These 4 Small Business Credit Cards Are Perfect for Freelancers

A business credit card can make it easier to track costs and reward office expenses. Here are a few solid choices for freelancers.

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Americans are joining the gig economy in droves. In 2016, the Freelancers Union found that 35% of the U.S. workforce engaged in freelance work, an increase of more than 1 million people from the prior year. With freelancing on the rise, many workers may be managing business finance for the first time.

A separate credit card for business expenses offers several advantages. Most importantly, it makes tracking business costs easier and can help avoid headaches during tax season. Small business credit cards also reward freelancers for their business spending.

Here are four small business credit cards that can help freelancers fund their business.

1. Blue Business Plus Card

Perks: Two points per dollar on up to $50,000 in purchases each year, one point per dollar thereafter
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% intro APR for 15 months, then variable 11.99%, 15.99% or 19.99%
Why We Picked It: Cardholders earn points that can be redeemed for business and travel, and additional features make it easy to track business expenses.
Benefits: All purchases earn double points, which can be redeemed for travel, office supplies and other business expenses. There are several additional travel protections and insurance policies. You can upload receipts from your mobile phone and connect your transaction records with QuickBooks.
Drawbacks: Fewer merchants accept American Express compared to Visa or MasterCard.

2. Chase Ink Business Cash

Perks: 5% cash back on up to $25,000 at office supply stores and utility providers (phone, internet and cable TV), 2% cash back on up to $25,000 at gas stations and restaurants, 1% cash back on all other purchases
Signup Bonus: $300 bonus cash back when you spend $3,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: None
APR: 0% intro APR for 12 months, then variable 13.99% to 19.99%
Why We Picked It: The card earns extra cash back on a variety of business expenses.
Benefits: You’ll earn cash back on every business expense, with an extra incentive for office supplies, utility bills, gas and dining purchases. That covers many of the purchase types that help a small business run.
Drawbacks: The 5% and 2% cash back rates are capped at $25,000 in purchases each, and you’ll only get 1% back on purchases exceeding those limits.

3. Spark Cash for Business

Perks: 2% cash back on every purchase
Signup Bonus: $500 bonus cash back when you spend $4,500 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $59, waived in first year
APR: Variable 17.74%
Why We Picked It: With unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases, this card earns solid cash back no matter your business need.
Benefits: With 2% cash back on everything, every purchase puts money back in your wallet. Additional employee cards are free, and you’ll get a number of travel and purchase protection policies standard.
Drawbacks: You’ll start paying an annual fee in year two.

4. CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select

Perks: Double miles on every dollar spent with American Airlines, select telecommunications merchants, car rental agencies and gas stations, one mile per dollar spent on everything else. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
Signup Bonus: 60,000 miles when you spend $3,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $95, waived in first year
APR: 16.49%
Why We Picked It: Cardholders earn miles for flights and get a host of other travel perks to boot.
Benefits: Eligible purchases earn double miles and all other purchases earn one mile. Miles can be redeemed for American Airlines flights and upgrades. You’ll get preferred boarding, a free checked bag, 25% off in-flight purchases and many other American Airlines perks.
Drawbacks: The card is really only valuable for loyal American Airlines flyers.

How to Choose a Credit Card for Your Freelance Business

Getting a separate credit card for your business expenses is a smart move, but you’ll want to choose carefully.

The right credit card for you depends on your goals. If you’re frequently traveling to meet clients, a travel rewards business card might make the most sense. If you’re working out of a home office and need to save every penny, a card with no annual fee might be suitable. If you’re just launching your business, a card with a long 0% APR intro period could help you pay down your up-front expenses.

You don’t have to use a business card for your freelancing business. It’s a good idea to have a separate card, but small business credit cards can have higher fees and penalties, as they aren’t regulated by the federal Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, which regulates consumer cards. Small business credit cards are typically better for businesses that spend tens of thousands of dollars per year to operate. If you’re a sole proprietor with a low overhead, you may want to consider getting a personal credit card to use only for business expenses.

Remember, these cards generally require good to excellent credit to qualify. If you don’t know where your credit stands, you should check your credit before applying, which you can do for free on Credit.com.

Image: Izabela Habur

At publishing time, the Capital One Spark Cash for Business and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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5 Things to Consider Before Starting That Side Gig

Finances

These days, it’s not uncommon for people to try to make a little extra cash outside of their regular 9 to 5. While it’s not necessarily a bad idea, there are definitely some things you should consider before hopping into a side gig if your goal is to make sure it really is profitable. Here are a couple things to keep in mind that will help you ensure you’re getting the most you can out of your part-time job.

Consideration 1: Will this side gig improve or enhance your current work skills?

