Welcome to the first week of Merchant Maverickâs essential news briefing for small business owners.
An appointment-making robot and Amazon Prime Day records dominated the small business news cycle over the past seven days. Read on for this weekâs top five must-know stories for small business owners.
Google’s AI Assistant Has Begun Booking Appointments For Users
Google recently began rolling out the booking feature of its AI chat assistant Duplex, per a report by VentureBeat. Duplex’s booking abilities enables users to request appointments at a business using the Google Assistant, Search, or Maps apps on their phone. Duplex will then call the business and reserve an appointment on the user’s behalf using “natural language processing.” In all cases, Duplex informs the person on the other end of the call that it is an automated service.
Originally teased by Google in 2018, Duplex’s recent launch supports barbershop, hairstylist, and salon appointments, but the AI bot has also had a limited capability to make restaurant reservations over the phone since at least 2019.
Besides the rollout of Duplex’s booking feature, Google also shared a number of tidbits relevant to small businesses during its Search On conference this week. The company says Duplex has updated 3 million business listings across eight countries since the start of the pandemic. Google also announced that starting in the first half of 2021, everyone can migrate for free from Hangouts to its new communication service Chat — a potential Slack competitor.
Why this matters to you: Duplex’s booking feature could help increase the reach of small businesses that rely on phone calls to book services. Because not everyone likes talking over the phone, potential customers who might balk at calling to set up an appointment may feel more comfortable booking one through Duplex.
Further reading: One year later, restaurants are still confused by Google Duplex, The Verge
Amazon Prime Day Set A Record For Small & Medium Businesses
This year’s Amazon Prime Day, which ran October 13-14, saw third-party sellers rack up $3.5 billion in sales — a 60% increase over last year. While failing to disclose total Prime Day sales, Amazon claims that third-party sales grew more than Amazon’s own retail businesses. Amazon added that “most” of its third-party sellers are small-to-medium-sized businesses, with small businesses in Utah, California, and New Jersey nabbing the biggest sales per capita.
Despite smashing sales records, Amazon faces scrutiny. The company was recently named in a Congressional anti-competition report that looked into how Amazon’s rules may have put smaller sellers at a disadvantage. The site has also struggled to shake the notion that it frequently peddles counterfeit products, an issue that came to a head last year after a Wall Street Journal investigation.
Why this matters to you: As small businesses look for digital revenue streams in the world of COVID, selling on Amazon could be a great way to dip into the eCommerce space — and Prime Day’s record sales numbers provide an early indication that shoppers are keen to buy online this holiday season.
For more on how your small business can make money on Amazon, check out Merchant Maverick’s guide to starting an Amazon store.
PPP Lenders Allegedly Told To Favor Existing Customers
The government’s much-ridiculed Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses has yet another blotch on its record: A Democratic-led House congressional oversight subcommittee found that the US Treasury Department privately encouraged lenders to prioritize existing customers when issuing PPP loans. The initial instructions for lenders to “go to their existing customer base” allegedly came from the Treasury on March 27, the same day the PPP legislation was penned into law.
The House report did note that the Treasury denied such claims. However, the report cited several high-up industry leaders, including the president of the American Bankers Association and a “senior banker” at JPMorgan Chase & Co., as saying that the Treasury wanted banks to work with existing clients. A spokeswoman for JPMorgan said that the bank “initially focused on existing customers” because of the “time-consuming regulatory requirements to onboard a new client.”
Why this matters to you: Because lenders may have favored existing customers, underserved small businesses (which include those owned by minorities and women) were potentially put at a disadvantage when applying for PPP funds. These latest insights reinforce earlier reports that banks favored larger companies — even though rules issued by the Trump administration said the PPP was to be “first-come, first served.”
Comcast RISE Launched To Help Diverse Small Business Beat COVID
In an effort to help small businesses survive the recession generated by COVID, media and telecommunications conglomerate Comcast launched Comcast RISE. This new support program will help out small businesses via $10,000 grants, marketing resources, and tech equipment.
Black-owned small businesses are eligible to apply for Comcast RISE’s initial wave right now. The program will open up applications to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)-owned small businesses starting November 28. The grant part of Comcast RISE also hasn’t started yet, either — that will launch November 28, too.
Why this matters to you: COVID has ravaged much of the US economy, with small businesses taking the brunt of the damage. With financial support from the government looking slim, small businesses will need to turn to alternative methods to help push through a downturn in revenue. Through its various tools, Comcast RISE will hopefully be able to keep numerous small businesses up-and-running through 2021.
A New Service Can Help Track Competitors’ Google Maps Ratings
Ratings on Google Maps have long been a great way to gauge the public’s perception of a business. However, it’s difficult to monitor a business’ rating over time — and even more difficult to gauge multiple competitors’ ratings over time. Enter Local Monitor, a recently-launched service from Paris-based startup WizVille.
WizVille’s Local Monitor works simply: You enter your business’ name on the site and get a display of nearby places that provide similar products or services to you. You can then choose up five competitors to track and WizVille will email you a monthly report detailing your business and its competitor’s Google Maps ratings over time. Read more about Local Monitor on TechCrunch.
Why this matters to you: Being able to track Google Maps ratings can help you understand how customers view your business and its competitors. This extra bit of data could give you a leg up over other local businesses within your niche.
The Latest From Merchant Maverick
Our latest small business spotlight looks at a Texas-based startup called Everyware, a payment gateway that offers text message-based billing solutions for an array of industries. By building its product around text messages, Everyware aims to eliminate the clutter that persists throughout daily life. Take a peek to learn more about Everyware:
Everyware Uses Text-Based Billing To Help More Businesses Profit From Contactless Payment During COVID
It’s a bleak, bleak world out there, so let’s finish your briefing on a positive note.
In Tampa, Florida, two teenage boys raised $30,000 over the course of six months to help small businesses struggling because of COVID. Gifts of $10,000 will go out to three businesses local to Tampa.
“We could never have expected to raise this much money,” said Robbie Herzig, one of the enterprising teens that kick-started the operation. “We were just looking to help any way that we could and when it took off.”
Do you have a story idea, tip, or press release for the Merchant Maverick news team? Shoot us an email: [email protected]
The post Google’s AI Can Now Make Appointments & 4 More Small Business News Stories You Need To Know appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
This post originally appeared at 22+ Spa Marketing Ideas To Get More Clients via ShivarWeb
Most resort & spa owners would agree that there’s nothing like a full appointment booking. But it’s hard to fill appointments without a regular flow of new clients coming in.
Some spas have a location or reputations that brings in clients with nothing but a phone number. But for most spa owners, you have to go out and market your business to get a quality pool of potential clients.
I’ve consulted on search marketing for many local businesses and beauty business. Based on those experiences, here are some resort & spa marketing ideas that you can use to bring in more clients & appointments.
Create Neighborhood-Specific Website Pages
For clients, “near me” searches are too small, and ZIP code searches are not relevant. Neighborhood / city searches are just right.
That may sound obvious, but most local businesses that I’ve worked with still don’t focus their marketing on neighborhoods. It’s a lot of work. It’s tedious. But it can still be worthwhile.
Create a neighborhood & next to your neighborhood pages to try to rank for “spa in [neighborhood]” searches.
Create Niche Amenity Pages
Lots of clients have specific amenities that they want. Instead of listing your amenities in a giant list, make detailed pages about each amenity. Try to rank for searches like “spa with [amenity]”.
You can use Google Suggest for ideas. Go to Google and type in “[city] spa with” and hit space, but not enter. You’ll see some suggestions.
You can do this with the entire alphabet and as many modifiers as you can think of.
Create pages that match those search queries to show up when people search.
If you want to take this to the next level, you can use a tool like SEMrush’s Keyword Explorer to provide phrase match search terms in bulk. Here’s an example of how the data is displayed. Just type in “[city] spa” or even just “spa”.
Create Local Data Pages
Create resource guides for people learning more about your city. Create lots of them.
Use Google Autosuggest to understand what people are searching for among your amenities – and then put a local spin on it so that you aren’t competing with large publishers.
Develop Your Local Citations & Reviews
You should already have a Google My Business profile so that you can show up in Google Maps.
But you can take it to the next level to show up even more prominently.
First, you can build your Google My Business profile with photos, posts, and full listing details.
Second, go to every local business listing site and make sure that your Business Name, Address, and Phone Number match exactly. Whether it’s on the Yellow Pages, Yelp, or elsewhere – everything must match. These are called your “local citations” and Google uses them to confirm the relevance of local business.
You can use SEMrush’s Local Listing Management Tool to audit all these listings quickly.
Third, create a local review strategy. Having diverse, unique, and regular reviews on your Google My Business page is the number one way to get more views (aka lease applications) from Google Maps.
Steal Ideas from Large Local Competitors / Businesses
I’m not a fan of brainstorming. I think that it’s more effective to build off ideas that have already worked.
No matter your size, you can always look to larger competitors or larger businesses for inspiration.
With resorts & spas, make a list of local businesses that you *think* are being creative – including companies in different industries.
Like local listings and keywords, I then use a marketing tool like SEMrush to spy on those competitors. Type in the URL of a competitor below to see an example.
Here’s what you’ll see.
It looks like a lot. But drill down and categorize each link. You’ll quickly get a sense of what they are doing. You’ll see where they are posting on social media. You’ll see which media outlets have accepted press releases and what types of digital marketing they’re doing.
The trick here is *not* to copy cat them. Instead, take the general idea of what your competitors have done and make it your own – or, make it better.
Work with Local Tourism Agencies
Every city, no matter how small, has an interest in tourism. And spas / resorts are a core part of any tourism package. Make yourself known with local tourism officials, websites, and guides. Too many “local” spas are missing out on a good TripAdvisor profile.
Find those and become a regular fixture.
That extra attention and those links will help every other idea on this list. Google loves links. Social media users find URLs via links.
Your city pages, amenity pages, and everything else on your website will benefit from more inbound links.
Recruit Local Guides from Google Maps
Google Maps dominates local search. They have had a Local Guides program for some time now. They are people who leave frequent, useful reviews. People can subscribe to them to find recommendations.
It’s worth finding Local Guides in your area that are active and pitch them on your spa.
Use Hyper-Local Facebook Ads
A local business has one massive advantage against national brands trying to operate locally – you live in your city and understand it.
Facebook allows for hyper-local advertising. You can run ads that show within a radius of only a few miles. It’s tedious to set up, but it’s relevant and effective.
Learn how to create hyper-local targeting for demographics and geography to find lots of interested clients.
You can run small, targeted campaigns that show multiple places at once.
Use Hyper-Local Google Search Ads
Google Search ads are famously effective and famously expensive. The best client is someone who searches for “spa in [city]”.
But that search click will be very costly.
But like Facebook, you have an “in” – Google Quality Score. Google will show ads higher if they are more relevant even if they don’t have the high bid.
Like Facebook, it’s tedious to set up, but if you can set up a hyper-local campaign, you’ll be able to get Google Search traffic that large competitors can’t bid on.
Use Hyper-Local Google Display Ads
Google’s Display Network also offers opportunities for local advertisers who are willing to put in the work.
