Tag: Small Business

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Best of, Credit Cards, Reviews

Best Credit Cards for Small Businesses December 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 Blue for Business® Credit Card from American Express

The Blue for Business® Credit Card

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.
  • Terms Apply. See Rates & Fees

The information related to The Blue for Business® Credit Card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

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 Secured

on Bank Of America’s secure website

Cash Flow Management

The Plum Card® from American Express OPEN

The Plum Card® from American Express

Managing cash flow can be one of the most difficult problems facing small business owners. The Plum Card® from 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
  • Terms Apply. See Rates & Fees.

The information related to The Plum Card® from American Express has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

 

Imperfect Credit

If you’re struggling to get approved for a small business credit card, the Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business 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 Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business 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 Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business 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

on Capital One’s secure website

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 Secured

on Navy Federal Credit Union’s secure website

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 Secured

on Navy Federal Credit Union’s secure website

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.

 

Business Platinum Card from American Express

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

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).
THE FINE PRINT
  • Annual fee: $450
  • Rewards: Earn Membership Rewards® points
  • Terms Apply. See Rates & Fees.

The information related to The Business Platinum® Card from American Express has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

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 Welcome Offer, 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 (See Rates & Fees).

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 Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business 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 Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business also offers valuable protective features like purchase protection, free extended warranties, primary auto rental collision coverage, and more. Overall, the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business 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 cash bonus when you spend $4,500 in the first three months
  • Rewards: 2% cash back on all spending
APPLY NOW Secured

on Capital One’s secure website

The Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business 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 cash bonus when you spend $3,000 in the first three months
  • Rewards: 1.5% cash back on all spending
APPLY NOW Secured

on Capital One’s secure website

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 Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

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 Welcome Offer, you’ll earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 in qualifying purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card membership. 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 introductory annual fee 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.
  • Terms Apply. See Rates & Fees.

The information related to The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

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 Secured

on Sam's Club’s secure website

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 Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

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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Small Business

The Ultimate Guide to Secured Business Loans

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.

Opening or expanding a small business usually involves a significant financial investment, whether it’s paying for building renovations, computers or additional inventory. For new business owners with ambitious plans, this type of investment often requires more capital than they have on hand, and existing businesses may not have enough cash available to grow while continuing to pay regular operating expenses.

One common solution is a business loan, which can be secured from banks or other private lenders for more favorable terms and lower interest rates than unsecured loans.

In this guide, we’ll cover:

Part I: Understanding Secured Business Loans

USBL Table

Business loans typically are secured or unsecured, and the type of loan that you can qualify for will depend on market conditions, your credit score, your assets and your business’s profitability and outlook.

Secured business loans require collateral – as much as 80 percent or more of the loan’s value, which shows that the borrowers can repay the loan if the business fails or the loan goes into default. That means that business owners need to show the lender that they are willing to take on significant risk, including the possibility of losing their house or business assets, to secure financing for their business venture.

Unsecured loans do not require collateral and typically are easier to qualify for. For secured business loans, on the other hand, lenders look for applicants who are in a position to pay the loan back regardless of the business’s success and are willing to risk their own assets for the business. Applicants also need to have good credit and businesses that are feasible in the current market.

“That’s why [lenders] want people to have a proven track record of doing things responsibly,” says Roman Starns, a business consultant with the Louisiana Small Business Development Center. “[Borrowers are saying,] ‘look, I’m willing to put my home equity in, I’m willing to pledge some real estate, I’m willing to put 20 percent down in cash to make this business work.’

“That’s going to mean they are more likely to run that business well and do well at it. If someone puts nothing into it, they have nothing to lose but their credit.”

Lenders also will investigate whether the business is viable in the current market. An entrepreneur who wants to open, for example, a VHS repair shop could have a solid business plan and financial backing, but lenders likely will reject the application.

“They are going to look at the market conditions for this loan as well,” says Starns, who has 20 years’ experience as an entrepreneur and small business owner. “No one has VHS anymore. They want to see that this is a workable business and the financial projections on it show that, within reason, you’re going to be able to pay back everything and the business is going to make it. It’s not as easy as, ‘Oh, I have a great idea that’s going to work,’ and you go get a loan for the money.”

Part II: Types of Business Loans

Traditional lending institutions, such as banks, offer standard secure business loans through a simple application process. Borrowers can apply in person or online, and bank professionals will work with the borrower on the terms and amount of the loan. For applicants and businesses in good financial shape, this process can be quick and easy.

The type of business loan a borrower applies for will depend on their need for cash, financial situation and availability of collateral. Here are some options for business owners considering secured business loans.

Term loans

Term loans are best for business owners who have a specific, one-time need for cash, such as buying an expensive piece of equipment or financing a major building renovation. A term loan will provide the money up front in a lump sum, and the borrower pays it back over time. These loans typically are approved for established businesses that need extra cash to expand or enhance their services.

The length of the repayment period will depend on the purpose of the loan and the amount of collateral the borrower can offer. Until recently, term loans were offered between two and five years, but now they can be repaid in as little time as six months or as long as 25 years.

Deciding which type of term loan you need depends a lot on how soon are prepared to repay the loan.

Up to 2 years: Short-term loans

Short-term loans, which are best for paying for a pressing business need, must be paid back quickly. Terms might require daily or weekly payments, which allow the borrower to pay back the money quickly and minimize financing costs.

2 to 5 years: Medium-term loans

Medium-term loans are ideal for companies that are growing and are optimistic about their future. These loans, which usually are repaid in two to five years, allow business owners to put plans for expansion into action immediately rather than waiting to save enough money to buy equipment or other assets that will allow the business to grow. Medium-term loans can be unsecured or secured, and approval is based on the applicant’s credit score and collateral, if required.

10-25 years: Long-term loans

Long-term loans are designed for businesses that can project growth years. The amount of these loans, which have repayment terms ranging from 10 to 25 years, is dependent on the need, and they can range from several thousand dollars for a small equipment purchase up to $1 million for buying a building or property.

SBA-guaranteed loans

It is a common misconception that the Small Business Administration, a government agency that provides assistance to small businesses, loans money to businesses. Instead of making loans directly, the SBA creates guidelines for loans and then guarantees to its lending partners that their loans will be repaid.

The SBA works with several different kinds of institutions, including traditional lenders, microlending institutions and community development organizations. When a business applies for an SBA loan through one of these partners, the partner provides a loan that is structured according to SBA rules and is guaranteed by the SBA.

Because the SBA is a government organization, its rules and practices can change as government fiscal policies adapt to the current economy. It’s important to always check with the SBA for its most current policies and loan programs.

The SBA typically will not offer loans to businesses that can secure financing on their own, and it does not offer grants to new or expanding businesses. It does provide several programs to help borrowers finance different aspects of a business.

  • General small business loans: These loans, called 7(a), are the SBA’s most common loan program and can be approved for up to $5 million, although the SBA states that the average 7(a) loan for fiscal year 2015 was about $371,000. These loans are assigned low interest rates, and the SBA will guarantee as much as 85 percent of the loan up to $150,000. Seventy-five percent of loans over $150,000 are guaranteed. The loans are generally available to small businesses that do business in the United States and have already used alternative funding sources, such as personal savings.
  • Microloans: Available for startups and business expansions, SBA microloans are provided through intermediary nonprofit community organizations for up to $50,000. The average microloan is $13,000, according to the SBA, and interest rates are between 8% and 13%. Business owners usually are required to pledge collateral and a personal guarantee.
  • Real estate and equipment loans: The CDC/504 program offers loans for buying land, improving property, constructing and improving buildings, and purchasing equipment and machinery. Successful applicants will have a feasible business plan, no available funding from other sources, good character, and business projections that show an ability to pay back the loan. Loan amounts are based on how the business will use the money and how closely the business’s plan meets the program’s goals.
  • Disaster loans: When businesses suffer losses due to a declared disaster and are in a declared disaster area, SBA low-interest disaster loans are available to replace or repair real estate, personal property, inventory, business assets, and equipment and machinery damaged in the disaster. Owners of businesses of all sizes can apply online, at designated disaster recovery centers, or by mail, and the loan can be repaid in monthly payments or a lump sum. Loans can be approved for up to $2 million.

