from that, if you borrow $10,000 at a fixed 4.74% APR on a 10 year term, your monthly payment will be $104.80. The total amount you will pay over the 10 year period will be $12,575.90.

The Pros and Cons

CommonBond is available to graduates of 2,000 universities. While that is a very long list, not all colleges and universities are included.

One pro to consider is the hybrid loan option available. It might seem a little confusing at first – why would someone want a variable rate down the road?

If you’re confident you’ll be able to make extra payments on your loan and pay it off before the 5 years are up, you might be better off going with the hybrid option (if you can get a better interest rate on it).

This is because you’ll end up paying less over the life of the loan with a lower interest rate. If you were offered a 10 year loan with a fixed rate of 6.49% APR, and a hybrid loan with a beginning rate of 5.64%, the hybrid option would be the better deal if you’re intent on paying it off quickly.

What You Need to Qualify

CommonBond doesn’t list many eligibility requirements on its website, aside from the following:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • You must have graduated

CommonBond doesn’t specify a minimum credit score needed, but based on the requirements of other lenders, we recommend having a score of 660+, though you should be aiming for 700+. The good news is CommonBond lets you apply with a cosigner in case your credit isn’t good enough.

Documents and Information Needed to Apply

CommonBond’s application process is very simple – it says it takes as little as 2 minutes to complete. Initially, you’ll be asked for basic information such as your name, address, and school.

Once you complete this part, CommonBond will perform a soft credit pull to estimate your rates and terms.

If you want to move forward with the rates and terms offered, you’ll be required to submit documentation and a hard credit inquiry will be conducted. CommonBond lists the following as required:

  • Pay stubs or tax returns (proof of employment)
  • Diploma or transcript (proof of graduation)
  • Student loan bank statement
  • ID, utility bills, lease agreement (proof of residency)

CommonBond also notes it can take up to 5 business days to verify documents submitted, so the loan doesn’t happen instantaneously.

Once your documents are approved, you electronically sign for the loan, and CommonBond will begin the process of paying off your previous lenders. It notes this can take up to two weeks from the time the loan is accepted.

Who Benefits the Most from Refinancing Student Loans with CommonBond?

Borrowers who are looking to refinance a large amount of student loan debt will benefit the most from refinancing with them.

Keeping an Eye on the Fine Print

CommonBond does not have a prepayment penalty, and there are no origination fees nor application fees associated with refinancing.

As with other lenders, there is a late payment fee. This is 5% of the unpaid amount of the payment due, or $10, whichever is less.

If a payment fails to go through, you’ll be charged a $15 fee.

It’s also noted that failure to make payments may result in the loss of the 0.25% interest rate deduction from auto pay.

Transparency Score

Getting in touch with a representative is simple and there is a chat and call option right on the homepage. Some lenders have this hidden at the bottom, or they don’t offer a chat option at all.

CommonBond also lets borrowers know they can shop around within a 30 day period to lessen the impact on their credit.

It does not list its late fees on its website, unlike other lenders. However, after making a chat inquiry, the question was answered promptly.

CommonBond does offer a cosigner release and is ranked with a A+ transparency score.

Alternative Student Loan Refinancing Lenders

The student loan refinancing market continues to get more competitive, and it makes sense to shop around for the best deal.

One of the market leaders is SoFi. It’s always worth taking a look to see if SoFi* offers a better interest rate.

The two lenders are very similar – CommonBond offers “CommonBridge,” a service that helps you find a new job in the event you lose yours. SoFi offers a similar service called Unemployment Protection.

SoFi’s variable rates are currently 2.815% – 6.740% APR with autopay, and its fixed rates are currently 3.35% – 7.125% APR, which is in line with what CommonBond is offering.

SoFi also doesn’t have a limit on how much you can refinance with them.

SoFi

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Another lender to consider is Earnest. There is no maximum loan amount, and Earnest has a very slick application process. Interest rates start as low as 2.57% (variable) and 3.35% (fixed).

Lastly, you could check out LendKey. It offers student loan refinancing through credit unions and community banks, but only offers variable rates in most states and fixed rates in a select few. The maximum amount to refinance with an undergraduate degree is $125,000, and the maximum amount to refinance with a graduate degree is $250,000.

