Self-Employed? You May Qualify For A Business Credit Card

Being self-employed brings great freedom and flexibility when it comes to scheduling, determining work flow, and setting pay rates. But there’s one more benefit that you might not immediately think about: getting a business credit card. Even though you may not run your work as a “business,” you still could be eligible for a business credit card. There are plenty of benefits to having a business credit card, so perhaps it makes perfect sense for you to apply for one.

Is a business credit card right for you? Read on through to find out!

Do I Need An “Established Business” To Get A Business Credit Card?

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Not necessarily. You might qualify as a business owner as long as you sell goods or services outside of a traditional employment situation, enabling you to get a business credit card.

You may qualify if you sell items via online storefronts such as Amazon or eBay or offer lessons for activities like music or art. You may even qualify if you provide freelance services such as writing, photographing, or writing code. Do a maintenance side gig for friends and neighbors? That could qualify you, too.

Essentially, if you make profit doing something outside your day job or personal life, you could qualify as a business owner.

What Are The Perks Of A Business Credit Card For The Self-Employed?

There are numerous benefits to maintaining a business credit card while self-employed.

The primary reason you might want to apply for a business card is so that you can separate your professional expenses from your personal ones. This means you can keep easier track of business-related spending—something that’s important for both budgeting and filing taxes.

Reward programs are also structured for business expenses. For instance, some business-specific cards offer rewards geared towards travel, which might be beneficial if you spend time flying for work. Some cards also bundle in perks like access to airport lounges or free wifi.

Additional business credit card benefits can include excellent sign-up bonuses, higher potential credit limits, and free employee cards.

Are There Any Drawbacks To Watch Out For?

As with any credit card, it’s important to always pay off your balance on time. Doing so limits interest while potentially improving your credit score.

You’ll also want to avoid applying for too many cards in a short space of time. That’s because applying for a credit card results in a hard pull on your credit score. Too many hard pulls in quick succession could drop your credit score.

How Do I Apply For A Business Card?

You’ll want to first do proper research to find the best card for you. Not all cards are equally good for everyone. Some cards look snazzy up front, but they may not mesh with your professional pursuits. With that in mind, you’ll want to look for a card that has rewards that align with your business expenses while also allowing you to make the most of the card’s other benefits.

Because you’re self-employed, you might not have a history of business income or a business tax identification number. In most cases, card issuers will do a pull on your personal credit and your personal income to guarantee your credit history. Additionally, your social security number can often be used in place of a tax ID number. During the application process, you can also usually list yourself as a sole proprietor when filling out what kind of business you own.

And most importantly, never lie on a credit card application. Lying about your business or making up business income will only bring about a world of hurt in the future—even if you somehow manage to get approved.

How Can I Improve My Chances Of Being Approved For A Business Credit Card?

As with any credit card, it always helps to have a good credit score. Ultimately, though, issuers have their own criteria when deciding who gets approved and who doesn’t. As such, you’ll want to double-check that you meet the requirements of a card before applying.

Top Business Credit Card Pick For The Self-Employed

Chase Ink Business Preferred



Apply Now 

Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


17.74% – 22.74%, Variable

The best option for many small businesses, Chase Ink Preferred is a great choice for those who are self-employed, too. This card from Chase is simply a solid, well-rounded offering.

It packs in three points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping, internet/cable/phone services, and advertising on social media and search engines each account anniversary year. For all other purchases, you’ll get one point per dollar spent.

On top of that, you’ll get a bonus 80,000 points after you spend at least $5,000 in the first three months of opening your account. Because points usually equal $0.01, that’s the equivalent of $800 cash back. Chase also bundles in cell phone protection and employee cards at no extra cost.

You can also reap plenty of travel benefits, too. To start, points are worth 25% extra when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can further transfer points on a 1:1 basis with other travel programs, including United MileagePlus and Marriott Rewards. Finally, there is no fee on foreign transactions, a plus if you travel overseas frequently.

Final Thoughts

Want more business card options? Check out our comprehensive breakdown of the best business cards of 2018. Decided to stick with a personal credit card? We’ve got you covered with a list of the best personal credit cards for business expenses.

The post Self-Employed? You May Qualify For A Business Credit Card appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The 10 Best Restaurant Management Software Apps

It’s almost 2019, if you can believe it, and more than fall leaves or pumpkin spice lattes, tech fans like myself relish the smell of a freshly unboxed smartphone (thanks to Apple’s annual September unveiling). But it’s not just consumers who love mobile tech; businesses do too.  As mobile technology becomes more powerful, businesses — including restaurants — enjoy increasingly robust mobile hardware which can handle more powerful and nuanced software functions.

Indeed, restaurant managers, in particular, have an increasing number of mobile management applications at their disposal. From tablet-based POS systems that accept mobile payments to online reservation services that let customers reserve a table with an app, more restaurant management functions are being conducted online and on mobile devices. But with all the restaurant apps out there, how do you know which ones you should use? Think of it kind of like cooking: if you use too much or too little of an ingredient, it ruins the dish. Similarly, if you use too many management apps, there’s too much overlap in services (not to mention the fact that you’ll run out of bandwidth and money), and if you use just one or two services, you may miss out on critical features.

To help you out, I’ve put together this list of the top restaurant management apps in terms of both quality and popularity. From employee management to accounting to raw ingredient tracking, modern mobile restaurant software can help you with every restaurant management task you can imagine.

I’ve divided these top 10 best restaurant management apps into restaurant point of sale (POS) software apps—which are often complete restaurant management systems with few if any third-party add-ons required— and other restaurant management apps which offer more specific, targeted functionality.

Restaurant POS Systems

Toast TouchBistro Breadcrumb ShopKeep Lightspeed Restaurant

Toast

TouchBistro

Breadcrumb POS by Upserve

ShopKeep

Lightspeed Restaurant

ShopKeep alternatives for restaurants

Visit Site 

Review

Visit Site 

Review

Compare 

Review

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Visit Site 

Review

Monthly fee

$79+

$69+

$99+

Get a quote

$69+

Cloud-based or Locally Installed

Cloud-based

Locally installed

Cloud-based

Hybrid

Cloud-based

Compatible credit card processors

Toast only

TouchBistro Payments, Square, PayPal, Moneris, Cayan, Chase Paymentech & more

Upserve Payments only

Shopkeep Payments & some others; contact your processor to see if they are supported

Cayan or Mercury in US; iZettle in Europe

Business size

Small to large

Small to medium

Small to large

Small to medium

Small to medium

The awesome thing about today’s app-based restaurant point of sale systems is that they are often complete restaurant management systems. Or if they do not include essential restaurant management functions, they will typically have integrations that work together with other restaurant management apps (for accounting, staff scheduling, inventory management, etc.). As such, your restaurant POS system is a good basis on which to build any other add-ons to your restaurant application suite.

1. Toast

Review Visit Site

Highlights

  • Android-based restaurant POS
  • All-in-one restaurant management system
  • Advanced inventory management
  • Add-ons for kitchen display system, kiosk POS, online ordering, delivery management, and more

Try it out: Schedule a Toast demo

Toast is a complete, Android-based restaurant point of sale system and restaurant management system for restaurants of any size. With strong front-end and back-end features, Toast not only takes payments with integrated payment processing, but also tracks your sales, labor, and inventory, organizing that information into useful, internet-accessible reports.

With mobile POS tablets, servers can send orders directly to the kitchen and even process payments right from the table. Kitchen display system and kiosk ordering are some other high-tech add-ons available for purchase from Toast.

Useful Features:

  • Customer data management system
  • Menu creation with comprehensive modifier system
  • Labor management including employee time tracking
  • Inventory management system that includes a recipe costing tool, food cost calculator, and menu engineering chart that shows you your best-selling and most profitable menu items
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Online ordering (extra monthly charge)
  • Delivery management system (extra monthly charge)
  • Customer loyalty program (extra monthly charge)
  • Gift cards (extra monthly charge)

Integrations With Other Restaurant Software:

  • Compeat
  • PeachWorks
  • CTUIT
  • CrunchTime
  • PayTronix
  • Bevager
  • GrubHub (online ordering and delivery)
  • Samsung Pay
  • Kitchensync

Toast also has an open API which lets you create your own applications, should you be so inclined.

The Quick & Dirty:

Pricing for this complete POS and restaurant management system starts at $79/month. Overall, Toast is a good option for restaurants that want a complete restaurant POS and management system and prefer a non-iPad POS.

2. TouchBistro

ShopKeep alternatives for restaurants

 

Review Visit Site

Highlights

  • iPad POS system for restaurants
  • Affordable
  • Locally installed
  • Compatible with multiple payment processors
  • Table management with reservations add-on

Get started with TouchBistro: Get a custom quote

TouchBistro is a bestselling iPad POS app for restaurants. While it isn’t an “all-in-one” restaurant management system like Toast, it’s cost-effective, easy to use, and very good at what it does. TouchBistro runs as an app on via one or more iPads, with multi-iPad setups keeping in sync via a local Apple server.

TouchBistro does have some online reports allowing you to view your restaurant metrics anywhere with an internet connection, but it does not require a WiFi connection to operate, other than to process credit card payments. TouchBistro integrates with multiple payment processors.

Useful Features:

  • Tableside ordering
  • Table management with visual layout
  • Menu management
  • Kiosk option
  • Employee management
  • Loyalty program (extra monthly charge)
  • Reservations function with TouchBistro Pro

Integrations With Other Restaurant Management Software:

  • 7Shifts
  • Xero
  • Shogo
  • Square
  • Quickbooks
  • JUST EAT (for online ordering)

The Quick & Dirty:

In summation, TouchBistro a very capable iPad POS for small-to-medium restaurants that are budget-conscious and may not have a powerful internet connection. Pricing starts at $69/month.

3. BreadCrumb POS By Upserve

Review

Highlights

  • All-in-one restaurant POS and restaurant management system
  • iPad-based
  • Fully cloud-based
  • Fully integrated online ordering
  • Must use Upserve for payment processing

Compare: Compare Breadcrumb with other top-rated iPad POS software

Breadcrumb is an all-in-one restaurant management and iPad POS system which could perhaps be considered the iPad-based answer to Toast. Comprehensive restaurant-centric management features that let you manage tables, employees, and menu items with a few finger taps make this restaurant software application suitable for any full-service or quick-service restaurant, no matter the size.

Breadcrumb is fully cloud-based and requires no on-premise server. In-house payment processing is provided exclusively by Breadcrumb’s parent company, Upserve.

Useful Features:

  • Customizable interface
  • “Offline” mode allows you to continue using POS and taking payments if internet goes down
  • Table management with color coding and meal progression graphic
  • Choice between “Server” mode with table view and “Quickserve” mode for bartenders and other quick orders
  • Fully-integrated online ordering system
  • Detailed online reporting suite
  • 24/7 support

Integrations With Other Restaurant Software:

  • Grubhub
  • Shogo
  • Restaurant 365
  • CTUIT
  • Peachworks
  • 7Shifts

The Quick & Dirty:

Breadcrumb pricing starts at $99/month. Again, it’s a solid all-in-one restaurant POS system for iPad with an array of restaurant features. When compared to Toast, however, Breadcrumb might come up slightly short in some respects, such as inventory management. However, Breadcrumb offers integrations with third-party restaurant apps to help fill in any functionality gaps.

4. ShopKeep

Review Visit Site

Highlights

  • Powerful retail and restaurant tools
  • Available on iPad (Analytics app on iOS)
  • Multiple hardware options available
  • Pricing based on custom quotes 
  • Loyalty program only as add-on

Excellent all-around POS: Get your custom quote

While it can be used for either restaurant or retail environments, ShopKeep is a great all-around POS software system that’s reasonably priced and extremely easy to use. Aimed at small businesses in particular, this iPad POS software has a pleasant, Apple-centric interface with convenient register buttons for the most popular menu items. ShopKeep uses a “hybrid” data storage system in which data is stored locally on your restaurant’s iPads, and then syncs back to the cloud when there is an internet connection.

As with the other restaurant POS apps on this list, ShopKeep has integrations to make up for any restaurant management features it doesn’t have, such as advanced inventory management and online ordering.

Useful Features:

  • Integrated ShopKeep Payments payment processing
  • Comprehensive register functionality
  • Extensive back-office reporting suite
  • Raw ingredient inventory management
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Staff management tools
  • ShopKeep Pocket App to track restaurant metrics from iPhone or Android

Integrations With Other Restaurant Software:

  • MailChimp
  • ChowBot (online ordering and delivery)
  • Quickbooks
  • AppCard

The Quick & Dirty:

ShopKeep is an affordable and capable iPad POS that works well for small restaurants of any type. ShopKeep pricing is customized based on your individual business’s needs and is comparable to TouchBistro or Lightspeed Restaurant. Note that while Shopkeep does provide fairly priced in-house payment processing via Shopkeep Payments, you can also use an outside payment processor.

5. Lightspeed Restaurant 

Review Visit Site

Highlights

  • Affordable iPad POS for restaurants
  • Fully cloud-based
  • Also works on iPhone and iPod touch
  • Best for small-to-medium restaurants

Try out Lightspeed Restaurant: Free trial offer

Lightspeed Restaurant is an app-based iPad POS system built specifically for—you guessed it—restaurants. Lightspeed is not the most complete restaurant POS out there, but it is highly mobile-friendly and certainly delivers a lot of bang for your buck.

The Lightspeed Restaurant app requires iOS 9.3 or later to operate and you can access the backend via any internet-connected web browser. In addition to iPads, Lightspeed can even be used on an iPhone or iPod touch, though using the app on those two devices is best for basic features such as clocking in and quick orders.

