Category Archives: Credit Cards

Amex Business Gold Rewards Card Offers Amazing Limited Time Deal For New Cardholders

If you were thinking about getting a business charge card for your company, and you have good credit, then don’t miss out on this hot deal for the American Express Business Gold Rewards Card. For a limited-time only American Express is offering new Business Gold cardholders 50,000 Membership Rewards points when they spend $5,000 in 3 months. The $175 annual fee is also being waived for the first year.

American Express Business Gold CardThat’s a lot of rewards points and a pretty doable spending requirement for a business. But, this is only part of the deal. There are many other incredibly useful benefits that come along with this card. After all, we’re talking American Express. As long as you have not had any Business Gold, Green or Platinum Card account within the last 12 months (personal Amex cards are excluded) you may be eligible for this offer. Here’s a rundown of what Business Gold cardholders can expect:

Earn additional rewards points quickly. The Amex Business Gold charge card will give you double points on advertising, gas and shipping, and even more points when you use the card to buy airfare- up to $100,000 in each category, after which you’ll earn 1 point per $1. You will receive 3 points for every $1 spent on airfare, and 2 points for every $1 spent on U.S. advertising in select media, gas at U.S. stand-alone gas stations and shipping. For everything else, you get 1 point for every $1 spent.

Maximize your flexibility and choice when redeeming points. Not only does the American Express Business Gold Rewards Card offer a generous point system, you’ll also enjoy ultimate flexibility when redeeming those points. The program offers 21 airline and hotel transfer partners for travel both within and outside of the U.S. Points can also be redeemed for gift cards and other merchandise from over 300 brands, and your points will never expire. American Express has even teamed up with Facebook so that you can redeem your rewards points for Facebook ads. Each $6,750 spent on this card is worth $50 of Facebook advertising. It’s something to think about.

Free extended warranty. If you purchase an item that has 5 years or less of warranty coverage, then American Express will extend the original U.S. warranty by up to one year.

Get full purchase protection. If you try to return an eligible item purchased in the U.S. within 90 days from the date of purchase and the store will not accept the return, the purchase price will be refunded by American Express, up to $300 per item, excluding shipping and handling, up to $1,000 annually per card account. There is also the Purchase Protection Plan which provides 90-day protection of purchases against loss, damage, theft and fire.

Travel accident insurance. If you use your Business Gold Rewards Card to pay for your transportation, whether via plane, train, ship, bus, or even helicopter, you’ll have access to travel accident insurance.

Car rental loss and damage insurance. When you charge your car rental to your card, you will be covered with this insurance at no additional charge. Just make sure that you cancel the coverage that the car rental company will try to give you.

Additional benefits. The American Express Business Gold Rewards Card offers more benefits such as emergency medical and legal referrals, death-and-dismemberment insurance, and baggage loss insurance. Members are entitled to roadside assistance anywhere in the country with free towing, flat tire repair, battery jump, fuel delivery and locksmith services. Through the American Express OPEN Savings Program, Business Gold Rewards Card members can save 25 percent on everyday business expenses ranging from travel and car rentals to office supplies retailers, merchants and dining establishments. Finally, Amex also provides its Business Gold Rewards Card members with several features designed improve accounting and streamline record-keeping, such as its one-click online statement integration into QuickBooks.

Plus, enjoy outstanding customer service. Notice any fraudulent activity on your account? The American Express Business Gold Rewards Card offers 24-hour card replacement to anywhere in the world and guaranteed online fraud protection. They also have a customer service department that actually serves its customers. It’s a “benefit” that other credit card companies aren’t even close to providing, and it’s a refreshing change.

In short, if you are running an established small business and you have good credit, then this latest offer for the American Express Business Gold Rewards Card provides a lot of value. With so many benefits and options, you don’t want to miss out. Visit this link to sign up: Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express.

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How to Protect Yourself from Cuts to Your Business Credit Card Limit

Over the past couple of years, the credit card industry seems bent on shaking up the credit markets so that it comes out in their favor. For small business owners with business credit cards, there has been virtual tidal wave of often unexpected changes- from cut credit lines to closed accounts- that seems to blindly strike irregardless of credit score and payment history.

