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.
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.