Useful Features:

  • Intricate employee management
  • Raw ingredient tracking
  • Tableside ordering lets servers show pictures of menu items to customers
  • Floor planner
  • 24/7 phone support excluding holidays
  • Ability to set up timed promotions
  • In-depth reports

Integrations With Other Restaurant Management Software:

  • Resengo
  • Orderlord
  • QuickBooks
  • Xero
  • MarketMan
  • AppCard
  • Multiple online ordering services

The Quick & Dirty:

Lightspeed Restaurant pricing starts at $69/month. This cloud-based iPad POS app is perfect for small-to-medium restaurants of any type.

Other Restaurant Management Apps

What follows are some more restaurant management apps. Rather than the complete restaurant management tool that POS systems provide, these apps have a limited, specific function — like reservations or email marketing — and may integrate with your POS system or be used separately.

opentable

6. OpenTable

OpenTable is an online reservation and waitlist system that’s convenient to use for both restaurateurs and customers. You can access the app on your smartphone or tablet to view or change reservations, and to see your waitlist in real time. OpenTable is a highly useful tool for restaurant managers and waitstaff alike.

Useful Features:

  • Guests can make online reservations from your website, the OpenTable app or website, or third-party
  • Monitor status of each table in your restaurant
  • Shift management tool

POS Integrations:

  • Aloha
  • Micros
  • POSitouch
  • Heartland Dinerware
  • Squirrel Systems
  • Toast (coming soon)

The Quick & Dirty:

OpenTable is online reservation software for restaurants of any type, especially favored by trendy, upscale bars and eateries. OpenTable’s “Connect” option has limited features but only costs between $0.25 and $2.50 for each booked guest. The “GuestCenter” option with more advanced restaurant management features and POS integration is $249/month + $1 per reservation.

7. Fivestars

fivestars logo

Fivestars is a mobile rewards program for local businesses such as restaurants. Customers sign up for Fivestars’ loyalty program either at your restaurant or via the Fivestars mobile app and start earning rewards and receiving promotional offers via text, email, or push notification. Your staff then redeems your customers’ rewards and offers from your POS or a mobile device.

Fivestars also has a lot of cool marketing features that vary depending on which plan you choose. Whether you want to encourage repeat business or gain a competitive edge on other restaurants in your area, Fivestars will help you do both.

Useful Features:

  • Automated rewards and promotions
  • Send one-time offer anytime your sales need a boost
  • Multiple options for setting up rewards system, e.g., customers could earn points per-dollar, per-visit, etc.
  • Social media integration
  • Customer data collection

POS Integrations:

  • Clover Station
  • Clover Mini
  • QuickBooks POS
  • Harbortouch
  • Aloha
  • Aldelo
  • Windows POS

The Quick & Dirty:

Fivestars online loyalty software is especially popular among cafes and coffee shops, but it’s also used by full-service restaurants, bars, bakeries, smoothie shops, and every other type of brick-and-mortar eatery. Fivestars’ starter plan—which includes two customer-facing tablets, POS integration, the Autopilot program, onboarding and three training sessions—is $279 per month.

Best Accounting Mobile Apps

8. QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks is essential accounting software for small businesses, and restaurants are no exception. In recent years, this quintessential business software has become has become more online and mobile-friendly, with the introduction of QuickBooks Online and excellent mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Besides making accounting tasks simple and affordable for independently owned restaurants, cloud-based Quickbooks Online also integrates with most modern restaurant POS systems.

Useful Features:

  • True double-entry accounting
  • Live bank feeds for easy bank reconciliation
  • Unlimited estimates and invoices
  • Accounts payable with ability to create purchase orders and convert them to bills
  • Easy-to-use payroll and other employee management features (for additional cost)

POS Integrations:

Quickbooks Online integrates with most restaurant POS systems. Usually, the question is not whether Quickbooks integrates with your POS, but rather, the quality of the Quickbooks/POS integration. A direct, seamless integration is ideal. Here you can read about 7 POS system that have direct integrations with Quickbooks.

The Quick & Dirty:

QuickBooks online is cloud-based accounting software for any internet connected device. Depending on which features you need, QuickBooks online will set you back between $15 and $50/month.

Xero logo

9. Xero

Xero is a QuickBooks alternative which many restauranteurs around the world use every day to manage their restaurant’s accounting tasks. Just like QB Online, Xero has both iOS and Android apps and can be accessed via any internet-connected device. Xero also integrates with many cloud-based restaurant point of sale systems.

Xero doesn’t have as many features as QuickBooks; for example, payroll support is limited to only 37 states and there is no job-costing feature. However, Xero also costs a lot less than QuickBooks.

Useful Features:

  • Accounts payable feature with recurring bills and purchase orders
  • Unlimited users with extensive user permissions controls
  • Double-entry accounting
  • Excellent customer service
  • Easier to use than QuickBooks (in most respects)
  • 500+ integrations

POS Integrations:

While Quickbooks is the most popular accounting software system, Xero is catching up and most major POS systems integrate with Xero as well as Quickbooks. Some of these systems include:

  • Square for Restaurants
  • Nobly POS
  • TouchBistro
  • Lightspeed
  • Vend
  • Shopify POS

The Quick & Dirty:

With pricing starting at just $9/month, online accounting app Xero is a more affordable QB alternative for restaurants that don’t need every advanced accounting feature.

10. MailChimp mailchimp logo

MailChimp is email marketing software you can use to boost the online marketing efforts of your restaurant. While most POS apps include some email features, they are usually somewhat lacking. With a fully featured email marketing program like MailChimp, you can set up automated email campaigns to build customer loyalty, advertise promotions, and grow your social media following.

MailChimp is entirely cloud-based; the company also offers a mobile app for iOS and Android devices.

Useful Features:

  • 23 basic templates and hundreds of theme templates
  • Easy list segmentation
  • Advanced email campaign reporting
  • Robust free plan includes up to 2,000 subscribers and sends up to 12,000 emails per month.

POS Integrations:

  • Revel Systems
  • Shopkeep
  • Lightspeed
  • Epos Now

The Quick & Dirty:

MailChimp has a very decent free plan and paid plans start at $25/month, scaling up depending on how large your list is (and how many features you want). This easy-to-use ESP supports both small start-ups and large corporations.

Final Thoughts

A successful restaurant business has the same basic ingredients it did 20 years ago or even 200 years ago: delicious food, happy customers, excellent service, and organized behind-the-scenes processes to keep everything running smoothly. However, the tools used to achieve restaurant success have changed with advances in technology. Everything from taking payments, to advertising, to bookkeeping, to employee management has been digitized.

One important job of restaurant management that can’t be replaced with automation is the restaurant manager herself. Being awesome at your job, I’m sure you will do a great job selecting the management apps that work for your unique restaurant business. Have fun with the selection process and make sure you utilize free trials of all of these apps so you can be sure the restaurant management software you choose works great for your needs before you commit.

The post The 10 Best Restaurant Management Software Apps appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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First Time Applying For A Business Loan? Here’s What You Need To Know

Whether you’re facing an emergency or have been planning to make a big purchase like commercial real estate, there comes a time when every business owner needs a loan. If you’ve reached this point in your entrepreneurial journey, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. With so many lenders out there, how do you choose? Which loan best fits your needs – and which is the most affordable? What if you’re facing challenges such as a low personal credit score or you’re a brand new business?

Blindly applying for a loan can make the process daunting and confusing. However, by knowing what to expect (and what to avoid), you’ll be cruising through the process in no time. Get on your way to receiving the money your business needs. Read on for everything you need to know before applying for a business loan for the first time.

Before You Apply For Business Loans

free credit score monitoring service

Getting a business loan doesn’t start with filling out the loan application. Instead, the process should begin before you even talk to a lender. Before you hop online to fill out your application or head to your local bank branch, prepare ahead of time by taking the following steps:

Look Up Your Credit Score

Lenders want to make sure they’re working with low-risk borrowers who will pay their loans as scheduled. To assess risk, lenders look at a number of factors, including credit scores. Your credit score is one of the most important factors lenders consider when deciding whether to approve your loan application.

A low credit score indicates that a borrower is high-risk. If your credit score is too low, a lender may outright deny the loan application. In other cases, loan options may be available but at a higher price for the borrower  — think higher APRs, down payment requirements, and the need for collateral.

Instead of allowing your credit score to creep up and startle you during the loan process, know where you stand before you even apply for a business loan. The internet makes it easier than ever to get your credit score, and best of all, many sites allow you to view your score for free.

To receive the best loan offers, a score that is at least in the high 600s is required for many business loans, including loans from the Small Business Administration and banks. However, some alternative lenders will give loans to borrowers with scores as low as 500. A lower score may result in fewer options and higher costs over the life of the loan in most cases.

If your credit score is very low, you may choose to work on raising this score before applying for a loan. You can do this by reviewing your credit report, disputing any erroneous items, working to pay down outstanding debt, and always making your payments on time. If a loan is needed immediately and you don’t have time to boost your credit score, weigh out the costs of any loan offer provided to you. If you accept, make all payments on time as scheduled in order to help build your score to qualify for more options in the future.

Decide Why You Want The Loan & How Much You Need

Before taking on the debt of a loan, it’s important to establish why you need the loan. It’s easy to just grab for the money right in front of you, but you need to determine whether your reasons for taking the loan are sound.

Before applying for a loan, consider your return on investment. In other words, will taking out a loan and paying fees and interest be worth it? If the loan will benefit your business and outweigh the costs, proceed with the loan process. If there is no real benefit to receiving a loan, reconsider taking on this extra debt.

You’ll also need to decide how much money you need. Once you’ve determined how you’re going to spend the loan proceeds, this step shouldn’t be too difficult. If you’re buying a new piece of equipment, shop around to get price estimates. If you’re updating your facilities, get bids from vendors and contractors. If your goal is to purchase commercial real estate, look at comparable commercial properties in your area to get an idea of what you’ll spend.

Not only will knowing 1) why you want the money and 2) how you’re going to spend it help with your own planning, but lenders will need this information to determine if you qualify for one of their loans.

Calculate How Much You Can Borrow

You know how much you need to borrow. Now, you need to calculate how much you can afford to borrow.

Before applying for a loan and taking on debt, you’ll want to calculate your debt service coverage ratio or DSCR. This shows the relationship between the income and debt of your business.

Debt Service Coverage Ratio = Net Operating Income / Debt Obligations

To calculate DSCR, divide your net operating income by your debt obligations for the current year. Your net operating income will include all revenue minus operating expenses. Your debt obligations will include all debt, including interest and fees, for the next year.

After plugging your numbers into the formula, your DSCR should be at least 1.25. This shows you (and your lender) that you are bringing in enough income to cover your current debts and can take on additional debt, such as a business loan.

Let’s say that your business brings in $150,000 in net operating income. You have $110,000 in debt obligations for the current year. Plugging these numbers into the equation results in a DSCR of 1.36.

Now that you know that you can afford a loan, the next step is to calculate your borrowing amount. You can do this by dividing your net operating income by 1.25. Once you have your answer, subtract your current debt obligations from this number. This will provide you with the amount of additional debt you can take on.

This may seem confusing, so let’s take a look at the example from earlier. Your net operating income is $150,000. Divide this number by 1.25. This results in a total borrowing amount of $120,000. However, you already have $110,000 in debt obligations. Simply subtract this from the total borrowing amount, and the result is $10,000. This means that you can borrow a maximum of $10,000.

Not only will this help with your own budgeting purposes, but these numbers are used by lenders to determine if you will be able to afford the loan you are requesting. Read on to learn more about calculating how much you can borrow.

Bolster Your Online Presence

Lenders want to loan money to borrowers that are low-risk and will pay their loans back as agreed. This is why the loan process can be so tedious. Lenders evaluate your credit score, your business revenues, and … your social media?

Believe it or not, many lenders are now turning to the internet to learn more about loan applicants, especially small business owners. In fact, it’s been reported in the past that FICO is considering using social media as one of the factors to measure creditworthiness.

Before applying for a loan, consider bolstering your online presence. Make sure that any online resumes are completed updated. Reach out to your clients and customers and encourage them to review and rank your business through social media and review sites like Yelp For Business. You want to show lenders that you are a trusted, well-established business.

It’s also important to never complain about work or discuss financial challenges online. This doesn’t just look negative to lenders, but it’s a general best practice that will help you maintain a veneer of professionalism to your customers, clients, and anyone that searches for you or your business online.

Prepare Your Documents

There’s one thing that can never be avoided when applying for a loan: submitting your paperwork. Although requirements vary by lender, the amount of money you’re requesting, and the type of loan you’re applying for, there are a few basic documents you will need to prepare ahead of time to submit with your application.

For most loans, you will need to show your most recent income tax returns. Prepare a minimum of 2 years’ worth of returns to submit with your application. You may also be required to show bank statements. Although as few as three may be needed, plan ahead by having at least the last 6 or 12 months’ worth of business bank statements.

Additional documentation surrounding income and revenue may also be required. This includes profit and loss statements and balance sheets.

For many loans, you’ll also need to prove that you are the owner of the business. This can be done with business licenses, certifications, and other documents.

If you are purchasing real estate, a purchase agreement may be required. If you’re using the loan to refinance existing debt, you’ll need information related to your debt, including but not limited to account numbers and statements.

Clearly, if you’re a new business or startup, you may not have access to many of these documents. Instead, you’ll need to have a solid, detailed business plan as well as future income projections. You may be required to prove experience in the industry, so you will need to submit your resume with your application, as well as the resumes of any other owners of the business.

You should also know that going into the loan, collateral may be required. Collateral requirements vary by lender, and in some cases, specific collateral is not needed. However, most loans do require a personal guarantee to be signed by every owner of the business. This guarantee holds business owners personally liable for the loan and allows the lender to pursue legal action and even seize personal property if the loan goes into default.

How To Find the Right Lender

You’ve determined why you need a loan. You’ve figured out how much money you need, and this amount aligns with your calculations of how much you can borrow. You’ve gathered your paperwork, and now you’re one step closer to applying for a loan.

