10 Signs It’s Time To Rethink Your Shipping Strategy

Shipping effectively is one of the most complex aspects of online selling, and a topic we focus on frequently here at Merchant Maverick. With so many variables affecting shipping, it can be difficult to know where your business stands. You could be missing out on valuable opportunities for savings or faster shipping without even knowing!

To help reveal some of these potential blind spots, we’ve compiled a list of 10 red-flag indicators. It may be time to rethink your shipping strategy if…

1. You Have Not Reevaluated Your Shipping Strategy Within The Past Year

Shipping rates change as often as teen fashion. If you aren’t up to date on the most recent pricing adjustments, your dollars may be flying right out the door.

And shipping rates aren’t the only elements in flux. Very likely, your fulfillment trends are changing frequently as well. Your customer base and shipping volume will vary from year to year. You may now have more international customers than you did in 2016, and you may be shipping larger items than in previous years.

A shipping strategy is not something you can set and forget. Much like your annual budget, your shipping strategy is something that should be monitored and reconsidered regularly.

If it’s been a year (or more) since you last considered your shipping methods, now is the time to look again!

2. You Use Only One Shipping Carrier

Variety is the spice of life, but it’s also the key to success when it comes to shipping. What one shipping carrier does poorly, another does well. If you sell products in multiple dimensions and weights (and most merchants do), you should be using at least two shipping carriers in your fulfillment process.

The main three shipping carriers are USPS, UPS, and FedEx, and every one has its own strengths and weaknesses. In fact, we’ve written an entire article describing the pros and cons of each carrier. Take a look at that article for more information or view a very brief summary of each carrier’s best qualities below.

USPS: Cheapest Option For Small & Light Packages

The USPS (US Postal Service) is without a doubt the cheapest option for merchants selling small and light products. If your packages weight less than two pounds, USPS will likely ship for the lowest rates — and if packages are lighter than 13 ounces, USPS simply can’t be beat.

UPS: Guaranteed Express Shipping

If you’re an Amazon Prime user, you may have noticed that many two-day shipments are delivered by UPS. That’s because UPS provides dependable, fast shipping with advanced tracking services. If you need to get a package to your customer ASAP, UPS may be the way to go.

FedEx: Saturday Delivery

Unlike UPS, FedEx does not charge additional fees for Saturday delivery. It’s all part of their regular offerings. Delivering products to your customers two days early could be the edge your business needs.

For more detailed information about the pros and cons of each shipping service, take a look at our article: USPS, UPS, Or FedEx: Which Shipping Carrier Is Best?

3. You Don’t Use Shipping Software

If you’re already using two or more shipping carriers, you know that juggling multiple shipping rates can be difficult. Integrating with a robust shipping software can eliminate or diminish a few of the challenges that inevitably come with a diverse shipping strategy.

Shipping software programs, like Shipping Easy, ShipStation, and Ordoro, simplify the shipping process by running rates calculations for you. They also generate packing slips and shipping labels, which you can print in bulk.

What’s more, these software companies typically make arrangements with major shipping carriers to offer discounts on shipping rates. If you haven’t tried a shipping software yet, the discounts alone may be worth it.

Read our article, The Best Shipping Software Solutions For eCommerce Businesses, to learn more about which options may be right for your store.

4. You Don’t Give Your Customers Options

Customers love options. When it comes to shipping speed and price, you should provide customers with at least few different choices.

I recommend giving customers three options: free and slow; cheap and moderately paced (around 5-7 business days); and fast and expensive.

Not every merchant can offer free shipping to all their customers, but I recommend finding some way, however limited, to provide free shipping without breaking the bank. For example, you could try offering free shipping for purchases over a set amount or running free shipping promos. Test your options until you find something that works.

By giving your customers choices, you decrease the risk of cart abandonment. You won’t scare away customers who would rather wait a few days than pay for expedited shipping, and you won’t frustrate customers who need your products tomorrow.

5. You Don’t Get Packaging Materials For Free

If you purchase all of your shipping materials, you could be missing out on big savings.

Many merchants are unaware that the USPS offers free boxes and envelopes to their customers. You can order these packing materials and have them delivered to your warehouse. Keep in mind that these boxes are intended to be used for USPS’s Priority Mail. So, if you’re going to be using these free packaging materials, you should also be shipping via Priority Mail.

If you’re really trying to save a buck and you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty, you can take a dumpster diving approach. Contact local brick-and-mortar businesses and ask if you can raid their recycling bin. Retail stores get rid of loads of cardboard and filler material every week, and they might not be opposed to you repurposing some of that waste.

Be creative, and you will find ways to save on the everyday aspects of shipping!

6. Customers Complain About Late Packages

This one is a no-brainer. If customers aren’t receiving their purchases on time, something needs to be done.

Start by considering your order processing system. How long does it take to get an order packaged, labeled, and out the door? Is there anything you can do to streamline that process?

Next, revisit your site’s shipping promises to make sure they’re in line with what shipping carriers can reasonably deliver. Only advertise delivery times that you can guarantee.

If the fault for your delivery delays lies with your shipping carriers, you should consider signing up with 71lbs. 71lbs will automatically file for shipping refunds on FedEx and UPS packages that are delivered even one minute late. This could amount to big bucks for you, which may redeem some of the damage done by late shipments.

7. You’ve Never Heard Of Last Mile Delivery

Last mile delivery services (UPS SurePost and FedEx SmartPost) let you ship one package through two different carriers, ultimately cutting down on shipping costs.

With last mile delivery, your packages ship first with a private carrier (UPS or FedEx) until they reach your customer’s local post office. The USPS handles the delivery from there.

Letting the USPS handle the last mile of your deliveries will add an extra day or so to your delivery time, but it will also eliminate the residential surcharges that you would have incurred with UPS and FedEx.

You will have to determine for yourself whether an extra day’s delay in shipping is worth the savings. Either way, just being aware of the option is a step in the right direction.

8. You “Wing It” When It Comes To Return Shipping

You work hard to sell your products, so it’s discouraging when customers change their minds about their purchases. Unfortunately, no matter how good your product descriptions and images are, you will always be faced with customers who simply don’t want your products after they’ve been delivered.

With a return rate as high as 20% for apparel and soft good (up to 30% during the holidays!), returns are inevitable. So when it comes to managing returns, failing to plan is planning to fail.

Create a refund policy early on and make that policy very clear. Put it on your FAQs page, on every product page, and on your checkout page.

If you have chosen to offer free refunds, one strategy you may consider is including pre-printed return labels with your shipments. Your customers will simply attach these labels to their returns and drop them off at a nearby carrier office. You will only be charged for these shipping labels when they are scanned.

If you’d prefer not to make returns quite so available to your customers, you can also offer free (or paid) return labels through email when requested.

Regardless, you should have a set plan for returns, rather than scrambling every time the issue arises.

9. You Don’t Include Branded & Promotional Inserts

The way you choose to package your products says a lot about your brand. eCommerce marketers refer to this branding as the “unboxing experience,” and you want your brand to shine as your customers receive their orders.

However, for many sellers, the expense of custom boxes and luxurious filler material is simply too much to justify. If this is you, you may consider instead including a few branded inserts in your packages.

This is your opportunity to communicate with your customers away from a computer screen. Send thank you notes, promotional inserts, or small gifts in every package. Engage with your customers in a more personal way by giving them a tangible piece of your brand.

10. You Spend Too Much Time Filling Orders

Your main job should be managing your business, not filling orders. So, if you spend a large portion of your time packaging and shipping orders, now is a good time to reevaluate your shipping strategy.

Consider integrating with a solid shipping software program and/or hiring additional help to tackle that overwhelming number of orders. Just one extra person working a few hours each week can free you up to take care of more important things, like actually running an online store.

If you’ve tried all of that already and you’re still swimming in packing peanuts, it may be time to go one step further. Look into outsourcing your fulfillment with a professional logistics company. These fulfillment services will store, package, and ship your products. What’s more, they’ll handle all aspects of customer service pertaining to shipping. Of course, convenience comes at a cost, so be sure to weigh the pros and cons of these services as you make your decision.

Take a look at our article, Learn To Delegate: What It Means To Outsource Your Fulfillment, to learn more.

Final Thoughts

Do you resonate with any of the statements above? If so, it’s time to dive back into your business plan and rethink how you do fulfillment. Simplify, streamline, and save!

Find more resources about mastering shipping in our blog or read the shipping section of our free, downloadable eBook: The Beginner’s Guide To Starting An Online Store.

The post 10 Signs It’s Time To Rethink Your Shipping Strategy appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Personal VS Business Credit Cards

personal vs business credit cards

Let’s say you’re about to take a running leap into the great unknown and launch that business you’ve been thinking about for years. Congratulations! You’re about to join a class of people who receive more performative displays of respect (if nothing else) from the powers that be than anybody this side of The Troops and Olympic gold medalists: small business owners.

As you begin your journey amidst the peril and the pitfalls, you might be tempted to get a business credit card. It’s what you’re supposed to do, right? They wouldn’t put “business” in the name otherwise, would they?

As it happens, a business card may well be a sensible option for you. Or it might not be! A personal credit card may well fit your enterprise just fine. It all depends on the nature of your business, how you plan to use your credit card, and how you weigh the relative risks. Let’s go through some of the ways personal and business credit cards differ from one another.

