It should come as no surprise that, as the stratospheric rise in the cost of housing, health care, and education exceeds wage growth, interest in managing one’s credit health would soar as well. After all, our credit scores play a huge role in determining our access to the credit we need just to keep ourselves afloat. Of course, we’d prefer not to have to pay money just to keep track of our own credit score.
This is where services like Credit Sesame come in.
Describing itself as “a fast-growing credit and loan management platform,” Credit Sesame offers four primary credit management services. When you sign up for a free Credit Sesame account, you’ll get access to the following:
Your credit score
Your credit report
Identity theft protection
How does Credit Sesame work? Is it safe? And is it genuinely free? Read on to discover the answer to these questions and more!
What Is Credit Sesame?
Credit Sesame was founded by Adrian Nazari in 2010. Since then, the company has grown to the point where it now employs 119 people. Millions of users now subscribe to Credit Sesame, though the company doesn’t give an exact number. Some sources claim the site has six million members, others say eight million, while others say 12 million.
A free Credit Sesame account offers the following:
Access to your TransUnion (one of the big three credit bureaus) credit score once per month
Daily credit monitoring with an alerting system that alerts you when your TransUnion credit score changes
Up to $50,000 in identity theft insurance
Is Credit Sesame Always Free?
If you’re satisfied with the services you get access to with a free Credit Sesame membership, you can use Credit Sesame forever without having to pay a cent. However, Credit Sesame does offer paid services in addition to the free services. These services are offered in the form of three different subscription plans: Advanced Credit, Pro Credit, and Platinum Protection. Here’s what you’ll get with each of these plans:
Daily credit score updates from TransUnion
Monthly credit score updates from all three major credit bureaus
Full credit reports each month from all three credit bureaus
All of the above, plus:
Full identity protection
Credit monitoring with alerts for all three credit bureaus
24/7 access to live experts to help solve credit report inaccuracies
All of the above, plus:
24/7 access to live experts for stolen/lost wallet protection
Black market website monitoring
Public records monitoring
Social Security Number monitoring
Is Credit Sesame Safe?
I have seen nothing to indicate that Credit Sesame is unsafe at all. You don’t need to give them any credit card information, and you only have to enter the last four digits of your SSN to establish an account.
No data breaches or any other loss of private user information associated with Credit Sesame have ever been reported. If you sign up with Credit Sesame, I wouldn’t worry about the safety of your personal information.
Credit Scores & Reports Offered By Credit Sesame
Credit Sesame shows you your credit score from TransUnion, one of the three major consumer credit bureaus. This score is calculated using the VantageScore formula, which means that the score you’ll see is not your FICO credit score. VantageScore is a different, newer credit-scoring model than FICO, and while your creditors may be assessing you based on your FICO score, your VantageScore shouldn’t be that far removed from your FICO score (learn about the differences in our complete guide to VantageScore VS FICO scores). Additionally, as VantageScore is the newer scoring model, it has become increasingly utilized by potential creditors with time. Your score will be updated by Credit Sesame once a month.
Your VantageScore credit score from TransUnion takes your credit information and history into account, giving you a picture of your overall credit health. It’s a nice feature to have for free, though I will note that competitor Credit Karma gives you free access to your VantageScore from both TransUnion and Equifax (another one of the big three credit bureaus).
Along with your credit score, Credit Sesame will show you five data points from your TransUnion credit report to show you how these factors affect your score: Payment history, credit usage, credit age, account mix (this refers to how many different types of open accounts you have — credit cards, auto loans, etc.), and the number of recent credit inquiries you’ve had.
You’ll also get access to information about any debts you have (including what percentage of your monthly income goes toward debt payments), along with credit monitoring, which means you’ll be alerted to any new activity that appears on your TransUnion credit report.
Note that while you’ll see selected data pulled from your credit report, you won’t have access to your full credit report with just a free site membership. You’ll need an Advanced Credit subscription ($9.95/month) for that. With an Advanced Credit subscription, you can get your full credit report each month from all three credit bureaus, not just TransUnion. Alternately, you can make a single standalone purchase of your TransUnion credit report for a one-time payment of $9.95.
With an Advanced Credit subscription, your TransUnion credit score will be updated daily, not just monthly. You’ll get monthly credit score updates from the other two major credit bureaus (Experian and Equifax) as well — something you can’t see for free.
Other Services Offered By Credit Sesame
I’ve touched on Credit Sesame’s other services, but let’s now delve into what the site has to offer beyond credit scores and reports.
A free Credit Sesame account will get you credit monitoring for your TransUnion credit report. You’ll get alerts whenever new activity appears on your TransUnion report. However, to get credit monitoring/alerts for all three of your credit reports — TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax — you’ll need a Pro subscription ($15.95/month)
Identity Theft Insurance
Most credit score sites don’t give you free access to identity theft insurance, so Credit Sesame stands out in this regard. You’ll get $50K in insurance coverage for identity theft, fraud, and other financial crimes. Hey, it’s free insurance! And if you want more coverage, sign up for a Pro Credit subscription and get $1 million in identity insurance.
Along with identity theft insurance, you’ll get some identity restoration tools. These come in the form of documents showing you how to report fraud to government agencies, sample letters to credit bureaus, and the like.
Credit Card Recommendations
Credit Sesame will recommend credit cards to you according to your likelihood of approval (based on your credit score). These offers also show you how much credit you’re likely to gain access to in the event that you’re approved. You can also check to see if you pre-qualify for any personal loans. You can even search for mortgage lenders.
Credit Sesame’s free tools let you check and monitor your credit score as well as determine just what aspects of your credit profile are dragging down your score (or boosting it, as the case may be). What’s more, $50K of free identity theft insurance is nothing to scoff at!
However, if you want full access to your credit reports, full identity protection, and such bonuses as full Social Security Number monitoring, you’ll need a paid subscription. What you get for free is of considerable value, though.
Should you use Credit Sesameâs credit score services?
This service might be a good option ifâ¦
You want to know your TransUnion credit score for free
You want free identity theft insurance
You want free credit monitoring
You’re willing to pay for a higher degree of credit management help
You might want to use a different service ifâ¦
You specifically want to know your FICO score
You want free access to both your TransUnion and Equifax credit scores (Credit Karma has this)
You want to use debt/loan calculators to help you formulate your credit building strategy (some competitors have this)
Want more tools to help you boost your credit score? Check out these articles!
Guide to credit bureaus
Guide to credit scoring models
How to improve personal credit score
How to dispute errors on your report
The post Credit Sesame Review: Free VantageScores From TransUnion appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
When small business owners need a flexible option for funding business expenses, a line of credit fits the bill. Unlike traditional loans that provide a lump sum of capital, lines of credit allow borrowers to draw money as needed up to the credit limit set by the lender. If the line of credit is revolving, funds are replenished as the borrower pays down the balance, giving the borrower consistent access to the capital they need to grow their business.
While banks offer lines of credit, these are typically difficult to qualify for, and the application processes can be lengthy and confusing. More small business owners are bypassing traditional lenders in favor of alternative lenders that offer quick approvals and easy applications — lenders like Fundbox.
What Is Fundbox?
Over 100,000 small businesses have used Fundbox to boost their business capital. Unlike banks, Fundbox has an easy application process. Fundbox provides credit decisions in just minutes, and if approved, you can immediately initiate your first draw and have cash in your bank account in as little as one business day.Â Fundbox has a transparent fee structure, and you only pay when you make a draw. Pay your balance back early and Fundbox waives all remaining fees, helping you lower your cost of borrowing.
One of the best things about Fundbox is the lender’s relaxed borrower qualifications. Approval is based on the performance of your business, so businesses that have trouble qualifying elsewhere may have success in obtaining a Fundbox line of credit. During the application process, you’ll sync your business bank account so Fundbox can analyze the performance of your business. If you have outstanding invoices, you can qualify for a line of credit through Fundbox’s invoice financing service by syncing your supported accounting software. Learn more by checking out our full review of Fundbox.
Although there are many benefits to using Fundbox, this lender isn’t the right choice for every business. With a maximum borrowing amount of $100,000, Fundbox may not offer enough capital for larger businesses. Maybe Fundbox’s weekly payment schedule doesn’t work for your business, or you want longer than the maximum repayment terms of 24 weeks. If you have an established business and a high personal credit score, you may qualify for other options with more affordable terms than what is offered through Fundbox.
Whether Fundbox doesn’t quite fit your needs or you’re just shopping around, there are similar lenders that may work better for your financial situation. In this post, we’ll explore alternatives to Fundbox to help you make the wisest financial choice for your business.
Time in business: 12 months
Business revenue: $100,000 per year
Business industry: Must not be in aÂ restricted industry
OnDeck is similar to Fundbox in many ways. This alternative lender offers a quick and simple online application that doesn’t require piles of paperwork. In fact, all you need in most cases is some basic business and personal information, your business tax ID and social security number, and business bank account statements. After submitting your application, you can receive a decision in just a few minutes.
OnDeck offers lines of credit up to $100,000. If you need more money, you may qualify for OnDeck’s term loans with maximum borrowing limits of $500,000 and terms up to 36 months. OnDeck has just one financing application and will determine which product best fits the needs of your business. Repayments are made on a daily or weekly schedule.
One thing that stands apart about OnDeck’s lines of credit is Instant Advance. With Instant Advance, approved borrowers with eligible debit cards can receive their funds in just minutes. Automated Clearinghouse (ACH) transfers are also available, and borrowers will receive funds typically in 1 to 2 business days.
OnDeck has low borrower requirements, but personal credit score is a factor for approval. All applicants must have a score of at least 600 to qualify for OnDeck’s term loans or lines of credit. Borrowers must also be in business for at least a year and have at least $100,000 in annual revenue.
StreetShares is a veteran-founded small business lender that once focused on other veteran-owned business. Today, any business owner can apply to receive funds through one of StreetShares’ three financial products: lines of credit, term loans, and contract financing.
If you need a line of credit larger than the maximum $100,000 offered through Fundbox, StreetShares might be a good option for you. This lender provides lines of credit with limits up to $250,000 for qualified borrowers. This option allows you to draw funds as needed and only pay interest on what you’ve borrowed. If you want your money as one lump sum, you may qualify for up to $250,000 with a term loan. StreetShares’ loans and lines of credit each have terms up to 36 months for businesses that want longer repayment terms.
StreetShares also offers contract financing — a product that’s similar to invoice financing. You can receive up to 90% of your invoices upfront with no limitations on the contract amount. This could be an ideal solution for borrowers that want to borrow money now against their unpaid contracts.
Like Fundbox and other lenders on this list, StreetShares has a simple online application process. You can be pre-approved in just minutes with minimal information. However, you may be required to provide additional documentation during the underwriting process, including financial statements and tax returns. All borrowers must have a time in business of at least one year, annual revenue of at least $100,000, and a credit score of at least 600. One last thing to note is that StreetShares only allows you to borrow up to 20% of your annual revenue.
Time in business: 12 months
Business revenue: $50,000 annually (or $4,500 for the last 3 months)
No specific personal credit score requirement, but Kabbage will run a credit check when you apply
Kabbage is very similar to Fundbox, offering lines of credit with very lenient borrowing requirements. Like Fundbox, Kabbage bases its approvals on the performance of a business, so Kabbage may be a good option for credit-challenged borrowers.
Despite its similarities, though, there are some key differences that could make Kabbage the more appealing option for your business. For starters, Kabbage offers higher maximum limits for its lines of credit — up to $250,000 compared to just $100,000 with Fundbox. Kabbage also offers monthly payments, which may work better for your needs than Fundbox’s weekly repayments.