However, there are so many lending options out there, where do you even begin? The lender you use depends on various factors, including the amount of the loan, the type of the loan, your creditworthiness, and your time in business. Most business owners turn to three main types of lenders for their business loan needs: banks, the Small Business Administration, and alternative lenders.

When You Should Apply For A Bank Loan

When they need a business loan, many business owners turn to a source they already use for other financial purposes: the bank. Bank loans are popular with business owners because they have extremely low interest rates and excellent repayment terms. Banks offer some of the most affordable loan options on the market.

Banks can also provide high loan amounts, ideal for large expenses like acquiring a business, purchasing a franchise, buying real estate, or improving facilities.

Bank loans are best for applicants with strong credit histories. A credit score in the high 600s and sometimes even at least 700 is needed to qualify for these loans. There should be no bankruptcies, foreclosures, or other major negative items on an applicant’s credit report.

Banks also have extensive paperwork requirements, and collateral is typically required for larger loans. The loan process from banks can potentially take months from start to finish, so business owners with immediate loan needs should seek other lenders.

When You Should Apply For An SBA Loan

Small Business Administration loans are extremely competitive because of their low rates and flexible terms. Because these loans are backed by the government, lenders known as intermediaries have more incentive to loan to small businesses that have trouble qualifying for conventional loans.

The SBA has many loan programs available for business owners. This includes the 7(a) program, which provides up to $5 million for almost any purpose. The 504 program is best for the purchase or improvements of real estate. Microloans are smaller loans of $50,000 or less that are a great choice for startups and businesses that don’t require a large amount of capital. The SBA also has the Veterans Advantage program for military veterans and service members, as well as the Community Advantage program for businesses in underserved areas.

SBA loans require a strong credit history with no previous defaults on government loans, foreclosures, or bankruptcies. Credit scores should be in the high 600s to qualify. For higher loan amounts, collateral is required. Startups may qualify for some programs. Applicants must also fall under the SBA’s definition of a small business, which limits the number of employees, annual revenue, and the company’s net worth.

Because there are so many different programs available through the SBA, these loans are great for just about any business expense. Qualified business owners can apply for these loans through SBA-approved banks, credit unions, non-profit organizations, and Certified Development Companies. SBA loans have similar documentation requirements as banks, as well as similar timelines for approval and funding.

When You Should Apply For An Alternative Loan

More businesses are turning to alternative loans for a number of reasons. Difficulties qualifying for conventional loans and the need for fast financing are two of the biggest reasons alternative lenders are becoming more popular in the small business world.

Alternative loans typically have requirements that are less strict than bank and SBA loans. This means that businesses with lower credit scores, startups and new businesses, or businesses that don’t have a lot of revenue can qualify.

The process for getting approved and funded is also much quicker and easier. There are usually fewer paperwork requirements, and in most cases, the entire process can be completed online. Depending on the type of loan selected, the loan amount, and the lender’s policies, some loans may be funded in just 24 hours.

Credit requirements for alternative loans are not as strict, although higher credit scores yield lower interest rates and better repayment terms. Scores as low as 500 may be approved for certain types of alternative loans. In some cases, collateral will be required for loans, particularly for larger loan amounts or for applicants with lower credit scores.
It is important to note that these loans often come with higher interest rates. Because alternative loans are more expensive, qualified business owners with high credit scores should consider more affordable options.

Business Loan Application Best Practices

You’re almost ready to apply for your loan, but before you do, it’s important to understand a few best practices. While it’s easy to focus solely on the money, it’s also critical to present yourself as a professional, trustworthy business owner to lenders.

Be Thorough

To expedite the process as much as possible, make sure that you’re thorough in every step of the way. From performing your calculations to determine how much money you need and how much you qualify for to gathering your paperwork, your preparations should start even before you apply for your loan.

Do your research and shop around with lenders to ensure you’re getting the most affordable option. When actually applying for the loan, make sure that you’re prepared as well: know what you want to say and how you want to present your business, and have everything you need to back it up.

Be Honest

Lenders want to work with trustworthy, low-risk borrowers. Lenders don’t want to work with anyone that’s dishonest. Be upfront with your lender about everything, from how you plan to use the money to your current financial situation. Outright lying or even just hiding relevant information will not just make you look unprofessional — it will get your loan application rejected.

In addition to being honest with the lender, be honest with yourself. For example, when calculating how much you can borrow, take a good hard look at the numbers. Lying to yourself will only hurt your business in the long term, leading to unnecessary debt and the potential consequences that come with it.

Be Available For Follow-Up Questions

Once you’ve submitted your application, you’re in the clear and it’s just time to wait for your approval, right?

Not necessarily.

The lender may require more documentation or have more questions for you. Minor delays are common, but these minor delays can become major if you’re unavailable to your lender. Always show respect to your lender by answering phone calls or emails as soon as you’re available.

Final Thoughts

Applying for a business loan can be intimidating, but with careful planning and a little knowledge, you can move through the loan process like a pro. Be prepared, know your numbers, keep in contact with your lender, and stay professional, and you’ll soon be on your way to securing your first business loan.

The post First Time Applying For A Business Loan? Here’s What You Need To Know appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Business Credit Cards With The Best Reward Programs

In many cases, a good rewards program sets a credit card apart from its peers. Businesses can then take advantage of a rewards program to save money and earn bonuses. Depending on how much a business spends, it could net thousands of dollars in rewards every year.

However, not every rewards program fits every business. For instance, some rewards programs grant more points at hotels—a boon for businesses that require frequent travel. Meanwhile, others give extra rewards for purchasing office supplies—a great fit for businesses that are always improving their workspaces. There is simply so much variety.

After noticing this complexity, we at Merchant Maverick decided to do a thorough breakdown of the business credit cards with the best rewards programs. Read on through below!

Best For Cash Back Rewards: American Express SimplyCash Plus

American Express SimplyCash Plus



Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


13.99% – 20.99%, Variable

Put plainly, cash back business cards are an easy and convenient way to save money. With a cash back card, you earn back a certain percentage of what you spent each time you make a purchase. Cash back cards have the added bonus of usually being less complicated than points reward structures.

Why It’s Our Pick:

If you make frequent purchases at office supply stores and on wireless telephones, the American Express SimplyCash Plus is a no-brainer. That’s because this card features 5% cash back via statement credit for purchases within both categories (up to $50,000).

On top of that, American Express lets you pick one category on which to get 3% cash back (up to $50,000), allowing you to tailor the card to fit your business. Available categories in the 3% range include airfare, hotel rooms, car rentals, gas stations, restaurants, advertising, shipping, computer hardware, software, and cloud computing.

Besides those tiers, SimplyCash Plus offers 1% on all other purchases. In addition, there’s no annual fee and 0% APR for the first nine months. To get full details, visit Merchant Maverick’s in-depth review.

Honorable Mention: Chase Ink Business Cash

Chase Ink Business Cash



Apply Now

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


14.99% – 20.99%, Variable

Like SimplyCash Plus, Chase Ink Business Cash offers 5% on purchases at office supply stores. Instead of just wireless telephones, this card also features 5% on internet, cable, and phone purchases. However, the rewards cap out at $25,000 instead of $50,000. Additionally, Chase has set the second reward tier at 2% cash back (up to $25,000) and it’s only for gas stations and restaurants. All other purchases receive 1% cash back.

Still, this is a solid option if you’re looking for something different than what American Express is offering. Plus, it features no annual fee and a 0% APR for 12 months. Check out our complete review for all the details.

For more cash back cards, check out our best picks.

Best Airlines & Travel Rewards Program: Chase Ink Business Preferred

Chase Ink Business Preferred



Apply Now 

Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


17.74% – 22.74%, Variable

If your business requires lots of travel you may want to get a business credit card that includes benefits for airlines and travel. Getting a card with specific travel benefits could reap greater rewards than you’d get from just a standard cash back card.

Chase Ink Business Preferred gets our top pick for travel business credit card because you earn three points per $1 spent on travel (as well as on shipping, internet/cable/phone services, and online advertising). On top of that, points are worth 25% more if you redeem them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Additionally, you can transfer your points on a 1:1 basis to other travel programs, such as United MileagePlus and Marriott Rewards. Get the full picture via Merchant Maverick’s review.

To compare more travel cards, we’ve got you covered with our list of the best business travel cards.

Best Hotel Rewards Program: Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card


starwood luxury amex
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Annual Fee:


$450

 

Purchase APR:


17.49% – 26.49%, Variable

Businesses that spend a decent chunk of change on hotels may want to look for something even more specific than a generic travel rewards card. That’s because a card geared toward hotel rewards can offer you better rewards when used properly.

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card is our top pick because it doles out six points per $1 spent at participating SPG and Marriott Rewards hotels. Beyond that, you can earn three points per $1 spent at restaurants and airlines. Points can then be redeemed for free nights at SPG and Marriott Rewards hotels, as well as for flights and car rentals. Learn more by reading our review.

Best Rewards Points Program: American Express OPEN Business Gold Rewards

American Express Business Gold Rewards


amex business gold rewards review
Compare

Annual Fee:


$0 the first year, then $175

 

Purchase APR:


N/A (This is a charge card)

Going with a points-based system (instead of one that gives cash back) can be an excellent option should the points be redeemable for a service you frequently use. For instance, if you have a card that allows you to redeem your points on a specific hotel, you could be able to save money on bookings or get free room upgrades.

The American OPEN Business Gold Rewards charge card features an enticing and well-rounded points program. You get three points per $1 spent on the category of your choosing (out of airfare, advertising, gas stations, shipping, and computer hardware, software, and cloud computing), two points per $1 for each the four categories you didn’t choose, and one point per $1 on everything else. Points can be redeemed at an array of airlines, hotels, and merchants. Do note, however, that because this is a charge card, you’ll have to pay off your balance every month. Read Merchant Maverick’s review for more info.

Best Overall Rewards Program With No Annual Fee: American Express Blue Business Plus

American Express Blue Business Plus



Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


12.99% – 20.99%, Variable

If you’re looking for a well-rounded rewards program with no annual fee, it’s hard to go wrong with the American Express Blue Business Plus. This card packs in two points per $1 spent (up to $50,000) on all purchases, making it very attractive to businesses that buy from a range of categories. After you pass the $50,000 threshold, you earn one point per $1. Beyond rewards, it features 0% APR for the first 15 months. Get squared away with all the facts in our review.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is my personal credit score used to determine approval?

Yes, almost all issuers check with consumer credit bureaus when you apply for a business card.

How can I build my business credit fast?

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to build credit fast. As long as you pay off your debts and keep your accounts from running delinquent, your credit score should rise. Find out more by reading the Merchant Maverick guide to building business credit.

Do I lose rewards on returned purchases?

In most cases, you will lose your rewards on returned purchases. However, you may be able to keep rewards points if you accept in-store credit for the returned item.

Will I lose rewards points if I pay my credit card balance early?

In most situations, you earn your points based on when you bought an item or service. It doesn’t matter when you pay your balance; you should still earn your reward points when paying the balance early.

How do I redeem my credit card rewards?

It depends on the rewards program. Some allow you to request cash back via statement credit or check. Others offer points you can redeem for gift cards, physical items, flights, car rentals, or hotel rooms.

Now What?

If you want to compare more credit cards for small businesses, visit our comparison page. Those with good credit may also want to check out the best business cards for good credit. Making a big purchase? Read up on our list of the best 0% intro APR cards.

The post Business Credit Cards With The Best Reward Programs appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Best Credit Card Offers For Businesses: September 2018

When you’re dedicating most of your waking hours to running your own business, sorting and evaluating the plethora of credit card offers that come your way isn’t going to be high on your list of priorities. With new cards and new welcome offers being introduced with dizzying frequency, keeping track of the best business credit card deals out there requires time and effort.

Well, calm your weary soul, for we at Merchant Maverick are here to take the hassle out of the credit card hunt. Let us show you the best business credit card offers out there for whatever it is you’re looking for. Looking for a great business credit card with a lengthy 0% APR period? The card with the best rewards program? The card that’s best for cash back?

Whatever you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered. Let’s sort the wheat from the chaff to find the credit card offers that best suit your business needs, whatever those needs may be.

Best No Annual Fee

Chase Ink Business Cash



Apply Now

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


14.99% – 20.99%, Variable

Why It’s Our Pick

The Chase Ink Business CashSM card is a remarkable value for a business credit card with no annual fee. You’ll earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 a year spent at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services. These categories align nicely with the sort of everyday spending done by the average business owner. Additionally, you’ll get 2% cash back on the first $25,000 per year spent at gas stations and restaurants, along with 1% cash back on everything else (and on all purchases in these categories past the $25K/year higher earning limit).

Many cards with such generous bonus earning potential carry an annual fee, leaving you to weigh the benefits of the card against the annual fee. With the Ink Business Cash, no such calculations are necessary, as there is no annual fee. You’ll also be the recipient of a $500 bonus if you spend at least $3,000 on purchases within your first three months of card ownership.

This bonus, along with the cash back you earn in the course of your spending, can be converted to Chase Ultimate Rewards points if you also have a card that earns Ultimate Rewards points such as the Ink Business Preferred card or the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Do this, and your points will be worth slightly more than twice their cash back amount — a remarkable value.

Runner-Up

Capital One Spark Classic For Business


 

Apply Now

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


24.74%, Variable

Looking for a great business credit card with no annual fee, but lack the 690+ credit score needed to qualify for the card? Consider the Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business instead. While you’ll be earning cash back at the unsexy rate of 1% on all purchases, the Spark Classic for Business has one attractive aspect most business credit cards lack: you can qualify for the card with a credit score of just 630.

While the card does carry a relatively high 24.74% variable APR on purchases, that’s still a better deal for you than the sort of high-interest loan marketed to business owners with fair credit. Just try to pay the balance in full each month.

