Can I open one rewards card for multiple businesses?
Your Business Credit
Dear Your Business Credit,
I have multiple businesses and use traditional debit/credit cards against a commercial checking account. The problem is I have eight of them and realize that collectively I miss out on tons of opportunities to accumulate miles or points. But to open eight credit card accounts does not make sense. Is there a way I can have one card and somehow use it for all business expenses? -- Ralph
There's nothing stopping you from using a single card for all of your business purchases but I would not recommend that, tempting as the rewards may be. Keeping the finances of each business separate is very important for a couple of reasons.
One of the biggest benefits of using a credit card for business purchases is it helps you to easily keep track of expenses at tax time. If you combine the expenses from all eight firms onto the same card, sorting through your annual credit card statement before you file could become a nightmare. Similarly, if you ever get audited, you will be glad you have put up a wall between the finances of the various businesses and your records are crystal clear.
Maintaining separate financial records for each business is also important if you ever want to sell any of your firms. Potential buyers don't want to acquire a money pit. They will want to get an accurate sense of what you actually spend to run any business they acquire. Using the same card for all of the businesses could raise questions about whether you are trying to obscure the true overhead of the firm that is for sale.
That said, opening and keeping track of eight separate credit cards does seem like a headache. Could you do without a card for a few of the businesses with lower overhead and make purchases for them by check or debit card instead? If you don't spend much at these businesses, you probably won't be losing out on many points by doing this.
Meanwhile, you could look for opportunities to rack up points in two other ways.
I have seen several businesses with the same owner share an equipment purchase. For instance, the owner will buy a computer that is used for work on three different businesses, but is technically owned by one firm. If there are a number of shared purchases like this, making them all on the card for a single business could allow you to rack up lots of points on that business's card. In contrast, rotating your purchases among several cards would make it harder to earn valuable rewards on any of them.
You could also try to pool points you rack up on cards you have taken out in your name from a single issuer. For instance, let's say you like American Express cards. American Express will let you pool points from several different cards to collect its rewards. If you opened an American Express gold card for one business and an Optima card for use at another, you could combine the points from both for a reward. Although many entrepreneurs prefer to use a small-business card for work-related purchases, it isn't mandatory. (Rules for rewards programs vary quite a bit, so make sure you read them carefully before trying this strategy or you could be disappointed).
Racking up points can be fun, but don't let rewards programs become a distraction. With eight businesses, you've got more important things to do -- like keep your customers happy.
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Published: November 3, 2014
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