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Managing Credit Cards for Small Businesses That polyvinyl chloride plastic within all of our pockets can be an asset, or trap, for any up-and-coming company.

By Dr. Steven Ghim Edited by Bill Schulz

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Among the many factors that lead to small businesses dying big deaths is a lack of good cash flow and money management. Credit cards can ease the stress. But with so many choices available, which options are most optimal? Here's what you need to ask yourself before making this choice.

Related: What 6 Money Pros Wish They'd Known About Credit Cards

Differences between office and at-home plastic

Business credit cards typically have higher limits, so they give you more purchasing power for your company. They're beneficial if you can delegate spending to people you trust, because you can have multiple issued for the account, yet often have shorter billing cycles and more frequent interest rate hikes.

Perhaps the biggest difference between personal and company options is that the former offers federal consumer protections while the latter does not.

Must my company be large to apply?

In most cases, you don't have to be incorporated to qualify for a business card and often good to go as a freelancer! But the credit company might want proof you have a registered business name/DBA/EIN. Be as realistic as you would be for non-business options. It is tempting to consider the need to scale, but stick with what you can afford, even if you technically qualify for one of the more "elite" accounts with a sky-high limit.

Note: having at least two cards can give you a mix of credit and boost your FICO score. Don't have more than two if you struggle to pay your balances in full, because interest charges can whittle away at any rewards you might earn.

Is it a good idea to get a business card if your company is in debt?

Credit cards are attractive to entrepreneurs because they can serve as legitimate alternatives to traditional loans from a bank or credit union. If you can transfer a debt with a high-interest rate to a card that has a low interest rate, then that can be a great money-saving deal for your company. The trick is to not keep spending on the card once that transfer is complete. The goal is to pay the existing debt down, not to build it into an even higher mountain.
Related: This New Credit Card Can Help You Buy A Home. But Creating It Was Nearly Impossible

Which benefits are best?

Simple cash back is always nice, but lots of cards offer category rewards. If you find one that caters to your company's niche, go ahead and get something back for the way you do business anyway. Most professionals also find travel points useful. Those often include airline miles, but many offer hotel, car rental or other discounts/freebies, as well.

Be aware that annual fees aren't always bad. If certain cards offer opportunities to earn accelerated rewards, then the value of those rewards could justify the annual fee. Additionally, don't view the rewards or welcome bonuses in a vacuum. These often lure you in initially when your company's hurting for a few bucks, but if the overall terms of the card aren't great, they might end up getting you into more trouble than they're worth.

What should I do with accounts as the market changes?

Keep accounts active so that the credit card company doesn't close them. This is relatively easy if you set up automatic payments on items your business needs, or is charged for regularly anyway, such as a monthly website hosting fee. Look for options that facilitate those kinds of integrations or reward you for them. You may well find something significantly better. If you plan to close accounts, try to maintain the ones with the longest history and make sure that the credit card companies report that the account was closed at your request.

Every small business needs good financial management to be successful. If you keep your actual needs in mind, you can pick cards that align with your long-term vision without tempting you into trouble.

Related: 5 Ways Credit Union Credit Cards Can Beat Flashy Bank Offers

Dr. Steven Ghim

Cosmetic Dentist at Dr. Steven Ghim, DMD, PLLC

Dr. Steven Ghim is a cosmetic dentist who also provides general and comprehensive dental care. Ghim has over 20 years of clinical experience and his private practice office is fully digital, ultra-modern, and serves the adult patient. He also serves as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force.

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