 

If you use a business credit card extensively for short-term financing in your small business, then take heed to the following tips:

1. Expect the unexpected. These days, even if you have sterling credit and you’ve been using the same credit card for several years, you shouldn’t take your credit limit for granted. There are countless stories of business owners who watched their credit line virtually disappear without warning or provocation. Thus, pay attention to your account.

2. Be aware of what can trigger a change. There are several common factors that can result in a reduction of available credit: a sudden, significant change to your credit score, a large unusual purchase, “too much” activity (i.e. you keep using the card so you end up staying close to your current credit limit), and “too little” activity (i.e. you don’t use the account so often).

3. Have a backup plan. If you are using your business credit card heavily and/or are dangerously close to your available credit limit, then consider using either a backup credit card (just make sure to make a few charges with it so it shows recent activity) or secure another means of quick, short-term financing, such as business cash advances and accounts receivables financing.

In short, with a little effort and due diligence you can stay one step ahead of any unexpected curve balls your credit card company may throw you.

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Credit Card Companies Quickly Adapt to New Legislation

No one can say that the credit card industry isn’t resourceful. The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, which was enacted in 2009, was meant to reshape consumer finance. The new legislation stipulates that card issuers must give customers more notice about interest-rate increases. It also restricts problematic billing practices, such as inactivity fees.

While some of these fees and practices may have been abolished, the credit card companies are quickly clamoring to establish new fees to replace the old ones and are seeking out any loophole they can fit themselves through.

And there is little wonder why…The Card Act is expected to wipe out some $390 million a year in fee revenue, according to David Robertson, the publisher of industry newsletter Nilson Report, and in July the Bank of America reported that it is expecting to write off up to $10 billion in the third quarter as a direct result of the new legislation.

 

The signs of the credit industry’s response ar popping up everywhere. Since the Card Act began to take effect, between July 2009 and March 2010, the industry’s median annual fee on bank credit cards leaped by 18% to $59. Annual fees at credit unions soared by a whopping 67% to $25. The median cash-advance and balance-transfer fees also rose by 33% during that time.

In some cases, banks are deftly circumventing the law by creating new products, called “professional cards” that are not covered by the Card Act.

In another example, the new legislation stipulates that late-payment fees can not be accrued on a Sunday or holiday due to the lack of mail delivery. Some creditors, however, claim that the clause does not apply to them since they accept payments seven days a week.

Finally, some banks have resorted to shortening the credit cycle, which according to the Card Act must be at least 21 days from the time that the statement was mailed and the payment comes due. Borrowers across the United States have registered complaints that their billing cycles have shrunk to less than the 21 day period.

What more lies in store for consumer credit card holders…only time will tell.

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How the Credit Card Industry is Sucking Small Businesses Dry

Earlier this year I posted a series on credit card reform and suggested that it would be a rough road ahead for many small business owners… unfortunately I was right.

Though the credit card reform act of 2009 may have put a spotlight on some of the obscure and outright abusive business practices embraced by the credit card industry, most of the attention has been duly heaped upon the consumer. But the truth is that small business owners are getting the worst of the credit reform fallout, and unlike consumers, they are being hit on all sides.

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In October, the National Small Business Association presented the results of a survey it conducted to determine the usage of credit cards among small businesses as a quick source of financing. It also provided a telling snapshot of the way credit card companies are treating their small business clients.

According to the NSBA survey, in April of this year 59% of small businesses have used credit cards to finance their operations in the past 12 months; this is up from 49% in December 2008. Underscoring the struggle of most small businesses to get adequate financing in an economy that has gone belly-up, this increase in credit card usage is occurring even as more small businesses report that credit card terms have gone from bad to worse. In fact, according to the NSBA survey in the last six months alone, 75% of the small businesses reported that their credit card terms had worsened.

One of the most difficult changes to swallow has been a flurry of credit limit reductions. In the past year, 41% of the small businesses surveyed stated that their credit limit was reduced- often without any overt reason. Not only do these credit limit reductions effectively reduce the amount of available financing, but they can also negatively effect a business’ credit score by creating a higher outstanding debt-to-credit ratio. Since the business is then considered to be more risky, it prohibits financing from other sources.

Other reported changes in credit card terms include: an increase in the interest rate (63%), switching from a fixed to variable interest rate (23%), and increasing the minimum amount due each billing cycle.

