How Much Money Do You Need To Start A Business?

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Cloudways Hosting Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Cloudways Hosting Review_ Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

So you’re looking into using Cloudways as your hosting provider, and you’re wondering how they stack up against the competition.

But hold on one second.

I tested out Cloudways for a client project because they have gotten really good press for creating a truly unique product in a pretty staid industry.

As with any unique product, they’ll need a bit of background on the web hosting spectrum.

Let’s talk about the difference between cloud hosting and traditional shared hosting.

Usually your website files live on a part of a server that you rent from a hosting company (hence “shared” hosting). A cloud is an entire network of data centers that host website files in a distributed & decentralized fashion. Your files are deployed “everywhere” in a way of speaking. You just rent the resources on the network needed to host & deliver your files.

Imagine real-world housing for a second. Traditional hosting is like buying a house, townhouse or condominium. You buy it and you can do whatever you want. It’s cheap and predictable. But if your entire extended family shows up one day – you might have some issues hosting everyone. Cloud hosting is like having access to any house anywhere in the world whenever and wherever – you just have to pay per night for whatever house you use. It’s more expensive day to day, but when your entire extended family shows up one day – it’s a pretty simple, quick fix. You just get the 12 bedroom house for the night and no one is the wiser.

The actual cloud is built by the biggest tech companies in the world. There are not that many. Amazon is the biggest. They are closely followed by Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM along with a few smaller ones like Digital Ocean.

With cloud hosting, you have more access to guaranteed resources than on shared hosting.

On shared hosting, you have a set amount of resources on a specific server that also has a set amount of resources. For example, you might have 1GB of Memory dedicated to you on a server that has 10GB of memory in total.

But suppose there are 10 customers on that shared server, each with 1GB of memory. 9 of those customers start using a full 1GB of their allocation – sometimes a little bit over. Well, now, you can’t actually use your 1GB of memory without bringing the server done. In that case, you might get throttled or one customer’s site might get taken down. Now, a good shared hosting will have network engineers who have built out ways of balancing, but it’s the core tradeoff with the setup.

On cloud hosting, you pay per use of resources on a distributed network of servers that has basically infinite resources. Your data doesn’t live on a single server. Instead, it’s copied on a whole network all around the world. If a single server gets overloaded, another server starts returning the the data.

This is the reason why NetFlix runs on Amazon’s cloud and why Twitter runs on Google’s Cloud. Those are extreme but illustrative examples. They see huge spikes at random times during the day that only a cloud can handle.

This makes cloud hosting a great option for websites that have spiky traffic (like viral news sites or a site that goes through regular launches) and doesn’t want to commit to a set amount of resources that may or may not be guaranteed.

But cloud hosting is traditionally expensive and very technical to set up, which can make it not make sense for a lot of DIYers and small businesses. The time & money to get it configured *just* right is out of reach for most businesses.

And that’s where Cloudways comes in.

What is Cloudways?

Cloudways is what’s known as a “managed cloud hosting company” headquartered in Malta. They offer hosting via the big cloud companies, but they manage the process by providing custom setup software, support, and some price smoothing to make cloud hosting more accessible to small businesses and DIYers.

See Cloudways Current Plans & Pricing.

Cloudways competes directly with other hosting companies with managed cloud-based products, like HostGator Cloud, WP Engine, and SiteGround Cloud.

However, they also compete indirectly with the cloud companies themselves like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Digital Ocean, and Linode since anyone can buy directly from them.

But Cloudways also compete with traditional shared hosting companies like Bluehost, SiteGround, Hostwinds, Hostinger, Dreamhost, InMotion, etc. because of their pricing model & price point.

Confused yet? Yeah – me too, and I’m the one trying to write this review and explain it to my clients.

In some ways, this point is a pro for Cloudways. They are trying to do something truly unique in the hosting industry. Anything truly novel is hard to figure out. That doesn’t come along often, and it’s worth pointing that out.

Essentially Cloudways provides the guaranteed resources of cloud hosting with the guaranteed pricing of shared hosting. For a lot of businesses, this deal does not make sense — but if you know you’ll have really high highs and really low lows in your website traffic and don’t want to commit to (or deal with the technicalities of) direct cloud hosting with Google, Amazon, etc., it’s a fairly interesting set-up.

So with that said, let’s look at the Pros and Cons of Cloudways hosting.

Pros of Cloudways

There are a lot of Cloudways reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine but I take a different approach. As I’ve said in other hosting reviews, there is no such thing as a “best” web host. The “best” is the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience & expertise. Here are the pros (advantages) for considering Cloudways.

Simplified Pricing

One of the biggest advantages of using Cloudways as your cloud hosting provider is their simplified pricing packages. Traditionally, cloud hosting pricing is pretty complex. Because you pay for what you use, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what you’re going to end up owing. Just look at Google Cloud’s pricing calculator:

Google Cloud Pricing Calculator

Cloudways has simple, monthly pay-as-you-go plans. There’s no calculating, no guessing — just straightforward monthly rates that you can choose based on your needs.

Cloudways monthly pricing

They also have a chat bot that will recommend a specific plan for you based on the number of websites you have, your traffic volume, and the purpose of your site (i.e. blog, digital agency, etc.).

Cloudways Pricing Suggestions

All in all, the pricing structure is straightforward and pretty hassle-free, which is a huge competitive advantage when comparing Cloudways to other cloud hosting providers.

Cloud Host Variety

Another interesting advantage of Cloudways is the ability to choose your Cloud Host. Cloudways offers hosting with several big cloud hosts, from DigitalOcean to Amazon to Google.

Cloudways Hosting Variety

Again, this makes Cloudways the middle man of sorts. You’re not actually hosting on their platform — they serve as the intermediary between you and the cloud hosting platforms.

Having the choice of cloud hosts in a more simplified pricing structure is definitely a pro… but again, it really only makes sense if you know you’ll have highs and lows in your website traffic and don’t want to commit to (or deal with the technicalities of) direct cloud hosting with Google, Amazon, etc.

Performance

In addition to hosting your website files, a good hosting server will also deliver those files as quickly as possible every time a visitor goes to your domain name address.

There are a lot of variables that go into how fast your website is. You can have the fastest server in the world and still have an incredibly slow website due to issues on your end. But either way, you want to have a hosting server that is fast so that you can work on your side of the equation.

One of the best measurements for approximating performance is TTFB or Time to First Byte. Again, I know that network engineers throw a lot of asterisks here and if you know *exactly* what type of website you are running – you can absolutely ask for detailed allocated specs. My goal with my hosting reviews is to provide a narrative of tradeoffs so that you can make the call for your website.

But here’s how DigitalOcean performed via Cloudways with my website when I first set it up on a clean WordPress install –

speed test for website on Cloudways

.0127s for TTFB is pretty speedy, especially when you compare it to the performance of budget shared hosts like Web Hosting Hub, Hostinger, iPage, or even GoDaddy. Actually, it’s really fast no matter who you compare it to.

Again, there are tradeoffs here. The more your use on Cloudways, the more you’re going to pay. But if you’re looking for a hosting platform that can handle spikes of traffic without throttling your performance, Cloudways gives you some great options.

Cons of Cloudways

Like any web host, Cloudways has disadvantages. There are plenty of Cloudways complaints to be found online. Plenty are valid, and some are simply anecdotal. Here are the cons that I found while using Cloudways for hosting.

Complex Set Up

Perhaps the biggest con of Cloudways is how complex it can be to get up and running.

As much as Cloudways positions themselves as the ones who take care of the complexities of cloud hosting, making it easy for business owners to get set up and focus on their actual business… the set up of hosting with Cloudways is far more complex than traditional hosting.

For starters, aside from a video on how to migrate your WordPress website and some articles, there isn’t much in the way of onboarding (AKA guiding you through getting set up on their platform). We did get a few emails from customer support, but if you wanted to dive in and get started yourself, it’s a bit like navigating a maze.

cloudways migration instructions

We also had some trouble getting our account up and running. The sign up process isn’t as simple as entering your information and diving in. Cloudways has to confirm your details, and it took a few different conversations with support to get access to our account.

Lastly, after the three day trial (more on that in a minute), we had to remigrate our account. Now – this could have been user error, but it was so complicated – even for someone who has written a ton of reviews of hosting companies. I couldn’t even tell if it had worked the first time.

Limited Trial Period

Despite their simplified pricing structure, Cloudways does have one main con in the pricing area… and that’s their limited trial period.

Usually hosting platforms will come with some sort of guarantee or trial period, so you can test them out before you commit. Cloudways offers three days — and if you’re having difficulty figuring out the migration and set up, those three days go pretty fast.

Again, if you’re committed to cloud hosting, this probably doesn’t matter to you. But if you’re testing it out, it’s a short period.

Custom Backend

At most hosting companies, you have an account area where you access to billing, account information, bonuses (ie, Google Ads credits), etc – it will also have links to your actual server backend/dashboard.

Most hosting companies use cPanel as the server backend/dashboard. cPanel is where you go to do anything with your hosting server – install any applications (ie, WordPress), set up email addresses, get your FTP information to upload files, etc. It’s simple, straightforward, and since most hosting companies use it, it’s sort of an industry standard that you can get help with anywhere online.

Cloudways does not use that setup. They use a proprietary backend for both your account administration and your server administration. It’s seamless for what they do…but it’s not really something you can Google or DIY troubleshoot.

Cloudways Database

On one hand, it is simplified and allows Cloudways to provide a truly customized experience. On the other hand, the set up is confusing and feels limiting. It’s difficult to sort through where things are, and everything feels overly technical (which really doesn’t help me “focus” on what I do best, AKA run my business).

It adds to the complexity of the platform, rather than making it more streamlined and simple.

Conclusion & Next Steps

Overall, I found Cloudways to be a unique solution for those who need the benefits of cloud hosting without the complete complexity of it. While Cloudways still isn’t as straightforward as traditional hosting companies, it does streamline the process of getting set up with a cloud host.

See Cloudways Current Plans & Pricing.

If you’re looking for the benefits of cloud hosting, but don’t want to deal with the overly technical set up, fluctuating payments, etc., go ahead and sign up for Cloudways here.

However, if you just need a solid hosting company that’s straight forward, easy to use, and can handle steady website traffic, you’re better of with a traditional hosting platform like InMotion Hosting. I’ve used them for years – and they fit most small business sites’ need for a balance between price, performance & support.

If you are more confused than ever – then take my Web Hosting Quiz here or use my website setup guide here!

The post Cloudways Hosting Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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How To Register Your Business: The Complete Guide

The post How To Register Your Business: The Complete Guide appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Top Metal Credit Cards For 2019

The post Top Metal Credit Cards For 2019 appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Start A Pet Sitting Business: The Complete Guide

Have you always had an affinity for furry (or scaly) things? Have you ever needed money? If you answered yes to both these questions, you may want to consider starting a pet-sitting business.

But before you pick up the leashes and pooper-scoopers, it’s a good idea to sit down and plan out the trajectory of your business. If that sounds overwhelming, don’t fret. Below, we’ll lay out the steps you can take to start a pet-sitting business.

Decide On A Location

Since you’re going to be dealing with people’s pets, you’ll need to take into account your proximity to your clients. If they’re dropping their pets off with you, you’ll want to be located somewhere easily accessible to most of your customers, and one that can accommodate animals. Depending on where you live, this can be tricky as the space necessary to accommodate animals will usually be cheaper in less centralized locations.

