Your personal credit report acts as a gateway to your financial future.
That could be a better future or… not so much.
The good news is you’re in full control of what shows up on your credit report, so you ultimately decide that future.
Take on a bunch of debt you can’t pay off or miss payments on a regular basis and you’ll quickly find yourself financially handicap.
That’s because your credit score and report help you obtain a number of important things such as:
Personal or business loans
Cell service and smartphone leasing
Fortunately, you’re here, doing what needs to be done to understand your personal credit report so you can invest in your financial future.
And that’s exactly what we’re going to help you with in this guide. Below, we’ll be covering:
Reading your personal credit report
How your credit score is calculated
What is a good credit score?
And tips for cleaning up your credit report and improving your credit if it’s not where you’d like it to be
Let’s get to it.
A note on obtaining your credit report
If you haven’t already obtained a copy of one of your credit reports (no matter from which credit bureau), it’s suggested you have that as we go through this guide.
Having it on hand will allow you to make notes and mark it up with areas that need attention, whether that’s improvement, removal, or simply some research.
According to the FCRA, or Fair Credit Reporting Act, you’re allowed one free copy of your credit report from each of the major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.
To get a free copy of your credit report, go to AnnualCreditReport.com (the only service licensed by the federal government to provide free credit reports).
Reading your personal credit report
Your credit report is a collection of your financial data (such payment history, current debt) gathered by a credit bureau, typically one of the major bureaus in Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion.
Access to your credit report can be requested by you or anyone you authorize to run your credit for the purpose of using your credit score and/or report to help grade your financial eligibility.
The information on your credit report is separated into 4 major sections:
This section includes basic information such as your name, address, and phone numbers:
Credit history includes credit accounts, how much you owe (if anything), how long the account has been open (or closed), and whether you’ve ever been late on payments:
When you apply for credit, that company or lender will run a hard inquiry on your credit, which impacts your credit score immediately up to 1 year and lasts on your credit report for up to 2 years.
Those inquiries appear on your credit report in the proceeding section, typically just after your accounts:
Finally, public records includes all assorted items such as judgments, liens, bankruptcies, and foreclosures
Once you understand how your report is structured and what is included in each section, it’s much easier to read through your report.
However, there are some confusing terms that show up in credit reports you’ll want to know as well to make sure you understand everything that’s included in one of your credit reports.
A quick breakdown of all those confusing credit report terms
Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the most common terms that may appear on your credit report:
Collection account: When a debt can’t be collected, large companies tend to sell that debt off to a debt collector. That account will show up as a collection account.
Charge-off: You might notice that some of your credit accounts say “Charged-off”. This means the creditor has given up on trying to collect the debt and written that debt off as a loss on their taxes. That debt may or may not have then been sold to a debt collector, so check to see if that same debt shows up as another account under a different name.
Open account: An open account includes any financial responsibility to which you pay off each month, such as a cell phone or utility bill.
Revolving account: This includes revolving credit accounts to which typically a portion of the balance is paid each month such as credit cards.
For a list of additional terms and codes that may appear on your credit report, several credit bureaus and other financial institutions offer handy guides, such as Creditfirm.net.
Understanding your credit score (as it relates to your credit report)
Now that you understand how to read your personal credit report, let’s dive into your credit score.
Your credit score is a direct reflection of the state of your credit report.
If you learn what factors impact your credit score and how to read your credit report, you can put that knowledge together to vastly improve your credit. And you can do it often within a relatively short period of time.
*Getting 9002 or 9003 credit when running your credit score? Find out what it means and what you can do about it.
How you credit score is calculated
Credit agencies such as FICO and VantageScores take the data collected by the various bureaus to calculate your score.
After calculating the data, they produce a score somewhere between 300 and 850 based on various factors, one score for each major credit bureau.
It’s these agencies that calculate and produce your score, not the credit bureaus themselves. This is an important differentiation that’s critical to understand if you want to fully comprehend how your credit report and score work.
What factors impact your score?
So then, how is your credit score calculated?
There are 5 major items from your credit report that impact your score and these are the items you should be looking for when reviewing your credit report for possible improvements.
Below, we’ve organized those major factors in order of importance. The percentage (out of 100% total) indicates how important that particular factor is in calculating your score:
Payment history: 35%
Credit utilization: 30%
Credit history: 15%
Credit mix: 10%
New credit: 10%
Payment history: 35%
Easily the most important factor when it comes to calculating your credit score at 35% of your score, payment history accounts for just over ⅓ of your entire score’s calculation.
This includes the number of on-time payments, late payments, and when those payments were made.
Suffice it to say, try to never be late on a payment.
However, it’s also important to note that FICO and other agencies state a couple of late payments aren’t going to kill your score.
It’s much more of a collection of factors taken together than any one thing dominating the scoring calculation.
Credit utilization: 30%
The second of the two most important factors in calculating your credit score is credit utilization. Taken together, payment history and credit utilization account for 65% of your score
Credit utilization takes into consideration the amount you owe, particularly what percentage of your available credit you’ve borrowed from.
The less you’re borrowing from your available credit, the better your score.
For example, it’s generally advised to use no more than 20-30% of your available credit. If you have a $250 credit card, another $500 card, and a final card with a $1000 limit, your available credit is $1750.
However, you should shoot for spending just $350-525 of that amount (the less the better).
Credit history: 15%
Most notably, this takes into consideration the age of your credit accounts.
The longer your accounts have been open, the better your credit score will be. However, this also accounts for how long you’ve been actively using those accounts.
Ideally, you should have multiple accounts open for a long period of time all which you’re also actively using, even if it’s only a small portion of the available credit.
Credit mix: 10%
Credit mix accounts for just 10% of your score’s calculation and it has to do with the combination of credit accounts you have on your report.
This one is a bit vague, but it’s generally suggested that a good mix of revolving and installment accounts of different types is best.
The idea is that it indicates the borrower (you) can handle different types of credit, further increasing your credit score.
New credit: 10%
New credit is the final element and it accounts for another 10% of your score.
This includes two different things:
New credit accounts
First, soft inquiries don’t affect your credit. However, hard inquiries– such as when a car dealership or bank runs your credit for a loan– do impact your credit and stay on your credit report for up to 2 years.
Second, opening several new accounts within a small window of time can also impact your score, as it can suggest that you’re in financial trouble.
However, something else not often considered: opening new accounts lowers your average account age, which also impacts your credit history.
Tips for improving your credit
Now that we’ve covered what to look for on your credit report to start building toward a better credit score, we’ll cover some of our best tips for improving your credit.
Here are tips for improving your credit:
1. Get credit monitoring
One of the single most important things you need to do if you’re serious about working on your credit is credit monitoring.
Credit monitoring, through sites such as Credit Karma, gives you a gateway into your credit activity.
It will tell you not only when something has positively or negatively impacted your score, it will tell you when new items are added to your credit report, and help you identify credit fraud swiftly.
2. Remove old, erroneous, and fraudulent items
If you haven’t been keeping an eye on your credit report all this time, chances are that one or more items have landed on it that can be removed.
This includes items that:
simply old and should have fallen off
Erroneous items such as credit accounts being listed twice, and
Fraudulent items you might never have noticed
Examples of items you might see and be able to remove from your credit report include a UCC filing or UCC lien, which often stay on your credit after they’ve expired and can easily be removed, tax liens, or judgments.