Best 0% APR

American Express Blue Business Plus



Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


12.99% – 20.99%, Variable

Why It’s Our Pick

American Express Blue BusinessSM Plus currently carries the most impressive introductory APR offered by any business card in this troubled land: 0% for 15 months. That’s 65 weeks. 1.25 years. You get the picture — the Blue Business Plus gives you a nice long stretch of time in which to make business purchases without racking up any interest charges. For this, we must doff our caps to the suits at Amex.

Thankfully for you, that’s not the only benefit of the Blue Business Plus.

The card’s primary benefit is the 2X points you’ll be earning on your first $50,000 worth of purchases per year. Most cash back credit cards offer around 1.5 points per dollar, so you’ll be making out like a bandit on your first $50K in purchases each year. If you exceed $50K in annual purchases, the points earning rate reverts to a more pedestrian 1 point per dollar, so if your needs dictate that your annual spending will exceed the $50K annual limit for earning 2X points, you’ll want to consider either getting a different card or pairing this card with another rewards card.

Your Amex Blue Business Plus rewards points can be redeemed for travel, shopping, or a statement credit.

Best Rewards Program

American Express SimplyCash Plus



Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


13.99% – 20.99%, Variable

Why It’s Our Pick

The American Express SimplyCash® Plus business card is our pick for best rewards program due to the customizable reward structure. With the SimplyCash Plus, you earn 5% cash back on your first $50K per year on charges at office supply stores and on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers. Now, here’s where the customization comes in.

The SimplyCash Plus card offers 3% cash back on your first $50K per year in purchases in a category of your choosing. You can choose from between one of the following eight categories:

  • Airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • Hotel rooms purchased directly from hotels
  • Car rentals purchased from select car rental companies
  • U.S. gas stations
  • U.S. restaurants
  • U.S. purchases for advertising in select media
  • U.S. purchases for shipping
  • U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers

Here’s the chance for a business owner whose spending may not align with the bonus cash back categories provided by other cards to use a cash back card tailored to his or her specific needs. You’ll also earn 1% cash back on all other spending and on spending above $50K/year on the bonus categories. On the downside, this card currently has no welcome offer.

Runner-Up

Chase Ink Business Preferred



Apply Now 

Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


17.74% – 22.74%, Variable

Chase Ink Business PreferredSM is another card with a robust rewards program. Using this card will earn you 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 per year spent on travel, shipping purchases, internet/cable/phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media and search engines (and 1 point per dollar on everything else). It’s a card meant to reward the business with a high volume of spending on many of the most common business spending categories, as the high-earning limit on spending of $150K/year vastly exceeds most such limits in the business rewards card space (typically $30-50K/year).

Another factor boosting the appeal of the Ink Business Preferred rewards program is the fact that if you redeem your points for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards, your points will be worth 25% more than they would otherwise be worth. You can also transfer your points to certain other travel rewards programs (such as United MileagePlus and Marriott Rewards) on a 1:1 point basis.

Best For Points

Chase Ink Business Preferred



Apply Now 

Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


17.74% – 22.74%, Variable

Why It’s Our Pick

Chase Ink Business PreferredSM comes out on top for this category as well. It’s not only because of the points-earning potential of the card (earning 3 points per dollar spent on the first $150,000 spent on the bonus spending categories per year will earn you a whopping 450,000 points annually, and from there you can earn even more points at the 1 pt/$1 level). It’s due to the fact that your points are worth 25% more than the standard value of 1 cent per point if you redeem them for travel. It’s also due to the fact that you can transfer your points to other travel rewards programs on a 1:1 point basis.

Best For Travel

American Express Business Platinum


amex business platinum review
Compare

Annual Fee:


$450

 

Purchase APR:


N/A (This is a charge card)

Why It’s Our Pick

The American Express Business Platinum® card isn’t a card for the business owner who travels only infrequently. But if you’re a heavy-duty business traveler interested in fancy luxuries (like getting to hang out in exclusive airport lounges), this is the card for you!

First off, this card is a charge card, meaning you can’t carry a balance from month to month — your entire balance comes due on your statement date. Furthermore, the card carries a $450 annual fee. This is sure to put off all but the most prolific business travelers. For the rest of you, here’s where the card’s value lies: You’ll earn a juicy 5 points to the dollar on flights and prepaid hotels purchased on Amex’s travel website, amextravel.com.

You’ll also earn 1.5 points per dollar on eligible purchases of $5,000 or more (up to 1 million additional points per year) and one point per dollar on all other eligible purchases. However, the value doesn’t stop there. Here’s what else you’ll get with the Amex Business Platinum:

  • Get access to over 1,100 airport lounges worldwide via the 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
  • No foreign transaction fees

Not too shabby, eh?

Runner-Up

Bank of America Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard


bofa business advantage travel rewards
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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


12.99% – 22.99%, Variable

 

Want a travel-oriented business credit card without an exorbitant annual fee? The Bank of America® Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard® may have an irritatingly long name, but it provides a solid set of travel perks and benefits, and there’s no annual fee at all.

With the BofA® Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard®, you’ll earn 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all purchases with no limits to the amount you can earn. But wait! It gets better. Earn 3 points per dollar spent when you book your travel (car, hotel, airline) through the Bank of America Travel Center (powered by Orbitz).

Here’s what else the Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard® gets you:

  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars or baggage fees; option for cash back and gift cards
  • No blackout dates and no travel restrictions when booking your trip
  • Business Advantage Relationship Rewards clients get a 25% – 75% rewards bonus on the base earn of every purchase
  • No foreign transaction fee

When you enroll in the Business Advantage Relationships Rewards program to get that rewards bonus, you can earn up to 2.62 points to the dollar on your regular non-travel purchases if you play your cards right, which means all the more points you can redeem for statement credits to pay for your travel!

Best For Balance Transfers

Capital One Spark Cash For Business


capital one spark cash select
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Annual Fee:


$95 ($0 the first year)

 

Purchase APR:


18.74%, Variable

Why It’s Our Pick

The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business card charges no fees on balance transfers, and beyond that, it’s a great cash back card as well.

The beauty of Spark Cash for Business is the fact that you’ll earn an unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases — one of the only cards offering such a high flat cash back rate. If you want to avoid extra charges for balance transfers while earning 2% cash back on everything you buy, this card has your number. However, there is a $95 annual fee after the first year, and there’s no introductory 0% APR for balance transfers. If a 0% intro APR for balance transfers is more important to you than fee-free balance transfers, check out Ink Business Cash, as its 12-month 0% APR period goes for balance transfers as well as purchases.

Best For Cash Back

Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


12.99% – 22.99%, Variable

 

Why It’s Our Pick

For this section, we wanted to highlight the Bank of America® Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard®. For no annual fee, you’ll get 3% cash back on your first $250,000 per year in purchases at gas stations and office supply stores (and 1% cash back afterwards), 2% cash back on purchases at restaurants, and 1% cash back on everything else.

The $250,000 limit on your highest earning categories goes well beyond the limit placed on the high earning categories of most cards, making this a great cash back business card choice for the business gearing up to do some truly heavy spending in the specified categories. What’s more, just as with the BofA Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard, Business Advantage Relationship Rewards clients get a 25% – 75% rewards bonus on the base earn of every purchase.

Best Sign-Up Bonus Offer

Chase Ink Business Preferred



Apply Now 

Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


17.74% – 22.74%, Variable

Why It’s Our Pick

We’ve gone over some of the reasons why we like the Chase Ink Business PreferredSM card so much. Here’s another reason: the card carries a sign-up bonus that is uniquely valuable for the industry. Sign up for the Ink Business Preferred and you’ll be in line to receive a bonus of 80,000 points if you spend at least $5,000 within the first three months of opening your account. This offer is worth about $800 under normal circumstances but is worth $1,000 if you redeem your points for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards.

While you’ll have to balance out this uniquely valuable sign-up bonus with the fact that this card carries a $95 annual fee (not waived for the first year), the fact remains that few cards offer as generous of a bonus offer as the Ink Business Preferred — even if you subtract the annual fee from the bonus.

Now What?

We hope that this article has helped you find the business credit card that best suits your particular needs, whatever they may be. To learn more about the current business credit card scene, check out our post on the best business credit cards of 2018 or compare business credit cards.

The post Best Credit Card Offers For Businesses: September 2018 appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Picked For You: Best Business Credit Cards For Good Credit

If you’re sitting with a credit score above 700, you could be missing out on some worthy credit card offers for your business. This means that you may not be maximizing your potential rewards, benefits, limits, or APR. Luckily, at Merchant Maverick, we have already done the heavy lifting and picked out the best business credit cards for a variety of business owners with good credit. You can take a peek at our selections below.

Best For Travel Rewards: Chase Ink Business Preferred

Chase Ink Business Preferred



Apply Now 

Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


17.74% – 22.74%, Variable

 

Why It’s Our Pick

Chase’s flagship business card, Ink Business Preferred, is the clear winner if you travel a lot. That’s because reward points are worth 25% more if redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Additionally, points can be transferred to other travel programs on a 1:1 point basis, meaning you could eke out more than 1.25 cents per point. On top of all that, Chase also packs this card with no foreign transaction fees, a plus for those going overseas.

With bonus rewards for redemption on travel and 1:1 point transfers for travel programs, Chase Ink Business Preferred stands above other cards when it comes to travel rewards. Find out more with our in-depth review.

Best For No Annual Fee: Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Chase Ink Business Unlimited


chase ink business unlimited
Apply Now 

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


14.99% – 20.99%, Variable

 

Why It’s Our Pick

Besides featuring that tantalizing no annual fee, Chase Ink Business Unlimited boasts a range of rewards and benefits that make it one attractive card. To start, this card offers an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, a generous reward scheme that stays simple. Additionally, its welcome offer hands over $500 cash back if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.

Beyond those rewards, Chase Ink Business Unlimited provides a 0% intro APR for the first 12 months, and you can add employee cards at no additional cost. Get Merchant Maverick’s full breakdown by reading our detailed review.

Best For High Limit: Capital One Spark Cash for Business

Capital One Spark Cash For Business


capital one spark cash select
Visit Site

Annual Fee:


$95 ($0 the first year)

 

Purchase APR:


18.74, Variable

 

Why It’s Our Pick

While your credit limit ultimately depends on your credit score and business finances, Capital One Spark Cash for Business provides a range of rewards and benefits that make it appealing to those with excellent credit. Its base rewards program features an unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases. This very generous offer should catch the eye of most businesses looking at getting a new credit card. Of course, there is a $95 annual fee, but high spenders should be able to recoup that loss quickly.

This all comes with the caveat that you’ll be bringing excellent credit to the table; Capital One requires that you have had a loan or credit card for three-plus years with a credit limit in excess of $5,000 before getting a Spark Cash for Business card. For a deeper look at Capital One’s card, venture on over to Merchant Maverick’s full review.

Best For Low APR: American Express SimplyCash Plus

American Express SimplyCash Plus



Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


13.99% – 20.99%, Variable

 

Why It’s Our Pick

Depending on your credit score, the American Express SimplyCash Plus card can get you a lower APR than industry standard. It posts a variable APR that currently sits at 13.99%, 18.99% or 20.99%. Of course, only those with excellent credit will be able to benefit from the lower ranges.

Beyond that potentially low APR, SimplyCash Plus features no annual fee and 0% intro APR for the first nine months. You can also get up to 5% cash back at office supply stores and on wireless telephone purchases, and 3% back on the purchase category of your choosing. If you want the full picture on SimplyCash Plus, head on over to our fully featured review.

Best For Cash Back: Chase Ink Business Cash

Chase Ink Business Cash



Apply Now

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


14.99% – 20.99%, Variable

 

Why It’s Our Pick

The Chase Ink Business Cash really holds its own when it comes to cash back rewards. This card offers 5% back on purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone purchases up to a combined $25,000 in purchases each account anniversary year. There’s also a 2% back at gas stations and restaurants up to a combined $25,000 in purchases each account anniversary year. On top of those hefty rewards, there’s 1% cash back on all other purchases.

After hitting the cap in both the 5% and 2% tiers, you’ll drop down to 1% cash back in both. Maxing out both tiers will net you $1,750 back. Rewards can be redeemed via cash back, or through credits applied to Amazon purchases, gift cards, or travel. If you think that Chase Ink Business Cash is right for you but you want to learn more, head on over to Merchant Maverick’s detailed review.

Best For Balance Transfer: American Express Blue Business Plus

American Express Blue Business Plus



Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


12.99% – 20.99%, Variable

 

Why It’s Our Pick

American Express’ Blue Business Plus features a 0% intro APR for 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers. In addition, the balance transfer fee sits at a low 3% or $3—whichever winds up higher—making this card attractive to businesses that need to transfer debt over to a new card.

It boasts a potentially lower-than-industry-standard variable APR once your 15 months of 0% APR are up. For rewards, it provides two points per $1 up to $50,000 spent, and then one point per $1 after you hit that cap. You can also take advantage of expanded buying power with Blue Business Plus, allowing you to purchase above your credit limit. Read up on further details with our in-depth review.

Frequently Asked Questions About Business Credit Cards

Should I Apply For More Than One Card At A Time?

While nothing is preventing you from applying for more than one card at a time, that doesn’t mean you should. Every time you apply for a credit card, you will receive a hard inquiry on your credit report. Multiple hard inquiries in a short space of time could negatively affect your credit score, at least temporarily. This is because credit score bureaus might think that you actually want multiple cards, something they see as a potential indicator to financial woes.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s usually best to not apply for multiple cards at once. Instead, take your time to find the right card for you. If the above cards don’t seem to fit your business, check out our small business credit card comparison for further tips on picking out which card best suits you.

How Long Does It Take To Be Approved With Good Credit?

How long it takes to be approved for a credit card depends on several factors, the biggest being how you apply. If you apply online or over the phone and you’re carrying that good credit score, you could be approved within a matter of seconds. Of course, should other hitches arise—such as your personal information being tagged as fraudulent—it may take longer to receive the credit card company’s decision.

