Category Archives: Finance

How to find safe dividend growth stocks

When you’re evaluating a dividend-paying stock, your primary focus has to be the viability and sustainability of the dividend itself. Not rain nor sleet nor dark of night should stand a chance of keeping that courier from delivering a payment to your account every year.

The clearest danger to a dividend is a lack of cash flow. When a company has weak cash flow, the dividend is among the first costs to be cut — because this at least allows the company to appear to be bolstering that key metric. But a dividend stock that stops paying its dividend is of little value to anyone’s portfolio.

For example, in the energy sector, companies such as Chesapeake Energy  (CHK) and Linn Energy (LINE) were forced to eliminate their dividends recently, while industry bellwethers, Chevron (CVX) and ExxonMobil  (XOM) have maintained, if not increased, payouts.

How do you find a “safe” dividend? Seek out companies whose operating earnings and cash flow can cover their annual payments at least two times over. It is possible, in the near term, to raise capital through debt or equity offerings to prop up dividends, but most companies would not sustain this practice for more than a quarter or two.
It also helps to take a look at a company’s dividend history. It’s impossible to predict the future from the past, but some companies have exhibited a strong tendency to raise their payouts annually. For example, Dover (DOV) and Procter & Gamble (PG) have each updated their quarterly dividends for 59 consecutive years. 

Starting a new business and investing your time

When you’re starting a new business and investing your time, energy, and often your own hard earned cash into it, the promise of “free” money often sounds enticing. Chances are that you’ve stumbled across at least a few advertisements promoting business grants to help you fund your venture. So what’s the deal with business grants? Are grants available? Are you or your business eligible?

The answer to these questions depends on many variables, so we’ll get to that in a moment. First, let’s start off by defining, in loose terms, what a government business grant is (or in some cases, is not). Federal business grants are funded by tax dollars. Because of that, grant eligibility and approval is a very tightly run ship.

Furthermore, government business grants are appropriated through, well, the government (specifically Congress and the White House). As such, many of these grants are closely aligned to the agendas of a specific government agency like the U.S. Department of Education or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

If it seems like receiving a business grant, specifically a government-funded one, is tricky. And it can be. Here are some general guidelines and requirements that the federal government uses to determine business grant eligibility:

 

Alternatives to Federal Small Business Grants

If your business doesn’t necessarily fit into the requirements listed above (many do not), there is still hope. State and local programs do exist, as do grant opportunities through other groups and organizations. For example, many large corporations offer grants through an affiliated foundation (i.e. Walmart Foundation Grants), as well as a number of networks that specialize in grants for women.

Additionally, businesses that can attribute to positive gains in local tourism, child care, and energy conservation, and healthy nutrition may also find grants to support their initiatives.

 

Where to Find Additional Information on Grant Opportunities

If you think your business qualifies for financial assistance through a grant, or if you’re simply not sure if you’re eligible, you can look for additional information by:

  • Visiting Grants.gov. Here, you’ll be able to search over 2,000 grants. You’ll also be able to enter keywords like “small business grants” to help you find specific results, as well as a list of requirements, tips, and other pertinent information to help you.
  • Check out SBA.gov. Specially developed to help small business owners, this site can help you find essential information about grants, loans and other financial assistance available. You’ll also have access to a community of small business owners who’ve probably had experience with the small business grant application hunt.
  • Visit your local and state government websites. As mentioned above, specific grants may be available through local and state governments. Check their sites to see what may be available for your business financing needs.
  • Search corporate or nonprofit organizations within your specific industry or location. Often times, you can search grant networks to help you on your search.

If you’ve exhausted all your options and you’re still not able to find a grant to help fund your venture, don’t give up hope! The truth is, many current or potential business owners find themselves in the same boat. Sometimes grants simply aren’t the answer. Luckily, there are other perfectly viable means to obtain the funds necessary to finance your business plans.

How to Get a Business Credit Card on Easy Step

More and more small businesses are turning to business credit cards as a way of having back up financing and improving their business credit scores at the same time. Many business credit cards offer perks just for using them, including frequent flyer miles and cash rewards. Business credit cards are great for business owners who need back up credit for emergency situations or to offset irregular cash flow. Additionally, making on time or early payments on a business credit card will help your business build its credit so that your business can secure better terms with vendors and suppliers, government and high profile private contracts, and the right business financing at the right price.

But how does one go about getting a business credit card? While the process is relatively painless there are many choices to take into consideration. Let’s take a look at some of the steps you’ll need to take in order to obtain a business credit card.

1 Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and look up your credit scores.

The people to whom you’re applying for a business credit card will want to know how responsibility you behaved with your credit. A low credit score will not automatically keep you out of the running for all cards, but if you find yourself getting denied, you can check out this list of business credit cards with lower credit standards.

