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Choosing between public safety and profit should be a no-brainer, but it can come at a serious cost for small business owners amid the growing coronavirus pandemic.
From yoga studios to wedding venues, restaurants to manufacturers, many small business are struggling, and owners aren't sure how they will survive this period of social distancing that has effectively frozen revenue across several industries.
"Our firm is seeing an influx of calls from business owners that are struggling financially due to COVID-19," says a representative of Tayne Law Group, a New York City-based debt-relief law firm.
It's enough to make a small business owner wonder whether now is the right time to open a new business credit card to help weather the storm.
Below, CNBC Select spoke with debt-relief attorney and founder of Tayne Law Group, Leslie H. Tayne to ask what small business owners should consider when making this decision.
"The impact is being felt far and wide in nearly every industry we represent," Tayne tells CNBC Select.
"Retail businesses seem to be getting hit the hardest because so many have been told to stay home and are simply not buying right now. Those who rely on daily pedestrian traffic for sales, like the local delis, the cleaners, taxi companies, the kids' gymnastics places, catering and more, are all feeling the impact."
Other major concerns of a global outbreak like coronavirus are the anticipated supply chain squeezes and resulting delays in production. The Food and Drug Administration predicts supply shortages for medical products, and similar manufacturing disruptions could happen across various sectors. The impacts are still uncertain.
There are a variety of ways to fund your business during the coronavirus pandemic, including the Small Business Administration's Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. A business credit card may be right for you if you have good to excellent credit, and you want to earn points on everyday business expenses like office supplies and business lunches.
If this applies to you, here are three tips to consider when choosing to use a business credit card during the COVID-19 outbreak:
"Many small business credit cards have built-in flexible spending and pay-over-time benefits, along with flexible interest rates on certain purchases," says Tayne.
One example is The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. Unlike typical credit cards, the Card lets you benefit from an extended payment option. Amex's Pay Over Time feature lets you pay for eligible expenses over $100 on a flexible payment plan with interest. (See rates and fees for the Pay Over Time APR.)
"This can be helpful in times when businesses may be relying more on credit than usual," Tayne tells CNBC Select.
The Amex Business Platinum Card currently comes with a welcome bonus that also allows you to earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
These points can be used to pay for business expenses at the checkout on sites like Amazon and NYC Taxi, or redeemed for gift cards, statement credits or travel. The value of your points depends on your redemption method, but Amex provides a points value calculator for you to estimate how much they are worth.
"Business owners should look into whether their [business credit] card offers these options," Tayne says.
"Small business owners should be cautious with how they approach debt during this time," Tayne cautions. Be especially wary of quick fixes, like cash advances which charge hefty fees in addition to higher interest.
One way to limit the cycle of high-interest debt while covering immediate purchases is to apply for a business credit card with a 0% introductory interest period. If you have good or excellent credit, you could consider the Ink Business Cash® Credit Card and take advantage of 0% APR for the first 12 months from account opening on purchases (after 13.24% to 19.24% variable). You can also earn a $750 welcome bonus after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first three months after account opening.
More importantly, the benefits of the Ink Business Cash will continue to serve you well after the pandemic is over: Earn 5% cash back on everyday spending for the first $25,000 in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year (then 1%). You'll also get 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year (then 1%) and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card provides one of the most generous reward programs for business owners: Cardmembers earn 3X points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases in select categories each account anniversary year. These include travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable, phone services and advertising purchases with social media sites and search engines, then 1X point per $1 on all other purchases.
"Business owners should consider what's going to keep their business afloat and cause the least amount of long-term negative financial impact," says Tayne. "However, they should still be working to minimize what they're charging, because the more you spend, the more interest you'll accrue, and the more you'll spend over time."
While stress is normal amid uncertainty, Tayne suggests reaching out to local and national resources for businesses and small business lending, such as the Small Business Administration, to help you make thoughtful decisions in this time of unease.
And even as social distancing keeps community members separated physically, small business owners are finding ways to support one another. For example, businesses in Asheville, North Carolina and Louisville, Kentucky have launched websites with local business listings to encourage community members to buy gift cards that help mitigate the anticipated decline in revenue.
Learn more: How to check your business credit score for free
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