If you mail in your application, a decision could take anywhere from seven to 10 business days no matter how good your credit score is.

Is There A “Best Time” To Apply For A Credit Card?

Generally, you’ll want to wait several months after you received a hard inquiry on your credit score. Hard inquiries can occur when you apply for credit cards, loans, housing, and other services. As I mentioned above, multiple hard inquiries in a short space of time could negatively affect your credit score, at least temporarily. Credit score bureaus might think that you actually want multiple cards, something they see as a potential indicator to financial woes.

You may also want to wait until you’ve been pre-approved for a card, a process that’s offered by many credit card issuers. Getting pre-approved for a card lets you know that you have solid chance to actually get approved without placing a hard inquiry on your account.

You might also decide to wait to apply for a credit card until your business needs to make a big purchase. That way you can get a card with a 0% introductory APR, allowing you to pay the purchase off over multiple months without worrying about racking up interest.

Does A Business Credit Card Affect My Personal Credit Score?

It depends. Almost all issuers check with consumer credit bureaus when applying for a business card. In some instances—if your account is frequently delinquent, for example—issuers may report your activity on a business account to consumer credit bureaus.

All told, as long as your keep your business account in good standing and you keep from slipping up, your personal credit score should be fine.

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed reading through this breakdown of the best business credit cards for those with good credit. If nothing else, hopefully you learned a thing or two!

Check out our detailed list of the best business credit cards for 2018 to get an even deeper look at some awesome cards. If your credit score isn’t quite high enough for the above cards, we recommend you check out our ultimate guide to improving your business credit score. Or, if you decide you need to go the charge card route, we’ve got you covered on your best options.

The post Picked For You: Best Business Credit Cards For Good Credit appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Accept Credit Cards Online

So you’ve realized you want to start selling online. Good for you! The ecommerce market is certainly booming. But before you can start raking in the money, you probably have a few questions, like “how do I make a website?” and “how do I accept credit cards online?” Here’s the good news: There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from! The bad news? There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from. So how do you choose?

As always, there’s no one perfect solution for everyone. You need to know your business (and where you want to go with it) and have a rough idea of what you need. If you have no idea where to start, never fear! In this article, we’ll cover some of the basic considerations about accepting credit card payments online, as well as types of payment processors and how to accept credit card payments online with and without a website. We’ll also discuss some of our favorite solutions for ecommerce and provide resources to help you learn more.

5 Questions To Ask Before You Start

It’s really important, before you dive headlong into any kind of financial investment in your business, to sit down and make sure that you know what you want and what you need. I say that a lot, but with selling online it’s especially important to look before you leap because if you get any component of your setup wrong, redoing it will cost time and money.

So before anything, here are some questions to consider:

  1. How technologically savvy are you? Simply put, are you even able to build and maintain your website yourself? If you’re not exactly a technological wizard, your priority should be finding an easy-to-manage solution. You can also outsource tasks you can’t handle yourself, such as design or even data entry for the creation of products. Of course, if you have an ambitious idea and no ready-made solution exists, or you need a lot of customization, you might need a developer who can work with software APIs to create what you need. You can find freelance developers to help out as you go, but the more high-tech you go, obviously, the more you should consider having a full-time developer.
  2. Do you already have a website? If yes, do you like your website? Would you rather abandon it for a better site with more features? If you already have a site and don’t want to go through the effort of creating a new site to sell a handful of products, payment buttons or plug-ins are better options. If you don’t have a site or you don’t mind nixing your current site in favor of something better, shopping cart software might meet the brief nicely. But of course, you don’t need a website to accept payments online. We’ll talk about all of these options more below.
  3. What’s your budget? When it comes to numbers, you need to look at both upfront costs and monthly (or yearly) costs. How much can you spend at the outset, and how much do you expect to be able to afford on a monthly or annual basis? Keep in mind the more technically advanced your website, the more you can expect to pay to build and maintain it. Likewise, the busier your site — the more products you have and the more sales you make — the more you can expect to pay. Don’t forget the tangential costs, such as hiring a designer or a developer, or data entry, and of course, the costs of payment processing itself!
  4. What are you selling? Whether you’re offering digital goods, subscriptions/services, or retail products, look for service providers that cater to your industry so you don’t have to find creative workarounds. Many solutions are generalized for a broad array of merchants, but with add-ons and integrations to make them more tailored. You can also find payment processors and software that offer ready-made specialized solutions and service plans, such as micropayments for merchants who sell low-priced digital goods.
  5. How comfortable are you with handling security features? If you want to sell online, you have to make sure your website is secure. That means ensuring your site is PCI compliant. The more involved you are in the payments process and the more sensitive information your website handles, the more of a burden you are taking upon yourself. Fortunately, many payment processors and other software providers offer solutions to keep your customers’ information secure and reduce your PCI burden — in some cases, you may not need to do anything at all.

Once you’ve got the answers to these questions and a list of the features you need and want, it’s time to actually start looking at your options. One of your primary considerations should be finding a payment processor. However, depending on your business model, you might want to first look at what kind of ecommerce options work for you and then select a payment processor from the available options.

We’ll begin by talking about payment processors and go on to look at what other software or platforms you should explore.

Types Of Payment Processors

No matter how you go about finding a payment processor — choosing a standalone, going with the default processor included with your shopping cart, or choosing a recommended partner from a software provider — you need to consider what kind of business model the processor uses. If you’ve been here before and read any of my other articles, you know that I am talking about the difference between third-party payment processors versus traditional merchant accounts.

Traditional merchant accounts are very stable. It would take a clear violation of either your contract or card network rules in order to trigger an account termination, and you’re unlikely to encounter a hold on funds unless you’ve had a series of issues with chargebacks or fraudulent transactions. However, most merchant account providers expect you to have an established business and a monthly volume of $10,000 in credit card transactions. Plus, setting up a merchant account will typically take a few days. It could take longer depending on how many processors are on your short list and how much negotiation is required.

Third-party processors are not quite as stable as merchant accounts. That’s because instead of issuing separate accounts for each of their merchants, everything is lumped together in one giant, communal merchant account. It takes very little effort to apply for an account with one of these processors, and you can often get approved and set up to accept credit cards online within a day. Factor in no monthly minimum volume requirements and third-party processors provide a great way for new businesses to take payments. However, the trade-off is that you’ll face greater scrutiny and a higher risk for account holds or terminations, often with no warning. Check out our article on how to prevent merchant account hold and freezes to learn how to reduce your risk.

While third-party processors are riskier than merchant accounts, they are a great option for new businesses who don’t know what sort of volume they can expect and don’t have an established history. Even for established businesses, there are some advantages: namely, third-party processors offer predictable, flat-rate pricing, so you know exactly how much you’ll pay. The best merchant account providers typically offer interchange-plus pricing, which, while clear and transparent, doesn’t make it easy to accurately estimate processing because interchange rates vary.

It’s up to you to decide which type of processor is right for your business. I do want to point out that some software companies (ecommerce shopping carts, point of sale solutions, invoice platforms, and more) often build white-label payments into their solutions. These solutions can take the form of third-party processors or merchant accounts, so make sure you investigate before just going with the default processor. In addition to their native payment processing services, most ecommerce software providers support integrations with an assortment of merchant accounts and third-party payment processors.

Square is our top-pick for third-party payment processor. In addition to predictable, flat-rate pricing with no monthly fees or contracts, Square offers a whole suite of seamlessly integrated apps to address in-person and online sales at no charge at all. eCommerce transactions process at 2.9% + $0.30 each.

For merchant accounts, we recommend CDGcommerce, which offers flat-rate pricing and an interchange-plus option depending on the merchant’s payment volume. There are no monthly minimums and no contracts, just a $10 monthly fee. Low-volume merchants will pay 1.95% + $0.30 for most transactions, or 2.95% + $0.30 for premium, corporate, or international cards. Merchants who process more than $10,000/month are eligible for interchange-plus pricing with a 0.30% + $0.10 markup.

Does Your Payment Processor Include a Gateway?

If you want to accept credit card payments online, it’s not enough to find a credit card processor. You also need a gateway. As the name suggests, a gateway is an intermediary software program that transfers the payment data from your website to the customer’s bank to be approved or declined (and then routes the money to your merchant account).

Many payment processors offer gateways as part of their services. For example, PayPal, Square, and Stripe all offer gateways bundled with the rest of their services at no additional cost. CDGcommerce offers its Quantum gateway as part of its services for online merchants.

However, some processors will charge you a setup fee and/or a monthly fee for use of the gateway. While it’s fair and legitimate to charge for this service (especially if you’re being offered other discounts or freebies in exchange), there’s no reason for you to overpay, either. Make sure you know how much a gateway service will cost if it’s not offered for free.

While it’s rare to find a processor that doesn’t include some sort of gateway access, they do exist. In the event that you find yourself leaning toward one of these processors, you can find your own gateway. Authorize.net is nearly universally compatible and reasonably priced, which makes it a good option for most merchants. (Worth noting: CDGcommerce’s gateway, Quantum, also includes an Authorize.net emulation mode to maximize compatibility.)

Want to know more about how payment gateways figure into your ecommerce setup? Check out our article, The Complete Guide to Online Credit Card Processing With a Payment Gateway, for more information.

How To Accept Online Payments With A Website

A website is a pretty integral part of selling online (but it’s not 100% necessary — we’ll look at some alternatives in the next section). As mentioned above, the first question to consider is: Do I already have a website? Then ask yourself: Do I like that website, or would I rather start over completely? Fortunately, there are solutions for both of these scenarios. For existing sites, you can implement payment buttons or seek out a plug-in or extension that supports ecommerce.

Adding Payments To An Existing Site

best templates

If you’ve used a site builder such as WordPress, Weebly, Wix, or Squarespace, it’s fairly simple to implement online payments. Simply check out the sitebuilder’s available third-party apps, extensions, and plugins. If you already know which payment processor you want to use, you can search directly for an available add-on. Otherwise, you can browse and see what options are ready-made for you. These add-ons will allow you to securely collect payment information from your customers as well as manage the order fulfillment process. Do your research and go with solutions from your site builder rather than third parties, if possible. Check reviews of any plugins or extensions you add and make sure they are well supported and any glitches are fixed in a timely manner.

If you run a WordPress site, WooCommerce or Ecwid could be good starter options. WooCommerce is actually a free plug-in to add to your site, with a basic theme and your choice of payment processors. It’s a very modular setup, so you can choose from a mix of free and paid extensions that allow you to customize WooCommerce to your needs. That includes payment processors, subscription tools, the ability to create add-ons (such as gift wrap for products), and more. Most WooCommerce add-ons are charged on an annual basis, which could require more of an up-front investment than a monthly subscription, so be aware of this fact.

Ecwid is another plug-in designed for WordPress. However, it also works on an assortment of other website-building platforms, including Wix and Weebly, Ecwid does offer a free plan for businesses with 10 or fewer products, but for higher-tiered plans you’ll pay a monthly subscription fee. Ecwid supports a wide assortment of integrations, including payment gateways. With higher plan tiers, you also get access to expanded sales channels.

Wix and Weebly’s website builders can be used for blogging, personal portfolios, and any other purposes. They both offer online store modules. Online stores from Wix start at $20/month with no transaction fees and your choice of processors. Upgrading to an eCommerce plan is fairly simple from within the Wix dashboard and won’t require any substantial reworking. Simply add the “My Store” module to your dashboard, make the upgrade, and start creating products.

Finally, there’s Weebly. Square actually bought Weebly in the spring of 2018, so it’s possible we could see Weebly start to favor Square pretty heavily in the future. For now, though, Weebly’s online store plans start at $8/month (on a yearly plan), with a 3% transaction fee on top of your processing costs. The transaction fee drops off with higher-tier plans, leaving just the monthly fee.

The other way to add payments to an existing site is to look for a payment processor that supports customizable payment buttons. A good payment button creator will give you power over the appearance of the buttons as well as the settings for transactions. The obvious, go-to solution for many is PayPal, which offers a pretty powerful array of tools. PayPal’s buttons are a good option whether you are selling a single product or multiple ones. You can set up payment buttons to allow products to be added to a cart or to go directly to checkout. PayPal even allows nonprofits to create a “Donate” button for their site, which can be configured for one-time and recurring donations.

An alternative to PayPal is Shopify Lite, an entry-level solution. For $9/month plus transaction costs (2.9% + $0.30), you can accept payments on your website by adding payment buttons. The plan also includes access to Shopify’s mPOS app and the ability to sell on Facebook (we’ll talk about that option in the next section, too.) And it’s worth mentioning that Ecwid also supports the creation of custom buy buttons.

While adding payments to an existing site is incredibly convenient and often requires little work, you won’t get quite as many tools as you would with a hosted ecommerce software solution. Which brings us to the best solution if you would rather build a new site or have no website to start with:

Building A New Site With Shopping Cart Software

eCommerce software apps, sometimes also called shopping carts or shopping cart software, are hosted, all-in-one solutions to online sales. Adding an ecommerce feature to an existing website requires you to choose a platform, buy the domain, and pay for hosting, but with shopping carts, you’ll get everything in a single package: online sales and product management, hosting, and sometimes even the ability to buy a domain name directly. Typically, shopping carts will also help you centralize control of sales across multiple channels, so that if you sell on social media, on eBay, or through another channel, you can handle order fulfillment through a single platform. That even includes buying postage (at a discounted rate) and printing the shipping labels. Some shopping carts will offer marketing tools or integrations with marketing platforms, as well as integrations with point of sale systems.

As far as payment processing goes, some shopping carts have opted to include their own white-label payments as a default part of their services. One such cart is Shopify, which offers its own Shopify Payments service (read our review). However, this is just a white-label version of Stripe. Be aware that choosing a payment processor other than the default can incur additional fees.

