The Complete Guide To Home Equity Loans For Business Purposes

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How Much Money Do You Need To Start A Business?

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Maryland Small Business Loans

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Top Credit Cards With Airport Lounge Access

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Credit Card Consolidation: How to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

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Credit Cards With Car Rental Insurance: The Complete Guide

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Top Metal Credit Cards For 2019

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Can Merchants Set Minimum Amounts On Card Transactions?

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0% APR Credit Card Offers: The Complete Guide

0% apr credit cards

Credit card debt is a curse that can be exceedingly difficult to dispel. Those struggling to deal with debt may find that interest payments cripple their efforts to pay down debt, thus perpetuating the vicious circle of indebtedness.

Of course, the underlying problem isn’t the credit cards or their users; it’s the fact that the necessities of life (housing, education, health care, etc) grow less and less affordable by the day, thus making the average person choose between credit card debt and generational immiseration, homelessness, early death, and other consequences of American poverty. However, there’s something you can do to minimize the interest that gets tacked onto your credit card debt: Get a credit card with a 0% introductory APR offer.

What Is A 0% Introductory Offer?

transaction fees and rates

Many credit cards, both personal and business, come with introductory 0% APR periods. These periods typically last 9 to 12 months but can last for as long as 18-21 months. During this time, you won’t be charged interest on your debt.

Now, an intro 0% APR may not necessarily apply to all the debt you accumulate with the card in question. That’s why it’s important to distinguish between two common types of 0% introductory offers: those that apply to purchases and those that apply to balance transfers.

Balance Transfer Intro Rates VS Purchase Intro Rates

When you examine the details of your 0% introductory offer (always examine the details, folks!), you may find that the 0% APR offer applies to purchases. A 0% introductory purchase APR is simple: For the length of the offer, you will not be charged any interest on the credit card debt you’ve accumulated via purchases. This leaves out the debt on your credit card that didn’t come from purchases, including balance transfers.

Accordingly, another type of popular credit card offer is the 0% introductory rate on balance transfers. With these offers, you can transfer a balance to your card and pay no interest on that balance for the length of the 0% APR period.

Now, many cards feature 0% introductory rates on both purchases and balance transfers. These cards are ideal if you’re looking to both avoid interest charges on your purchases and consolidate your existing credit card debt onto a card that won’t charge interest on that debt. Obviously, these cards are ideal for debt reduction purposes. Here’s what to keep in mind if you end up having to choose between the two:

  • Get a card with an introductory 0% APR on balance transfers if you intend to use your card to pay down your existing high-interest credit card debt. An important caveat: These offers often restrict when you can make a balance transfer and have the intro 0% APR apply. For example, when you read the fine print, the offer may say “0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening.” This seems confusing and contradictory at first glance, but what it means is that in order to enjoy 15 months of not being charged interest on your balance transfer, you have to make that transfer within 45 days of opening your credit card account.
    • Additionally, a credit card may charge you a balance transfer fee even if it doesn’t charge you interest on your balance transfer for a certain length of time. The balance transfer fee is entirely separate from the balance transfer APR. A common balance transfer fee policy is something like “Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.” However, there are a few credit cards that offer both a lengthy intro 0% APR on balance transfers and no balance transfer fee. If you’re looking for a good card for debt consolidation, look for one of those!
  • Get a card with an introductory 0% APR on purchases if your goal is to cover a large expense (or a series of large expenses) while avoiding interest charges. An intro 0% APR on purchases will let you cover that medical emergency or vacation or car repair bill and then gradually pay for the expense over the course of your introductory 0% APR period without paying any interest.

Pros & Cons Of 0% Intro Offers

On the pro side, 0% intro APR offers can benefit you by letting you pay for large expenses over a specified length of time without paying interest and by letting you transfer balances to the card and not pay interest on said balance during the 0% APR period. You can even transfer other forms of debt to your card such as college loans and personal loans. Just don’t transfer more than you can pay down during the 0% APR period — otherwise, you could face steep interest charges after the intro 0% APR period ends.