Kabbage’s lines of credit can be repaid over 6, 12, or 18 months. Kabbage offers simple, transparent monthly fees only for the amount you’ve borrowed, and you can save on the cost of borrowing by repaying early. Borrowers may receive better rates and terms with Kabbage than Fundbox, but Fundbox may be the less expensive option for other borrowers. If you qualify for Kabbage, you can also receive the Kabbage Card, which allows you to instantly access your line of credit without waiting for transfers.
The application process for Kabbage is fast, and you can be approved and access your funds just minutes after applying. Minimal information is required to apply, and there are no minimum credit score requirements. You must, however, have a time in business of at least one year and at least $50,000 in annual revenue.
Shopping your options? Give Lendio a try. With just one application, you can receive offers from over 75 lenders, making it easy to find the best loan for your situation. Lendio’s network of lenders offer many different types of funding, including lines of credit.
You can receive up to $500,000 through Lendio’s network as a line of credit, which is significantly more than the limits of Fundbox’s financial product. Interest rates start at 8%, although some borrowers may receive interest rates as high as 24% based on a number of factors including, but not limited to, credit profile. Typical loan maturity for a line of credit obtained through Lendio is one to two years.
Qualifying for a line of credit through Lendio’s network is simple. Minimum borrower requirements include at least $50,000 in annual revenue, a time in business of at least six months, and a personal credit score of at least 560. However, to get the highest borrowing amount and lowest interest rates, you must have a higher credit score and a solid business performance.
Applying through Lendio is free and doesn’t have an impact on your credit, so it’s ideal for comparing your options. You may also decide that a line of credit isn’t right for your business, and you can get offers from lenders for other types of funding including Small Business Administration loans, accounts receivable loans, and business credit cards.
Like Fundbox, BlueVine offers a business line of credit. One of the main differences, however, is that you can borrow up to $250,000 through BlueVine. BlueVine also offers longer repayment terms of six or 12 months. Repayments are made on a weekly or monthly schedule.
However, it is more difficult to qualify for a BlueVine line of credit. The minimum requirements include a personal credit score of at least 600, minimum annual revenue of at least $100,000, and a time in business of at least six months.
In addition to its lines of credit, BlueVine also offers an invoice factoring service. This is ideal if you have outstanding invoices and need more money than is offered through a line of credit. You can receive up to 90% of your outstanding invoices, with lines up to $5 million. Once the invoice is paid, you’ll receive the remaining balance, minus BlueVine’s fees, which start at 0.25% per week. To qualify, you must have a B2B business that has been in business for at least three months. You must also have annual revenue of at least $100,000 and a personal credit score of at least 530.
Finally, you can also receive a term loan through BlueVine. You can borrow up to $250,000 as one lump sum that is repaid weekly over a period of up to 12 months. There are no origination fees, and you can receive your funds in as little as a few hours.
While there are some benefits to using Fundbox — think low borrower requirements and fast funding — this lender may not be the best choice for your business. Before you put your name on any agreement, make sure to compare your options to find the best rates and terms based on the needs of your business. Take the time to do your research, shop around, and make sure you understand the full cost of borrowing no matter what lender you select.
The post The Best Alternatives To Fundbox appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
If your company is growing and you find that reimbursing employees for their business purchases is becoming a hassle, it may be time to look into getting your employees business credit cards.
These bits of plastic can help streamline your employees’ workflows when it comes to making business purchases. Plus, you may find it’s easier to track your business’s spending habits via a card issuer’s money-tracking tools.
Of course, it’s not going to be all smooth sailing if you do end up adding employee cards to your spending arsenal. There are plenty of nitty-gritty details to go over when it comes to this type of credit card.
Are you ready to get an in-depth look at what employee cards are and how they work? Let’s delve on in!
How Employee Credit Cards Work
Employee credit cards are often offered in conjunction with business credit cards. Many issuers include employee cards as a free benefit. However, some may limit the number of employee cards you can request, or you may incur charges when requesting employee cards.
Once youâve been approved for a credit card with employee cards as a benefit, youâll be able to contact your issuer to receive additional cards.
When an employee uses their employee credit card to make a purchase, their purchase will go on a primary account. This primary account will then need to be paid off every month. Additionally, if your card has a rewards program, youâll earn rewards whenever your employees make purchases.
In many cases, employees can take advantage of the additional benefits a credit card provides. These benefits could include features such as car rental insurance, roadside assistance, Global Entry/TSA PreCheck waivers, and extended warranty on purchases. Some more premium cards even include benefits such as hotel credits, complimentary access to airport lounges, and free hotel or flight upgrades.
If you run a larger company, corporate cards may be a better option than a basic business card. These cards are designed to work with a large number of users and are often customized to best fit a company’s needs. To learn the differences between corporate cards and business cards, take a deep dive with the Merchant Maverick comparison.
The Benefits (& Pitfalls) Of Giving Credit Cards To Your Employees
There are plenty of reasons to hand out employee cards. Here are a few of the top benefits to doling out plastic to your employees:
Management Tools: With a business credit card that offers employee cards, you can often manage spending through your issuer’s website or app. These tools usually include spending limits, ability to control which categories are available for purchases, and quarterly/year-end spending summaries.
Simplified Spending: Because employees can just put purchases on their credit cards, they wonât need to waste time filling out expense reports or requesting reimbursement.
Rewards Programs: Many business credit cards have excellent reward schemes. By matching your businessâs spending profile with the right card, youâll be able to save money every time an employee buys something.
Extra Benefits: The numerous benefits that come with business credit cards could help your employees with purchases, travel, and more. From car rental coverage to purchase protection to travel waivers, credit card benefits can make many points of an employee’s work life easier.
Of course, there are a couple of cons to watch out for. Here are a few things to consider before giving employees credit cards:
Increased Fraud: If you donât properly keep tabs on what employees are buying, itâs possible they may use their cards for personal purchases. Additionally, the more cards you hand out, the greater the chance someone outside the company will steal a card or data associated with a card.
Extra Fees: When using credit cards, itâs important to stay on top of your monthly payments. If you donât, you may be hit with late payment fees and interest.
How To Get Credit Cards For Your Employees
To hand out employee credit cards, you’ll need to find a business credit card that offers employee cards as an option. Plenty of issuers deliver cards that include free employee credit cards. If employee cards are a primary concern for your business, it may be in your best interest to look for a card with complimentary employee cards.
Issuers that offer free employee credit cards include:
Bank of America
Note that in some cases, issuers will charge extra fees for each employee card you request. Additionally, there may be instances where you can only request a limited number of employee cards. Amex, for example, only allows 99 employee cards to be issued, while Wells Fargo places their limit at 100 for the Business Platinum Card and 200 for the Business Elite Card.
How To Manage Employee Use Of Credit Cards
Creating clear outlines is an important step to giving your employees credit cards operated by the business. This means they should understand that the cards are only to be used on business-related purchases (and not on that 65-inch 4k TV they’ve been eyeing). On top of this, make sure guidelines on what is and isn’t a business expense are clearly articulated.
For your part, as an owner, plan to review charges employees place on their cards on a frequent basis. Every time you give an employee a credit card, the chance of fraud increases. By regularly monitoring where those within your business are placing charges, you may be able to catch fraud before it gets out of hand.
Many cards also offer spending limits. This means you can limit employees to a set allowance every month. This is helpful in cases where employees make consistent monthly purchases. It will also help prevent potential fraud because employees won’t be able to go on crazy spending sprees.
Some cards additionally will notify you when a purchase is made outside of certain set categories. If your card has this tool, you may be able to spot a spend-happy employee more easily.
Finally, recommend that employees save their receipts. This way they (and you) can have a written record in case anything goes amiss.
Employee cards can help your company function more smoothly when it comes to making purchases. By adding them to your business’s purchasing arsenal, you’ll be able to streamline spending, track employee purchases, and take advantage of credit card benefits.
To get started finding your business’s next credit card, visit our complete rundown of the best business cards out there. Or, you can check out the dos and don’ts of business credit cards to kick-start your credit card journey.
The post What You Should Know About Giving Credit Cards To Your Employees appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
In the age of precarious living, we’re all swimming upstream. Dealing with the ever-escalating expenses of life — housing, education, health care, etc. — can put a serious strain on your credit. Because our credit score so heavily influences what we are able to do with our lives, interest in free credit score services has never been higher.
One of the most prominent websites offering free credit scores and reports is Credit Karma. While over 85 million people are already Credit Karma members (as of January 2019), others may (justifiably) be concerned about the privacy of their data, the accuracy of the credit scores given, and whether or not Credit Karma is genuinely free to use.
Let’s tackle these questions and find out whether or not Credit Karma is a good choice when it comes to keeping an eye on your credit score. I’ll assume the role of the Karma Police!
Sorry — for a minute there, I lost myself. (Do people still get Radiohead references in 2019?)
Note: While Credit Karma also offers tax services, this review will be focused on Credit Karma’s credit management services.
What Is Credit Karma?
Credit Karma was founded on March 8th, 2007 by Kenneth Lin, Ryan Graciano, and Nichole Mustard. While the platform was founded in order to provide users with free information about their credit, the company has steadily expanded its offerings over the years, offering full credit reports, personalized offers for credit cards and personal loans, and a tax planning service. The company now employs over 800 people.
Is Credit Karma Really Free?
The short answer: Yes. The credit scores and reports given by Credit Karma are completely free. All you need is a free Credit Karma account. This begs the question: How does Credit Karma make money?
Credit Karma uses your personal credit data to send you targeted ads based on your individual financial situation. If you ultimately take an offer from one of Credit Karma’s advertising partners, the company makes money off the sale. This way, Credit Karma doesn’t have to charge users a fee to use the company’s services.
Is Credit Karma Safe?
Naturally, when people hear that a company is using customers’ financial information to send them targeted ads, they may be concerned with what else Credit Karma could be doing with that information. Additionally, Credit Karma requires you to give your social security number in order to verify your identity when pulling your credit. Having to enter my SSN online, for any reason, makes me feel a bit uneasy, and it probably does for you as well.
Despite all this, Credit Karma is as safe as a site like this can be and has a strong track record in this regard. The site uses 128-bit encryption to protect the information you type in, and your social security number is not stored with Credit Karma. Additionally, the site has a DigiCert EV SSL certificate (the highest degree of authentication). And while Credit Karma uses your financial information to match you with ads, the company has a policy of not sharing that information with third parties. I’ve yet to see any evidence that the company has breached this policy.
Credit Scores & Reports Offered By Credit Karma
Credit Karma provides free credit scores from TransUnion and Equifax, two of the three major credit bureaus (the third is Experian). These scores are calculated using the VantageScore formula and are updated on a weekly basis. Note that your VantageScore credit score is different than your FICO score, as FICO is an entirely different (and older) credit-scoring model.
Learn all about the differences between VantageScore and FICO in our complete guide, but suffice to say, the two models weigh various aspects of your credit data differently than one another, therefore your VantageScore credit scores may differ from your FICO scores. If your creditor is looking at your FICO score, it won’t be the same TransUnion or Equifax score you get from Credit Karma. However, VantageScore — the newer scoring model — has been gaining acceptance with time.
In addition to your TransUnion and Equifax credit scores, you’ll also have access to your full TransUnion and Equifax credit reports. Credit Karma will highlight the most important items in the reports for you to help you make sense of what your reports mean, as they can be hard to decipher in their raw form. These reports are updated each week and you can check them as often as you like with no penalty.