Generally speaking, even if a shopping cart doesn’t offer all of the features you want, you can search the app market for available extensions and integrations to get what you need. It’s worth researching the available add-ons as well as the native software features.

There’s a lot to consider and compare with a shopping cart. Obviously, you can use a sitebuilder such as Weebly or Wix, which both offer eCommerce modules. Then there are ecommerce-exclusive platforms, including Shopify and BigCommerce, which make it easy to build your site and customize the design (and even offer blogging so you can centralize control of your website).

If you want a whole lot of freedom and have coding knowledge, an open-source platform such as Magento might be more to your liking. Open-source platforms tend to be chock-full of specialized features (particularly if they have attracted active user communities) and you have almost limitless control of your site. A closed-source, SaaS platform is certainly a lot easier and more convenient for business owners who are just starting out and want to go the DIY route.

If you aren’t sure what you want, we recommend you start by checking out Shopify and BigCommerce, both of which are affordably priced for new businesses and offer extensive customer support resources. They also both offer multi-channel sales manage so you can sell through your own site and through other platforms but manage all of your orders from a single portal.

If you’re still curious about what makes a great ecommerce platform, check out some of our other resources!

  • The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store (eBook)
  • Shopping Cart Flowchart: Choose the Right eCommerce Software for Your Business (Infographic)
  • Shopping Carts 101: How to Choose a Shopping Cart for Your Business (Article)
  • Questions to Ask Before You Commit to a Shopping Cart (Article)

Managing Services, Subscriptions & Other Recurring Charges

A lot of merchants, from accountants and other professional service provideres to lawn care and cleaning services, could benefit from being able to automate recurring charges. And of course, the ability to automate charges is essential for SaaS providers and subscription-box sellers.

Generally speaking, the ability to accept recurring payments — for monthly services or subscriptions — isn’t a default option for payment processors or shopping carts, which tend to be retail-focused. However, you can find plenty of solutions that will work with your existing eCommerce setup. For example, Stripe and Braintree both offer extensive subscription management tools along with their payment gateway and processing services. Add-on services such as Chargify, Recurly, and ChargeBee work with a variety of processors. Zoho Subscriptions and Freshbooks also offer recurring billing tools. PayPal offers recurring billing tools for its merchants; Square offers “recurring invoices” but not a lot of advanced customization for subscription billing.

Proper research will be very important when selecting a provider that offers all of the features you need, whether you require metered billing for usage-based online services, the ability for customers to upgrade to a higher tiered plan mid-billing cycle, the ability to offer free trial periods and extend them, or a way to calculate taxes. Tools that automatically update expired cards can also help reduce failed charges and therefore improve revenues and reduce customer loss.

Accepting Online Payments Without A Website

Most people equate taking payments online with having a website. That is the most common option, but you don’t actually need your own website. Let’s talk about a few of the alternatives for how to accept credit cards online.

Creating Online Invoices

You could create your own invoices in Microsoft Office and send them out via email, but then you’ve got to keep track of which invoices have been sent and which have been paid — and you’ve still got to deal with waiting for the check in the mail. Online invoicing solutions can eliminate every single one of these hassles.

Generally speaking, invoicing software is cloud-based, so you can access it anywhere. You can customize invoices and send them via email (or generate a shareable link to the invoice). But unlike old-fashioned invoicing, these invoices include a link to pay directly in the invoice. Your customers follow the link, enter their payment details, and bam! You get paid much quicker.

Depending on which invoicing software you choose, you can get some powerful features. For example, PayPal allows you to enable partial payments on an invoice if you are willing to accept installment payments. Square’s invoicing links up with the platform’s customer database, allowing you to send recurring invoices and even store customer cards on file to make getting paid even easier. Zoho Invoice, which starts at $0/month, also allows for a customer database, as well as project management (so you can generate an invoice based on the number of hours worked). Shopify offers invoice creation within its platform at no additional charge as well — and this feature is even available on the Lite plan.

For most merchants, Square Invoices may be the most appealing, as it’s available with a Square account at no additional charge. However, Shopify’s built-in invoicing will work for merchants who want to sell with or without a website. Merchants who need project management as part of their invoicing should look at Zoho Invoice.

Using Online Form Builders

So you don’t have a website, but you still need to collect user information and accept payment. Online form builders offer an easy way to do both. Plus, you can post links to forms on social media or send them out via email.

Off the top of your head, you might think of Google Forms, which is free to use and quite advanced for a freemium software. However, it doesn’t integrate seamlessly with payment processors. Your best option, in this case, would be to use PayPal’s embeddable buy buttons and include the button in the form’s submission confirmation page as a second step. However, you’ll have to manually reconcile the payment records versus form submissions.

Subscription-based form builders will cost you money but offer far more capabilities than Google Forms, including direct integrations with payment processors/gateways such as PayPal, Stripe, Square, and Authorize.net. Subscriptions generally work on annual or monthly plans, but one option, Cognito Forms, offers an entry-level plan that charges 1% of the transaction amount instead. (Note, that’s in addition to any processing fees.) Other form solutions worth looking into are Zoho Forms and Jotform. Zoho Forms starts at $10/month and includes unlimited forms and up to 10,000 submissions. It integrates with both PayPal and Stripe. Jotform’s paid plans start at $19/month and are limited to 1,000 submissions, but include integrations for quite a few payment processors, including PayPal, Stripe, Square, and even Dwolla. Cognito Forms’ paid plans start at $10/month plus 1% of the transactions and include up to 2,000 form submissions. Integrations include PayPal and Stripe.

And we haven’t even talked about event registration sites. There are a lot of them, but the one many people are likely familiar with is EventBrite. EventBrite allows you to put all the details of your event online and sell tickets — including setting multiple tiers of admission and promotion cards, automatically setting price changes for registration deadlines, and so on. You can even collect marketing data about your patrons, from their zip codes to how they heard about the event. Your event is searchable from within the EventBrite platform, allowing people searching for something to do to discover your event as well. EventBrite does charge fees on top of processing costs, but these can actually be passed onto event registrees, saving you some money at least.

Selling On Social Media

It wasn’t all that long ago that the idea of being able to buy products directly through social media channels was novel and experimental, but nowadays you can create your own online shop through Facebook, or sell on Instagram or even Pinterest.

With Facebook, you just need a Facebook business page to get started. You can choose your payment processor (PayPal or Stripe) and start manually uploading products, all of which have to be reviewed by Facebook before they can go live. An easier option is to link your Facebook shop to an online store builder such as BigCommerce, Ecwid, or Shopify.

Shopify is actually an interesting solution because, while its core offering is an online shopping cart, it offers a “Lite” plan for $9/month that includes access to its mPOS app, buy buttons for a website, and a Facebook store with automated tools to make the process easier. You wouldn’t necessarily have to go through the hassle of building a website with Shopify just to sell on Facebook, but you still get more tools than you would by going through Facebook directly. Check out our Shopify Lite review for an in-depth look at the plan and all its features.

Selling on Instagram requires you to have a Facebook shop (because Facebook owns Instagram) to create what it calls “Shoppable posts.” That shop can be managed directly via Facebook itself, or via Shopify or BigCommerce as one of multiple sales channels. I’d like to point out that Instagram isn’t available as a sales channel with the Lite plan; you’ll need to upgrade to Shopify Basic at $29/month to be able to manage sales via Instagram.

Lastly, Pinterest allows merchants with a business account to create “Buyable pins,” so you can sell from your Pinterest page. Unlike Facebook, where you can manage the buyable pins from the platform, to sell through Pinterest you will need to go through either Shopify or BigCommerce and actually apply for approval before you can start selling.

Shopify Lite is an ideal option if you want to start with Facebook and maybe add buy buttons to a website. You can upgrade to Shopify Basic ($29/month) to get your own site, plus access to Instagram and Pinterest if that appeals to you.

Selling In Marketplaces

Online marketplaces are a good alternative to having your own website if you’re selling retail goods. You don’t have to pay for hosting or invest anything in web design. You simply create your product listings using the tools provided and publish them. Marketplaces allow you to get your products in front of a large audience without you having to build a stream of traffic yourself. However, the trade-offs are that you generally pay more in fees (listing fees, seller’s fees, and payment processing) than you would with your own website, and you have zero control over the design of the site or even how your products are displayed. Generally speaking, you are limited to using whatever payment processing the marketplace offers as well.

A few popular marketplaces include:

  • eBay
  • Etsy
  • Amazon
  • Jet (owned by Walmart)
  • Ruby Lane

Accepting Payments Through Virtual Terminals 

The final alternative is a bit of a stretch, I’ll admit, but it can be a powerful tool for some merchants. A virtual terminal is a web portal where you can manually enter credit card information to process a transaction. (There’s the stretch: VTs require an internet connection, so they’re technically online payments.)  Virtual terminals are a necessity for merchants who want to accept payments over the phone (or even by mail).

Some payment processors offer a virtual terminal as part of their software package, others as an add-on. These providers include PayPal, Payline Mobile, Square, and Fattmerchant. However, if you want the best value for a virtual terminal, we recommend Square. You pay only the payment processing costs (3.5% + $0.15) and it is interoperable with the rest of Square’s platform.

Beyond Credit Cards: Alternative Online Payment Methods

Credit cards are the go-to for accepting payments online, but they aren’t the only options. For starters, there are ACH bank transfers, which are generally less expensive for merchants to process. They’re often preferred in B2B environments, but some consumers favor them too.

Offering ACH processing as an additional option, especially if you’re in the B2B space, could win you more customers. According to a 2017 Payment Benchmarks Survey by the Credit Research Foundation and the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA), ACH transfers currently account for 32 percent of B2B transactions, lagging behind checks, which took the no. 1 spot at 50 percent. Credit cards account for just 11 percent of B2B transactions. By 2020, the survey estimates that ACH will take the top spot and account for 45 percent of B2B transactions.

Despite this, most merchant accounts or even third-party processors don’t offer ACH by default. Some offer it as an add-on plan, others may require you to look for a supplemental option for ACH acceptance.

ACH is far from the only option as far as “alternative” payment processing now, too. Mobile wallets are bridging the gap between in-person and online payments, and card networks have implemented their own online checkout options for cardholders. The major advantage to accepting these options is that they offer an extra layer of security for consumers. For example, Apple Pay on the web still requires biometric authentication before approval.

Some of these alternative payment methods include:

  • Apple Pay on the Web
  • Google Pay
  • Microsoft Pay
  • Chase Pay
  • MasterPass
  • Visa Checkout
  • Amex Express checkout

Apple Pay and Google Pay are fairly widely supported, but you may not see the other options on this list everywhere.

Two noteworthy providers that offer ACH, as well as other alternative payment options, are Stripe and Braintree. However, both are developer-focused platforms, so you’ll need someone with the technical know-how to implement them. Merchant accounts that specialize in eCommerce and provide a solid gateway might offer these options too.

We recommend Stripe because of its extensive developer tools, customizable checkout, and resources for recurring billing. The company also offers round-the-clock customer support (an admittedly recent addition to its feature set). Plus, Stripe is great for international merchants who want to be able to accept localized currencies in Europe and Asia.

Begin Accepting Payments Online

Starting an online store and learning how to accept credit cards online can seem like a daunting task! There are so many factors to consider, but I hope I’ve been able to shed some light on the process and point you in the direction of some good options. A merchant account can give you security and stability, but it may not be the most cost-effective option for low-volume merchants. A third-party processor can get you set up quickly with predictable pricing that often favors low-volume merchants, but the trade-off is account stability. And of course there’s the matter of compatibility: You need to make sure that whatever payment processor you choose offers a gateway compatible with the software (and sales channels) you want to use.

But you also need to have a good idea of what you can afford to spend up front and on a monthly basis and understand your limitations when it comes to technology and software. If you want to go the DIY route, you’ll need to be fairly tech-savvy. Otherwise, be prepared to outsource tasks to designers, developers, and even admin assistants. Some software solutions make it incredibly easy to do everything yourself, others will require lots of hands-on effort to make them work.

If you’re still not sure where to go from here, we recommend you check out our article: The Best Online Credit Card Payment Processing Companies. You can also view our merchant account comparison chart for a quick look at our favorite providers.

Have questions? We’re always happy to hear from our readers, so please leave us a comment!

The post How To Accept Credit Cards Online appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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What’s The Best Chase Ink Business Credit Card? Compare Cards Here!

Chase ink business credit card comparison

Chase’s lineup of Ink Business credit cards is well-regarded in the business credit card industry and by reviewers. After having done the math and the research, we here at Merchant Maverick concur with this assessment. However, that doesn’t answer the question you may be asking: Which Chase business credit card should I get?

We thought we’d explore this question so that you know which of Chase’s small business offerings suits your particular goals. Our Chase Ink business credit card comparison will cover four cards. Let’s take a look at the Chase Ink Business CashSM, the Chase Ink Business UnlimitedSM, and the Chase Ink Business PreferredSM.

Chase Ink Business CashSM

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Bonus Offer: $500 cash back when you spend at least $3,000 within 3 months of opening your account
  • APR: 14.99% – 20.99%, Variable
  • Introductory APR: 0% APR for the first 12 months
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%
  • Rewards:
    • 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone purchases each year
    • 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each year
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases

The main selling point of the Chase Ink Business CashSM credit card is the 5% cash back earning potential — it’s one of the few business cards available to offer such a high cash back rate. You stand to earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent on the purchase categories listed above each year — a potential $1,250 value. Max out the 2% cash back tier, and you’ll be sitting pretty with $1,750 cash back each year. You can continue to earn cash back on your purchases in these categories after spending $25,000 in a year, but at a 1% rate. It’s a great deal for the business owner whose spending is concentrated in these high-earning categories, but if your spending on said categories is significantly above this $25,000 limit, you might want to consider a card offering unlimited cash back.

The Chase Ink Business CashSM has no annual fee. Combine that with the $500 cash back you stand to earn if you spend $3K or more within 3 months — a bar most businesses will clear –and you’ll be rewarded nicely for your card use right off the bat.