Personal Credit Cards Have Stronger Consumer Protections

One difference that isn’t widely recognized is the fact that the Credit CARD Act of 2009 gives users of personal credit cards legal protections that do not apply to users of business credit cards. Among other reforms, the Act mandates that credit card companies give cardholders at least 45 days notice of a rate increase, that consumers get at least 21 days to pay their bill, that low introductory rates be offered for at least 6 months, and that payments are applied to the consumer’s highest interest rate balances first.

Now, if you have a business card, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your credit card company is going to engage in all the practices outlawed by the Credit CARD Act. In fact, many issuers of business cards extend most of these protections to consumers as a courtesy. However, not all credit card companies offer such protections, and the majority may not offer all of the protections listed above. For instance, your business card issuer may apply your payment to your lowest interest rate balance so they can leech more in interest charges. What’s more, history and experience suggest that big financial companies aren’t the most meticulous institutions when it comes to protecting consumers’ interests in the absence of legal mandates (and even then, their record is spotty, to put it mildly).

If you plan to sign up for a business credit card, read the fine print on the agreement before pulling the trigger. You should also closely monitor your charges and your monthly statements. Of course, you’re no dummy — you probably knew to do that already!

Personal CCs & Business CCs Tailor Their Rewards Programs Differently

Here’s one difference that shouldn’t come as a surprise: Business credit cards often have rewards programs that offer perks tailored towards the kinds of purchases typically made by businesses, such as office supplies and phone services. Meanwhile, the rewards programs offered by personal credit card issuers normally focus on categories average consumers spend on.

Naturally, many business owners and entrepreneurs will be attracted to business credit cards on this basis. But what if you don’t spend much on typical business categories in your particular enterprise? You might be running your business from home and have little use for, say, rewards programs geared toward office supplies. Suffice it to say, you should pay attention to the rewards categories offered by the credit card company in question (whether it be a personal or business credit card) and think long and hard about whether said rewards make sense for you and your business.

Business Credit Limits Are Often Higher

Businesses tend to spend more money than consumers. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that those applying for business credit cards normally qualify for a higher credit limit than those applying for personal credit cards.

This means that with a business credit card, not only will you be able to spend more and not hit your limit, but this higher credit limit can boost your credit score as well. Business credit-reporting bureaus Equifax and Experian (not Dun & Bradstreet) use your credit utilization to determine your business credit score. A higher credit limit can therefore boost your standing, as you’ll be using less of your total available credit when your high credit limit kicks in.

A Business Credit Card Builds Your Business Credit

One advantage of using a business credit card is that it establishes and helps build your business credit; you cannot build credit for your business by charging business expenses to a personal credit card. Your business credit score can determine whether or not your business qualifies for loans, credit lines, and other financial products. It can also affect the price you’ll pay for business insurance.

If you’re an entrepreneur with no business credit history to your name, a business card can be an essential tool for building credit.

Business Cards Can Affect Your Personal Credit Too

When considering which type of card to use, know that how you use your business credit card can affect your personal credit as well as your business credit.

Getting a business credit card usually involves a personal guarantee, making you personally liable for your business’s debts if your business misses payments, so your business card issuer will likely consider your personal credit score when determining how much credit to extend to you. In addition, some business card issuers, like American Express and Capital One, report your business card activity to both business and personal credit bureaus. Others, like Chase, report your activity to business credit bureaus only. So while using your business card can definitely affect your personal credit, the exact mechanisms by and the degree to which it will do so can differ. Do your due diligence!

Final Thoughts

This is admittedly a familiar refrain at this point, but do your homework and examine the terms and conditions closely when applying for a credit card, whether it be personal or business. As for which one to choose when you’re starting a business, that all depends on your expected spending habits and your priorities.

If your goal is to establish business credit and your business expenses jibe with the reward categories offered by most business cards, a business credit card may be the way to go. If, on the other hand, you’re a sole proprietor who doesn’t anticipate spending much on the reward categories of business cards and building business credit isn’t your priority, you could definitely get by with a personal credit card.

Just remember that credit card issuers are in the game for profit, not public service. Trust your investigative ability, not the purity of their motives.

The post Personal VS Business Credit Cards appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Credit Card Processing Apps for Small Retail Businesses

small-business-credit-card-processing-app

Say you have a small retail business. You don’t have a lot of money to invest in a super-complicated POS, and you don’t want to deal with a multi-year processing contract. Frankly, the idea of trying to narrow down the options in both categories at the same time is a little bit daunting. But enter another option: an app for a tablet (or even a smartphone) that bundles payment processing and POS software all in one go, with no contract or commitment. A single app with all (or at least most) of the features a brick-and-mortar storefront could want. But what are the best credit card processing apps for small retail businesses?

Cost is definitely part of the consideration, but more than that you need to make sure any software you use actually delivers the features you need to run your business. Most processing apps tend not to be as full-featured as a full POS, but they are capable of delivering on core needs. After we go over which features should be a priority, we’ll get into the most promising apps that let you process credit cards and run your business together.

Credit Card Processing Apps For Small Retailers

In addition to choosing apps based on the most useful features, we had two other criteria in choosing the apps: first, they had to be mobile apps for tablets (and preferably smartphones). Second, they must offer a bundled payment solutions. A couple of the options on the list allow you to bring your own processor if you want, but they do offer their own payment option as a default.

In no particular ranking, here are my favorite picks for retail-focused credit card processing apps:

Square

Square business model and mobile credit card processingSquare does have a specialty POS app for retailers, called Square for Retail. That one doesn’t actually make the cut because it’s designed for larger businesses and it actually lacks many features found in the basic free app, Square Point of Sale.

Point of Sale has definitely come a long way from just a basic mobile POS app, and it’s absolutely a solution that will grow with your business. Its clear, transparent pricing strategy (2.75% for swiped/dipped/tapped transactions) and robust app make it an attractive option for retailers. But then there’s the assortment of add-on services (email marketing, appointment scheduling, loyalty, payroll and more) that all integrate seamlessly. Combined with the huge assortment of supported phones and tablets, and the wide mix of supported hardware, and it’s hard not to see the appeal.

While Square does offer payroll and employee management, these features will cost you more — $5 per employee per month for each.

Something I do want to point out: Square does have many iPad-only features, but much of its hardware is equally compatible with Android devices as it is iPads, which is a major departure from most apps that favor the Apple ecosystem.

PayPal Here

PayPal Here review: One of the top Square alternativesPayPal is an obvious choice for a lot of retailers, especially those who sell online as well as in person. If you’re not interested in eCommerce, PayPal is still a good option because it does integrate with some very well known POS systems. PayPal also has its own credit card processing app, PayPal Here.

While PayPal Here is not quite as robust as the other options on this list (especially regarding inventory), it’s a very stable app with great pricing (2.7% per swipe/dip/tap) and a wide array of supported devices and compatible hardware. It’s the only app on this list to support Windows devices at all, and the phones on your tablet or phone doubles as a barcode scanner for both Android and iOS. Plus, you get up to 1,000 free employee accounts.

Plus, near-instant access to funds through your PayPal account is a pretty awesome deal, especially if you get the PayPal Debit card. Add in free sub-user accounts with restricted permissions (something Square will charge you monthly for), and you can see why PayPal makes the cut.

Shopify

Shopify started as an eCommerce offering but these days it’s added a powerful POS app that also works on smartphones as well as tablets. Everything syncs up nicely for a seamless experience whether you’re selling online, in a store, or even on the go, and while the smartphone version of the app is more limited, it’s still quite functional. Shopify’s features definitely line up more with a full-fledged POS than just a mobile POS.

Unsurprisingly, that means it’s a bit more expensive than the two previous options on this list. Shopify’s plans start at a very reasonable $29/month for its online store. If you want the countertop retail solution, that’s a $49 add-on per month, but you don’t need to purchase additional licenses to add more devices, which definitely ups the value.

You can also create staff PINs without creating staff accounts — which means if only a few of you need admin privileges but you do have a large staff and want to track who is running the register, you can get PINs without paying for additional accounts.

However, I do want to call attention to an underplayed solution Shopify offers: its Lite plan. For $9/month, you can sell on Facebook and other social media platforms, add a buy button to your blog, and use the POS app. The caveat is that you can’t add the retail package to it — which means while you have the app, you don’t have support for the receipt printer or cash drawer.

ShopKeep

Like Shopify, ShopKeep is more of a full-fledged POS than a mobile unit. But unlike Shopify, it’s not an eCommerce solution. It’s an iPad POS targeting all kinds of small businesses: retailers, yes, but also restaurants and quick-service environments. ShopKeep specifically targets small and medium-sized businesses, whereas many of these solutions are happy to tout that they work for businesses of all sizes.

ShopKeep’s user interface is highly intuitive, but also feature-rich, which is a major contributor to its popularity. In addition to its advanced inventory tracking tools, you get employee time-keeping, customizable reporting, and more. It also has a record for excellent (unlimited) customer support via email or live chat.

Sadly, there’s no smartphone app support for processing, but ShopKeep does offer integrated payments. Merchants get an interchange-plus plan based on their volume, which is pretty awesome considering there’s no contract involved, either. Everything is on a month-to-month basis. There’s also an additional $69 monthly charge per register.

Honorable Mention: SumUp

While SumUp has a few limitations — it lacks, for example, the ability to process simultaneously on multiple devices — it is overall a solid credit card processing app. The app supports a solid item library and variants, plus convenient tax settings. While there’s no offline mode and no invoicing, SumUp does have an interesting feature in its SMS payments. The app allows you to send a text message to a phone, with a link embedded. Customers can open the link, enter their payment information and complete the transaction.