Google serves banner & text ads on some of the best ad locations on the Internet. Many placements are expensive for bulk ad buys.
But again, Google would rather serve a relevant ad with a low bid than an irrelevant ad with a high bid. That’s your opportunity to set up a hyper-local campaign focused on specific demographics in a specific area.
List on Locally-Popular Blogs & Travel Guides
Local blogs are often a dime a dozen. The key is to find the ones that are popular – or appear where you want to appear.
List on NextDoor & Local Forums
NextDoor is one of many local social media websites & forums. They are hard to find and hard to join, representing an opportunity for any local, enterprising spa owner.
These networks are interesting because they are specifically local and extremely relevant for local services. They also have new Groupon-style advertising options.
Advertise / Post on Local Subreddits
Reddit is an attractive website for many industries. But local subreddits are especially interesting for local businesses
First, they are hubs for local discussion & recommendations.
Second, they are the first place for people to plan a move visit to ask specific, local questions.
Now, they are decidedly non-commercial with lots of rules. You should get to know them before posting or commenting as a commercial entity.
However, you should explore their sidebar wiki for research.
You should get in touch with the moderators to listen to their rules about business posting. And you should look at running ads or giveaways there.
Post Listings w/ Photos in Instagram
Think about how you can take listing photos & repurpose them across different platforms. Spas have a unique opportunity to create an interesting, relaxing, soothing feed for potential clients. The key is to only be rarely promotional. Make it a feed that is interesting to follow on its own.
Develop a Local Relaxing Pinterest Board
Pinterest is an incredible resource for people looking to live better. You can get in front of prospects with a locally-focused Pinterest board.
Use local photos, recommendations, experiences, etc from real local experience to provide ideas. Promote local artists, makers, etc.
Identify & Market Local Employers
Your clients are all working somewhere. And your prospective clients might be a little stressed out and looking for an accessible provider.
Identify all the largest employers & sources of potential clients nearby. Create resource pages for those employers (especially if they are large).
Create discounts, bonuses, etc. Get in touch with those employers to see if there is a way to collaborate.
Identify & Market Local Businesses & Amenities
Take what you did with local employers and do the same with local amenities and businesses.
Create pages that act as resource hubs for neighborhood business & amenities.
Identify & Market Popular Client Sources
Take previous & existing clients and try to understand where those clients came from and how they found you.
See if there is a way to build off that success.
Cross-Promote Local Businesses
Your clients will spend money nearby. Figure out what other businesses do well when you have 100% bookings. Offer a way to cross-promote, especially if they have multiple locations or a presence with your target client.
Remember that even a link to your website from their website will dramatically help your other online efforts.
Use Events To Get Social Media Attention
Events like open house tours, specials, holidays, etc are marketing staples for resorts. But events have a bonus effect online.
You can list them on multiple platforms to get extra exposure. Facebook is the best place for this tactic, but it also works on Google, Instagram, and event apps like Meet and Four Square.
Use Video Tours To Hack Social Media
Like events, most social media gives preference to video in their feeds. Take interesting video tours of your services & property.
Post the file natively to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Pay a small budget to boost it. And look for opportunities to embed it on your website.
Use Digital Referral Fees for Word of Mouth
Referral fees are also a staple of apartment marketing. But they don’t get the same reach as digital referral codes.
Whether you use a simple bit.ly link, manually hand out custom codes, or use a software service – digital referral codes can help you move limited physical word of mouth to unlimited digital word of mouth.
Find & Sponsor Local Charities
Sponsoring local charities provides a few marketing benefits.
First, you can likely get a link to your website, which will help your other efforts.
Second, you can tap into a well-networked organization with lots of word of mouth potential.
Third, you can tap into neighborhood goodwill to help with soliciting reviews to help with your Google My Business efforts.
There are a lot of marketing ideas out there for spas and resorts. You don’t have to do all of them. You just have to do one or two well.
Find the one that fits your interests & resources and give it a try. Learn based on your initial experience and improve.
To say that WordPress looms large over the modern-day internet would be an understatement.
Statistics compiled by w3techs.com show that 37.7% of all websites are powered by WordPress. If this includes you and your business — or if you’re looking to build a small business website using WordPress — there are a number of shopping cart integration choices. However, one choice stands out as the most popular and, arguably, the best: WooCommerce.
WooCommerce’s open-source shopping cart has been downloaded over 84 million times since its initial release in 2011.
Let’s explore how this free eCommerce plugin works and examine just what makes it such a popular service among online merchants.
What Is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is a free, open-source eCommerce plugin that works exclusively with WordPress sites. However, while the software is free to download, running a WooCommerce-powered online store is not free — you will still have to pay for hosting and for the add-ons and extensions needed to make your store functional.
After you download WooCommerce, you can connect it to your WordPress site like you would with any other WordPress plugin. Just click “Add New” on the plugins page, search for WooCommerce, then click “Install” and “Activate.”
With WooCommerce, you are given a set of basic tools for free. You can later add extensions to fill in any feature gaps. That’s what makes WooCommerce such a scalable platform — if you invest in plugins to get the more advanced features, you can go from selling a few products to selling thousands of products without having to switch eCommerce platforms in the process.
What Is WooCommerce Shipping?
WooCommere Shipping is a shipping tool that you can download for free from WooCommerce’s website. Once installed, it integrates directly into your WooCommerce dashboard. The shipping tool allows you to set up and print shipping labels, manage packages, review your label reports, and more.
With WooCommerce Shipping, you can display live shipping rates from FedEx, UPS, USPS, and other carriers in your store.
What Can You Sell On WooCommerce?
What can you sell with a WooCommerce online store? Just about everything! Let’s go through the types of products WooCommerce allows you to sell:
Physical Products: Sell clothing, trinkets, artwork, gadgets — whatever you like. You can sell physical products in multiple variants. For example, a shirt can be sold in multiple colors and sizes, and you can set different weights and prices for each product variant.
Digital Products: WooCommerce lets you sell digital downloads of all kinds. From MP3s to event tickets, if the product is digital, you can sell it through WooCommerce.
Subscriptions: With the WooCommerce Subscriptions add-on, you can accept recurring payments for subscription products, whether they be digital or physical. You can charge renewal payments on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis.
Of course, just as with any other eCommerce platform, there are restrictions on what you can sell with WooCommerce. WooCommerce’s terms and conditions forbid you from using the service “in furtherance of illegal activities” such as copyright infringement. Likewise, WooCommerce Payments has a list of services and product types you cannot sell, such as drug paraphernalia, firearms, and adult content. While you can always use a payment gateway other than WooCommerce Payments, other gateways are likely to have similar policies.
How Does WooCommerce Work?
We’ve established that WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin. This means that in order to install WooCommerce, you’ll need to buy WordPress hosting and install WordPress first. Once you’ve done this, you can install the free WooCommerce plugin. Once you’ve done this, you’ll have the tools necessary to build a basic eCommerce site — all for free.
The following is a partial list of what you’ll get for free:
Mobile-Friendly Design: Because WooCommerce-powered online stores are designed to work well on mobile devices — on your end and on the customer’s end — your customers can shop on the go, just as you can manage their orders on the go.
Geo-Location Support:Â Geo-location detects your customersâ addresses to streamline shipping and tax calculations.
Organize Your Products: WooCommerce lets you group your products by category, add variations to each product, and sell affiliate products.
Inventory Management: WooCommerce’s free package includes built-in inventory management. Track your stock level, hold the stock when an order gets canceled, and hide out-of-stock items from your storefront.
Shipping Options: You can offer a shipping calculator on the shopping cart page, insuring there are no surprises at checkout. Let customers choose between pickup, local delivery, and shipping.
Search Engine Optimization:Â Benefit from WordPressâs built-in SEO best practices.
Checkout Options:Â Allow your customers to create an account on your site or check out as guests. It’s always a good idea to give your customers both options.
However, to get the functionality you’ll need to run a profitable online store, you’ll likely need to explore the many feature extensions available for WooCommerce. Many of these require a paid subscription, though you can find some decent free ones as well. You may also want to explore the many custom themes available, both free and paid.
The Benefits Of WooCommerce
WooCommerce is a supremely adaptable and scalable eCommerce platform. This is the core of WooCommerce’s appeal and goes a long way to explain the platform’s widespread popularity. You can start out with a basic free online store, and once your store finds its sea legs and/or you need a wider range of features to expand your business, the WooCommerce extension ecosystem stands ready to take your store to the next level.
Another point in WooCommerce’s favor is the fact that it is open-source. If you and/or your team has web development experience, you can edit the code to customize your store with a great degree of precision.
Finally, WooCommerce’s popularity is, in itself, an asset, as it means the WooCommerce community stands ready to help you with solutions to technical issues. Likewise, the community is continuously developing new features and add-ons to extend the functionality reach of the product.
Free to download and use
Lots of extensions and themes available, both in-house and third-party
Software is open-source, making it endlessly customizable
Scalable to accommodate your online store’s growth
Huge WooCommerce community stands ready to help you
The Drawbacks Of WooCommerce
While WooCommerce is designed to be usable even if you’re not a tech whiz, it’s not as easy to use as some competitors and can be challenging to learn. Expect to face some degree of difficulty as you tackle the learning curve. Thankfully, WordPress has a collection of tutorial videos available to walk you through setting up your store.
Another thing to keep in mind is that WooCommerce’s active customer support is quite limited. You can submit a web ticket to WooCommerce, though it may take a full day to get an answer, and you may need to disable your third-party extensions before the company can help you. Thankfully, you can always turn to the extensive WooCommerce community for assistance.
Lastly, though the core product is free, you may end up spending more than you anticipated on feature extensions, particularly if you purchase many of them as monthly subscriptions (some are priced as one-time purchases).
Steep learning curve
Limited customer support
Paid add-ons are often necessary
Who Should Use WooCommerce?
With WooCommerce being as scalable as it is, the product can easily meet the eCommerce needs of startups and mature businesses alike. Just make sure that you use a web host that can keep up with your bandwidth usage as you grow.
As for the type of business most suited for WooCommerce, the wide variety of extensions, themes, and payment processors available mean that just about any type of merchant can build a great WooCommerce-powered online store. Of course, being a WordPress add-on, it helps if you and/or your team has experience with WordPress. You’ll also be able to more easily extend your store’s functionality if your team has some web development expertise.
If you find WordPress intimidating, or if you just want a simpler eCommerce solution with an easier learning curve, an all-in-one eCommerce solution like Shopify may be more to your tastes. Shopify’s powerful SaaS platform does most of the heavy lifting for you, so those looking for a more straightforward selling platform may prefer it to WooCommerce. Of course, the flip side is WooCommerce’s open-source software gives you more flexibility and control than you’ll ever have with Shopify. So, which platform is best for your business? It all depends on your business priorities and needs.
Check out our WooCommerce VS Shopify article for a deeper look at this comparison.
How To Get Started With WooCommerce
By now, you know that you’ll need WordPress in order to use WooCommerce. WordPress comes in both a self-hosted version available from WordPress.org and a hosted freemium version available from WordPress.com (our WordPress review examines the latter version).
