Credit cards are useful and at times, highly beneficial to small businesses. Making credit card mistakes, though, could significantly damage your small business’s ability to succeed. Chances are that you’ve already made some of these mistakes without knowing it.
Having more information will help you keep you use credit cards intelligently, so that you get all of the benefits without suffering negative consequences.
Credit Card Mistake #1: You Didn’t Shop Around for the Best Deal
Many small business owners take credit card offers without really comparing them closely. That’s a big mistake that can cost you a lot of money in the long-run. Compare interest rates, late fees, payment due dates, and rewards to make sure you get a good deal.
Also, make sure you know when your special introductory rate ends. Some cards give you a month, while others give you a year or more.
Credit Card Mistake #2: You Have a Rewards Program You Don’t Need
Credit card companies use rewards programs to get your attention. Free air miles, rental cars, and cash back can sound appealing, but they usually come with a price (i.e. a slightly higher interest rate). If you can really benefit from a rewards program, use it. If you probably won’t, steer clear. It will just end up costing you more money.
Credit Card Mistake #3: You Forgot to Pay Your Bill on Time
This is one of the biggest credit card mistakes that a small business can make. Making a late payment has a ripple effect that costs you much more than a late fee. If you make a late payment, it
- damages your business’s credit score
- gives the credit card company an excuse to raise your interest rate
- allows the credit card company to charge you high late fees
All of that hurts your business. Do whatever is necessary to remember your due dates.
Credit Card Mistake #4: You’re Making Minimum Payments
If any mistake can top #3, it’s this one. Let’s put it as simply as possible: minimum payments are a scam designed to look helpful. It will cost you a ton of unnecessary money, and you’ll say “thank you” when you pay the price.
Here’s a brief explanation of why minimum payments hurt businesses:
Let’s say you owe $1,000 on an 18 percent credit card. It’s just $1,000, so you’re not that worried about it, right? If you make the minimum payment (usually about $25 for a balance of this size) on that card every month, it will take you 113 months to pay off the debt. In the meantime, you’ll spend $923.12 in interest alone. Over time, you pay nearly 100 percent interest.
Now, let’s say you pay $50 a month instead of $25. You’ll pay off your debt in 24 months, and you’ll pay $197.83 in interest. When you have the numbers right in front of you, it’s pretty easy to see why minimum payments will hurt your small damage. Given a large enough credit card balance, you might never get completely out of debt.
By avoiding these four credit card mistakes, you can get quite a bit out of your card without falling into financial traps. Credit card companies thrive when people make this mistakes. Unfortunately, what’s good for their business is bad for yours.
Photo Credit: Adam_T4, Flickr.