On the other hand, if you’re going to your customers, you’ll need to take into account the amount of time you need to spend with each client’s pets, the costs of commuting to the job, and how animal-friendly/animal-hostile the infrastructure in your service area is (dog parks, etc.).

Register Your Business

Why should you register your business? Depending on your local laws, you may actually be required to register your business in order to legally pet-sit. But even in jurisdictions where it isn’t compulsory, there are some advantages to doing so.

The first is that you can do business under a name other than your own. So instead of Martha Swearingen, LLC, you can do business as Baron Bark’s Pet Pampering Service (you can have that one for free).

The default configuration for businesses is a sole proprietorship (or a partnership, if you’re starting it with someone else). This essentially means that you’ve started a business with your own name or, if you file a DBA (Doing Business As), a name of your choice.

Sole proprietorships have the advantage of being cheap and easy to start. Your taxes will also be easier to file (and lower) than they would generally be with other forms of incorporation. Keep in mind, however, that for liability purposes, sole proprietorships and the individuals behind them are essentially one and the same.

Other forms of incorporation will require a bit more work and come with their own advantages and disadvantages. Most pet-sitting companies aren’t going to be interested in forming C-suites for governance, so you can probably ignore S-Corps and C-Corps for now. You may, however, want to consider forming an LLC to provide some separation between your personal finances and liabilities and your business ones.

Here are the most popular ways to incorporate:

  • Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs): If you’ve seen LLC after a corporation’s name, you’re dealing with this type of company. LLCs offer limited liability protection for their owners without the full complexity of a corporation. Each state has its own rules for how to start and maintain an LLC, and you don’t necessarily have to register your LLC in the state where you’re doing business (although you’ll generally want to). LLC owners report their business earnings and losses on their personal taxes.
  • C-Corp: This is the “basic,” default form of incorporation. Shareholders are considered the owner(s) of the company and receive limited liability protection; however, the business decisions are made by corporate officers who may or may not be shareholders. The corporation is taxed separately and shareholders pay income tax on dividends. To form a C-corp, you’ll file articles of incorporation with your state.
  • S-Corp: S-corps are similar to C-corps in most ways, but come with a few additional restrictions: you have to have fewer than 100 shareholders and they have to all be U.S. citizens or residents. Unlike C-corps, profits and losses are reported on personal taxes, not unlike an LLC. In addition to filing articles of incorporation, you’ll also need to file IRS Form 2553.

Get Business Insurance

As a pet-sitter, you’re not just dealing with property, you’re dealing with animals whose owners often view them as part of their family. In other words, if something goes wrong, things could get ugly.

Depending on your local laws, you may be required to carry certain types of insurance.

The type of insurance that will probably be of most interest to you is general liability insurance. This protects you in the event of a lawsuit or accident, whether it’s an accidental injury to the animal or if you accidentally damage property within a client’s home. It doesn’t only protect you, however; it also makes you look like a safer option than a business that isn’t covered.

There are other, more specialized types of insurance that are worth taking a look at depending on the specifics of your business. These include:

  • Property Insurance: Protects the property needed to run your business (as opposed to damages you cause to clients’ property).
  • Business Interruption: Covers costs related to unforeseen events that make your business unable to function.
  • Professional Liability (Error and Omissions): Covers the costs of defending your company in lawsuits in cases where your business caused a financial loss.

If you aren’t sure where to look, we can help you.

Invest In Business Software

While not absolutely necessary, you can save yourself and your customers some hassle with strategically chosen business software. For pet sitting, there are probably three types most worthy of consideration.

Payment Processing

Doing business with cash can be convenient when you’re first starting out, but as you grow, you’ll probably be missing out on clients if you can’t accommodate other forms of payment.

Recommended Option: Square

Best Overall Mobile POS


Review Visit Site

Highlights

  • No contract or monthly fee
  • Instant account setup
  • Retail upgrade available
  • Restaurant upgrade available
  • For iOS and Android mobile devices
  • 2.75% per in-person card swipe

Retail POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Restaurant POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Square POS: Always free

If you have an iOS or Android device, Square offers an extremely convenient way to accept mobile payments while on the go via a small add-on you plug into your device. It’s also a very scalable service; if you’re running a retail location, there are even more features and service options you can take advantage of.

Best of all, there aren’t any monthly fees to worry about. Square charges between 2.75  – 3.5 percent per transaction (depending on whether you swipe or key in the info), so you’ll want to factor those costs into your expenses.

Scheduling Software

As you add clients, it will get harder to remember their particular preferences, not to mention more difficult to fit them all into your schedule. With booking or scheduling software, you can track your time, note customer needs, and efficiently plan your days’ work. Many of these offer their basic features free of charge.

Accounting Software

Most businesses can benefit from accounting software. What you don’t want is to spend money unnecessarily on one. Wave offers most of the features you need at no cost.

With no monthly fee, you’ll get invoicing, estimates, contact management, expense tracking, accounts payable, and inventory tracking.

Seek Funding

Pet-sitting, especially, if you’re going to your clients, doesn’t have a lot of overhead when you’re first starting out. In the event that you do need to scare up some money to cover starting expenses or equipment, there are a number of options available to you.

Personal Savings

If you can avoid taking on debt, it’s usually a good idea. It may hurt to part with some of your rainy day funds, but you won’t be accumulating expensive interest and fees.

Tap Your Support Network

If you do need money from an outside source, you can often get a better deal from your support system than you can from a private lender.

Keep in mind that this comes with its own risks. You may stress your relationships, especially if you aren’t able to pay back these so-called friendly loans quickly. One way to avoid this is to formalize any agreements you make with friends and family so that everyone fully understands what they’re getting into and what the expectations are. You may even want to draw up a formal contract that outlines any expected payments and return on investment.

Credit Cards

For the relatively low expenses you will encounter when you start a pet-sitting business, credit cards can probably suffice for most of your needs.

The general rules of thumb when it comes to using credit cards effectively are these:

  1. Use credit cards for expenses that you can pay off within their interest-free grace period.
  2. Pick a card with a reward program that matches your spending habits and needs.
  3. Do not take out cash advances on your credit card.

If you follow these rules, you can actually save money by using your credit card to make purchases.

Recommended Option: American Express SimplyCash Plus

SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express



Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


14.49% – 21.49%, Variable

Amex’s SimplyCash Plus offers one of the best cash back programs available without an annual fee. You’ll get 1 percent back on generic purchases, 5 percent back on wireless telephone purchases and office supply stores in the U.S. But it’s the middle tier that’s most interesting. You can select a category of your choosing (airfare, hotel rooms, car rentals, gas stations, restaurants, advertising, shipping, or computer hardware) to get 3 percent back.

It also carries an introductory 0% APR for the first nine months, which can be helpful if you’re just starting out.

Recommended Option: Amazon Business Prime American Express Card

Amazon Business Prime American Express Card


Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


16.24% – 24.24%, Variable

This one’s a little more niche. But if you find yourself buying supplies and random pet-related doodads on Amazon frequently, you can get a lot of value out of the Amazon Business Prime American Express Card.

If you have a Prime membership, you’ll earn a whopping 5 percent back on purchases made at Amazon.com, Amazon Business, AWS, and Whole Foods Market — or an extra 90 days interest-free grace period for purchases made at those places. Even if you’re not a Prime member, you’ll get 3 percent or 60 days, respectively. You’ll need to spend around $6,000 to recoup the cost of a $119 Prime membership with points alone, but that’s without factoring in money saved through Prime’s programs (shipping, deals, etc).

Personal Loans

If you need more money than you can safely put on a credit card, or need longer to pay it off, you should consider getting a personal loan that can cover business expenses.

There are some disadvantages to taking this route, namely that you’re on the hook rather than your business, but if your credit is good, it’s not the worst option out there.

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

lending club logo

Review

Check Rate

Lending Club is a good option for individuals who may not have the strongest credit, but have a good debt-to-income ratio. The borrowing range is fairly narrow at $1k to $40k, but when you’re just starting out, you don’t want to go too deeply into debt anyway. You’ll have three-to-five years to pay it off, which makes it fairly manageable.

Recommended Option: Lendio

Review

Visit Site

If you’re just entering the alternative loan market for the first time, it can be pretty overwhelming. Lendio takes some of that burden off of you by allowing you to effectively apply to their whole network of lenders with one application.

Need more options? Check out our feature on startup loans.

Create Contracts

If you’ve just been watching your friends’ pets, you’ve probably had an informal agreement about the services you’d provide and the expectations of safety and liability involved. And that was probably enough.

When you’re dealing with strangers in a professional capacity, however, it’s smart to formalize these elements in a contract. This can save you a lot of headaches, if not legal troubles, down the road. You’ll want to include critical information about the pet (when and what they eat, how they are with strangers, pertinent medical history, etc.), what’s included in your services, and the client’s expectations for how their home will be treated under your care (if applicable). You’ll also want to include your fees and rates.

If you can, have a lawyer look it over to make sure it checks out legally.

Market Your Business

Getting the word out is always one of the most challenging parts of getting a business off the ground. The easiest place to start is through word of mouth. Are you already looking after the pets of a family or two? Let them know you’re looking to take on more clients, along with your friends, family, and social contacts.

At some point, you’ll probably want to expand outside the reach of your current contacts, which means advertising. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can post flyers on bulletin boards and leave business cards in places trafficked by pet owners. Online classified sites like Craigslist can also cover a large audience in your area.

Bolster Your Web Presence

When it comes to promoting small business, the internet is one of those things that’s easy to both over- and underestimate. On the one hand, simply buying an ad and hoping for the best likely won’t yield amazing results. On the other, you do need an internet strategy to grow your business.

It doesn’t have to be fancy, but you’ll probably want a website that details your basic services and contact information. Don’t overthink it. There are a lot of great tools available that can help you build a website.

Remember, too, that social media isn’t just for sharing pictures of your dinner with your friends. You can use to communicate with customers, make engaging content that makes them keep your brand in mind, and announce special deals and service changes.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, everything we covered doesn’t look too intimidating. If you’re good with animals and don’t mind turning that love into a source of revenue, you can get a pet-sitting business up and running in no time!

Having second thoughts about pet-sitting but are still looking to open a business? Check out our other beginners’ guides.

The post How To Start A Pet Sitting Business: The Complete Guide appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Top Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fees

best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees

Your credit card might come with some nice rewards for your spending. It might even offer some nice travel benefits. But if it carries a foreign transaction fee, that means that every charge you make while outside the US is subject to an extra fee, usually 3%. Think of it this way: for every $100 in overseas charges you make, you’ll be spending another $3 in fees.

Spend enough on purchases outside the country, and foreign transaction fees will eat into whatever net benefit your card use would have otherwise brought you. Thankfully, the solution is clear. If you’re going to be using your credit card outside the US with any frequency, use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.

Most credit card companies offer both cards that carry a foreign transaction fee and cards that don’t. However, there are two prominent exceptions to this general rule: Capital One and Discover. Neither credit card issuer charges a foreign transaction fee on any of their cards, making their credit card lineups particularly appealing to the traveler who spends a significant amount of time and money outside the US.

Let’s survey the landscape and highlight the best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees.