If you’re going to use the self-hosted version of WordPress, keep in mind that when choosing a web host for your online store, you’ll want to choose a host that specializes in WordPress hosting. This way, you’ll have hosting that is optimized for the needs of WordPress along with better technical support. Once you have a WordPress-friendly web host and you’ve bought a domain name, download and install WordPress (it’s free!).
If you’re going to use the hosted WordPress.com service, you won’t need to find a separate host, as hosting is included. You can then buy a domain from WordPress.com or connect any existing domain you already have.
Once you have WordPress, get yourself a WooCommerce-optimized WordPress theme (both free and premium themes are available) and activate WooCommerce. See WooCommerce’s installation guide for detailed instructions as to how to do this.
Once you have WooCommerce activated, you’ll have the option of adding functionality beyond what comes with the free WooCommerce package. From payment gateways to shipping to subscriptions to booking to marketing, you’ll have a seemingly endless array of options to make your online store exactly what you want it to be. Just keep in mind that while some of these feature extensions are free, many require a paid subscription, while some third-party add-ons are available for a one-time payment. Check out our article on the top WooCommerce add-ons to see some of the best extension options available.
The Bottom Line
If you want an online store that is truly yours — one that is entirely under your control and which you can customize to the nth degree — a WooCommerce-powered website is hard to beat. If your business is prepared to take on the challenge, WooCommerce’s offerings will empower you to create the eCommerce empire of your dreams.
To learn more about WooCommerce, head on over to our complete WooCommerce review. If, on the other hand, you don’t see WooCommerce working out for you, have a look at the leading alternatives to WooCommerce.
The post What Is WooCommerce & How Does It Work? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Social distancing has become the new normal in the wake of COVID-19, and business travel has unsurprisingly been limited in the recent days and months. However, with states slowly beginning to relax restrictions and businesses struggling to make a buck, the desire to return to usual work travel is understandably becoming more common.
Despite the easing of restrictions, COVID-19 itself isn’t easing up anytime soon. As such, it’s normal to pause before booking your business’s next flight out or scheduling a meeting in another state. Putting your employees in harm’s way is never an easy decision.
So should you or your employees travel for work? And if business travel is necessary, how can you venture out safely? These certainly aren’t simple questions to answer, but we’ve taken a crack at providing clarity so you can have a sense of how to handle the current situation.
Read on for more information on business travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Work Travel Will Return As Quarantine Restrictions Are Lifted
COVID-19 drastically shut down the US through local government-imposed stay-at-home orders. Besides affecting local businesses operating out brick-and-mortar locations, these stay-at-home orders also curbed business travel. An April survey by the Global Business Travel Association, a trade organization for corporate travel managers, found that 92% of the nearly 1,000 company members queried had halted domestic travel in face of the pandemic. Numerous industry conferences have been canceled as well, while large companies like Google and Square have placed restrictions on employee travel.
This stoppage in business travel certainly helped provide a hit to the travel industry — data-hoarding company Statista forecasted 470 million business trips by US travelers in 2019. With such a big role in the travel economy, a lack of business travel has played a role in the danger that now faces airline companies, with many eyeing October 1 as a potential date for massive layoffs in the air industry. Meanwhile, a recent study by Facebook reveals that 43% of hotels, cafes, and restaurants have closed down since February. The past several months have certainly been a bleak time for both the travel industry and businesses that rely on frequent travel.
It’s not all economic gloom and doom, though, as restrictions are being eased across the US, potentially sparking an uptick in business travel. According to The New York Times, only four states are still shut down as of May 20. 36 are nearly “universally” reopening while 10 are regionally opening. With restrictions lifted on retail stores, restaurants, and forms of outdoor recreation, more and more travelers will be willing to hit the road.
The numbers support this — at least in airports, which have been getting busier throughout May. During the midst of heavy quarantine restrictions in mid-April, TSA saw as few as 87K travelers go through security checkpoints in a day throughout the US. In May, TSA has now had multiple days of at least 250K travelers venturing through checkpoints. While 250K isn’t anywhere close to the 2 million-plus who went through checkpoints daily this time last year, it’s still a substantial boost from the lows in April.
So even though things may still be restricted in some way, people are now able to go out and about more often — and travel numbers are ticking up as a response. It’s reasonable to then assume that business travel will only become more frequent as more of the economy opens up.
What The Law Says About Travel
Because countries and states all have different regulations and guidelines regarding travel during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s hard to make a sweeping statement about the legality of travel at this time.
We do know that travel abroad will remain difficult for the foreseeable future. For instance, many countries across the globe have locked down their borders to foreigners or require two-week quarantines for incoming travelers. Some international travel destinations are looking more promising for the summer, though, with countries such as Belgium, Greece, and Iceland planning to ease restrictions as soon as June and July.
It is a bit easier to travel domestically within the US. However, some states — such as Alaska, Maine, and Texas — have instituted 14-day quarantine requirements for out-of-state travelers. If you plan for business travel to such states, your options may be limited.
Of course, many states are in the process of easing restrictions — making the precise rules a fast-paced and ever-changing beast. As such, we suggest you hunt down the guidelines for the state or states your business intends to travel to before actually booking any flights or hotels.
All told, the CDC recommends that people stay home as much as possible and that all non-essential travel is curtailed — including both domestic and international. While it is unlikely for you to be arrested for traveling, the CDC does have the ability to detain, detain, medically examine, and release those who arrived into the US or traveled between states and are suspected of carrying communicable diseases under 42 Code of Federal Regulations parts 70 and 71.
You may also want to consider the legal ramifications in case an employee gets COVID-19 while on the road traveling. Since these are unprecedented times, it’s unclear if businesses will face any sort of legal woes for requiring employees to travel for work.
However, a New York Times article on professional conferences does note that “some attorneys are concerned” that if a business sends an employee to a conference and that employee contracts the virus, the liability may be saddled on the business. Because of these murky waters, we advise that you consult a legal professional, if possible, before sending employees on trips.
Tips & Precautions For Essential Travel
The CDC has provided guidelines to determine essential travel within the US. If you do consider your business’s travel essential based on the CDC’s guidelines, there are a few ways you can improve the safety of both your employees and the communities they’ll visit. Here are our tips for businesses with essential travel:
1. Avoid Hot Spots
Limit or fully eliminate travel to areas (such as specific counties or cities) that are seeing recent COVID-19 outbreaks. Because these areas — commonly referred to as “hot spots” — are seeing increased numbers, you or your employees may be at greater risk to contract the virus by traveling there.
One example of a hot spot location is Illinois — and specifically Chicago. Illinois saw over 4,000 positive tests — a peak for the state — as recently as May 12, per NPR. Cook County, where the heart of Chicago is located, has been hit particularly hard, with one in 81 of the county’s population testing positive for the virus as of May 20. Another example hot spot includes Worcester, Massachusetts, which recently saw 81 workers at a local Walmart test positive for COVID-19, according to the Boston Globe.
The New York Times has created a coronavirus map that details hot spots throughout the country. You can also view raw COVID-19 numbers broken down by state over on IHME’s healthdata.org.
2. No Travel For Those With Symptoms
Institute a policy that no employee should travel if they have any symptoms of COVID-19. Besides potentially limiting the spread of the virus, doing so could ease stress on your employees — especially if their symptoms worsen.
According to the CDC, the most common symptoms of COVID-19 include:
Short of breath or difficulty breathing
New taste or smell loss
3. Encourage Safe Travel
Because not all carriers of COVID-19 exhibit symptoms, it’s important that travelers wear a cloth face covering while in public. Also note that for the time being, many major airline carriers are requiring fliers to wear face masks on the airplane. With this in mind, if your business requires air travel, a mask may simply be a necessity for you or your employees to even get on a plane.
Additionally, urge that your employee travelers engage in frequent hand washing, don’t touch their eyes and face, and maintain proper social distancing where possible. Hands should be washed with soap and water for at least 20 seconds while individuals should physically keep six feet apart. If soap and water aren’t available, hand sanitizer of at least 60% alcohol can be used as a substitute.
If it is financially feasible, consider giving masks and hand sanitizer to your employees who travel. Besides building goodwill with your team, doing so can also help encourage that the proper safety protocols are followed by your business’ travelers.
4. Have Employees Self-Quarantine After Trips
When an employee travels in the coming weeks and months, consider requiring that they self-quarantine after returning home. Per the CDC’s guidelines, symptoms take between two and 14 days before appearing. Because of this, we recommend that when possible, you require employees to stay home for two weeks after returning from a trip. You should especially require 14-day quarantines for employees who have traveled to and from coronavirus hot spots.
This rule should be followed for both work and personal travel. In fact, it may be wise for your business to log any time an employee travels, whether for work or personal reasons. Doing so will enable your business to know who should stay in self-quarantine for two weeks.
5. Create A COVID-19 Travel Policy
Having a company policy outlined for travel during the pandemic can ease confusion as employees make plans for the coming months. It should be simple and to the point — make it no longer than one page. It should answer basic questions such as:
“Who can travel?”
“What reasons for travel are essential?”
“How can we minimize risk during travel?”
If you have access to legal counsel or employ human resource specialists, we recommend working with them to come up with a policy that fits your business and your employees.
6. Be Flexible
When you get down to it, your business is made up of people. It’s important to listen to those people and be flexible if they can’t or don’t want to travel during the pandemic.
For instance, if an employee lives with someone who is immunocompromised or otherwise part of an at-risk group, it may be unwise for that employee to be traveling and interacting with many people outside the home. Instead, try to figure out a way that employee could do their tasks from home.
Alternatives To Consider Before Traveling
Until restrictions are fully lifted, and we can safely travel without any worry of contracting or spreading COVID-19, we recommend that you do your best to avoid business travel. Here are a few ways you can still do business without setting foot on an airplane or hitting the road:
1. Work From Home
As a remote company since inception, we at Merchant Maverick have plenty of experience working from home. Working from home can allow employees to enjoy more flexible hours as well as saving money (and time) on commuting. Some employees may find it easier to concentrate in a non-office setting, too.
If it’s at all possible, make sure that your employees that can work from home are doing so. This can limit any potential spread of the virus in your community — and especially so if some employees will also be needing to travel.
While working from home can seem like a daunting task, research has indicated that working from home may actually boost productivity and worker concentration. This has helped convince numerous businesses to be more open to at-home work during COVID-19’s crisis. In fact, several larger companies — most notably Square and Twitter — have been happy enough with their employee’s work that they’ve already indicated they’ll allow workers to continue working from home even after the pandemic’s impact subsides.
2. Use Video Chat
If you are considering traveling or having employees travel for a work-related meeting, attempt to schedule the meeting using video conference software. While not all meetings can take place over video chat,Â many should work just fine with remote participants.
For instance, Merchant Maverick uses Zoom to hold a weekly coffee hour. We also have other meetings between teams using Google Meet, which is baked into Google’s G Suite. Since video chats let you see who else is talking, you may have better and more rewarding interactions than you might with phone calls.
Besides Zoom and Google Meet, video conferencing options include Skype and GoToMeeting. For more information on choosing video chat software for your business — as well as other options — check out Merchant Maverick’s guide to the best video conferencing services.