Other Services Offered By Credit Karma
Free credit scores and reports aren’t the only services offered by Credit Karma. Let’s go through the company’s other offerings.
Credit Karma provides free credit monitoring along with free credit scores and reports. According to Credit Karma, “If we notice important changes on your TransUnion or Equifax credit reports, we’ll send you an alert so you can check for suspicious activity.”
A related service provided by Credit Karma is Direct Dispute. If you notice an error on your TransUnion credit report, you can submit a dispute without leaving Credit Karma. Unfortunately, this does not apply to errors on your Equifax credit report — for those, you’ll have to submit a dispute directly to Equifax.
As you can see, Credit Karma gives you some free tools to help you manage your finances. Let’s go through them.
Credit Score Simulator: This handy tool lets you calculate how actions you might take can affect your credit score. For example, you can see what effect opening a new credit card account or closing an existing account would have on your credit score. It’s certainly better than taking a financial action without knowing how it will impact your score and hoping for the best!
Debt Repayment Calculator: With this tool, you can see how long it will take to pay off your credit card debt. First, you enter your balance owed and your interest rate. You then either a) enter your expected monthly payment and have the calculator tell you when your debt will be repaid given the information you put in, or b) enter the time frame by which you want to have your balance paid off and have the calculator give you the amount you’ll have to pay per month in order to pay off your debt in your desired time frame.
Simple Loan Calculator: This tool determines your estimated payments for different loan amounts, interest rates, and terms. Just enter the loan amount, interest rate, and term length (in years) and the calculator will estimate your monthly payments.
Amortization Calculator: This tool shows how your debt will go down over time with your payments. It shows your payment breakdown of interest paid, principal paid, and loan balance over the life of the loan. Essentially, this is a tool that shows you how much of your payments will go towards paying down interest and how much will go towards paying down the actual principal, and it will show you how this balance changes over time.
Home & Auto Insurance Scores
Credit Karma will estimate your home insurance score and your auto insurance score for you by taking into account your active accounts, payment history, credit card utilization, and age of credit history. These scores exist to estimate the likelihood that you will file a claim. Many states use these scores to determine your monthly premiums, though this practice is banned in other states.
Offers For Credit Cards, Personal Loans, And Automobile Loans
Credit Karma uses your personal financial data to send you offers for the credit cards, personal loans, and automobile loans you are most likely to qualify for based on your credit profile. When you choose one of these options, you can see reviews of the credit card or loan by Credit Karma members who have experience with using the card or lender in question.
Search For Unclaimed Money
Credit Karma recently introduced this new feature. It identifies any unclaimed money that may be owed to you by your state. This money may have originally been owed to you by a business, but when a business can’t figure out how to send you the money it owes you, it may turn the money over to the state.
This feature lets you search by state to show you if the state in question owes you any money. If it does, you’ll be directed to state-specific resources that can help you claim what you are owed.
Along with Credit Karma’s other services, the company also offers Credit Karma Tax, offering free filing for federal and state tax returns.
For better or worse, your credit score is vitally important in determining the opportunities you’ll be able to access throughout your life. Credit Karma’s services help you understand what goes into determining your credit score, identify what you can do to improve it, monitor your credit, and more — all without charging you a penny. It’s not a scam. It’s free information — information that would be extremely difficult and time-consuming (and in some cases downright impossible) to gather by yourself. Information is one of the few means by which you can empower yourself to make good financial decisions, so it’s hard to find fault with Credit Karma making money by selling financial products on its website, as the alternative would be to charge users a subscription fee.
Should you use Credit Karmaâs credit score services?
This service might be a good option ifâ¦
You want to know your credit score without paying a fee
You want free credit monitoring
You want to get offers for financial products that you would be likely to qualify for
You want to simulate how various actions you might take (opening a new credit card account etc.) would impact your credit score
You might want to use a different service ifâ¦
You specifically want to know your FICO score
You want to see your credit report from Experian, not just from TransUnion and Equifax
The post Credit Karma Review: Free VantageScores From TransUnion And Equifax appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Are you ready to launch a new business, but don’t know to fund your idea? Or are you a small business owner ready for expansion who lacks the capital you need to grow?
Sure, small business loans are an option, but simply owning a business — or hoping to start your own business — doesn’t automatically qualify you for this type of financing. A lack of business credit history, a short time in business, or low revenue may prevent you from getting a small business loan. Even if you do qualify, you might get stuck with short terms and high fees and interest rates.
Don’t give up hope just yet, though. If you own your own home, there could be another funding option you’ve not yet considered: obtaining a home equity loan for business purposes. You can leverage the equity in your home to get lower rates, longer repayment terms, and higher borrowing limits than you might with small business lenders.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, not everyone will qualify for a home equity loan. Others may find that a small business loan, personal line of credit, or another form of funding is better suited for their capital needs. However, if you’re looking for a creative way to finance your startup or expansion plans, read on to learn more about home equity loans and if one is right for you.
What Is A Home Equity Loan?
A home equity loan is also known as a second mortgage. To understand a home equity loan, let’s first take a look at equity. As you pay down the balance of your mortgage, you build up equity. Equity is the difference between what is owed on the home and the value of the property. For example, let’s say your home is valued at $500,000. If your first mortgage has a remaining balance of $200,000, then the equity in your home would be $300,000.
Another way to look at equity is that it is the portion of the home that you own. With a home equity loan, you can use your equity as collateral for an additional loan. If you don’t have equity in your home — that is, the value of your home doesn’t surpass the amount owed on your first mortgage — you will not qualify for this type of loan. Generally, you can expect to receive about 80% to 85% of the value of your home as a lump sum, less the amount still owed on your first mortgage. This money can be used to fund large purchases for your business, including startup costs, new equipment, facility upgrades, or purchasing commercial property.
After receiving your funds, you’ll repay the loan over a longer period of time — usually 5 to 15 years. Home equity loans come with fixed rates and are repaid on a monthly basis.
Equity Loans VS HELOCs
Another type of funding that uses the equity in your home is a home equity line of credit, or HELOC. Similar to an equity loan, a HELOC uses the equity in your home as collateral. However, instead of receiving a lump sum, you get access to a line of credit that you can use for business purposes.
After being approved for a HELOC, you’ll be able to withdraw funds up to and including the credit limit set by your lender for a set period of time — typically a year. When this draw period is over, you’ll enter the repayment phase. At that time, you’ll begin to repay the amount of money borrowed (plus interest). Once you’ve repaid borrowed funds, you’ll be able to borrow funds again.
Most HELOCs come with variable interest rates, whereas most home equity loans have fixed rates. While this provides stability, often you’ll find that home equity loans have a higher interest rate than HELOCs.
If you have a larger purchase to make, such as buying equipment or purchasing real estate, the lump sum offered through a home equity loan is the wiser choice. If you want a more flexible funding option for working capital, hiring new employees, or purchasing inventory, a HELOC may be the better option for your business.
Equity Loans VS Business Loans
A home equity loan is similar to a business loan in a few ways. With both types of funding, you receive a lump sum that can be used to fund your business purchases. Many small business lenders also offer low, fixed rates, long repayment terms, and monthly repayment schedules.
However, there are also a few distinct differences. With a home equity loan, the equity in your home serves as the collateral for the loan. For business loans, other forms of collateral may be used, including business equipment or real estate. You may also be required to sign a personal guarantee or agree to a blanket lien.
Borrower requirements also differ. When you apply for an equity loan, the lender will consider factors including your personal credit profile, your debt-to-income ratio, and the amount of equity in your home. Small business lenders may consider factors including personal credit, business credit, annual revenues, and time in business.
When Should Merchants Use A Home Equity Loan?
Each business is unique, which is why one source of funding doesn’t work for everyone. However, there are many small business owners that will find that a home equity loan is a viable way to access capital.
If you haven’t yet opened the doors to your business because of startup costs, a home equity loan may work for you. No time in business, business revenue, or business credit history is required to qualify.
A home equity loan may be a good choice for you if you want a low-cost loan option. If you’ve shopped around for other financial products and aren’t satisfied with short terms, high interest rates, excessive fees, or repayment schedules, a home equity loan could give you the affordable capital you’re looking for. You’ll receive a low fixed rate and a longer period of time to repay your loan. You may even qualify for additional savings if you work with the lender of your first mortgage.
However, there are also times when maybe a home equity loan isn’t the best fit. If you have an established business and a solid personal credit profile, you could qualify for other types of funding such as Small Business Administration loans. These loans come with low interest rates, repayment terms up to 25 years, and are easier to qualify for than traditional bank loans.
You may also explore additional funding options if you need more specialized financing. For example, if your business needs new equipment, equipment financing may be a better option. You could potentially qualify for low rates and favorable terms without putting your personal assets on the line. With equipment leases, you can even turn in your equipment and enter another lease for new equipment — a smart idea if you need to upgrade frequently.
Finally, a home equity loan won’t work for borrowers with a poor credit score or a spotty credit history. Most lenders look for a good credit score in the 700s, although some may work with fair credit borrowers. However, borrowers with lower scores frequently need more equity, a lower DTI, and must meet other requirements to qualify. Your application may also be declined if you have a recent bankruptcy or foreclosure, defaults on past loans, or other negative items on your credit report.
Home Equity Loans For Business: Pros & Cons
By now, you should have a good understanding of what a home equity loan is, how it can help your business, and what you need to qualify. If you’re still on the fence about submitting an application, consider these pros and cons before making your decision.
Low Interest Rates: Low interest rates mean that your cost of borrowing is lower. You could save thousands of dollars in interest by taking out a home equity loan versus other types of funding.
Long Repayment Terms: Most home equity loans have repayment terms of 5 to 15 years, although this varies by lender. With a longer repayment term, you can stretch out the cost of your business expenses through easy, manageable payments.
Startup-Friendly: Since factors like time in business aren’t a consideration for approval, startups and new business owners may qualify when other lenders turn them down.
Flexibility: You aren’t restricted in how you use the funds from your home equity loan.
High Borrowing Amount: Depending on the amount of equity you’ve built up in your home, you could qualify for a larger sum of money than other lenders offer you.
Risk Of Losing Your Home: If you pay your home equity loan as agreed, you won’t have any problems. However, if you default on your loan, you risk losing your home.
Fees: There are associated costs and fees with taking out a home equity loan, so be prepared. This may include application fees, closing costs, and prepayment penalties for paying your loan off early.
Going “Upside Down”: If the value of your property drops after taking out a home equity loan, you risk being “upside-down” on your loan. This means that you owe more than the property is worth.
Alternatives To Home Equity Loans
Still undecided if a home equity loan is right for you? This funding certainly isn’t for everyone, and you may find that another financial product is better suited for your needs. Before taking the leap into a home equity loan, consider these alternatives and whether one may be right for you.
Business Lines Of Credit
With a business line of credit, you’ll have access to funds that you can use as needed. Your lender will set a credit limit, and you can make draws up to this credit limit. As a form of revolving credit, your funds become available to use as you pay off the borrowed amount, giving you continuous access to cash when you need it.
If you need access to cash on-demand, a business line of credit may be a more suitable choice than the lump sum offered through a home equity loan. You may also consider a business line of credit if you don’t own your own home or don’t have enough equity.
This may also be an option for borrowers with a poor credit profile, as some lenders may consider the performance of your business when approving your application. However, if you don’t meet time in business or revenue requirements, your application will be declined. You’ll also find that many business lines of credit have higher rates and fees and shorter terms than home equity loans.
If unpaid invoices are causing cash flow issues, consider invoice financing. With this service, you’ll receive a portion of the outstanding funds upfront — usually 80% to 90% of the invoice total. Once the invoice is paid, you’ll receive the remaining funds, less any fees charged by the lender. Your invoices serve as the collateral.
