Shopping For A First Credit Card

Long before we are old enough to carry credit cards ourselves, advertisers make sure we know about the power of plastic: “It’s everywhere you want to be.” “It pays to Discover.” “What’s in your wallet?”While using an ad campaign to choose a card is a terrible idea, the slogans have one thing right: A credit card can be a powerful thing. For teens and 20-somethings looking to pick a first card, taking the time to choose carefully can save money and offer a boost in establishing and building a credit history.An excellent credit score will be helpful when you start to think about buying a car or getting a mortgage. Even if you do not plan to take out a large loan in the near future, your credit information can be a factor in renting an apartment, obtaining a membership at a club or getting hired for certain jobs.Lenders use credit reports to determine how risky it is to give a borrower – that is, you – a loan. All in all, the lender just wants to know if the borrower will be able to pay back the loan. If the borrower has bad credit, then he or she probably made some major or ongoing financial mistakes and is more likely not to repay. On the other hand, if the borrower has good credit, then he or she has a history of paying back debt, and the lender will most likely grant the loan.Credit cards are effectively short-term loans that need to be paid back within a short grace period. Getting the first credit card can be tricky. Credit card companies do not have any basis for your credit history since you have not borrowed any money in the past. So how are you supposed to establish and build your credit rating without a history?One way is to apply for a secured credit card. Secured credit cards are backed by a deposit that you make upfront. Usually, the amount you deposit will be the same as the card’s credit limit. Everything else is like a regular unsecured credit card: You use the card to buy things; you make monthly payments; and you incur interest if you fail to pay off the full balance. A secured credit card should be only a temporary step to building credit. Try to pay off the total balance every month to show that you are financially responsible. After all, not only do you want to build a credit history, you want to build a good one.Another effective way to start your credit history is to become an authorized user on someone else’s card. Many parents will designate their children as authorized users on their credit cards so that the children can build credit without the legal obligation to pay the balance every month. However, if the person whose account you are authorized to use does not handle the account properly, their mistakes could end up hurting rather than helping your credit.Once you establish your credit history, you can shop for your first unsecured credit card. You will quickly discover that there are many to choose from. A number of factors can help narrow the search.The most important of these is how you intend to use the card. Are you going to use it only for emergencies? If not, will you pay in full each month, or will you carry a balance on the card? Once you decide how you will use the card, follow your self-imposed rules. It is very easy, and dangerous, to continually swipe the card and tell yourself it is for a good reason. But it is crucial to be stubborn about establishing good spending habits, even – or maybe especially – early in life.If you plan to carry a balance on your card, you must be aware of the interest rate of each card you are considering. The interest rate used by credit card companies is the annual percentage rate, or APR. There are cards with variable APRs, which are based on a certain index (such as the U.S. prime rate). There are also nonvariable APRs, which are usually fixed-rate credit cards. As a beginner, you will usually want a low-rate, nonvariable APR credit card, because knowing your interest rate will give you a sense of how much money you will need each month to pay at least the minimum amount due. A low-rate, nonvariable APR card will therefore help when you create a monthly budget.In addition to interest rates, pay attention to penalties and fees. Reading the fine print in a contract can save you from owing avoidable charges. The most common fees include balance transfer fees, cash advance fees, fees for requesting a credit limit increase and online or mobile payment fees. Many cards also impose penalties for not paying your bill on time or going over your credit limit. You should hold out for a card with minimal fees and reasonable penalties. Even if other features of a particular card seem attractive, avoid the potential for exorbitant fees and penalties that could hurt your cash flow and your credit history.Understanding your spending habits will help you determine which incentives will be important to you. Most cards offer rewards programs to their customers or offer cash back for certain purchases. Many cards offer 0 percent APR for the first six to 18 months that your credit card is open. These cards are great if you plan to carry a balance from month to month. Some cards even offer anywhere from 1 to 5 percent cash back on all or certain types of purchases. If you know how you plan to use your card, then certain cards’ rewards programs can save you a lot of money.As a first-time cardholder, once you have chosen the card that is right for you, you may find it exciting to be able to swipe the piece of plastic and not have to pay in cash. But while credit cards can be useful tools, it is important to not fall into the black hole of credit card debt, which can be all too easy for an inexperienced user. Make sure to know how your credit score works and how to avoid penalties so that you will be able to make larger purchases and secure loans in the future.Your payment history, the amount of credit you use and the number of negative marks on your credit history have the highest impact on your overall credit score. If you can, pay off your total balance on time each month, ensuring that you have a 100 percent payment history. Paying off your card every month comes with the added bonus of saving you from being charged any interest on a carried balance.You will also want to use as low a percentage of your credit limit as you can. This ratio is called credit card utilization, and most experts recommend that you try not to go over 30 percent at any time. Credit card companies want to know that you are responsible with your spending and that you will be able to pay off your balance each month. You can either spend less each month or increase the credit limit on your card to lower the percentage used. You can also pay more than once per month.Obviously, you should avoid any negative marks on your credit history. These can include collection accounts, bankruptcies, foreclosures, civil judgments or tax liens. Although someone applying for a first credit card typically will not have had time to worry about bankruptcies or foreclosures, keep in mind that such problems can severely damage your ability to secure credit in the future.As a first-time applicant, you may find that the length of your credit history, the total number of accounts open or closed in your name and the number of credit inquiries also have an adverse rating on your credit score. Your credit history will be short. You will not have many open or closed accounts. Your first credit inquiry will most likely be from the company where you applied for your first credit card. Be patient. Building a credit history takes time, but as a young adult, staying on top of your finances, and especially your credit cards, will help you in the long run.Credit cards can be both powerful and dangerous, but they are also a convenient part of everyday life for most of us. A first credit card offers a great opportunity to establish positive financial habits that will serve you well for a lifetime.