3. Sign Up For A Messaging Service
Not all interactions require video chat — that’s where text messaging services come in. These services can allow your business to communicate with one another on the fly more casually than video chatting or phone calls.
At Merchant Maverick, we use Slack daily. This service allows us to collaborate within teams or reach out to others individually. For many of us at Merchant Maverick, using Slack has simply become second-nature — it helps us improve communication over more traditional calls or email.
Slack isn’t the only player on the block. Twist is another solid option, while Microsoft Teams offers a good experience for businesses tied into the Office 365 ecosystem. For more details on which messaging service might work for your business, visit our guide to the best communication apps.
4. Email More
If video chat or dedicated messaging services won’t cut it, good old-fashioned email may be able to do the trick instead.
Email is fairly ubiquitous. According to Statista, over 4 billion users worldwide will have email access by the end of 2020. As such, communicating with email may be an excellent option to replace non-essential work-related travel — many vendors and other businesses outside your company should already be set up to communicate via email.
Keep Yourself & Your Employees Safe During Coronavirus
At the end of the day, you’ll need to decide which trips are worth the risk for your business. What counts as an essential trip will vary from business to business and from industry to industry. No matter what, make sure to take proper precautions that can keep you, your employees, their families, and the community-at-large safe during these troubled times.
For more of Merchant Maverick’s continuing coronavirus coverage, visit our small business resource hub for COVID-19.
The post Essential Work Travel: 6 Tips To Stay Safe While Traveling During Coronavirus (& 4 Alternatives To Travel) appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
With the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic spreading throughout the world, travel plans have been impacted for both personal and business travelers alike. For small businesses especially, canceled plans may cause expenses you just can’t afford right now.
If you’ve booked your business travel with a credit card that includes travel insurance, you may be wondering if you can cancel your plans and get some or all of your money back. Unfortunately, credit card travel insurance is often fraught with language that excludes trips canceled “due to fear of getting sick.” This means you may find it difficult to get a full reimbursement if you cancel a trip solely because you don’t want you or your employees exposed to the coronavirus.
However, many airlines are working with customers on flight changes and hotels are being more flexible with their cancellation policies. Most big airlines are waiving flight change fees up through the next month. This means that if you can reschedule your trip (or use your booking for a different trip planned further out), you may be able to avoid eating all the costs.
Let’s dive into the full nitty-gritty below.
Does Trip Interruption Insurance Cover COVID-19?
A number of credit cards offer travel cancellation and trip interruption insurance when you pay for travel with the card. However, whether these travel insurance plans cover the coronavirus is something you’ll have to discover on a case-by-case basis.
Many credit cards exclude epidemics and pandemics from travel insurance coverage. Additionally, you may be out-of-luck if travel providers (such as airlines or hotels) cancel your travel arrangements (be it flights, hotel rooms, or rental cars). Other potential exclusions include situations where a travel provider goes bankrupt and can no longer offer to offer the service you’ve booked. All told, the possibility of your return flight getting canceled or you getting sick probably isn’t enough to induce travel insurance to cover your costs.
However, some credit cards do cover situations where you have been medically advised not to travel, a family member has a life-threatening illness, or you are quarantined by a physician or the government. If you or a travel companion qualifies for one of these cases, you may be eligible to have your costs covered by your credit card’s travel insurance.
To determine whether or not your specific credit card will cover you right now, you should carefully peruse your card’s benefits document. You may still have a paper copy of your benefits that the issuer sent out after you were approved for the card. You can also often access the details of your card’s benefits on your issuer’s online portal.
Something worth noting is that signing up for additional travel insurance may not protect you any better than just plain old credit card insurance does. These more “traditional” travel insurance plans still might contain language that excludes coverage if you cancel over worries about getting sick — unless you sign-up for an expensive “cancel for any reason” plan.
Because providers of credit card insurance seem to be waffling on their coverage, we recommend that you first contact airlines and hotels to see if you can either receive a refund or change your bookings to a different date.
Coronavirus-Specific Travel Policies
Specific travel policies regarding the coronavirus will depend on who you booked travel with and through. In most cases, you’ll find that the travel providers you booked with will be the most likely parties to issue refunds or waive change fees. If that doesn’t work, then you can try reaching out to the provider of your credit card insurance.
Several airlines have provided information regarding flight changes due to the coronavirus:
Air France: Trips booked for before May 31 can be postponed to no later than November 30 without change fees. More information is available via Air France’s press release.
Alaska Airlines: Tickets purchased on or before February 26 for flights between March 9 and April 30 can be changed or canceled without a fee, per Alaska. Canceled flight funds will be credited for future fares.
American Airlines: Change fees are waived for those who book travel through March 31. More information can be found on American Airlines’ coronavirus updates page.
British Airways: Bookings made from March 3 to May 31, as well as existing bookings up to May 31, can have both the destination and date of travel changed for free. More details are available on the British Airways’ website.
Delta Airlines: Any Delta ticket for flights in March or April is rebookable without change fees until December 31. Delta also has a coronavirus updates page.
JetBlue: Those traveling March 10 through April 30 will have change fees waived, according to JetBlue’s travel alerts page. For cancellations, JetBlue will credit the fare amount in the form of travel credit that is valid for one year.
Southwest Airlines: Southwest does not charge customers change or cancellation fees. Airfare from canceled plans can be credited for a future trip up to one year after the original purchase date. Southwest has set up a coronavirus information page.
United Airlines: Flights booked now through March 31 can be changed for free over the next 12 months. Additionally, all tickets issued on or before March 2 with original travel dates between March 9 and April 30 can be changed without a fee. More info can be found on United’s website.
Hotels & Lodging
If you booked with one of these hospitality firms, you may be able to receive some financial relief:
Airbnb: Reservations made on or before March 14 with a check-in date before April 14 can be canceled before check-in without a fee. Hosts can also cancel bookings without a charge or change to their Superhost status. For more information, visit Airbnb’s policy page regarding the coronavirus.
Choice Hotels: For those traveling within the US and Canada, changes or cancellations may be made without a charge up to 24 hours before arrival as long as the change/cancellation is made before April 30. A press release contains more info.
Hilton: All reservations scheduled for arrival before April 30 can be changed or canceled without a fee up to 24 hours before arrival. Hilton has more details, as well as information about the Hilton Honors program, on its website.
Hyatt: Any reservation for arrivals before April 30 can be changed or canceled at no charge up to 24 hours before the scheduled arrival. Hyatt has posted more details on its website.
IHG: Cancellation fees for existing and new bookings up through April 30 have been waived. IHG has updated its travel advisory page for coronavirus information.
Marriott: Cancellations and changes made before April 30 can be done at no charge up to 24 hours before the scheduled arrival date. Marriott’s press release has more info.
Here’s a quick rundown of what a few of the bigger credit card companies are doing for travelers:
American Express: Amex has created a coronavirus hub for travel customers. For bookings made through American Express Travel, Amex will be honoring their travel partners policies and plans to waive fees on flight modifications or new bookings made through April 30. American Express further offers a FAQs page for trip cancellation/interruption insurance regarding the coronavirus and its credit cards.
Capital One: A FAQs page covering travel insurance and the coronavirus is up on Capital One’s website. Capital One advises customers to contact Visa or Mastercard directly with questions regarding travel insurance. For trip changes, Capital One recommends reaching out to the travel providers you booked with.
Chase: Chase suggests reaching out to travel partners, according to a support page on its website. Otherwise, Chase recommends that cardmembers check their benefit details or to reach out to Chase’s customer service with questions.
Other Ways To Get Your Money Back
Unfortunately, it may be difficult to trigger your travel insurance unless you get sick or are ordered to otherwise stay home by a doctor or the government. And because airlines aren’t simply offering free refunds, you may wind up being on the hook for travel costs. However, airlines are relaxing their change policies. This means that if you can change your plans to a later date or if you can change your flights for a different trip down the line, you may be able to soften the financial blow to your business.
If you find yourself unable to cover travel costs right now, you may be eligible to apply for a line of credit. Other financial help can be found via SBA disaster loans or emergency business loans. To save money elsewhere, look at what your credit card issuer is doing to work with those struggling to make credit card payments due to the coronavirus.
For more small business guides covering the coronavirus pandemic, check out Merchant Maverick’s hub.
For all general coronavirus information, we suggest visiting the CDC website.
The post When & How To Get Your Money Back If You Cancel Business Travel Because Of The Coronavirus appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Credit card companies across the board have been stepping up their rewards game recently, but one program has consistently come out near the top. That program is — as you can probably guess by the title of this article — Chase Ultimate Rewards.
With a plethora of redemption options — and bonus rates for travel redemption — Chase Ultimate Rewards makes a great case for being one of (if not the) best rewards program on the market. Most business users shouldn’t have difficulty utilizing the points they earn with one of Chase’s credit cards.
So how does Chase Ultimate Rewards work? We’ll take a peek into the nitty-gritty below, so read on through to find out!
Chase Ultimate Rewards Basics
There’s not really too much to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. It’s basically just Chase’s way of marketing credit card rewards. The program enables card users to earn reward points with purchases and then redeem those points for a variety of options. Note that even Chase’s cash back cards earn points usable through Chase Ultimate Rewards — these types of cards are merely marketed as “cash back” earners.
By signing up for a credit card that’s a part of Chase Ultimate Rewards, you’ll be able to access a slew of ways to redeem the points you earn with your card. From travel to cash back to Amazon purchases, there should certainly be a redemption method to suit your fancy.
Chase Ultimate Rewards has been around for over a decade — the New York City-based bank launched the program way back in 2009. Originally kicked off with just two credit cards, Chase Ultimate Rewards now basically touches the entire stable of Chase’s first-party cards.
What Is The Point Value For A Chase Ultimate Reward Point?
The exact point value for points obtained within the Chase Ultimate Rewards program will vary on how you redeem them. However, the general value will range from 1 to 1.5 cents per point.
Let’s take a deeper look at what you can earn through Chase Ultimate Rewards based on the redemption method:
Travel: Depending on the credit card you have, your points value can equal anywhere from 1 cent to 1.5 cents on travel redemption.
Gift cards: Gift cards picked up through Chase Ultimate Rewards usually earn 1 cent per point. In some cases, however, you may be able to collect gift cards at a slightly better rate.
Cash Back: When you redeem your points as cash back in the form of direct deposit or statement credit, you’ll receive 1 cent per point.
Experiences: Should you book an experience through Chase Ultimate Rewards, the marketed cash value normally equals 1 cent per point. Note, however, that Chase sets the value for these experiences, so the true value of booking experiences with points may be difficult to calculate.
Apple Purchases: Buying Apple products through Chase Ultimate Rewards will net you 1 cent per point.
Amazon Purchases: Using your Chase Ultimate Rewards points at checkout on Amazon.com will earn a fairly unimpressive 0.8 cents per point.
Additionally, if you transfer your points to a travel partner outside of Chase Ultimate Rewards, you may be able to redeem points for multiple cents per point.
Is Chase Ultimate Rewards Different For Businesses?