As for cons, there are none. Unless you enjoy experiencing pain for the sake of experiencing pain — and that’s fine; I’m no kink-shamer — there is no downside to having smaller credit card bills than you would have otherwise.

The worst you could say about credit cards with long 0% intro APR offers is that they may possibly — but not necessarily — be lacking in other respects. For example, you may find a card that would save you money on interest payments after paying for your dog’s surgery, but whose annual fee would negate some or all of what you would otherwise save.

I’m not saying you should be wary of 0% introductory rates. I’m just saying there are other factors to consider when choosing the right credit card for your needs.

0% APR Intro Rates VS Deferred Interest

Deferred interest deals come with huge downsides and are not the same thing as introductory 0% APR offers. Let’s tackle the thorny subject of deferred interest.

Most major credit card issuers don’t offer deferred interest deals. These deals are most often found in store credit cards such as those issued by Walmart/Sam’s Club (I do believe in corporate-shaming).

What happens is this: You buy a refrigerator or a sewing machine under a deferred interest financing arrangement (it may be offered as “no interest for 12 months” or something). The terms of the deferred interest deal state that you won’t be charged interest on the purchase for 12 months unless you don’t pay off the purchase completely within that 12 months. If even a single cent of your purchase remains unpaid after 12 months, you’re then immediately hit with all the interest you would have been charged on the entire purchase over the prior 12 months.

In effect, your interest-free period is retroactively canceled.

This is not what happens with a genuine introductory 0% APR offer. With these offers, if you have a balance remaining on the purchases you made during the intro 0% APR period after the 0% APR period ends, you then become responsible for paying interest on the remaining balance in subsequent billing cycles. You are not retroactively charged for the interest that would have accrued during your 0% APR period.

For more on why deferred interest is a gilded scam from the predatory depths of exploitation hell, read our article about deferred interest and why you should avoid it.

Intro Rate Best Practices

The one thing you can do to get your intro 0% APR canceled is to miss a monthly minimum payment. When you miss a monthly payment, your card issuer will likely cancel your 0% APR period, thus subjecting you to the regular ongoing APR (or, worse, a penalty APR significantly higher than the regular ongoing APR) in subsequent billing cycles. Furthermore, your credit score will suffer damage. Try to make those monthly payments!

Final Thoughts

At a time when (according to the Federal Reserve) folks are drowning in more debt than ever before, any financial strategy that can result in less debt should be explored. Credit cards with long introductory 0% APR periods are obviously not a panacea for debt woes, but they can make a crucial difference in how much of your hard-earned cash you’ll be handing over to your creditors each month.

Still looking to save on interest payments with your next credit card? Check out these helpful resources!

  • Best business credit cards with 0% APR offers
  • APR vs interest rate
  • Deferred interest explainer

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How To Start A Pet Sitting Business: The Complete Guide

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

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

Decide On A Location

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

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

Register Your Business

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the most popular ways to incorporate:

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

Get Business Insurance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Invest In Business Software

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

Payment Processing

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

Recommended Option: Square

Best Overall Mobile POS


Review Visit Site

Highlights

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

Retail POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

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

 

Square POS: Always free

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

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

Scheduling Software

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

Accounting Software

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

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

Seek Funding

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

Personal Savings

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

Tap Your Support Network

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

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

Credit Cards

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

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

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

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

Recommended Option: American Express SimplyCash Plus

SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express



Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


14.49% – 21.49%, Variable

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

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

Recommended Option: Amazon Business Prime American Express Card

Amazon Business Prime American Express Card


Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


16.24% – 24.24%, Variable

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

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

Personal Loans

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

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

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

lending club logo

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

Recommended Option: Lendio

Review

Visit Site

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

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

Create Contracts

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

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

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

Market Your Business

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

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

Bolster Your Web Presence

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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