For a small business owner, building a good credit history can be essential to getting the business through the rough times. One of the easiest and quickest ways of beginning to build a good credit history is through the use of a small business credit card.
A business credit card is designed specifically to meet the needs of the business owner. They generally come with a high limit, with low interest rates and additional automatic benefits. Detailed reports and excellent customer service can also be part of a small business credit card package, which is why the application can often require a number of documents for verification.
How do you get started?
Often, even when you're a new business, you'll receive a flood of small business credit card applications in the mail. Applications can also be quickly found on the Internet or through a branch office of your local bank. These last two sources generally garner faster results.
Before you start an application, however, it's best to gather together a few documents that are often required by credit card companies. For a small business credit card application, you'll generally be asked to provide proof of a business license. You may also be asked to provide documents to verify your good credit standing, especially if your business is a sole proprietorship. These documents might include last year's tax returns or your latest billing statements.
What should you look for in your business credit card application?
Be cautious. It's easy to get carried away with all the package benefits that are available. Keep in mind that this process is first and foremost about credit. As such, you only want those additional benefits that best serve your particular needs. For instance, if you rarely fly in the course of doing business, a credit card that awards you frequent flyer points doesn't really serve you.
Search for payment flexibility. Primarily, you'll want to find a credit card with a "grace period" that works to to the advantage of your business. A "grace period" is the allowable time you have before the credit card company begins to charge you interest on new purchases. This period, when part of your benefits, often runs 20 to 25 days. Be aware, though, that grace periods are not the same for all credit cards. Most credit card companies will charge you interest immediately for new purchases unless you've paid off your previous month's balance in full.
Ask for the lowest interest rate available. Often, just by asking you can receive a lower rate. By keeping the interest rate low, you enable your business to use its funds more wisely on its immediate needs.
Understand what extra benefits come as part of the credit card package, if you need the extra benefits or not, and if they come with hidden expenses. For instance, some cards come with free credit card supplements for employees. Benefits such as this can vary dramatically from one small business credit card to another, and so can the cost.
Will a single small business credit card be enough to build a good credit history for your business? Probably not. But it's an excellent starting point, and it can definitely help you build toward getting future business loans from other banks and other financial institutions.