Pricing is identical to Square for retail transactions: 2.75%. There is no keyed entry option within the app, but the low-priced virtual terminal (at 2.9% + $0.15, even below Square’s rate) is a workaround, though not one you should use for the bulk of your processing.

While new to the US market, SumUp has been operating in Europe for a few years, so it definitely has experience in the processing industry, and so I expect it to see fewer growing pains than other new solutions.

Must-Have App Features for Retailers

It’s safe to say what app features a business needs tends to vary from one business to the next. But there are definitely commonalities — solid inventory management or the ability to print receipts, for example. Check out our comprehensive comparison chart below to see how these systems compare to one another. 

Square for retail review logo imageSquare PayPal Here Shopify Shopkeep SumUp
BASICS
Integrated Processing Yes Yes Yes (Other options available) Yes (other options available) Yes
Processing Rates (for Most Swiped/Dipped Transactions) 2.75% 2.70% 2.70% Interchange-Plus based on volume 2.75%
Monthly Fee $0 $0 Plans start at $9/month $69 per register $0
Number of Devices Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 1 (additional registers $69/month) 1
Tablet Support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android Apple Apple, Android
Smartphone support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android N/A Apple, Android
Email/SMS Receipts Email/SMS Email/SMS Email Only Email Only Email/SMS
Receipt Printer Connectivity Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB Bluetooth, LAN, Wireless Bluetooth, USB, LAN Bluetooth, Ethernet Bluetooth, LAN
Cash Drawer Connectivity Yes (Tablet Only, With Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Star Printer Connectivity) Yes (iPad Only, with Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Printer Connectivity) Yes (with Printer Connectivity)
Barcode Scanner Yes (Bluetooth for iPad only; USB for Android) Yes (USB for windows, device camera for iOS/Android) Yes (Bluetooth) Yes (Bluetooth) No
FEATURES
Split Tender Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Offline Processing Mode Yes No Very Limited No No
Full and Partial Returns Yes Yes Yes (including store credit) Yes (Check store credit) Full Only
Sub-User/Employee Accounts Yes (monthly fee) Yes (free) Yes (PINS/accounts) Yes Yes (Limited)
Discounts by $ or % Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Customizable Receipts Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Generate Invoices Yes Yes Yes No No
INVENTORY
Bulk Item Upload Yes No Yes Yes No
Item Counts Yes No Yes Yes No
Item Variants Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Item Photo Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Create Item From App or Dashboard Yes Yes Yes Yes No (App Only)

It’s worth mentioning that many of these systems have FAR more features that we don’t cover in this chart (think: virtual terminals, eCommerce support, supported integrations, etc.). If you really want to learn what a system is fully capable of, I recommend checking out our complete review of each credit card processing app.

Processing with Square or PayPal Here? Up Your Inventory Game with Shopventory

With retail environments, inventory is usually a major concern. Shopventory is a monthly add-on that works with Square, PayPal Here, and the Clover system (except Clover Go). It allows for inventory tracking and reporting, bundling, variants, and more. The biggest difference will be that you’ll no longer be using your credit card processing app for inventory reports or management. Everything will be done through Shopventory’s dashboard. Check out our Shopventory review for more information.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to software and processing, there isn’t a good one-size-fits-all solution for merchants. Every business’s needs are unique, so what works best for one business may not be good for another. Many of the credit card apps we’ve listed here have no monthly fees, and others offer free trials or a free pricing quote. They are all top-rated offerings, as well. The biggest difference you’ll find is the feature sets and little differences in the user interfaces.

If you’re on the fence about which to choose, I recommend checking out our full reviews of each product. Got questions? We’re always here to help, so please leave us a comment!

As always, thanks for reading!

The post The Best Credit Card Processing Apps for Small Retail Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Credit Card Processing Apps for Quick-Serve Restaurants

It’s time to upgrade the POS for your coffee shop, but you haven’t got a clue what to look for. Maybe you’re not sure you need a full-fledged POS, or you’re worried about the cost — or you don’t want to be locked into a multi-year credit card processing contract. Where do you even start looking for the right solution?

As far as technology needs go, quick-serve businesses like bakeries, cafes, and ice cream parlors straddle the line between retail shop and restaurant. What POS features work for a retail business won’t quite cut it, but there’s no need for many of the features found in a full-service restaurant POS. Credit card processing apps combine the convenience of a POS and a merchant account into one single solution, with the convenience of a flexible (even mobile) setup.

We looked over the options for quick-serve businesses and put together a list of the best options. But first, a few criteria!

Choosing the Best Apps for Quick-Serve Businesses

A lot goes into choosing a credit card processing app — the cost, of course, as well as features. Our primary criteria, the non-negotiable elements, were that the app was a true app, something available on a tablet (and ideally a smartphone), and that it had a built-in payment processing option offered by default. A couple apps on this list do allow you the choice of integrating your own processor, though you should make sure the rates are competitive if the app charges any additional fees.

Additionally, we narrowed down the options based on whether the apps offered features essential for quick-serve businesses like cafes and ice cream parlors to function. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but there are some core themes to look out for. Check out feature comparison chart below for more information, or read on for our top picks for credit card processing apps!

Toast POS

toast pos reviewToast is an award-winning POS targeting all sorts of restaurants, including quick-serve businesses. It runs exclusively on Android tablets, with an intuitive user interface. It’s definitely feature-rich, with several add-on programs you can opt for (inventory, loyalty, online ordering), making Toast even more functional.

Toast only allows you to use its processing services, and your rates will vary. Plans start at $79/month and allow you up to 2 registers; with higher-tier plans (starting at $99/month), you get unlimited registers. It’s also worth noting that Toast, like Square and PayPal, requires you to use its processing services, and your rates will vary.

Breadcrumb POS

Whereas Toast is entirely Android-based, Breadcrumb POS is an iPad-exclusive system that works as part of Upserve’s larger restaurant management ecosystem. Feature-rich and designed to accommodate many types of businesses, Breadcrumb even integrates with GrubHub for online ordering and delivery.

Breadcrumb’s payment processing arm offers interchange-plus plans for merchants: you’ll pay interchange rates plus a $0.15 fee per each transaction. For very small-value tickets, this could wind up being more expensive than a percentage-based transaction, which is worth taking note of. However, an interchange-plus plan on a month-to-month contract is a good deal.

Breadcrumb’s monthly service fee might make to think twice compared to some of the other options on this list, but the value of the features you get is absolutely worth considering. The Core plan will start you at $99/month, with the mid-tier plan starting at $249.

Square

Square business model and mobile credit card processingSquare‘s free mPOS app, Point of Sale, remains hugely popular with all kinds of businesses. But with its inventory management and reporting, as well as custom tipping features, it has the core features most bakeries, cafes, and other quick-serve businesses need to thrive — plus multiple add-ons (such as loyalty and payroll) to make management even easier. The eCommerce integration even allows people to place orders online and pick them up in person, and there’s a delivery system through Caviar.

Without a doubt, one of Square’s biggest draws is its clear, transparent pricing. A solid 2.75% per swipe is very reasonable and the lack of a per-transaction fee keeps the costs down for businesses with low ticket values. There are no mandatory monthly fees, either — you pay only for the transactions you process, and any add-on services you opt into.

PayPal Here

PayPal Here review: One of the top Square alternativesPayPal’s mPOS solution, PayPal Here, isn’t quite as robust as the full-fledged POS systems that PayPal also integrates with. But it’s a highly mobile app available on multiple platforms, including Windows devices. The app doesn’t have a glut of features the way Square does, but it has all the essentials, from tipping to discounts.

Like Square, one of the big draws — especially if you have a small average ticket size — is its pricing: 2.7% per swipe, with no monthly fees. PayPal’s easy integration with all sorts of eCommerce services and instant access to funds also tend to be big draws for merchants.

ShopKeep

Rather than build a solution that appeals to businesses of all sizes, ShopKeep opted to tailor its POS software to small and medium-sized businesses, a decision that continues to define its capabilities. However, the company does cater to small and medium businesses in a variety of industries, including quick-serve businesses.

Feature rich and highly intuitive, ShopKeep even offers advanced inventory and timekeeping at no extra charge, which definitely adds to the value.

ShopKeep’s payment processing arm offers interchange-plus plans based on your monthly volume, which means possible per-transaction fees. ShopKeep charges $69/month per register, but has no contracts or other monthly fees, all of which are a great deal for merchants.

Must-Have Features for Quick-Serve Businesses

Apart from being a tablet app with integrated processing, I looked at some other features in creating my list. Menu creation is important — and while variants are great, the presence of categories and add-ons was more important. Tipping, kitchen receipt printing, and location management also merited consideration. Check out the table below for detailed information.

