Credit have come a long way since the first one, a Diners’ Club card, was introduced back in the 1950s. There are now countless credit card options on the market, and even more ways to use them. Financial company NerdWallet calculates that the average American family now carries more than $16,000 in credit card debt, and accumulates an additional $1,300 a year just in interest.
Dangers aside, there’s no denying that credit cards are useful tools, not just for individuals but for businesses. In fact, many business owners, especially when they are just starting out, use their personal credit card to help get their business up and running. And not just for small purchases; because it can be more difficult to get a business loan for a new enterprise, even larger purchases may be put on the business owner’s personal card.
But that may be a mistake. The experts say that there are good reasons to get a dedicated business credit card rather than running your business purchases through your own personal card. “Generally speaking, small business owners are better served with a small business card instead of a personal card,” explains Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, an online marketplace that makes it possible to compare different credit card offers. “Small business credit cards often come with higher credit limits, as well as rewards that appeal to businesses, such as extra points at office supply stores.”
Those higher limits give businesses more flexibility when emergency equipment purchases need to be made quickly in order to stay productive. Going through the slower process of getting a short-term loan (even if the interest rate is lower) might result in missed work, ultimately costing more money in the long run.
Another benefit: A business credit card makes internal accounting easier. All of your business purchases are kept separate and can be easily tracked and the records retained without having to separate out business from personal charges. And if your tree care company has employees who also are authorized to make purchases, having a business credit card account means not having to hand over your own personal card, and makes it easy to monitor what purchases specific employees are making.
Is it difficult to get a business credit card for a new business? “Many of the same factors that come into play when applying for a personal card are factored in when applying for a business card,” Schulz says. “These include your payment history, your credit score, how much debt you have. Also, be prepared to provide your business tax ID number and other information.”
Every credit card offer is different in terms or rates charged, credit limits, rewards, and so on, so just as you’d do your research cards. “Whether you’re getting a business card or a personal card, some of the oldest advice is still the best: Know thyself. Before you apply, know what you will spend the most on and know what type of rewards you’d like,” says Schulz. While travel miles might be great for personal use, when it comes to your business you might prefer simply getting cash back. So just as you’d do your research to find the right chipper for your business, take some time to compare the specs on different business credit cards.
Schulz also cautions that the protections that were part of the pro-consumer regulations called the “Credit Card Act of 2009” do not apply to business cards. “That means companies are still free to hike interest rates on future purchases, impose fees and close accounts or lower credit limits without warning,” he stresses.
It should also be noted that while there are different ways to structure a business (corporation, LLC, etc.) that offer varying degrees of protection from personal liability, when it comes to business credit card use, it’s not just the business itself that is ultimately responsible for any charges made — business credit cards require a personal guarantee. Similarly, your personal credit can be affected by how you use your business card.