All three of these options provide forbearance in case of economic hardship and offer similar loan options (5, 10, 15 year terms).

Don’t Forget to Shop Around

As CommonBond initially conducts a soft pull on your credit, you’re free to continue to shop around for the best rates if you’re not happy with the rates it can provide. As the lender states on its website, if you apply for loans within a 30 day period, your credit won’t be affected as much.

Since CommonBond does have strict underwriting criteria, you should continue to shop around and don’t be discouraged if you are not approved. The market continues to get more competitive, and a number of good options are out there.

Customize Your Student Loan Offers with MagnifyMoney Comparison Tool

*We’ll receive a referral fee if you click on offers with this symbol. This does not impact our rankings or recommendations. You can learn more about how our site is financed here.

Erin Millard
Erin Millard |

Erin Millard is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erinm@magnifymoney.com

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College Students and Recent Grads, Reviews, Student Loan ReFi

SoFi Parent PLUS Loan Refinance Review

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Senior Couple Talking To Financial Advisor At Home

Updated August 21, 2017

Are you a parent who wanted to help your child finance his or her education, and ended up taking out more loans than anticipated? Many parents find themselves in a precarious situation as they try to plan for retirement and while balancing student loan debt.

If you’re looking to save on the amount of interest you’re paying, SoFi’s Parent PLUS loan refinance program may be right for you.

Details of the Parent PLUS Loan

You can refinance a minimum of $5,000 under SoFi. Fixed rates range from 3.35% to 6.75% APR and variable rates range from 2.815% – 6.490% APR (these rates assume you enroll in autopayment).

Terms of 5, 7, 10, and 15 years are available. Variable rates on terms of 5, 7, and 10 years are capped at 8.95%, while the 15 year term is capped at 9.95%.

An example payment looks like this: if you refinance $10,000 on a 5 year term with a fixed APR of 5.49%, your monthly payment will be $190.97 and you’ll pay a total of $11,457.93 over the life of the loan. If you refinance $10,000 on a 5 year term with a variable APR of 4.2%, your monthly payment will be $185.07 and you’ll pay a total of $11,104.43.

How Does the Parent PLUS Loan From SoFi Compare to a Federal PLUS Loan?

The interest rate for Federal Direct PLUS Loans disbursed on or after July 1st, 2015 and before July 1st, 2016 is 6.84%. During much of the 2000s, interest rates were higher. Currently, interest rates are fixed – variable rates are unavailable.

Most people are looking to refinance to save money, and SoFi offers very competitive rates compared with the Direct PLUS Loan, especially on variable rates.

While there are no fees to refinance, you should calculate your estimated savings before going through the process. Be aware if you do refinance, you’ll lose out on certain benefits that come with having Federal student loans, such as deferment, forbearance, and various repayment options.

PLUS loans made to parents are eligible for the Graduated or Extended Repayment Plans, and Direct PLUS loans are also eligible for forgiveness. In some cases, PLUS loans can be discharged due to the death of the borrower (or student).

Private loans often don’t extend these same benefits. In fact, SoFi explicitly states on its legal page that this loan “is not discharged in the event of death or permanent disability of the borrower or student on whose behalf the loan is taken out.”

Eligibility Requirements

You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and employed to be approved. SoFi is unable to lend in Nevada, and variable rates aren’t offered in Illinois, Ohio, or Tennessee. The loans must have been used to obtain at least a Bachelor’s degree with an eligible school as well.

There are no specific credit score requirements as SoFi tries to take a broader view of borrowers. It focuses on income and credit history instead.

Application Process and Documents Needed

The application process to refinance a PLUS Loan with SoFi is easy and can be done completely online. The application takes around 15 minutes to complete, and you’ll know whether or not you qualify by going through the pre-approval process first. During this portion of the application, a soft credit inquiry is used. If you decide to move forward with the loan offered to you, a hard credit inquiry will be used.