Credit Card Best For
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Cash Back with No Annual Fee
Chase Ink Business Preferred Business
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Average Credit
Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard Travel Rewards
Chase Sapphire Preferred Transferable Travel Rewards
The Platinum Card from American Express Luxury Travel Benefits
Uber Visa Restaurants/Dining
Discover it Cash Back Rotating 5% Cash Back Categories

Best For Cash Back With No Annual Fee: Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards

Quicksilver from Capital One



Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


16.24 – 26.24%, Variable

The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card is a great cash back credit card for the international traveler who can’t be bothered with category restrictions on earning cash back and just wants to earn cash back at a flat rate — all without paying an annual fee.

The highlight of this card is undoubtedly the unlimited 1.5% cash back you’ll earn on every purchase, everywhere. You won’t have to worry about spending categories and there is no limit on the amount of cash back you can earn. You won’t have to weigh the benefits you’ll accrue against foreign transaction fees or an annual fee either, as there are no such fees.

Another great feature of the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card is the 15-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers. Most credit cards offer an introductory 0% APR for a year or less (if they offer one at all), so with the Quicksilver card, you’ll get an extra buffer period before you’ll have to start thinking about monthly interest charges.

Best For Business: Chase Ink Business Preferred

Chase Ink Business Preferred



Compare 

Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


18.24% – 23.24%, Variable

Chase Ink Business Preferred is a business credit card that confers some nice travel benefits. One of these benefits, of course, is the lack of a foreign transaction fee.

Ink Business Preferred offers an eye-catching bonus offer: 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. When redeemed for travel, that’s a $1,000 reward. That’s because points are worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

On the subject or points-earning, you’ll earn 3 points per $1 on your first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable/phone services, and on social media/search engine advertising each year. You’ll earn 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.

Not only will you get a 25% boost to your points value when booking travel via Chase’s travel portal, but you can transfer your points on a 1:1 basis to the travel rewards programs of partners like United Airlines and Marriott.

The Ink Business Preferred does, however, carry a $95 annual fee.

Best For Average Credit: Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards

QuicksilverOne from Capital One



Compare

Annual Fee:


$39

Purchase APR:


26.99%, Variable

Not to be confused with Capital One’s other Quicksilver card, the QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards credit card is one of the few credit cards out there that both lacks a foreign transaction fee and is available to applicants with average credit.

The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards card offers the same unlimited 1.5% cash back as the Quicksilver Cash Rewards card. Not bad for a card available to people with average credit!

Of course, there are some trade-offs to be made here. Unlike Capital One’s other Quicksilver card, this card offers no introductory 0% APR, an annual fee of $39, and a high variable APR that currently stands at 26.99%. The high APR combined with the lack of an intro 0% APR period means that you’ll want to avoid carrying a significant balance on this card from month-to-month. You’ll also need to spend at least $2,600 a year in order to earn enough cash back to make up for the annual fee.

Best For Travel Rewards: Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard


Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
Compare

Annual Fee:


$89 (waived the first year)

 

Purchase APR:


18.24% – 25.24%, Variable

The Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard makes some tantalizing offers to the frequent traveler. Along with no foreign transaction fees, this card offers three big perks for the international traveler.

  • Earn 70,000 bonus miles when you spend at least $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — the equivalent of a $700 travel statement credit
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase
  • Get 5% of your miles back to use toward your next redemption each time you redeem them

The 2X miles you’ll earn with every purchase is one of the highest flat earning rates of any travel credit card. And since you’ll get 5% of your miles back whenever you redeem them, the cash back rate is effectively 2.1%.

What’s more, your miles can be redeemed for a lot more than just airfare. You can redeem them for hotel stays, car rentals, trains, buses, taxis, and more. You can even use your miles to pay the $89 annual fee (the fee is waived the first year), though hopefully, you can find something more exciting to use them on!

Another nice card feature: If you transfer a balance to this card within 45 days of your account opening, you’ll pay a 0% introductory APR on that balance for 12 months.

Best For Transferable Travel Rewards: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred



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Annual Fee:


$95 ($0 the first year)

 

Purchase APR:


18.24% – 25.24%, Variable

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is another travel rewards card with no foreign transaction fee. With Sapphire Preferred, not only can you redeem your rewards through Chase’s travel portal — you can also transfer your points on a 1:1 basis to the following airline and hotel travel partners:

  • Aer Lingus, AerClub
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards
  • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards
  • World of Hyatt

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card features a bonus offer of 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Thanks to the 25% value bonus you’ll get when redeeming your points for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards, these 50,000 points can become $625 for travel expenses.

You’ll also earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants and 1X points on everything else.

Unfortunately, the card carries a $95 annual fee (waived the first year) and lacks an introductory 0% APR period.

Best For Luxury Travel Benefits: The Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express


The Platinum Card from American Express
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Annual Fee:


$595

 

Purchase APR:


N/A (charge card)

The Platinum Card from American Express may not have a foreign transaction fee, but it does sport a $550 annual fee. That should tell you who this card is aimed at. It’s not the average traveler looking to earn some points/miles on the side. This card is for the well-heeled traveler seeking the finest in travel perks.

Of all the travel benefits this card offers, the best benefit might just be the 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide you’ll gain access to via the American Express Global Lounge Collection. It’s the largest airport lounge network around. I may not have any personal experience with these exclusive lounges, but I’m sure they’re spectacular.

The card comes with a host of other travel perks befitting a card with such a high annual fee. You’ll earn 5X Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com. You’ll get a fee credit of up to $200 a year to cover checked bags and in-flight food and drinks. You’ll be enrolled in the Fine Hotels & Resorts program, giving you access to travel amenities with an average value of $550/year.

The card currently offers quite the bonus offer: 75,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new card in your first 3 months.

Just keep in mind that the Platinum Card is a charge card, meaning you won’t be able to carry a balance from month to month.

Best For Restaurants/Dining: Uber Visa Card

Uber Visa


Uber Visa
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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


17.24% – 25.99%, Variable

The Uber Visa card, a joint venture of Uber and Barclays, is a new credit card that offers great value to those who love to go out and live it up without worrying about things like foreign transaction fees or an annual fee.

The card offers an amazing 4% back on restaurants, takeout, and bars (UberEATS included), making the Uber Visa a compelling choice for you nightlife lovers. The card also offers 3% back on airfare and hotel stays, 2% back on all online purchases (yes, including Uber), and 1% back on all other purchases.

That’s not all. There’s a signup bonus of 10,000 points ($100) after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 90 days. There’s a cellphone protection plan that offers up to $600 if your phone is broken or stolen (conditions apply). There’s even a $50 credit toward digital subscriptions you’ll get if you spend at least $5,000 on your card each year.

With a system that rewards going out for food and drinks, online shopping, and offers cellphone protection, this card seems targeted at millennials, or at least the few millennials who aren’t drowning in debt already. One thing that won’t appeal to millennials, however, is the card’s lack of an introductory 0% APR.

Best For Rotating 5% Cash Back Categories: Discover it Cash Back

Discover it Cash Back



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


14.24% – 25.24%, Variable

The Discover it Cash Back card allows those who don’t mind tracking rotating spending categories the chance to earn 5% cash back on their purchases.

With the Discover it Cash Back, you’ll earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter on selected spending categories. The 5% categories for 2019 are:

  • January to March: Grocery stores
  • April to June: Gas stations, Uber, and Lyft
  • July to September: Restaurants
  • October to December: Amazon.com

Of course, you’ll earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.

What makes this Discover card an even better cash back value is the fact that Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, thus doubling your first year’s cash back haul.

Beyond that, this card is a simple, reasonable credit card. There’s no annual fee, a competitive regular APR, a 0% intro APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers, and you can access your FICO score for free.

One word of caution: Though there is no foreign transaction fee, international acceptance of Discover cards can be hit-or-miss.

Final Thoughts

If you spend a significant amount of time outside the US, an ordinary credit card will have you needlessly paying 3% extra to your credit card company in the form of foreign transaction fees.

Don’t be a sucker. When spending money abroad, use a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. Thankfully, the number of such cards has been expanding in recent years and you now have a wide range of choices!

Not sure which cards you’ll qualify for? Check out these helpful resources!

  • Best free credit score sites
  • Ways to improve your credit score
  • Using personal credit cards for business

The post Top Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fees appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Start And Fund An Amazon Business

Have you been thinking about starting an Amazon business? If you said “yes,” and you’re not thinking about a rainforest logging company, you’re probably interested in plugging into the world’s largest e-commerce platform.

As of 2018, Amazon accounted for nearly 50 percent of eCommerce transactions (eCommerce accounts for somewhere north of 10 percent of overall retail sales). If you’re not sure how to tap into that action, you’re not alone. Below, we’ll look at both the necessary and optional steps it takes to get an Amazon business up and running.

Learn How To Sell On Amazon

When people talk about “Amazon businesses,” they’re usually talking about the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) business model. Under an FBA arrangement, Amazon will warehouse and ship your business’s products from their own fulfillment centers. This allows you to take advantage of Amazon’s well-developed storage and shipping infrastructure and processes. It also grants you access to Amazon’s Prime customer-base, most of whom will be looking to buy products that qualify for 2-day shipping. Be aware, however, that FBA comes with both storage and fulfillment fees (which, notoriously, can change at any time), so you’ll need to do some math to figure out if you’re saving money with the service.

Already have a lot of space and want to handle the shipping costs yourself? Or are you trying a dropshipping model? You can still sell on Amazon without taking the FBA route. You can even still tap into the Prime market via Amazon’s Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP) program. In order to qualify, your business has to:

  • Offer premium shipping options
  • Ship 99% of your orders on time
  • Have an order cancellation rate of less than 0.5%
  • Use Amazon Buy Shipping Services for at least 98.5% of orders
  • Deliver orders with Amazon-supported SFP carriers
  • Agree to Amazon’s Returns Policy
  • Allow Amazon to deal with all customer service inquiries
  • Pass a trial period to demonstrate compliance with the above, during which the Prime badge will not be displayed on your items

At the time of writing, there was a waitlist for the SFP program, so bear in mind that you may not be able to jump into it immediately.

Finally, you can simply ignore all this Prime business (and customers, potentially) and just sell products on Amazon.

Decide What You’re Going To Sell & Where You’ll Get It

This is arguably the hardest part of starting an Amazon business. There are countless products you could deal in, but far fewer you should deal in.

Your starting budget can help narrow things down a bit. You want to be able to stock enough inventory to build a brand, not just sell a couple of items and then disappear. Once you have some items in mind, you’ll need to do some research to get a sense of costs and selling prices and see if there’s a niche for that product that you could occupy.

There are numerous ways to go about this, from brute-forcing your way through Amazon’s categories and making a spreadsheet to using popular tools like JungleScout to help find and rate opportunities. Be sure to check out other sales platforms to see the price point at which they’re selling the product. If you’re in the FBA program, you can also use Amazon’s FBA calculator to help sift through data.

Figuring out where to source a product is another part of the puzzle. Do you have a hot connection that can get you products at cost? (Alibaba is a popular tool for finding suppliers, for example.) Are you going to buy popular brands when they’re on sale at retail and then sell them at a higher price point? Are making a product yourself that will compete with similar products on Amazon? Do you need to make dropshipping arrangements with a third party? Remember to think about how sustainable your sourcing method is when creating your strategy.

Finally, also consider the nature of the item you’re sending. Will it sell year-round? Can it be shipped safely without breaking? Is it efficient to ship? Are there state-specific restrictions to consider? The fewer variables you have to worry about, the better.

