Budgeting Expenses and Income Through Business Credit Cards

There comes a time in the life of any small-business owner when he or she poses the question: “Can I apply credit in a smarter way without getting my business into too much debt?” The basic answer to that is: “Yes, by protecting your credit.”

The first three years of a business’ life are the most crucial. During this time, the business owner will need to carefully budget business expenses and realistically project income. This forces the owner to give the important numbers a good, hard think. It is important to develop a picture of the monthly cash flow, particularly in the first year. This ensures that you know where your money is going and that you are keeping tabs on every aspect of the business.

The Small Business Administration says that many businesses fail because of undercapitalization – that is, not recognizing how much you really need to start the business and / or not having the means to access the capital. This is where business credit cards can help. Business credit cards are a common funding option for small businesses. So good, in fact, that there is a general observation that small business owners often overuse their business credit cards during their first years of business. And, if they do not yet have small business credit cards, they normally end up overloading their personal credit cards.

Small business owners understandably heavily rely on business credit cards to help them over those rough periods when the bank balances are low. Unfortunately, in using the business credit cards, some of the small business owners defer paying off the balance for too long and often suffer the penalties of charges in late fees and interest as a result.

The first thing to remember when it comes to using business credit cards is that you should reserve the use of business credit cards for short-term spending only. Business credit cards will allow your business to start building a credit history. If you pay off a large portion of your business credit card balance each month, or even the whole balance when you can afford it, this favorable credit behavior will enable you to build a solid credit reputation under the business name, which will make cheaper commercial loans accessible sooner. That kind of payment behavior also helps you avoid the dangers of falling behind on your business credit card bill.

Remember you already have a budget worked out. Use the monthly statements for your business credit cards to note down your expenses and to track your cash flow status. The business credit card companies already classify your charges, so it should be much easier to do. You can even download your business credit card transaction history from the websites of the business credit card companies. This should speed up your expense reconciliations and give you the time to focus on making your business grow.

Learn to use the discounts offered by business credit cards for business expenditures. Using business credit cards for certain purchases can entitle you to as much as 5 percent discounts. This feature in business credit cards can actually help you save and will go far towards balancing your budget.

The Game of Business Credit Cards

Sometimes, when financing for your new business venture seems a little hard to find, you might want to consider the business credit cards offered by the different issuers. Business credit cards are rapidly gaining popularity among small business owners, who have seen these very useful as alternative financing sources.

Small business owners and would-be entrepreneurs are not as well connected to sources of high finance with which to bankroll their projects. Business credit cards can be their door to that opportunity or, at the very least, a much appreciated lifesaver for existing businesses from time to time. It is not unrealistic for the small business owner to anticipate that a cash flow crisis could occur at anytime. Perhaps for this reason, business credit cards are seeing wider use as a source of financing, with some of the business credit card holders learning the game of how to make things really work to their advantage.

For instance, small business owners who keep their business credit cards on file with their regular vendors can help eliminate COD charges, receive expedited delivery services, and get the chance to stretch their cash flow by a few extra yards. Your business can conserve cash for a little while longer by charging supplies to the business credit cards at the beginning of the billing cycle – which gives you a float of about 21 days.

It cannot be said too often: business credit cards can really help you manage the business better. That you can use the business credit cards for travel and client entertainment is well documented. Less well known is, that at the end of a quarter, the period expense account summaries from your business credit card companies are a big help in reconciling your transactions and preparing your quarterly tax filings. More than that, if you take the time to review the summaries, you will have the ability to uncover some potential trouble spots. You may find out where the business is incurring too much expense, and which employee is causing the financial leak.

You will also observe that due to the competition among issuers, many business credit card issuers offer you zero percent interest rate for balances transferred from another business credit card company to theirs. This presents you with a really great opportunity – if you go about it in a smart way: You can capitalize on these zero-interest offers by continually moving your balances from one business credit card to another business credit card without ever having to pay market rates. This is a perfectly legitimate strategy, and there are more than enough business credit card issuers out there asking business credit card holders to do exactly that.

You can play it as a kind of game. You would never run out of new business credit cards to jump into when the introductory period on one business credit card is about to expire. If you do take this tack, be alert about keeping on top of your statements and your expiry dates.

It will also work in your favor if you transfer your business credit cards when you observe interest rates starting to rise. As an alternative, you could speak with your existing business credit card issuer to see if they are willing to bring their rates back down. Note, though, that repeated applications for business credit cards may impact your credit report, so keep eye on acceptable periods for credit inquiries.

Wooing Small Business With Business Credit Cards

A few weeks ago (April 18, 2007), Discover Financial Services launched a new business credit card that offers frequent flier miles to small business owners. Among the credit card brands, Discover was one of the last to start offering business credit cards to the small business sector. Reportedly, this is only the latest in a virtual avalanche of business credit cards designed for small business.

One cannot but wonder at the sudden interest.

Perhaps a glance at recent research material will offer some clues. Data shows that in 2006, the small business sector spent $4.9 trillion; but only one-twentieth (5%) of that money was paid through business credit cards in any form (credit or debit card). The credit card companies now want in on that huge market, and believe they can induce small business owners to not only make use of their business credit cards but also to spend more on their cards.

To achieve this, the credit card companies will have to convince the small business owners to use business credit cards in less traditional ways. Traditionally, business credit cards have largely been used to cover travel and entertainment expenses. What card companies want is for businesses to use their business credit cards for everyday spend.

This is the reason behind the new cash back rewards business credit cards. These cards offer 5% discounts on purchases of office supplies, gasoline, courier services and other essential business needs. MasterCard even went as far as launching a business credit card targeted at a specific industry: contractors and construction companies. MasterCard was also the first card company to provide zero-liability protection to small business credit card holders.

Discover’s recently launched business credit cards offer small business the chance to purchase checkbooks. This enables small business owners to pay for purchases from vendors that don’t accept business credit cards. These checkbooks tap into the spending limit on their Discover business credit cards. Visa offers a directly competing program.

American Express sponsors various networking events for small business credit card holders. It also features one of the most extensive business resource databases to help users of its business credit cards to address and resolve their everyday business management problems and concerns.

How big is the potential market for business credit cards, you may ask? If you take the $4.9 trillion small business spending in 2006 and double the current business credit card spend from 5% ($245 billion) to 10%, you have $490 billion. If you charge 15% interest on that, you have a $74 billion potential contribution to profits. In fact, market research companies forecast double-digit growth in small business credit cards between now and 2010, and total charges are projected to reach $740.2 billion by that year. That is a lot of profit.

It has been an uphill climb to get small business owners to subscribe to an expanded use of business credit cards. It takes time, but eventually business owners will respond. One issue that business credit card issuers will have to address is the marked preference of small businesses to pay their full balance for the month as and when it falls due. Card companies do not earn from such transactions. That should be food enough for thought.