While Chase credit cards marketed towards businesses may earn points at different rates than their consumer counterparts, Chase Ultimate Rewards itself doesn’t really function differently for businesses. You’ll still be able to use the points you picked up with a business credit card for travel, gift cards, cash back, and retail purchases. Transfer of points to partner programs outside of Chase Ultimate Rewards is also possible for business users.
Instead, the primary difference is how fast you collect points and on what purchase categories earn you those bonus points. For instance, the Ink Business Preferred credit card can snag 3 points per dollar spent on shipping purchases. That purchase category is unique to Chase business cards — it’s not possible to specifically earn bonus points by using a Chase consumer card for shipping purchases.
When looking at the benefits outside of Chase Ultimate Rewards, you may notice other differences between Chase’s consumer and business credit cards. This might include stuff like employee cards or cell phone protection — two benefits exclusive to cards within Chase’s business card stable. However, these differences come via the cards’ benefits packages and not from Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Credit Cards Eligible For Chase Ultimate Rewards
Chase has a number of first-party credit cards that dole out points for Chase Ultimate Rewards. To start down this journey, let’s look at Chase’s business-specific cards first.
Ink Business Unlimited
Chase’s unlimited cash back credit card for business use is the Ink Business Unlimited card. With an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, you’ll be earning rewards at a fine clip.
While the card is marketed as a “cash back” credit card, you technically earn 1.5 points for every dollar you spent. Because of this, rewards earned with an Ink Business Unlimited card can be redeemed for the gamut of Chase Ultimate Rewards methods. This includes cash back, gift cards, and travel.
Beyond its base rewards scheme, Ink Business Unlimited features no annual fee and a slew of benefits aimed at businesses, such as free employee cards and an auto rental damage collision waiver.
For more information, read our review.
Ink Business Cash
The second cash back business credit card on offer from Chase is the Ink Business Cash card. You can collect 5% cash back at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone services on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases every account anniversary year. Plus there’s an additional 2% back on gas station and restaurant purchases (also with a $25,000 annual cap).
Just like Chase’s other cash back business card, Ink Business Cash technically gathers its cash back in the form of points. As such, you can redeem your rewards for cash back, gifts cards, travel, etc. through Chase Ultimate Rewards’s portal.
For benefits outside of rewards, Ink Business Cash has no annual fee, employee cards at no additional cost, and an auto rental damage collision waiver.
To take a deeper dive, check out the Merchant Maverick review.
Ink Business Preferred
Savvy business travelers may like Ink Business Preferred. That’s because this card dishes out 3 points per dollar spent on travel (as well as shipping, internet/cable/phone services, and select internet advertising). On top of that 3x bonus rate, points are worth 25% more when you book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Besides travel, you can redeem points for Chase Ultimate Rewards’s other methods. However, booking for travel will likely be the most economical choice. There’s also the option to transfer points to one of Chase’s travel partners on a 1:1 basis — this may see you saving even more money than just cashing in for the 25% bonus rate.
Ink Business Preferred also has no foreign transaction fee, as well as cell phone protection and free employee cards. Note, however, that all these perks come at a cost — Chase requires a $95 annual fee to use the card.
If you’re curious to learn more, our in-depth review has you covered.
Beyond business credit cards, there are plenty of consumer cards that are eligible for Chase Ultimate Rewards. Even though you might be looking at a credit card for your business, a consumer card might work for you. Here are the first-party consumer credit cards that work with Chase Ultimate Rewards:
Freedom (5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter)
Freedom Unlimited (unlimited 1.5% cash back)
Sapphire Preferred (2X points on travel and at restaurants; points worth 25% more when redeemed for travel)
Sapphire Reserve (3X points on travel and at restaurants; points worth 50% more when redeemed for travel)
Chase’s other, co-branded cards with hotels and airlines don’t use Chase Ultimate Rewards. To see the full list of Chase credit cards, check out our deep dive into Chase’s cards.
How To Earn Rewards
The simplest and most obvious way to earn rewards for Chase Ultimate Rewards is by spending money with your Chase credit card. Depending on the credit card you have, you can earn between 1 and 5 points for every dollar spent. Chase’s cash back cards will also earn points despite the “cash back” moniker.
Additionally, all of Chase’s Ink Business credit cards currently earn 5 points per dollar spent on Lyft rides. This limited-time partnership between Chase and Lyft runs through to March 2022. Chase’s array of first-party consumer credit cards can also take advantage of this partnership — the Sapphire Reserve card takes the cake here by earning a whopping 10x points on Lyft rides (the other three Chase consumer cards collect at the same 5 points per dollar rate as the business cards).
Beyond spending cash, there is at least one other way business users can earn rewards to redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. If you already have an Ink Business Unlimited or Preferred credit card, you can refer your card to up to five other businesses per year. You’ll collect the equivalent of $150 per referral sign-up if you have the Unlimited card (so up to $750 per year) or 20,000 points per referral if you have the Preferred card.
It’s worth noting that the referral program is also available for those with Chase’s Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, and Sapphire Preferred consumer cards. If you have one of these cards, each friend referred to the card will net you either $100 cash back (with the Freedom cards) or 15,000 bonus points (with the Sapphire Preferred). You can earn up to $500 cash back (with the Freedom cards) or 75,000 points (with the Sapphire Preferred) annually with this method.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Redemption Options
There are plenty of ways to use your points on Chase Ultimate Rewards. Let’s take a deeper look below.
The most marketed way to utilize Chase Ultimate Rewards is by booking travel. Trip booking options include airfare, hotels, and car rentals.
Chase has partnered with travel booking site Expedia since 2018 to run the back-end of Chase Ultimate Rewards’s travel service. As such, you should generally see similar prices when comparing Chase Ultimate Rewards and Expedia.
If you have a cash back card through Chase, booking travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards offers the standard 1 point equaling 1 cent. Points cards are where things get interesting. Both Ink Business Preferred and Sapphire Preferred users will snag 25% more value out their points when redeeming points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Chase’s premier consumer card, the Sapphire Reserve, garners a whopping 50% more value.
While booking travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards can be convenient and may save a bit of cash, a major drawback is the fact that you won’t be booking directly with airlines or hotels. This means that if something goes awry with your trip, you’ll need to contact Chase. Chase will then reach out to customer service on your behalf, potentially costing you time and giving you a headache.
If you’d like your points to go to something outside of travel, Chase provides the option to redeem points for gift cards. At the time of writing, Chase advertises that Ultimate Rewards offers “over 195 gift cards” from various brands.
Generally speaking, 1 point equals 1 cent when redeemed for a gift card. However, Chase will occasionally run “sales” on cards from specific brands. For instance, you might be able to get a Lowe’s gift card for 5% off or a Jiffy Lube one for 10% off.
Unless you are snagging a gift card during a sale, getting gift cards through Chase Ultimate Rewards may not be the most economical way to use your points.
The simplest Chase Ultimate Rewards method is to redeem your points for cash back. If you go this route, you have the option to deposit the cash directly into your bank account or receive statement credit. Cash back usually takes three days before being posted to your account.
No matter the Chase credit card, a single point is worth 1 cent. This means that Chase Ultimate Rewards’s cash back isn’t spectacular — however, it does allow you to use your rewards more freely than if you redeemed them for travel or gift cards.
Another redemption method Chase includes with its Ultimate Rewards program is “experiences.” Here you can use your points to book “experiences” from a selection of options, including fine dining, sports games, and music concerts.
During writing (in February — some of these events are seasonal), example experiences redeemable through Chase Ultimate Rewards included:
Ski lift tickets in California, Colorado, Utah, and Vermont
Tickets to professional sporting events, including basketball, hockey, and golf
High-class dining experiences
In general, these experiences were valued at 1 point equaling 1 cent. However, because Chase sets the “cash value” for each experience, it may be difficult to gauge the true value when redeeming points for experiences.
As far as total value, some packages are as cheap as 13,000 points for a Squaw Valley lift ticket. Others are vastly more expensive: two Saturday-Sunday tickets to the 2020 PGA Championship with access to Chase’s hospitality chalet and three nights at a hotel will run you a cool 265,000 points.
Note that because most available experiences are situated in large cities, you’ll want to live near a highly populated place or be traveling in one to take full advantage of this Chase Ultimate Rewards perk. Card members who live in rural Alaska, for example, may have difficulty finding a local experience to take advantage of.
If you like Apple products, Chase has partnered with the tech company to allow you to pay for all or part of an Apple purchase. To use your points this way, you’ll need to make your purchase through an Apple-branded online store accessed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
While this method does make it easier to buy the latest iPhone or AirPods, you won’t be saving anything extra here: 1 point is worth the standard 1 cent when redeemed for Apple products.
By far the measliest way to redeem your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards is on Amazon purchases. After you link your Amazon account with your card, you’ll be all set to use your rewards at checkout on Amazon.com. However, keep in mind that points redeemed for Amazon purchases are only worth 0.8 cents. As such, we can’t really recommend redeeming points in this way.
If you want to maximize your Amazon rewards and you also want to sign up for a card through Chase, it may be worth going with the bank’s co-branded Amazon credit card. This card, which can earn up to 5% cash back on Amazon purchases, features a rewards scheme that allows you to use rewards at checkout on Amazon.com. Note, however, that rewards obtained through Chase’s Amazon card don’t earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
We’ll go into more depth below, but if one of Chase’s own redemption methods don’t suit your fancy, you can transfer your points out to one of 13 travel partners. These travel partners include both airline and hotel loyalty programs and can be one of the more lucrative ways to use your points.
Additionally, you can transfer points between multiple Chase accounts if you have several credit cards. Consolidating points can be a great way to save a bit extra cash when booking travel or if you’re planning to close a card.
Chase Transfer Partners & Best Ways To Transfer
With 13 different transfer partners, Chase has a nice array of loyalty programs where you can transfer your points on a 1:1 basis. These partner programs include both airlines and hotels.
At the time of writing, Chase’s airline partners are:
Aer Lingus AerClub
British Airways Executive Club
Flying Blue Air France/KLM
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
For hotel loyalty programs, Chase is partnered with:
IHG Rewards Club
World of Hyatt
Because your Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to these loyalty programs on a 1:1 basis, the value of your points will vary depending on where you transfer your points to.
Determining the best loyalty programs to transfer to will often depend on your situation. Generally, however, World of Hyatt delivers the best bang for the buck when it comes to hotels — free nights start low as 5,000 points. For flights, check out British Airlines — its trans-Atlantic flights can be had for as little as 9,000 Avios (what British Airlines calls its points). Air France/KLM’s Flying Blue program can also be a great deal if you snag a monthly promo.
The Best Ways To Use Chase Points
All told, if you have a rewards credit card from Chase, you’ll likely find that redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards points for travel (either through Chase’s own booking portal or by transferring out to a partner program) will stretch their value the furthest. This makes Chase’s point cards great options for businesses that require frequent voyages.
If you have one of Chase’s cash back cards, it’s hard to go wrong with redeeming points through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Most methods output rewards at 1 cent per point value. This means that you can be flexible by redeeming your rewards just the way you want to.