All of this comes at a time when fewer small businesses are paying off their credit cards each month. This year 40% reported paying their monthly credit card balances in full, down from 50% a year ago. And this is exposing countless small businesses to the same unscrupulous business practices that have gained so much attention over the last few months. Of those who carry a balance: 33% reported receiving statement after due date, 48% reported that the due date seems to randomly change, and 57% reported receiving statements too close to the due date to have it mailed on time.

What’s more, since some companies advertising business credit cards are in fact (according to the fine print) offering little more than a fancy personal credit card, such practices can be devastating to the business owner’s personal credit rating.

But the credit card industry does not stop there when it comes to small businesses… According to the survey, 57% of small businesses accept credit card payments from their customers. Each time a customer swipes a card to pay for goods and/or services, the merchant pays a small processing fee to the banks and and credit card networks. These so- called merchant interchange fees have tripled in cost since 2000 cutting into profit margins at a time when every cent counts.

Bottom line for small business owners: when it comes to the credit card industry, the cards are stacked against them.

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The Credit Card Reform Bill: Expect Many to Try Credit Card Alternatives

This post is the final part of a four-part series on credit card reform.

In the three previous posts, I discussed the possible affect of the credit card reform bill that was passed by the US Senate earlier this month. The bottom line for consumers and small businesses is that this new legislation will probably not have the desired affect its supporters had hoped for, and it may even lead to some negative consequences, such as smaller credit limits, higher fees, and less credit availability.

In response, many consumers and small businesses in search of credit will turn to credit card alternatives. Some will make this switch by choice, while others will do so because they have no choice.

Whichever category you or your small business falls into, you might as well familiarize yourself with some of the more popular credit card replacement options:

Credit Unions

Credit unions are basically small banks that are cooperatively owned by their members and run by the community at large. These local banks are generally more personable and they have the added benefit of limited interest charges as well as a vested interest in supporting the local community. They are a good place to turn for small business loans as well as personal lines of credit.

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Debit Cards.

Debit cards work just like credit cards and are accepted everywhere that credit cards are accepted. The only difference is that the money that you spend is immediately deducted from your bank account. Keep in mind, however, that if your card is lost or stolen, you risk losing the balance of money in your account.

Prepaid Credit Cards.

Like debit cards, prepaid credit cards work just like credit cards and are accepted everywhere that credit cards are accepted, but you have to put money into the card before you can use it. The major benefits to this method include more control over how much money is being spent and greater safety should the card be lost or stolen. The major drawback is that many prepaid cards charge a monthly fee in addition to a fee on transactions.

Bank Overdrafts.

A bank overdraft is a line of credit, much like a credit card, except it is directly connected to your bank account. A bank overdraft allows the account holder to overdraw the account up until a predetermined limit that is set by the bank. The outstanding balance may then be carried over from month to month, but it will accrue interest charges.

Charge Cards.

Charge cards work just like credit cards except the monthly balance made be paid in full each month. Unlike credit cards, charge cards do not have a monthly spending limit, and you can make an unlimited number of purchases. Many charge cards come with a yearly fee, and impose hefty penalties when the balance is not fully paid.

 

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The Credit Card Reform Bill: The Effect to Small Businesses?

This post is the third of a four-part series on credit card reform.

The consumer reaction to the credit reform bill has been taking the spotlight ever since the legislation was approved by the US Senate two weeks ago. Though the changes proposed in the new legislation will have some effect on consumer credit card usage, the under-emphasized fact is that smaller businesses (particularly those in retail) stand to bear the brunt of the fallout.

What makes small businesses special is that they are involved with credit cards both as a source of quick financing and as a way to extend credit and convenience to customers.

There has already been movement among the major business credit card issuers to drop their small business customers, or at the very least raise interest rates while reducing credit limits. My guess is that after the legislation goes into effect small businesses with good credit will see their rates continue to rise (albeit with greater disclosure) while their credit limits will continue to shrink.

Many of the “riskier” small businesses- those with bad credit and poor sales, or even those who have missed a couple of payments (how many small businesses out there these days don’t fit into this category?)- will have their accounts closed. In other words, they’ll just be dumped.

On the other side, the credit reform bill may result in a reduction in consumer spending by encouraging credit card holders to use cash or other credit card alternatives. Moreover, we can probably expect an increase in fees charged to retailers for processing credit card transactions.

None of this is good news for small businesses.

