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Making Your Credit Card Work For You: Tips For Business and Personal Users

Finance

Opening a credit card certainly has its perks, but it also comes with a great deal of responsibility. Whether you are opening the card for business or personal, use credit cards can wreak havoc on your personal or business finances – which is the last thing you want. The key to successfully navigating and managing credit cards – for you or your business – is to be thoroughly educated on the basics. Here are some tips to get you started.


"Having healthy business credit will be beneficial to your company in the long run if you need to rent space or equipment, open accounts with suppliers or take out a business loan" - Leslie Tayne

Business Use

Choose the Best Card for Your Business

As in any major decision for your business, it's best to do some research first. Check out some reviews of some of the top business credit cards offered to see what may best suit your needs. Some cards specifically cater to small business owners, while corporate cards are offered for larger companies. Researching the interest rates and rewards offered can be helpful in choosing what makes the most sense for your business. Additionally, it may be best to use a card provided by the institution where you already do your business banking. Keeping all of your finances under one roof can be beneficial for managing your accounts and for contacting the company for customer service.

Keep Track of Your Interest

If you are carrying a balance from month to month on your business credit card, monitoring your interest will be crucial. It is important to remember that you need to account not only for the charges you've made but also the interest they will accrue, meaning you should be aware of your exact interest rate. If you open a card that is interest-free for the first year, be sure you are attentive to when interest will start to be added. Keeping track of your interest and including it in your monthly budget will allow you to have a better grasp on your business's overall financial situation.

Build Good Credit

Making consistent and timely payments – and paying off your full balance when possible – will help build good credit for your business. Many services offer free credit reports to help track progress with your credit. Having healthy business credit will be beneficial to your company in the long run if you need to rent space or equipment, open accounts with suppliers or take out a business loan.

Keep Your Business Credit Separate From Your Personal Credit

Be aware of whether your business credit is tied to you personally. Unfortunately, if you're not careful, business credit can affect your personal credit score without you knowing, so be sure to look into this when opening a business credit card.

"Some cards specifically cater to small business owners, while corporate cards are offered for larger companies. Researching the interest rates and rewards offered can be helpful in choosing what makes the most sense for your business." - Leslie Tayne

Personal Use

Find the Card That's Right For You – And Stick With It

As with a business credit card, do your research before you decide to open a personal card. Consider interest rates and rewards bonuses. If you plan to use your credit card mostly for travel, look into cards that have airline or hotel rewards. If you are looking for a card for more general use, one that offers straight percentage cash back may be best. Once you have found the card that suits your needs best, try to stick with just the one or as few cards as possible. Having fewer cards makes managing your payments much more manageable and can help you maximize your rewards.

Pay Off Your Balance Every Month

If you can, pay off your balance in full every month. Doing so allows you to avoid racking up interest on your bill.

Never Skip a Payment

Even if you can't pay off your full balance, it is always best to make sure you are at least able to make the minimum payment every month. By ensuring you never miss a payment, you will avoid late fees and will decrease the amount of your interest payments. Missing a payment can also lead to a dock on your credit score, and missing multiple and building up late fees can be disastrous. Make a habit never to charge more than you have available in your bank account.

Only Use The Card When Absolutely Necessary

You can think of a credit card as a personal loan to yourself when you may not feel comfortable having that money taken from your checking account. But consider only using this tactic for essential purchases, such as paying a bill that is coming due or buying significant items for your home. Using your credit card for frivolous spending can lead to trouble in the long run.

Never Use Your Full Limit

To keep your credit score healthy, it is best never to use more than 30 percent of your credit limit. Your utilization rate is a crucial component to determine your credit score. Keeping your usage to a smaller percentage of your credit line will help keep payments and interest manageable.

"As with a business credit card, do your research before you decide to open a personal card" - Leslie Tayne

Never Use Your Full Limit

To keep your credit score healthy, it is best never to use more than 30 percent of your credit limit. Your utilization rate is a crucial component to determine your credit score. Keeping your usage to a smaller percentage of your credit line will help keep payments and interest manageable.

"Even if you can't pay off your full balance, it is always best to make sure you are at least able to make the minimum payment every month. By ensuring you never miss a payment, you will avoid late fees and will decrease the amount of your interest payments." - Leslie Tayne

The key takeaways to remember when opening credit cards for yourself or your business is to be educated and to be proactive. By knowing the kind of card you are using, and understanding both the interest rates and the rewards offered, you will have a solid grasp on your financial situation as it relates to your credit. And by taking in active role in managing your credit – tracking your payments and interest, keeping an eye on your usage, budgeting effectively – you can ensure that you are making your credit cards work for you, and not the other way around.

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Politics

Do 2020 Presidential Candidates Still Have Rules to Play By?

Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.


When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.

2016: What rules?

Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.

Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.

And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.

And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?

Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.

Digital policies for 2020 and beyond

While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.

Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy

Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:

  • If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
  • While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
  • If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
  • Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
  • Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?

Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.

Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply

The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:

  1. Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
  2. Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
  3. Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
  4. Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
  5. Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
  6. Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
  7. Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
  8. Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.

Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles

Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.