Determine How Much Money You’ll Need

Once you know how much money you’ll need to launch your business, you can figure out the rest of your costs.

Selling on Amazon, as you can imagine, isn’t free — but it doesn’t have to be expensive. If you’re commitment-shy and don’t have a ton of product to move, you can get by on as little as $0.99 per sale. If you’re moving more product, you’ll want to budget $39.99/mo for a Professional account (more on that later).

If you’re going the FBA route, you’ll need to account for Amazon’s fulfillment and monthly inventory fees. The former vary by the weight of the item and, at time of writing, start at $2.41. The latter vary by time of year and the size of the items, ranging from $0.48 to $2.40 per cubic foot.

You’ll probably want to also invest some money in presentation and branding to help your business stand out among competitors. How much this costs can vary depending on who you hire (unless you’re a competent graphic designer yourself), but budget between $200-$300 to get something you’ll be proud of.

Finally, if you’re doing your own fulfillment, make sure you can cover shipping costs.

Determine How You’ll Get Funding

It’s not necessarily that expensive to start an Amazon business, but what do you do if you don’t have the funds to cover your starting expenses? Here are some options:

Personal Savings

The first place you should probably look for spare cash is your own savings. You saved up for a reason, right? Investing in your new business is as good a reason as any.

The nice thing about using your savings is that you don’t have to worry about debt or accumulated interest.

The downside? If your business is a bust, you’ve lost your savings.

Tap Your Support Network

Another option, especially if you don’t have much in personal savings, is to ask friends and family for a loan. Unlike a private lender, your support system probably isn’t trying to make a profit off of you.

Keep in mind that this comes with its own risks. You may stress your relationships, especially if you aren’t able to pay back these so-called friendly loans quickly. One way to avoid this is to formalize any agreements you make with friends and family so that everyone fully understands what they’re getting into and what the expectations are. You may even want to draw up a formal contract that outlines any expected payments and return on investment.

Credit Cards

You’ve probably been warned about leaning too heavily on credit cards, and it’s generally not bad advice. The interest rates can be murder if you carry a balance on your card. However, for purchases that you can pay off quickly, credit cards are actually one of the best ways to buy, especially if you have a card with a reward program that matches your purchasing needs.

Just remember to pay off your credit cards every month, within the interest-free grace period. If your purchase is too large for you to be able to comfortably do that, you’ll probably want to consider another option.

Note: Avoid taking out cash advances on your cards unless absolutely necessary. They come at a very high cost.

Recommended Option: Amazon Business Prime American Express Card

Amazon Business Prime American Express Card


Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


16.24% – 24.24%, Variable

You’re going to be spending a lot of time on Amazon, and possibly buying through it, so the Amazon Business Prime American Express Card may give you the most bang for your buck.

If you have a Prime membership, you’ll earn a whopping 5 percent back on purchases made at Amazon.com, Amazon Business, AWS, and Whole Foods Market — or an extra 90 days interest-free grace period for purchases made at those places. Even if you’re not a Prime member, you’ll get 3 percent or 60 days, respectively. You’ll need to spend around $6,000 to recoup the cost of a Prime membership with points alone, but that’s without factoring in money saved through Prime’s programs (shipping, deals, etc).

Personal Loans

Business loans can be hard to come by for new businesses, but you — the human being who owns the business — have presumably been around long enough to acquire a credit history. You can use that to your advantage by getting a personal loan for business purposes.

There are some disadvantages to taking this route, namely that you’re on the hook rather than your business, but if your credit is good, it’s not the worst option out there.

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

lending club logo

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Lending Club is a good option for individuals who may not have the strongest credit, but have a good debt-to-income ratio. The borrowing range is fairly narrow at $1k to $40k, but when you’re just starting out, you don’t want to go too deeply into debt anyway. You’ll have three-to-five years to pay it off, which makes it fairly manageable.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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If you’re just entering the alternative loan market for the first time, it can be pretty overwhelming. Lendio takes some of that burden off of you by allowing you to effectively apply to their whole network of lenders with one application.

Need more options? Check out our feature on startup loans.

Lines Of Credit

If you anticipate needing to make a lot of smaller purchases over a long period of time, or even just want some “insurance” to fall back, you may want to consider a line of credit.

A line of credit works a bit like a credit card in that you can tap it whenever you want, in whatever amount you want, so long as your purchase doesn’t exceed your credit limit. Most lines of credit are revolving, which means that, as you pay them off, that credit becomes available for you to use again.

In contrast to credit cards, lines of credit usually have lower interest rates, making them better for the times you have to carry a balance. However, many do have annual fees and some charge a fee whenever you tap them, and they can take up to 24 hours to process your request. You also generally (there are exceptions) won’t find the generous rewards programs you’ll find with credit cards.

Recommended Option: Fundbox

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Fundbox provides lines of credit up to $100,000 to U.S. businesses. There’s no minimum credit score, you just have to have annual revenue of at least $50,000.

Fundbox charges based on the amount you draw, but fees start at 4.66%. Repayments are made weekly over 12 or 24 weeks.

Vendor Financing

Vendor financing is a very specialized form of business loan where a company will lend a buyer a sum of money, which the buyer then uses to buy inventory from the vendor.

Recommended Option: Amazon Lending

Review

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Did you know Amazon offers loans to sellers on its platform? If you didn’t, you’re not alone. Amazon doesn’t really advertise the service much, and you can only access it by invitation. Knowing that it is an option, however, may be useful should it arise.

Amazon loans range between $1,000 and $750,000, and must be used to purchase inventory to sell on Amazon. Rather than being based on your credit score, Amazon loans are based on your performance on the site.

Purchase Order Financing

Another highly specialized type of financing that sellers can tap into is purchase order financing (sometimes just “purchase financing”). Basically, purchase financing is used to fill large orders that may exceed your current inventory or your ability to restock with cash on hand. A purchase financer will generally require confirmation of the order and proof that your company has experience handling orders of this size.

Recommended Option: Behalf

behalf logo

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Behalf can offer businesses between $300 – $50,000 in purchase financing for most types of inventory. Term lengths are pretty short (1 – 6 months), and you’ll be charged 1 – 3 percent interest every month. Payments are made weekly or monthly, with weekly payers receiving a 10 percent reduction in their borrowing fees.

ROBS

If you haven’t heard of Rollovers as Business Startups (ROBS), don’t feel bad. They’re extremely niche products for entrepreneurs with retirement accounts like 401(k)s.

For a fee, a ROBS provider allows you to use money from your retirement account to pay for startup costs without incurring the tax penalty you normally would by tapping those funds early.

As is the case with personal savings, you are risking your own money.

ROBS will be overkill for most new businesses, but if your startup costs look like they’re going to pile up, keep them in mind.

Recommended Option: Guidant Financial

Review

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If you’re in the market for a ROBS, it’s worth checking out Guidant Financial. If your retirement account has at least $40k in it, you can roll over up to 100 percent of your funds.

Need more options? Check out our feature on startup loans.

Register Your Business

If you don’t want to be selling products under your birth name, you’ll probably want to register your business.

This part is technically optional, but if you’re planning to build your business into more than an occasional source of freelance income, you should probably register your business.

If you do nothing at all, your business will default to a sole proprietorship (or a partnership, if you’re starting it with someone else). This essentially means that you’ve started a business with your own name. If you want to change it to something else, you can file a DBA (Doing Business As), which will protect your new business name and allow you to–you guessed it–do business under that name.

Sole proprietorships have the advantage of being cheap and easy to start. Your taxes will also be easier to file (and lower) than they would generally be with other forms of incorporation. Keep in mind, however, that for liability purposes, sole proprietorships and the individuals behind them are essentially one and the same.

Other forms of incorporation will require a bit more work and come with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Here are the most popular ways to incorporate:

  • Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs): If you’ve seen LLC after a corporation’s name, you’re dealing with this type of company. LLCs offer limited liability protection for their owners without the full complexity of a corporation. Each state has its own rules for how to start and maintain an LLC, and you don’t necessarily have to register your LLC in the state where you’re doing business (although you’ll generally want to). LLC owners report their business earnings and losses on their personal taxes.
  • C-Corp: This is the “basic,” default form of incorporation. Shareholders are considered the owner(s) of the company and receive limited liability protection; however, the business decisions are made by corporate officers who may or may not be shareholders. The corporation is taxed separately and shareholders pay income tax on dividends. To form a C-corp, you’ll file articles of incorporation with your state.
  • S-Corp: S-corps are similar to C-corps in most ways, but come with a few additional restrictions: you have to have fewer than 100 shareholders and they have to all be U.S. citizens or residents. Unlike C-corps, profits and losses are reported on personal taxes, not unlike an LLC. In addition to filing articles of incorporation, you’ll also need to file IRS Form 2553.

Get Business Insurance

Depending on where you incorporate, business insurance may be optional or mandatory, but since you’re going to be dealing with a lot of tangible goods shipped through the postal service to remote customers, you’ll probably want to consider it.

General liability insurance can protect you in the case of lawsuits or accidents, including property damage and personal injury claims against your business. It can also make your business seem more professional to prospective clients.

There are other, more specialized types of insurance you may want to consider depending on what you’re selling and to whom. These include:

  • Property Insurance: Protects the property needed to run your business.
  • Business Interruption: Covers costs related to unforeseen events that make your business unable to function.
  • Professional Liability (Error and Omissions): Covers the costs of defending your company in lawsuits in cases where your business caused a financial loss.

Create An Amazon Seller Account

Access to the platform is pretty straightforward and involves creating an Amazon account if you don’t already have one. You’ll be asked for information about your business, tax information, product information, billing and deposit accounts, and compliance with the Amazon Services Business Solutions Agreement.

Amazon offers two plans:

  • Professional: $39.99/month, grants access to order reports and order-related fees, selling in multiple categories, and the ability to customize shipping rates
  • Individual: $0.99 per sale closing fee on each item you sell on Amazon.

If you plan on doing more than just the occasional sale, you’ll probably want to choose Professional.

List Your Inventory

Now that you’re ready to go, you just need your potential customers to be able to see your product.

From your Amazons Seller account, under the inventory tab, you can add a product. You can then either search Amazon’s catalog to see if that product is already listed or create a new listing. If your product category is restricted, it will need to be approved before you can get beyond this stage, so if possible, try to find a rationale to categorize it into an unrestricted one.

At this point, you can either make your product go live (if you have the inventory ready to be shipped) or simply list it if you need to send your inventory to Amazon (in the case of FBAs). You can then fill in the information about your product. If you need a UPC code, you can buy one online.

There are a number of different strategies for getting your products to stand out on Amazon. Search engine optimization (SEO) strategies will serve you well here, so be sure to identify useful keywords that will help customers find your products. Another critical element is taking good pictures of your products so they’ll look appealing on the site. If you aren’t confident that you can take quality pictures yourself, you may want to spring for some professional ones.

A lot of other things can also affect your ranking, from conversion rates to customer reviews, pricing, time spent by customers on your page, bounce rate, and more, but the guiding rule is this: Amazon likes sellers who make them money, and will promote the ones they feel most reliably turn queries into sales and create satisfied and returning customers.

Final Thoughts

Amazon has changed the way many people shop, but it has also has provided sellers with a potentially low-cost way to get tangible products to customers. Competition is intense on the platform, but shrewd salespersons can still take advantage of its unparalleled convenience.