So what can small businesses do in response to the new credit card legislation? For one, small businesses must pay attention to any changes in credit card fee structures and incentives programs and then tailor their own credit terms and business practices around them. They should also look for alternative sources of quick financing, such as factoring receivables or turning to a community bank. It may take a little work, but it could shield a business from all the fallout.

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The Credit Card Reform Bill: What is the Expected Effect?

This post is the second of a four-part series on credit card reform.

Two weeks ago the US Senate approved a credit reform bill designed to protect customers overburdened by their financial obligations and subsequent poor credit ratings. But even after the bill was pushed through the Senate, one glaring question still remains: Will the credit reform bill help the nation’s current financial mess, or will it only make things worse?

I’ll put my bets on the latter.

While the more genteel voices of protest have been claiming that the credit card companies are engaged in a slew of unethical (or at least questionable) business practices, many unabashedly accuse the credit card industry with outright loan sharking, predatory lending, and deceptive advertising.

Though some of the practices in question may change as a result of the new credit reform legislation, the fact that the Senate failed to place a cap on interest rates is definitely a big win for the credit card companies, and I have no doubt that they will take advantage of it.

Moreover, bank officials and credit industry pundits have been threatening to make up for lost income generated by riskier borrowers by going after the people with good credit (to the tune of reinstating annual fees, curtailing rewards programs and charging interest immediately on purchases). My feeling, however, is that most of it will just turn out to be a lot of hot air.

The credit card industry is in the business of making money, and it will stay that way. What we can expect instead is a transformation. Though it may be a little harder to get a new credit card once the new legislation goes into effect and it may even be a little less convenient or a bit more expensive for those who have it, the credit card companies will eventually devise other methods for incentives and “rewards” programs that will encourage people to keep spending.

In short, my guess is that the credit reform bill will result in a great divide. Those with sterling credit will just use their cards less, which may result in less consumer spending. On the other hand, those with moderate to poor credit will still be stuck in the same debt mud- just under slightly different terms and conditions.

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The Credit Card Reform Bill: What are the Changes?

This post is the first of a four-part series on credit card reform. The next three posts in this series will discuss the expected effects of the credit reform bill in general as well as how credit reform may effect small businesses in particular. The series will then end off with some credit card alternatives.

Two weeks ago the US Senate approved a credit reform bill designed to add a level of regulation and control to the credit card industry which many proclaim is aimed at trapping its customers in a cycle of debt with unfair business practices and deceptive credit card offers. Here is a summary of the major changes approved by the Senate:

  • Interest rates cannot be raised during the first year of an account, and promotional rates must be in force for at least six months. After this time, should the credit card company choose to increase the interest rates, then customers must be notified about these changes at least 45 days in advance.

 

  • A customer must be over 60 days late on payments before the interest rate can be raised on the remaining balance. If the customer then pays the minimum payment on time for six consecutive months, then the rate must return to its previous level.

 

  • Bills can be paid online or over the phone without generating processing fees.

 

  • Over-limit fees are prohibited unless cardholders are told that the purchase will put them over their limit and they authorize it to go through anyway.

 

  • If your card has more than one interest rate on balances, for example one for purchases and one for transfers, then partial payments must be applied to the highest interest rate first.

 

  • Gift cards and gift certificates cannot expire within five years of activation, and issuers are banned from charging dormancy or inactivity fees on gift cards for unused amounts.

 

  • Credit card statements must be mailed out 21 days before the payment is due.

 

  • If the credit card company gets a payment by 5 pm on the due date, then it is considered “on time.” Also, no more late fees if the due date is a Sunday or a holiday and the payment does not arrive until a day later.

 

  • Individuals under 21 will need an adult co-signer on their cards unless they can prove that they have the means to make payments on their own. They must also get permission from parents or guardians to increase credit limits.

 

  • Credit card agreements will have to be posted on the internet

And what is missing…

The Senate rejected a proposal to cap credit card interest rates at 15%. Many claim that this measure was needed to “put real teeth into an otherwise solid bill.”

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6 Ways to Pick Your Small Business’ Credit Card

Every small business owner uses credit cards — the question you should ask your self is: “Which one should I be using?”  Each credit card offers a different value – but all have some things in common.  Credit cards can help finance big purchases and they are also a great way for businesses to keep track of expenses and to push off paying, even if it is just for a few weeks.  So, where do they differ?