This is an option typically available to B2B and B2G businesses. You may also have to meet other requirements in terms of revenue, time in business, and the quality and quantity of invoices. Invoice financing is a great way to get access to cash. However, be aware that this can be an expensive form of borrowing depending on the factor rate assigned by your lender. This is also a short-term solution, so if you need longer repayment terms, consider applying for a home equity loan or another financial product.
Business Credit Cards
If you have recurring expenses that require a more flexible form of funding, consider applying for a business credit card. With a business credit card, you can make as many purchases as you need up to your assigned credit limit. Qualifying for a business credit card is fast, and you can begin using your card immediately without waiting for further approval from the lender.
You may even consider applying for a rewards card, which scores you cash back or points to apply toward rewards like travel, shopping, and more.
High interest rates are a drawback of some business credit cards. For larger purchases, another form of funding may be more affordable.
Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans
Small Business Administration (SBA) loans offer high borrowing limits and low interest rates to fund business expenses. SBA loans have similar rates and terms to traditional bank term loans. However, these loans are backed by the government, making it easier for small business owners to qualify.
There are many different types of SBA loans, from smaller microloans to the popular SBA 7(a) loans that provide up to $5 million repaid over a period of up to 25 years.
In order to receive an SBA loan, factors including time in business and personal credit history will be considered. The process for receiving an SBA loan is lengthy and can take 30 days or longer from application to funding. However, this may be a great alternative if you don’t own your own home or don’t have enough equity to qualify for a home equity loan.
A home equity loan certainly has its benefits — startups can qualify, interest rates are low, and terms are favorable. However, there may be other options that make sense for your business. As with any other loan, shop around your options, compare lenders, and understand the terms of your loan before signing a contract.
The post The Complete Guide To Home Equity Loans For Business Purposes appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Startup capital is a necessity for virtually all businesses. However, the cost to start a business varies widely depending on what kind of business you are starting. For example, a home-based endeavor such as a dropshipping company or an Amazon business can cost less than $1,000 to get off the ground; the same goes for a business that doesn’t require an office or much equipment, such as a pet sitting business. On the other hand, opening a business that requires more equipment and office space—such as an autobody shop or a coffee shop—could cost $100,000 or more.
In this post, I’ll go over the main costs associated with starting a business and what you can expect to pay for each of them.
Surprisingly, there aren’t too many official statistics available on how much it costs to start a business, probably because the costs vary so much. There was a study conducted by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation way back in 2009 that found the average cost to start a business at that time was $30,000.
Below, we’ve put together our own startup business cost figures, but keep in mind that the amount you’ll spend will vary greatly depending on various factors, such as your industry and location.
Common Small Business Expenses
Business Licenses & Permits
Equipment & Supplies
Office Space & Utilities
$5,000 initially, then $2,000 monthly
$700 initially, then $200 monthly
Professional Services (e.g., legal services)
Total estimated cost: $28,200
Business Licenses & Permits
As a new business owner, you will need to register your business in your state and apply for a local business license/permit in your city or county. Depending on your industry, you may also need to obtain an industry-specific business permit. These initial business registration costs are usually minimal (less than $500).
There are several types of business insurance for startups and which type(s) you need depends on various factors. Insurance is a significant, ongoing business cost. Most businesses will need general liability insurance and business property insurance, and if you have employees, you will also need to pay for workers compensation insurance and health insurance. Commercial vehicle insurance and product liability insurance are some other business types you may or not need.
Equipment & Supplies
All businesses require some sort of equipment or supplies, but these costs vary significantly depending on what type of business you have. Examples of equipment and supplies include:
Restaurant kitchen equipment
Medical equipment & supplies
Product manufacturing equipment
Point of sale equipment (cash register, credit card reader, etc.)
The type of equipment and other materials you need to run your business really depends on your industry—for example, if you’re starting a wedding planner business, you’ll probably just need a computer and office supplies, whereas a trucking company will need commercial vehicles, etc.
Office Space & Utilities
If you need to rent or buy an office space, this will be a significant ongoing expense, and a big startup cost too, as you will need to pay a security deposit, first and last month’s rent, etc. Internet, gas and electricity, a business phone, and data plans will also factor into the infrastructure costs of your office space. Most businesses start out as home-based or rent a business space initially, instead of purchasing or building property.
If you sell a physical product, you need a certain amount of inventory to start out with (and have on-hand on an ongoing basis). Retail stores need a certain number of finished products on hand, while food-based businesses such as food trucks, for example, need to stock up on raw ingredients before they can open up shop. This, of course, does not apply to information-based businesses, such as consulting businesses or various other service-based businesses.
You may or may not start your business with any employees. If you do have employees, you need to factor in payroll costs, payroll taxes, insurance costs (workers comp. and health insurance), and training costs.
Modern business marketing includes not only business cards, advertisements, signage, etc., but also digital marketing costs such as SEO, social media marketing, and website maintenance costs. As far as your digital marketing, at the very least you will need a website and social media presence. Tip: Be sure you register your domain early on in the process of starting your business, as your website will be the foundation of your online marketing.
Some different types of business software you might need to launch and run your business include:
eCommerce/shopping cart software
Website builder software
Project management software
Email marketing software
Industry-specific business software (for example, specialized software for dentists, auto mechanics, etc.)
Some small business software programs combine multiple functions. For example, a restaurant management software system might include POS functionality as well as accounting, inventory, employee management, and maybe even email marketing functions. An accounting program like QuickBooks combines accounting, payroll, and invoicing functions, with POS functionality as an add-on.
Generally, most business software apps are no longer large programs that you install onto a computer as a one-time expense; rather, today’s business software is usually app/cloud-based, meaning you can sign in from any internet-connected device. And rather than paying for the software as a large, one-time expense, today’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) model is based on monthly payments with no down payment or long-term commitment. So, initial investment for business software will likely be much less than you would have paid for a comparable program 15 or 20 years ago. Some business software is even free to use.
In addition to software, don’t forget to factor in the cost of the associated hardware you’ll need to run the software into your equipment costs. For example, most businesses will need point of sale equipment, a laptop or iPad, a wireless router, etc. For very small businesses requiring only a basic app to take payments, it’s possible that the only hardware you might need is your smartphone.
This category can include legal fees, consultancy fees, accountant fees, and fees for any other professional services you use to help launch your business. While some businesses require minimal professional services, most businesses should at least consult a lawyer and/or professional accountant during the startup phase.
You’ll more than likely find out that there are more startup costs than you initially anticipated. Thus, it’s important to have a certain amount of your budget set aside for miscellaneous expenses that will inevitably come up. Some various costs you’ll need to include in your budget may include:
Credit card processing fees (once you start making sales)
Of course, you’ll also need to make sure you have enough money to support yourself before your business becomes profitable, so make sure this cost is included as well.
How To Calculate Startup Costs
The SBA has a very useful startup cost worksheet that outlines common business startup costs with sample figures that you can personalize to calculate the true cost of starting your business. Simply enter the estimated cost for each category (rent, utilities, inventory, employees, etc.) and you’ll be able to get a rough estimate of how much money you might need for your initial investment.
It’s also a good idea to make a sales forecast, in which you estimate how much you will sell in the first 6â12 months of opening your business. How long will it take for your business to make a profit? How long ’til you can pay off your startup expenses? With your prospective revenue in mind, you’ll have a better idea of how much you can afford to spend on ongoing expenses such as payroll and inventory.
If the total seems unaffordably high, look for areas you might be able to cut costs. For example, could you operate your business out of your home for the first six months? Could you subcontract workers instead of hiring employees? Could you use dropshipping to deliver goods to customers directly from the manufacturer, instead of buying inventory upfront?
Once you have a good idea of how much startup capital you might need for your first 6â12 months in business, you can decide how you will finance your venture.
What To Do If You Donât Have The Money
Startup funding can be difficult to procure from a traditional bank, especially if you don’t have any significant assets or previous experience owning a business. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have any options. Online technology has actually made it a lot easier to find small business funding. Here are some options you might try to finance your business.
Online Loan: This category includes both online business loans and online personal loans. Generally, online business loans for startups are limited to short-term, high-interest loans; you won’t qualify for better terms unless you’ve been in business at least two years. Still, it’s definitely worth looking into to see what kind of loans and rates you might qualify for. Some online lenders might even offer access to SBA loans for entrepreneurs, such as SBA microloans. Look at our startup business loan comparison chart to find some startup-friendly loan options.
Business Credit Cards: If you just need a few thousand dollars to get started, a business credit card can be a smart choice. You can use a business credit card to charge startup expenses, and/or to get a cash advance (though make sure you check the terms on the advance because they usually charge high interest). You could also use a personal credit card, though business credit cards typically have more business-specific benefits, such as cash-back for common business expenses. Look at our best small business credit cards comparison to see some of the top business cards’ requirements and perks.
Equipment Financing: If your main startup expense is the equipment you’ll need to run your business — for example, restaurant kitchen equipment, manufacturing equipment, office equipment, etc. — then you can simply finance the equipment itself, in the form of an equipment loan or lease. Similar to automotive financing, equipment financing involves monthly payments (either to lease or own), and does not typically require good credit or any collateral other than the equipment itself. Check out our equipment financing comparison chart to see your best options.
Line Of Credit: A business line of credit is similar to a credit card in the sense that you can have it on hand to pay for expenses, but you only have to repay what you use. Like a business loan, you can get a line of credit from an online lender or a traditional bank. However, startups will have better luck finding a line of credit online; there are several online line of credit providers that only require only 6 or fewer months in business, whereas banks typically will not extend a line of credit to startups. Check out our line of credit comparison page to find some startup-friendly LOC options.
Other startup financing ideas:
Loan from friends/family
Personal retirement savings— rollover a retirement account using a ROBS (rollovers as business startups) plan
Our team at Merchant Maverick has also written many informative articles about startup financing that can help you on your journey:
Crowdfunding For Startups: 8 Tips For Launching
Don’t Let Bad Credit Stop You From Getting A Startup Loan
The Best Business Cards For Startups And Entrepreneurs
SBA Loans For Startups
How To Find A Startup Grant
14 Types Of Alternative Financing For Small Businesses
The Best Business Credit Cards For People With Bad Credit
Tax-Deductible Startup Costs
If your total startup costs are $50K or less, you can write off up to $10,000 of startup costs on your taxes in the year that you start the business, including up to $5,000 in business startup costs and another $5,000 in organizational expenses (legal fees, state incorporation fees, etc.). If your startup costs exceed $50,000, the amount of your allowable deduction will be reduced by that dollar amount, and if your startup costs are more than $55,000, you are not eligible for the deduction.
Certain startup expenses are not tax-deductible—for example, the costs to qualify for doing business in your industry, such as real estate licensing costs, are not deductible as a startup expense. Additionally,Â business assets (one-time business expenditures such as vehicles and equipment) are not deductible as startup expenses, but may be deductible in a different category (amortization).
(In case you were wondering, business loan interest is, indeed, tax-deductible.)
It may be a cliche, but it is also true that “it takes money to make money.” Startup business costs can range from under $10K to over $100K, depending on a number of factors. It’s okay if you don’t have all the money right now: the important thing is to put together an accurate estimate of how much you will need, what you will spend the money on, and how/when you’ll be able to repay any borrowed monies with your revenue. You can then incorporate this estimate into your business plan and the loan proposal you will use to demonstrate to lenders that you are a good candidate for financing.