Alternative Financing Vs. Venture Capital: Which Option Is Best for Boosting Working Capital?

There are several potential financing options available to cash-strapped businesses that need a healthy dose of working capital. A bank loan or line of credit is often the first option that owners think of – and for businesses that qualify, this may be the best option.

In today’s uncertain business, economic and regulatory environment, qualifying for a bank loan can be difficult – especially for start-up companies and those that have experienced any type of financial difficulty. Sometimes, owners of businesses that don’t qualify for a bank loan decide that seeking venture capital or bringing on equity investors are other viable options.

But are they really? While there are some potential benefits to bringing venture capital and so-called “angel” investors into your business, there are drawbacks as well. Unfortunately, owners sometimes don’t think about these drawbacks until the ink has dried on a contract with a venture capitalist or angel investor – and it’s too late to back out of the deal.

Different Types of Financing

One problem with bringing in equity investors to help provide a working capital boost is that working capital and equity are really two different types of financing.

Working capital – or the money that is used to pay business expenses incurred during the time lag until cash from sales (or accounts receivable) is collected – is short-term in nature, so it should be financed via a short-term financing tool. Equity, however, should generally be used to finance rapid growth, business expansion, acquisitions or the purchase of long-term assets, which are defined as assets that are repaid over more than one 12-month business cycle.

But the biggest drawback to bringing equity investors into your business is a potential loss of control. When you sell equity (or shares) in your business to venture capitalists or angels, you are giving up a percentage of ownership in your business, and you may be doing so at an inopportune time. With this dilution of ownership most often comes a loss of control over some or all of the most important business decisions that must be made.

Sometimes, owners are enticed to sell equity by the fact that there is little (if any) out-of-pocket expense. Unlike debt financing, you don’t usually pay interest with equity financing. The equity investor gains its return via the ownership stake gained in your business. But the long-term “cost” of selling equity is always much higher than the short-term cost of debt, in terms of both actual cash cost as well as soft costs like the loss of control and stewardship of your company and the potential future value of the ownership shares that are sold.

Alternative Financing Solutions

But what if your business needs working capital and you don’t qualify for a bank loan or line of credit? Alternative financing solutions are often appropriate for injecting working capital into businesses in this situation. Three of the most common types of alternative financing used by such businesses are:

1. Full-Service Factoring – Businesses sell outstanding accounts receivable on an ongoing basis to a commercial finance (or factoring) company at a discount. The factoring company then manages the receivable until it is paid. Factoring is a well-established and accepted method of temporary alternative finance that is especially well-suited for rapidly growing companies and those with customer concentrations.

2. Accounts Receivable (A/R) Financing – A/R financing is an ideal solution for companies that are not yet bankable but have a stable financial condition and a more diverse customer base. Here, the business provides details on all accounts receivable and pledges those assets as collateral. The proceeds of those receivables are sent to a lockbox while the finance company calculates a borrowing base to determine the amount the company can borrow. When the borrower needs money, it makes an advance request and the finance company advances money using a percentage of the accounts receivable.

3. Asset-Based Lending (ABL) – This is a credit facility secured by all of a company’s assets, which may include A/R, equipment and inventory. Unlike with factoring, the business continues to manage and collect its own receivables and submits collateral reports on an ongoing basis to the finance company, which will review and periodically audit the reports.