Why you should consider it: It’s not completely necessary that your side job further your current career goals (after all, passion projects don’t have to have anything to do with our day-to-day jobs … sometimes that’s what makes them more fun!). However, if there is some way to parlay the skills or talents that you’ll be using in your time away from work into attributes that will help you get ahead in your job, as well, then that’s all the more reason to start up that gig ASAP and add it to your resume.

Consideration 2: Will your hours be flexible?

Why you should consider it: It goes without saying that, even if you hope to some day turn your side gig into a full-time career, it’s important to protect the job that you currently have for as long as you have it. That means that any projects you take up on the side shouldn’t cause you to miss work or to be distracted from work while you’re in the office (sorry, no booking gigs on company time!). A perfect side gig will provide you with flexible days and hours so that you can fit everything in in your own free time.

Consideration 3: Do you need to invest a lot of money to get started?

Why you should consider it: You’ll need to really think about your motives behind your side gig before you can determine how important this consideration is to you. For example, if all you really care about is earning a little extra cash after work or on the weekends so you can afford the occasional getaway with friends, then you probably don’t want to start something up that requires a lot of investment capital up front. On the other hand, if your main goal with your side gig is to some day parlay it into your full-time job, then investing a couple hundred for fancy new camera equipment now so that you can become the next big wedding photographer in your town by next year might just be worth it. (This is assuming you can afford it, of course. If you’ll need to go into debt to fund your side gig, it might be worth waiting a little while longer before you start so that you can save up and start when you’re on better financial ground.)

Before you do jump ship at your current job to take up your side gig full-time, though, you might also want to check out this piece about five important things companies do for you that freelancers have to do for themselves.

Consideration 4: Have you thought about taxes?

Why you should consider it: You might be surprised how quickly a small side gig can snowball, and if you don’t consider saving for taxes on your new income as soon as possible, you could be stuck with a shocking IRS bill come tax season. Chat with your accountant ahead of time to discuss how much you estimate you’ll be bringing in, how much you should save up for taxes based on that number and whether or not you should consider making quarterly payments on your earnings.

Consideration 5: How much is your free time worth?

Why you should consider it: While it can be tempting to make some extra cash, or it might seem fun to finally do something about that hobby you’re passionate about, you might want to also consider how much free time taking on a side gig will leave you with. If you’re interested in a side job that allows you to pick and chose what projects you take on, that’s one thing, but keep in mind that if you’re building your own side business, that takes time and a whole heck of a lot of effort, which might not leave you with a lot of hours (or energy) for anything else. Before taking on an additional job, determine how much of your free time you’re willing to devote to it, and see if you can figure out a job that’s right for you based on that.

The post 5 Things to Consider Before Starting That Side Gig appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

5 Important Things Companies Do For You That Freelancers Have to Do for Themselves

Pretty Young Multiethnic Woman Holding Phone and Credit Card Using Laptop.

There’s a whole lot to love about being a freelance employee. From the flexible schedule to working in your PJs, being a contract worker is not only more cozy, but studies have actually shown that performance is higher in people who work from home, with home-workers clocking in more productivity per minute than those who work in an office environment.

So that’s the positive. The downside, of course, is that there are oh-so-many benefits that companies tend to set up on behalf of their employees — meaning that when you’re all on your own, toiling away on your home office computer, you have to think about these things all by yourself.

Here are five common ones that any would-be freelance or contract worker should consider before cutting the corporate cord.

1.Research your retirement options


Once you become a freelance worker you can say buh-bye to that cushy employer-sponsored 401(k) with the match and hello to a whole new world of retirement options. Retirement can become slightly more intimidating when you’re forced to plan for it completely on your own — or it’s more exciting, depending on how you chose to look at it. When you are self-employed, the following are some of the more common retirement plan options that you should look into:

  • A Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Arrangement (or SEP-IRA): If your business includes you and you alone (and not employees), then a SEP may be your best bet. Sole proprietors, S and C Corporations, and partnerships and LLCs all qualify for this type of plan, which allows you to contribute 25% (up to $53,000 for 2016) of your net earnings, based on certain stipulations. These contributions are tax-deductible, and investment earnings grow tax-deferred.
  • Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (or SIMPLE IRA): Business owners may put all their net earnings from self-employment up to $12,500 into the plan, along with either a 2% fixed contribution or a 3% matching contribution option. Find out more about the SIMPLE IRA here.
  • Solo 401(k): With a Solo 401(k), the business owner has the option of contributing to their retirement plan as both an employee and an employer, optimizing the amount of money he or she can sock away each year. For example, as a self-employed 401(k) holder, for 2016 a person could contribute 100% of earned income compensation up to $18,000 ($24,000 for those 50 and over), as well as 25% of compensation as the employer non-elective contributions, up to a certain amount. Total contributions for 2016 to a Solo 401(k) cannot exceed $53,000. Click here for more on the Solo 401(k) plan.

Whichever plan you decide to go with, retirement doesn’t go away just because you’ve gone into business for yourself — if anything, planning for it may have just become a bit trickier.