Business line of credit

A business line of credit works much like a business credit card, allowing the business to access funds as needed and make minimum monthly payments to repay the borrowed money. Through this type of lending, business owners can set their own borrowing and repayment schedules, depending on their cash flow.

Lines of credit are appealing to businesses because they are easier to obtain than standard secured loans, and the business owner does not pay interest until they withdraw money from the credit line. This type of borrowing is best for established businesses with optimistic outlooks, as struggling businesses in danger of failing may leave the owner personally responsible for unpaid debt.

Chris Kline, co-owner of a pillow manufacturing business in Bucks County, Pa., says his business recently took out a $50,000 line of credit to buy more manufacturing equipment to meet increasing demand for their products. Kline and artist Eric Fausnacht opened the business manufacturing pillows printed with Fausnacht’s artwork five years ago, and Kline helped move the business from arts and crafts shows into the wholesale market.

The application process for a line of credit included a meeting with a bank official, who visited the company on-site and talked at length with the business owners about their company and business projections.

Kline, 45, says that he prefers to borrow conservatively, and he and Fausnacht pledged business assets rather than personal assets to secure the line of credit. While unsecured lines of credit are available for maximums under $100,000, secured lines of credit typically have lower interest rates and higher credit lines.

“I’m not looking to borrow more than 10 or 15 percent of annual sales,” Kline says. “And I’m confident we will be able to pay that back if something unforeseen happens.”

The new equipment purchased with the line of credit already increased production and revenues enough that Eric & Christopher now has eight or nine full-time employees and additional part-time staff.

Equipment loans

Many businesses require expensive equipment, such as an X-ray machine or a tractor, to get started. Without revenues from the business, a business owner may not have the capital to pay for the equipment. An equipment loan, which several types of lenders offer, can help a business buy the equipment it needs to begin or expand operations.

Unlike many other types of business loans, the equipment can serve as collateral for the loan and makes the loan easier to obtain. If the borrower can’t make the payments, the lender will repossess the equipment and sell it to recoup some of its losses. Applicants for equipment loans should have good credit and cash available for as much as a 20 percent down payment.

Equipment loans typically come with low interest rates and manageable payments, making them good tools to help businesses afford expensive purchases. Business owners must pay off the entire loan, even if the loan repayment term is longer than the life of the equipment.

Invoice financing (factoring)

Invoice financing, also called invoice factoring, is an easier way for an established business owner to raise capital than with a standard secured loan. This process allows business owners to sell their outstanding invoices at a discount to a third party, which then collects on them to repay a single-payment loan issued to the business owner.

These types of loans are beneficial for business owners who need cash faster than the repayment deadline on the invoices. Invoice financing can cover cash flow gaps and payroll, for example, and it is low risk because the money comes from completed sales rather than sales projections. The downside is that invoice financing requires substantial fees.

Inventory financing

Businesses that depend on a steady flow of inventory can use inventory financing to keep their shelves stocked or to buy more inventory for seasonal sales increases. Inventory financing also can help small businesses with cash flow during periods of slow sales.

Inventory financing provides a revolving line of credit that business owners can draw on as needed. The business owner pledges existing inventory as collateral for the loan.

Part III: How to Secure Your Business Loan

There are several ways to secure a business loan. You can use hard assets for collateral, like a house or a boat; paper assets, like investments and savings accounts; or your own inventory and invoices. We’ll dig into types of ways to secure your business loan here.

Securing your business loan with collateral

If you or your business has significant assets, you likely are a good candidate for a secured business loan. Lenders will consider the amount of collateral you have when deciding on your loan application, as they want to reduce their risk in case you can’t repay your loan. If you default, lenders will take possession of collateral and sell it to regain at least some of the money they lent you.

This is where risk can come in. While your business may be secure when you apply for the loan, downturns in the market or other unexpected events may push a business into hard times. For example, if an unsavory business moves in next door, your customer traffic may slow significantly. If a machine breaks down or needs to be replaced, production could be slowed and orders unfulfilled. Theft and natural disasters that destroy your business’s property also can severely reduce revenues and lead to unexpected expenses.

If unforeseen circumstances result in a business owner being unable to make loan payments, the lender can seize collateral. As a result, a business owner can lose their house, their car or their savings. If the collateral is property belonging to the business, seizure can be just as devastating, and losing significant business assets can cause the business to close.

The payoff for a secured loan, though, will be more flexible loan terms and significant financial savings over time. Borrowers with secured loans will pay lower interest rates and fewer fees, and they may not be penalized for paying off the loan early.

Hard vs. paper assets

Lenders typically will accept personal and business assets, which a business owner can pledge as collateral if they want to protect their personal property. Either way, borrowers must promise the lender something valuable that can easily convert to cash in the case of default to recoup losses.

Borrowers can pledge two types of collateral: hard assets and paper assets. Hard assets include houses, vehicles, boats and land, while paper assets include stocks, savings, investments, insurance policies and bonds. Lenders also will happily accept cash accounts as collateral, but they will not consider retirement accounts, such as 401(k) plans.

Business assets that qualify as collateral include inventory, insurance policies, accounts receivable, machinery and equipment, and unpaid invoices.

Some lenders may attach a blanket lien to a loan as collateral, and borrowers should be aware of the sweeping consequences this can have if the loan goes into default. Blanket liens give lenders a legal claim to all of your assets, business or personal, if you stop making loan payments.

Securing your business with a personal guarantee

In many cases, borrowers will be asked to provide a personal guarantee for a secured business loan. This requires the signatures of all principal owners, ensuring that they have assets they can put up as collateral. While the signatures are on unsecured promises, a personal guarantee does allow the lender to take signers’ assets if the loan is not paid. If you don’t have enough assets to personally guarantee a loan, business consultant Starns recommends finding a business partner who does.

Personal guarantees are different from collateral in that they give lenders access to a wide range of assets, while collateral typically specifies assets the lender can seize in case of nonpayment.

It’s important to know what you’re signing when offering a personal guarantee. If you do default on the loan, the lender may release you from the personal guarantee if you ask, and you also could try to arrange with the lender to first sell business assets to satisfy the outstanding debt before they seize your personal assets.

Part IV: Shopping for a Secured Business Loan

Borrowers can apply for secured business loans at several types of financial institutions. Banks and credit unions offer standard application procedures that include filling out an application in person or over the phone, discussing terms and the loan amount with a loan officer, and working with a business specialist to access funds if the loan is approved.

Business owners can apply for SBA loan programs through partner lenders, which can include banks and community organizations that work within SBA guidelines. Borrowers will need to download and complete an SBA loan application and be prepared to submit documents such as personal background and financial statements, business financial statements, and income tax returns. A list of SBA lenders is available on the agency’s website.

Online lenders typically have faster application processes and can get money to borrowers quickly, but they often come with higher interest rates than traditional lenders. Some online lenders often charge origination and monthly maintenance fees as well.

To compare offers from multiple business loan lenders, check out MagnifyMoney parent company LendingTree.com.