Sometimes, companies will run your credit without your authorization. If you notice an inquiry you know you did not permit, you can request to have it removed.
Another example is a credit account which you’ve paid off or has been charged off, both of which can often be removed in some cases.
3. Pay on time, no matter what
As we talked about earlier, your payment history accounts for ⅓ of your entire credit score.
That means making sure that you’re paying on time is one of the single most important things you can do to improve and maintain your credit score.
Don’t forget that if you’re having trouble paying something on time, you can call most companies and request an extension. Many industries offer up to 2 extensions a year (or more), which means you have flexibility if need-be.
4. Optimize your credit utilization
Similarly, credit utilization is nearly ⅓ of your entire score.
Many aren’t aware of the importance that credit utilization plays in terms of your credit score. And, if they are, many more aren’t aware of just how much of their credit they should be spending.
Most sources will suggest you keep your credit utilization below 30%. This is technically true. However, if you keep it to under 20%, the difference is significant and it requires just a little extra self-restraint.
Alternatively, you can look into whether you’re available for a credit limit increase from any of your credit cards.
Get to know your personal credit report
You credit is a gateway to some of life’s most important moments: your first (or next), a new home, or obtaining a business loan for your passion project.
Your credit report deserves your time and attention.
Not only to understand it but to get it into the right shape so that it becomes an asset that helps you get to those major financial achievements, as opposed to a hindrance.
Get to know your personal credit report. Then work on cleaning it up and bolstering it with a clean payment history, low credit utilization, and plentiful amount of credit.
With cannabis now legalized in many states and legislation in place to expand that further, the cannabis industry has exploded into a multi-billion dollar industry practically overnight.
However, regulations surrounding the cannabis industry are strict and tricky to navigate, making acquiring business financing difficult for any cannabis-based business.
Why is it so challenging to get financing for your cannabis business, and what can you do about it?
The challenge of financing a cannabis business
The heart of the challenge of obtaining financing for a cannabis business comes from the legalities behind cannabis itself.
Cannabis is now legal for recreational use in 11 different states, with more states expected to pass legislation in the near future:
However, cannabis isn’t legal on the federal level, and that’s where the main challenge arises in terms of obtaining financing.
All banks are regulated by the federal government (even the little ones) and are required to flag illegal transactions under the Bank Secrecy Act based on federal law. That means they must fall in line with the law or risk huge fines– or much worse.
As a result, you can’t walk into your local bank and open any kind of business account (including a loan) as a cannabis business.
The good news is, there are alternatives.
Alternative options for obtaining cannabis financing
Fortunately, federal law nor compliance keep you from being able to acquire business financing. You just need to know where to look to get it.
If your local bank and credit unions have turned you away, consider these options for obtaining the capital your cannabis business needs:
Equity financing is one of the best routes to go with any cannabis business as the industry is considered very desirable among investors.
With equity financing, you can go two different routes, venture capital or angel investing:
Obtain seed funding from venture capitalists specific to the cannabis industry.
Crowdfunding is another great option for cannabis businesses.
Both Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the two most prominent crowdfunding platforms online, are decent options for funding your startup or next product.
In addition to the major platforms, cannabis-specific sites exist as well and may serve as better platforms. Cannabis crowdfunding sites include Fundanna and CannaFundr.
Another great option for obtaining funding for any kind of cannabis-related business is alternative lending.
If you’re interested in obtaining a more traditional loan and don’t want to have to answer to investors, alternative lending is a solution to the lack of bank funding. That’s because many alternative lenders openly work with and lend to cannabis businesses.
Alternative lending is an umbrella term referring to any financial product offered by an alternative or private lender.
Within that umbrella, there are several options for financing your cannabis business:
If all you need is a single lump sum to get off the ground, or to get your next product up and running, a term loan may be the perfect fit.
With a term loan, you get a sum of capital in exchange for paying that amount back at a specified interest rate based on your business qualifications.
Learn more about small and medium-term loans.
Business line of credit
With a business line of credit, you don’t just get a single sum of money but a recurring amount you can access whenever you need extra capital.
A business line of credit is ideal if your cash flow is uneven. For example, if you have one or two vendors that make up a large part of your business and you’re often waiting for payment.
Learn more about business lines of credit.
Merchant cash advance
An MCA is a much newer but increasingly popular form of business financing that involves obtaining an advance sum based on your regular credit card sales.
Those sales are then also used as a kind of collateral to pay back the loan. Once approved, you pay that sum back based on a percentage of your credit card sales.
Additional resources for growing your cannabis business
In addition to the above ways to obtain funding for your business, with the rise of the industry as a whole, many new resources are now available to help you grow your cannabis business.
Here are a few of the best new cannabis-specific resources to help grow your business:
CanPay (Debit system)
CanPay is a debit system specific to the cannabis industry that allows you to accept debit payments from customers provided they also use the platform.
This is useful because, as we talked about earlier, most banks won’t touch the cannabis industry due to federal regulations.
That means they won’t even allow you to open a business checking account with them, which can make it difficult to accept debit payments as a cannabis business, often resulting in many cannabis transactions to be cash as a workaround.
However, with CanPay, you can accept debit payments. At least until federal regulation shifts in the industry’s favor and a workaround is no longer needed.
Green Bits (Point of sale system)
Green Bits is a point of sale system. There are a lot out there, but what makes Green Bits special is that it was designed specifically for the cannabis industry.
Their service is designed to help you stay compliant, that alone making it far and above the best value of any other point of sale system out there for cannabis businesses.
Higher Yields (Consultation services)
If you’re in the beginning stages of your business or have hit a rough spot and could use some industry-specific advice for growing your business, Higher Yields is a cannabis-specific consulting firm worth looking into.
Their services include help with licensing, facility design-build services, financial plans, cultivation management, marketing, branding, compliance, and more.
As per their website, “The medical and recreational marijuana markets are complex, ever-changing, and full of pitfalls that experts can help your business navigate. Protect your investment with the know-how of professional marijuana business development consulting services.”
Don’t let compliance and legislation hold your cannabis business back
There are still hurdles to be overcome if you want to start a cannabis business, but those hurdles are quickly disappearing.
Use the tools and resources we discussed, from ways to obtain the funding your business needs to additional resources to help it grow and stay compliant, to overcome those hurdles maximize the growth of your business.
If you’ve recently applied for a bank loan, you know being approved by a traditional banking institution isn’t easy.
Fortunately, as a business owner, you now have several options for obtaining the capital you need to grow your business, thanks to private business loans.
A private business loan is a loan offered by any non-banking institution (i.e. a private company, hence private business loans).
For example, many new private lenders have sprouted up over the past 2 decades thanks to the fintech and general digital revolution.
Why is this a good thing?
As a private lender, we’re able to offer much more flexible terms compared to a traditional bank. That means it’s easier for you as a business owner to get approved for financing than it’s ever been before.
In the past, if you needed funding for your business you ideally acquired an investor. And if you didn’t have an investor, you went to the bank.
If you couldn’t get a bank loan, your options were to give up the business idea or use personal savings.
But that just wasn’t an option for many types of businesses that needed a large sum of money to get started (such as restaurants).
Why were private small business loans created?
Following recent economic events, especially the housing crisis, banks became much more strict about who they lent to.
As a result, it became much more difficult for business owners to be approved for funding virtually overnight.