PERSONAL VS. BUSINESS

I generally suggest that business owners and entrepreneurs go with a business credit card for these two reasons:

  1. Simplifies accounting by keeping personal and business expenditures separate

  2. There are usually better rewards and perks on a business credit card

INTEREST RATES

If you plan to float a balance on your credit card, then you should make sure you find one with a very low rate.  The numbers you should be looking at are the APR  (annual percentage rate) and the terms of payment.  There are a lot of creative solutions out there to help (and attract) businesses, including a longer grace period to pay (interest free) and rebates for shopping at certain stores, or for paying early.

Side point – Although there are many cards which offer attractive introductory offers – those are often not the best cards for your business unless you are sure you won’t get caught by a jump in rates after the “introductory offer” runs out.  Make sure you keep your eye on the “big picture”.

REWARDS AND PERKS

Although rewards and perks are always great, you will often need to pick between getting the best rewards and getting the best APR.  If you pay off your balance every month anyway, then APR doesn’t matter and you can focus on the fun stuff.  Because your business makes such large purchases, a business credit card can take much more advantage of rewards programs than your personal one.  A good rule of thumb is that a reward is only useful if you are going to use it.  If your business uses services regularly, it makes sense to find ouot if there is a credit card out there that either offers rewards for it, offers it for rewards or at least has a discount.  When in doubt, go with “Cash Back”, since you will always use cash.

Here are some of the options you will see when looking into rewards programs:

  • CASH BACK – Some credit cards offer between 1%-5% “cash back” on some purchases (by category or specific store) or even on all purchases.

  • FREQUENT FLIER – Frequent flier points aren’t just available from the airline’s credit cards.  Be sure to check how many miles you get for each dollar you spend.  Also, many cards offer a very generous introductory bonus, after your first purchase, of 10-25,000 miles.

  • GIFT CERTIFICATES – Some cards offer perks such as gift certificates for specific retailers or for gasoline.  If the certificates are for stores or supplies which you need en mass, then these may be more valuable to you than “cash back” because they often come out to more money.

  • INSURANCE – Many cards include luggage insurance and other types of travel insurance for travel purchased with the card.  Many more offer car insurance for rental cars rented with the card (saving you from having to pay for extra insurance from the rental agency)

  • CONCIERGE – Some higher-class cards offer concierge services, where the customer service department can make arrangements on your behalf.

  • DISCOUNTS – Many cards offer discounts on services such as delivery, prescriptions, etc. 

The trick is to figure out how much you (or your business) value the different types of rewards.  When figuring this out, you may need to sit down with a list of your normal expenditures (a financial statement or old credit card statement) and looking at where you spend your money.

ANNUAL FEES and SMALL PRINT

Some cards have an annual fee, and you need to make sure you remember that when making your decision.  In many cases, you will earn back the money in rewards/cash back, but that is not always the case.  Some cards also cap rewards and don’t allow you to get more than $500 back each year.  If your business spends in the 5-digits over the course of a year, this might really reduce the value of a card.

CREDIT BUREAU REPORTING

If you want to build credit for your business, then you need to make sure you pick a card which reports to one of the major BUSINESS credit bureaus.  Many small business cards do not, rather they report to PERSONAL credit bureaus.  This not only takes away your opportunity to build credit for your business, but it greatly increases your risk of ruining your personal credit.

OTHER FACTORS

  • Cost of extra cards for employees/partners.

  • Security controls for employee cards.

  • Ease of accounting (some cards have bills formatted in such a way that you can import them into your financial software).

Did I miss something?  Leave a comment and let me know.

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December 6, 2007
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2 in 1 – Credit Card Processing & Factoring

Now, because I work in the credit card factoring/business cash advance business, it is not surprising that I love reading about different ways in which this form of financing can be beneficial to our customers.

Last week I came across an article (tagged for pizza restaurants, but true for any of our clients) about how credit card factoring programs can reduce credit card processing costs and problems.

The guy who posted it pointed out that not only can credit card factoring help with cash flow (which is why most people turn to us)  – but that a factor can often help their clients get the most efficient credit card processing in addition to getting them cash when they need it most. 

For more info about services that Fast Up Front offers in this capacity, you can contact us through our credit card factoring company website.

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