Do your research

Before business owners begin shopping for a secured business loan, financial advisers recommend realistically assessing their business’s economic situation. Secured business loans come with great personal risk, as a failed business and inability to pay off a secured loan can cost a business owner significant personal or business assets. Online calculators can help borrowers estimate potential monthly payments and make good decisions about what amount of loan they can afford.

Bob Burton, a retired businessman who now volunteers as a mentor for the Charlotte, N.C., office of SCORE, a national organization that provides mentoring and education to small business owners, says he makes sure that clients understand the economics of their idea for a business.

“They have to make the call whether they want to put their money in it,” Burton says. “A lot of people don’t understand what’s involved in starting a business. It sometimes can look very simple, but it can be quite complex.”

Starns advises borrowers to think through how realistic their plan is, including whether they are truly committed to the endeavor and have enough experience to execute it, before taking on a secured loan.

“You’re risking a lot of things,” he says. “Owning your own business is rewarding, but it’s also risky and takes a special mentality to be able to do it.”

Marty Minchin
Marty Minchin |

Marty Minchin is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Marty here

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Small Business

How to Get Approved for a Small Business Loan

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.

Getting a loan to start or grow a small business is rarely easy, especially since the financial crash of 2008 and the credit crunch that followed. Finding the right lender and navigating the application and underwriting process is challenging. So being adequately prepared and taking practical steps to improve your chances ahead of time can help reduce the amount of time you’ll spend and reduce your frustration with the process. With that in mind, here are four tips for getting approved for a small business loan.

Know your business credit score AND personal credit score

Gerri Detweiler, Education Director for Nav, a platform that connects small business owners to financing, says that the first thing any small business owner should do before applying for a small business loan is check their business and personal credit score. “Some lenders may review one or the other, and some review both,” Detweiler says.

How to find your business credit score:

Your business credit score is based on trade credit (when a supplier allows you to buy now and pay later) and other debt in the business name, such as credit cards and equipment loans. Business credit is measured on a scale of 0-100, with a score of 75 or more being the ideal range. Both Experian and Dun & Bradstreet calculate business credit scores.

If your business is very new or hasn’t used credit in the past, you may not have a business credit score. In that case, Detweiler says, your personal credit score will probably play a larger role in getting the loan approved. Most lenders look for a personal credit score of 640-660 or higher.

How to find your personal credit score:

There are numerous free credit scores available for you to access; however, not all scores are considered equal. Credit lenders will often pull specific scores, depending on the product you are applying for. Therefore, we have created a simple chart for you to see where you can get specific credit scores from the top two companies — FICO® and VantageScore.

You can order a copy of your personal credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies once every 12 months, free of charge, by going to AnnualCreditReport.com. Once you have the reports, make sure you recognize all of the information on your credit reports, such as names, addresses, Social Security numbers, credit card accounts and loans. Make sure there aren’t any accounts belonging to another person with the same or a similar name as yours, fraudulent accounts resulting from identity theft, or the same debt listed more than once. If there are any errors, contact the credit reporting agency (Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion) that sent you the report and follow their instructions to dispute the error.

The best option: FICO® Score 8

Where to get it: Credit Scorecard by Discover or freecreditscore.com

Find the right type of lender for a small business loan

Traditional banks may be the first option that comes to mind when you think about a small business loan, but Detweiler says most banks don’t make startup loans. Even existing businesses may have a hard time getting a bank loan of less than $50,000, depending on the lender.

Your first step should be talking to the bank or credit union that holds your business checking and savings accounts. They may be able to offer a term loan or line of credit. They may also be able to help you with a loan backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA’s 7(a) Loan Program is designed to help small and startup businesses with financing for a variety of purposes.

Nonprofit small business loans

If a traditional or SBA loan is not an option, you might consider a nonprofit microlender. These loans are a bit easier for startups to qualify for. Their standards are less stringent because profit is not the lender’s objective. They often focus on helping disadvantaged communities or minority business owners. According to the Aspen Institute’s FIELD program, the top U.S. microlenders are:

  • Grameen America – helps women in poor communities build businesses
  • LiftFund – offers microloans in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee
  • Opportunity Fund – provides loans to low-income residents of California
  • Accion – offers loans from $5,000 to $50,000 throughout the U.S.
  • Justine Petersen – provides loans under $10,000 to entrepreneurs who don’t have access to commercial or conventional loans

Get your financial statements in order

Whether you apply for a loan through a bank, credit union, or non-bank lender and whether you rely on your business or personal credit, anyone who lends money is going to want financial statements.

Getting your financial statements in shape before applying for a loan will increase your chances of approval and help you qualify for more competitive rates. For your business, these are the key documents a lender will want to look at:

  • Profit and Loss (P&L) Statements
  • Balance Sheets
  • Statement of Cash Flows for the past three years

Providing financial statements can be a significant hurdle for small business owners and startups who’ve neglected their bookkeeping. If you’ve been cobbling together the books on your own, you probably haven’t been preparing your business financials in a recognized basis of accounting such as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). You may need to hire an accountant to get your business books in order and prepare the financials. This can be costly, so find out what your lender requires before you get started.

The lender may also want to look at a personal financial statement:

  • Your assets
  • Liabilities (debts) and contingent liabilities (such as a co-signed loan or outstanding lawsuits)
  • Income

You can download a Personal Financial Statement form from the SBA website for an indication of the information you’ll be required to submit, but banks often require their own form.

Run your own background check on Google

Gil Rosenthal, director of risk operations at BlueVine, a provider of small business financing, says lenders will often Google loan applicants and check social media profiles to see what others are saying about the business and its owners.

Loan underwriters are looking to see whether you are considered a trusted authority online, whether you’re using social media to promote your brand, and whether you quickly and effectively respond to customers. Be cognizant of your online reputation, including Yelp reviews, and keep your business and personal social media profiles up to date.

If your online reviews are less than glowing, Rosenthal says, “you can mitigate the impact by being prepared to explain anything negative that comes up in the application process.”

The bottom line

Even if you have all of your proverbial ducks in a row, finding the right terms from the right lender may take some time. By anticipating what your lender will review and require, you’ll greatly increase your chances of getting approved for a small business loan.

Janet Berry-Johnson
Janet Berry-Johnson |

Janet Berry-Johnson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Janet here

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9 Essential Tax Tips for Entrepreneurs

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.

9 Essential Tax Tips for Entrepreneurs

For many entrepreneurs, there is no topic more fraught than taxes. In fact, a 2015 survey of small business owners found that 40% say dealing with bookkeeping and taxes is the worst part of owning a small business and that they spend 80+ hours a year dealing with taxes and working with their accountants. Taxes can be time-consuming, confusing, and a drain on your finances if you don’t prepare well. So whether you choose to do your taxes on your own or hire a professional, this guide can provide some sound advice and hopefully make tax time a little less taxing.

 

#1 Select the Right Entity for Your Business

 

One of the first decisions you’ll make when setting up your business is whether to function as a sole proprietor, partnership, LLC, or corporation. In her recent blog post, Wendy Connick, an IRS enrolled agent and owner of Connick Financial Solutions, says “the type of business entity you choose will have a huge effect both on how you pay taxes and how much tax you pay. It’s wise to consider the pros and cons of each business structure before making a final decision.”

Sole proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest way to form a business, as it is not a legal entity. The business owner just needs to register the business name with the state and secure the proper local business licenses. The downside is that the sole proprietor is personally liable for the business’s debts.

Partnership

A partnership is similar to a sole proprietorship, but two or more people share ownership. Both partners contribute their money, labor, or skill to the business and share in its profits and losses.

Limited liability company (LLC)

An LLC provides more protection from liability than a sole proprietor or partnership but with the efficiency and flexibility of a partnership.