This flexibility is probably one of Chase Ultimate Rewards’s strongest attributes and it helps make the program one of the best out there. Whether you are transferring points to one of Chase’s travel partners or redeeming points for the exact gift card you want, Chase gives you the freedom to choose — that’s pretty hard to beat.
The post Everything You Need To Know To Earn & Maximize Your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
It’s not easy for business travelers to spend time away from home. Between the tedium of waiting around at airports and the discomfort of sleeping in new beds, business travel can be a grueling grind. One way you can help to ease the grind a bit is by deciding on a primary hotel rewards program.
Also known as loyalty programs, these programs can help you rack up points while taking advantage of extra perks. It’s honestly hard to see why a frequent business traveler would pass on signing up for a hotel rewards program — you’ll get free nights, access to free Wi-Fi, and more. And best of all, these rewards programs are free to join.
So which program might be best for you? Keep on reading for the low-down on what’s out there!
Hotel Rewards Programs: The Basics
Hotel rewards programs offer you the chance to save money while traveling. Every time you book a room at a hotel, you’ll receive a set number of points (usually around 10 points for every dollar spent). Once you’ve earned enough rewards, you can cash them in for free nights, room upgrades, and more. Additionally, by joining a loyalty program, you’ll be set to receive perks like free Wi-Fi- or late check-out — no points required.
In some cases, you may be able to earn even more rewards by signing up for a credit card that a particular hotel brand offers. These cards will usually shoot you to the highest level of points earning within that particular brand’s rewards scheme. These cards are of the personal variety in most cases, but there are a few business-specific cards floating around too.
On the flip side, however, these rewards programs can tie you down to a set of hotel brands. This means you might ultimately spend more money instead of just searching for the best deal. Plus, if you’re set on earning points from one set of brands, you may find yourself needing to be less flexible when it comes to hotel location.
All that said, smart usage of hotel rewards programs can indeed help business travelers save a bit of cash when used smartly. As such, those who require frequent travel may want to focus on joining a hotel rewards program to eke out that extra cash where possible.
Popular Hotel Rewards Programs For Business Travelers
Your favorite hotel brand probably offers its own set of rewards or is part of a rewards network alongside other hospitality brands. Here’s a look at a few of the most popular hotel loyalty programs and how they might stack up for business use:
IHG Rewards Club
InterContinental Hotels Group’s Rewards Club covers over 5,000 hotels throughout 100-plus countries. Its network of hotels includes Holiday Inn, InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Regent, and Hualuxe.
Points are generally obtained at the rate of 10 points per dollar spent on hotels within the IHG network. Those who reach IHG Reward Club’s top bracket (achieved by booking 75 nights or earning 75,000 points) can earn 20 points per dollar. Miles can also be earned for an array of airline partners. Booking a table via OpenTable or ordering from Grubhub through IHG can also pick up points for you. Points can additionally be bought with cold hard cash, which may make sense if IHG is running a sale on points.
Savvy travelers might also be able to save more with the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card through Chase. While this is a personal card, business users can still take advantage of the card’s 25x points rate. It’s also worth noting that IHG is a transfer partner with Chase — this means that if you have a Chase Ultimate Rewards-eligible card, you can transfer points to your IHG Rewards Club account on a 1:1 basis.
Once you have points in hand, they can be redeemed for hotel stays and airfare with over 40 airlines. Free nights start at 10,000 points and go up from there depending on the brand and location. You can also use your points for items from a variety of brands. Note, however, that if you fail you stay at an IHG network hotel over the course of 12 months, your points will expire.
Choice Privileges is a global rewards programs for hotels under the umbrella of Choice Hotels. Its network of budget brands includes Cambria Hotels, Comfort Inn & Suites, Econo Lodge, Sleep Inn, and Quality Inn. This network reaches 7,000 locations worldwide, with hotels in over 40 countries throughout North and South America, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, and Europe.
You’ll start off earning a base 10 points for every dollar you spend at eligible properties. After 40 nights at Choice properties, you can qualify for the program’s top rewards bracket, Diamond, and earn 15 points for every dollar spent. Points can additionally be earned for golf purchases, travel bookings through Bluegreen Vacations, and car rentals through Avis and Budget.
The Choice Privileges Signature Visa Card (offered in conjunction with Barclays) can stretch your savings even further. Signing up for the card will automatically boost your earning rate to Diamond status and there are various bonuses to earn even more. However, note that Choice Privileges only offers a personal credit card and not a business-specific one.
Points obtained through Choice Privileges can be cashed in for free nights, resort bookings, vacation rentals, gift cards, and trips with various travel partners. Choice Privileges’ list of travel partners includes Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and Amtrak. Points can further be used for purchasing golf gear or booking cruises. Free nights at eligible Choice hotels start at 8,000 points. You’ll want to keep in mind that Choice Privilege points expire after 18 months of account inactivity.
With over 7,000 hotels to choose from across the U.S., Canada, Asia, and Europe, Marriott Bonvoy is a solid rewards program with fairly strong coverage. The program includes the 30 different hospitality brands owned by Marriott International, including The Ritz-Carlton, Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Renaissance Hotels, and Courtyard.
Marriott Bonvoy users will be able to enjoy 10 points per dollar spent at eligible hotels. The highest two tiers (Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite) both earn an extra 75% on points. Besides staying at hotels, points also can be picked up through air travel or by booking travel “activities” through Marriott’s own portal.
Business travelers who frequent Marriott properties may want to look into the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card. This credit card will dole out 6 points per dollar on Marriott purchases (plus 4 on restaurants and 2 everywhere else). You can also take advantage of employee cards and one free night award every account anniversary.
After you’ve banked up points, you can use them on free nights, for partially paying for a stay, for booking travel with over 250 airlines and rental car companies, or for snagging travel packages. You can book free nights at eligible Marriott International properties for as little as 5,000 a night — plus there are no blackout dates on when you can book. Marriott Bonvoy points do expire, but not until after two years of account inactivity.
World of Hyatt
While World of Hyatt packs a punch with an excellent rewards program, it lacks the coverage other brands might have. There are fewer than 1,000 properties worldwide under the Hyatt umbrella. However, most U.S. travelers shouldn’t find difficulty — many of Hyatt’s hotels are located in the country’s biggest cities. Brands included in the Hyatt network include Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Joie de Vivre, Andaz, and Alila Hotels and Resorts.
World of Hyatt dishes out 5 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at Hyatt hotels. The highest membership tier, Globalist, collects an extra 30% on top of those 5 points. You can obtain Globalist status by spending 60 nights in Hyatt hotels, earning 100,000 points, or attending 20 qualifying meetings/events at Hyatt properties.
There is no business credit card for World Hyatt, but there is the World of Hyatt Credit Card. This card, co-offered with Chase, delivers 4 bonus points for every dollar spent at all Hyatt hotels (plus 2 points per dollar on dining, airfare, local transit, and gym memberships). Every cardholder will receive one free night annually, plus the opportunity to earn a second free night by spending $15,000 on the card in an anniversary year.
World of Hyatt has one of the most valuable points redemption rates around — some estimate that a point in this program is worth almost 2 cents a pop. You can use your World of Hyatt points on free nights, dining/spa experiences, fitness classes, trips, air travel, and car rentals. Free nights start at 5,000 points. Your points will expire after account inactivity of two years.
Its 9,000 properties worldwide mean that Wyndham Rewards is one of the furthest-reaching rewards programs on the planet. Available locations cover the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Among Wyndham Rewards’ brands are Wyndham Grand, Dolce Hotels and Resorts, La Quinta, Ramada, and Days Inn.
With Wyndham Rewards, you’ll net 10 points per dollar or 1,000 points per stay — whichever is higher. The top membership level, Diamond, nets 20% more rewards (you can reach that status after 40 stays at Wyndham properties). Wyndham enables other rewards-earning methods, such as shopping, gas from Marathon Gas stations, tours/activities, DoorDash purchases, and car rentals through Avis and Budget. You can also purchase points in increments of 1,000.
For credit cards, you can apply for either of the Wyndham Rewards Signature Visa cards. Offered in conjunction with Barclays, these two cards grant 5 points (for the annual fee version) or 3 points (for the no annual fee version) per dollar spent at Wyndham properties. These cards also feature welcome offers that will dish out enough points for free nights. Note that both these cards are of the personal variety; Wyndham offers no business credit card.
Points earned for Wyndham Rewards can be redeemed for free nights (starting at 7,500 points), shopping, tours/activities, gas, gift cards, and charitable donations. You can also transfer points to one of Wyndham’s travel partners (including American Airlines AAdvantage Miles, United MileagePlus Miles, Frontier Miles, and Amtrak Guest Rewards Points) or to Caesars Rewards to take advantage of casino-focused rewards. Those who own Wyndham vacation properties can also transfer points to pay for maintenance and exchange fees. Wyndham Rewards points have a long shelf life — they won’t expire until four years after they are posted to your account.
Other Hotel Rewards Programs
There are a few other programs worth mentioning, but just didn’t make the cut the above:
Best Western Rewards: With a decent rewards rate and points that won’t ever expire, Best Western Rewards is a solid loyalty program. There are also a couple of Best Western co-branded (non-business) credit cards on offer, too.
Hilton Honors: Hilton is one of the largest hotel chains in the world, with over 4,000 locations globally. However, the Honors program has one of the lowest points values around; by some estimates, Hilton Honors points equal less than 0.5 cents per point. Hilton Honors does have a business credit card that can help stretch your rewards value further, however.
Radisson Rewards: With over 1,000 properties eligible, Radisson Rewards might be an excellent option. As their hotels are primarily located in the U.S. and Europe, those who frequently hop across the pond for business may find Radisson to be their best option.
Choosing The Best Hotel Rewards Program For Business Travel
Ultimately, there’s no one way to pick a rewards program. The program that works best for you will depend on where you travel to, which brands best suit your price point, and whether or not you can take advantage of credit card perks. But by utilizing a hotel rewards program smartly, you’ll be well on your way to softening the business travel grind.
The post Save Money On Travel Expenses By Finding The Best Hotel Rewards Program For Business Travelers appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
From purchasing office supplies to taking staff out for dinner or traveling to events, nonprofit organizations have plenty of reasons to sign up for a credit card. And, because a nonprofit is technically a business, it may make sense to apply for a business-specific credit card. Consumer cards can work, if you use them correctly, but business credit cards usually offer rewards and benefits that better suit professional organizations.
There are also credit cards out there designed specifically for nonprofits. Depending on your location and your organization’s situation, you may find that one of these credit cards will actually work better for you than a business-centric card.
Curious to find out what’s out there in the world of credit cards for nonprofits? Take a peek below to find out which business credit card might work best for your nonprofit organization.
Best Credit Cards Designed For Nonprofits
While they may not be the most common type of credit cards, cards built for nonprofits do exist. The most notable thing about these cards is that they require no personal guarantee from applicants. This means that the card issuers won’t look into the personal credit history of individuals listed on the application; instead, they’ll simply consider the organization’s financial records. Let’s take a deeper look at a few credit cards designed from the get-go for nonprofits:
Charity Charge Nonprofit Business Card
Charity Charge is an issuer dedicated to helping nonprofits thrive. Besides its nonprofit business credit card, Charity Charge offers other cards that automatically donate cash back to a nonprofit of the user’s choice.
