Summer can be the right time to grow your business, save money and get ready for fall season. Loyalty programs and the right credit card can help. Here’s how.
Summertime can be a mixed bag when you run a small business.
“Summer is a great time for some businesses, but others experience a seasonal dip, or as some might describe it, a ‘summer slump,’” says Jenn Garbach, head of brand and customer marketing, Capital One Small Business Card.
A slowdown may not be ideal, but it can afford an opportunity to grow your business, save money and get a jump on fall planning. Taking advantage of summer sales can help you accomplish those goals. A rewards credit card may be key to your strategy.
These tips can help you coordinate summer sales and rewards card spending for maximum savings.
See related: How can my small business overcome seasonal cash-flow issues?
4 ways to save on your business this summer
Choose the right card for earning rewards
If you’re looking for an immediate savings benefit for your business over the summer, a cash back card may be preferable to one that earns points or miles.
Christina Stembel, founder and CEO of Farmgirl Flowers, relies on the Capital One Spark Cash for Business card to run her business, particularly during the slower summer months. She chose the card for its flexibility and unlimited 2 percent cash back rewards.
“From my perspective, cash is king,” says Stembel.
Cash back may make the most sense if you’re planning to focus summer spending on retail purchases or services for your business. A card that earns points or miles would be better suited for travel, dining and entertainment spending.
Garbach says using a card that offers unlimited cash back rewards could mean thousands of dollars you can put back into your business, “making a big difference during the slow season when every dollar counts.”
Scout out end of summer deals
Summer sales typically run from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but it’s important to get the timing right when planning business purchases.
Dennis Shirshikov, financial analyst for FitSmallBusiness.com, says some of the biggest summer deals for business owners center on computer software and hardware, as well as business equipment and end of summer travel. Back to school sales can also yield savings but it depends on what you’re buying.
“Large ticket office items like furniture jump in the summer,” says Shirshikov. “This is how major retailers make up for the little items that are heavily discounted.”
If you need to stock up on supplies such as pens, envelopes, printer paper or other office basics, end of summer may be prime time to find those things on the cheap. This is where a rewards card that pays cash back at office supply stores can be a money-saver.
Here are five cards you can leverage for cash back on office supplies:
- Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card: Earn 5 percent cash back on the first $25,000 in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year.
- SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express: Earn 5 percent cash back at U.S. office supply stores and on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers on the first $50,000 in combined purchases.
- Amazon Business American Express: Earn 5 percent back on Amazon Business purchases (including office supplies).
- Bank of America® Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card: Earn 3 percent cash back in one of six categories of your choice, including office supplies (on the first $50,000 in combined choice category/dining purchases each calendar year).
- U.S. Bank Business Cash Rewards World Elite™ Mastercard®: Earn 3 percent cash back on eligible gas station, office supply store and cellphone/service provider net purchases.
Several of these cards offer an opportunity to increase cash back earnings on office supplies and other business purchases in the form of an introductory bonus. But use them wisely, says Robert Livingstone, president of credit card processing consultancy IdealCost.com.
“We recommend always looking for new cards and updated bonuses,” Livingstone says. “You can earn thousands of dollars in sign-up bonuses alone when you plan ahead and research the best offers.”
Just know how much you’ll need to spend to satisfy the minimum spending requirement to land a bonus.
“Make sure you aren’t buying anything you wouldn’t otherwise purchase if you weren’t getting rewards,” says Livingstone. “The biggest mistake you can make is buying thousands of dollars in supplies you don’t need just to get a small reward or discount.”
Think twice about getting an office supply store’s credit card as well. While you may earn rewards or special savings, the higher interest rates typically associated with these cards can make business purchases more expensive if you pay over time.
Use cash back portals, business loyalty programs for more savings
Shirshikov says if you aren’t using loyalty rewards programs to your advantage, you’re letting money walk out the door. Some programs are tied to a specific retailer while others are linked to business credit cards.
Consider these programs for summer savings:
- Visa SavingsEdge: Enroll an eligible Visa business credit card for free to earn savings on business services, travel, dining, entertainment and electronics
- Mastercard Easy Savings: Enroll an eligible Mastercard business credit card for free to earn savings on business services, fuel, restaurants and travel
- Office Depot Rewards: Earn 2 percent back in rewards on office supplies, furniture and technology purchases
- Staples Rewards: Earn up to 5 percent back as a Premier Rewards member on in-store purchases, excluding stamps, phone and gift card purchases
- Dell Rewards: Earn 3 percent back on purchases, plus an additional 3 percent back on select PC purchases with 4+ years of a Dell support program
Cash back portals and coupon sites are another opportunity to save. You can stack deals or promo codes from these sites with loyalty programs and your business credit card rewards to squeeze as much value as possible from end of summer spending.
Some of the sites you may want to try include:
These apps can essentially put additional cash back in your hands for purchases you already planned to make.
Shirshikov has another money-saving tip: take advantage of price matching.
“Almost every major retailer will offer to price match the price online or that of closer competitors,” he says. “This can often reduce your total spending by as much as 20 percent per item, giving you more money to spend and invest in your business.”
That’s important if you’re making a pricey purchase, such as a copier or printer. If a retailer doesn’t price match, check to see if your rewards card offers price matching protection. This perk can help you score the lowest price possible on purchases.
Many cards have done away with this benefit, Citi being the latest. But there are a few that still offer it, including the Wells Fargo Visa Signature credit card and the U.S. Bank Cash 365 American Express Card. Just be sure to read the fine print so you know which purchases price protection covers.
Invest rewards back into your business
As you pile up rewards, consider how you can use them to benefit your business during the summer or all year-round.
Stembel says she earned $115,000 in cash rewards from her business credit card in 2018. She was able to leverage those rewards to invest in marketing her business online.
“Summers are notoriously slow in the flower business, so using my cash rewards to increase my digital marketing budget really helped me to avoid the seasonal downturn that’s so typical in our industry,” says Stembel.
At the very least, know which rewards redemption options offer the most value for the points, miles or cash back earned. When all else fails, keep it simple.
“We always recommend cash back cards where you can redeem rewards toward the statement balance and reduce overhead,” says Livingstone.
Information about the U.S. Bank Cash 365 American Express Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.