Corporation

A corporation is more complicated and usually recommended for larger companies with multiple employees. It is a legal entity owned by shareholders, so the corporation itself, not its shareholders, is legally liable for business debts.

Unlike other business entities, corporations pay income tax on their profits, so they are subject to “double taxation,” first on company profits and again on shareholder dividends.

To avoid double taxation, corporations can file an election with the IRS to be treated as an S Corporation. S Corporation income and losses “pass through” to the shareholder’s personal income tax return instead of being taxed at the corporate level.

Some small businesses and freelancers may save on self-employment taxes by registering as an S Corporation and paying themselves a salary. Sole proprietors, partners, and LLC members pay self-employment tax on their entire business net income, but S Corp shareholders only pay self-employment taxes on their wages. They can receive additional income from the corporation as a distribution, which is taxed at a lower rate.

Connick says “many small business owners start out as sole proprietors and adopt a different structure once the business gets big enough to make it worthwhile (which would typically be when the business is making over $50,000 a year).”

 

#2 Get an Employer Identification Number

 

All businesses, even sole proprietors should get an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Technically, sole proprietors can use their Social Security number (SSN) as the business’s identification number, but that means providing an SSN to any clients or vendors who need to issue a 1099, a move that can leave you more exposed to identity theft.

Applying for an EIN from the IRS is free and can usually be done in a matter of minutes using the IRS’s online form.

#3 Make Sure Your Business Isn’t Just a Hobby

 

You know you’re in business to make money, but would the IRS agree? If your company is operating at a loss, the IRS could reclassify your business as a hobby, resulting in some serious tax consequences.

A business is allowed to offset taxable income with business expenses, but hobby expenses cannot be netted against hobby income. Instead, they are deducted as miscellaneous itemized deductions on Schedule A and limited to the amount of hobby income reported on Schedule C. This means a hobby business can never result in a net loss, and you may be prevented from deducting hobby expenses entirely if you don’t itemize deductions.

If you’ve been making money in your business for a while and just have one bad year, you don’t have to worry about the IRS reclassifying your business as a hobby. If you’ve been losing money for a while and especially if your business involves some element of personal pleasure or recreation (such as horse racing, filmmaking, or restoring old cars), you’ll want to make sure you’re treating your business like a business in case the IRS challenges your losses.

The IRS takes several factors into consideration:

  • Does the amount of time you put into the business suggest an intention of making a profit? Side projects are more likely to face scrutiny because you’re spending the majority of your time at another full-time job.
  • Do you depend on the income you receive from the business?
  • Were any losses beyond your control or occur in the startup phase? Losses due to poor management and overspending are less likely to hold up under examination.
  • Have you changed operation methods to improve profitability? Many business experience setbacks. If you learn from mistakes and try to correct your course, the IRS is more likely to agree that you have the intention of running a profitable business.
  • Do you have the knowledge and experience necessary to be successful in your field?

If you are concerned about an IRS challenge of your losses, there are a few steps you can take to treat your activity as a business:

  • Keep thorough business books and records.
  • Maintain separate business checking and credit accounts.
  • Obtain the proper business licenses, insurance, and certifications.
  • Develop and maintain a written business plan.
  • Document the hours spent working on your business, especially if it is a side project.

 

#4 Track Income and Expenses Carefully

 

Maintaining separate business checking and credit card accounts is not only a good way to demonstrate that your business is not a hobby, but it’s also an excellent way to simplify tracking business income and expenses.

Benjamin Sullivan, an IRS enrolled agent and a certified financial planner with Palisades Hudson Financial Group LLC in its Austin, Texas, office, says “small business owners can get a tax benefit from almost anything that is an ordinary and necessary business expense. Travel, meals, advertising, and insurance costs are just some of the popular deductions.”

Use small business bookkeeping software

Small business accounting software like FreshBooks, Xero, or QuickBooks Online can help you easily and quickly track your business revenues and expenses. They can usually be set up to import transactions from your business checking account automatically and let you snap pictures of receipts with your phone.

Whether you choose to use a software program or just a spreadsheet, establish a system for organizing records and receipts right from the beginning. “Little expenses can add up quite a bit over the course of a year,” Connick says, “but you can’t deduct them if you don’t know what they are.”

Special rules for travel, meals, and entertainment

It is especially crucial to maintain good records for business travel, meals, and entertainment expenses. The IRS allows taxpayers to deduct 100% of their business-related travel and 50% of the cost of business meals and entertainment expenses, whether you are taking a client out for a meal or traveling out of town. Because these categories are prone to abuse, the IRS requires documentation to substantiate that these expenses have a legitimate business purpose.

For meals and entertainment, in addition to a receipt that shows the amount, time, and place, taxpayers should also make a note of the individuals being entertained and the business purpose. Meeting this requirement can be as simple as jotting down a note on your receipt or in your calendar regarding who you dined with and the business matters discussed.

For travel expenses, hotel receipts must include a breakdown of the charges for lodging, meals, telephone, and other incidentals. Your hotel should be able to provide an itemized receipt at checkout.

Save cash instead of taxes

One trap that small business owners often fall into is spending money to save on taxes. At year end, many entrepreneurs look at business profits and think they need to spend their cash to avoid a big tax bill. Don’t spend a dollar to save forty cents in tax. If you truly need a new computer, extra supplies, or a new vehicle, buy it. Don’t spend money just to avoid a tax bill. Remember, taxes are a cost of doing business. If you’re paying taxes, you’re making money.

#5 Set Aside Money for Taxes

 

When you set up a separate business checking account, it’s also a good idea to set up a separate savings account to help you organize funds and set aside money for taxes.

Our tax system is a “pay as you go” system. When you receive a paycheck from an employer, money is regularly withheld on your behalf. When you are self-employed, making estimated tax payments is your responsibility. If you don’t pay in enough during the year to cover your income tax and self-employment tax, you may have to pay an underpayment penalty.

Estimated tax payments are due on the 15th day of April, June, September, and the following January. You have a few options for calculating what you owe each quarter:

Use Form 1040ES

This form includes a worksheet to help you estimate how much you owe for the current year. (Corporations use Form 1120-W to calculate estimated taxes.)

Look at last year’s return

If you’ve been in business for a while and there are no significant changes this year, you can aim to pay 100% of last year’s tax as a safe-harbor estimate (110% if your adjusted gross income for the prior year was more than $150,000).

Make a quarterly estimate

If your income fluctuates, you may prefer to make a quarterly calculation. Calculating estimated payments is complex. It depends on your tax bracket, deductions, credits, etc. In this case, it’s best to work with a tax professional who can consider all of the factors and recent changes in the tax law.

Sullivan says, “Tax planning isn’t a one-time exercise that should be done at the end of the year or at tax time. Instead, tax planning is an ongoing process of structuring your affairs in a tax-efficient manner.”

#6 Don’t Forget to Track Your Mileage

 

When you drive your personal vehicle for business, you have two options for deducting business automobile expenses: the standard mileage rate or actual expenses.

The IRS releases the standard mileage rate annually. The rate is $0.54 per mile for 2016. It goes down to $0.535 cents per mile for 2017. You simply multiply the standard mileage rate by the number of miles you drove for business during the year.

To use the actual expense method, total up all of the costs of operating your vehicle for the year, including insurance, repairs, oil, and gas, and multiply them by the percentage of business use. For example, if you drove 10,000 miles during the year and 5,000 of those miles were for business, your percentage of business use would be 50%. If it cost $7,000 to own and operate your vehicle, your deduction using the actual expense method would be $3,500 ($7,000 x 50%).

