MüvTravel: Flying high on credit card funding
Entrepreneur Michel Karam tells how he relied on his cards for startup funding
Erica Sandberg is a prominent personal finance authority and author of “Expecting Money: The Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families.” She writes “Small Business Credit Profiles,” a weekly column featuring small business owners' journey with credit and credit cards for CreditCards.com.
From Lebanon to France, then Canada and now the U.S., Michel Karam is a man who moves around the globe. Along the way, he discovered that making comprehensive travel arrangements is unnecessarily complicated. It usually requires visiting various websites to research the best flights, hotels, restaurants, attractions, activities and ground transportation options.
Booking is yet another series of time-consuming steps. In response, this summer Karam launched müvTravel, a one-stop trip planning website.
“We want to help people build travel experiences quickly and easily, all from one platform, whether it’s a weekend getaway or an extended European vacation,” says Karam. Simplicity is paramount, so müvTravel provides everything a person needs to seamlessly arrange an entire trip, including the amount of time a particular activity will likely require.
As a new startup, the company is in the intense growth stage. To keep müvTravel advancing, Karam relies on credit cards. Here’s how, why and which cards he uses.
What role do credit cards have in the operations of müvTravel?
Credit cards are very important to what we do, and have been from the beginning. I had cards before I started, but the limits were smaller back then. Because my personal credit was good, I was able to get those up to $40,000 really fast. I needed it. I had to pay for office equipment, supplies, computers, etc., and, yes, I charged it all.
When I travel, which is often due to the nature of my business, it’s always on the credit cards. I reserve everything and pay for it all with my cards. And then there are other transportation costs and restaurants. I always use my cards for those purchases, too.
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Which credit cards do you use and why? Any you have your eye on?
I like cards that have advantages for travelers, such as my Bank of America Travel Rewards card and a Canadian travel card, the Cibc Aerogold Visa Infinite Privilege. I also have a U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card because it comes with lounge access and priority access to customs, which are extremely useful perks when traveling often. Cards that allow users to accumulate points fast and redeem them for flights or hotel stays are appreciated. Nothing feels better than a getaway or vacation paid for with points. The points have to be easily redeemable and they are on all of these cards.
I think a Gold Delta Skymiles® Credit Card from American Express will be next because I can use points for Air France and other partners.
Are credit cards helpful in your business’s success?
Absolutely. We are not a travel agency so we do not take payment from users, but all of our partners require a credit card to book their services. Credit cards have become an essential payment tool for travel planning and booking. It is close to impossible today to book a hotel, a flight or any type of activity without some type of card.
People who start new businesses in the travel and tourism industries often complain about the high cost of credit card transaction fees. Indeed, these rates can often be a drag on their limited margins. But accepting credit cards is essential if they want to guarantee bookings or help their customers easily pay for services rendered. My advice to them is to join an industry association (whatever the business is, such as a restaurant or hotel) that can help with or negotiate better rates.
Any suggestions for other entrepreneurs on credit card management?
If you have multiple credit cards for your business, you should download all the accounts into an accounting system as soon as possible. We use QuickBooks, as it allows us to import all expenses and make payments. It’s super important for organization. In the first few months we didn’t have it and, trust me, it makes a big difference.
Be glad you have the credit cards, too. We had times where we needed the margin on the accounts because it helped with the cash flow. You may need to buy something now and then pay over a few months. There is nothing wrong with that. Credit cards are also good if you have employees who are buying things for the business. You’ll see what they’ve charged. It keeps everyone honest.