Toast Breadcrumb reviewBreadcrumb Square for retail review logo imageSquare PayPal Here Shopkeep
BASIC TECH
Integrated Processing Yes Yes (other options available) Yes Yes Yes (other options available)
Processing Rates (for most swiped/dipped transactions) varies interchange + $0.15 2.75% 2.70% Interchange-Plus based on volume
Monthly Fee $79 and up $99 and up $0 $0 $69 per register
Number of Devices 1-2 for base plan, unlimited for higher plans 1 ($50/additional) Unlimited Unlimited 1 (additional registers $69/month)
Tablet Support Android Apple Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple
Smartphone support N/A N/A Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows N/A
Email/SMS Receipts Email/SMS Email Only Email/SMS Email/SMS Email Only
Receipt Printer Connectivity LAN Wi-Fi, Ethernet Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB Bluetooth, LAN, Wireless Bluetooth, Ethernet
Cash Drawer Connectivity Yes Yes (With Printer Connectivity) Yes (Tablet Only, With Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Star Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Printer Connectivity)
FEATURES
Split Tender Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Offline Processing Mode Yes Yes Yes No No
Sub-User/Employee Accounts Yes (free) Yes (free) Yes (monthly fee) Yes (free) Yes (free)
Tips by $ or % No (By % only) No (By % only) Yes Yes Yes
Add Tip after Signing Yes Yes Yes (iPad only) No Yes
Customizable Receipts Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Kitchen Ticket Printing Yes Yes Yes (iPad only) No Yes
Multi-location management Yes Yes Yes No Yes
MENU
Bulk Item/Menu Upload No Yes Yes No Yes
Item Counts With Inventory add-on Yes Yes No Yes
Item Add-Ons/Modifiers Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Item Photo No No Yes Yes No
Create Item from App or Dashboard Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Item Grouping/Sub-categories Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

You can also browse our restaurant POS software and mobile payments categories for more solutions!

Final Thoughts

There’s never one right answer to the question “which software is right for me?” The best we can do is say “This is a good choice for lots of businesses” and explain the caveats. As far as credit card processing apps for quick-serve businesses, you need to have a firm number in mind for how much you’re willing to pay, and know which features or abilities the app must have, and go from. Our top picks — Toast, Breadcrumb, Square, PayPal Here, and ShopKeep are all targeted at the industry and so they do have some similarities and core capabilities. But you’ll also find major differences in costs and some features (inventory being a noteworthy one). So know what you need and make sure the system you choose fulfills those basic requirements.

As always, thanks for reading! If you’ve got questions, we’d love to help you out. Check our comment guidelines and leave us a comment!

The post The Best Credit Card Processing Apps for Quick-Serve Restaurants appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Business Grants For Women

business grants for women

Do an online search for “business grants for women” and a slew of articles will come up. But when you click to read the articles, you’ll find that there is scant, if any, information on actual grants. Often, when you do find the name of a specific grant for female-led businesses, like the “Huggies Mom Inspired” grant, there will be no link to apply, because the program has been discontinued. Most of these articles will also toss you a link to Grants.gov — which does not offer any grant expressly for women-owned businesses.

The truth is that while there is a lot of demand for business grants, i.e., free money to help start or continue your business, there are hardly any such programs in existence. While both government and private grants do exist, most of that money goes to not-for-profit organizations, and the majority of these programs do not give preferential treatment to female applicants.

However, there are a select few grants offered specifically to female owners of for-profit businesses. This article includes real grants for women entrepreneurs only. Meaning, there will be an actual link to apply in most cases. Woohoo! Hopefully, this will save you some time scouring the web. I could only find a handful of legit, worthwhile business grant opportunities for women, but if you know of any others, feel free to mention them in the comments!

1. Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant

About

Eileen Fisher is a socially conscious clothing brand that emphasizes sustainability. The clothing brand offers a yearly grant to women-owned businesses, particularly those that focus on using their businesses to bring about environmental and/or social change. Each year, Eileen Fisher awards Women-Owned Business Grants totaling $100,000 to up to 10 recipients, with a minimum grant amount of $10,000. Additionally, grantees are invited to New York City in the spring following their reward for two days of business collaboration with Eileen Fisher.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for an Eileen Fisher grant, businesses must meet the following criteria:

  • At least 51% woman-owned
  • Have been in business at least 3 years
  • Revenues not exceeding $1 million
  • Business founded on principal of creating social and environmental change

Franchises, startups, and past award winners are not eligible to receive the grant.

How To Apply

Visit the Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant website to find more information about the grant and apply.

 

Visit the Eileen Fisher website

 

2. Amber Grants

About

Amber Grants began in 1998. After a young woman named Amber died before being able to fulfill her entrepreneurial dreams, WomensNet started offering grants for women in Amber’s name. These are smaller grants, but they are very accessible and easy to apply for. Amber Grants awards $500 to a woman-owned business every month, and at the end of the year, one of the 12 monthly qualification winners wins another grant for $2,500.

Eligibility Criteria

Amber Grants do not have any particular qualification criteria, other than that recipients must be female entrepreneurs (age 18 and up) living in the United States or Canada. Amber Grants are open to any type of business.

How To Apply

Simply fill out the application template on the Amber Grant Application Page and pay a nominal $7 fee. Amber Grants recommends that rather than trying to “sound professional” in your application, you focus on conveying the passion you have for your business.

Amber Grants receive between 200 and 600 applicants every month. Visit the website for information about application deadlines.

 

Visit the Amber Grant website

 

3. Cartier Women’s Initiative

About

The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, a joint partnership created in 2006 by Cartier, McKinsey & Company, and INSEAD business school, awards annual grants to support projects by women entrepreneurs. This is one of the largest and most prestigious business grants for women, but the competition is steep. The first-place prize in this international business competition is $100,000; second place comes with a $30,000 prize.

Eligibility Criteria

Women entrepreneurs in the initial stages of development (2-3 years old), in any country, of any nationality, and operating in any industry can apply for this grant. The business must have an original concept and the business must have a for-profit model.

You can download the official Cartier Women’s Initiative rules of participation for more details.

How To Apply

When applications are open (which is only during certain times of year), you will be able to apply using the online Cartier Women’s Initiative application form.

From the Cartier Women’s Initiative website:

The call for applications for the 2018 edition of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards is now closed. The call for applications for the 2019 edition of the competition will open in May 2018.

Before applying, be sure to read up on the grant application process. In addition to filling out the application form, you’ll need to supply supporting documentation including your resume, scanned copy of your business registration, proof of patent (if applicable), and detailed financials. Optionally, you can also include three additional attachments, such as your logo, images of your product, press articles, etc.

 

Visit the Cartier Women’s Initiative website

 

4. Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program

About

Fashion designer and philanthropist Tory Burch created the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009 to help empower female entrepreneurs. The Foundation has been quite successful in this goal, and today runs one of the most preeminent business grant competitions.

Each year, up to 10 finalists of this grant competition receive a $10,000 grant for business education, a 1-year Tory Burch Fellowship, and a 3-day business workshop at Tory Burch Headquarters in NYC. Note that the $10,000 grant cannot be used for purposes other than business education. Fellows will also participate in a Shark Tank-style pitch competition before a panel of judges to choose one winner of a $100,000 award, of which 50% is a grant and 50% is a “recoverable grant” (fancy way of saying 0%-interest loan).

Eligibility Requirements

Applicants to this business grant must be female business owners who meet the following criteria:

  • Own a majority stake in for-profit business, from any industry, in early-stage growth (minimum of 1 year and no more than 5 years of operations), generating minimum revenues of $25,000 and maximum revenues of $500,000 per year
  • Manage said business on a day-to-day basis
  • 21 years or older as of the application due date
  • Legal resident of the United States
  • Proficient in English

Read more about Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Grant eligibility.

How To Apply

Here is the application page for the Tory Burch grant. The application period is pretty short — it opens in early fall and closes in November. But that’s okay; in the meantime, you can download the application help guide to start perfecting your business plan and application essay so you will be ready to go when the next round of application opens.

 

Visit the Tory Burch Foundation website

 

5. Girlboss Foundation

About

Launched in 2014, The Girlboss Foundation funds female entrepreneurs pursuing creative endeavors. Specifically, these grants are for women in the fields of art, fashion, design, and music. Every six months, one grant beneficiary receives $15,000 to be used for a creative project within the following 12 months, in addition to online media exposure.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible, Girlboss applicants must be US-based female creative business owners who are 18 or older. Note that the Girlboss Foundation only awards grants to individuals; GB can award the grant to an individual representing a business, but not to a business as an entity.

How To Apply

Fill out the online Girlboss Foundation grant application. First, however, read the information on the selection process so you’ll get a better idea of what to include and how you’ll be judged.

 

Visit the Girlboss website

 

6. Women Founders Network Fast Pitch Competition

About

The WFN is an organization that provides both capital and mentorship to women business owners. The organization’s Fast Pitch competition awards $20,000 in free grant money to a female-led business each year; runners-up receive $7,500, $5,000, and $2,500 respectively. If you make the top 10 finalists, you’ll pitch your business at a live in-person event in Los Angeles.

Eligibility Criteria

These are the criteria for this women’s business grant competition, from the WFN website:

  • Founder/CEO must be a woman or business must be majority-owned by women.
  • Must attend in-person to present in Los Angeles at the Fast Pitch Event.
  • Business must be past the idea stage (revenue preferred)
  • Must have raised no more than $1M in outside funding, excluding research grants.
  • Seeking early stage businesses based in USA with high-growth potential.

How To Apply

You can apply for this grant on the Women Founders Network Fast Pitch website as of May 1, 2018. The next round of applications will be accepted from May 1 – June 10, 2018.

WFN has posted grant application guidelines with detailed information about the contest and tips for applying, but note that these guidelines are for the 2017 contest.

 

Visit the WFN website

 

7. InnovateHER Challenge

About

The InnovateHER Challenge, est. 2015 under the Obama administration, is a national women’s business grant contest hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership. Each year since 2015, InnovateHER has given out three grants to especially worthy women-owned businesses, including a first-place prize of $40,000, a second-place prize of $20,000, and a third-place prize of $10,000. InnovateHER is the only federal grant money earmarked specifically for women-related businesses.