Private lending came out of that need.
With a need in the market that wasn’t being met, private lenders arose to meet that demand.
And they did it with lending products that offered more flexible terms, accessible qualification requirements, and many new options for obtaining small business funding.
And just like that, a dire situation for business owners turned into a fresh new opportunity with the growth of the private lending industry.
A word on choosing a reputable private lender for small business loans
At Excel Capital, we value providing quality service.
We’ve established great long-term relationships with many business owners because we know the secret to business success includes strong customer relations.
Most private lenders understand this and have built reputable brands with high service ratings as well.
But not all private lenders have been kind to their customers. A few, most notably in the beginning of the private lending boom, have been found using predatory practices and shut down.
For that reason alone, but also because you should learn about the lender you’re choosing to work with in general to make sure their solutions fit with your financial goals, it’s important to do your research before deciding what private lender to work with for your small business loan needs.
Pros and cons of private business loans
Private business loans tend to work a bit differently than traditional bank loans.
That’s mostly a good thing. However, there are not only pros but also cons to this as well.
Before deciding how you’ll be funding your business capital needs, you should know what those pros and cons are to help you make an informed decision.
Pros of private business loans
The major overarching pros of private small business loans are:
Faster turnaround: Banks are notoriously slow and paperwork is abundant. Not so with private lenders. You can be approved and even funded for most types of private business loans within a matter of days.
Customized funding options: Private business loans is really an umbrella term that refers to many different types of business loans all offered by private lenders. The number of these options are many with several perfectly suited to certain industries.
Flexible terms and qualification requirements: terms are often very flexible for private business loans, with less emphasis put on credit and more on your overall business health.
Within these points are many positive subpoints such as no hard collateral requirements, little or no credit requirement in many cases, and more convenient terms.
However, each lender is different. Make sure to take time to look at your options and go with the product, lender, and terms that make the most sense for your business and its goals.
Cons of private business loans
When it comes down to it, there really is just one primary con of private business loans: higher rates.
Not all private business loans have higher rates, but most do. That’s for one primary reason: most have different qualification requirements.
As we touched on a moment ago, private business loans have more flexible terms and qualification requirements. In particular, that means two things:
You don’t need great or even good credit to get a private loan.
Most business loans through private lenders don’t require hard collateral like bank loans do such as property, a vehicle, or cash savings.
Those are big positives. However, the flip side of that is many private loan products have higher APRs and shorter loan terms to make up for that increase in risk the lender takes on as a result.
It’s important to make sure and review any loan contract before signing to make sure that the numbers make sense for you and your business.
It’s easy for a high APR to become overwhelming. But many private lenders offer fair and competitive APRs, so do your homework before taking that final step.
How many types of private business loans are there?
Private business loans encompass a whole suite of lending products.
Some are short-term, some medium, some long. Some offer a one-time lump sum, others a more continuous flow of capital based on your needs.
And still others are designed specifically for certain types of businesses, including those which invoice their customers.
The more you know about each loan type, the better you’ll be able to identify a funding vehicle that’s the best fit for accomplishing your business goals.
Here are the main types of private business loans:
Term loans are primarily separated into 2 different loan types: short-term and medium-term.
Term loans is a blanket term which refers to virtually every type of private business loan, including:
A business line of credit is a unique lending vehicle that gives you access to a pool of credit that you can tap into whenever you need it.
When you’re approved for a business line of credit, you’re given a credit limit. All you have to do is make sure that you pay off your balance regularly and you’ll be able to continuously tap into it over time.
This makes a business line of credit especially great for seasonal businesses.
Invoice financing works similar to equipment financing in that you use one or more (often many) of your business’s invoices as collateral (instead of a piece of equipment) to obtain financing which you then pay off at a specified interest rate.
Invoice financing is useful as a way to bridge the gap when you have open invoices in your accounts receivable and need to maintain a steadier cash flow, something many businesses suffer from.
A merchant cash advance is a unique type of business financing in that it uses your daily credit card sales as a form of soft collateral that also determines your loan amount.
You get an amount based on your regular credit and debit card sales which you then pay off with interest by setting up an ACH auto debit straight from your credit card processor each time you batch out.
MCA’s are flexible in that because you’re paying the loan off at a percent of your credit card sales; when your sales dip so does your loan repayment amount go down.
Hard money lending is a type of asset-based lending, a type of financing secured by a tangible asset such as a car, property, or liquid asset such as cash savings.
Hard money lending specifically works as a short-term “bridge loan”, named so because it’s designed to help businesses bridge the gap on large projects where the project must be completed before getting paid.
Starting a rental property business can be a very lucrative endeavor. However, it’s also not the easiest business to get into. For one, acquiring property requires a lot of capital. Getting a bank loan to purchase property may also prove a little tricky especially if you’re just starting out. Moreover, finding trustworthy tenants who will take good care of your unit/s and pay their rent on time is yet another challenging step.
Given all these perplexing concerns, how do you start the journey to becoming a great landlord? Fear not, since others have been in your shoes before. Below, we’ll look at advice from experts in the field on the fundamentals of starting a rental property business – from financing to acquisition, to management.
Leverage Existing Property for Financing
For those who are looking for real estate to invest in, it would be advisable to leverage your existing home first. Small Business suggests two ways of doing this: either through using the equity in your home as down payment for buying a new property, or through renting out your current home while you move into a new one.
However, if you plan on staying in your home but need capital, you can also apply for a home equity loan or an investment property loan. Keep in mind however that if you have zero rental experience, banks may give you unfavorable options on investment loans. Moreover, if you are in the process of growing your rental property business, Fast Small Business Loans from alternative lenders could work for you, especially if you’ve been operating for more than six months and the business is in good standing.
Invest In Condos, Not Co-ops
Once you’ve secured financing, the next step is knowing what type of property to invest in. Understanding your own current business goals will help you in this decision. For example, Yoreevo details how investing in condos instead of co-ops in New York City could be a better way to go if your goal is to actually grow your money. This is due to the restrictions attached to NYC co-ops, which usually come with limitations about how often you can sublet a unit. You’re usually not allowed to sublet a co-op for the first two years of occupancy, and they’ll only allow you to rent it out for two out of five years. Condominiums, on the other hand, are much easier to purchase as well as renovate according to your target market’s wants and needs. Moreover, your buyer pool will expand since foreigners are restricted to renting condominiums.
Find Good Tenants
Military.com shares some tips from real estate experts on the best ways to find the best tenants for your property. Among all the tips, knowing where to advertise is key. Avoid posting on sites like Craigslist since these have been notorious for scammers who change the contact info on rental listings and then take the down payment of potential tenants. For more trustworthy advertising, you can begin by getting referrals from families and friends. Start with broadcasting your ad on your own social networking sites and approaching local businesses in your community. Make use of flyers and newspaper listings.
Get Help in Managing Finances
Once your property leasing business grows and all your properties have tenants, it’s important to manage your finances wisely. The Balance recommends that people who own rental properties should get an accountant, explaining that “owning a rental property is essentially like owning your own business, so hiring an accountant is likely necessary for this situation.” Getting an accountant will not only help you stay on top of your books, they will also give you advice when it comes to paying taxes. This could save you a ton of money that you can eventually use to invest in more property in the future.
And other business ideas require no previous skill set at all, making them the perfect place to get started.
