In addition to term-limited vendor credit, a small-business credit card is one of the most reliable and effective sources of credit financing for a new small business. Inexperienced small-business owners, however, must take care to protect their personal assets, as well as the financial well being of their ventures, when applying for or managing credit cards.
On the one hand, utilizing personal credit cards, leveraging personal assets, or taking advantage of lines of home-equity credit to increase your company’s purchasing power is almost always a bad idea. On the other hand, business credit card issuers do not offer robust protections against predatory lending, as issuers of consumer credit cards are required to do.
The 2009 Credit Card Accountability and Responsibility Disclosure Act, which outlawed predatory lending practices and arbitrary interest rate-hikes, does not apply to small-business credit cards; in many cases, business owners are personally liable for the debt associated with their business credit cards, whether they realize it or not!
In order to protect yourself and position your business for long-term financial success, you need to keep your personal and business credit strictly separate. If possible, apply for a no-personal-guarantee business credit card, and if you must provide a personal guarantee, then make sure that any reports filed by your lender will not affect your personal credit score.
As a new small business, you will most likely receive a card with a low spending limit and a slightly higher interest rate, but all that matters is that you make regular purchases and pay your bills on time in order to establish credibility.
Defend Yourself: Spend Wisely, Monitor Your Scores and Ratings
While some small-business card issuers have decided to voluntarily adhere to certain aspects of the CARD Act regulations and restrictions, many have not adopted the more important protections, such as CARD’s prohibition of arbitrary interest rate-hikes, excessive fees, and universal default. Under universal default, the interest rate increases if your credit bureau reports a late payment to any other creditor, even if you have paid your small-business credit card account on time. In other words, you could end up paying dearly for a simple reporting mistake.
Your lender will report any and all credit card payments to the major credit monitoring agencies, such as Dun & Bradstreet, and monitoring agencies use reported data to compile a comprehensive credit report for your business — a report that lenders, vendors, and customers will often scrutinize before doing business with your company. The best way to make sure that the information in your report is accurate? Utilize online tools from Dun & Bradstreet to monitor and manage your scores and ratings with the help of real time alerts, detailed reporting, and benchmarking.