To arrive at the top 10 finalists for this nationwide competition, organizations such as universities and economic development associations run their own local competitions throughout the year. Then, from all of the local winners, 10 national finalists are chosen to pitch their businesses to an expert panel in Washington D.C.

Eligibility Requirements

This contest is for innovative entrepreneurs whose products and services create a measurable impact on the lives of women and families. These business solutions must also “have the potential for commercialization, and fill a need in the marketplace.”

Further eligibility requirements from last year’s InnovateHer Challenge page are as follows:

  • Citizens or permanent residents of the United States who are at least eighteen (18) years of age at the time of their submission of an entry (or teams of such individuals)
  • Private entities, such as corporations or other organizations, that are incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States. Individuals submitting on behalf of corporations, nonprofits, or groups of individuals (such as an academic class or another team) must meet the eligibility requirements for individual contestants. An individual may belong to more than one team submitting an entry in this Challenge.

Note that the rules don’t say this grant is only for women (even though it’s all about solutions that improve women’s lives). However, all of the past grant winners and finalists have been women, so perhaps this is an unspoken rule.

How To Apply

I assume that once the competition opens for 2018, there will be information about how to apply to any local InnovateHer competitions posted on the official InnovateHer Challenge website.

As of February 2018, this website had no information on the 2018 InnovateHER competition, despite the fact that if things were to follow the same schedule as last year’s and the previous years’ competitions, the contest would have kicked off this past December. I emailed the SBA Office of Women’s Business Ownership about this and they told me that they will get back to me as soon as they have any information regarding the 2018 InnovateHer Challenge; I’ll update this post if/when I hear back from them.

 

Visit the InnovateHER website

 

Runner-Up: Halstead Grant

About

Halstead Grants are given to new jewelry designers who work primarily in silver. While this grant is not strictly for women, I’m including it as a runner-up, as the jewelry industry is mostly female-dominated, and most (but not all) of the past winners of this grant have been women. Plus, there is an actual link to apply for the grant. Score!

The grant consists of $7,500 in start-up capital and $1,000 in Halstead merchandise. Finalists receive $500 cash for Top 5 placement, or $250 for Top 10 placement.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Applicant must have opened business within the past three years.
  • Applicant must be pursuing jewelry design as a full-time career, not as a hobby or part-time job.
  • Applicant must be a US citizen.

How To Apply

Download and fill out the Halstead Grant Application. As part of the application, you must submit a jewelry collection along with answers to 15 questions that form the basis of a business plan.

 

Visit the Halstead Grant website

 

Final Thoughts

Grants represent a viable form of free funding for select, exceptionally talented women business owners. If you can present an especially impressive application, essay, business plan, and in some cases an in-person pitch, you might come away with some free cash to help bring your entrepreneurial dreams to fruition. However, such grants are extremely competitive, and in most cases even if you win a prized spot, you won’t receive a large amount of capital. There are some select grants available to small businesses in general, including grants for startup businesses, but these grant programs are similarly competitive. Generally, there just isn’t a lot of grant money to be had for for-profit businesses.

More attainable small businesses funding options for women include online loans, personal loans, or even alternative financing options such as crowdfunding. If you’re a female entrepreneur reading this article, I strongly recommend you also check out my article on the best loans for women. For more guidance on how to get financing for your women-owned business, feel free to contact us!

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The Best Accounting Software For 2018

Best Accounting Software for 2018

What’s better than a table full of New Year’s appetizers? Better than a good glass of champagne? Even better than a midnight kiss to ring in the new year?

Accounting software.

Okay, that’s a stretch. But you can’t blame a girl for trying.

Each new year brings fresh, exciting opportunities. In the accounting world, this translates to shiny new features. This year, in particular, has seen some very impressive feature developments. In fact, a few key advances in functionality have already set three accounting software companies apart from the rest. These changes have generated press attention and positive user feedback, and earned Wave, Quickbooks Online, and Zoho Books a place in this article about the best accounting software for 2018.

Wave

Best Accounting Software 2017

Wave (see our review) is a free, cloud-based software with a beautiful user interface (no wonder we like it right?). The company was founded in 2010 by Kirk Simpson and James Lochrie and is now used by 3 million small business owners.

Wave was built with small business owners in mind. The ability to separate business expenses from personal expenses makes the software a great choice for freelancers and the self-employed as well.

Some of the most notable features in Wave include beautiful invoicing, contact management, accounts payable, expense tracking, basic inventory, and the ability to capture pictures of receipts and convert them into expenses.



But the reason we really love Wave is that these features are always getting better. The software constantly updates to fit the needs of business owners. Last year, Wave became the first accounting software company to offer a fully-integrated lending feature. This lending feature allows users to request loans between $5,000 and $500,000. Loan applications are approved through Wave, and once approved, funds are received as quickly as 24 hours.

This year, Wave continues to roll out the updates. The software offers two new reports, better navigation, and a company file export (which is usually only found with QuickBooks). Wave also plans to add:

  • Multi-currency support
  • A product report
  • An FX report
  • Duplicate transaction detection

Wave’s robust and varied features rival those of even some paid software options, especially considering some of these new updates. This is why Wave is Merchant Maverick’s pick for Best Free Accounting Software for Small Businesses and one of my favorite choices for small business owners.

Although Wave is free and intends to stay that way, there are a few extra costs you should be aware of if you’re considering this software:

  • Payroll – $15/mo +$4/mo per employee
  • Credit Card Processing – 2.9% + $0.30/per transaction
  • Chat support – $9/mo
  • Chat and Phone support – $19/mo

To learn more about Wave, read our full review and be sure to keep your eye open for the next big wave of updates.

QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online (see our review) is an easy-to-use, cloud-based accounting solution with a healthy feature set and a strong reputation. QuickBooks has basically been around since the dawn of time (in terms of accounting software), but the newer, online version has been particularly well-received by users since it is easier to use and more mobile than QuickBooks Desktop Pro.

QuickBooks Online is ideal for all types of business. Scalable pricing plans and diverse functionality make the software fit numerous business needs. Some key features include a clean interface, accounts payable (essentials and plus plan only), budgeting (plus plan only), contact management, beautiful recurring invoices, ample accounting reports, class and location tracking, inventory (plus plan only), and a strong chart of accounts.



For a long time, the most common complaint about QuickBooks Online was that, while it was good, it was not as good as QuickBooks Pro. One of the reasons QuickBooks Online is on the rise in 2018 is that the software is now being updated multiple times every month; in fact, it is finally starting to catch up to QuickBooks Pro.

Last year, QuickBooks underwent a huge design overall and added a key project management feature, as well as inventory reorder points, mileage deductions, invoice and payment trackers, and more.

One of the biggest reasons QuickBooks Online won a spot on this list is its brand-new, built-in lending feature — Get Capital. According to Techcrunch:

QuickBooks users can now get access to small business loans up to about $35,000 for up to six months from inside their bookkeeping software.

QuickBooks Online has won our Best Accounting Software for Small Businesses title. We did recently drop its rating from 5/5 stars to 4.5/5 stars for some usability and navigation difficulties, but with multiple updates coming out each month, we’re hopeful that QuickBooks Online will be back to 5/5 stars in no time. In short, this software really worth keeping an eye on in 2018.

If you are interested in QuickBooks Online, here are the available pricing plans (QuickBooks Online often has sales promotions, so be sure to check these before purchasing):

  • Simple Plan –$15/mo
  • Essentials Plan – $35/mo
  • Plus Plan – $50/mo
  • Payroll – Pricing starts at $39/mo + $2/mo per employee

To learn more, read our full QuickBooks Online review and use the free trial to take advantage of the new features.

Zoho Books

Best Accounting Mobile Apps

Zoho Books (see our review) is an easy-to-use accounting program with unbelievable invoicing features. The Zoho Corporation has been around since 1996. It launched its accounting program, Zoho Books, in 2011.

Zoho Books is ideal for small businesses that want strong accounting and attractive invoice templates at an affordable price. The software is also ideal for international businesses that require multi-currency support and the ability to send invoices in multiple languages.

Zoho Books Review
Zoho Books Review
Zoho Books Review

For a long while, Zoho Books was known to have some of the best invoicing around, but a few key issues were holding the software back. Lately, though, the software has crept up like a dark horse. Recent updates have put Zoho Books almost completely on par with QuickBooks Online in terms of features, which is why we’ve named this software one of the best of 2018.

While Zoho is not incredibly forthcoming about future updates, the company updates their software multiple times each month. In the most recent updates, the company has increased usability, created customizable purchase orders, and added a brand new retail invoices feature.

The software is unbeatable in terms of invoice features and customizations and offers incredibly affordable prices, which makes it worth watching this year.

If you are interested in Zoho Books, here are the three pricing plans available:

  • Basic — $9/mo
  • Standard — $19/mo
  • Professional — $29/mo

There is no payroll available at this time. To learn more or check out this software’s competitive features and recent updates, read our full Zoho Books review and take the free trial for a spin.

How To Choose Accounting Software

Wave, QuickBooks Online, and Zoho Books are all powerful accounting programs with innovative updates and abundant features. And they seem to be getting better and better with time.