When you go to redeem your rewards, you’ll find that your cash back rewards are technically counted as points. 5% cash back is counted as five points per $1 spent, 2% back is two points per $1, etc. Your points will never expire so long as your account is open, and you can redeem your points not only for cash back, but for rewards like gift cards and travel. You can also transfer your points over to other cards with Chase Ultimate Rewards, which could then be transferred over to one of 13 different airline travel partners.

Additional benefits of the Ink Cash card include:

  • Fraud protection
  • Zero liability protection
  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver

Read Our Full Chase Ink Business Cash Review

Apply For Chase Ink Business Cash 

Chase Ink Business UnlimitedSM

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Bonus Offer: $500 cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • APR: 14.99%–20.99% variable APR
  • Introductory Rate: 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers in the first 12 months
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%
  • Rewards: 
    • Earn unlimited 1.5% Cash Back rewards on all purchases

chase ink business unlimitedLaunched in May 2018, the Chase Ink Business Unlimited℠ card is Chase’s newest business credit card. Like the Ink Cash, the Ink Business Unlimited is a cash back business card. However, with the Unlimited card, there are no purchase categories, and you earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no limits on the amount of cash back you can earn. As this card will always draw comparisons with the similar Ink Cash card, let’s take a closer look at the similarities and differences between the two cards.

Chase Ink Business Cash vs Ink Business Unlimited

If you want a Chase Ink business credit card with no annual fee, you’ll have to go with one of these two cards, as the Chase Ink Business PreferredSM carries a $95 annual fee. To compare these two cards, let’s take note of where the Ink Cash and the Ink Business Unlimited don’t differ at all. Neither card carries an annual fee. Both cards offer the same welcome offer ($500 cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months), the same variable APR, the same 12-month introductory 0% APR period, the same 3% foreign transaction fee, and the same package of travel/shopping benefits.

The difference between the two cards lies entirely in their respective cash back reward structures. The Ink Cash offers 5% and 2% cash back spending categories along with 1% cash back on all other purchases, but the amount of annual spending in the 5% and 2% categories that will earn you this extra cash back is limited to $25,000 each. By contrast, the Ink Business Unlimited offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no limits — very simple indeed. If your business spending is diffuse and variable, the Business Unlimited is clearly a better deal, while the business owner whose spending is concentrated in the Ink Cash’s high earning categories will obviously find the Ink Cash to be a better deal. This is true only up to a point, however. Due to the fact that only your first $25,000 in annual purchases in these high-earning categories earns you cash back at these enhanced rates, the Ink Business Unlimited may earn you more cash back even if your spending is concentrated in the Ink Cash’s bonus categories. If you spend over $83,333.33 annually on the Ink Cash’s 5% cash back categories, you’ll actually earn more cash back by charging these same purchases to an Ink Business Unlimited card. Likewise, spend over $33,333.33 annually on the Ink Cash’s 2% cash back categories, and the Ink Business Unlimited starts earning you more cash back.

Essentially, the choice between the Ink Cash and the Ink Business Unlimited comes down to what your business expenses are and the total volume of said business expenses. Spend a light-to-moderate amount on the Ink Cash’s high-earning categories, and the Ink Cash is a better deal. Spend a large amount on these categories (or on other things entirely), and the Ink Business Unlimited will earn you more cash back.

Read Our Full Chase Ink Business Unlimited Review

Apply For Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Chase Ink Business PreferredSM

  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Bonus Offer: 80,000 points (if you spend at least $5,000 within the first three months of opening your account)
  • APR: 17.74% – 22.74%, Variable
  • Introductory Rate: None
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Rewards:
    • 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, internet/cable/phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media and search engines each account anniversary year
    • 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
    • Points are worth 25% more if redeemed for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Chase Ink Business PreferredSM card was introduced by Chase in 2016 as a replacement for the now-discontinued Ink Business PlusSM. Being Chase’s flagship business card, the Ink Business Preferred offers an eye-watering rewards package: 3 points for every dollar spent on the first $150,000 in purchases in the categories listed above, and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else. Plus, your points will be worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards. Let’s compare this card with the first two Chase Ink cards I’ve discussed.

Chase Business Ink Preferred vs Chase Ink Cash vs Chase Ink Unlimited

You’ll notice some significant differences between the Ink Business Preferred and the other two Ink business cards mentioned in this article. Obviously, the reward structure is different, as is the fact that your rewards will be worth 25% more when redeemed for travel. There’s also a more valuable bonus offer (the 80,000 points you’ll earn if you spend over $5K within 3 months are worth $800 or more, depending on what you use them for), and the 3% foreign transaction fee borne by Ink Cash and Ink Unlimited is absent in the Ink Business Preferred. Furthermore, along with all the same travel and shopping benefits of the Cash and Unlimited cards, you’ll get cell phone protection of up to $600 per claim, trip cancellation insurance, and trip delay coverage.

All these extra benefits aren’t free, however. The Ink Business Preferred carries a $95 annual fee. Its variable APR is a bit higher than that of the Ink Cash and Ink Unlimited, and unlike those two cards, the Ink Preferred has no introductory 0% APR period. But if you spend heavily on business travel, the Chase Ink Business PreferredSM should provide you the most value of all the Ink Business cards. And if you already have the Ink Cash or Ink Unlimited, pairing the Ink Preferred with either of them will get you extra points, an 80,000-point signup bonus, cell phone protection, and additional travel benefits you won’t get with Chase’s other two Ink Business cards. If you’re a frequent business traveler, such a pairing may work in your favor. Just bear in mind Chase’s infamous 5/24 rule: if you have opened five or more credit cards (from any bank) within the last 24 months, you won’t be approved for a new Chase card.

Read Our Full Chase Ink Business Preferred Review

Apply For Chase Ink Business Preferred 

An Alternative To Chase’s Ink Business Cards

capital one spark cash selectIf you’re looking for a good cash back business card but aren’t convinced by Chase’s Ink Business offerings, the Capital One Spark® Cash for Business card is a flat-rate cash back business card that lets you earn an unlimited 2% cash back — even more than the Chase Ink Business Unlimited℠. It’s a simple yet attractive advantage, made somewhat less appealing by the $95 annual fee (a fee the Ink Cash and Ink Unlimited do not carry) and the fact that you can’t transfer your rewards to travel rewards programs like you can with Chase’s business offerings. Still, Spark Cash for Business is an attractive proposition for the business owner who can’t be bothered with keeping track of spending categories and wants the highest universal cash back earning rate possible.

Check out our Spark® Cash for Business review to learn more.

Final Thoughts

So, which is the best Chase credit card for business? That depends on the amount and nature of your business spending. I hope the information given here has given you some guidance as to what options make the most sense for your particular business needs.

To compare high-ranking business credit cards in more detail, check out our credit card comparison chart or read the Best Business Credit Cards for 2018.

The post What’s The Best Chase Ink Business Credit Card? Compare Cards Here! appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Is WordPress Easy To Use For eCommerce?

If you know anything about web development, you know about WordPress. WordPress is now the most popular Content Management System (CMS) in the world, powering over 31% of websites globally. In fact, WordPress is the software behind the very website you’re currently on!

As an everyday WordPress user myself, I can say with confidence that WordPress is a great CMS for many purposes, including online selling. The software is open-source and popular, meaning that it’s fully customizable and that there are plug-ins available to extend the functionality of the software.

While it’s true that WordPress was originally built as a blogging platform, several eCommerce plugins make it possible to transform your website into a full-fledged online store. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at three of the most popular eCommerce software systems that work with WordPress.

But first, let’s take a look at WordPress as a stand-alone software.

Is WordPress Easy To Use?

WordPress is a very learnable software. The software is fairly easy to use once you get the hang of things. However, this initial learning process may take some time.

This is particularly true if you are new to web development. As open-source software, WordPress is not exactly plug-and-play. In order to get your site online, you’ll have to find your own web host and then install WordPress on your hosting account. In addition, you will be responsible for maintaining your site’s security.

Once you’ve finished setting everything up, you will find that when it comes to daily operations, WordPress is very usable.

As you consider using WordPress for your online store, you’ll have to keep in mind the pros and cons of the software. Here’s a quick breakdown of those advantages and disadvantages:

Pros

  • Open Source: Because WordPress is open source, you have the freedom to modify the software however you choose. In addition, you can choose to sell your modifications to other users!
  • Free: WordPress is free to download and use. However, you should note that operating a website comes with other expenses. Take a look at our “Cons” list for more information.
  • Large User Community: With so many bloggers, sellers, and developers using WordPress, you can expect to find lively community forums in WordPress’s support resources. Get help from fellow users or purchase plug-ins from a wide range of developers.
  • Reliable Software: You can depend on WordPress as a glitch-free CMS.
  • Lots Of Plug-Ins Available: WordPress and third-party developers alike have put out thousands of plug-ins that you can purchase and install to add features to your platform.

Cons

  • For Do-It-Yourselfers Only: When you use WordPress, you will be responsible for managing your web hosting and site security.
  • Some Experience Required: You either must have some experience editing HTML/CSS or you must be willing to learn.
  • Limited Technical Support: WordPress offers some support via email and live chat. However, for the most part, you’re on your own when it comes to technical issues.
  • Common Target For Hackers: Open source software is often the target of security attacks. You’ll have to keep an eye out for any new security patches.
  • Difficult To Estimate Total Costs: Although WordPress is free to use, you will still have to pay the typical costs of operating a website. You’ll need to pay for hosting, an SSL certificate, a theme, and any plug-ins you choose to use.

Now you know a bit more about the usability of WordPress, let’s start talking about our favorite eCommerce plug-ins for WordPress! All three of the following plug-ins are affordable, easy-to-use, and easy to integrate with any WordPress website.

Let’s get started!

WooCommmerce

WooCommerce is a free, open source eCommerce plug-in that is designed specifically to be used with WordPress. WooCommerce fits businesses of all sizes, from startup to enterprise. In fact, WooCommerce has been downloaded over 48 million times, making it one of the most popular eCommerce solutions in the world.

WooCommerce is easy to incorporate into your WordPress site. All you have to do is install and activate the WooCommerce app in your “Plug-ins” tab. Activating this plug-in turns your blogging back-end into an online store admin. Take a look:

In this dashboard, you can manage everything for your online store. For example, you can create products, access pending orders, adjust shipping setting, enter product information, and set up inventory tracking.

WooCommerce provides enough features to handle all the basic operations of online selling. Everything else is available as an extension. Here are a few of the features built-in:

  • Sell Digital & Physical Products
  • Inventory Management Features
  • Shipping Calculator & Shipping Options (Pickup, Local Delivery, Calculated Shipping)
  • SEO Features
  • Coupons & Discounts

WooCommerce offers lots of themes to choose from. Most of these are designed by third-parties; however, WooCommerce also creates its own designs called “WooThemes.” We recommend you stick with these WooThemes as they tend to work best with WooCommerce updates. For the most part, in order to change large aspects of these designs, you will be required to edit the HTML and CSS.

Like WordPress, WooCommerce offers very limited customer support to their customers. You are mostly on your own. Fortunately, WooCommerce does have a detailed knowledge base as well as a supportive user community to help you through any difficulties.

We love WooCommerce for its customizability, its scalability, and of course, its price. To learn more about WooCommerce, take a look at our full review of the software. Or, download WooCommerce today to test it for yourself.

Ecwid

Another plug-in you might consider using is Ecwid. Ecwid is an eCommerce software that lets you incorporate shopping cart widgets–such as buy buttons or a full online store–into any pre-built website. Ecwid is a perfect solution for small to medium-sized businesses that want a simple way to add an online store to their website. Over one million merchants currently use Ecwid for their online selling.

Ecwid is a SaaS (software as a service) solution, which means that although you have to find hosting for your WordPress site, hosting for your Ecwid store is already included. Instead, you’ll just have to pay a monthly price to use the software. This price depends primarily on the number of products you plan on listing. Each step up in pricing also includes more advanced features. Take a look below for a quick breakdown of pricing:

  • Free Plan: $0/Month
    • 10 Products
  • Venture: $15/Month
    • 100 Products
  • Business: $35/Month
    • 2,500 Products
  • Unlimited: $99/Month
    • Unlimited Products

To add Ecwid to your WordPress account, sign for an Ecwid account at ecwid.com. Then, install and activate the app in your WordPress dashboard. Completing these actions will let you make changes to your Ecwid store from WordPress.

Here’s a look at Ecwid’s dashboard within WordPress:

Alternatively, you can choose to manage your store from Ecwid’s own dashboard. Since the two programs are now connected, every change you make in Ecwid will be reflected in your WordPress site. Here’s Ecwid’s dashboard:

We recommend using Ecwid’s dashboard to manage your online store. We think Ecwid’s dashboard is more intuitive and easier to use in general.

Using Ecwid will give you access to many of the necessary selling features. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Buy Buttons
  • Multi-Channel Selling
  • Real-Time Shipping Rates
  • Promotions & Discounts
  • Sell Digital Products
  • Mobile Management App

Ecwid supplies users with one Starter Site theme that you can use to develop your storefront using drag-and-drop tools. There are also third-party themes available as well as HTML and CSS editors for more in-depth customization.

As is typical with SaaS solutions, Ecwid provides technical support through several channels. Your pricing plan will determine how you are able to reach customer support, whether that is through email, live chat, or phone. Everyone has access to a knowledge base and community support forums. Remember, Ecwid can only help with issues related to their software. They do not provide WordPress support.

Ecwid is a great solution for any merchant who’s looking for a simple way to sell products on their website. The app is easy to use with WordPress, it’s affordable, and it works. For more information, read our full review or sign up for Ecwid’s free plan to try it out.