With the numerous financing options available to entrepreneurs these days, there is a great chance that if you have a sound business plan and accurate, reasonable startup cost estimate, you will be able to find a lender that can meet your startup financing needs.
The post How Much Money Do You Need To Start A Business? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
One of the wealthiest states in the nation, Maryland is considered one of the best U.S. states to live and work in. Being one of the 13 original colonies, Maryland is also among the nation’s oldest states; however, that doesn’t mean it rejects the new. Its largest city, Baltimore, was named by Forbes as one of the “Top 10 Rising Cities for Startups” in 2018, and Governor Larry Hogan recently described Maryland as being among “the top states in the country for entrepreneurial business growth,” touting the success of his administration’s “Open For Business” initiative.
Maryland’s proximity to Washington D.C. is an advantage for small businesses that are eligible for federal contracts, and its GDP is well above the national average. Maryland ranks second per capita and fourth overall in Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) awards. Maryland also has a growing and highly educated workforce, meaning there is a great selection of talent available for hire.
While Maryland presents a lot of opportunity for businesses, it is not without its downsides. Maryland can be a costly place to run a business, when you take into account the state’s high rent, high business taxes, and high labor costs. If you’re not one of Maryland’s independently wealthy (though MD does have a disproportionately high number of such residents), it can be a struggle to obtain enough startup capital to open a new business in Maryland, or to keep your existing small business afloat in the face of high operating costs.
For Maryland entrepreneurs who need a business loan, I’ve put together this resource with the best loans for Maryland small business owners. These include the best online loans, bank loans, grants, and other small business resources. I highly encourage you to read on if you are a Maryland entrepreneur in need of business financing.
Online Business Lenders For Maryland Businesses
Online business loans are the quickest and easiest way Maryland business owners can obtain business financing. Though these loans typically have higher borrowing fees and shorter repayment terms compared to a traditional bank loan, their convenience makes them worth it for some business owners—particularly for business owners who need capital ASAP or who can’t qualify for a loan from a bank or credit union. If you have a newer business or less-than-excellent credit, an online loan is likely your best financing option.
Read this section to learn about some of our favorite online lenders that extend loans to businesses in Maryland.
Lendio is an online loan aggregator, aka a loan marketplace, where businesses in all 50 states can search for and apply to multiple online loans with a single application. Lendio does not originate loans, but rather, they will connect you to their lending partners that meet your needs.Â It’s a good place to start if you’re not sure how much financing you might qualify for or which type of financing (bank term loan, short-term loan, line of credit, merchant cash advance, etc.) would best suit your business needs.
Lendio’s borrower qualifications vary since they work with a wide range of lenders, but Lendio recommends applicants meet the following minimum borrower requirements:
Time in business: 6 months
Credit score: 550
Business revenue: $10K/month
We like Lendio for the excellent lenders they work with and the broad range of business financing products they provide access to, from short-term loans to long-term SBA loans, and many others in between. Lendio can connect qualified borrowers with loans as large as $5 million and, the average time to funding is 2â7 days.
Must be in business at least 12 months with a revenue of $10,000 per month.
Must have a personal credit score of 600 or above.
Businesses with fair credit and/or unpaid invoices
Breakout Capital, also available to businesses in all 50 states (and D.C.), is a short-term lender that distinguishes itself by being transparent and reputable in a sea largely made up of unscrupulous, predatory lenders. Their terms and rates are clearly disclosed and they have excellent customer service in case you have any questions.
Breakout’s financing products include short-term business loansup to $250,000, and FactorAdvantage invoice factoring loans up to $500,000. FactorAdvantage loans are a combination of invoice factoring and Breakout Capitalâs business loans. Breakout loans are flexible in that they act similar to a line of credit, making it easy to borrow more capital after you repay your first loan.
To qualify for a short-term business loan with Breakout Capital, you need:
Time in business: 1 year
Credit score: 600
Business revenue: $10,000/month
Regarding FactorAdvantage, because this loan is designed to be used in conjunction with invoice factoring services, Breakout Capital does not require any specific time in business, revenue, or credit score. Funds are typically received within one business day after the final closing contracts for the loan are signed.
AMEX Business Loans
Time in business: 24 months
Business revenue: $50,000 per year
Personal credit score: Good to excellent
Other: Must accept Amex cards or have an Amex business credit card (depends on the type of financing you are applying for)
Established businesses that use or accept American Express
American Express Business Loans are available to businesses in all 50 states. They are not pricey credit card advance loans, but rather, they are actual term loans, including both short-term and medium-term loans. You do, however, need to either have a business AMEX card or accept AMEX cards at your business in order to qualify.
AMEX loans are convenient, fast, and reasonable in terms of their terms and fees. Depending on which loan you apply for, you can qualify for financing up to $50K (medium-term “Business Loans” product), $750K (short-term “Working Capital” loan), or $2 million (short-term “Merchant Financing” loan, similar to cash advance). The time to funding is typically about 2 days.
To qualify for AMEX business financing, you’ll need the following requirements:
Time in business: 2 years
Credit score: N/A
Business revenue: $50K/year
Youâll also need to be an American Express business credit card holder for Working Capital and Business Loans. For Merchant Financing, youâll need to accept American Express cards. Depending on the product, you may also need to do at least $12,000 in card-based sales annually.
Time in business: 12 months
Business revenue: $100,000 per year
Business industry: Must not be in aÂ restricted industry
OnDeck is the largest and probably the most well-known online small business lender, offering short-term loans and revolving lines of credit to eligible businesses in all 50 states. OnDeck is a hugely prolific, publicly traded company that has relatively few negative complaints considering their enormous footprint. Like the other online lenders on this list, OnDeck has the advantages of being fast, convenient, and willing to lend to businesses that cannot qualify for a bank loan. OnDeck offers short-term loans up to $500K and lines of credit up to $100K.
Here’s what you need to qualify for an STL or LOC from OnDeck:
LoanBuilder is actually part of PayPal’s business loan arm, but unlike PayPal Working Capital loans, you do not need to be a PayPal business in order to qualify for a LoanBuilder loan. In fact, you need very little in terms of qualifications to qualify for a LoanBuilder loan—businesses with less than a year in business and sub-600 credit scores can qualify.
LoanBuilder offers short-term loans up to $500K, with no origination fee.
An interesting benefit of LoanBuilder is that you can tinker with your loan amount and repayment term to “build” your own perfect loan before accepting the loan offer.
Here’s what you need to qualify for a LoanBuilder loan:
Time in business: 9 months
Credit score: 550
Business revenue: $42K/year
Funding can be as fast as the next business day after you turn in all your documents and sign the contract. As with the other lenders on our list, LoanBuilder serves all 50 states.
Time in business: N/A
Business revenue: N/A
Personal credit score: 600 – 680
Personal income: $20,000
LendingPoint does not operate inÂ Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming
Prosper is a personal loan option available to borrowers in Maryland (and all other US states, except Iowa and West Virginia). Because these are personal loans, you can use them for almost any purpose you like, including to fund a business. You also don’t need any business qualifications in order to qualify for a Prosper loan, making this option suitable for startups, even if your business is only in the idea stage. You will, however, need to have at least fair personal credit.
Prosper sells term loans from $2Kâ$40K with monthly repayments. Though you can’t get a large loan through Prosper, the monthly repayments are a refreshing attribute, as most other online loans require daily or weekly repayments.
To qualify for a Prosper loan you’ll need:
Time in business: N/A
Credit score: 640
Business revenue: N/A
Usually, the time it takes from application to funding is a week or less. However, because Prosper has a peer-to-peer model wherein investors choose which loans they want to fund, it can take up to 14 days for investors to decide if they will fund your loan.
Must be in business at least 2 years.
Must have a personal credit score of 650 or above.
Must have a business credit score of 150 or above.
SmartBiz, available in all 50 states, combines the best of both worlds when it comes to business loans: the convenience of an online application, and the low-cost and comfortable repayment schedule of a long-term loan. Specifically, SmartBiz offers SBA loans up to $5 million, including general business loans and commercial real estate loans. SmartBiz also partners with banks to sell non-SBA bank term loans up to$200K.
SmartBiz’s main benefit is its efficient, simplified SBA (Small Business Administration) loan application process. If you can qualify for a bank or SBA loan, SmartBiz offers a quicker application as well as a speedier time-to-funding. Also, while SmartBiz isn’t as easy to qualify for as some online loans, you may still qualify even if you have fair personal credit, and there is no specific revenue requirement.
Borrower qualifications vary somewhat depending on which type of loan you apply for:
Time in business: 2â3 years
Personal credit score: 650â675
Business credit score (on certain loans): 150
Business revenue: N/A (but sufficient to support repayments)
Time-to-funding can take from one to several weeks, depending on how fast you submit all the necessary documents. Still, this is faster than applying for a bank/SBA loan through traditional channels.
Banks & Credit Unions In Maryland
Whereas online loans are ideal for Maryland businesses that have subprime credit or not much time in business, bank loans are more appropriate for established businesses with excellent credentials. If you apply for financing through a bank or credit union, you might qualify for a longer-term loan with low interest, especially if your bank is an SBA (Small Business Administration) loan partner. As mentioned, some reputable online lending companies such as Lendio and SmartBiz have the option of connecting you with bank loans, including SBA loans—a type of government-backed business loan offered by certain banks.
The following are some popular Maryland business bank loan options. We don’t have too much information about local Maryland banks, as we don’t typically review local banks in depth. Nevertheless, choosing a local bank versus a large national bank can have its advantages in terms of more responsive and personalized customer service, so it’s definitely worth checking out these options on your own.
Howard Bank, Baltimore’s largest independent bank, is an SBA-preferred lender and also offers non-SBA business loans. Howard Bank offers business loans for a variety of business purposes, such as working capital and equipment financing, as well as commercial real estate loans.
Howard is a strong option to consider if you want to choose a local Maryland bank for your business financing needs. Howard Bank also participates in Baltimore County’s Small Business Loan Fund, discussed in more detail below.
In addition to Baltimore County, Howard Bank also has numerous other branch locations throughout central Maryland.
T.D. Bank, N.A. is the American branch of Canadian bank Toronto-Dominion Bank. This New Jersey-based bank division operates in 15 states, including Maryland, as well as Washington D.C.
Maryland small businesses with good credit may find T.D. Bank to be an excellent smaller alternative to the “Big 4” banks, as they offer low interest rates to qualified borrowers. T.D. bank also participates in Baltimore County’s Business Small Loan Fund, discussed in more detail below.
In 2018, J.P Morgan & Chase unveiled plans to open more than 70 locations in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia. Chase already has locations in the Capitol but will open its first Baltimore-area branch in 2019 (in Hunt Valley).
For businesses looking for the convenience of a large, national bank, Chase offers excellent business financing solutions to small and large businesses (including startups), with low interest rates. However, you will need good credit to qualify for Chase’s financing products, which include business term loans, SBA loans, and lines of credit. Chase also offers its customers some excellent business credit cards.
See our Chase Business Loans review for more information on Chase’s business loan requirements.
Baltimore County Small Business Loan Fund
Baltimore’s Small Business Loan Fund is a partnership between the County of Baltimore and some of the area’s leading banks, including T.D. Bank, Howard Bank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, PNC Bank, and others. These are real estate and fixed-asset loans with a maximum amount of $1 million, or 40 percent of the project cost, whichever is lower. To qualify, applicants must obtain a loan commitment for at least half of the project cost from a participating Baltimore bank. You can find a full list of participating banks on Baltimore County’s website.