This co-branded Mastercard, meanwhile, was designed from the ground up for nonprofits to spend with. First appearing in the summer of 2019, the Charity Charge Nonprofit Business Card could make a solid option for your organization. There simply aren’t many credit cards dedicated to working for nonprofits — and certainly none of the others come from a company built around giving back to such organizations.
Besides requiring no personal guarantor, this card will generate 1% cash back on all of your purchases as an automatic rebate to your monthly statement. Going beyond rewards, Charity Charge promises online expense reporting and card management, dedicated customer service, and fraud protection. Charity Charge also markets this card to schools and associations.
U.S. Bank Community Card
In partnership with Mastercard, U.S. Bank offers its community card for nonprofit organizations. With this card, you’ll be able to apply without needing a personal guarantee. U.S. Bank also offers an online tool to analyze your organization’s spending. Plus, employees can get their own cards for free.
When it comes to rewards, you have two options. You can either pay $99 per year and gain access to 1% cash back on all purchases. Or you can choose to pay no annual fee — but you also eschew rewards. It’s also worth noting that going the annual fee route opens up the possibility to earn points for taking credit card payments and making purchases with U.S. Bank’s Encore Relationship Rewards program.
Unfortunately, you’ll need to live near a U.S. Bank location because you must apply in person for this credit card. While the bank operates in over half the states in the U.S., if you don’t live in Ohio or further west, there probably isn’t a U.S. Bank near you.
Visa CommUNITY Card
Introduced by Visa several years ago, the Visa CommUNITY Card is available at local banks and community credit unions throughout the country.
Because this card is issued through various banks, the exact terms may vary from location to location. You’ll generally be able to earn rewards for this card (usually either 1% cash back or 1 point per $1 spent) and the annual fee is low ($99 per year) or nonexistent. You’ll also be able to access high credit lines. Like the above two cards, no personal guarantee should be required when applying.
You’ll likely need to apply in person for a Visa CommUNITY Card. Several banks and credit unions issue this card, so you might be able to find a location near you. Issuers include:
Bangor Savings Bank (Maine and New Hampshire)
Beacon Credit Union (Indiana)
First County Bank (Connecticut)
Fulton Bank (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia)
PCSB Bank (New York)
Shelby State Bank (Michigan)
South State Bank (Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia)
Sunrise Banks (Minnesota)
United Community Bank (Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee)
There are also a number of other banks that offer a Visa CommUNITY Card, so be sure to call around locally if none of the above financial institutions are near you.
Best Business Credit Cards For Nonprofits
Unfortunately, it’s pretty slim pickings when it comes to credit cards designed specifically with nonprofits in mind. Because of this, you may find it better to apply for a business credit card that offers a set of rewards, benefits, interest rates, etc. that best suit your organization. Here are a few of our favorite business credit card picks for nonprofits:
Best For No annual fee
SparkÂ® Cash Select From Capital OneÂ®
Required Credit: Excellent
Welcome Offer: $200 cash back if you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months after opening your account
Intro Purchase APR: 0% APR for 9 months
Intro Balance Transfer APR: N/A
Foreign Transaction Fee: 0%
Unlimited 1.5% cash back
Zero fraud liability if your card is lost or stolen. Plus, get automatic fraud alerts via text, email, or phone call.
More card details (click to expand)
No one likes an annual fee. While paying a yearly charge is often a requirement of some higher-tier credit cards, there are a few solid options without one. SparkÂ® Cash Select from Capital OneÂ® is one such option.
The Spark Cash Select card features a strong 1.5% cash back on all purchases. What’s most impressive about that rewards rate is that there’s no cap on how much you can earn. You’ll also be able to take advantage of a 0% introductory APR rate for your first nine months, free employee cards, and a welcome offer worth $200. The card also includes other standard credit card perks like extended warranty and fraud protection.
Best 0% APR introductory period
Blue Business Cashâ¢ Card from American Express
14.74% – 20.74% (variable)
Required Credit: Good
Welcome Offer: None
Intro Purchase APR: 0% APR for 12 months
Intro Balance Transfer APR: 0% APR for 12 months
Foreign Transaction Fee: 2.7%
2% cash back on all eligible purchases on up to $50,000 per calendar year, then 1%
Spend beyond your credit limit with Expanded Buying Power (Just remember, the amount you can spend above your credit limit is not unlimited. It adjusts with your use of the Card, your payment history, credit record, financial resources known to us and other factors.)
More card details (click to expand)
If you know you’ll be carrying a balance right off the bat, going with a credit card that has an introductory rate period could be a great possibility. When a card has an intro rate period you won’t have to pay interest until the period is up. The Blue Business Cashâ¢ Card from American Express has one of the longest intro rate periods for business credit cards at 0% APR for the first 12 months.
Outside the 0% intro rate, you’ll be able to nab 2% cash back on the first $50,000 you spend every calendar year (the cash back rate drops to 1% after passing the $50,000 threshold). There’s also no annual fee and Amex allows you to spend above your credit limit. Otherwise, standard credit card features come along for the ride, such as extended warranty and purchase protection.
Best For Travel
Chase Ink Business Preferredâ
17.49% â 22.49% (variable)
Required Credit: Excellent
Welcome Offer: 80,000 points if you spend at least $5,000 within the first three months of opening your account
Intro Purchase APR: N/A
Intro Balance Transfer APR: N/A
Foreign Transaction Fee: None
3 points per $1 spent on the first $150,000 in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, internet/cable/phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media and search engines each account anniversary year
1 point per $1 on all other purchases
Points are worth 25% more if redeemed for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards
More card details (click to expand)
Should your organization require frequent travel, finding a credit card with travel rewards and perks may be wise. One of the most well-rounded travel cards on the market is Chase Ink Business Preferredâ .
This card has a nifty rewards scheme — you’ll net 3 points per dollar spent on travel, shipping, internet/phone/cable services, and advertising. You can then redeem those points for 25% more when booking travel through Chase’s own online portal or you can transfer them on a 1:1 basis to an array of travel partners. In terms of perks, Ink Business Preferred promises trip insurance, extended warranty, and cell phone protection.
Best For Low Credit Users
SparkÂ® Classic from Capital OneÂ®
Required Credit: Fair
Welcome Offer: None
Intro Purchase APR: N/A
Intro Balance Transfer APR: N/A
Foreign Transaction Fee: None
Unlimited 1% cash back
Zero fraud liability if your card is lost or stolen. Plus, get automatic fraud alerts via text, email, or phone call.
More card details (click to expand)
If you or your organization lacks a strong credit history — or doesn’t have one at all — the SparkÂ® Classic Card from Capital OneÂ® might work best for you. Designed for credit-building users, this card can help you strengthen your credit — allowing you to eventually graduate to a better credit card down the line.
Even though Spark Classic was constructed for those with weaker credit, it still comes with some decent perks. Its 1% cash back will see you earning rewards at a nice clip. Beyond that, the card comes with other standard benefits like free employee cards, no foreign transaction fee, and extended warranty.
Didnât Find What Youâre Looking For? Check Out Our Other Resources For Nonprofit Organizations
If a credit card isn’t the next step for your organization, Merchant Maverick has a few more tools that can lend a hand. In case you’re curious about the difficulties nonprofits face when it comes to financing, check out our guide to loans for nonprofits. Organizations in need of a grant may find our in-depth article on grants helpful. Or, if you’d like to try raising funds with a more modern approach, read up on crowdfunding for nonprofits.
The post The 7 Best Business Credit Cards For Your Nonprofit Organization appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
So you’re creating a dental website, and you’re looking for dental website design examples for inspiration and guidance. You’re also wondering which website platform is best to use for your website.
But before we dive into examples of what professional personal websites look like in the wild on a variety of website builders and hosting platforms, there is one thing to keep in mind when you’re evaluating a website: it’s not just about how the websites look. The functionality matters too.
Think of it like buying a car. You have a make / model in mind, and you’re probably looking to see them drive by on the road to see how they actually look. However, you also care about how they operate. Does it accelerate well? Does it have the hauling capabilities you need? How is the gas mileage?
Looking at a dental website examples should be done in the same way.
Do you want the website to have appointment scheduling functionality? Do you want a patient portal? This functionality needs to be consider before you start choosing a website builder + hosting platform.
Find The Right Website Builder for Your Dental Website
We collected the following website examples not just to show you how they look on different platforms, but how they can function, so you can be sure you create a website that fits both the look and functionality you need!
Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional judgement as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.
Best Dental Website Examples
We’ve pulled these examples based on functionality, design, and usability. Again, when you’re looking to build a dental website, remember that you’re not just thinking about making the site look good. You want to think about what your site actually needs to do, and find a platform that supports all of your needs.
Ponce Dental Group
This dental website by Ponce Dental Group has all of the bells and whistles. You can book an appointment, manage your appointments, and learn about payment plans and insurance all from the homepage. And yet even with all of this information, the layout is still clean and information is easy to find.
If you’re looking for a website layout that allows you to have multiple calls to action without overwhelming visitors or making the site difficult to navigate, this dental website example is a great one to use for inspiration.
Bay Area Dental Surgery
Software: Weebly (Weebly Review)
Hosting: Weebly (Weebly Review)
On the other side of the spectrum is this dental website by Bay Area Dental Surgery Center. We liked the simplicity of this website, with the clear header and subhead that tells you exactly what this dentist does and who they help, and the cartoon graphic that adds an element of creativity and branding to the site.
This example just goes to show that a simple, straightforward layout can still be incredibly effective for your dental website. You don’t necessarily need something with tons of advanced functionality or even advanced branding!
If you’re looking for a good dental website example that includes a simple template that you can just plug your content into and get going, this is a great one to reference.
Grace & Leedy
Software: Squarespace (Squarespace Review)
Hosting: Squarespace (Squarespace Review)
This dental website example stands out for a few key reasons. First, notice how clear the navigation is on the homepage. As soon as you land on the website, your focus is drawn to the options of where to go next. It’s straightforward and makes choosing a next step simple.
We also liked the download functionality on the Form page.
The clear instructions and bright call-to-action buttons make it easy for visitors to see exactly what they need to do, and including the forms on the website not only enhances new patients’ experience online… but in person, too! No more filling out endless forms in the waiting room!
This site is another great example of a simple template that makes the most out of the design and functionality to give visitors a great user experience.
Dr. James Catt DMD
Software: Self-Hosted WordPress
Hosting: Codero + Linode
This dentist website example stood out to us for a few key reasons — the first of which being the color palette! Notice how the buttons, logo, and even header image all have the same color scheme. It makes the design look sophisticated, even though the layout is fairly straightforward.
Next, we also liked how Dr. James used focus landing pages to expand on each of his services:
This is a great way to make more detailed services pages that also provide valuable information for potential clients who may be doing research on dental procedures before deciding to move forward with them.
