"And how will you be paying today?"
For small businesses that use credit cards to pay for thousands of dollars' worth of purchases each year, the answer to this oft-repeated question can translate into a free plane ticket for the next conference or even extra cash in the bank.
Or, if they don't have the right credit card in their company vault, it could mean a lost opportunity to get something back for all the supplies and services they are racking up.
"Many small businesses spend upward of $10,000 each month on their credit cards," says Alyssa Richard, founder of Toronto-based RateHub.ca, a financial products comparison website. "If you're a small-business owner, you're really losing a lot if you don't optimize your credit-card rewards and benefits."
Making the most of credit-card perks starts with choosing the right piece of plastic for the business, Ms. Richard says. Five entrepreneurs – including Ms. Richard – from different parts of the country offer advice on their plastic of choice and indulge in a bit of wishful thinking about their ideal credit card.
Geoff Whitlock, president and founder, Surround Integrated
What's in the vault? TD Business Travel Visa with interest rate starting at 19.99 per cent, and annual fees of $149 for the first card and $49 for each additional card
What's so great about it? We earn points for anything we're buying on the card and we can exchange the points for cash. You just call customer service and they put the cash back on your card. We take trips all over the place and if we book through Expedia For TD, we get nine points for every dollar we spend. By my calculations, if we spend $300,000 on the Visa, we get back $5,000. We have 18 staff members and everybody's using it, so we get so much out of this card.
What more do you want? There's no automatic connection from our Visa account online to our Quickbooks accounting software. That would be really good to have.
Jennifer Wilson, owner and designer, VonBon Children's Apparel Inc.
What's in the vault? CIBC bizline Visa Card for Small Business, with no annual fees on up to 10 cards and interest on purchases starting as low as CIBC prime plus 1.5 per cent
What's so great about it? My business is new – only two-and-a-half years old – so it's important for me to control my costs. I like that this card doesn't charge an annual fee. I'll probably be getting an additional card for my team member who does a lot of the ordering for the office, and this card lets me set authorized user spending limits. I think that will be useful.
What more do you want? Now that my business has grown, I'm spending tens of thousands of dollars each month on fabric and can see myself doing more travelling in the next year or so. I'll be looking at cards that will give me rewards for my business spending. Cash back would be nice, because money is always nice for a small business.
Nathalie Morin, co-owner, Rousseau Chocolatier
What's in the vault? BMO Air Miles Mastercard for Business, with 19.9 per cent interest and no annual fee
What's so great about it? I've had a personal Air Miles account for years and years, and when BMO offered to link that to our business Mastercard, I thought it was a bonus. Having no annual fee – that's a plus, especially because we're just starting out. My husband is from Europe where credit cards are not a big thing, so getting him on board with a credit card for the business has been difficult. But we have suppliers out of the province and we need a credit card to order online from these suppliers. As our business grows and more employees use the card, the employee card abuse protection will come in handy.
What more do you want? To be honest, there's not a lot of difference between my business and personal BMO credit cards. What I would like to see in a small-business card are benefits that are really meaningful to a small business. Most small businesses can't afford advertising, so why not offer a credit card that gives a percentage discount off our ad on Facebook or other social media?
Rhonda Smith, chief operating officer, Trace Associates Inc.
What's in your vault? RBC Visa Business Platinum Avion, which charges 19.99 per cent interest on purchases, and annual fees of $120 for the first card and $50 for each additional card
What's so great about it? It's not so much that I do a lot of travel, but it's a great product because we can get points for all our purchases. We then use these to pay for what little travel we do, like when our people want to attend a conference or if we want to bring someone over for a job interview. We have also redeemed the points for merchandise, which we give as rewards to employees for a job well done. We've also used our points to buy cameras, which we use when we go to job sites. So we use the points strategically, as a way to save money.
What more do you want? The ability to categorize our expenses would be very helpful. Actually, it would be really powerful if card owners could upload their receipts online so we're not fumbling around looking for receipts to match to the statement.
Alyssa Richard, founder, RateHub.ca
What's in the vault? Starwood Preferred Guest from American Express, TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite and BMO World Elite MasterCard, all with a 19.99 per cent interest rate on purchases. Amex and TD charge annual fees of $120 for the first cardholder and $50 for each additional user, while BMO's annual fee is $150.
What's so great about these cards? The Starwood Preferred Guest card by Amex offers one of the highest returns per dollar I spend, at just over 2.25 per cent. The downside is it isn't accepted everywhere and points can be used only at Starwood hotels. With the TD Visa, you get 4.5 per cent for every dollar spent on travel but on other purchases you get back only 1.5 per cent. So I try to use this card only for travel. The BMO Mastercard offers a great return of 2 per cent for all dollars spent across all purchases and it's widely accepted. It's the only one I use for other purchases, such as office supplies.
What more do you want? It would be great to get statements with receipts attached to it, or with links online that will take you to your receipts. If a credit card company were to negotiate with companies like Salesforce and Staples on behalf of all its small-business customers and pass those discounts to cardholders, it would be much appreciated. Also, extend travel insurance to all employees of the company if the travel was booked through the credit card.