2. Save for taxes


Remember how awful it was to get that paycheck at work and come face-to-face with how much money was being deducted for taxes? Well, when you’re self-employed, that whole “tax” issue becomes even harder. The amount of taxes that you’ll owe as a self-employed person will vary greatly by income (which means this could change each year as well, depending on the type of work you do) and state, and it’s one of the most important things you’ll need to consider — and plan for — as a freelance worker. It’s probably best to chat with an accountant ahead of time about what your expectations should be come tax time based on how much you plan to earn (plus the fact that you’ll most likely be expected to pay quarterly taxes, as opposed to yearly, if you don’t want to incur added fees) — that way, you can start setting money aside from that very first (well deserved!) freelance check.

3. Get a health care plan


Health care is, for some reason, the Great American Debate. No matter what side of the political coin you fall on, if you’re self-employed, finding a health care plan that works for your income and needs is entirely up to you. You can get started at healthcare.gov to shop around for affordable options based on where you live and your answers to certain lifestyle questions, and remember that if you can afford health care and decide not to get some, you’ll be charged what’s called the “individual shared responsibility payment” fee, which will be charged when you file your federal tax return for the year you didn’t have coverage. (Find out more about the fee here.) While open enrollment for 2016 closed on January 31, certain lifestyle factors (such as a change in employment) may qualify you to enroll outside of the normal period. Click here to find out more.

4. Determine whether you’ll need to set up a corporation or an LLC


Once you’ve decided to take the plunge into self-employment, you should consider yourself a full-fledged business entity, and with that comes some hard questions, such as whether to incorporate, what type of corporation to become, or whether to just leave well enough alone as the sole proprietor of your business. Incorporating can help your business in many ways, not the least of which is the appearance of legitimacy (you take your business seriously enough to actually file it as a true business with the government), and it may even help reduce certain personal liabilities or alleviate income taxes. Of course there are downsides (such as added fees) as well. For the ins and outs of each type of option, read this.

5. Figure out your system for tracking invoices and payments


Last but not least on our list, becoming a sole business owner means that it’ll be up to you to track the growth of your business from month to month and year to year, including things such as invoices and payments, due dates, and tax deadlines. Take some time at the beginning to do a little research on the different software and servicing options available to freelancers (such as Freshbooks to track time spent and invoicing, and Dropbox to keep files safe), and ask around to see what other self-employed gurus have used. Developing a successful freelance business will require more than just the creativity and ingenuity that drew you to the idea in the first place — the best freelancers are also wizards at keeping up with the mundane details of day-to-day business, such as tracking expenses and write-offs, and following up on missing or late payments.

The post 5 Important Things Companies Do For You That Freelancers Have to Do for Themselves appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Freelancers: Here’s What You Need to Know About Buying a Home

freelancers

One of the main things you need in order to qualify for a mortgage is an income to support the payments—you’ll need documents showing this income when you try to get pre-approved. But self-employed and freelance workers don’t always have that option. Without work stubs, what can they do?

“In general, the qualifying criteria are the same for a self-employed borrower as it would be for a wage earner,” says Jesse Gonzalez, a mortgage broker with North Bay Capital in Santa Rosa, Calif. “The only real difference is going to be in the type of income documents that you’re going to collect.” You’ll need to provide two years of tax returns, including your Schedule C, as well as bank statements, to start. Read on for more tips on buying a home as a freelance or self-employed worker.

Proving Your Income

Not only will you need to prove your income is stable, your tax returns will need to as well. If this poses an issue, you may consider applying for loans for self-employed workers, which use bank statements as proof of income.

Besides saving up for a down payment and trying to improve your credit—you can check two of your scores on Credit.com to see where you stand—self-employed workers should keep good records and mind how they structure their taxes in the year or two leading up to the purchase. “Self-employed borrowers write off the majority of their income, so they pay less in income taxes,” Gonzalez explains. “When you write off a majority of your expenses, then you have less income to qualify for a mortgage.”

It’s wise, then, to speak with an accountant before filing your taxes. Some things can be added to income even after you’ve written them off for the sake of a mortgage, Gonzalez says. But freelancers should be prepared to make tradeoffs. One option is to get pre-qualified for a mortgage, which can turn up information the lender can use to determine if you’ll need one or two years of income documentation, he says.

Besides proving you have income, you’ll also need to show its consistency. “Newly self-employed people are typically difficult to underwrite,” Gonzalez says, so it’s best to have a year or two under your belt before applying.

Finally, if you’re shopping for homes with a wage earner, see if their income alone can qualify. He may not need to earn much, although the loan may only a cover home beneath your means since your income’s left out. However you decide to go through with the process, remember to bring the right paperwork and take time to shop around. You want to find the best deal for you.

More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

Image: iStock

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