St. Lawrence Dental
Software: Wix (Wix Review)
Hosting: Wix (Wix Review)
Have you ever gone to a website to try to find logistical information (like operating hours and contact information) and had to dig for it? How frustrating is that?
This dental website does a great job of keeping key logistical information in clear view. Notice how the operating hours, telephone number, and “request an appointment” button are all grouped together in the top right corner of the homepage. This gives visitors all of the information they need when booking an appointment, without them having to dig around the site to see when the clinic is open, how to call, or where to request an appointment.
Atlanta Dental Spa
Software: Self-Hosted WordPress
Hosting: Google Cloud / Google
This website for Atlanta Dental Spa is another strong dental website example that hits all of the marks. The layout is clean and sophisticated, and although the site has a lot of content (including before / afters), it’s organized in a way that’s easy to navigate.
We particularly liked the Messenger functionality Atlanta Dental Spa includes, which allows you to chat with them on Facebook Messenger directly from their website.
If you’re looking for an overall example to use for inspiration for your dental website, check this one out!
Now that you have some inspiration in terms of the design, colors, and functionality you may want in your dental website, where do you go from here?
Well, it really depends on where you are in your dental website building journey!
If you’re ready to decide on a website builder, check out my guide to choosing a website builder here.
Lastly, if you’re wondering how to market your dental website, check out my guide to creating a local marketing strategy.
The post 6+ Best Dental Website Examples for Inspiration appeared first on ShivarWeb.
ShivarWeb has a lot of DIYers and freelancers not living in the biggest, richest cities of the world. In fact, I originally started this business in Athens, Georgia, USA – not in larger Atlanta. As a fun post, I thought I’d dig into some data for my non-metro area readers.
The benefits of big metro areas for new businesses are well-known, but so are the costs in money, time, and health. In the era of remote work, you can get a lot of the benefits of the city anywhere with an Internet connection, except one – being physically around other new business-owners.
With that in mind, I decided to look at the Census Bureau’s data on cities to see if there were any places in America that hit a sweet spot between being small & self-contained and being a popular place to start a new business.
Micropolitan areas are populated areas that have too much population to qualify as a rural area, and too few commuting ties to a larger city to qualify as part of a larger metropolitan area. They are between 10,000 to 50,000 people and quite a distance from a large city.
In other words – micropolitan areas are true small cities.
There are 536 micropolitan areas in America with a core city of between 10,000 and 50,000 people plus the population of the surrounding area.
Here are the Top 20 Most Popular Micropolitan Areas for New Small Businesses in America based on US Census data from 2015-2016 (most recently available). You can view the full list of 536 areas here.
Embed on your website
20. Breckenridge, CO Micro Area
New Businesses: 239
Breckenridge, Colorado is a hub for every outdoor sport that you can imagine. The Rocky Mountain scenery is incredible. It has world-class skiing, hiking, fishing, and kayaking. The area has a population of 31,007.
According to Crunchbase, you’ll find startups like –
Vaway, a vacation rental marketplace
Tomorrow Holding, a fiber reactor technology firm
Area 101, a professional food service firm
19. Tupelo, MS Micro Area
New Businesses: 247
Tupelo, Mississippi is the hub of North Mississippi with an area population of 140,552. It’s the smallest city in America with two banks with more than $10 billion in assets.
Unlike many small towns, it has a thriving downtown with a strong balance of businesses and an independent spirit. You’ll also find growing startups such as –
Central Services Association, an IT firm focusing on utility management
Malco Theaters, a family-owned cinema firm
18. Summit Park, UT Micro Area
New Businesses: 247
Summit Park has an area population of 41,933 and is known as the “richest small town in America.” Nestled in the Uinta mountain range, many of the homes are vacation homes, but it is also a hub for consultants and wealthy remote workers.
17. Sevierville, TN Micro Area
New Businesses: 247
The Sevierville, Tennessee area has a population of 97,892 and is a mountain vacation hub on the East Coast. It’s surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains with world-class hiking, fishing, and kayaking.
In addition to tourism-based startups, Sevierville is home to stratups such as –
Carp Data Service, a data analysis firm
Comfort Flow, an orthopedic dog bed firm
16. Jackson, WY-ID Micro Area
New Businesses: 251
The Jackson, Wyoming area has a population of 34,721 and has played an outsized role in America’s history. It’s surrounded by two of America’s most iconic National Parks with the Rocky Mountains forming a bowl around the city.
The small city is a mini-hub for a range of startups like –
DMOS Collective, a provider of collapsible stealth and alpha shovels
Odyssey Sensors, an ag-tech company
Video Science, a video chat service for the healthcare industry
15. Brainerd, MN Micro Area
New Businesses: 251
The Brainerd, Minnesota area has a population of 94,408 and a deep history with railroads, logging, mining – and now, tourism. It has a wealth of lakes and deep forests in addition to a classic downtown.
Brainerd is home to startups such as –
Elite Motorcycle Parts, a maker of premium motorcycle parts
MaxBotix, a designer & manufacturer of ultrasonic sensors
14. Branson, MO Micro Area
New Businesses: 263
The Branson, Missouri area has a population of 87,601. It is the home of Mark Twain, and the setting of many of his stories.
The startup community is focused on tourism and food.
13. Augusta-Waterville, ME Micro Area
New Businesses: 269
The Augusta, Maine area has a population of 122,083, and is also the capital of Maine. The city lies on the Kennebec River, and is also host to the University of Maine.
The startup community includes companies like –
Kenway, a manufacturer of custom composite products for mining
Southport Boats, a maker of high performance boats
12. Truckee-Grass Valley, CA Micro Area
New Businesses: 274
The Truckee, California area has a population of 99,696, and is a popular home for small companies moving out of the Bay area into the beautiful Sierra Mountains.
The town lies on both I-80 and the first (and main) transcontinental railroad. The startup community includes companies like –
bigtruck Brand, a specialist in the design, marketing, and manufacturing of hats
Clear Capital, a valuation company for the mortgage industry
1bios, a health tracking & engagement platform for healthcare companies
11. Twin Falls, ID Micro Area
New Businesses: 279
Twin Falls, Idaho has an area population of 110,096. The main city has grown so fast, that the Census Bureau reclassified the area as a metropolitan area in 2019.
The startup community includes companies like –
Plant Therapy, a direct-to-consumer supplier of essential oils
BestNotes, a HIPAA compliant CRM and EHR system
KickBack Rewards, a data entry & CRM company
10. Concord, NH Micro Area
New Businesses: 301
The Concord, New Hampshire area has a population of 151,232, and has strong links to the Boston startup scene. It’s the capital of New Hampshire and lies on the Merrimack River.
The startup community includes companies like –
Bradford Networks, a maker of automated security products for enterprise & governments
Nanocomp, a commercial producer of carbon nanotube-based lightweight sheets, tapes, and wires
CoolSim, an advanced CFD-based tool available for optimizing energy consumption in data centers
9. Hilo, HI Micro Area
New Businesses: 318
The Hilo area has a population of 200,383, and is the main city of the “big island” of Hawaii. The city lies at the base of Mauna Lea and Mauna Loa – two of the most famous volcanoes in the world.
The city has large scientific, agricultural, and tourist industries – all of which influence the startup community. Companies in Hilo include –
Mauna Loa Macadamias, the world’s largest processor of macadamia seeds
DroneFlow, a fully automated aerial inspection technology
Shaka Tea – a line of refreshing herbal iced teas
8. Edwards, CO Micro Area
New Businesses: 322
The Edwards, Colorado area has a population of 54,993, and lies in the heart of the Rocky Mountains in Central Colorado.
The area is a favorite of skiers and outdoor fans. The startup community is spread out & remote, but includes companies like –
HomeTrax, online tools for homeowners, service providers, and organizations
TripHero, a solution to the multi-layered problem of traveling with luggage and equipment
7. Glenwood Springs, CO Micro Area
New Businesses: 342
The Glenwood Springs area has a population of 77,732, and is the “sister” micropolitan area to Edwards, Colorado. The city is nestled in the Roaring Fork Valley on the Colorado River. It has been named “the Most Vibrant Small Town for Arts” and the “5th Best Small Town” in America by different publications.
The startup community is very small and focused on arts & agriculture, but also includes some tech startups like Helpp, a connecting service for providers & consumers.
6. Kalispell, MT Micro Area
New Businesses: 353
The Kalispell area has a population of 102,106, and lies nestled near both Glacier National Park (the “Crown of the Continent”) and the Canadian border.
The startup community includes companies like –
Roomie, a provider of better furniture options for college students
Counter Assault, a manufacturer of bear spray and personal protection spray
Expesicor, a drug discovery firm for neurological disorders
5. Torrington, CT Micro Area
New Businesses: 382
The Torrington area has a population of 181,111, and lies within day trip distance of both New York City and Boston.
The business community includes companies like –
Trlby Innovative, a maker of custom impulse heat sealing equipment
Altek Electronics, an electronic manufacturing company providing chassis and control panels
4. Traverse City, MI Micro Area
New Businesses: 385
The Traverse City area has a population of 149,914, and lies at the far north of Michigan’s “mitten” along Lake Michigan. The city is a top agricultural producer of cherries and other fruits. It’s regularly named as one of the best small town travel destinations and one of the best small towns to retire to.
The business community includes companies such as –
ATLAS Space Operations, a satellite communications service
DriveShare, an online marketplace for classic cars
3. Key West, FL Micro Area
New Businesses: 387
The Key West area has a population of 75,027, and is the sourthernmost city in the continental United States. It is a hub for tourism, festivals, and tropical living.
The business community centers around consultants, travel, and tourism companies.
2. Claremont-Lebanon, NH-VT Micro Area
New Businesses: 437
The Lebanon area has a population of 217,215, and lies in the Connecticut River Valley. It is home to the Dartmouth Medical School and Dartmouth Medical Center. It also has strong transport links to the Boston area, which influences its business community.
The Lebanon area is home to businesses such as –
Appcast, a job advertising platform
Adima, an antibody discovery and optimization platform
Avitide, a purification solutions firm for biopharmaceutical companies
1. Bozeman, MT Micro Area
New Businesses: 536
The Bozeman area has a population of 111,876, and lies at the gateway to Yellowstone National Park along with the largest ski resorts & outdoor opportunities in the United States. The town regularly appears as the “Best Small Town in America” lists. With all the entrepreneurs & economic growth moving to Bozeman – I’m not surprised to see it top this list as well.
Bozeman is home to businesses such as –
Schedulicity, an online appointment scheduling platform for discovering and booking local services
Quiq, a customer service messaging platform
Absaroka Energy Company, a provider of clean renewable energy
I can’t criticize big cities. After all, I ended up moving to Atlanta after starting in Athens, GA. Big cities are great.
But…big cities aren’t the best option for some businesses. And the certainly aren’t the best option for many individuals. I loved this Planet Money episode explaining why.
Remote work and online tools make anywhere a good place to work. But you still need to be able to make “anywhere” work for you – and that includes being around other businesses & startups.
There are plenty of startups & small businesses in nearly every city. And as you can see from the list above, there are some small cities that have more than plenty.
Find your place, find your people, and build your business.
You can view the full list of 536 areas here.
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