Below, we’ve put together a list of the best home-based business ideas for 2019.
No matter what your previous profession, skill set, or schedule, there’s something for you.
Top 11 home-based business ideas
Blogging is one of a few business ideas on this list that makes use of the explosion in demand for information that coincided with the Internet’s birth.
As a blogger, you can take something you’re already an expert at and build a platform around that expertise.
By writing in-depth blog guides, tips articles, and how-tos around a topic, you can build an audience of devoted followers who you then offer digital products such as eBooks and online courses.
If you love to write or are interested in the idea of putting together articles around a particular topic you love, blogging may be the ideal home-based business for you.
2. Social media management
Every company, from big-name brand to that little restaurant around the corner you love to visit on Friday nights, uses social media in some way.
As a social media manager, you can start as a freelancer with multiple clients, helping them get their business noticed using the latest digital marketing strategies, while building your business into a full-fledged agency– all from home.
And with the explosion in value of social media paid advertising over the past half-decade, brands and small companies alike now invest considerable sums into advertising on platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.
If you’re already obsessed with social media and know how to easily navigate around the major platforms, social media management is a home-based business worth looking into.
Similarly to the explosion in demand for information that the digital age brought about, many are also now searching out experts online to help them learn and grow, whether it be themselves in some way or their business.
As a consultant, you can offer your knowledge in an advisory capacity, creating plans and even helping implement them.
Popular spaces where consultants are sought-after include digital marketing, business, fitness, health (general), and professional and personal performance.
4. Graphic design
Do you have graphic design experience? Were you that person everyone asked for help on small design projects at your last job? Do you love to draw or make any kind of art?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, starting a graphic design business might be right for you.
As a graphic designer, you get to flex your creative muscles for a living. You can create attractive social media artwork, blog images, PDF designs, or any other countless digital visual assets.
Programming is harder to get into than writing or graphic design. However, it’s easier than ever to start learning.
It’s also an incredibly valuable skill that is only becoming more valuable. And any business based around programming (software-as-a-service or an app) can be highly lucrative.
The great part about programming is you can start with something simpler like website design and still make a great living. Then you can work your way up to creating your own software offering as you learn and improve your skills.
Plus, as mentioned, the value of programming knowledge and skill is only becoming more valuable over time– and fast.
6. Virtual assistance
Being a virtual assistant is a super easy freelance gig to start off with.
As a virtual assistant, you’ll do a variety of tasks for entrepreneurs and business execs. Tasks such as answer emails, create spreadsheets, manage appointments, edit, and even organize events.
This variety of tasks doesn’t just help keep things interesting, however. It can also serve as a valuable springboard for learning what it takes to run a large business as you grow and expand.
If you’re known for being incredibly organized and tend to be the one that your group of friends defaults to when planning an event or working on a project, this could be the perfect fit for you.
7. Professional crafting
In the past, blacksmiths, seamstress, and woodworkers were incredibly important parts of modern society.
However, over time, technological advancements during the Industrial Revolution all but phased them out of necessity.
But the Internet has breathed new life into crafters everywhere, with everyone from metal workers to jewelry makers now having the perfect combination of tools available to them to start a home-based business doing what they love.
Sites like Etsy and to a lesser extend Kickstarter have literally made countless full-time crafters, from custom woodworking and jewelry to clothing and everything in between.
And social media, especially Pinterest, serve as the ideal marketing platforms to build a craft-centered business around given its emphasis on imagery.
If you love any kind of crafting, now is an amazing time to be alive if you’re willing to get your hands dirty and build a business online.
8. Online courses
Similar to blogging, the online course industry is an incredible opportunity to take something you’re an expert in and design a business around offering that knowledge at a price.
By offering your expertise in the form of an online course, either through sites like Udemy or your own platform on something like Teachable, you can create an educational resource once that pays you continuously.
Plus, the price that online courses demand tends to be high, anywhere from a couple of bucks to even several thousand depending on the niche and perceived value of the material, so the profitability potential is high.
In fact, the online course industry is now worth nearly $30 billion. Talk about opportunity.
9. Data entry
Data entry is possibly the simplest and easiest business you can start online, though it’s not as lucrative.
Instead of working for one company, you can make use of your mad typing skills and one of several freelance sites to build up an entire client base whom you serve.
It might not be the most attractive of home-based business ideas, but it’s something that literally anyone can start right away and make a living.
Being a YouTuber is similar to blogging but can be different.
As a YouTuber, you’ll create videos on a subject you love or are an expert on and entertain an audience, gathering subscribers, attracting sponsors, and upping your game over time.
And that’s the key word with YouTube: entertain. As opposed to something like blogging or consulting, YouTube is either 100% entertainment or 1-part education, 1-part entertainment (also called infotainment).
Either way, you need to know, or be willing to learn, how to entertain while you’re delivering either laughs or useful or interesting information.
If you’re naturally funny, love to entertain, are a videographer or have some video skills, or are an expert in a subject that naturally lends itself to video (such as cooking) and would love to teach that skill, YouTube could be the perfect platform to build your business around.
11. Online retailer
Becoming an online retailer and selling your own (or someone else’s) product online is one of the most straightforward home-based business ideas there is– and it has huge income potential.
Given its massive success and dominance over the online retail space, it’s no surprise that Amazon is one of the quintessential retail opportunities online.
Anyone can create an Amazon Seller account and begin either reselling name brand products or producing your own to sell on the behemoth shopping platform in little time (check out our guide on How to Sell on Amazon to learn how to get started on Amazon).
In exchange, you can gain great exposure, utilizing Amazon’s massive online traffic to immediately bring eyeballs to your products.
But Amazon isn’t the only opportunity. Many have used platforms like Shopify to start their own retails sites, driving traffic via SEO and social media.
Either way, an online retail store is perfectly suited for working from home.
What kind of home-based business will you start?
Chances are, one or a few of these home-based business ideas have peaked your interest.
The question is: which will it be?
Now more than ever before, starting a business from home that allows you to have full control over your schedule isn’t just a possibility, it’s simple and straightforward to get started.
As with any business, these ideas still take hard work to build. But if you’re interested in working from home, the trade-offs you receive in freedom and control (and, in many cases, income potential) could be well worth it.
What do your customers think about your business? What niche area have you carved out for yourself, and where do you stand in relation to the other options in your niche?
Your answers to these questions will depend on the business-level strategy that you have adopted. It sounds like a fancy phrase, but at some level, every business will make decisions on how to apply these strategies to their products or services and even financing.
Let’s think, for example, about the smartphone market. Apple is renowned for offering the most expensive devices of the highest possible quality, while manufacturers like OnePlus and Huawei produce devices that attempt to blend together price and functionality.
Each business is vying for a different part of the market to stand out from the competition and win their share of the profits. But how exactly do those businesses achieve this, and how can business-level strategies be better understood?
In this post, we will explore what business-level strategies are, the key strategies out there, and how they can be applied to your business.
What Are Business-Level Strategies?
Put simply, business-level strategies are actions that a business can take to provide value to their customers and gain a competitive advantage over their competitors.
Michael Porter is a professor at Harvard Business School, and he is widely regarded as a leading authority of matters of corporate strategy. In his work, Porter has outlined how there are three key types of business-level strategy that organizations can pursue.
These three strategies are defined as Focus, Differentiation, and Cost Leadership. Here is a closer look at each of those in turn to give you a more detailed idea of each.
