Business Credit Cards Might Put Your Personal Credit at Risk

Business never personal, except when it comes to the company credit card as the CARD Act has left small business owners unprotected

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Branding has become a popular topic, but I think many make executive and personal branding far more complicated than necessary.  The truth is you already have a brand.  The question is do you have the right brand?  Is your brand working for you?  What message does your brand send?  If you are frustrated with where you are in your career, it is probably time to reevaluate. Here’s the skinny: A successful brand is a simple brand.  The straightforward definition of any brand (personal, corporate, retail, whatever) is about one thing and one thing only: perception.  Yes, per-cep-tion.  It has been said that perception is reality.  But, it’s not your perception that matters when it comes to branding.  In reality, we often have an inaccurate view of ourselves. A common mistake is failing to properly assess, prioritize, and fully understand the perceptions of others. It can make or break you! It is not effort or intent that matters. What matters is effectiveness and impact.  Your brand only strong as what others think about you, what others say about you, and how others respond to you. We’ve been (mis)taught all our lives that only our opinion of ourselves counts; but in the world of branding, business-building, and barrier-breaking, perception is everything. For motivated professionals, it is especially important that you continue to define and redefine yourself in the workplace, the boardroom, the courtroom, or even the corner office. Strategically branding yourself is all about creating value-based identity.  This is not merely to get attention for attention’s sake, but instead to cement your presence in your organization (or the marketplace) based on the value you bring so that you can secure a future filled limitless possibilities. Right about now, you might be thinking about the mistakes you have made at one point in time or another. That’s okay. Brand mistakes inevitable, but they are not always fatal, unless you refuse to learn and fail to improve. With the lagging job market and stagnant economy, having a strong personal brand is more important than ever.  In order to recreate, reignite, and realign your career, I need you to do something for me.  I need you release your attachment to the way you’ve always operated, and start anew with a clearly defined brand. Here are three surefire strategies to help you accurately define Brand Y-O-U (Your Own Uniqueness). 1.      Restore Your Vision. If you can see it, you can be it. A Brand Vision is the perfect, ideal picture you have for yourself, your career, your relationships, your communication, your image, and your life.  The difference between dreams and goals is often a pen.  So, write down your vision for the type of brand message you want to manifest, and then write down how you would like others to respond to you. 2.      Reassess Your Talent. Each of us has TAGS - special Talents, Abilities, Gifts, and Skills. Successfully and accurately defining your brand requires that you define your unique skill-set.  You make your vision more tangible by building your brand around your talents and gifts. What is it you do that no one else can?  What do you do better than anyone else? What do you stand for that makes you unique?  Keep it simple.  If you had to define yourself and the value you bring in four words or less, what would you say? 3.      Rejuvenate Your Communication Style. Perception is reality.  You can change that perception by communicating with confidence, conciseness and clarity. Your brand message should be simple. The best brands really speak for themselves.  You can create a streamlined brand message by being succinct, strategic and specific.  Succinctly express what you do, strategically share the unique value you bring to the table, and specifically outline how you plan to add that value. Developing your perfect personal brand is a journey, not a destination.  Having a vision, assessing your talent, and communicating with clarity are just the beginning steps, but critical nonetheless.  Adopting and applying each strategy forms the core of who you are and lays the foundation for what your career - and your best life - can be. If you have questions about your building your executive brand, leave them below!  I look forward to connecting with you.

Marshawn Evans, Esq., is a weekly career columnist for She is president of ME Unlimited L.L.C., a peak performance agency, and is founder of ME University® -- the industry’s premier resource for profitable brand strategy. She is author of the bestselling book, SKIRTS in the Boardroom: A Woman’s Survival Guide to Success in Business & Life (2008). Connect with her online at, on Twitter at @marshawnevans and on Facebook at ME Unlimited by Marshawn Evans.

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The Pew Charitable Trusts recently released a study showing millions of individuals and small business owners receive offers for business credit cards each month. While this might sound like a tempting offer for some, you should note that business credit cards are not covered in the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009. Consequently, those who use credit cards for business or commercial use are faced with high fees and sudden interest rate hikes.

If your business is structured in such a way that you’re personally liable for your business debt (such as a sole proprietorship or partnership), you are personally responsible for the card. Therefore, your business credit card usage is reported to your individual credit report, which means your personal credit could be negatively affected.

Although the Credit CARD Act has made personal credit easier to comprehend, the rules don’t apply to business credit or commercial credit cards. Pew is concerned about these offers because many small business owners are facing potentially harmful practices by credit card issuers. However, two credit card companies are trying to do right by business owners. After taking a close look at business cards offered by 12 of the largest credit card issuers in the United States, Pew found that Bank of America was the only issuer that eliminated sudden hikes in penalty interest rates. Furthermore, Bank of America and Capital One now use payment policies for business credit cards that mirror the ones required for consumers and now apply payments to the highest-rate balances first.

Here are some things you should watch out for when using a business credit card:

Account terms can be changed at any time. The Pew study found that 80% of business credit cards allow issuers to change terms of an account at any time. This differs from the CARD Act, where card issuers are not allowed to change terms during the first year. After one year, the issuer is required to notify a consumer within 45 days and offer the choice to opt out.

  • Tip: Pay close attention to your credit card statements. When you get a letter in the mail detailing changes to your account terms, don’t toss the envelope to the side. Read all of your mail so you won’t be taken by surprise when your required minimum payment is suddenly higher.

Penalty fees are unrestricted. The study also found that 73% of business cards had a late fee attached to them and 67% of business cards had an over-limit fee. However, when it comes to cards protected by the CARD Act, consumers are given the choice to opt in to over-limit fees. In addition, late fee penalties must be reasonable. Furthermore, card issuers must not charge a penalty that is higher than the cost of a violation.

  • Tip: Keep track of your balances and pay your bills on time. If you have trouble keeping up with payment due dates, set up an automatic payment plan with your bank.

Payments can be applied to lower-rate balances. That’s right; credit card companies can apply your payments to low-rate balances while interest accrues on your higher-rate balances. For example, if you wrote a check from your business credit card account, but you also had a balance on the card, your payment would be applied to your credit card instead of the higher-rate check balance. That means you’ll be in debt much longer. Under the CARD Act, payments are applied to the higher-rate balance first.

  • Tip: Unfortunately, until protections are put in place for business credit cards, there’s not much you can do about this one. So until then, read all of your statements closely, and pay attention to any changes.