Selz

Selz, selz review

Selz is another SaaS shopping cart solution that plugs into any website. Like Ecwid, Selz offers users both ease of use and versatility. Selz gives merchants the option of adding eCommerce features to any website in a variety of ways. You can choose to add an online store to an established website, embed buy buttons for select products, sell directly on social media, or set up a fully hosted online store.

Selz is designed for startups, artists, writers, and musicians, and the platform currently serves over 100,000 merchants worldwide. Ease of use is Selz’s strongest feature, which is wonderful for many beginning merchants.

On the other hand, sometimes Selz’s ease of use can be a limiting factor for sellers who are looking to grow. Selz does not offer many advanced features or integrations. Nevertheless, many sellers find that Selz fits their needs perfectly.

As a SaaS solution, Selz charges a monthly fee for the use of their software. There are four plans to choose from. These plans are organized by the number of products you plan to list. Additional features are available on higher level plans. Here’s a quick overview of pricing:

  • Free Plan: $0/Month
    • 5 Product Maximum
    • 2% Transaction Fee
  • Lite Plan: $19/Month
    • Unlimited Products
    • 2% Transaction Fee
  • Standard Plan: $29/Month
    • Unlimited Products
    • 1% Transaction Fee
  • Pro Plan: $49/Month
    • Unlimited Products
    • 0.5% Transaction Fee
    • No Transaction Fee If Using Selz Pay

To add Selz to your WordPress site, you’ll have to create a Selz account and then install and activate the Selz app in your WordPress dashboard.

Then, head back into your Selz dashboard. Using this dashboard, you can create products and discounts, process orders, and manage shipping settings. In order to test your setup with WordPress, you should add at least one or two products.

Now, you can decide how you’d like to add eCommerce to your site, whether that’s via buy buttons or an entire online store. When you make your decision, you’ll just have to follow Selz’s instructions to add products to your WordPress site.

During my testing, I decided to add my entire Selz store to WordPress. I looked into Selz’s instructions, but I had a bit of difficulty locating the correct buttons. I eventually figured out that WordPress’s new Gutenberg editor was complicating the process. Selz has not yet updated their support documentation to provide instructions for this new WordPress version. When I switched back to WordPress’s older Classic Editor, I was able to quickly integrate my store.

While both WooCommerce and Ecwid give you access to store management features within your WordPress dashboard, this is not the case with Selz. In order to add new products, process orders, etc. you will have to log back into your Selz dashboard.

Selz offers the basic features you need for online selling. Although Selz focuses mostly on the basics, they do include a few advanced features such as abandoned cart recovery and digital downloads. Take a look at a few of Selz’s features:

  • Sell Anywhere
  • Sell Physical & Digital Products
  • Real-Time Shipping Rates
  • Pay What You Want
  • Discounts & Coupons
  • Multi-Currency Capabilities
  • Abandoned Cart Recovery

When it comes to web design, Selz users are all set. There are 25 beautiful, image-focused designs to choose from, and they’re all free. Users can customize these designs by using the drag-and-drop editor or the HTML/CSS editors.

Support is available for all Selz users in the form of 24/7 live chat and email. There is also a Help Center full of useful documentation for users who prefer a do-it-yourself approach. As always, you’ll have to keep in mind that while Selz representatives love to help you use their software, they can’t help when it comes to WordPress difficulties.

Selz is a perfect solution for makers and startups who want to get their online stores started quickly. In particular, Selz works well for merchants who want to offer lots of digital products. If this sounds like you, head over to our full Selz review for more information. Or, you can take a look at Selz yourself.

Final Thoughts

So, is WordPress easy to use for eCommerce? We certainly think so, especially when you use the right eCommerce plug-in.

Take a deeper look at any of the three options we present above, and don’t be afraid to test out the plug-ins before you commit. All of these eCommerce solutions offer a free platform (or free download) so you can integrate the software with your WordPress site without paying a dime. And if you decide it isn’t a good fit for you, it’s easy to deactivate the integration. In fact, it just takes a few clicks.

So, what are you waiting for? Head over to our reviews or sign up for one of these shopping carts and get testing!

The post Is WordPress Easy To Use For eCommerce? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How Strong Is Your Business Loan Application?

How Strong Is Your Business Loan Application?

We all like to know that we are succeeding in our endeavors. It’s easy to tell how successful you are when exercising — just pull out a scale or a measuring tape. It’s equally easy to judge a successful work day by how many items you checked off the good ol’ planner. But when it comes to loan applications, how do you know when you’re ready to submit it?

What if I told you that you could measure how likely your loan application is to be approved before you sent it? While there’s no sure-fire magic secret to ensure your business loan application gets approved, there are ways to tell how strong your application is and how likely lenders are to accept it. In this post, we’ll cover seven ways to measure the strength of your business loan application.

Before sending your loan application, check how it stacks up in these seven areas first…

A Clear Plan

How Strong Is Your Business Loan Application?

Lenders want to know exactly how you plan on using a loan if approved. For this reason, it’s incredibly important to explain in detail how you plan on using the funding to grow your business.

If you ask a lender for $100,000 and don’t give a reason for the loan, there’s no chance you’re getting that money. Instead, provide a specific reason for the funding. For example, you may need $100,000 of new equipment that will increase your company’s productivity, allowing you to take on 100 new clients.

Common reasons for business loans include:

  • Hiring new employees
  • Purchasing inventory
  • Purchasing equipment
  • Expanding your business
  • Buying property

The more detailed you can be on your application the better. Some lending experts even recommend adding a detailed business plan to your application. A business plan will show that you are prepared, organized, and knowledgeable about your business field. When it comes to getting approved for a loan, these extra brownie points could make the difference between securing a loan and being declined.

Double check your loan application to make sure it clearly explains what you need the money for and how your business will benefit from this loan. Also, make sure you are asking for a reasonable amount for your business’s specific purposes. If your business loan application can demonstrate a clear plan, you’re off to a great start.

The 5 C’s Of Credit

How Strong Is Your Business Loan Application?

A strong loan application will highlight the 5 Cs of Credit. But what are the 5 Cs of Credit?

The 5 Cs of Credit are a measurement that lenders use to judge the trustworthiness and creditworthiness of a potential borrower.  If your loan application doesn’t display these traits, then most lenders view you as high-risk and decline your application entirely.

Here is a basic breakdown of the 5 Cs of Credit and what lenders are looking for on your loan application.

Character

Character refers to your business’s reputation. Lenders want to see that you pay your debts on time and are trustworthy.

To judge your company’s character, lenders will often check your credit history, your business credit score, and your personal credit score. They may also try to gauge your personal character through social media, references, or a phone consultation.

A loan application with strong character will have:

  • A good credit score
  • A record of on-time payments
  • Sound references (if required by lender)

If your application doesn’t demonstrate these qualities, read our post 5 Ways To Improve Your Personal Credit Score.

Capacity

Capacity refers to your business’s ability to pay back the loan. Lenders want to be assured that you have the cash flow to actually afford loan repayments.

To judge your company’s capacity, lenders often view your cash flow statements, bank statements, income, and existing debt.

A loan application with strong capacity will have:

  • Strong cash flow
  • Enough income to cover monthly payments
  • Minimal existing debt

Capital

Capital refers to how much money you have invested in your business. Lenders view owner’s capital as a sign that you “invested” in your company’s success and are then more likely to do whatever it takes to make your business succeed (which for lenders means paying back your loans).

To judge your capital, lenders view how much is invested as well as how it has been invested.

A loan application with strong capital will:

  • Show the total owner’s investments
  • Give detail on how those investments have grown the company

We understand that not every business owner has invested personal money into their business. Read our post The 5 Cs of Credit: What Lenders Look For to learn how you can still impress lenders without owner’s capital.

Collateral

Collateral refers to any assets that are offered up as insurance should you default on the loan. Many lenders require collateral as a safeguard that they won’t lose everything should you be unable to pay your loan.

To judge your company’s collateral, lenders may vary. They may require specific assets or a blanket lien or a personal guarantee.

A loan application with strong collateral will:

  • Understand their specific lender’s collateral requirements
  • Provide the proper collateral
  • Include any paperwork associated with the collateral

Conditions

Conditions refer to the conditions of the loan as well as those of the current economy. Lenders want to make sure that you can afford a loan.

To judge your company’s conditions, lenders will not only evaluate your loan application but also the details of the loan you are applying for (such as borrowing amount, interest rate, etc.). The economy and your business’s current market can also play a role.

A loan application with strong conditions will:

  • Have enough income to cover monthly payments
  • Demonstrate an understanding of their industry, current market, and competitors

Ultimately, the 5 Cs of Credit are a great way to determine how strong your loan application is. Make sure your loan application highlights your company’s character, capacity, capital, collateral, and conditions. If your business application demonstrates each of there traits, you are well on your way to getting the loan you want.

If you want to tips about how to master the 5 C’s of Credit, read our post The 5 C’s of Credit: What Lenders Look For.

Strong Cash Flow

How Strong Is Your Business Loan Application?

For lenders, it’s all about being certain that you can pay your loan back on time and in full. Your business loan application and the documents you send with it should demonstrate that you have enough cash flow to comfortably make payments.

Almost all lenders will require that you include cash flow statements and projections with your business loan application. Most accounting software will generate cash flow statements for you. A strong loan application will provide this information upfront so that lenders can calculate your debt service coverage ratio (DSCR).

  • Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR): Measures the relationship between your business income and debt and is used to determine how healthy your business’s cash flow is. It also plays a key role in knowing exactly what size monthly payment you can afford on a potential loan.

Before applying for a loan, I recommend calculating your DSCR so you can know exactly what you can afford. You don’t want to go into a spiral of unpayable debt or bankruptcy. Be sure that the borrowing amount you’re asking for and its monthly payments are realistic. A lender will shoot your application down if they aren’t convinced you can pay a loan back.

A loan application that displays weak cash flow or a poor DSCR is not likely to get approved. By calculating your DSCR and evaluating your cash flow ahead of time, you can be sure that you can afford the loan you want before submitting the application.

To learn more about DSCR, read our post Debt Service Coverage Ratio: How To Calculate And Improve Your Business’s DSCR.

Minimal Existing Debt

How Strong Is Your Business Loan Application?

In addition to displaying strong cash flow, business owners seeking a loan should have little-to-no existing debt. A strong loan application is one that shows again and again “I can afford this loan.” If your business already has a large amount of existing debt, it’ll be hard to convince lenders to approve your application.

When lenders look at your application, they will check your existing debt using the DSCR mentioned earlier as well as the debt-to-income ratio (although, the DTI ratio is used more for sole proprietors and freelancers who aren’t considered separate legal entities and don’t have a DSCR).

  • Debt-To-Income (DTI) Ratio: Measures the relationships between your personal debt and income and is used to determine how high-risk you are.

Working to get rid of existing debt also proves to lenders that you pay your debts in full and on time, which increases your credit score and betters your chances of getting approved for a loan. The less debt, the more cash you have available for a loan, and the stronger your application is.

Proper Documents

How Strong Is Your Business Loan Application?

Every lender requires certain documents to be included in a potential borrower’s loan application. Specific documents will vary from lender to lender, so be sure to check your lender’s requirements. Have all of the proper documents prepared beforehand.

Often, these documents include:

  • Cash flow statements
  • Bank statements
  • Income sheet
  • Statement of owner’s equity (or capital)
  • Tax Returns
  • Collateral documentation
  • Legal documents and licenses
  • Business history
  • Business owner’s history

Some lenders may ask for these documents in the loan application itself, while many online lenders require you to submit an initial application and then provide the required documents at a later time. Having these documents ready to go whenever the lender asks for them demonstrates that you are timely and organized.

Taking every opportunity to impress lenders and put your best foot forward can make or break the chance of you getting that loan.

Borrower Requirements

How Strong Is Your Business Loan Application?

No matter how beautifully polished and impressive your loan application is, it’s not going to get you anywhere if you don’t meet the lender’s requirements.

Every lender has specific requirements borrowers must meet in order to qualify for a loan. They often include:

  • A minimum credit score
  • A specific amount of time in business
  • A minimum monthly or yearly income
  • Certain collateral

Be sure to carefully research potential lenders so that you can be certain you meet all of the borrower requirements. If you meet and exceed all of the requirements and have a beautifully polished loan application, you make yourself a strong applicant and increase your chances of being approved for the loan you want.

If you are having trouble finding a loan you qualify for, we can help you find the perfect loan for your business.

No Spelling Or Grammatical Errors

How Strong Is Your Business Loan Application?

You’ve checked that you can afford a loan; you’ve met the borrower requirements; you’ve prepared all the proper documents. That should mean you’ve got the green light and are all clear, right?

Not quite. There’s one key final step.

Before sending off your loan application, double and triple check that there are no typos, spelling error, grammatical errors, or missing information. Maybe even get another set of eyes to read over it. This is an easy step to skip over, but I can’t stress how important it is.

Spelling errors and typos simply make you look unprofessional. Additionally, loan applications require a lot of legal information that you really don’t want to goof up on.

Once you’ve read and edited your finished loan application multiple times, you can be confident that you’ve done everything to make your loan application as strong as possible.

Final Thoughts

Now that you have a better idea of what lenders are looking for, you can more easily measure how strong your application is. After all, the stronger your application, the strong your chance of getting that loan.

Before you send off your application for good, be sure to ask yourself these questions regarding your loan application:

  • Do I demonstrate a clear plan for the loan?
  • Do I display the 5 Cs of Credit?
  • Do I have enough cash flow for monthly payments?
  • Did I eliminate most or all of my existing business debt?
  • Are the required documents included (or at least prepared)?
  • Do I meet or exceed the borrower requirements?
  • Did I edit everything correctly?

If your application is strong, great! You can go ahead and send it off with confidence. If your application seems weak, you can save yourself the heartache and time and avoid being denied. Instead, take the time to strengthen your application and better your chances of getting approved.

For more information on how to improve your loan application, read our post 20 Tips To Improve Your Business Loan Application.

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