Nonprofit Lenders In Maryland
Nonprofit lenders may be able to offer low-interest loans to qualified small businesses. While not all Maryland businesses will be eligible, the good news is that Maryland has at least several nonprofit organizations that offer low-interest small business loans to businesses that don’t qualify for bank financing. There are also government-funded loans specifically for nonprofit organizations in the state of Maryland.
Baltimore Community Lending, Inc.
Baltimore Community Lending, Inc. is a certified nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution. This enterprise’s wholly owned subsidiary Baltimore Business Lending, LLC provides capital to startup and emerging small businesses in the city of Baltimore that have good credit but lack the equity or collateral to obtain traditional financing. Loans are made via partnerships with approved microlenders and technical assistance providers.
NIMBL is a loan from the state of Maryland available to nonprofit organizations only. Specifically, this program is for nonprofits that have been approved for other government grants or contracts but have not received the funds yet (hence the “bridge” loan designation). This program provides interest-free loan up to $25K to qualified nonprofits in the state of Maryland. You can find more information about this program on the Maryland Department of Commerce website.
Rockville Economic Development, Inc.
Rockville Economic Development, Inc. (REDI) was founded in 1997 as a nonprofit entity to support existing small businesses as well as to attract new businesses to the city of Rockville, MD. REDI offers several different loans and grants to Rockville businesses; Rockville businesses should check REDI’s website to see which financing programs they might be eligible for.
In addition to these nonprofit loans for businesses in the city of Rockville, other cities and counties in Maryland, including Frederick, Montgomery, and Baltimore, have similar low-interest or interest-free loan programs for businesses in those areas.
Small Business Grants In Maryland
Generally, grants for for-profit businesses are hard to come by and even harder to get approved for. However, Maryland seems to have an exceptional number of government-funded grant programs designed to promote economic development in the state. I’ve highlighted some of the most relevant programs below, and you can find a full list of all state business grant programs on Maryland’s Department of Commerce website.
Video Lottery Terminal Fund
Maryland’s Video Lottery Terminal Fund (VLT) uses proceeds from the state’s video slot machines to assist small, minority, and women-owned businesses located throughout the state of Maryland (and especially in the areas surrounding Maryland casinos). You can find more information on this grant on Maryland’s Department of Commerce website.
Rockville Small Business Impact Fund
The Rockville Small Business Impact Fund is a new program that will offer financial assistance to qualified, small- and medium-sized businesses in Rockvilleâs performance districts, particularly start-ups and businesses lacking access to the capital they need to sustain growth.
Per the program’s website:
During the Impact Fundâs pilot year, it will support private-sector solutions to community challenges through a grant focused on fostering economic vitality and community engagement in Rockville Town Center.
Montgomery County MOVE Program
MOVE is a one-time grant for businesses that are new to Montgomery County and lease up to 10,000 square feet of office space for a minimum of three years, excluding retail and restaurant industries. (Rockville, MD has a comparable program.) Eligible businesses may receive a grant of $8.00 per square foot for Class A or B space, and up to $4.00 per square foot for Class C space. You can contact the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation for more information on this grant.
Advantage Maryland (also known as MEDAAF) is a broad, state-funded program that funds grants, loans, and investments to support economic development initiatives in the state of Maryland. Only businesses in eligible industries and priority funding areas will qualify. Contact the Maryland Department of Commerce for more information.
Export MD Program
The Export MD grant is designed to reimburse Maryland businesses for international marketing expenses. Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the SBA, Export MD awards eligible Maryland businesses with up to $5,000 in reimbursement for expenses associated with an international marketing project—for example, trade show fees, airfare, translation of brochures, and website development. Maryland DOC accepts applications for this grant on a monthly basis.
Loans & Resources For Startups In Maryland
Brand-new companies have special hurdles when it comes to obtaining startup capital and other startup necessities. Fortunately, there are both state-funded and private nonprofit organizations in Maryland to help you find startup capital, register your business, and get your business off the ground!
Maryland Business Express
Hosted on the Maryland Department of Commerce website, Maryland Business Express is an online resource that provides a comprehensive set of resources for individuals who want to start a business in Maryland. You can do everything from register your business, to establish tax accounts for your business, to obtain Maryland business licenses online.
In other areas of the same website (Maryland DOC), you can also find loan and financing resources for Maryland business startups.
Maryland Capital Enterprises, Inc.
Maryland Capital Enterprises, Inc. (MCE) is a nonprofit lender providing small business loans to startups in Maryland. These loans of up to $50K are for for-profit startup businesses that have tried to obtain capital from a bank but were unable to. Visit the program’s website for more info.
Frederick County Small Business Loan Guarantee
The Frederick County Small Business Loan Guarantee program provides funds for the purchase of real estate, machinery, equipment, inventory, working capital, and renovation of real estate to startup businesses located in a Frederick County priority funding area (priority funding areas cover most municipalities and major transportation corridors in the county). The loan guarantee is for up to 80% of the loan with a maximum of $50,000.
Baltimore County Boost Fund
The Baltimore County Boost Fund provides loans of up to $250K to small businesses (classified by SBA standards) in Baltimore County and can be used for startup funds, as well as other business expenses. Baltimore-area small businesses are eligible, as are minority-owned businesses, woman-owned businesses, and veteran-owned businesses in Baltimore. Baltimore County also has a few other loan programs startups in the area may qualify for.
What To Consider When Choosing A Lender
There’s a lot to consider when choosing a small business lender. Among the most important factors are :
How much you’ll pay for the loan (in interest and other fees)
Ease of application
Do you qualify?
Generally, you want to choose the lowest-interest loan you qualify for, but you’ll also want to consider the lender’s overall reputation and whether you can comfortably afford the loan repayments. If you are time-pressed (and who isn’t?) you should also take into account how fast the loan will come through, and how convenient the application process is.
Different types of loans have different pros and cons you’ll need to weigh—for instance, an online loan you qualify for today might be easy to apply for and will hit your account within a couple of days, but carry a high interest rate or factor rate, with a short repayment term. You may have to wait a couple of years before you can qualify for a bank or SBA loan, but it will have a lower interest rate and more comfortable repayment schedule.
In order to choose the best loan you qualify for, you’ll need to consider multiple offers from different lenders. As mentioned, using a loan aggregator service like Lendio one good way to compare different business loans at the same time.
Of course, you’ll also want to make sure you even qualify for a loan before you start seriously considering them, or you’ll just be wasting your time. Be sure to check your credit score and also check that you meet a lender’s borrower requirements—which are almost always clearly stated on their website—before applying.
It’s safe to say that Maryland is indeed “open for business,” as its business-forward mayor states. While Maryland does have a relatively high cost of doing business compared to many other states, there are numerous loans and even grants available to Maryland businesses.
The D.C.-adjacent state has a lot going for it when it comes to attracting small businesses, including a wealthy populace, potential for government contracts, access to a major seaport, and many government programs to promote economic development, particularly for businesses owners who struggle to qualify for traditional means of capital. Whether you choose to go the bank loan route, apply with an online lender, or try to qualify for government-backed financing, you have many financing options at your disposal as a business owner (or aspiring business owner) in the Old Line State.
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Airports are not places of emotional respite and quiet contemplation. Airports are angry, crowded, chaotic, exploitative places where anxiety thrives like bacteria on picnic potato salad. Heavily-policed cathedrals of dread and frustration where the malware-ridden charging stations are all occupied and a mediocre sandwich costs 12 bucks. The modern airport experience distills and concentrates the existential toxicity we spend our lives trying and failing to avoid.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were something you could do to make airports less awful? As it turns out, for a price, there is.
Most airports have lounges where you can take refuge from the rest of the airport. While airports differ in terms of the lounge benefits they offer, these benefits typically include complimentary snacks and drinks, free wi-fi, computer workstations, comfy seating, and other luxury amenities. Some even offer full spa treatments!
You can just pay to get into these lounges, but if you use them with any frequency, this will cost you quite a bit. Thankfully, some travel credit cards come with complimentary airport lounge access, entitling you — and up to two companions, in most cases — to use these lounges and enjoy their benefits. While these cards normally carry a high annual fee, you’ll still come out ahead if you use these lounges often enough. Plus, premium travel cards offer a host of additional benefits, like travel protection, the ability to earn points or cash back, and more.
Read on to get the details of the top travel credit cards with lounge access. Hopefully, you’ll find one that appeals to you!
The Platinum Card from Amex earns first mention from us in this article. Why? Because no other credit card out there (with the exception of the business version of this card) gets you access to as many airport lounges as this one.
With Amex’s Platinum Card, you’ll gain access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, which includes the following airport lounge networks:
Amex Centurion — Typically rated as the most luxurious of the bunch, Amex Centurion lounges can be found at 8 domestic airports and 8 non-US airports
Priority Pass — Priority Pass is the world’s biggest airport lounge network with over 1,200 locations across 130 countries
Delta Sky Clubs — You must be flying with Delta to take advantage of these lounges
Airspace — Airspace lounges can currently be found in just two airports, Cleveland and San Diego
The Platinum Card gives youÂ and up to two companions free access to these lounges. Not too shabby!
The airport lounge benefits are only the beginning of the perks you’ll be able to access. You’ll earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000+ on purchases within 3 months. You’ll get an annual $200 airline fee credit to cover incidentals with an airline of your choosing. You’ll get up to $200/year worth of Uber credits.
Shall I go on?
You’ll get 5X Membership Rewards points on a) flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel,Â and b) prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com. You’ll get a statement credit to cover the cost of applying for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. You can use your points to book travel with amextravel.com and not have to deal with blackout dates or seat restrictions. You’ll even get complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts.
As you can see, the Amex Platinum Card carries a great many high-value benefits (and I didn’t even list them all!). However, these benefits don’t come cheap, as the card carries a $550 annual fee. Now, keep in mind that every other card featuring this level of free airport lounge access also carries a hefty annual fee (over $400). Of course, in order to come out ahead financially with any of these cards, you’ll have to fly often enough to take full advantage of your travel benefits.
Keep in mind that this is a charge card — you have to pay your balance in full each month.
The Business Platinum Card from American Express
American Express Business Platinum Card
N/A (this is a charge card)
Required credit: Good, excellent
Bonus offer: 50,000 points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 on all qualifying purchases within the first three months
Purchase intro APR: N/A (this is a charge card)
Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
Foreign transaction fee: None
5 points per dollar spent on flights and prepaid hotels booked via Amexâs travel website
1.5 points per dollar on eligible purchases of $5,000 or more â up to 1 million additional points per year
1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases
Notable perks & benefits:
Get access to over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide via theÂ American Express Global Lounge Collection
Receive a statement credit every 4 years after you apply for Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85)
Use Membership Rewards Pay with Points for a First or Business class flight with any airline available through Amex Travel and get 35% of the points back
Get $200 per year in statement credits for incidental fees with the qualifying airline of your choice
You guessed it: The Business Platinum Card from American Express is the business version of Amex’s Platinum Card. Naturally, the two cards are similar, but not identical.
The similarities? Both cards offer the same level of airport lounge access and largely carry the same travel perks, such as a fee credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck and a $200 airline fee credit. Also, both are charge cards.
The differences? The Business Platinum card has a slightly higher annual fee ($595) and no Uber credits. It also sports a higher signup bonus, though you have to spend more in order to get it in full. The Amex Business Platinum offers 50,000 points after you spend $10,000 in your first three months and another 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 within those same three months.
The card’s points-earning structure is also a bit different: 5X points on airfare and prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com and 1.5X points on purchases of $5,000 or more. All other purchases earn you 1 point per dollar spent.