You can use whichever method gives you the largest deduction. However, if you want to use the standard mileage rate, you must choose it in the first year the car is used for business. In subsequent years, you can choose either method.

Whichever method you choose, you must track your business miles. You can do that with a paper log kept in your glove compartment or with an app such as MileIQ or TrackMyDrive. “Note that ‘business purpose’ is a pretty broad category,” Connick says. “If you drive to the supermarket and pick up some pens for your home office while buying groceries, the trip counts as business mileage.”

 

#7 Consider the Home Office Deduction

 

Some business owners avoid claiming the home office deduction, believing it to be an audit trigger. That may have been true in the past, but today’s technology has made home offices much more common. Connick suggests entrepreneurs shouldn’t fear the home office deduction if they meet the requirements. “It’s no longer audit bait,” she says, “especially if you use the safe harbor method to calculate your deduction.”

To take advantage of the home office deduction, you must use the area exclusively and regularly, either as your principal place of business or as a setting to meet with clients. The home office deduction is based on the percentage of your home used for the business. You can choose either the traditional method or the simplified method for deducting expenses.

Under the traditional method, you’ll calculate the percentage of your home that is used for business by dividing the square footage of your office by the square footage of your entire home. For example, if your home is 1,500 square feet and your office occupies 150 square feet, the business percentage is 10%. Then, you can deduct 10% of all of the expenses of owning and maintaining your home, including mortgage interest, real estate taxes, utilities, association dues, insurance, repairs, etc.

Under the simplified method, you’ll take a deduction of $5 per square foot, with a maximum of 300 square feet. So if your home office measures 150 square feet, the home office deduction would be $750 (150 x $5).

 

#8 Save for Retirement

 

For most self-employed people, the simplest option for retirement saving is an individual retirement account (IRA). Anyone can contribute to a traditional IRA, but with an annual contribution limit of just $5,500 ($6,500 if you are age 50 or older), you may want a retirement savings option that allows you to save more.

Connick says her number one tip for entrepreneurs is to open a SEP-IRA. “These retirement accounts are cheap to open and maintain,” she says. They also “have a high contribution limit, and contributions are fully tax deductible.” SEP-IRAs allow entrepreneurs to contribute up to 25% of their net earnings from self-employment, up to a maximum of $53,000 for 2016.

The deadline to contribute to a SEP-IRA is the due date of your return, including extensions. So 2016 contributions can be made until April 18, 2017, or October 15, 2017, if an extension is filed.

 

#9 Get Help from a Professional

 

Connick recommends that entrepreneurs hire a professional to do their taxes. “If you pick someone who knows their stuff,” she says, “you will likely save more than enough off your tax bill to pay for their fees. For that matter, tax preparation fees are deductible!”

When choosing a tax professional, look for someone with experience working with self-employed taxpayers. The IRS maintains an online directory of return preparers who have additional credentials, such as EAs, attorneys, and CPAs. Search the directory to find a professional near you with the credentials or qualifications you prefer.

If there is one thing all entrepreneurs can agree on, it’s that everybody dreads tax season. Having a basic understanding of tax law, maintaining organized records throughout the year, and working with a professional can help you make the most of this least wonderful time of the year.

Janet Berry-Johnson
Janet Berry-Johnson |

Janet Berry-Johnson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Janet here

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Reviews, Small Business

Review: American Business Lending Small Business Loan

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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American Business Lending is a Preferred SBA non-bank lender offering SBA small business loans. SBA Loans are guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. Since the government may guarantee up to 85% of this small business loan, the lender is able to qualify business owners with more lenient standards and offer a lower interest rate than traditional loans.

You can borrow $300,000 to $5,000,000 for commercial financing. This loan can be used for expansion, refinancing, business acquisitions, start-ups, franchises, furniture, fixtures, equipment, inventory and working capital.

Loan interest on the American Business Lending SBA Loan is the prime rate + up to 2.75%. The Wall Street Journal prime rate at the time of publication is 3.50, so you can expect an interest cap of 6.25%. However, interest on this loan is floating, which is another way of saying variable. Interest rates will adjust quarterly based on the prime rate.

The loan term is 7 to 25 years. Collateral may be required. There’s a minimum 10% down payment. You may be able to avoid a down payment if you’re getting a loan for a refinance.

The American Business Lending Loan Process

There are four steps to the loan process. First, you’ll get assigned a loan officer. They’ll help you choose which loan product is the best for you and then you put in an application. During the application process you’ll turn in a few documents to qualify you for the loan including:

  • Financial statements
  • Federal tax returns for your business from the last 3 years
  • A business plan or projections for the next two years if your business is a start-up
  • A purchase agreement if you’re buying real estate or business assets
  • The franchise agreement if you run a franchise business
  • A copy of the note being refinanced if you’re refinancing a loan

From there, your application goes into underwriting where your loan request will be reviewed. An underwriter will possibly follow up with questions to qualify you. You get a credit decision within 72 hours of turning in your complete loan application.

Once approved, you’re given a commitment letter, which includes: your interest rate, loan amount, collateral required and other loan terms. You’ll have to pay a good faith deposit, which will later be used to cover the closing costs, credit reports and other fees associated with taking out a loan. After signing the commitment letter and turning in your good faith deposit, you can expect your loan to close within 30 to 45 days.

Since we just mentioned closing fees, now’s a good time to go into how much this is going to cost you.

Fees and Gotchas

American Business Lending charges a $1,500 fee for packaging the loan on top of the SBA guarantee fee charged by the Small Business Administration and other closing costs.

The Small Business Administration fee is charged to the lender and the lender can choose to eat the cost or charge it back to you. In this case, American Business Lending will charge you. The SBA guarantee fee for this loan will range from 3% to 3.75% of the guaranteed portion depending on how much you borrow.

Aside from packaging and the guarantee fee, there’s a prepayment penalty to consider. If you take out a loan that has a term less than 15 years, there’s no penalty for paying early.

If you have a loan term of 15 years or more you can prepay up to 25% of the principal during the first 3 years without penalty. Payments you make above 25% will cost you 5% of the principal the first year, 3% the second year and 1% the third year.

Pros and Cons

We’ve gone over the basics. Let’s head into the pros and cons of this loan:

Pro: Competitive interest. Loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration have an interest cap. The prime rate has been at a low, so even though interest is variable it’s still a good deal for now.

Con: Fees. This lender is transparent with most fees there’s just many fees to consider. Particularly the closing costs and early prepayment fee. American Business Lending doesn’t say how much closing costs are exactly but you will be charged to cover appraisals and environmental reports, loan closing attorney’s fees, credit reports and lien searches. You may also get penalized if you’re able to repay this loan early.

Pro: Loan size. American Business Lending gives you the flexibility to take out a large loan amount and you can borrow for a longer time span than you can for other non-SBA business loans. We’ll cover a non-SBA business loan below so you can see the difference in loan amounts and terms.

Con: Loan size. The loan size is a plus for business owners who want to borrow over $300,000, but a negative if you’re looking for a smaller loan amount. Other SBA Loan products like the SBA Express Loan allow you to borrow $50,000 through an expedited process. American Business Lending doesn’t appear to have this option.

Pro: Experience with SBA loans. One of the downsides of SBA Loans is the application process. You have to qualify with the lender and also have your paperwork approved by the Small Business Association. According to the American Business Lending site, it’s a preferred SBA lender and the loan officers are experienced in processing these loans. Ideally, this experience will make the process less burdensome.

Con: Long wait time for funds. Applying and closing this loan will take awhile. Getting a credit approval will take 3 days. Then closing will take up to 45 days after you sign off on the contract. If anything should hold up the process like an appraisal you could be waiting for a few months until you get your hands on the loan.