This business-level strategy refers to those attempts made by businesses to cut costs and offer prices to customers that are below the industry average. Businesses can achieve this using a range of techniques, such as developing close ties with suppliers and developing new products.
By passing those savings along to their customers, those businesses are able to increase their profit margins and secure a unique position within the market. Think, for example, of those companies like OnePlus which offer prices far below those of competitors.
Some businesses aim to win market share and defend their higher prices by powering-up their offering with unique features that please their customers. Think of Apple, for example. It’s premium products come at premium prices, but it is consistently seen as offering the best possible features.
Many businesses try to beat larger competitors by offering an unparalleled level of focus when it comes to both Cost Leadership and Differentiation. Smaller businesses are often able to achieve levels of focus that cannot be matched by larger and more inflexible players.
Choosing Which Strategy Is Right For Your Business
Where does your business stand, and which business-level strategy should you adopt? This all depends on the research that you have conducted, what your customers value, and what your business is actually capable of.
You can explore these two areas in more detail by asking these two questions:
– What do your customers value the most? Cost savings, product quality, or brand prestige?
– Does your business have the resources and capacities to pursue the best cost/quality?
How To Apply Business-Level Strategies and Avoid Risk
Here’s a closer look at how you can work to apply each of those business-level strategies while avoiding the risks that are associated with each of them. Let’s begin with the cost leadership strategy.
Cost Leadership Strategy
In order to differentiate your business and make it a cost leader, you’ll need to do everything that you can to lower costs and keep them far below those of your competitors. Here are just some of the methods that your business can use to reduce costs:
– Build state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities which can help you to boost both efficiency and productivity.
– Maintain a very tight level of control over both product and overhead costs to push down prices and the cost of production.
– Minimize the cost of sales, research, and development as much as possible. Ensure that every department in your business operates in a lean manner.
Companies like OnePlus and Huawei are capable of offering very attractive prices thanks to an unwavering commitment to their cost leadership strategy. They achieve these low prices by sourcing their products from cheap competitors and limiting the amount of money that they spend on activities such as marketing and sales.
The manufacturing facilities are also located in places that make business cheaper, while their manufacturing processes have been built from the ground-up to reinvent the wheel and do things in new ways.
The big risk in terms of cost leadership is that your competitors will simply emulate your strategies and that your cost-saving techniques are not unique to your business. Circumstances can also change, too, meaning that your strategies may become more expensive over time.
The specific way that you differentiate your product or service will depend largely, of course, on the niche that you are operating within. You could make sure that your product or service is superior in terms of the features and functionality that it offers, as well as its durability, reliability, and support.
A strong differentiation strategy relies upon effective sales and marketing, and the ability to articulate and evidence the value of your product or service. You will, of course, have to conduct sophisticated and extensive competitor research and understand the landscape that you are operating within.
Let’s think about Apple. The company does a wonderful job of articulating its many strengths and building hype around its products. The average consumer perceives Apple products to be of a much higher value when compared to its competitors. Amazing marketing and advertising helps in this area.
There are risks with differentiation too, though. You may find that once your product or service has been released, your competitors will be quick to follow and you will lose any qualities that made you different in the past.
To avoid this risk, it’s important that businesses maintain an agile approach to product and service development. This will ensure that the business stays on top and constantly ahead of its various competitors that exist within the market.
Does it make sense for your business to target a particular market? If you are able to get a sophisticated and unparalleled understanding of a market and its dynamics, you will find that you have a strong advantage when compared to your competitors.
Applying this strategy relies upon following the techniques that were outlined above, but applying them to a very narrow portion of the market. Your marketing and sales strategies must also be absolutely stellar, or you may find that you fail to identify and engage with your target audience effectively.
Think about Otterbox, for example. This company works to offer premium smartphone cases to its customers and specializes in this very distinct area. The company has never strayed from this specific area and it constantly maintains a very high level of focus on improving its offering. A lot of companies looking to pursue this business-level strategy can learn a great deal from this example.
As ever, there are some dangers and risks when using this business-level strategy. You may find that your competitors focus even more intensely upon a smaller division of your market and cannibalize your customers. You may also find that a shift within your industry means that bigger players may choose to enter your niche.
Let’s imagine, for example, that you are a company that offers a very specific SaaS service. You may find that over time, larger-scale competitors enter your niche and begin to offer a competing service.
Choosing the Correct Strategy
You may find that your business-level strategy is one of the first decisions that you make as a business. In fact, you will often find that your business idea spawns from you identifying a space within the market.
It’s important that you get this decision right. You should think about it from every possible perspective and dedicate a lot of time to thinking about it. You should also try and discuss this idea with your colleagues and other industry insiders to determine its viability.
You may also find that it makes a lot of sense to pursue a hybrid strategy. This can broaden the appeal of your product and/or service to boost your profits and help you capture as much growth as possible. Many businesses attempt this. Think, for example, about supermarket chains which offer premium products in addition to own-brand offerings.
We hope that this post has helped you to think about business-level strategies in a new way. Essentially, it’s all a matter of deep thought and keen research. Once you discover your target market and what their needs are, you will be able to develop a keen business-level strategy that helps you to succeed.
One of the most popular cloud-based payroll software services, Ultipro (Offered by Ultimate Software) offers both comprehensive features and valuable automation functionality.
Ultipro offers a level of customization that is nearly unbeaten. However, while that makes it a great payroll solution for many large and medium-sized businesses, many small businesses will find Ultipro’s additional features unnecessary and its pricing potentially steep.
However, it all depends on what you’re looking for in a payroll software.
It can be difficult deciding between the slew of payroll services out there, especially if you’re looking for your business’s first payroll software and don’t yet know which features will be useful to you and which not.
That’s why we’ve broken down everything there is to know about Ultipro’s competitive payroll software service so you can decide for yourself.
What features does Ultipro payroll offer?
If you’re new to payroll software, it’s important to know that while every software provides the same basic service of paying your employees on each designated payday, where each software varies is in its additional features.
So what features does Ultipro offer? Here are the most notable additional features offered by the Ultipro payroll software:
The most basic of payroll software features, Ultipro offers direct deposit.
Instead of issuing checks each week, Ultipro allows you to issue deposits directly into employee’s bank accounts, provided you obtain their bank information.
Direct deposit is a standard in most payroll software. However, it’s still a feature that isn’t universal among payroll services, so make sure to confirm that any payroll software you’re considering offers it.
Mobile app functionality
Many payroll services still don’t have mobile app functionality.
However, Ultipro offers a simple and straightforward mobile app that gives you the power to check on the status of employee payments and other information.
That’s not all you can do with the app, though. You can also set up payments and make several changes from within the app.
Having said that, the Ultipro mobile app– as is the case with most payroll/accounting mobile apps– leaves much to be desired in terms of ease of use.
One of the most useful payroll software features is employee logins.
Employee logins give your employees the ability to login to an Ultipro dashboard and check the status of their next payment themselves.
If you have hourly employees whose pay changes by the week or month, this is an especially nice feature because it gives your employees more peace of mind and reduces the number of questions pointed at accounting.
In addition to their next payment, Ultipro can also allow employees to check their benefits and time off, making it an even more useful feature.
Ultipro doubles as a payroll and time clock software, including the ability to choose from several different time tracking systems.