But with three great options to choose from, it is difficult to know which is the best choice for your company — especially if you don’t have an existing accounting software. Our Complete Guide to Choosing Online Accounting Software is a helpful tool and a good place to start your search.

If you have an existing accounting solution that doesn’t quite measure up to the programs discussed above, it might be a good time to change allegiance. Your business is your livelihood, and software that fully meets — and exceeds — your business needs is important for success and growth.

If you are already a Wave, QuickBooks Online, or Zoho Books user, congratulations! You’ve made a good decision, and we hope the features rolled out this year serve you well.

Best wishes to all this new year. May 2018 be a season of joy, dreams, and, most importantly, smooth accounting.

Wave QuickBooks Online Zoho Books
Wave Accounting for small business review QuickBooks review Best Accounting Mobile Apps
 
Read Review Read Review Read Review
Visit Site Visit Site Visit Site
Price  $0 $15 – $40/mo $9 – $29/mo
Accounting Method  Accrual  Both accrual and cash-basis Both accrual and cash-basis
Web-based or Installed Web-based Web-based Web-based
Highlights Free
Numerous features
Good customer support
Easy to use
Attractive invoice templates
Impressive features
Advanced inventory features
Numerous integrations
Good tax support
God mobile apps
Competitive pricing plans
Easy to use
Good mobile apps
International invoicing
Excellent customer support

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8 Ways To Finance Your Small Business

Business financing is often a necessary part of growing a business, but when it comes to finding capital, it can be difficult to know where to start. Should you get a credit card? What about a loan from your local bank? Is there useful financing out there that you haven’t even heard of?

Read on, and we’ll point you in the right direction. This article discusses the most common (and some less common) ways of getting financing for your business. And, if you find the right type of financing for your business, we’ll give you the next steps to continue your search.

Want help finding a business loan? Apply now to Merchant Maverick’s Community of Lenders. We’ve partnered with banks, credit unions, and other financiers across the country to bring you fast and easy business financing.

1. Business Loans

As you might expect, business loans are one of the most popular and versatile ways of financing your business. Most businesses will qualify for a business loan of one sort or another, and they can be used for many business purposes, from working capital to business expansion to refinancing.

Business loans come from many different places. While everybody knows that you can get a business loan from a bank, you might not be aware that other financial institutions offer business loans. Many offer loans that are easier to qualify for and have faster applications than bank loans. Here are places that commonly offer business loans:

  • Banks and credit unions offer business loans and other types of financing.
  • Nonprofits, not-for-profit institutions, and microlenders offer small business loans and other types of financing to create jobs and fuel community growth.
  • The Small Business Administration partners with financial institutions to offer business loans. Read more about SBA loans in our guide to their programs.
  • Online lenders, also called “alternative lenders,” offer business loans and other types of financing with fast, semi- or fully-automated application processes.

Loans come in many different forms. The most common are installment loans, in which the money is granted to the business in one lump sum and then repaid via incremental, fixed, payments. However, some loans might have special fee and repayment structures — you might find loans with fixed fees (like short-term loans), loans that have repayment rates based on the percentage of money you make every day or month, or other arrangements. In other words, with a little looking, most merchants will be able to find something that is suited to the needs of their business.

For more information on small business loans, check out our free Beginner’s Guide to Small Business Loans. Or, to read reviews of individual lenders, head over to our small business loans review category.

2. Business Lines Of Credit

Business lines of credit are a sort of hybrid between business loans and credit cards. Like business loans, with a line of credit, you can borrow a sum of money which is (normally) repaid along with interest in installments over a set period of time. Like credit cards, you can request funds at any time, up to your available credit limit.

If you occasionally need funds to make ends meet or grow your business, or you simply want a safety net in case of emergencies, a line of credit is an excellent tool at your disposal.

Credit lines can be especially useful to businesses on a timeline because you don’t need to apply every time you need to borrow funds. When you are approved for a credit line, you’re granted access to a certain amount of money from which you can draw at any time. If you have a revolving line of credit, the amount you can borrow will replenish as you repay outstanding debts.

Some credit lines, such as asset-backed lines of credit, can work a little differently. If you have access to a credit line secured by unpaid invoices, inventory, or other assets, the amount you can draw at any given time will depend on the value of the assets you have outstanding. These credit lines are normally best for B2B businesses.

Credit lines carry a few drawbacks — most credit lines have variable interest rates, which mean that your rates might change without notice. And, if you aren’t very good at managing money, you might find that you don’t have emergency funds when you need them. However, lines of credit are useful tools for many businesses.

In the past, it was difficult for all but the most well-established and prosperous businesses to get credit lines. With the advent of online loans, it’s becoming easier for businesses of all sizes to access this useful financing tool. Check out our guide to business lines of credit for more information, or, if you’re interested in procuring one, take a look at our favorite line of credit services.

3. Business Credit Cards

There are many reasons to get a business credit card for your business.

For starters, most credit card issuers offer rewards and benefits to merchants who have signed on with their services. By using the card, you could be earning savings in the form of cash back points (that can be redeemed for travel or other expenses). These rewards add up in the long run, and you might be able to save your business quite a bit of money. Additionally, many credit card issuers offer benefits to cardholders, such as extended warranty, price protection, roadside assistance, and other perks.

Credit cards are also convenient ways to keep track of expenses and smooth out cash flow. If you put all your purchases on your credit card, you can easily see what you’ve been spending money on and where you might be able to cut costs. Because the money isn’t coming out of your own account right away, you can defer payments until a more convenient date. You don’t have to struggle to come up with money for expenses if you don’t have it at the moment, or it would be more convenient to pay later.

Of course, credit cards do have some downsides: the APRs can be expensive, so if you don’t pay your bills in time you could wind up with hefty fees that can be difficult to pay off. Additionally, some credit cards carry extra fees, like annual fees and balance transfer fees, which could eat into the money you save by using the card in the first place. However, if you are good at managing money, and spend time choosing a card that will maximize your savings based on how much you plan to utilize the card, credit cards can be excellent tools for many businesses.

Interested in getting a business credit card? Check out a list of our favorite business credit cards. Or, if you are starting a business, you might be interested in our favorite personal credit cards that can be used for business.

4. Merchant Cash Advances

If you need a one-time amount of funds, it might be worth considering a merchant cash advance. This type of financing can be useful for B2C businesses with strong daily sales.

In practice, merchant cash advances are similar to business loans, with the exception of how they’re repaid. Cash advances are repaid by deducting a small percentage of your daily sales; the amount you are repaying each day will vary along with your cash flow. These financial products don’t have a set repayment date, but are normally repaid in a year or less.

Merchant cash advances are an excellent tool for B2C businesses that need a small infusion of cash for working capital, business growth, or other reasons. Know, however, that cash advances have a few downsides: they can be very expensive, and the cost might not be immediately apparent because the fee structure is different than a traditional loan. Instead of interest, cash advance fees are calculated using a factor rate, which can obscure the true cost of the advance.

Head over to our comprehensive article on merchant cash advances for more information, or take a look at our reviews of merchant cash advance providers if you’re interested in finding an advance.

5. Personal Loans

While business loans are based on the credibility and strength of your business, personal loans are based on your personal creditworthiness and financial health. For this reason, these loans can be useful for entrepreneurs, startups, and other businesses that don’t yet have a credit history. You’ll want to give this option a pass if you have separated your business and personal finances, but if you’re not there yet, a personal loan can help you get your business up and going.

Personal loans are normally available from banks, credit unions, and online lenders. You’ll have to have a steady source of income, a solid debt-to-income ratio, and fair credit to qualify for reasonable rates.

Take a look at our guide to personal loans for business for more information, or check out our startup business loan reviews for reviews on personal lenders.

6. Crowdfunding

Rising to prominence due to the internet and some changes in legislature, crowdfunding allows you to finance your business via a network of your peers.

Crowdfunding is normally used by entrepreneurs to get a startup off the ground, or by creators who need money to fund a product. In a crowdfunding arrangement, the entrepreneur creates a campaign, which usually includes a description of their business or product, information about the founders and their partners, a rough timeline, potential problems, and other frequently asked questions.

Perhaps the most well-known type of crowdfunding, popularized by services such as Kickstarter (read our review) and Indiegogo (read our review), is rewards crowdfunding. You may not be aware that there are actually quite a few different type of crowdfunding available:

  • Rewards crowdfunding, from services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, allows contributors to receive products in exchange for backing the business or project.
  • Donation crowdfunding, on sites like Razoo (read our review), involves funds that are donated to your cause. This type of crowdfunding is typically only used for nonprofits or other charitable projects.
  • Debt crowdfunding, from services such as Kiva U.S. (read our review), works similarly to a business loan — backers contribute money with the expectation that it will be paid back, normally with interest.
  • Equity crowdfunding, from company’s like Fundable (read our review), works when backers contribute money in exchange for equity in your business.

Between all the different types available, most entrepreneurs should be able to find a type of crowdfunding that will suit their business or project. Some less-than-sexy businesses, however, might find that they have trouble appealing to casual investors. While debt and equity crowdfunding — which tends to attract more serious backers — might solve that problem, some businesses might still need to look at other financing options.

Crowdfunding also tends to take a long time. Typically, the entrepreneur has to create a campaign and enter into a one- to three-month funding period. The funding period might require a fair amount of marketing, networking, communicating with current and potential backers, and other work to get your project funded.

Interested in crowdfunding? Head over to our startup business loans review category to read reviews of crowdfunding services.