Alternatives to American Business Lending

In our comparison section, we’re going to put the American Business Lending SBA Loan against two competitors including one that also offers the SBA Loan and another lender that doesn’t offer SBA Loans.

SmartBiz has an SBA Loan process that’s handled completely online. You can borrow $30,000 to $5,000,000 for 10-25 years. Interest ranges from variable 5.75% to 8.00%. Interest is higher at SmartBiz because the Small Business Administration sets a higher interest cap for smaller loans that have shorter loan terms.

You can pre-qualify for a SmartBiz loan within 5 minutes and get funding within 7 days of completing your application. SmartBiz doesn’t have a prepayment fee. The packaging fee is 4% in addition to closing costs. For loans above $150,000, there’s a 2.25% SBA guarantee fee.

Funding Circle can get you funds quickly and with a competitive interest rate, if you have a good to excellent credit score. You can borrow $25,000 to $500,000. This is comparable to the amount you can borrow from American Business Lending. However, the loan terms are shorter.

You have between 1 and 5 years to repay your loan. If you’re taking out a six-figure loan a short repayment window could be a challenge. Interest is from 4.99% to 26.99% APR. There’s an origination fee of 0.99% to 6.99%.

Who Will Benefit the Most From an American Business Lending Loan?

SBA Loans open the door to financing for small business owners who can’t qualify for traditional financing. So, an American Business Lending SBA Loan could be a good choice if you need to borrow a large sum with a low-rate.

Instead of a percentage package fee like SmartBiz, American Business Lending has a flat $1,500 fee, which can save you money and gives it an edge. One the other hand, SmartBiz has a quick and streamlined application process that is more convenient for smaller loans.

One question you should ask a loan officer at American Business Lending and SmartBiz before borrowing is how much the closing costs will be beyond the packaging and guarantee fees for the loan you choose.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

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

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Review: National Funding Small Business Loan

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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National Funding is a lender that provides businesses funding for things like day-to-day operations, inventory, expansion, and equipment. The goal of National Funding is to offer an alternative to traditional small business loans that take a long time to get approved for and require never-ending paperwork.

National Funding Small Business Loan Details

National Funding loans are unsecured. An unsecured loan is one that doesn’t require assets as collateral or security in case you default. The loan cap is $500,000. You must have a credit score of at least 500 to qualify. Your business also needs to make over $100,000 in revenue.

Interest on the National Funding small business loan varies. We called into National Funding to find out the range of interest rates. The representative wasn’t able to offer specific rates because interest is unique to each business. If you’re interested in this loan, you’ll need to provide information on your business to find out how much it’ll cost you.

The loan application process is short and has minimal paperwork. You can get funding faster at National Funding than you can with a typical brick-and-mortar bank. National Funding can approve you and fund a loan within 24 hours.

Unique Payment Plan for National Funding Loans

This small business loan offers a unique repayment option for borrowers. Since National Funding understands making large loan payments can be difficult for small businesses, borrowers can choose a smaller, daily payment plan instead. Payments are fixed and automatically draw from your account each weekday.

Other National Funding Products

National Funding has two other products for businesses including equipment financing and merchant cash advances. You can lease or finance equipment up to $150,000. National Funding offers same day approvals for equipment financing with no money down. You may also be able to defer payment for 60 to 90 days.

A merchant cash advance is where you borrow cash upfront then pay a percent of your credit card sales each day plus a fee until you repay it in full. National Funding offers merchant cash advances up to $250,000. No collateral required and you can get funding within 24 hours.

Fees and Gotchas

Transparency with terms and fees is an area where National Funding falls short. The only fee we were able to get from a representative is a 2% processing fee for the small business loan. But, again, fees will vary because each loan product is tailored to your business. National Funding has a no-obligation application that you can fill out for more details.

Pros and Cons

The benefit of this small business loan is you can get a large amount of unsecured money while avoiding the hassles of borrowing from a traditional bank. Since each loan is customized, it’s possible that you and the lender can create a loan that suits your business perfectly. At the same time, the ambiguity of tailor-made loans leads us to some cons.

Since each loan is unique, the terms are unclear. Hardly any information is readily available on the average interest rate, loan term length or fees for this small business loan. Of course, these are all important details you need to know to make an informed decision while shopping around for funding.

The cost of the equipment financing and the merchant cash advance products are also not clear. A merchant cash advance is often expensive. Plus, it takes a bite out of your credit card revenue each day, giving you less control of your own cash flow. A small business loan with a competitive interest rate is almost always a better option than a merchant cash advance.

Alternatives to the National Funding Small Business Loan

Funding Circle and Lending Club are two alternative lenders that have small business loans with more transparent terms.

Funding Circle offers loan terms of 12 to 60 months. Interest ranges from 4.99% to 26.99% APR. You can borrow from $25,000 to $500,000. The origination fee is 0.99% to 6.99%. You can get approved quickly and get funds in under 10 days. There are no prepayment penalty fees. Funding Circle takes into account factors like your credit score, cash flow, and customer reviews to approve your application.

Lending Club has loan terms from 12 to 60 months. Interest ranges from 5.9% to 25.9%. You can borrow up to $300,000. The origination fee is 1.99% to 6.99%. The application is online and you can complete it within 5 minutes. Collateral is only required for loans above $100,000. There are fixed monthly payments and no prepayment penalties.

Who Will Benefit Most from a National Funding Small Business Loan?

The vague terms of National Funding products could be red flags. So, exhaust all other options including loans from alternative lenders and loans backed by the Small Business Administration before considering National Funding. If you do choose this loan, go through the contract terms with a fine-tooth comb and ask pointed questions to your loan officer about fees to avoid any surprises.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

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

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Reviews, Small Business

Review: Celtic Bank Small Business Loan

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.

Celtic Bank Small Business Loan

Celtic Bank offers SBA business loans which are loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Only SBA approved lenders can provide these loan products. The purpose of this program is to make small business financing attainable and affordable for owners.

The SBA guarantees a percent of the loan to reduce financial risk for the lender. Because there’s less risk, these loans have qualifying criteria that are more relaxed than a typical small business loan. You can get approved for a loan that has low-interest even if you have an average or fair credit score. Plus, SBA Loans allow you to borrow more money for a longer period of time than other small business loans.

Celtic Bank SBA 7(a) Small Business Loans

There are several types of SBA Loans, but the most common one is the SBA 7(a) Loan. You can use this loan for capital, refinances, business acquisition, construction, equipment or inventory. Interest rates for at Celtic Bank range from 5.50% to 6% APR. The maximum loan amount you can borrow is $5 million. Loan terms are up to 25 years. SBA Loans require collateral for security in case you can’t make loan payments.

Of course, since the SBA Loan involves the government you and your business need to meet a few requirements to qualify. You may be eligible for this loan if you meet these standards:

  • Operate a for-profit business.
  • Have reasonable equity in the business.
  • Have a demonstrated need for funding.
  • Have no other delinquent government debt.

For a full list of what qualifies or disqualifies a business from an SBA Loan check out the Small Business Administration program eligibility page.

Celtic Bank Express SBA Loans

Application and funding for the SBA 7(a) loan can take several weeks. If you need quick cash, Celtic Bank offers the SBA Express as well. It’s a loan for working capital that has an accelerated application process. You can borrow from $20,000 to $150,000. The loan term is up to 10 years. There are no prepayment penalties. If you choose the SBA Express Loan you can get pre-approved within 24 hours.