The service offers a manual time clock if you prefer for employees to input their time in and out each day, or an automated system that also integrates with payroll.
Ultipro tax management features are a great example of simple tasks that the software automates for you.
With Ultipro payroll, all tax fees, including federal and state, as well as other deductions are automatically calculated and deducted from employee payments.
That’s to be expected from any good payroll software. However, Ultipro also automatically edits those amounts based on any changes to the tax code and payments will immediately reflect those changes without any work required on your part.
Ultipro offers some of the most comprehensive payroll reports available.
With Ultipro reporting, you can analyze your payouts, tax fees, benefit amounts, and even build out custom reports if one of the presets doesn’t serve your purpose.
However, keep in mind that custom reports aren’t available in the basic version of Ultipro payroll.
Employee benefits management
Some versions of Ultipro also offer employee benefits management, further making Ultipro an all-in-one employee management software.
With advanced versions of Ultipro, you can track employee benefits such as retirement accounts, payments for vacation and off days, health and life insurance, and more.
Keep in mind that this is really just a short list of Ultipro’s features. There are over a dozen additional features not mentioned here that might be desirable to you and your business.
How much does Ultipro cost?
Ultipro offers a comprehensive list of features, but it’s on the costly side in terms of payroll software.
Still, if you can make full use of the additional features, Ultipro may be the perfect fit for your business.
Ultipro’s pricing structure can be a bit confusing to figure out as they’re not completely straightforward about certain aspects of it, especially as it pertains to additional features.
To make matters worse, they use a more old-school (or high-end, depending on how you look at it) quote-based structure, so you can only find out the full cost of the software by requesting a quote.
By doing so, a representative will respond back with information and several quotes, some with certain features and others without. It will then be your job to decide which features you need, which you can live without, and whether that optimized collection of features is worth the price.
Pros and cons of Ultipro payroll
Now that you know a bit more about the software itself, why might you consider Ultipro as opposed to other payroll software?
Here are the major pros and cons of the Ultipro payroll software:
Unrivaled feature list
Time tracking and benefits management make Ultipro an all-in-one employee management software
Comprehensive automation ability
Transitioning to Ultipro can be rough from other payroll software
High price, especially if you include the service with many of their additional features
As with many of the more complicated business software, it has a high learning curve
Ultimately, pros and cons depend upon what you’re looking for in a payroll software. You might not care about the high learning curve if your demands for features are highly specific and Ultipro does exactly what you need it to do.
However, on the other end, if Ultipro is outside your budget, the fact that many features cost additional won’t help its case.
Is Ultipro payroll right for you?
Ultipro is known for providing payroll services to some of the most notable brands in the world, from the MLB (Major League Baseball) to Subway restaurant.
However, whether Ultipro is right for you is another question.
To know whether Ultipro or another payroll software is right for you, consider these points:
Features: First, look to its features. Make a list of what features you want and compare it to what features Ultipro offers.
Pricing: With your list of features, review the quote provided to you by Ultipro’s representatives. Also, consider if giving up a particular feature will make it affordable for you and whether that’s worth it.
Simplicity of use: Ultipro is known for being difficult to learn and get used to. As mentioned earlier, the additional features might outway that if the price point is within your budget. But if it isn’t, the difficulty of use might just be another breaking point.
If you’re shopping for your first payroll software, Ultipro payroll likely isn’t your best option.
That’s because you probably have no need for all those snazzy features and just need a payroll service that does its basic job (some features, such as time tracking, reporting, and mobile functionality might be desirable, but they’re common among payroll software).
And, chances are, even if it isn’t your first, the additional features probably don’t justify the price. However, if you’re searching for a new payroll software then chances are there is a specific reason you’re switching, so you already have a feature you’re searching for or a lower price.
In that case, if it’s a specific feature you’re searching for, you’ll probably be able to find a payroll software that offers it at a lower price point, just without all the bells and whistles of Ultipro.
But, ultimately, only you can decide what payroll software is the best fit for your business.
Use the points above to help guide and simplify your search for the best payroll software so you can move on to the important stuff– like driving your business forward.
You can borrow from it whenever you’re in need of cash to pay for product, supply before a construction job where payment is made only when the job is complete, or to hire extra help to brace for a seasonal spike in business.
But before making the jump– it’s important to understand how they work.
That’s because, while an unsecured business line of credit is a valuable tool for many types of businesses, no one financing product is perfect for all businesses.
So, it’s a wise choice to fully understand how they work first. That way you can judge for yourself whether this or another financing vehicle is ideal for you based on your needs and wants.
5 Things You Should Know When Applying for an Unsecured Business Line of Credit
Here are 5 things you should know about an unsecured business line of credit:
1. They’re different from the secured bank loans you’re familiar with (unsecured vs. secured lines of credit)
A traditional bank loan, the only major type of business loan available to business owners until around the turn of the century, is typically secured.
A secured loan is one where some form of collateral is used to guarantee the loan amount to the lender.
Think of this way: You ask an acquaintance to borrow $100 of which you promise to pay back within 30 days (your specified repayment date).
However, while this acquaintance knows a bit about you– maybe they’re a coworker– they don’t know you well enough to take you at your word alone.
They require something to make sure that, even if you weren’t to pay back the loan, they wouldn’t be out $100. So, you let them hold onto something of yours that is of roughly the same value.
This is loosely the same thing a lender does.
They run credit checks, study your business bank statements, and the like to mitigate their risk, but they’re a business. So, they need a way of guaranteeing they’ll get the money back that they’re lending.
And that’s where the secured part comes in.
A secured loan uses collateral to secure the remaining loan balance in the event that the borrower can’t pay back the loan. This collateral can be cash savings, property, vehicles, or anything else relatively liquid.
However, an unsecured loan doesn’t require traditional collateral.
It may require a percentage of future invoice sales, a kind of “soft” collateral. But if your business closes down, you’re not on the hook for the remaining balance. (Whereas you’d lose the collateral you put down in the case of a secured loan.)
2. Pay attention to fees
All financing products have fees. However, it’s important to understand that because a line of credit (or simply LOC) works differently from other types of loans, some of the types of fees are a bit different as well.
One of the more unique fees subject to a business line of credit as opposed to a traditional loan is a transaction fee.
Most lenders will charge what’s called a drawdown fee each time you draw from your line of credit. (At Excel, we do not have drawdown fees.)
In some cases, a maintenance fee may also be charged as well by the lender in exchange for their continued maintenance of your line of credit.
3. Is it a variable or fixed interest rate?
Many loans offer a fixed interest rate, some a choice between fixed or interest.
However, typically, a line of credit uses a variable interest rate which is a percentage of and fluctuates based on the prime lending rate.
Most unsecured business credit lines carry a fixed cost of capital that accrues monthly and carry a higher overall rate.
Secured lines of credit that are backed by property typically come with a variable interest rate due to the lower overall rate.
It’s important to consider what your lender is charging you in terms of interest on their business lines of credit.
Use that information when considering who to work with and how much you’ll pay in interest with a line of credit vs. something like a short-term business loan.
4. You can use a line of credit as many times as you’d like (provided you pay off the balance)
A business line of credit is unique among lending vehicles, so it’s sometimes misunderstood.
As opposed to being a one-time sum of money that is repaid at a specified interest rate, a business line of credit can be borrowed from repeatedly.
