Are you starting up a small business? If so, there are many things you have to think about. You must consider variables like accounting, legal and tax concerns, and even what exact type of business you need to register. So it should come as no surprise that you could make a mistake that you will regret in hindsight.
The perfect example of a common “fork in the road” for business owners comes when getting business credit cards. This is a potential roadblock that many new business owners do not expect. Yet, the problems that could come up are sometimes extreme, which is why you must know what to expect ahead of time. One particular risk relates to putting yourself personally liable for your business debts. While this is fairly standard and most business card providers require a personal guarantee, you can find some workarounds to avoid this issue.
Personal Liability and Business Credit Cards
You might not be aware yet, but you usually qualify for business credit cards based on your personal credit. As a small business owner, this means you need to have good enough credit to qualify for a business credit card in the first place. Otherwise, it would be necessary to secure the credit card by giving a deposit of up to 100 percent of the card’s limit.
Even if you go the unsecured route, it’s possible that the card issuer reports your account to the major credit bureaus. Most of the time, this means Equifax, Experian and TransUnion factor your business card into your credit report and score. While you might think of this as a plus, it’s unfortunately a big problem.
How Business Credit Cards Can Destroy You
Say you took out a mortgage that’s fixed for five years, four years ago. What happens when you go to refinance?
Well, unfortunately, that all depends on the specifics of your business credit. Worst case scenario, you are unable to refinance your home because your credit rating suffers a dramatic drop. You can expect to see your score fall by upwards of 50 points just because of the new accounts. Even worse, if your running costs are sky-high, the card you need (even if secured) will cause your total debts to read sky-high.
Simply put, you DO NOT want your business credit card to mix with your personal credit information.
Avoid Personal Liability at All Costs!
This is not something you want to push aside, because chances are you will seriously regret doing so in the future.
Even if you have a $300 card for your business, you might find yourself increasing the limit later. This will just increase the amount of damage done to your FICO score. You cannot create a net-positive impact this way; surprisingly, this is the one scenario where it’s understandable for your credit rating to go up if you were to close your account.
Remember: Just because it’s a “business credit card” doesn’t mean they report to business bureaus!
Nevertheless, your business credit card is incredibly important. You will need to apply for one either way, but at least consider the workarounds that are available. Since there are many solutions, you do not need to assign personal liability to get a credit card for your small business.
Here are four quick tips that can help you out:
1. Find Card Issuers That Report to Business Credit Bureaus Only
You can get a card and only have it show up under one of the major business credit bureaus. To do this, you need to have a DUNS number for your business. DUNS stands for Data Universal Numbering System. This was created by Dun & Bradstreet, one of the major business credit bureaus. The other two major bureaus are Equifax Business and Experian Business.
2. Consider Alternative Financing Methods Instead
There are always other financing options available. One great workaround for small business owners is Amazon.com’s Corporate Credit Line. But when you get into these alternative options, you always have to consider whether the higher interest rate is really worth it. If you choose this option, look specifically for corporate credit lines through lenders authenticated by the Small Business Administration.
3. Incorporate or Register as an LLC
If your business is an LLC (Limited Liability Company) or a corporation, you can exempt yourself of some liability. This will not save you if your business credit card defaults. However, if you ever get sued it will exempt you from being financially liable. If you do not incorporate or register as an LLC, you will not get this protection.
However, things can get a little hazy. If you do get sued and you expect to lose big time, your business credit cards should be paid off and canceled. Doing this will prevent your credit from getting hurt if the claimant wins the lawsuit and your business debts default. This is a rare scenario and generally not something to worry about.
4. Move on to a Commercial Liability Card Later
It is possible to qualify for a commercial liability credit card once your business establishes a quality borrowing history. But you will need both a good personal credit record and a good credit report under your business’s file. This type of business credit card is backed by your business in the event of a default. Typically, you would do this if you run a larger business and you have major assets to back your corporate cards. After your small business develops a credit history and gains traction, it might be worth applying for a commercial card.