The post How To Start And Fund An Amazon Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Duda Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Duda Website Builder Review_ Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Duda is known as an all-inclusive website builder that was originally created as an easy-to-use mobile website platform for DIYers. It has sinced evolved to help agencies, digital publishers, and hosting companies scale with an quick and easy website platform that helps their clients get up and running ASAP.

Duda is also known for making responsive websites, which means the site fits on any device (i.e. a tablet, phone, computer).

See Duda’s Current Plans & Pricing

Recently, I gave Duda a try for a full Duda review. But before I get into the pros and cons of my Duda review, let’s dive into an overview about tools to build a website.

There are so many considerations to take into account when choosing a website builder — and really, there are a thousand ways to get what you want in the end in terms of functionality, convenience, pricing, etc. The thing to remember is: whether you’re building a simple personal website or running a business, the way you build your site has a lot of consequences.

In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short-term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.

What Is Duda?

On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Duda lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website (ie, domain name, hosting, software) separately.

Using Duda is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.

Everything may fit together just right with a website builder like Duda, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.

As far as competition, Duda competes with all-inclusive website builders like Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, Gator, GoCentral, Jimdo, and WordPress.com.

Compared to their direct competition, they focus on speed, ease of use, and responsive design (again, web jargon for making your website mobile device-friendly). Duda offers several website templates you can customize, but it also allows you to build your own sections from scratch, making it a solid solution for both DIYers with zero website experience and those who consider themselves a bit more advanced.

Duda also skews its marketing toward agencies, digital publishers, and hosting companies with features like content import, PageSpeed optimization, site personalization, and more (but we’ll get to that later!).

One other quick aside – a disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Using Duda Website Builder

Here’s what I found to be the pros of using Duda website builder — not just in comparison to popular builders like Weebly and Wix, but as an overall website solution.

Free Trial Plan

One of Duda’s biggest pros is that they let you try the platform, risk-free, for 30 days. You don’t even have to put a credit card when signing up — you just create an account and get building.

Duda Free Trial

Duda doesn’t restrict your access to any of the features they offer when using the free trial option — it’s as if you’ve bought a plan and are already up and running with them.

This is a great feature if you’re looking to test out a website builder before committing. The thing to keep in mind here though is that the free trial gives you the features of Duda’s mid-tier plan, which includes things like team functionality, content import functionality, etc.

Duda Free Trial Functionality

If you were to downgrade after your 30 days, you would lose those features. Not a big deal if you’re not using them, but could also be time wasted if you do use them and then have to make drastic changes to accommodate the new plan.

Straightforward Sign Up Process

Another pro of using Duda is how easy it is to get up and running on the platform. It’s basically just one step — enter your information to create your account, and you’re in! Again, if you’re using the free trial, you don’t even have to pull out a credit card.

This is great for DIYers who want to get up and running as quickly as possible without the hassle of creating a detailed account, selecting a niche, etc.

Simplicity + Flexibility

Duda is also seriously simple to use, which makes it hard to mess up your website design. Once you choose a template, entering your own content is super straightforward.

Duda Website Editor

But Duda also combines ease-of-use with flexibility by offering pretty extensive design options. For example, by clicking the “plus” sign, you can add new, pre-made sections to the templated pages you’ve selected.

Duda Add Section

Or, you can create your own section from scratch.

Duda Section Design

This makes Duda a great option for both DIY-ers who want something that’s easy to customize and those who want to add their own design elements without having to hire an experienced designer and developer to make it happen.

Product Integration + Functionality

Another benefit of Duda is their integrations. First, Duda offers hosting on AWS (Amazon Web Services), which can be both a pro and a con depending on where you fall on Amazon.

The pros are that your site can and will still go down (it’s inevitable), but if you’re down, then big brands like Uber, AirBnB, Amazon, Reddit, etc. are down too… which means whatever is causing the downtime is likely to be fixed very quickly. Your site also has access to the best security and storage and speed people in the world.

But the cons are that since your hosting is bundled with Duda, you can’t actually access your files except through Duda (*although Duda does provide a data export). There’s also a chance that pricing changes on the AWS side will affect pricing with Duda. And of course, there’s some people who just don’t want to buy from Amazon… so if you’re in that boat, Duda probably isn’t for you.

Aside from offering DNS and hosting services, Duda also offers some pretty advanced functionality built in to its platform, like access to your website’s HTML and CSS, eCommerce functionality, content import, etc.

Duda Customization

This additional functionality gives Duda a unique edge, because it builds in more control while still giving customers the convenience of an all-in-one platform. Typically, these types of website builders see a tradeoff between convenience and control, but Duda does a good job of giving you a decent dose of both.

Just remember that not all of these features are available with all plans, so make sure you do your research.

Team Integration

While this pro is only available with the mid-tier plan and higher, it’s a pretty solid benefit. Duda features the ability to work with your team on your website, which means you can leave comments on the design of the website for your team to review.

Duda Team Functionality

This is functionality is pretty nifty if you’re a small agency, business owner with a team, or even a solopreneur who wants a designer to build your site in Duda but YOU want an easy way to leave comments.

Cons of Using Duda

But of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. Let’s look at the specific cons I found with using Duda as your website builder.

Pricing + Plans

While Duda has a lot of amazing features, they are on the pricier side, especially when you start comparing features across their plans. For example, if you wanted a basic plan, you only have access to email support, and if you were creating an ecommerce store with a basic plan, you could only have ten products.

Duda Pricing

When you dig a bit deeper, you can see that a good bit of functionality is reserved for Team and Agency plans, especially when it comes to Team Collaboration. And when it comes to Duda’s features that give you the most control over your website, like widget builder, website export, and API, those are reserved only for the Agency plan.

Free Trial

Related to pricing, another con of Duda is its free 30-day trial. Don’t get me wrong — having the ability to use Duda’s awesome features for 30 whole days is great! But as I mentioned above, the trial uses the Team plan… which means if you don’t want to pay a higher price point, you’re going to lose a few features and functionality when you move your website to the basic plan.

There also isn’t a free plan for those who just want a basic, short-term website that uses a subdomain. This isn’t a make-or-break con, but it just depends on what you’re looking for. If you need an ultra basic website builder for a short project, you may be better off with a different website builder that’s either less expensive or offers a free plan, no strings attached.

Company Structure

My team, my clients and I have seen and worked with a lot of different software companies. One thing that I’ve noticed over the years is that companies have to follow not only the demands of their current customers, but also the demands of their business model. A company might be “good” or “bad” right now, but to know how they’ll be in a few years, it pays to spend a couple minutes thinking about their business model and how they’ll evolve to meet customer and market demands.

For example, anyone who understands that Facebook’s customers are their advertisers, not their users, can understand how & why they do the things they do. There is no inherently “bad” or “good” business model. Every model has tradeoffs. It just pays to know where you, the customer, fit in the picture, especially when you are building something as critical to your business as your website.

Duda is a private, venture funded company. They are based in Silicon Valley with venture capital partners. They’ve done several fundraising rounds since 2010.

Duda Financials

Venture-funded companies typically want 1 thing – growth. Sure, they want to make money at some point, but that will usually be at the “liquidity event” (ie, a stock market IPO or company purchase) – not with quarter by quarter profits.

In fact, most venture-funded firms will deliberately lose money if that means growing their customer base. So what are the tradeoffs?

The huge upside is that Duda’s customers will probably get more features, better support, and cheaper pricing than they would otherwise get. The venture capitalists are subsidizing your awesome product.

The huge downside is that Duda’s business model could change (e.g., “pivot”) at any moment. They want customers and revenue – but they want to follow the growth of customers more than anything else.

A publicly traded  is solidly committed to their market strategy. A non-investor funded but private builder like InMotion’s Website Creator is responsive to the founder’s vision and customer demands.

Right now, Duda is serving all markets, including DIYers. But they say right on their homepage who they *really* want to serve –

Duda Market

If you are an agency or hosting company – this is great. And if you are building a short-term project, it’s great. But if you are planning a long-term site, you should keep in mind that their product development might shift away from DIY features and more to project management features.

Duda Review Conclusion

Duda certainly makes getting a website up and running easy, and when you factor in their advanced features that give you more control, it makes the platform a pretty solid website builder for small agencies and even DIYers who need something that’s easy-to-use but can also scale.

Check out Duda’s plans here.

However, like most all-inclusive website builders, there does come a point where there’s a tradeoff between convenience and control, especially when you factor in price. Duda’s pricing (and market positioning) leaves something to be desired, especially when you get into the higher priced plans.

If you’re looking for a website platform that has that many advanced features that allow you to control more of your site, you’d probably be better off with something like Wix for a drag & drop builder or using a self-hosted website builder like Website Creator or Weebly if you want an ecommerce component.

Not sure Duda fits your needs? Check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.

The post Duda Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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How To Start And Finance An Auto Body Shop Business

You’re an experienced mechanic that’s been working for someone else for your entire career. You’re ready to spread your wings and fly (or drive) right to your own auto body shop. Sound like you? If you’ve been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, then maybe it’s time to set out on your own.

Even if you’re the best at what you do, venturing out into the small business world can be scary. If you’re an employee at a collision center, you probably feel like you have some stability. Why risk a “sure thing” to start your own shop, especially if you don’t have any previous experience running your own business?

Starting your own business is risky and it takes hard work (and a lot of it). But opening your own auto collision shop can be an extremely lucrative venture. The automotive collision repair market brings in billions of dollars in revenue each year, and studies show that revenue will only continue to grow in the years ahead. Isn’t it time you got your share?

If you’re thinking about starting your own auto body shop, this guide is for you. We’ll go through all of the steps of starting your own business, from creating a business plan to finding the right lender. We’ll review potential costs, hiring employees, and other critical steps to building a successful business. If you’re ready to take the next step into entrepreneurship, read on to find out how to get started.

Create A Business Plan

You’ve made up your mind: you’re ready to open your own collision or auto body center and you have an idea of how to do it. That’s good enough, right? Actually, you need to be more prepared before you even begin to move on to other steps in building your business. The best way to be prepared? Create a detailed business plan.

Let’s illustrate the importance of a business plan with an example. You’re going on a hike in the woods. There are lots of paths to choose from. Some of these paths may bring you out of the woods — your end goal — but there may be additional challenges along the way, like steep terrain. Some paths may be wrong altogether … and you’ll have to backtrack to right your course. In short, you can enter the woods without a map and risk getting lost. Or you can get a map ahead of time, plot out your course, and set out only after you’ve planned your route and know what to expect.

A business plan works in the same way. A good business plan outlines how to get from your starting point (launching your business) to your goal. Every entrepreneur has a different goal. Maybe yours is to run a successful local business that sets your family up for life. Maybe you have bigger goals — starting your own chain of auto body shops, for example. The most important thing is to set a concrete goal and create a map of how to get there.

Not only will a business plan keep you on the right track, but you must have a plan to present to investors or lenders when you’re seeking capital.

New to writing a business plan? At a minimum, here’s what you should include:

  • Executive Summary: A concise summary detailing each section of your business plan
  • Overview: A description of your business, including the legal structure, location, and type of business
  • Market Analysis: An overview of your market and a definition of your target market
  • Competitive Analysis: Strength and weaknesses of your competition
  • Management Team: The members of your management team and their responsibilities within your organization
  • Financial Projections: A forecast of the financial future of your business

Find A Location

As realtors say, “Location, location, location!” As you plan your own body shop, location is key, but there are a few other considerations to weigh before you put your name on that lease or mortgage.