Provided you pay off the balance of the line of credit, you can use it again, pay it off, and use it again.
This makes it entirely unique among business financing vehicles. And it’s specifically useful for businesses that consistently need cash for investing in supplies or creating product long before obtaining a return on investment.
5. The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several types of secured and unsecured business lines of credit
One of the SBA’s most popular lending programs is the SBA CAPLines programs.
The SBA’s CAPLine program is a collection of several business lines of credit, each with their own terms and conditions (typically offered through their flagship 7(a) loan program but can be offered as a standalone LOC).
The SBA CAPLines program offers these LOC programs:
SBA Seasonal CAPLine: For seasonal businesses, whether it’s pay for supply or making additional hires before a busy season.
SBA Contract CAPLine: Used to pay for labor and material costs with assignable contracts.
SBA Builders CAPLine: Capital for contractors to build and/or renovate residential and commercial real estate.
SBA Working Capital CAPLine: Gives businesses the ability to use short-term assets (invoices, etc.) to get working capital.
Lastly, keep in mind that the SBA doesn’t offer unsecured business lines of credit directly.
Instead, they match small business owners with lenders through their Lender Match program, helping them secure the funding they need.
Ever found yourself in need of cash to pay off a vendor, bridge the gap between seasons, or pay for materials before a big job?
If you thought you were out of luck, you aren’t alone. Most business owners still think that banks control the lending market.
If you don’t have a 680+ credit score (and 1 month to wait to get approved, let alone funded), you were out of luck.
But that’s not the case anymore.
Now, you can be approved and funded for a short-term business loan often within 24 hours and with little to no credit requirement.
The only question is what type of short-term business loan product is best for you based on your specific needs.
So, below we’ll be breaking down the 5 main types of short-term business loans, including:
How they work
Credit and additional requirements, and
Approval and funding speed
With the above information in hand, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about which type of short-term loan will best fit your need for capital.
Let’s dive in…
Short-term business loans: A side-by-side comparison
There are 5 primary types of short-term loans.
Unsecured business loans
Business lines of credit
Merchant cash advances, and
Asset Based Loans
Each function slightly differently from one another, some having no minimum credit requirement, others with high limits, and all with blazing fast approval and funding time frames when you compare them to traditional bank loans.
Which loan type is best for you will depend primarily on 3 different factors:
Credit score & history
How much funding and how often
And how fast you need it
Here’s a breakdown of the 5 primary types of short-term loans:
Best for quick funding and limited paperwork: Unsecured business loan
Unsecured business loans are the closest to a traditional bank loan amount the 5 types of short-term business loans on this list.
That’s because an unsecured business loan is a lump sump you receive in exchange for a promise to pay back that amount at a specified interest rate.
That interest rate is typically higher than a traditional loan. However, that’s because unsecured business loans don’t require hard collateral such as cash savings or property like traditional loans do, so your risk is greatly reduced.
Unsecured business loans at a glance:
Loan amount: $5,000 – 5,000,000
Repayment terms: 3 – 24 months
Minimum credit score: 500
Additional minimum requirements: $100,000 annual revenue, 3 months in business
Speed: Approval in 24 hours, funding in 1 business day
A business line of credit is unique from the other short-term loan products because it’s not a single lump sum.
Rather, a business line of credit is a consistent source of cash which you can tap into at any time, very much like a credit card.
The maximum loan amount and credit requirements are higher for business lines of credit.
However, the flexibility and peace of mind you get knowing you always have access to the capital you need to keep your business running smoothly– especially in case of seasonality or an industry such as construction where you have to purchase materials before you’re paid– is invaluable.
Business lines of credit at a glance:
Loan amount: $2,500 – 250,000
Repayment terms: 6 – 12-month revolving
Minimum credit score: 550
Additional minimum requirements: $50,000 annual revenue, 1 year in business
Best for business owners with outstanding receivables: Invoice factoring
Invoice factoring is possibly the most unique of the short-term business loan products.
That’s because the lender is essentially purchasing your invoice at a discount.
The lender buys your invoice from you, typically for around 90% of the invoice amount, and they then act as the collector for that invoice, communicating directly with your customer to collect payment.
Invoice factoring is great for business owners who don’t like the idea of (or aren’t in the position of) taking on additional debt since you’re simply collecting on invoices you’re already owed by your customers.
Invoice factoring at a glance:
Loan amount: Up to 90% of invoice
Repayment terms: None, the lender acts as the collector for your customer’s invoice
Minimum credit score: No minimum
Additional minimum requirements: $100,000 annual revenue, 3 months in business
Speed: Approval in 24- 48 hours, funding in up to 1 week
Asset-based lending is a broad term that includes several types of financing options with one thing in common: they’re secured by tangible (hard) or liquid assets. That amount you can borrow is also based on the same asset(s).
Those assets can be tangible such as property or equipment or liquid assets such as cash savings or accounts receivable. The loans can be structured as either a short-term loan or a line of credit.
There are three major types of asset-based lending:
PO financing: Purchase order financing can be highly useful for businesses who need to pay to produce product long before getting paid for it, making managing cash flow difficult. With PO financing, the lender pays your supplier for the goods and you then repay the lender directly.
Hard money: A hard money loan is a short-term “bridge loan” whose terms are based on the value of a commercial property as collateral. Hard money loans are typically used to bridge the gap on long-term projects where cash is needed to complete the project before getting paid.
Equipment financing: If a critical piece of equipment breaks, it could mean the difference between being open for business… or closed indefinitely. Equipment financing allows you to get brand new equipment with the equipment itself serving as collateral. You then repay the lender for the advance.
With every type of asset-based lending, you have the advantage of the loan being secured, so if you default on your loan you know it will be paid for.
In some cases, though, this can be seen as a negative. It all depends on what you want out of a short-term business loan. As we’ve covered in this guide, you have a diverse collection of short-term loan options.
Each short-term business loan is different from one another, each with its own unique benefits and trade-offs.
Whether you need something with no minimum credit requirement, that you can tap into on a regular basis, helps you avoid additional debt, or makes repayment flexible, there’s a solution that’s fit to your needs.
If you’re reading this, that’s probably what you’re wondering. That or what the best business card cards are for 2019 (we’ll get to that in a sec).
Business credit cards fill a unique space between personal and corporate business cards.
Personal credit cards are great for improving your personal credit score.
However, if your aim is to improve your business credit, and you’re not large enough to be accepted for (or have a need for) a corporate business card, then a business credit card is ideal.
In fact, depending on the business credit card you obtain, you could improve both your personal and business credit at the same time.
Do business credit cards affect your personal credit score?
Before obtaining a business credit card, it’s important to know how that card will affect both your business and personal credit.
Finance blog NerdWallet contacted 9 of the largest small business credit card companies to find out how each reported activity from their business credit card customers to both consumer (personal credit) and commercial (business credit) credit bureaus.
They found that while most companies reported activity to the commercial credit bureaus, results were mixed for consumer bureaus:
Whether your goal is to improve your credit or not, it’s important to know who you’re getting your business credit card from to understand in advance how that card might affect not only your business but also your personal credit.
Best business credit cards for 2019
So, what’s the best small business credit card? It all depends on what you’re looking for and where your credit score is at.
Below, we’ve organized the best business credit cards for 2019 based on four credit levels:
No matter what your credit score is, we’ve included the best cards available, even business credit cards for those with bad credit.