Applying for the Celtic Bank Small Business Loan

To apply for a Celtic Bank loan, first you go through a short pre-application online that asks basic questions about your business. Once you complete the questionnaire, Celtic Bank will list loan options that you may qualify for. There’s an online application, but you may also have to send in a few documents outside of the online form to complete the process.

Find Other Small Business Loan Offers Here

Fees and Gotchas

The SBA charges a guarantee fee for the SBA 7(a) Loan. The fee is initially charged to the lender. The lender can choose to pass on the fee to you. There’s no fee if you borrow less than $150,000. If you borrow more than $150,000, the fee ranges from 0.25% to 3.5%.

On top of the guarantee fee, Celtic Bank may charge a closing or processing fee. However, Celtic Bank doesn’t list these fees on its website. And we had trouble getting in touch with a loan officer. Before committing to this loan, you need to ask for more information on the fees.

Pros and Cons

A pro of going with Celtic Bank for your small business loan is the loan size. If you need to borrow a large sum at low-interest, this SBA Loan offers rates and terms you may have trouble finding with another lender. Celtic Bank is also one of 10 approved banks that give out the most SBA Loans in the U.S., which suggests loan officers are very familiar with SBA Loan procedure.

On to the negatives: Celtic Bank is less transparent with terms and fees than other lenders. You won’t get access to much information unless you submit an email address on the site and complete the questionnaire. Calling into the bank and reaching someone is hit or miss. The application process is not entirely online which you may find less convenient than other options.

Alternatives to Celtic Bank Small Business Loans

SmartBiz offers SBA Loans as well with a fully online application and transparent terms. The loan cap at SmartBiz is lower than the one at Celtic Bank. You can borrow up to $350,000. The loan term is 10 years. Interest ranges from variable 5.75% to 8.00% APR. There’s no prepayment penalty fee. You can get funding within 7 days. SmartBiz charges a 4%-6% referral and packaging fee. If your loan is over $150,000, there’s also a 2.25% SBA guarantee fee.

Funding Circle is an example of an online small business lender that doesn’t offer SBA Loans. So, let’s see what an alternative lender has to offer. You can borrow $25,000 to $500,000 from Funding Circle. The loan terms are 1 to 5 years (considerably shorter than the Celtic Bank loan). Interest is from 4.99% to 26.99% APR. There’s an origination fee of 0.99% to 6.99%.

Who Will Benefit the Most From a Celtic Bank Small Business Loan?

You’ll benefit from a Celtic Bank small business loan if you need to borrow a large amount for your business. Or you need to get your hands on money quickly. If you do choose to explore Celtic Bank as an option for your small business, make sure you reach someone to discuss all the fees associated with the loan.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

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

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Review: LiftForward Business Loan

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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LiftForward is an alternative lender that offers small and mid-sized businesses quick access to funding. It specializes in working capital, purchase order and asset-backed loans. LiftForward will also refinance merchant cash advances also known as MCA. (A merchant cash advance is when you receive cash upfront for your business and agree to repay the cash back and fees with a percentage of your credit card sales.)

According to LiftForward, you can submit an application in less than 10 minutes. Then within 24 hours someone from underwriting will contact you to go over loan options. The goal is to have your application approved and the loan fully funded within 48 hours. Depending on your credentials, LiftForward may even be able to give you $50,000 in funding the same day.

Now, if you’re shopping for a business loan, you’ve probably noticed there are many online lenders offering alternatives to the average brick-and-mortar loan. In this post, we’ll go over the details of LiftForward and compare it to other options to help you decide if it’s the right one for you.

[5 Best Small Business Credit Cards]

LiftForward Loan Details

LiftForward offers loans from $10,000 to $1 million dollars and loan terms from six to 36 months. According to a LiftForward representative, interest rates range from 16% to 36%. Although, the website states a different range of 0.67% to 3.00% interest per month which works out to be about 8% to 46% annually.

As far as qualifying criteria, LiftForward is fairly flexible. Your personal credit score must be at least 600. However, LiftForward is willing to work around your credit score if you can show business strength.

Aside from your personal credit score, LiftForward will consider the number of years you’ve been in business, your business credit score and revenue. Having at least two years in business is preferable, but LiftForward is willing to approve a newer business if you have a track record of success. After your first loan, you can keep requesting financing through the account you create without applying again. 

Fees and Gotchas

According to LiftForward, there’s an origination fee that ranges from 1% to 5% and the total cost of your loan will include that fee plus your interest. Here’s an example scenario: If you borrow $10,000 for 36 months with a 2% origination fee the total loan is $10,200.  With interest rates from 0.67% to 3.00% per month, the total cost of the loan will range from $11,517.91 to $16,929.58.

[4 Things You Need to Know About a Small Business Before Opening One]

Pros and Cons

Pros

So, what are the pros of LiftForward? The top benefit is the speed and ease at which you can get your hands on money. Plus, LiftForward will let you borrow a large sum. The application is completely online which is convenient. In addition, LiftForward has flexible qualification criteria. An underwriter will call you and together you can come up with a loan option that’s tailored to your business needs. As your business grows you can also borrow more money.

Lastly, merchant cash advance fees can get very expensive. If you qualify for a reasonable rate with LiftForward, a refinance to a business loan can save you money.

Cons

As for the drawbacks of LiftForward, let’s face it, there are a lot of lenders online with easy application processes and many of them also have more competitive interest for a business loan. So, ultimately, the convenience factor doesn’t make LiftForward stand out of the crowd.

Obtaining loan details like the rates, qualification criteria and fees for the LiftForward loan takes some extra effort. The information on the website differs from the information you’ll receive if you call in for rates and fees, so you should verify your rate in writing before accepting an offer. 

Alternatives to LiftForward Business Loans

Funding Circle and SmartBiz are two competitors where you may be able to score a lower interest rate and lower fees if you have a strong business and good credit history.

Funding Circle offers loan terms of 12 to 60 months. Interest rates range from 4.99% to 26.99% APR. You can borrow from $25,000 to $500,000. The origination fee is 0.99% to 6.99%. You can get approved within 10 minutes and get funding within 2 weeks. Funding Circle provides loans to help you meet business goals like expanding, hiring new people or purchasing equipment.
SmartBiz is another loan option for business owners and it happens to offer the SBA loan. An SBA loan is unique because the Small Business Administration backs it; this allows for special benefits like lower interest rates and longer loan terms. You can borrow from $30,000 to $350,000 for 10 years. Interest rates range from 7% to 8%.

SmartBiz charges a 4% referral fee. If you borrow over $151,000 there’s also a 2.25% SBA guarantee fee. To qualify for a SmartBiz loan, you can’t have any adverse credit history. You have to be in business for at least 2 years and have enough cash flow to cover your payments. Pre-qualification takes a few minutes and you can get money in 7 days. 

Who Will Benefit Most from a LiftForward Loan?

LiftForward may be on your shopping list, but it shouldn’t be at the top. Sure, the money is quick and the qualification criteria accommodating, but these are also signs of high interest. Take the time to shop around for the very best deal before you settle on this business loan.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

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

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BlueVine Review: Cash Advances for Business Invoices

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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If you’re a small business owner, freelancer or solopreneur, you probably experience the stress of sitting on unpaid invoices from time to time. In a perfect world, you would get paid for delivering your products and services right away. But, in reality, you have to patiently wait for the money to roll in. During this time, your business may suffer from low cash flow and your own bills can begin to pile up. Well, BlueVine has a solution. The company offers fast cash advances to cover your invoices.

The BlueVine Cash Advance in Detail

Credit lines are available from $5,000 to $150,000. Once approved for a credit line, you can choose which invoices you want to get advances on (up to your credit limit). BlueVine can give you an immediate advance in as little as 24 hours after you sign up and make the first request. Subsequent requests for advances can be funded within an hour.