You want to make sure that you purchase or lease the best location you can afford. Sure, that commercial property on the outskirts of town is much cheaper, but your customers have to be able to find you. Find a property that’s convenient for your customers and is located in a high-traffic area or at least off of a major road.

Another consideration is whether you’re going to buy an existing business or start from scratch. Buying an existing business comes with definite perks, including an established clientele, equipment, and even licenses and permits. However, there are a few drawbacks. This is one of the most expensive options, especially if the business is successful. You may also have to put additional costs into the business for renovations, like replacing outdated equipment.

If you start from scratch, you’ll rack up costs with the price of equipment, licenses, and building renovations.
Unsure of which to choose? Build a business plan looking at both options, calculate costs, and determine which makes the most sense financially, both in the short- and long-term.

Another option to consider is opening a franchise. With a franchise, you have less flexibility in terms of designing your brand and shop. However, you’ll have a working business model that takes a lot of the guesswork out of owning your own business.

Register Your Business

Before you open your auto body shop to the public, you need to register your business. Not only will you be seen as a legitimate business by your customers, but registering is also required when you want to hire employees, protect your assets, or seek capital from investors.

To register your business, you need to first determine what form of business entity to establish. There are several structures to choose from, including:

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest business structure. This is best for businesses with just one owner. Sole proprietors can file their business profits and losses on their personal income tax returns. No paperwork is required to register as a sole proprietorship. However, this structure isn’t without its drawbacks. Raising money as a sole proprietorship is difficult, and you are personally responsible for the liabilities of your business.

Partnership

A partnership is a good choice for companies that will be owned and operated by two or more people. There are several different partnership types to consider:

  • General Partnership: Doesn’t require filing with the state and has few requirements
  • Limited Partnership (LP): One partner has unlimited liability and the others have limited liability. The personal assets of the limited partners can’t be used to satisfy the debts and liabilities of the business.
  • Limited Liability Partnership (LLP): Used by professional service businesses, this type of partnership offers personal asset protection for all partners.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC has several benefits for business owners. With an LLC, a business owner will receive liability protection without paying the high tax requirements of corporations.

Corporation

This is the most complex and expensive business structure. More regulations and tax requirements are put in place for corporations. This structure is best for businesses that plan to raise capital through the sale of stock.

The type of structure you select for your business varies by the number of owners that you have and the future plans for your business. In most cases, however, single owners of auto body shops lean toward LLCs, while businesses with more than one partner select the partnership business structure. Before choosing your business structure, talk to your accountant and/or lawyer to find out which makes the most sense for your business.

Once you’ve determined your business structure, you’ll need to select a name for your business. Choose a name that reflects your brand and the services you offer. You also want to choose something that’s catchy and/or easy for customers to remember.

Your business will need to be registered with city, state, and federal governments. You’ll need to sign up for an employer ID number through the Internal Revenue Service if you plan to hire employees. To learn about the specific business license and permit requirements in your area, contact your local Chamber of Commerce, Department of Revenue, or Small Business Administration office to learn more.

Calculate Your Startup Costs

Every new business has one thing in common: the need for capital. In order to start your own collision center, you need money. The big question, though, is how much do you need?

One of the first steps to starting your own business is to calculate your startup costs. In order to do that, begin by making a list of everything you need for your business.

One of the biggest expenses for your new business will be equipment and tools. While your list may look a little different, some of the most common equipment and tools in this industry include:

  • Hydraulic Lifts
  • Hand Tools
  • Pneumatic Tools (Air Tools)
  • Air Compressors
  • Diagnostic Machines
  • Wheel Balancers
  • Paint Guns

Additional startup costs to consider include your business licenses and certifications, insurance, hiring employees, and shop rental or mortgage fees. You should expect to spend at least $50,000 to get your shop up and running. However, as you make a list of your costs and research pricing, this number could potentially rise.

Before you seek funding for your business, a good rule of thumb is to always overestimate your costs by about 30 percent. For example, if you calculate that your expenses will be $200,000, plan to seek $260,000 in funding. In other words, always plan for the unexpected.

Seek Funding

Now that you’ve calculated your startup costs, it’s time to figure out how to pay for it all. If your bank account looks a little low, don’t worry. Most entrepreneurs don’t have the funds to cover these costs out-of-pocket. Instead, they turn to a lender to get the financing they need. Consider these loans and other funding options when you need capital to start your new body shop.

And if you can’t find the option you’re looking for here? Check out more recommendations in the post, Business Loans For Auto Repair Shops.

Personal Savings

If you have money in a savings account, consider using these funds to pay your startup costs. There are several benefits to using your own money. You won’t be indebted to a lender, so there are no monthly or weekly payments to worry about. You also won’t have to pay interest or fees. On the downside, though, if your business fails, you risk losing your savings.

Friends & Family

If you have a friend or family member with extra money to invest, consider pitching your business to them. Present your business plan and tell them why they should invest in you.

There are two ways to go about this. You can stick with traditional debt financing. This means that you would take a loan from your friend, family member, or colleague and pay it back over a set period of time, along with interest and fees.

You may also consider equity financing. Instead of taking out a loan, you’d receive capital in exchange for ownership in your business. The investor would get their money back over time through a share of your profits. While the risk falls on the investor and you wouldn’t have to begin paying back money immediately, you would have to share your profits and lose some control over your business.

Unsure of which option is right for you? Learn more about debt financing vs. equity financing.

Personal Loans For Business

One of the biggest challenges a new business owner faces is meeting the requirements for a business loan. Many lenders – especially the ones with the lowest rates and best terms – want to work with established businesses with high revenues and solid business and personal credit histories. If you haven’t even opened your doors to a single customer, meeting these requirements is impossible.

However, if you have a high personal credit score, you can take out a personal loan to use for your startup costs. Time in business, annual revenue, and business credit history aren’t required to qualify for personal loans. Instead, you use your personal credit score and your own income to qualify.

If you choose this option, it’s important to make sure that your lender doesn’t have any restrictions prohibiting you from using funds to pay startup costs or other business expenses. Most personal loans don’t have restrictions and can be used to purchase equipment, hire employees, pay operating costs, or use as working capital.

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

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Lending Club is a peer-to-peer lender that provides personal loans up to $40,000 to qualified borrowers. Repayment terms are 3 years or 5 years with APRs starting at 6.95% for the most creditworthy applicants. APRs for less creditworthy borrowers go up to 35.89%.

To qualify for a Lending Club personal loan, you must meet these minimum requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or live in the U.S. on a long-term visa
  • Have a verifiable bank account
  • Have a personal credit score of at least 600

In some cases, Lending Club may recommend adding a co-borrower to increase your chances for approval. If you meet all requirements, you can get funded in as little as 7 days.

As you grow a more established business, you can later take advantage of Lending Club’s business loans. Lending Club offers up to $300,000 in business funding with terms of up to 5 years and fixed monthly payments.

Lines Of Credit

A line of credit is a form of financing you should consider if you want instant access to cash without having to wait for lender approvals. Once you’ve been approved for a line of credit, you can make draws as needed to inject cash into your business.

Here’s how it works. You apply for a line of credit with a lender. The lender looks at a number of factors, such as your personal credit score or business performance, when determining whether to approve your application. These factors will also be considered when setting your credit limit.

Once you’ve been approved, you can initiate as many draws as you’d like from your line of credit up to and including the credit limit. Funds are typically transferred to your bank account immediately, and you can access the money in 1 to 3 business days with most lenders.

As you repay the borrowed funds plus fees and interest charged by the lender, the funds replenish and become available to use again.

Lines of credit are useful for unexpected expenses, emergencies, or to fill revenue gaps. Having a line of credit allows you to access money when you need it without having to go through the application and approval process over and over again.

Recommended Option: Fundbox

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Fundbox offers lines of credit up to $100,000 for qualified businesses. The lender charges a one-time fee for each draw that starts at just 4.66% of the draw amount. Terms of 12 weeks or 24 weeks are available, and automatic payments are drawn from your bank account each week. You can save by paying your loan off early, as Fundbox will waive all remaining fees.

There are two ways to qualify for a Fundbox line of credit. The first is by linking your business bank account or submitting bank statements. These will be used by the lender to evaluate the performance of your business. If you have unpaid accounts receivables, you can use these to qualify. All you have to do is link your supported accounting software.

Minimum requirements to receive a Fundbox line of credit are:

  • Business checking account
  • U.S.-based business
  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue
  • At least 3 months of transactions in a business bank account OR at least 2 months of activity in accounting software

Once you’ve filled out Fundbox’s quick application and have linked your accounts or submitted documentation, you can be approved in just minutes. Then, you can instantly put your line of credit to work for your business.

Business Credit Cards

Another option for fast funding is a business credit card. Once you’ve been approved for a business credit card, you can use it any time. You can use your card as often as you wish provided you stay within your set credit limit.

Business credit cards can be used anywhere credit cards are accepted. You can make purchases online or in-person. You can also use your card for recurring payments, such as utility bills, which is even smarter when you use a rewards card that gives cash back or other perks.

Like lines of credit, business credit cards are revolving forms of credit. This means that as you pay down your principal balance and interest, funds will become available to use again. Once you’re approved for a business credit card, your card is ready to use immediately whenever you need it. This makes it a great payment option for emergency expenses, purchasing supplies or inventory, or for paying recurring expenses.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Preferred

Chase Ink Business Preferred



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Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


18.24% – 23.24%, Variable

If you have excellent credit, consider applying for the Chase Ink Preferred card. With this rewards card, you can receive 3 points for every dollar spent on combined purchases in travel, shipping, cable, internet, phone services, and advertising. Even though earning three points on these purchases is capped at $150,000 per year, you can still earn one point per dollar spent with no limitations on all purchases.

If you’re approved for the Chase Ink Preferred card and spend $5,000 within 3 months of opening your account, you’ll receive an additional 80,000 bonus points. Points can be redeemed for rewards including vacation packages, gift cards, Amazon purchases, and cash back.

This credit card comes with a variable APR of 18.24% to 23.24%. A $95 annual membership fee is required.

To qualify for Chase Ink Business Preferred, you must have good to excellent personal credit.

Rollovers As Business Startups (ROBS)

Withdrawing retirement funds may be tempting, but who wants to pay penalties and taxes for early withdrawal? Luckily, there’s a way that you can leverage these funds to put capital into your new business. This method is known as rollovers as business startups, or ROBS.

How does ROBS work? The first step is to create a C-corporation. Then, a new retirement plan is created for the C-corp. Next, the funds from your existing retirement plan are rolled over into the new plan. These funds are used to purchase stock in the new C-corp, giving you access to the capital you need to get your business running.

Sound too complicated for you? Then consider working with a ROBS provider. A ROBS provider will get everything set up for you legally and ensure you maintain compliance. In exchange, you’ll pay a one-time setup fee and a monthly maintenance fee with most ROBS providers.

When you use this type of financing to fuel your business, you don’t have to worry about repaying a lender. After all, you’re using your own funds. However, be aware that if your business is unsuccessful, you risk losing your retirement funds.