7. Invoice Factoring

Invoice factoring is a financial solution for B2B businesses that invoice their customers. If you have cash flow struggles due to slow-paying customers, invoice factoring is a potential solution. Factoring is commonly used in industries such as construction, manufacturing, printing, and other B2B businesses.

Invoice factors purchase your unpaid invoices at a discount. While you’ll have to take a bit of a loss, invoice factoring can get you the money you need, when you need it, to keep your business going.

When you sell an invoice to a factoring company, you will receive most of the money up-front, and the factor will place a small amount on reserve. Then, when your customer pays the invoice, the funds are diverted to the factoring company, and you will receive the rest of the money in the reserve, minus the invoice factor’s fee.

There are many invoice factoring arrangements, depending on the factoring company and the needs of your business. You can find factors that require you to sell a lot of invoices or ones that let you pick and choose more carefully. Some factors require that your customers know about the arrangement, while others will keep it a secret, and so on.

Invoice factoring has gotten a bad rap in the past because some factoring companies employed poor practices, such as failing to disclose extra fees, requiring long-term contracts and monthly minimums, and other reasons. However, if you do your due diligence, you will be able to find an invoice factor that suits your business’s needs without employing poor tactics. Check out our Basic Introduction To Invoice Factoring to learn what to look for, and take a look at our comprehensive invoice factoring reviews to learn about individual factors.

8. Equipment Financing

If you run a business that relies on computers, manufacturing equipment, restaurant equipment, vehicles, or other equipment that might be difficult to pay for out of your business’s own pocket, equipment financing might be right for you.

Equipment financing covers two types of financing: equipment loans and equipment leases.

Equipment loans are similar to traditional business loans, but the equipment is generally used as collateral. In a typical equipment loan arrangement, the lender will cover 80% to 90% of the equipment, and you will be responsible for paying the other 10% to 20%.

Equipment leases are arrangements in which you rent the equipment for a certain period of time. In practice, some lease arrangements are similar to loans, because you have the opportunity to buy the equipment at the end of the leading period, but other arrangements are designed so that you can return or trade in the equipment after a certain period of time. Because you don’t have to purchase the equipment, leases can be a good option for businesses that only need equipment for a short time, or frequently need to upgrade expensive equipment (like computers) due to changes in technology.

Equipment financing, especially equipment loans, will most likely be more expensive in the long run than purchasing the equipment outright. However, if you can’t afford what you need, an equipment loan or lease is an excellent way to get financing.

Head over to What Is Equipment Financing? to learn more about this type of financing, or our equipment financing review category to learn about individual financiers.

Final Thoughts

Business owners have many financing tools at their disposal, but finding the right tool for the job can take some work. The above resources will point you in the right direction.

Need some more help? Merchant Maverick’s Community of Lenders is there for you. We’ve teamed up with banks, credit unions, and other financiers across the country to provide our readers with fast and easy business financing. With one short application, you can check your eligibility for all participating financial institutions. Read more about the service, including a step-by-step guide through the application process, in Mirador Finance & Merchant Maverick: Making Small Business Loans Easier.

The post 8 Ways To Finance Your Small Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Credit Card Processing Apps For Mobile And Service Businesses

mobile-card-payment-app-service

Being able to take payments on the go without having to jump through five million hoops is crucial for mobile businesses, whether you’re a service business that visits customers at home or just a small business without a permanent storefront. That’s where credit card processing apps come in: Combining integrated payments and feature-rich POS systems that run on smartphones and tablets, they’re designed to operate anywhere you can get a cellular or Wi-Fi signal.

We took a look at the most promising credit card processing apps for mobile and service businesses, comparing their features as well as their processing rates. Then, we compiled the best options into a list!

Choosing the Best App Features for Mobile & Service Businesses

If your business is primarily service-based or you tend to do more pop-up sales and events than deal with retail storefronts, you probably don’t need (or want) a whole lot of hardware. What you do need is an EMV-friendly reader and a smartphone or tablet to run the system from.

We used two primary criteria in deciding this list: first, the product has to have integrated payment processing, and the app must be available on a tablet (preferably a smartphone as well).

While hardware may not be a priority, knowing which systems can work as a countertop system as well as mobile is helpful. Invoicing, virtual terminals, solid sales tax management, and decent item libraries were also factors. Take a look at our comprehensive comparison chart to figure out which system might work best for your particular needs.

Square for retail review logo imageSquare PayPal Here Shopify Payline Mobile SumUp
BASICS
Integrated Processing Yes Yes Yes (Other options available) Yes Yes
Processing Rates (for most swiped/dipped transactions) 2.75% 2.70% 2.70% Interchange + 0.5% or 0.3% 2.75%
Monthly Fee $0 $0 Plans start at $9/month $0 / $9.95 $0
Number of Devices Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 1
Tablet Support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android Apple, Android Apple, Android
Smartphone Support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android Apple, Android Apple, Android
Email/SMS Receipts Email/SMS Email/SMS Email Only Yes Email/SMS
Receipt Printer Connectivity Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB Bluetooth, LAN, Wireless Bluetooth, USB, LAN No Bluetooth, LAN
Cash Drawer Connectivity Yes (Tablet Only, With Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Star Printer Connectivity) Yes (iPad Only, with Printer Connectivity) No Yes (with Printer Connectivity)
FEATURES
Split Tender Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Offline Processing Mode Yes No Very Limited No No
Full and Partial Returns Yes Yes Yes (including store credit) Yes Full Only
Sub-User/Employee Accounts Yes (monthly fee) Yes (free) Yes (PINS/accounts) Yes Yes (Limited)
Discounts by $ or % Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Tipping by $ or % Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Multiple Tax Rates Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Adjust Tax Rates In-App Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Customizable Receipts Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Generate Invoices Yes Yes Yes No No
Virtual Terminal Yes Yes (monthly fee) No Yes Yes
INVENTORY
Bulk Item Upload Yes No Yes No No
Item Counts Yes No Yes No No
Item Variants Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Item Add-ons Yes Yes No No No
Item Categories Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Item Photo Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Create Item from App or Dashboard Yes Yes Yes Yes No (App Only)

You can check out our reviews of each service for more information about features, user experience, and more.

Square

Square business model and mobile credit card processingSquare made its name with a mobile processing service that anyone could use, and while the company is definitely catering to larger entities these days, small and mobile businesses still make up a good portion of Square’s merchants. Square’s totally free processing app makes it easy to create an item library of physical products as well as services.

Square’s tax rate settings are easily adjustable from within the mobile app and you can pre-program different rates if you find yourself flipping between different locations often.

In addition, Square offers invoicing, recurring invoicing/storing cards on file, and a free virtual terminal. You can even integrate Square’s appointment booking software seamlessly.

Square will charge you 2.75% per swiped transaction, but invoicing will run you 2.9% + $0.30, and virtual terminal transactions will cost you 3.5% + $0.15.

PayPal Here

PayPal Here review: One of the top Square alternativesPayPal Here is another staple of mobile businesses with a free mobile app. PayPal has the advantage of massive eCommerce support as well as a solid mPOS so you can seamlessly blend different aspects of your business. Plus, your funds are available almost instantly in your PayPal account, and with the PayPal debit card, you can spend them anywhere. The free mobile app isn’t quite as feature-rich as Square’s, but it’s highly capable.

You’ll also find PayPal Here’s tax settings are adjustable within the app and you can easily accommodate different sales tax rates. Like Square, you get free in-app invoicing. However, if you are looking for a virtual terminal or recurring billing, they’re going to run you an additional $30 and $10 per month, respectively, which is a fairly high price tag.

You’ll pay 2.7% per transaction in the app, whereas invoices will run you 2.9% + $0.30. Virtual terminal transactions (not counting the monthly fee) cost 3.1% + $0.15.

Shopify

Shopify started out as just an eCommerce offering but it’s expanded into a multi-channel solution for business. You can get Shopify’s Point of Sale app for as little as $9/month with the Lite plan, or you can upgrade to a countertop-friendly version with the Retail package, and even add on integrations for appointment booking. However, if you don’t /need/ a receipt printer or cash drawer and don’t sell through your own site online, the Lite plan will absolutely get you through.

Shopify isn’t the most advanced credit card processing app out there — for example, it doesn’t support tipping — but overall it has most of the features mobile and service-based businesses need, and its integration with the eCommerce tools is definitely an asset. It even allows invoicing.

Shopify allows you to set a tax rate for a shop location and create overrides and exemptions. One thing I do like that I don’t often see in these sorts of apps is tax rates based on GPS location, which eases the burden on you considerably.

For Shopify Payments (the default processing method), you’re going to pay 2.7% per transaction to start out, though if you opt for the higher-tiered plans you’ll see some savings.

Payline Mobile

Payline is one of our favorite merchant account providers, and we like their mobile solution because it’s available independently of the other offerings and suitable for low-volume businesses, which isn’t common with traditional merchant accounts.

The app is overall solid, with inventory features, tipping, and discounts. While there’s no invoicing feature, the mobile plans do offer access to a virtual terminal. The app is also designed for mobile use only: it doesn’t support retail/countertop processing features like cash drawers or receipt printers. However, Payline supports multiple tax rates for different items as well as a master tax rate for checkout, depending on your needs.