In addition to providing working capital and enabling owners to maintain business control, alternative financing may provide other benefits as well:

It’s easy to determine the exact cost of financing and obtain an increase.
Professional collateral management can be included depending on the facility type and the lender.
Real-time, online interactive reporting is often available.
It may provide the business with access to more capital.
It’s flexible – financing ebbs and flows with the business’ needs.
It’s important to note that there are some circumstances in which equity is a viable and attractive financing solution. This is especially true in cases of business expansion and acquisition and new product launches – these are capital needs that are not generally well suited to debt financing. However, equity is not usually the appropriate financing solution to solve a working capital problem or help plug a cash-flow gap.

A Precious Commodity

Remember that business equity is a precious commodity that should only be considered under the right circumstances and at the right time. When equity financing is sought, ideally this should be done at a time when the company has good growth prospects and a significant cash need for this growth. Ideally, majority ownership (and thus, absolute control) should remain with the company founder(s).

Alternative financing solutions like factoring, A/R financing and ABL can provide the working capital boost many cash-strapped businesses that don’t qualify for bank financing need – without diluting ownership and possibly giving up business control at an inopportune time for the owner. If and when these companies become bankable later, it’s often an easy transition to a traditional bank line of credit. Your banker may be able to refer you to a commercial finance company that can offer the right type of alternative financing solution for your particular situation.

Taking the time to understand all the different financing options available to your business, and the pros and cons of each, is the best way to make sure you choose the best option for your business. The use of alternative financing can help your company grow without diluting your ownership. After all, it’s your business – shouldn’t you keep as much of it as possible?

Business Loans In Canada: Financing Solutions Via Alternative Finance & Traditional Funding

Business loans and finance for a business just may have gotten good again? The pursuit of credit and funding of cash flow solutions for your business often seems like an eternal challenge, even in the best of times, let alone any industry or economic crisis. Let’s dig in.

Since the 2008 financial crisis there’s been a lot of change in finance options from lenders for corporate loans. Canadian business owners and financial managers have excess from everything from peer-to-peer company loans, varied alternative finance solutions, as well of course as the traditional financing offered by Canadian chartered banks.

Those online business loans referenced above are popular and arose out of the merchant cash advance programs in the United States. Loans are based on a percentage of your annual sales, typically in the 15-20% range. The loans are certainly expensive but are viewed as easy to obtain by many small businesses, including retailers who sell on a cash or credit card basis.

Depending on your firm’s circumstances and your ability to truly understand the different choices available to firms searching for SME COMMERCIAL FINANCE options. Those small to medium sized companies ( the definition of ‘ small business ‘ certainly varies as to what is small – often defined as businesses with less than 500 employees! )

How then do we create our road map for external financing techniques and solutions? A simpler way to look at it is to categorize these different financing options under:

Debt / Loans

Asset Based Financing

Alternative Hybrid type solutions

Many top experts maintain that the alternative financing solutions currently available to your firm, in fact are on par with Canadian chartered bank financing when it comes to a full spectrum of funding. The alternative lender is typically a private commercial finance company with a niche in one of the various asset finance areas

If there is one significant trend that’s ‘ sticking ‘it’s Asset Based Finance. The ability of firms to obtain funding via assets such as accounts receivable, inventory and fixed assets with no major emphasis on balance sheet structure and profits and cash flow ( those three elements drive bank financing approval in no small measure ) is the key to success in ABL ( Asset Based Lending ).

Factoring, aka ‘ Receivable Finance ‘ is the other huge driver in trade finance in Canada. In some cases, it’s the only way for firms to be able to sell and finance clients in other geographies/countries.

The rise of ‘ online finance ‘ also can’t be diminished. Whether it’s accessing ‘ crowdfunding’ or sourcing working capital term loans, the technological pace continues at what seems a feverish pace. One only has to read a business daily such as the Globe & Mail or Financial Post to understand the challenge of small business accessing business capital.

Business owners/financial mgrs often find their company at a ‘ turning point ‘ in their history – that time when financing is needed or opportunities and risks can’t be taken. While putting or getting new equity in the business is often impossible, the reality is that the majority of businesses with SME commercial finance needs aren’t, shall we say, ‘ suited’ to this type of funding and capital raising. Business loan interest rates vary with non-traditional financing but offer more flexibility and ease of access to capital.

We’re also the first to remind clients that they should not forget govt solutions in business capital. Two of the best programs are the GovernmentSmall Business Loan Canada (maximum availability = $ 1,000,000.00) as well as the SR&ED program which allows business owners to recapture R&D capital costs. Sred credits can also be financed once they are filed.

Those latter two finance alternatives are often very well suited to business start up loans. We should not forget that asset finance, often called ‘ ABL ‘ by those Bay Street guys, can even be used as a loan to buy a business.

If you’re looking to get the right balance of liquidity and risk coupled with the flexibility to grow your business seek out and speak to a trusted, credible and experienced Canadian business financing advisor with a track record of business finance success who can assist you with your funding needs.