Within each card’s breakdown, you’ll also find a list of pros and cons to further help you decide which is the best business credit card for you based on other factors such as APR, annual fee, rewards, and sign-up bonuses.
Best business credit cards for excellent credit
The business credit cards listed below are best for those with excellent credit, ranging from 720 credit score and up.
Bank of America Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard
BofA’s Business Advantage Travel Rewards card is unique in that it’s a travel rewards card with no annual fee.
The travel rewards rate isn’t as favorable compared to other travel cards with fees, but 1.5 points for every dollar spent along with 3 points for every dollar spent on travel purchases made through BofA isn’t bad.
No annual fee
25,000 point sign-up bonus
No foreign transaction fees
0% APR on purchases for first 9 billing cycles
Excellent credit required
Other travel rewards cards offer better deals
CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard
CitiBank’s CitiBusiness AAdvantage card is easily the best business credit card if your goal is to rack up airline miles.
First, there’s the 70,000 point sign-up bonus after spending just $4,000 in qualifying purchases within the first 3 months. Then, you get 2 miles for every $1 spent on qualifying business purchases thereafter.
Great sign-up bonus
Best card for racking up miles
Flier benefits such as free bag checking, preferred boarding, and 25% off in-flight purchases with American Airlines
High credit requirement
High annual fee at $99
APR is on the high end
Best business credit cards for good credit
The business credit cards listed below are best for those with good credit, ranging from 690 – 719 credit score.
Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
Chase’s Ink Business Preferred card is great if you’re a fan of credit card rewards programs.
That’s because the Chase Ink Preferred card offers 3 points for every $1 spent up to $150,000 within a calendar year on advertising, internet, phone and cable service, and shipping and other travel expenses. All other purchases receive 1 point per $1 spent.
In addition, the card offers one of the best sign-up bonuses around: 80,000 points if you spend $5,000 on qualifying purchases within 3 months of opening your account.
Great sign-up bonus
Impressive rewards program
High annual fee at $95
Only a fit for business owners who expect to use their card for a large amount of very specific business expenses (see above).
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card is another great card if you’re looking to rack up miles or points which can be put towards qualifying travel expenses.
Currently, the card offers a 60,000 point sign-up bonus on $3,000 of qualifying business expenses within 3 months of opening your account. It also offers several opportunities for bonus points such as a card member anniversary bonus (6,000 points) and 1,500 points for every $10,000 spent.
In addition, it offers 2 points per every $1 spent on Southwest, Rapid Rewards hotel, and selected partner car rental purchases.
Great sign-up bonus
Good rewards program
High annual fee at $99
Best business credit cards for fair credit
The business credit cards listed below are best for those with fair credit, ranging from 630 – 689 credit score.
Capital One Spark Classic for Business
The Capital One Spark Classic for Business credit card is one of our two best picks for fair credit business credit cards.
That’s because the Spark Classic card not only has no annual fee but you pay no interest on purchases if you pay your balance in full for a billing cycle. These two points combined make it an extremely affordable business credit card.
No interest if you pay your balance in full each billing cycle
$0 annual fee
More affordable compared to most ‘fair credit’ business credit cards
APR is on the high end if you pay late
Amazon Business American Express Credit Card
A recent entry into the business credit card space, Amazon’s AMEX business credit card offering has no annual fee, competitive APR, and a good intro APR offer.
The card also offers two unique features in a $100 Amazon gift card upon approval and 3% cash back or pay interest fee for purchases at Amazon.com, Amazon Business, AWS, and Whole Foods Market (with 1-2% cash back at other locations).
One of the most affordable business credit cards with a 60-day no interest offer and no annual fee
Rewards program not comparable other business credit cards unless you shop frequently with Amazon
Best business credit cards for bad credit
The business credit cards listed below are best for those with bad credit, for anyone at 629 credit score or below.
Capital One Secured Mastercard
The Capital One Secured Mastercard is one of two ideal picks for business owners with bad credit.
It’s technically not a business credit card. However, if you’re careful about keeping your spending on the card to strictly business expenses (for tax purposes), it can start you off in the right direction towards being accepted for a business credit card, especially Capital One’s own Spark business credit card.
Unlike most secured cards where the amount you deposit becomes your credit limit, depending on creditworthiness, you can make a deposit of $49, $99, or $200 for a credit limit of $200
No annual fee
It’s a secured credit card, so you’ll need to make a deposit depending on your creditworthiness before you can begin using the card
Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card
Wells Fargo’s Business Secured Credit Card is the second of two great secured options for those looking to get started with business credit cards.
It’s uniquely fitted for business owners looking to improve their credit spending power as Wells Fargo will regularly review your account and, upon developing a good track record with them, move you up to an unsecured business credit card.
Wells Fargo makes it easy to move up to one of their unsecured business credit card options
1.5% cash back on every $1 spent
$25 annual fee
No liability protection
Secured vs unsecured business credit cards: What is the difference?
If you have bad or fair credit especially, you may have encountered the terms secured and unsecured quite a few times when researching business credit cards.
There’s a big difference between the two types of cards, so it’s important to understand the difference.
Here’s a breakdown of secured vs. unsecured credit cards:
What is an unsecured credit card?
An unsecured credit card is the typical credit card structure you’re likely already familiar with.
Based on your credit score, you’re approved for a particular credit limit. As you use your balance up, you’re required to repay that balance based on a specified interest rate.
Why are they called unsecured credit cards?
Secured in finance terms refers to whether or not there is cash or a cash equivalent which a lender has received to guarantee or “secure” repayment of the amount.
In this case, a credit card company is offering you credit without requiring anything to secure the amount lent.
What is a secured credit card?
A secured credit card is primarily used as a tool for improving credit.
That’s because, as opposed to unsecured credit cards, secured cards require a cash deposit to “secure” the card for the credit card company. These deposits typically range from $250-500.
That might sound pointless, but it’s ultimately the same thing as a typical unsecured credit card after making the deposit. And, most importantly, it gives you a reliable way of improving your credit.
By doing so, if you have bad credit, you can use a secured card to improve your credit score and eventually “move up” to an unsecured business credit card.
How to get the most from your business credit card
No matter what small business credit card you decide to get, it’s important to know how to make the most of it.
There are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind once you’ve been approved for a new card.
Here are a few helpful reminders:
Find out when your introductory APR ends: Many small business credit cards have introductory offers. However, these offers have an expiry date that is critical to take note of as it means your interest will change from one month to the next. Remember to check over your first statement to take this expiry date down.
Remember to qualify for your card’s sign-up bonus: Similarly, many small business credit cards have sign-up bonuses as well and these bonuses can be well worth the effort. Review the qualification factors and make a note of what you need to do to make sure you take advantage of any and all bonuses.
Deduct fees and interest charges when you file taxes: Many business owners aren’t aware that you can write off both interest charges and fees from business credit cards on your taxes. It might not amount to much but it’s welcomed savings that is yours for the taking.
Pay your card on time: This is critically important as a business credit card is an opportunity to improve your credit further… or hurt it if you’re late on your payment even once.
You’ll especially want to heed that last point if you’re acquiring a new business credit card to improve your credit score.
Few things can help (or equally hurt) your credit like racking up a balance on a credit card and being late on your payment. So, pay special mind if you’re obtaining a business credit card to improve your credit score and always pay on time.