You’ll be asked to upload a few documents, so it’s a good idea to have the following ready to go:

  • Proof of residence – ID with matching address, otherwise a utility bill dated within the last 60 days is okay
  • Proof of income – most recent pay stubs
  • Proof of citizenship – a passport or birth certificate can be provided
  • Verification of loans – most recent loan statements for the loans you’re refinancing

Once you submit this documentation, SoFi’s review team gets to work on evaluating your loan. If no other documentation is needed, reviews can take anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks to complete.

The Fine Print

There isn’t an origination fee or application fee, and there are no prepayment penalties. Rates are determined on a number of factors, including the term you choose, your income, and your credit history.

There are late fees associated with the loan. The Parent PLUS Refinance program is currently offered through SoFi’s lending partner, Mohela, and it assesses any fees owed. When you receive the paperwork for the loan, the fees can be found under the disclosures.

Repayment Assistance Options

If you’re struggling to repay the loan after refinancing with SoFi, we recommend you contact a representative and make them aware of the situation. The worst thing you can do with any loan is not make a payment.

SoFi offers unemployment protection on a case-by-case basis, during which payments can be paused for a period of 3 to 12 months.

Pros and Cons of SoFi Parent PLUS Loan

Pro: SoFi offers much better rates than the 6.84% fixed rate that comes with Direct PLUS loans. If you have a higher interest rate – around 8% – you’ll stand to benefit even more.

Con: As we mentioned, refinancing means losing out on benefits associated with Federal student loans. If you’re not as concerned about needing repayment assistance, the savings might be enough to make refinancing worthwhile.

Pro: SoFi also offers variable interest rates, whereas the most recent Direct PLUS loans don’t. Variable rates can be tricky, though – SoFi says rates may change on a monthly basis. If you value stability and peace of mind, variable rates may not be for you. If you’re trying to pay off your balance quicker, and a lower interest rate would help, then it might be worth considering this option.

Con: You may have to extend the repayment term to get a lower monthly payment, as SoFi offers terms up to 15 years. Unfortunately, this increases the amount of interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan. It’s important to use a calculator to estimate how much your savings will be to make sure refinancing is worth it. For example, if you have less than 5 years remaining on your loan, refinancing may not save you a lot of money.

Pro: SoFi offers unemployment protection, and you can also take advantage of SoFi’s career assistance program. If you or your child is experiencing trouble finding employment, it will connect you with its network of alumni and give you tools and tips to succeed in your job search.

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Other Parent PLUS Refinance Alternative

If you don’t qualify with SoFi, you can try these lenders that also offer refinancing options:

CommonBond: Fixed APRs range from 3.35% to 7.12%, and variable APRs range start at 2.81%, and terms offered are 5, 10, 15, and 20 years. CommonBond also has hybrid APRs. Only a 10 year term is offered with this choice; it starts off as fixed for 5 years, and changes over to variable for 5 years. There are no origination fees or application fees, no prepayment penalty, and CommonBond actually allows you to transfer your loan to your child (which isn’t allowed with Federal loans). You can borrow a maximum of $500,000.

Citizens Bank: Citizens Bank refinances Parent PLUS and Direct PLUS loans through its Education Refinance program. The minimum amount you can refinance is $10,000 and up to $90,000 for Bachelor’s degrees and below, $130,000 for graduate and doctoral degrees, and $170,000 for professional degrees. For a Bachelor’s degree and above, you must have made 3 consecutive monthly payments to refinance. For anything less than a Bachelor’s degree, you must have made 12 consecutive monthly payments. The loan you’re refinancing must be in repayment status and can’t be enrolled in an Income-Based Repayment plan. Fixed APRs start at 6.64%. Terms of 5, 10, 15, or 20 years are offered. You need a minimum income of $24,000 to qualify.

Be sure to shop around as there are other lenders out there that will refinance Parent PLUS loans – you want to make sure you’re getting the best rates and terms available to you so you can save the most. Shopping around within 30 days will only count as one credit inquiry, so your credit won’t get penalized heavily. Take advantage of this and lessen the burden of student loan payments so you can focus on saving for your future.

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Erin Millard
Erin Millard |

Erin Millard is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erinm@magnifymoney.com

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