2 Choose the right business credit card.

Spend some time thinking about how you plan to use your card so you can pick one that meets your needs. Do you want rewards? If so, cash back or miles (or something else)? Do you pay in full or plan to carry balances from time to time? If the latter, a low interest rate will be important. You’ll also want to understand whether the cards you are interested in are available based on your credit scores.

Time Saving Tip: Check out Nav’s business credit card marketplace if you need help choosing a business credit card or signup for a free Nav account and get matched to credit card and financing offers based on your credit.

3 Apply for your new business credit card!

These applications usually ask for basic business and personal information such as your name and date of birth, the name of your business, its address, and your EIN (or SSN if you don’t have an EIN). If you’re the company owner, you will likely be required to give your personal social security number as well. You’ll also need to provide information regarding the type of business you’ve started—the options being sole proprietorship, partnership, and corporation—along with the number of years you’ve been in business and a little bit about your industry.

If you’re a startup wondering how to get a business credit card, know that business credit card applications are going to require your personal household income information. Usually when you’re filling out your application, you’re asked to enter your business income for the previous year. Since you didn’t have a business income last year, your creditor will have to look to your personal household income when making their decision.

Small business owners facing expenses

Nowhere is the saying “you need money to make money” more true than in the crowded, competitive, fast-moving world of small business. As you seek to establish and grow your enterprise, access to capital (or the lack thereof) will be one of your biggest hurdles.

For small business owners facing expenses that just can’t wait, traditional approaches—SBA loans from banks, for example—can be burdensome, inconvenient, and ultimately disappointing. On the other hand, while the APR for a bank loan is usually around 6 or 7%, the APR for an online loan can climb above 30%!

It’s a simple fact that the faster you need a loan, the more you’re going to pay for it. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to regret it, though—if it grows your business, keeps you afloat at a crucial stage of development, and ultimately carries you forward, the cost will have been more than worth it. Let’s take a closer look at a few lenders and see what they have to offer by way of fast business loans.

Kabbage isn’t a “business loan” product, rather they are offer a business line of credit. They are worth mentioning here because business owners can receive funds from Kabbage the same day they apply.

Minimum requirements: At least 1 year in business, with a minimum of $50,000 in annual business revenue

Time for approval and funding: Kabbage’s online application process usually takes around 7 minutes to complete, and you can get funds the same day.

Required paperwork: Along with basic information—business address, tax ID, credit scores, and SSN—Kabbage looks at the online systems used by your business. It takes data about your business from online systems like Amazon, PayPal, QuickBooks, Etsy, etc., in order to evaluate your creditworthiness.

How much can you borrow: $2K to $100K. Kabbage will give you a maximum credit limit that you can borrow against, always keeping in mind that you only need to draw on the credit line as needed, without ever having to use the full amount. You only pay interest on the funds you use.

How long can you borrow it: either 6 or 12 months, with payments automatically deducted from your bank account on a monthly basis.

APRS and fees: The APR for Kabbage loans ranges from 30% to 100%. Most of these fees are charged in the first two months, although you can save money by paying the loan off early.

Personal guarantee and collateral: While Kabbage doesn’t require a personal guarantee, it does place a lien on your general business assets for loans over $20K. Your business assets can be seized if you don’t repay the loan, but your personal assets can’t.

The lowest cost loans such as bank loans for bad credit

Although it may seem like you need to have stellar credit and multiple years in business to secure financing, in today’s lending environment that statement is far from true. In fact, there are over 44 different financing options available to business owners, and not all of them require an A+ personal or business credit grade.

Very poor credit will likely put you out of the running for the lowest cost loans such as bank loans and SBA loans, however you will find that some of those 44 financing options are still wide open to you and your business.

Bad Credit Business Loans: The Trade-Off

There is a trade off. Business owners with bad personal credit can often secure financing, but the more risk the lender assumes because of your poor credit scores, the more likely you are to pay a higher annual percentage rate (APR) to cover the extra risk.

This can seem counterintuitive—why would lenders charge more to the business owners who historically have the most trouble paying back debts? Doesn’t it make sense for the lender to charge less so the bad credit borrowers will have a better chance of paying it back?

That may sound better from the borrower’s perspective, but unfortunately it’s the lender’s money, and thus the lender’s ball game. Lenders charge a higher interest rate to individuals with low credit scores to offset a higher expected default rate. (Keep in mind that, although lenders are giving you a capital infusion to help you grow your business, they are trying to grow their business as well, which means maximizing their return on investment.)

Let’s take a look at some of the better options when it comes to business loans for bad credit.

