How to Use Business Credit Cards Wisely

Small and midsize business (SMB) owners may need quick access to cash, but loans don’t always cover the gaps. As lenders tighten borrower requirements, many companies are turning to credit cards to fund their operations. Business credit cards are convenient and have a variety of features that make it easy to manage your finances and maximize your benefits. However, it’s easy to get into financial trouble when using them. 

Use this guide to find out how to get the most from your business credit card’s benefits and not fall prey to its pitfalls and temptations. 

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Tips for leveraging business credit cards

Business credit cards offer plenty of advantages, but misusing these beneficial tools can quickly turn them into burdens.

Just because your company makes regular payments on its credit cards doesn’t mean you’re using them wisely. Interest rates for business credit cards tend to be extremely high compared to other funding sources, which means you could spend more than your company earns. If you turn to high-interest credit cards during hard times, you could make a bad situation worse.

However, credit cards provide significant advantages for responsible borrowers. Cash back, interest-free periods and 60-day floats can help a growing company take advantage of short windows of opportunity. To get the most from the perks without suffering the drawbacks, take the time to learn the ins and outs of business card financing.

Consider these six tips when leveraging credit cards to finance your SMB:

Don’t pay interest.

Credit cards can help your business by quickly raising capital. Banks make little money off exchange fees, but they make plenty of money when their customers get into a cycle of debt. You should only use credit cards if you can do so without carrying a balance from month to month.

This should be common personal finance wisdom, but it’s easy to get so involved with growing your business that you fail to recognize bad habits until it’s too late. Credit card interest rates fluctuate based on the market, unlike traditional loans. This means you can easily negate future gains by paying higher fees — even if you think you’re beating the system. Maintain constant vigilance to avoid turning a helpful tool into an added expense. If you think you’ll be carrying a balance on a large purchase, it would be wise to get a business loan at a lower interest rate. 

Optimize benefits.

Many business credit cards have benefits traditional financing sources don’t offer. These perks can include discounts on travel and lodging or preferred pricing for services. Explore the market to see which cards offer the most relevant benefits to your company.

For instance, if you travel infrequently but spend a lot on shipping, don’t obtain a business credit card offering frequent flier miles. Different cards offer perks for shipping, advertising and travel. As competition for business credit cards heats up, a few lenders have started allowing businesses to design their own bonus categories. To avoid spending too much time optimizing card spending, find one or two cards that cover your specific business needs.

Watch for introductory offers.

Credit cards attract new users with all sorts of promises. Some advertise zero interest, while others entice applicants by offering thousands of points for new sign-ups. All offers come with strings attached, so read the fine print carefully.

Using racked miles or points usually requires you to meet a spending threshold within a certain time frame. Some offers require only a small amount of spending — like $3,000 — while others demand $20,000 or more.

A promotion can also end abruptly, leaving you blindsided. If your business floats thousands of dollars on a card, you could face a substantial bill when the introductory offer ends, costing you even more than the initial offer.

Track your financial statements.

You’ll need to watch your financial statements closely when swiping your business credit cards. Tracking statements gives you an idea of how your company is doing and helps you monitor your cash flow. Review your books each week, and note when your revenue is highest. Choose a date when you will have increased cash flow to make additional credit card payments to pay down your balance.

Avoid commingling.

It can be tempting to make personal purchases on your business credit card or business purchases on your personal credit card. However, this makes it difficult to keep track of your expenses and profits come tax season. It can also negatively affect your credit score if you miss a payment.

Hop cautiously — or not at all.

Credit card hopping is when you go from one card to another to get perks or rewards, such as cash back or zero-interest-rate periods. Cards often have introductory offers, and opening a new card account can allow you to take advantage of these.

However, you will need to research a card thoroughly before you choose it. You should also take careful note of annual and transfer fees. Consider whether it’s really worth making the change. If you’re switching to get rewards points you won’t use, or a lower introductory interest rate even though you pay off your cards before they accrue interest, there’s little benefit.

Opening new lines of credit will also lower your credit score, so it’s not wise to get new cards often. If you’re planning to apply for a large loan soon, it’s best to avoid credit card hopping so your score will be as high as possible.

To get the most out of business credit cards, optimize perks, such as discount programs, rewards and low or interest-free loans, while minimizing fees.