As the Amex Business Platinum is a business credit card, you can get cards for your employees for no additional fee.
Mastercard Black Card
Mastercard Black Card
Required credit: Excellent
Bonus offer: None
Purchase intro APR:Â N/A
Balance transfer intro APR: 0% for the first 15 billing cycles
Foreign transaction fee: None
1 point per dollar spent
2% value for airfare redemptions
1.5% value for cash back redemptions
1% value forÂ hotel stays and car rental redemptions
Notable Perks & Benefits:Â
24/7 Luxury Card Concierge
Luxury gifts fromÂ brand name companies
Room upgrades, complimentary food and beverage, and spa credits when booking with Luxury Card Travel
Travel benefits, including global luggage delivery,Â 24/7 chauffeured transportation, and private jet/yacht chartering services
The Mastercard Black Card doesn’t carry the same level of travel benefits as most of the other cards here, so it’s fair to ask how one can justify getting this card, given its $495 annual fee. Well, there’s one thing the Mastercard Black Card can offer that other travel cards with airport lounge access don’t.
The Mastercard Black Card gives you access to Priority Pass lounges via the Priority Pass Select program, but unlike other credit cards offering this benefit, the Mastercard Black Card bestows free access to Priority Pass lounges for both you and an unlimited number of guests. The other credit cards offering Priority Pass Select limit free lounge access to two companions with any additional companions subject to a fee for entry. If Priority Pass Select membership is of the utmost importance to you and you travel frequently with a sizable family or entourage, the Mastercard Black Card might be just what you’re looking for.
While the Black Card’s other benefits don’t quite live up to those of the other cards listed here, the card does offer 2% of your value back (in the form of points) for airfare redemptions and 1.5% value for cash back redemptions. You’ll also get a $100 annual air travel credit toward all flight-related purchases as well as a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
Additionally, the card is made out of stainless steel, so it looks cool.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Required credit: Good, excellent
Bonus offer: 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Purchase intro APR: N/A
Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
Foreign transaction fee: None
3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining at restaurants
3 points per dollar spent on travel worldwide immediately after earning your $300 annual travel credit
1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
Notable Perks & Benefits:Â
$300 Annual Travel Credit
50% more value when redeeming points for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards
Chase’s Sapphire Reserve card is a solid contender in the travel credit card race, offering free access to all Priority Pass lounges for you and up to 2 guests. The annual fee is $450, but in exchange, you’ll be entitled to some great high-value benefits.
The Sapphire Reserve has an impressive signup bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $4,000+ on purchases in the first 3 months. When redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, those points will be worth $750, as your points get a 50% value boost when you redeem them this way. You’ll also get a statement credit of up to $300 to cover your travel purchases each account anniversary year.
As far as ongoing points-earning goes, you’ll earn 3X points on all travel purchases after earning your $300 annual travel credit. You’ll also get 3X points on all restaurant purchases and 1 point for all other purchases. And yes, you’ll get a statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can also transfer your points over to other leading travel loyalty programs on a 1:1 basis. Score one for points flexibility!
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
17.99% – 25.99%, Variable
Required credit: Excellent
Bonus offer: 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months
Purchase intro APR:Â N/A
Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
Foreign transaction fee: None
2 miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
1 mile per dollar on all other purchases
Notable Perks & Benefits:Â
10,000 AAdvantage Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) once you spend $40,000 in purchases within a calendar year
25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases on American Airlines flights
Up to aÂ $100 credit every 5 years for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
Priority check-in, priority airport screening (where available) and boarding privileges for you and up to 8 companions on the same reservation
First bag checked free on domestic American Airlines flights for you and up to 8 companions
Here’s a luxury travel card with lounge access for frequent American Airlines travelers. The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard’s main benefit is the access it grants you to AA’s Admiral’s Club program. Both you and your immediate family (or two unrelated companions) will get free access to the 50+ Admiral’s Club lounges around the world along with 60+ partner lounges.
While the card does carry an annual fee of $450, consider that a standalone Admiral’s Club membership costs up to $650/year for an individual membership and $1,250/year for a household membership!
The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard comes with a host of additional travel benefits. You and up to 8 travel companions will get one free checked bag on domestic AA flights, and if your companions are on your reservation, you’ll all enjoy priority check-in, priority airport screening (where available), and priority boarding.
You’ll also get 25% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases on AA flights, a statement credit to cover your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee, 50,000 AAdvantage miles when you spend $5,000+ in the first 3 months, 2 miles for every dollar spent on AA purchases (1 mile per dollar spent on everything else), dedicated concierge service, and more.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
17.99% – 26.99%, Variable
Required credit: Excellent
Bonus offer: 150,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $4,000+ in purchases within your first 3 months
Purchase intro APR: N/A
Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
Foreign transaction fee: None
14 Hilton Honors points per dollar spent on all Hilton-related purchases
7 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies, and US restaurants
3 points per dollar spent on all other purchases
Notable Perks & Benefits:Â
Unlimited Priority Pass lounge access for you and up to 2 companions per visit
Annual $250 Hilton Resort statement credit
Annual $250 airline fee credit with a qualifying airline of your choosing
Complimentary Diamond status in Hilton’s loyalty program
Hilton-heads out there will appreciate the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card. Yes, you’ll get Priority Pass Select membership granting you and up to 2 companions free access to Priority Pass lounges. You’ll also get a nice set of Hilton-specific benefits, including:
Hilton Honors Diamond status
Two weekend award nights — one when you open your account (and on your account anniversary) and one when you spend $60,000 in a calendar year
$250 Hilton Resort statement credit — you get one each calendar year
$250 airline fee credit for incidentals with an airline of your choosing
As far as points go, you’ll get 150,000 Hilton Honors points when you spend $4,000+ on purchases in the first 3 months. The Aspire card also offers a whopping 14X points on all Hilton-related purchases along with 7X points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies, and US restaurant purchases. All other purchases will earn you 3X points.
The Hilton Honors Amex Aspire card carries a $450 annual fee.
Hilton Honors American Express Ascend
Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card
17.99% – 26.99%, Variable
Required credit: Good, Excellent
Bonus offer: 125,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $2,000+ on purchases in the first 3 months
Purchase intro APR: N/A
Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
Foreign transaction fee: None
12 Hilton Honors points per dollar spent on all Hilton-related purchases
6 points per dollar spent on all purchases at US restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations
3 points per dollar spent on all other purchases
Notable Perks & Benefits:Â
10 free visits per year to Priority Pass lounges, with each subsequent visit costing $27
Your guests can enter Priority Pass lounges for $27 apiece
Complimentary Gold status in Hilton’s loyalty program
Earn a Weekend Night Reward after you spend $15,000 on purchases in a calendar year
No, we didn’t screw up and list the same card twice. The Hilton Honors American Express Ascend (not the Aspire) card differs from its sister card — and every other credit card listed in this article — in that it offers airport lounge access while sporting an annual fee of just $95. Relatively speaking, the Ascend card is the “bargain” option if you want a credit card that grants you airport lounge access!
However, along with the smaller annual fee comes a lower level of lounge benefits. You get 10 free visits per year to Priority Pass lounges, with each subsequent visit costing $27. And if you want your guests to get in for free, you’ll have to use up one of your 10 free lounge visits on each person you bring with you.
The card comes with a bonus offer of 125,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $2,000+ on purchases in your first 3 months. You’ll also earn 12X points on all Hilton purchases, 6X points on US restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and 3X points on everything else. Additional benefits include complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status and a free weekend reward night after you spend $15,000 on purchases in a calendar year.
Airports are not fun places. If you’re prepared to pay for the privilege of having a more pleasant airport experience, a travel credit card gives you a better deal on airport lounge access than a standalone membership. If you travel often enough to take advantage of the benefits of these cards, you can easily recoup the value of these cards’ high annual fees.
Still searching for the credit card that fits your needs? Let these articles inform your decision!
Best airline credit cards for businesses
Top credit cards with no foreign transaction fees
Guide to using personal cards for business
The post Top Credit Cards With Airport Lounge Access appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
The defining feature of modern American life is the fact that everything necessary for survival — housing, education, health care, you name it — gets more expensive by the day while our wages stagnate or decline. Ergo, we get ourselves into credit card debt in order to keep the late capitalist wolves at bay. You may well be dealing with paying down multiple high-interest credit cards along with keeping all your other bills paid.
If this is the case, there are ways you can make your payments easier to handle by consolidating your credit card debts into a single debt with a lower interest rate. As it happens, there are multiple methods of doing this, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Credit Card Consolidation: The Basics
Credit card debt consolidation is easy enough to describe. You borrow money to pay off your existing credit card debt, which results in you having a single debt to pay off rather than several. This single debt will typically have a lower interest rate than your original debts. This way, you’ll save money and make the repayment process more manageable.
Sounds great, right? Well, there are different ways to consolidate your credit card debt, and each method comes with its own upsides and downsides. We’ll get into these methods, but first, let’s discuss just who should be looking into credit card debt consolidation.
Who Should Consolidate Credit Card Debt?
When done right, consolidating your credit card debt should leave you in a better financial position than when you started and should make it easier for you to pay down your debt. But if you’re not in a position to be able to stop making new credit card charges, you won’t be any closer to your goal of paying off your debt. Likewise, a decent credit score is an unfortunate prerequisite for certain debt consolidation methods (like a personal loan).
While anybody buried under credit card debt can take advantage of one debt consolidation method or another, it’s important that the method matches your individual circumstances.
Common Debt Consolidation Pitfalls
Every debt consolidation method carries particular risks. For instance, consider the situation I outlined above. If you take out a personal loan to pay off your credit cards but then continue to rack up charges on your credit cards, you’ll have only added another debt to your debt pile with your personal loan.
Likewise, a homeowner may take out a home equity loan or line of credit and use the money to pay off credit card debts. But if — for whatever reason — you can’t make your HELOC payments, you could lose your home!
While there are a number of ways you can try to hoist yourself out of credit card debt, always be aware of the hazards associated with each method.
5 Ways To Consolidate Credit Card Debt
There are a number of tactics one can employ to tackle credit card debt, five of which I will detail here:
Transfer your debt to a 0% balance transfer credit card
Take out a personal loan
Find a nonprofit credit counseling organization
Take money out of a retirement account
Take out a home equity loan or line of credit
Transfer Your Debt To A 0% Balance Transfer Credit Card
Certain credit cards are sold as debt consolidation tools. These cards will usually offer an introductory interest-free period (often 12-15 months but occasionally longer) on all credit card balances you transfer over to the card within a certain time frame (typically within 30-60 days of getting your card). If you manage to pay off your debt on the card within the interest-free period, you can avoid paying any further interest on your debt.
It’s one of the safer means by which you can consolidate your credit card debt, as you won’t be putting your house on the line or anything. However, these balance transfer credit cards often require good to excellent credit in order to qualify, thus excluding a lot of indebted people. What’s more, while these cards won’t charge interest on your balance transfers for a certain length of time, these cards often have a balance transfer fee of about 3%.
Additionally, the credit limit on your balance transfer credit card may not be high enough to accommodate you transferring all your existing credit card debt to the balance transfer card. If you have an enormous amount of credit card debt, it won’t be easy to find a balance transfer credit card that can accommodate all of it.
Another factor to consider: Some credit card issuers won’t let you transfer a balance to their card from another card of theirs. For instance, Chase won’t let you transfer a balance from one of their cards to another.
A good example of a balance transfer credit card is the Amex EveryDay card.