Business Loan Options for Bad Credit

Microlenders:

Microlenders are institutions, often operating not for profit, that help low-income or underserved small business owners secure loans.. These loans are “micro” in the sense that they are usually only available in smaller amounts. Up to $35,000 is typical.

There are many microlenders, and each has their own set of rules and requirements. For example, Accion is a microlender that serves small businesses that need assistance with startup costs. A personal credit score of 575 or higher is required, so if you meet their other requirements this can be an option if your scores are lower than average.

The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) helps business owners find microlenders by state and business focus. Try a quick search and check out the microlenders’ individual websites to find out what their specific credit requirements are.

Kiva

Kiva is a microlender that deserves its own callout because of its unique model. It offers entrepreneurs 0% interest loans up to $10,000. The only catch is that entrepreneurs must crowdfund their own loans from the philanthropic individuals who use Kiva’s platform. Kiva has over one million donors and boasts a 94% success rate. To qualify, you must have a business plan and invite friends and contacts for initial funding.

Kiva also reports your payment history to Experian Business. This is great news for the future of your business—if you make on-time payments, you start to build a higher business Intelliscore credit score.

BlueVine

BlueVine is an option for B2B businesses who have long invoice cycles and often find themselves waiting to get paid for services or products they’ve already delivered. If this sounds familiar to you, or you experience irregular cash flow and would like to free up some of your cash, BlueVine advances up to 85% of your outstanding invoices up to $100,000. To qualify, you’ll need a 530 personal credit score, and your business must be a U.S.-based business-to-business (B2B) business.

Interest and fees paid for a small business loan

As a small business owner, every dollar you save on interest and fees paid for a small business loan is a dollar back into your business. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you’re getting the best deal that your business can qualify for and fulfills your business’s needs.

But with over 44 different financing options, the research involved in finding that best deal and how to get it could take days, if not weeks. That’s not easy, especially when you’ve got a business to run.

To save you time, we’ve put together a list of what we think are the best small business loans for business owners. Check out the list below and sign up for a free Nav account to find out if you qualify.

Funding Circle sits at the top of our list as one of the only online lenders as a lender that has consistenly improved their loan offerings by lowering costs for the best borrowers and expanding what they can offer. Their loans range $25,000 – $500,000 with 1 – 5 year repayment terms. Funding Circle’s interest rates range from 5.49% – 22.79%. Their origination fees range from 0.99% – 4.99%. If you miss a payment, there is a missed payment fee charged at 10% of the total missed payment, and if your payment bounces, there is a  $35 insufficient funds fee.

Businesses can be funded in under two weeks. Funding Circle requires collateral on their loans in the form of a lien on your business assets and a personal guarantee from the primary business owners.

Requirements to qualify:

  • 2 years in business (or qualified franchises)
  • $150,000+ in annual revenue
  • Owner must have a personal FICO score of 620 or above
  • Owner must have a history free of bankruptcies, current tax liens, judgments or criminal activity.

Specific types of businesses or for more specific purposes

The SBA, Small Business Administration, provides loans to small businesses through financial institutions such as banks, microlenders, and online lenders. These SBA loans are government guaranteed, meaning lenders will offer them to small businesses at low interest rates because the government has promised to pay back 85% of the loan in the event of default.

 

The three most talked about SBA loan types are:

    1. 7(a) Loans: the most popular loan provided by the SBA, available to new and established businesses with a FICO SBSS Score of 140 or above.
    2. 504/CDC(Certified Development Company) Loans: long term financing available for businesses to purchase real estate or high-cost assets they need to run their business.
    3. Microloans: small loans up to $50,000 available through non-profit community lenders to new and established businesses.

But wait… there’s more! In fact, there are over 12 different types of funding provided by the SBA.

The following list of additional SBA loans are either for specific types of businesses or for more specific purposes. Some of these loans fall under the umbrella of one of the above loans. It’s worth taking a look to see if you qualify for one or more of these loans.

 

Special Eligibility Loans

Community Advantage Loans

Part of the 7(a) loan program, this loan type is for newer businesses in low-to-moderate income areas. Employees of the business must be considered low income or reside in an area that is a low-to-moderate income (LMI) area. Whereas most 7(a) loans require a FICO SBSS score of 160 or above, you’ll only need a 140 or above to qualify for a community advantage loan. Community Advantage lenders offer these loans up to $250,000.

 

Rural Business Loans

Another loan categorized under the 7(a) program, these loans are for businesses in rural areas that need funding for working capital, equipment, real estate, and certain types of debt refinancing.

These loans are actually provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The business’s majority stakeholder must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and the borrower must reside in an area with fewer than 50,000 inhabitants. If you think your business qualifies, the best place to start is by contacting your state Rural Development Field Office.