Payline’s mobile products offer interchange-plus pricing, too: the Start plan (formerly Spark Plan) will charge you 0.5% over interchange plus $0.20 per transaction with no monthly fee; the Surge plan charges a 0.3% markup plus $0.20, with a $9.95 monthly fee. The $0.20 per-transaction fee is a little high, but doesn’t put Payline Mobile in the realm of unreasonable pricing. However, it does mean businesses with larger ticket sizes will feel the effects of that per-transaction fee less.

Spark Pay

Capital One’s mobile processing solution Spark Pay is part of the larger “Spark” line of businesses solutions, which includes a fairly advanced online store. However, despite that, Spark Pay the mobile app stands alone, with no integrations.

It has all the major features a merchant would need — tipping, custom discounts, an item library, and support for a countertop setup. Unfortunately, there’s no invoicing, and Spark Pay’s virtual terminal is only in beta mode. You can only set one tax rate in the app as well. However, the major shortcoming is simply that while Spark Pay does offer EMV terminals, there’s not currently an EMV-compliant mobile reader, something that all the other options here do offer.

That said, Spark Pay does offer great customer service, and its pricing is competitive. On the Go plan, there’s no monthly fee and transactions cost 2.65% + $0.05. The Pro plan has a $19 monthly fee, but your rates drop to 1.99% + $0.05.

SumUp

SumUp has been operating in Europe for several years now, but it’s only reached the US in the past year, which definitely makes it the newcomer. The app is overall solid, though more limited than the others on this list.

You do get a free mobile app and free virtual terminal, as well as a fairly unique tool: SMS payments where customers can complete a transaction by opening a link sent through text message.

However, you can only process on one device at a time, so while you can create sub-user accounts, there’s not much of a benefit. SumUp does support multiple tax rates, but tax rates can’t be deleted when they are associated with an item. You’ll have to delete the item first.

The lack of discounts and the ability to make some changes through the dashboard are a bit disappointing — but the fact that you can manage everything from within the app is a major improvement over a platform like Clover Go, which requires you to make many adjustments in the web dashboard.

There are no recurring billing or card-on-file options, though, and no invoicing, either. That said, SumUp charges a simple 2.75% per transaction, and 2.9% + $0.15 for virtual terminal and SMS payments, with no monthly fee.

Final Thoughts

I’m usually pretty hesitant to recommend one product above all others without consideration of the differences from one business to the next. And that’s true here. If you really only have simple needs, any of the options on this list will serve you well. As your needs get more advanced, it’s definitely worth looking at more advanced setups such as Square or PayPal Here. And as always, the price is a major consideration. Make sure you run the numbers and are confident the rates you will pay are competitive.

The good news is that all of these services have a no-monthly-fee option so you can try them out with no risk. I encourage you to check out our complete reviews of any credit card processing app you’re interested in pursuing. And if you have questions, I encourage you to reach out. We’re always here to help, so feel free to leave us a comment!

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The Best Charge Cards For Small Businesses

You may have heard the terms used interchangeably in casual conversation, but charge cards and credit cards aren’t the same thing. While small businesses can make great use of both types of cards, charge cards come with a unique set of risks and rewards.

A credit card is a revolving line of credit. A bank extends you a credit line, and you can spend up to your limit, paying interest on any balance you carry beyond the first month. When you pay off your debt, the full line of credit becomes available to you once more.

A charge card, on the other hand, doesn’t come with a credit limit. Instead, it may have a limit that can vary month to month based on a variety of factors ranging from your payment history to prevailing economic conditions. The catch? You need to pay off your entire balance every month. If you don’t, you’ll be hit with fees and interest rates that usually far exceed anything you’d see with a credit card. You will likely forfeit your reward points as well. In some cases, you may be able to spread out your payment on certain purchases through programs like American Express’s Extended Payment Option. Because they’re less likely to earn money on carried balances, charge card companies tend to have higher annual fees.

Note that charge cards aren’t quite as widely accepted as credit cards, so it’s best to have another payment method as a backup.

Think a charge card is right for your business? Here are some of our favorite options.

American Express Platinum

Charge cards are American Express’s wheelhouse, and its Platinum Card is one of the most well-known and prestigious charge cards around. With extremely generous reward tiers and a laundry list of benefits, it’s quite a powerful little piece of plastic for travelers. Be prepared for some sticker shock when you look at the annual fee, however.

American Express Platinum
Annual Fee $550
APR N/A
Signup Bonus 60,000 points
Rewards 5 pts./$1 on flights and hotels through Amex Travel; 2 pts./$1 on other travel
1 pt./$1 on all other purchases
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A glance at Amex Platinum will tell you that it’s a card heavily weighted toward people on the go. The 5x reward tier offers an insane return on travel expenses, as long as you can make them through Amex’s first party system. The 2x return on expenses that you don’t book through Amex isn’t too shabby either. Points can be transferred to participating reward programs at variable rates. They can also be used as statement credit as long as you have at least 1,000 points.

The $550 annual fee is pretty brutal, but if you make strategic use of the card’s other perks, it’s not quite as bad as it looks. You’ll get:

  • $15 worth of Uber rides/mo, plus $20 in December
  • $200 airline fee credit
  • Hotel and resort benefits/upgrades
  • $100 TSA fee credit for global entry

If you aren’t a heavy traveler, however, this card is probably not a great investment. Businesses that are less focused on travel and more focused on large purchases may want to consider the business version of the platinum card. It replaces the 2 point tier with a 1.5 point tier for qualifying purchases. You’ll lose the Uber credits and some of the other perks, however. On the bright side, the Platinum Business Card is $100 cheaper per year.

American Express OPEN Business Gold Rewards

If the Platinum Card sounds too expensive and travel focused, Amex also offers more general-purpose charge cards. Amex OPEN Business Gold may not come with the incredible 5x reward tier of Platinum, but it’s cheaper and extends a 3x reward tier to a broader variety of purchases.

American Express OPEN Business Gold Rewards
Annual Fee $175 ($0 first year)
APR N/A
Signup Bonus 50,000 points
Rewards 3 pts./$1 for the first $100,000 spent on a category of your choice–airfare, advertising, shipping, gas stations, or computer hardware and software; 2 pts./$1 for the first $100,000 spent on the other four categories.
 1 pt./$1 on all other purchase
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The American Express OPEN Business Gold Rewards card is one of the more interesting pieces of business plastic on the market. Rather than coming out of the box with a set reward tier structure, it lets you choose one of five different categories to be your 3x reward tier. You don’t even have to worry too much about buyer’s remorse, because the other four categories will still be rewarded at 2x. It gives the card a modular, customizable feel that can be fitted to most types of business.

The $175 annual price tag is still on the steep side, though Amex waives the fee for the first year. Note that you’ll have to spend at least $5,000 during the first month to qualify for the 50,000 point signup bonus, so plan your purchases accordingly if you decide to go with this card.

Overall, Amex OPEN Business Gold provides a pretty good value–and more versatility–at a lower annual price than some of their elite cards. The trade-off is that you won’t be getting the 5x reward tiers, statement credits, and some of the perks that come with a card like Amex Platinum.

American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card

If the Platinum Card looks like overkill and the OPEN Business Rewards Gold Card too unfocused, you may want to consider the Premier Rewards Gold. Like Platinum, it’s oriented around travel, but it comes in at a more affordable annual fee.

American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card
Annual Fee $195 ($0 first year)
APR N/A
Signup Bonus 25,000 point
Rewards 3 pts./$1 on directly booked flights; 2 pts/$1 at supermarkets, gas stations, and restaurants in the U.S.
 1 pt./$1 for all other purchases
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If the Platinum card caters to the well-heeled, international jet-setter, Gold Premier is for the business owner whose work takes them around the US. You’ll still get some nice airline-related perks, so long as you book those flights directly; no Kayak or Priceline bookings. You’ll also get a smaller version of the Platinum card’s airline credit, giving you $100/yr. in statement credits for things like baggage fees, which can offset more than half of the significant annual fee.

Rather than rewarding you for fancy resort spending, the Premier card’s 2x tier is focused on more pragmatic expenses you’re likely to encounter during your domestic travels.

As is usually the case, you’ll need to spend a minimum amount of money in the first three months to get the signup bonus ($2,000 in this case).

As is the case for all Amex charge cards, remember that they’re not as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard credit/debit, so be sure to have a plan B in your wallet.

American Express Plum Card

If the reward programs outlined above sound like more trouble than they’re worth, or if your spending habits and cash flow would make those cards hard to use, there’s another option. Enter American Express’s Plum Card, a charge card that sacrifices lavish words for flexibility.

American Express Plum Card
Annual Fee $250 ($0 the first year)
APR N/A
Signup Bonus None
Rewards 1.5% early payment discount
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If a charge card could be “controversial,” the American Express Plum card would be a top contender for that title. Why is that?

While the Plum Card is a technically a charge card, it functions almost more like a cash back credit card. For starters, you’re given 60 days to pay off your balance without incurring a late fee. Pretty neat, right?

Well, there’s a catch. If you pay off your card early, within 10 days of your statement closing date, you’ll get a 1.5% discount on your bill. This is comparable to the 1.5% return you’ll see with most business credit cards that offer cash back, but with a little less leeway for earning your rewards. If you want that type of reward system in a charge card, however, the Plum Card can accommodate you.

Final Thoughts

Charge cards fill an increasingly small but still popular niche, offering some distinct advantages and drawbacks to the businesses that use them. Though business credit cards have been rapidly closing the gap, charge cards still offer some of the highest rewards tiers, albeit with high annual fees.

Looking for other options? Check out our business credit card and personal credit card comparisons.

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