BlueVine gives you 85%-90% of the invoice upfront. You get the rest of the invoice amount (minus fees) after your customer pays. The standard rate is 1% per week with a minimum of 3 weeks.

Let’s take a look at an example scenario. Say your customer owes you $3,000, the invoice is due in 3 weeks and they pay on time:

  • BlueVine will give you $2,550 of the invoice upfront (85% of $3,000)
  • The weekly fee is $30 and $90 for 3 weeks (1% of $3,000)
  • When your customer pays the invoice you’ll get a remaining $360 balance back

How BlueVine Works

Once you open a free account, you can sync accounting software, like Xero, FreshBooks and QuickBooks, to your BlueVine dashboard and each of your open invoices will populate. If you don’t use an accounting software, you can also enter invoices directly in BlueVine.

From there, you can click on which invoices you want to be paid through a cash advance. BlueVine does set the following guidelines for invoices that can be funded:

  • The invoice has to be more than $500
  • The due date on the invoice must be at least 1 week away
  • The payment term must be shorter than 12 weeks
  • The customer has to be a business (and not a consumer)
  • The customer must be in the U.S. or Canada
  • The product or service must be completed, delivered and accepted by your customer

BlueVine assigns you a P.O. Box and a bank account in your name. Customers either mail payments or deposit money into your account. The money received goes towards repaying your advance and then you’re given the remaining 15% balance minus fees, like we discussed above.

[4 Things to Know About a Small Business Before You Open One]

Qualifying for BlueVine Invoice Financing

BlueVine will consider your business cash flow, the strength of your debtors and your credit history to qualify you for funding. BlueVine doesn’t require perfect credit, but your credit score can’t be lower than 530. Both sole proprietors and freelancers are eligible for funding. Your business doesn’t have to be of a certain age to qualify and there’s no sales volume requirement.

Fees and Gotchas

BlueVine has very transparent fees and offers you flexibility with its funding model. Opening an account is free with no strings attached. You don’t have to sign a long-term contract or pay termination fees if you decide to no longer use the service. There’s also no origination fees or prepayment penalties.

You can get funds transferred to you by ACH or bank wire. ACH transfers are free, but bank wires cost $15. BlueVine also offers the opportunity to cut your rate. As you build history using the service, you may qualify for a 20 to 30% discount on the standard rate.

[9 Best Small Business Loan]

Pros and Cons

There are several benefits to using BlueVine. The application is completely online and you can get access to funds quickly. BlueVine is a viable option if you prefer not to take out a loan to resolve cash flow problems or to grow your business. Unlike other small business loans, a BlueVine advance gives you the freedom to ask for exactly what you need.

What are the drawbacks to the service? Although it’s convenient, it’s not the right solution for chronically late paying clients. You’ll end up paying more and more out-of-pocket the longer they take to pay up. In addition, this service is for B2B operations. If you sell products or services to consumers and not businesses, at this present time you won’t qualify for funding.

Finally, consistently relying on cash advances for your invoices can create a never-ending cycle of debt. Although it’s convenient for one-off situations when you’re in a bind, you shouldn’t depend on cash advances to fund your entire business.

Alternatives to the BlueVine Cash Advance

Fundbox offers another invoice financing solution, but the process is different and the terms are a little more complex. Instead of charging a standard rate like BlueVine, it tacks on a clearing fee which includes the cost of a cash advance and ACH transfer. The repayment schedule is 12 equal weekly payments. Fundbox has no subscription, origination or prepayment penalty fees. To get an idea of how much Fundbox will cost you in comparison to BlueVine check out the site pricing calculator.

For an alternative business loan option, Funding Circle offers loans from $25,000 to $500,000. Terms are available from 1 to 5 years. Rates start at 4.99%. The origination fee is 0.99% to 6.99%. There are no prepayment fees and you can get funding in less than 10 days. 

Who Will Benefit the Most From BlueVine?

The concept of BlueVine is clever because you can get a cash advance for 85% of the exact amount that’s owed to you. You’ll benefit the most from this service if you trust your customers will pay in a relatively timely manner. Still, proceed with caution. This is not ideal for trouble clients that take forever to pay because you’ll end up sacrificing most of your income to advance fees.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

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

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News, Small Business

4 Things You Need to Know About a Small Business Before Opening One

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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The allure of being your own boss — it’s something we can all dream about, right? Although you probably already know that opening a small business takes a lot of hard work, determination and late hours, there are bound to be a few things you might not have considered.

MagnifyMoney’s co-founder Nick Clements spent years working for banks that made loans and issued credit cards to small business owners before launching his own small business. Here are some of the most important things he discovered along the way.

1. Your Small Business Isn’t Borrowing — You Are

Most people who launch small businesses do so by taking out loans to pay for things, or by opening new credit cards specifically for that business. It’s important to realize that as the owner, you’ll most likely be taking personal liability for whatever you borrow for your business, as well. “In other words, if your business goes bankrupt, you will still be personally responsible for the debt,” says Clements. With that in mind, he warns new small business owners against separating the idea of spending on a small business credit card or taking out a loan from a marketplace lender from their own personal expenses. “If you think this debt will not affect your personal financial situation, it will,” he said. “So long as you are making payments on time, the debt from your small business credit card likely will not appear on your personal credit report. However, most credit card companies will start reporting the debt on your personal credit report as soon as you start missing payments.”

[Personal Credit Card vs. Small Business Credit Card for Your Business]

2. Small Business Loans Have Less Protection

The CARD Act of 2009 created many consumer protections for credit card use, but the same isn’t true for small businesses. “Many of the protections found in The CARD Act only apply to consumer credit cards,” said Clements. “So if you take out a small business credit card, you will not have those same protections.”

The biggest risk of a small business credit card is that the interest rate on your existing balance can be increased. That was banned for consumer cards, but can still happen on small business cards. You also need to be careful if you are shopping for a loan. Small business lenders do not have to report an annualized interest rate in the way that consumer lenders do, and some products offered by small business lenders can have complicated pricing structures. “Unless you annualize the interest rate, you cannot compare,” says Clements. “For example, you could be offered a 4% fee on a cash advance product. However, if the full repayment is due within 30 days, that means your annualized interest rate could be 48% or higher.”

[9 Best Small Business Loans]

3. Your Personal Credit Score Will Affect Your Business

Your ability to get approved for small business credit cards and loans will largely be determined by your personal credit score, so be sure to stay on top of that in the weeks and months leading up your small business launch, as well as after. “If you are so focused on building your business that you forget to make some payments on your own accounts, you will be doing harm to your business as well,” said Clements. “Both small business credit card companies and marketplace lenders still heavily use FICO and other individual credit scores when making a lending decision.” 

4. Borrowing Shouldn’t Delay Difficult Decisions

When you’re a small business owner, you will occasionally have to make some hard decisions, and the ability to borrow money to stay afloat can sometimes interfere with making the smart choice. “If your small business is having difficulties, you will often find people willing to lend you a lot of money at high interest rates,” says Clements. “Although it might feel easier to borrow the money and keep going, you are only building a bigger problem for yourself.” Instead, Clements suggests taking a serious look at whether it’s time to reduce costs, or even exit the business completely. “Again, remember that you will likely be personally liable for any money you borrow,” he cautions.

At the end of the day, opening a small business comes with a lot of risks, but there are just as many rewards. Keeping the above things in mind, you can move forward knowing you’re making smart financial decisions — both for your business and for yourself.

[Compare Small Business Loans Here.]

Cheryl Lock
Cheryl Lock |

Cheryl Lock is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Cheryl at cheryl@magnifymoney.com

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