 

CAPLines

A CAPLine is like a (potentially enormous) line of credit. Businesses can secure up to $5 million for short-term working capital needs. These are meant to help businesses take on more public and private contracts and purchase orders. A CAPLine can take on four forms:

    1. Revolving line of credit — similar to inventory financing or invoice financing. Your assets or account receivables will be looked at to determine how much you can get on your line of credit.

 

    1. Seasonal line of credit — for businesses that need to build up inventory for an upcoming season of high sales.

 

    1. A contract loan — for businesses that need to fill contracts or purchase orders.

 

  1. A builders line of credit — for contractors looking to construct or rehabilitate a commercial or residential property.

CAPLines fall under the 7(a) umbrella.

Separate your personal and business finances and build business credit

Business road warriors are used to packing their bags. But wouldn’t it be more exciting to get ready for your upcoming trip if you knew there were sweet rewards involved?

That’s where business credit cards come in. You probably know of or have a personal credit card that rewards you for your purchases with miles or points that you can spend on flights or hotel stays. But business credit cards for travel sometimes offer even better rewards than personal cards, along with a host of other perks including helping you separate your personal and business finances and build business credit.

Here are some of the best business credit cards for travel we’ve identified for frequent flyers that could be a big win for your business.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card From American Express

This offer is currently unavailable on our site.

The Platinum Delta SkyMiles card from American Express is a great card for frequent Delta travelers who plan to make a large amount in purchases ($50,000+) on their card each calendar year. This card has a killer signup offer—Limited Time Offer: Earn 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer ends 11/8/2017. Terms Apply. MQMs help you get closer to reaching Medallion status in the Delta SkyMiles program.

Added benefits:

  1. Earn 1 mile for every $1 on all purchases, and 2 miles for every $1 Delta purchases. Miles don’t expire. Terms Apply.
  2. No foreign transaction fees.
  3. Earn more miles with boost programs: 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after $25,000 in purchases each calendar year, as well as another bonus after $50,000.
  4. Earn a domestic, round-trip companion pass each year you renew the card.
  5. Added Delta bonuses: free checked bag, priority boarding, 20% savings (via a statement credit) on eligible purchases made in-flight.

A great source for emergency cash

Business credit cards are an underutilized option when it comes to making purchases for your business. In addition to providing a great source for emergency cash, business credit cards offer a few additional perks.

1. Minimize the impact on your personal credit. Businesses tend to make larger purchases than individuals. If you end up with large outstanding balances on your personal card because of business expenses, your personal credit score could take a hit. Use a business credit card that doesn’t report to personal credit bureaus and, as long as you are on time with your payments, your personal credit will not be affected. (Some business credit card companies will report your business credit information to personal credit bureaus. Find out which ones do here.)

2. Build your business credit. Making on-time payments on your card will help you build strong business credit scores, allowing you to secure lower rates and longer repayment terms on business financing, as well as better terms with your vendors and suppliers.

3. Protect your business. Business credit cards offer more protection than business debit cards. They are covered by the Truth in Lending Act, which caps maximum liability for fraudulent purchases at $50.

 

The Best Business Credit Cards

Business credit cards offer a variety of different features from rewards points to miles to freebies. The following are some of this year’s top business credit cards for four popular categories: cash back, travel rewards, low APR/balance transfer cards and credit builder cards.

Good reasons for you to consider using a business credit card

As the founder of a startup, there are plenty of good reasons for you to consider using a business credit card. Not only can it help you keep personal and business finances separate, it can come in handy for covering cash flow, building your credit history, and saving money through various perks and rewards.

Not all business credit cards for startups are equal, however, and you’ll want to choose one that best fits the needs of your business. If you’re required to travel often, for example, you might want to go with a card that offers great airfare and hotel rewards. If you’re looking to transfer existing debt from a high cost loan or credit card, you’ll want to choose a card with a low or zero balance transfer fee. Others who plan to carry a balance might choose one with a low interest rate.

 

Why wouldn’t I just use my personal credit card?

Well, glad you asked. Here are three serious advantages to using a business credit card for business purchases:

  1. Having a business credit card allows you to keep your personal and business expenses separate. You’ll be able to track business expenses more easily, making tax time, as well as maintaining a company budget, much less of a headache.
  2. By getting a card in the name of your business you’ll start to establish a business credit scoreseparate from your personal one. That means that if you have to make a late payment, your business credit will take the hit instead of your personal credit (there are exceptions—read about which business credit cards report to personal credit bureaus here).
  3. As you start to establish a business credit profile, you’ll build your business’s credibility. When it comes time to apply for other business financing, solid business credit scores can help you qualify for more financing at better rates.

Let’s take a closer look at a few business credit cards that might help you take your company to the next level.