Recommended Option: Guidant Financial

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Guidant Financial is a ROBS provider that can help you leverage your retirement funds. All you need is a qualifying retirement or pension account. Qualifying accounts include:

  • 401(k)
  • 403(b)
  • Traditional IRA
  • TSP
  • SEP
  • Keogh

Qualifying accounts must have a minimum of $50,000. You must also be an employee of the business.
By working with Guidant Financial, you can receive funds in as little as 3 weeks. The setup fee is $4,995. You must also pay a Plan Administration fee of $139 per month.

Unsure if a ROBS plan is right for you? Don’t worry — Guidant Financial offers other business financing options including:

  • SBA 7(a) Loans
  • SBA Working Capital Loans
  • Unsecured Business Loans
  • Equipment Leases

Purchase Financing

If you’re looking for a way to pay your vendors that frees up some of your cash flow, purchase financing might be the solution you’re looking for. With purchase financing, your vendor gets paid immediately for your purchases – think tools, fluids, and other critical shop supplies. In the meantime, you’ll get additional time to pay. Instead of paying off the full balance of your purchase up front, you’ll be able to split it into more affordable regular payments.

Purchase financing gives you more control over your cash flow, freeing up funds and allowing you to pay back on a schedule that works best for your business. Of course, like with other financing, you do have to pay interest and fees for this service.

Recommended Option: Behalf

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Behalf offers purchase financing of $300 up to $50,000. You’ll receive up to 6 months to repay the lender and can choose between weekly or monthly payments.

Monthly fees for the service start at 1% and are based on creditworthiness. There are no additional fees for using Behalf’s financing.

There are no time in business or revenue requirements to qualify. However, Behalf performs a hard pull on your credit, considers business credit history, and looks at other business performance factors to determine if you are eligible for financing.

Choose Business Software

Small Business Online Accounting Software

To keep operations flowing smoothly, you need to pick the right business software for your repair shop. Business software helps you more efficiently run your business, from keeping up with customers to tracking your finances for tax purposes.

Accounting Software

Accounting software allows you to perform various accounting functions so that you can track and record all financial transactions. With accounting software, you can track accounts receivable and accounts payable. Most modern accounting software also offers additional tools including bill payment, payroll, and invoicing. You can purchase accounting software or pay a fee to subscribe to an online service.

Accounting software not only allows you to keep track of your finances at any time, but it also can be used to run financial reports that may be required to receive financing. These reports will also serve you well when it comes time to do your taxes.

No experience in accounting? Don’t worry — we have you covered. Check out our free eBook “The Beginner’s Guide to Accounting” that breaks complicated accounting concepts into ones that are easy to understand.

Auto Repair Invoice Software

Accounting software often has a feature that allows you to create and send invoices. However, you might want to invest in specialty software for auto body repair shops.

Auto repair invoice software includes a variety of tools that can be used to track service requests, create invoices and estimates, track leads, and manage inventory and orders.

Payment Processing Software

No longer do we live in a cash-only world. Now, customers almost always make their purchases using debit cards, credit cards, and even smartphones.

In order to be able to accept these forms of payment, you’re going to need a payment processing service. The payment processor serves as the communicator between your customer’s bank and your own bank, allowing you to process credit, debit, and other forms of payment.

For your auto collision business, you might want to consider getting a point-of-sale system. With POS software, you’ll be able to process credit cards, scan barcodes, print receipts, track inventory, run reports, and perform other functions. For a fee, your business can receive the software and hardware needed to best serve your customers.

Hire Employees

While you may start your collision center as a one-man operation, you have to hire employees if you want to grow.

One of the first hires you’ll make is a mechanic that will work on repairing vehicles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mechanics make approximately $39,550 per year. An auto body and glass repairer averages around $40,580 annually.

As you bring in more employees, you’ll also want to hire a manager to oversee them all. Salaries for managers vary widely based on experience and how many employees they will be overseeing. Managers may bring in anywhere from $45,000 upwards of $60,000 per year.

Eventually, you may also want to hire a front-desk receptionist. The role of the receptionist is to greet customers, answer the phone, and make appointments. This employee may also take payments from customers and handle some of the company’s bookkeeping. The average salary of a receptionist is around $27,000 per year.

Do some research to find out more about salaries in your area, as these numbers can vary. You also need to take into consideration that there are additional expenses associated with hiring employees including:

  • Onboarding & Training
  • Background Checks
  • Drug Testing
  • Taxes
  • Benefits

When you’re ready to hire an employee, there are a few ways you can find quality candidates. The first is to ask for referrals. If you know someone in the industry, ask if they know of any potential employees. Even if you don’t have connections with anyone in the industry, ask around among your friends, family members, and colleagues.

You can also post your jobs on online job boards. Make sure that your job listing has an overview of responsibilities and requirements for all candidates. As resumes hit your inbox, you can set up interviews and hire new employees for your business.

Bolster Your Web Presence

Before you even hold your grand opening, you need to start your marketing efforts. The best place to start is the internet. When researching new businesses, most people use their laptops or smartphones. If you don’t have a web presence, how will your customers find you?

Getting your business online is easy. Start with these simple steps.

Create Social Media Profiles

It seems like everyone’s on social media these days, from your teenage nephew to your grandmother. Social media doesn’t just connect friends and family members, either. It’s also a great place for users to find new brands and businesses.

Setting up your social media profiles is free and easy. Consider starting with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Add your logo, contact details, and important information like services provided and hours of operation. As you build your business, you can update your profiles with specials, coupons, photos of your completed work, and other information.

Create A Website

You also want to make sure that you have a website that provides important details to your customers such as your shop hours, specials, and services provided.

No web design experience? No problem. These days, any small business owner can create a professional website with easy web builders that feature templates, drag-and-drop design, and other tools to create a website in just minutes.

Your website should be a reflection of your brand, so make sure to choose templates, photos, and colors that best represent your shop. Your domain name should also represent your brand, so make sure it’s easy to remember and avoid numbers, symbols, or very long URLs.

Your website shouldn’t be overly complicated, and it should be easy to navigate. You don’t have to load down your site with lots of information. Start off by including key info such as hours of operation, services performed, and contact information. Also make sure to highlight any features that make your shop stand out, such as certifications, free estimates, or rental car/shuttle services offered to your customers. In the future, you can add additional features such as a signup option for email newsletters or online scheduling.

This is all just the tip of the iceberg. Learn more about creating and maintaining an online web presence for your business.

Advertise Your Business

Your website and social media profiles are a great way to start advertising your business, but in order to grow and scale, you can’t stop there. You need to plan a marketing and advertising campaign to get the word out about your business.

Consider paying for social media ads or pay-per-click ads on search engines, or sign up with Yelp For Business. These options can be affordable for new businesses and are easy to set up.

You can also look beyond the internet to advertise your business. Consider placing flyers or door hangers in the area around your business to bring in new customers. Before you take this route, though, make sure to understand the local laws in your area regarding the posting of flyers on public and private property.

As your business grows and becomes more successful, you can explore options including radio and TV advertisements and mailers. However, these ads are typically quite expensive, so hold off on these options until your business is bringing in steady revenue.

One of the most important things to remember here is that word-of-mouth advertising is one of the best forms of advertising. If you perform a great service, your customers will tell others about your business. Keep customer satisfaction high to increase those referrals and draw in more revenue for your body shop.

Final Thoughts

While you may be itching to get your auto body shop off the ground immediately, a business isn’t born overnight. Take the time to plan out your business, and you’ll increase your chances for success. The hard work doesn’t stop after your grand opening, either. You’ll need to continue working hard to bring in customers, increase your revenue, and become a successful entrepreneur.

The post How To Start And Finance An Auto Body Shop Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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A Complete Guide To Chase Business And Personal Credit Cards

chase bank credit cards

If you’ve been shopping around for a new credit card, whether for personal or business use, it’s likely you’ve come across a Chase credit card or three. In fact, it would be hard not to — between its own branded credit cards and its co-branded partner cards, Chase has 28 credit cards on offer. That’s a lot of credit cards!

Wouldn’t it be convenient if somebody were to gather pertinent information on every Chase credit card, compile that information into an article, then present it to you via The Internet? Well, fret not, for that day has arrived. Here’s a rundown of every Chase credit card and what each one has to offer you.

(For a look at today’s top business credit cards from Chase and other credit card companies, check out our piece on the top business credit cards of 2019.)

Chase Credit Card Details
Chase Ink Business Preferred Business card for earning points
Chase Ink Business Cash Business card for earning cash back
Chase Ink Business Unlimited Business card for flat-rate cash back
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Business card for Southwest travel
United Explorer Business Business card for United travel
Mariott Rewards Premier Plus Business Business card for Marriott loyalists
Chase Freedom Personal cash back card with a 15-month 0% intro APR
Chase Freedom Unlimited Flat-rate cash back card with a 15-month 0% intro APR
Chase Sapphire Preferred Flexible travel rewards card
Chase Sapphire Reserve High-end travel rewards card
Chase Slate No annual fee card for credit building
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority High-end Southwest travel card
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Southwest travel card
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Southwest travel card with an anniversary points bonus
United Explorer United Airlines travel rewards card
United TravelBank United travel rewards card with no annual fee
United MileagePlus Club Expensive travel card with high-end perks
British Airways Visa Signature British Airways loyalty card w/ large signup bonus
Aer Lingus Visa Signature Aer Lingus travel rewards card w/ transferable rewards
Iberia Visa Signature High points-earning travel card
Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Personal version of the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Business
The World Of Hyatt Hyatt loyalty card with elite rewards
Disney Premier Visa Card for earning Disney Rewards Dollars
Disney Visa Card for earning Disney Rewards Dollars with no annual fee
IHG Rewards Club Premier Card for earning 10X points at IHG Properties
Starbucks Rewards Visa Card for earning Starbucks Stars
Amazon Rewards Visa Signature 5% Amazon rewards for Amazon Prime members
AARP Credit Card from Chase Cash back card with no annual fee

Business Credit Cards Offered By Chase

1) Chase Ink Business Preferred

Chase Ink Business Preferred



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Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


18.24% – 23.24%, Variable

The Chase Ink Business Preferred card is a great card for business owners looking to get rewarded for their travel purchases. The Ink Business Preferred will see you earning 3 points for every $1 spent on the first $150,000 in combined purchases on travel and select business categories each year.

The Ink Business Preferred also offers an exceptional bonus offer. You’ll get 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in your first 3 months of card use, which equates to $1,000 toward travel rewards when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

It’s the most “high-end” of the three business credit cards Chase currently offers (not counting the co-branded cards). Unfortunately, this means that unlike the others, this card carries a $95 annual fee.

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2) Chase Ink Business Cash

Chase Ink Business Cash



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.49% – 21.49%, Variable

With no annual fee, the Chase Ink Business Cash is all about — quelle surprise! — the cash back.

Here’s the card’s cash back structure:

  • Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent per year in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone services
  • 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent per year in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants
  • 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases

Chase Ink Business Cash℠ Learn More Earn $500 Bonus Cash Back 

3) Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Chase Ink Business Unlimited


chase ink business unlimited
Apply Now 

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.49% – 21.49%, Variable

Chase Ink Business Unlimited is a cash back business card for business owners who would rather not have to worry about which purchases will earn more points than other purchases. The card gives you a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no limit to the number of points you can earn per year. Nice and simple.

As with Ink Business Cash, there’s no annual fee. And like the Ink Business Cash (but unlike the Preferred card), the Ink Business Unlimited offers a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months.

