Business credit cards are an essential tool used by 65% of business owners in the U.S. according to the U.S. Census Bureau. With literally hundreds of cards to choose from, it can be an overwhelming challenge to decide which one is best for your business.
Avoid these five major mistakes when applying for a credit card for your company.
Mistake #1 Failure to Define the Card’s Purpose
Each type of business credit card serves a unique purpose and offers its own array of features, perks, and benefits. A common mistake is applying for a card without first identifying the needs of the business. Will the card be used primarily for air travel, automotive, or daily purchases? Do you prefer the option to pay off purchases each month, or to carry a balance? Will the company be issuing cards to employees, or will there be a single cardholder?
These are important questions that give you an indication of the importance in defining purpose. Without purpose, you can end up obtaining a card that costs more and benefits you less.
For example, suppose you own a moving company and you lease several commercial trucks. You need credit cards for your drivers to handle the fuel purchases and maintenance of your vehicles. In this example, you should consider applying for a fleet credit card rather than a standard business credit card. Fleet credit cards are designed specifically for reducing company fuel costs, spending control, and improving fuel efficiency.
Mistake #2 Failure to Review Your Creditworthiness
Applying for credit without first assessing the creditworthiness of the owner and the company is a mistake made far too often. With this approach, business owners get frequent credit denials and excessive inquiries on their reports. To make matters worse, excessive inquiries trigger red flags with creditors, giving them another reason to deny credit to your business.
Avoid making this mistake by obtaining copies of your personal and business credit reports. Remember, you are entitled to one free report per year, and can find more by searching online.
Mistake #3 Ignore the Impact of Credit Reporting
Each card issuer will obtain copies of your personal and/or company credit reports as part of the underwriting process. While business owners understand this part of the application process, they fail to acknowledge the impact of the payment reporting process.
For example, a business owner obtains a new corporate card and uses it to purchase new office computers, hardware, and software totaling $10k. During that time, he decides to apply for a car loan and is denied credit. He decides to check his credit reports and is shocked to find that his recent $10k business purchase is reported on his personal credit.
Take the time to define which credit agency the card issuer shares its data with. Some card issuers report solely to a business credit agency while others report to both consumer and business agencies.
Mistake #4 Failure to Review Terms and Conditions
Special perks and teaser rates can be enticing but without understanding the terms, conditions, and penalties, this can be a costly mistake. Offers like a no-interest promo are a great deal, but come with strings attached. Make sure you understand what conditions must be met and how long your teaser rate stays in effect. Always read the fine print and look out for default triggers that can raise your rates.
Mistake #5 Abusing the Card’s Purpose and Usage
Unfortunately, this happens to be the error that can have a long term impact on your company’s business credit history. Improper usage of a company credit card can cause issues such as late payments, excessive debt loads, and overextended credit, just to name a few.
When you apply for a business credit card aim to always pay ‘better than terms’, minimize debt to credit limit ratios, and request a credit limit increase in six to twelve months.
Photo Credit: peddhapati, Flickr.