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This story appears in the January 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Entrepreneurs hail from hundreds of disparate cities, industries and backgrounds, but one thing they have in common is an appreciation for plastic. Paying by credit card is convenient, it allows business owners to maximize their cash flow, and it offers the accumulation of rewards or points that can add up to thousands in free services each year. For regularly recurring bills, however, nothing beats the convenience of automatic bill payment, the kind typically offered online through consumer and business checking accounts.

Now, paying recurring bills automatically by credit card, which offers the best of both worlds, is catching on big with small businesses. Over the past two years, New York City-based American Express has seen its charge volume for automatic bill pay for small-business customers grow by 30 percent per year, says Karen Rosenberg, vice president of OPEN from American Express, the company's small-business unit. She sees it as a way to replace check-writing, with added benefits. "It helps [business owners] consolidate spending on the card and lets them better track and manage cash flow," she says.

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