Amex EveryDay Credit Card
15.24% â 26.24%, Variable
Suggested credit:Â Good, excellent
Bonus offer:Â 10,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
Purchase intro APR:Â 0% for the first 15 months
Balance transfer intro APR:Â 0% for the first 15 monthsÂ on all balances transferred within 60 days of account opening
Foreign transaction fee: 2.7%
2 points per dollar spent at US supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year
2 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases booked through amextravel.com
1 point per dollar on all other purchases
Notable Perks & Benefits:Â
Earn 20% extra points on your purchases if you make 20 or more purchases in a billing period
The card’s 0% APR on balance transfers lasts for 15 months and applies to all balances transferred over to the card within 60 days of getting your card. What’s more, all balances transferred over within the first 60 days will not have a balance transfer fee applied.
The 15-month 0% APR applies to purchases as well as balance transfers. In addition, you can earn rewards points for your spending. Many balance transfer credit cards lack a rewards program.
Want to check out some other credit card options for debt consolidation? Check out our article on the best credit cards for balance transfers.
Take Out A Personal Loan
Personal loans can be obtained from a bank, credit union, or online lender and can be used to pay off your credit card debts. Your interest rate will typically depend on your credit.
Is a personal loan the right debt consolidation method for you? Unfortunately, it depends on your credit. Well-qualified applicants should be able to obtain a loan with a low interest rate that will save the borrower money on interest payments, while those with poor credit may have trouble obtaining a loan with an interest rate that won’t be so high as to negate the debt-consolidation benefits of the loan. If this is you, you may want to check with a credit union before you go to other types of lenders, as credit unions tend to be more likely to accommodate borrowers with low credit scores than other types of lenders.
Furthermore, some online lenders offer loans tailored specifically for debt consolidation. Payoff is one such lender.
Payoff offers fixed-rate personal loans of up to $35,000 for debt consolidation to borrowers with a credit score of at least 640. The “fixed-rate” part is important as it means your monthly payments will always be the same amount, which should help with your budget planning.
Well-qualified applicants can get a loan with an interest rate less than that of most balance transfer credit cards — and you can check your potential interest rate on Payoff’s website without affecting your credit. Payoff will also send you a free monthly update of your FICO score.
Find A Nonprofit Credit Counseling Organization
If you’d like some personal attention to your specific debt situation, seek out a credit counseling organization. These organizations work with debtors on a one-on-one basis, offering advice and assistance in creating plans to help you climb out of debt. I would suggest looking for a nonprofit credit counseling organization accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC).
These organizations can help you set up a debt management program in which you make payments to the counseling agency in question. The agency then makes payments on each of your debts. They may even be able to negotiate lower interest rates or monthly payments for you.
The downsides to this debt consolidation approach are comparatively minor. You’ll probably have to pay a monthly service fee and a setup fee, and you may be required to close your credit cards after paying them off.
Take Money Out Of A Retirement Account
If you find that better debt consolidation options aren’t available to you, you can try borrowing from your employer-sponsored retirement account (such as a 401(k) or an IRA).
This isn’t a debt consolidation method of first resort, as the downsides are serious: you’ll have less money in your retirement account, you might have to pay income taxes and an early withdrawal penalty, and if you’re borrowing from your 401(k), you’ll have to repay the loan within 5 years (and if you lose your job, you’ll have to repay the loan within 60 days!). The consequences are worse if you can’t repay your loan. You’ll get hit with a big penalty as well as taxes on the unpaid balance, and you’ll be in more debt than ever.
Unless your circumstances are truly desperate, I wouldn’t recommend this method of consolidating your credit card debt!
Take Out A Home Equity Loan Or Line Of Credit
Here’s another high-risk debt consolidation method: You can borrow against the equity in your home (or possibly your vehicle) with a loan or line of credit. The repayment period can vary from 5 to 20 years but is commonly 10 years.
On the plus side, as this loan would be secured, you’ll get a lower interest rate than you’ll get with an unsecured loan, and you won’t need good credit. On the downside: if you can’t make your payments, you could lose your dang home!
Due to the manifest risk, this is another debt consolidation method of last resort. You don’t want to put your house at risk unless you’re supremely confident in your ability to repay the loan. And even then, you could still end up being wrong!
Next Steps: What You Should Do After Consolidating
Once you’ve consolidated your credit card debt, be sure to monitor your credit score regularly. Thankfully, there are ways to do this for free and without hurting your credit score.
Of course, along with monitoring your credit score, you’ll want to try to improve it! One way to do this is to simply make timely payments on all your debts (including credit card payments, obviously). Whenever you can, set up automatic payments.
For more on how to use your credit cards in a way that will improve, rather than hurt, your credit score, check out our article on how to build credit with a credit card.
One piece of advice typically given in this situation is to just cut back on your spending. However, given the skyrocketing cost of merely existing in this predatory world (much less raising kids, etc), this advice can be unrealistic and smacks of privileged condescension. Nevertheless, if you do spend a significant amount of your income on non-essential purchases, you might want to re-evaluate your spending habits!
The right debt consolidation strategy is invaluable when you’re trying to claw your way out from under credit card debt. The key is to find the strategy that best fits your particular circumstances. Merchant Maverick is here to help you in your quest!
For more on healthy credit card use and getting out of debt, check out the following articles:
Guide to credit card balance transfers
Top no fee balance transfer cards
How to cancel a credit card
Best free credit score sites
How to build credit with a card
The post Credit Card Consolidation: How to Consolidate Credit Card Debt appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Travel often? Tired of paying extra for your rental carâs insurance? If you can find the right credit card, you may be able to skip forking over cash for a rental car companyâs coverage.
Included as a benefit on many travel cards, credit card car rental insurance can cover your rental car in case of damage. This means that if you book your rental through your card, you can decline any coverage offered by the rental car company.
Of course, not all credit card insurance is created equal. Plus, using your card in lieu of a rental car company waiver comes with its own set of headaches. To help you along, this guide is meant to give you insight into the nitty-gritty of credit card car rental insurance.
In some cases, business owners may need to opt for a personal card to receive proper car rental insurance while earning rewards that match their spending habits. This isnât a bad thing; personal cards can still work great for business expenses.
How Credit Card Car Rental Insurance Works
Car rental insurance is a benefit provided by numerous credit cards (especially those marketed as travel cards). Depending on the card, this benefit can act as primary or secondary insurance in case you are involved in a crash with a rental car. As is the case with most things surrounding credit cards, youâll need to check with your cardâs terms and benefits to see exactly what coverage you have.
As long as you have a credit card with solid car rental coverage, youâll be able to decline the rental car companyâs collision damage waiver (CDW) or loss damage waiver (LDW). This can save you moneyâitâs not unheard of for a waiver to cost as much as $30 per day.
If you are using a business credit card note that youâll likely need to be using the rental car for business purposes for the credit cardâs insurance to kick in.
Primary Insurance VS Secondary Insurance
Some credit cards will offer primary insurance, while others offer secondary insurances. Whatâs the difference?
Primary insurance: If your card offers primary insurance, then it can replace any other insurance you might have. By having a card with primary insurance, youâll be able to decline a CDW or LDW when the rental car associate asks you.
Cards known to come with primary car rental insurance include Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve, United MileagePlus Explorer and MileagePlus Club, Ritz-Carlton Visa Infinite, and the J.P. Morgan Reserve Card. Overall, there are fewer cards on the market that offer primary insurance for rental cars (compared to those with secondary insurance).
Secondary insurance: For those with secondary insurance on their card, your cardâs insurance will only activate after youâve gone through another insurance. This means youâll need to file a claim with a different insurance first (such as with your primary driving insurance, or the rental car companies).
Note that in some cases, if your card advertises secondary insurance, but you donât have primary insurance (for instance, if you donât own a car) the cardâs insurance will become your primary insurance on a rental car. Before declining the rental companyâs waiver, however, contact your issuer to make sure this option is available.
What Car Rental Insurance Typically Covers
Generally, your credit cardâs car rental insurance wonât cover damage to property outside the rental car, injury to others, and potential lawsuits. Additionally, you likely wonât be covered if your belongings are stolen from inside the car, nor if you have to pay ambulance bills. Of course, some of these situations may be covered by your normal car insurance, your health insurance, or your homeowner’s insurance.
In most cases, credit cards neglect covering rented luxury cars. However, there are a couple of exceptions. Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve holders can receive coverage for âselected modelsâ of BMW, Cadillac, Lincoln, and Mercedes-Benz. Citi also offers a few cards that simply cover up to $100,000 worth of damage to road-worthy four-wheeled vehiclesâregardless of make or model. American Express also provides a premium protection program that covers pickups, vans, sport-utility vehicles, and luxury vehicles valued above $50,000.
You also may be unable to utilize a cardâs insurance on car-sharing services like ZipCar or car2go. Instead, youâll probably only be covered on rentals via traditional car rental companies. To see if your card covers car-sharing services, check with your issuer.
Additionally, some credit cards do not provide coverage outside the United States. Other cards do, but they may exclude certain countries. Commonly excluded countries include Israel, Ireland, and Jamaica. Youâll need to confirm with your issuer to check if the country youâre visiting is included in your cardâs coverage.
In some cases, you may also not receive coverage if you book your car rental completely on points. If this is the case, you may need to pay with your card for at least one day to trigger coverage. Note that Chase is an exception to this; booking through Chase Ultimate Rewards while using points obtained from either Sapphire Preferred or Reserve still qualifies for rental insurance coverage.
Finally, some cards wonât cover car rentals that last longer than 31 days. There are also some that only cover up to two weeks. If you are planning to rent a car long-term, youâll likely need to end the rental within your cardâs insurance window. Then you can start a new rental.
How To Check If Your Credit Card Has Car Rental Insurance
If you are unsure if your credit card has car rental coverage, the easiest way to check is by reading through your cardâs terms and benefits. If you do not have an up-to-date copy of your terms and benefits, contact your issuer to get a new version sent to you. You may also be able to access a digital copy through your credit cardâs online portal.
You can also call your cardâs customer service line and ask your representative if your card has car rental insurance and what that insurance covers.
How To Use Your Credit Cardâs Car Rental Insurance
While using your credit card for car rental insurance may save you money, it doesnât come without its own set of hassles. Those looking for simplicity might want to sign the rental car companyâs waiver instead. Hereâs a look at what using your cardâs insurance may entail:
How To Apply Insurance To Your Rental
After youâve confirmed that your credit card offers car rental insurance, youâll usually need to book the rental with your card. Once you do that, youâll then need to decline the rental car companyâs CDW or LDW.
In some cases, rental companies require proof that your card offers insurance. If this is the case, it may be handy to print out a copy of your cardâs terms and benefits that you can show the rental car associate.
You also must make sure that all potential drivers of the car are listed on the rental agreement. This is especially true of the driver at the time of the accidentâyour issuer may void the insurance coverage if a different person is behind the wheel.
How To File A Claim
Processes vary from issuer to issuer, so youâll need to contact your cardâs issuer to find out what youâll need to submit a claim and how. In most cases, youâll be asked to share documents related to the rental car and any damage sustained. These documents could include an accident report, a police report, a rental agreement, repair estimates, and photographs.
If you book a rental car with the right credit card, you may be able to save lots of money while still receiving proper collision coverage. This means you can travel without worrying about spending money on unnecessary expenses. With plenty of credit cards to choose from, youâll likely be able to find one that matches your spending habits, too.
Curious which cards are best overall for travel? Check out the Merchant Maverick article on the best business credit cards for travel perks.
The post Credit Cards With Car Rental Insurance: The Complete Guide appeared first on Merchant Maverick.