Now, let’s check out Chase’s partner business cards.

4) Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card

If your business has you flying frequently with Southwest Airlines (and only Southwest — Southwest has no airline partners), Chase’s Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business card may intrigue you.

You’ll get a hefty bonus offer: 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. You’ll then get:

  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases
  • 1 point per dollar spent on everything else

The card carries a $99 annual fee.

5) United Explorer Business Card

This business card is designed to reward the business traveler who flies United. A bonus offer of 75,000 miles awaits you if you spend $5K on purchases in the first 3 months.

You’ll earn 2 miles per dollar spent on all United purchases as well as on purchases at restaurants, gas stations, and office supply stores (1 mile per dollar on all other purchases). You’ll also get such perks as a free checked bag (a $120 value per round trip), two one-time United Club passes each year, and priority boarding for you and any companions on the same reservation.

The card carries a $95 annual fee after the first year, which is free.

6) Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Business

Here’s a business travel card for those who like to stay in Marriott hotels. Similar to Chase’s other branded partner business cards, you’ll get a 75,000 point bonus for spending $3K in the first 3 months.

When you use your Marriott card at participating Marriott and Starwood properties, you’ll get an impressive 6 points for every dollar spent. You’ll get 2 points per dollar on all other spending. The card does carry a $95 annual fee, however.

Personal Credit Cards Offered By Chase

7) Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


17.24% – 25.99%, Variable

The Chase Freedom card is a simple personal credit card with no annual fee, a 15-month 0% intro APR period, and rotating rewards categories.

Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories per quarter. The bonus categories change on a quarterly basis. You’ll earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.

8) Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Unlimited



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


17.24% – 25.99%, Variable

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card resembles the Chase Freedom card in almost every way — same lack of an annual fee, same 15-month 0% APR period, same signup bonus ($150 after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months). The one real difference lies in how you accumulate cash back.

Instead of having to worry about rotating 5% cash back categories, the Freedom Unlimited offers a flat 1.5% cash back on every purchase.

9) Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred



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Annual Fee:


$95 ($0 the first year)

 

Purchase APR:


18.24% – 25.24%, Variable

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a personal travel rewards card from Chase. You’ll get 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and dining and one point per dollar on everything else.

When you redeem your points for Ultimate Rewards portal purchases, your points will be worth 1.25 cents apiece. The card carries a $95 annual fee, waived for the first year.

10) Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Reserve



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Annual Fee:


$450

 

Purchase APR:


17.99% – 24.99%, Variable

Want a high-end travel card with great perks and high points earning potential? Don’t mind paying a huge annual fee of $450 a year? Chase’s exclusive Sapphire Reserve may be right up your alley.

With the Sapphire Reserve, not only will you earn 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining (as opposed to 2 with the Sapphire Preferred), but your point value (when redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards portal) will be 1.5 cents piece. Plus, you’ll get some great luxury perks, such as a $300 annual travel credit, a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and Priority Pass Select lounge access.

11) Chase Slate

Chase Slate



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


16.99% – 25.74%, Variable

The Chase Slate card is unlike most of the cards in Chase’s portfolio in that its purpose is to help you build your credit and get out of debt. There’s no signup bonus and no rewards to earn. It’s not an exciting card, but it is a utilitarian one.

The Chase Slate card charges no fee for balances transferred to it within 60 days of opening your account. Combine that with an intro 0% APR period of 15 months, no annual fee, and free access to your FICO score, and you’ve got a card that helps smooth out your finances.

Chase currently offers 17 personal partner cards — mostly travel rewards cards. Let’s do a quick rundown of each of them.

12) Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority

If you don’t mind a $149 annual fee, Chase’s Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card will deliver you more benefits than any other Southwest-branded card.

You’ll get 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. But that’s just the beginning. You’ll also get the following:

  • 7,500 anniversary points each year
  • $75 annual Southwest travel credit
  • 4 upgraded boardings per year
  • Get 20% back on in-flight purchases
  • A host of retail and travel protections

13) Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is the less-exclusive sibling of the Rapid Rewards Priority card. The annual fee is a more reasonable $69, and you’ll get some nice rewards, even if they don’t rise to the level of the Priority card’s rewards.

Just as with the priority card, you’ll get 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else. You’ll also get an annual anniversary bonus of 3,000 points and other travel benefits. Unfortunately, there is a 3% foreign transaction fee.

14) Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier rounds out the three Southwest-cobranded Chase personal travel cards. The Premier card has a $99 annual fee, right between that of the Plus and the Priority card. Call it the middle child of the Chase Southwest personal cards.

The points-earning structure is the same as that of the other two Southwest personal cards. Along with that, you’ll get a 6,000 point anniversary bonus each year and 1,500 tier-qualifying points for every $10,000 spent on the card each year — up to 15,000 annually. These tier-qualifying points help you reach A-List or A-List Preferred status faster than you otherwise would.

15) United Explorer

The United Explorer card is one of three United-cobranded Chase personal credit cards. Naturally, they reward traveling with United Airlines.

The United Explorer card carries an annual fee of $95 after an initial free first year. Use of the card will earn you 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases from United and on restaurants and hotel stays, and 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else. You’ll also get:

  • $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free
  • Priority boarding privileges
  • Two one-time United Club passes each year on your card anniversary

16) United TravelBank

The United TravelBank card carries no annual fee and will see you earning cash back instead of United miles. You’ll earn 2% cash back on all United purchases and 1.5% back on all other purchases.

Other United TravelBank benefits include 25% back on United inflight purchases, no foreign transaction fees, and entry into Chase’s Inside Access program through which you can get all manners of luxury perks and VIP experiences.

17) United MileagePlus Club

The United MileagePlus Club card is the luxury card of the Chase United personal credit card triumvirate. Accordingly, the annual fee is a steep $450 per year.

This card gives you all the goodies:

  • 50,000-mile sign-up bonus after you spend $3K in the first three months
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar on United spending and 1.5 miles per dollar on all other spending
  • United Club membership (a $550 value)
  • Two free checked bags per United flight
  • Priority check-in and baggage handling
  • World of Hyatt Discoverist status
  • Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President’s Circle membership
  • No foreign transaction fees

18) British Airways Visa Signature

The British Airways Visa Signature card uses Avios reward points (Avios being a currency shared by several other airlines).

You’ll earn 4 Avios points for every $1 spent on your first $30,000 in purchases within your first year. You’ll also earn 3 Avios per $1 spent on British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus purchases and 1 Avios per dollar spent on everything else. What’s more, if you make $30,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year, you’ll earn a Travel Together Ticket, good for two years.

The British Airways Visa Signature card carries a $95 annual fee but has no foreign transaction fee.

19) Aer Lingus Visa Signature

For an annual fee of $95, the Aer Lingus Visa Signature card has the same Avios-earning structure as the British Airways Visa Signature card.

The card carries no foreign transaction fee, gives you priority boarding on Aer Lingus flights (the one real difference with the BA card, which gives you priority on BA flights), and a free economy ticket good for 12 months after you spend $30K in a calendar year. It’s largely the same card as the British Airways Visa Signature card (except for the branding).

20) Iberia Visa Signature

The Iberia Visa Signature card is essentially the same credit card as the previous two airline-cobranded travel cards.

The card currently has an impressive bonus offer of 100,000 Avios:

  • Earn 50,000 Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Earn an additional 25,000 Avios after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first year
  • Earn a further 25,000 Avios after you spend $20,000 total on purchases in the first year

21) Marriott Rewards Premier Plus

The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus card is Chase’s personal version of their similarly-named Marriott business card.

Some key features:

  • $95 annual fee
  • 75,000 bonus points if you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn 6 points per dollar at Marriott Rewards and SPG hotels
  • Earn 2 points per dollar on all other purchases
  • Annual free night stay in a hotel up to 35,000 points

22) The World Of Hyatt

The awkwardly-named The World Of Hyatt card is a hotel travel rewards card, largely similar to the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus. There’s a bonus offer of up to 50,000 points, with free nights starting at 5,000 points. The best perk: you’ll get a free night certificate each anniversary year, good for a Category 1-4 Hyatt room.

The card carries a $95 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

23) Disney Premier Visa

For an annual fee of $49, the Disney Premier Visa is a card for all you Disney superfans out there. Your rewards come in the form of Disney Reward dollars.

You’ll earn 2% at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and most Disney locations, and 1% on all other purchases. Your Disney Reward dollars can be redeemed toward Disney theme park visits, Disney cruises, Disney/Star Wars movies, and shopping at the Disney store. Plenty of other Disney-related perks come with the card as well.

24) Disney Visa

The Disney Visa is the down-market version of the Disney Premier Visa. There’s no annual fee, but you’ll only earn 1% Disney Reward dollars back with your purchases — a pretty meager rewards rate.

Most of the perks of the Disney Premier Visa apply to the Disney Visa.

25) IHG Rewards Club Premier

The IHG Rewards Club Premier card is a card for people who frequent IHG hotels. For an $89 annual fee, you’ll earn a whopping 10 points per dollar spent at IHG hotels. That’s a pretty impressive earning rate. However, you can’t do much with your points besides redeem them for IHG hotel stays.

26) Starbucks Rewards Visa

Finally, a credit card for you Starbucks-heads out there. Starbucks rewards come in the form of Stars, the value of which can vary based on what Starbucks item you redeem them for, though it generally comes out to about 4 cents apiece.

As a bonus offer, you’ll get 2,500 Stars after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months. You’ll also get a Star for every dollar you put onto your Starbucks card using your Starbucks Reward Visa and 2 Stars for every dollar you spend using your Starbucks card, meaning you can earn 3 Stars for every dollar you spend at Starbucks assuming you literally play your cards right.

For all other purchases on your Starbucks Visa, you’ll earn a Star for every 4 dollars you spend.

27) Amazon Rewards Visa Signature

The Amazon Rewards Visa Signature card is a nice cash back card. You’ll get a $50 Amazon gift card upon being approved, and you’ll earn 3% cash back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% cash back at gas stations, restaurants, and drugstores, and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

There’s no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee.

28) AARP Credit Card from Chase

The AARP Credit Card from Chase is a decent, if boring, cash back credit card. You don’t even need to be an AARP member to get one.

Earn 3% cash back on restaurants and gas station purchases and 1% everywhere else. For a card with no annual fee, the 3% cash back you’ll get in the aforementioned categories is pretty generous.

Final Thoughts

There you have it — a summary of every credit card Chase currently has to offer. All 28 of them!

One last thought: be wary of Chase’s 5/24 rule. It’s not an explicit policy, but more of an unwritten rule and therefore precise details are hard to come by, but generally, if you have opened 5 or more credit cards (any credit cards, not just Chase cards) over the previous 24 months, Chase will not issue you the card you’re applying for.

Now, there are a number of Chase cards that are exempt from this rule, but this group of cards has been shrinking rapidly and changes frequently, so I can’t give you a definitive list of Chase cards exempt from the 5/24 rule. Just be aware that you can’t take out an unlimited number of Chase cards to game the rewards system, nor is it recommended. Instead, you’ll have to be more strategic if you’re a rewards-hunter.

For more credit card-related information, check out the links below.

  • The Best Free Credit Score Sites
  • A Guide To Using Personal Credit Cards For Business Expenses
  • Fast Approval Business Credit Cards For Small Business Owners

The post A Complete Guide To Chase Business And Personal Credit Cards appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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