Credit Cards

Bizarre World of Business Credit Cards Trips Up Credit Expert

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Recently, a $45.88 charge on one of my credit cards turned into a $96.77 charge in a matter of days, thanks to the unregulated world of small business credit cards. Here’s what happened:

A few months ago I opened a BP Business Fleet Card because I wanted to test out its usefulness for building business credit. As coauthor of Business Credit Success: Get on the Financing Fast Track, I know a thing or two about business credit ratings. Erik Salmon, a business credit consultant, tipped me off about this card and suggested I try it out.

The approval process was fairly easy and smooth. In fact, I was amused by how aggressively the folks at BP Business Solutions marketed the card. When I failed to complete the application the first time, they called me and encouraged me to send it in. I was approved quickly for a small credit line, and they proceeded to call me several times to encourage me to use the card.

I did, and in July received my second bill for a $45.88 fuel purchase. The bill was emailed to me on July 3rd and payment was due on July 18th—only fifteen days later. (Oddly enough, the bill is delivered as an email attachment, which I don’t find particularly secure.) Unfortunately, due to my daily deluge of email, I failed to open the attachment, and didn’t note the due date. By the time I remembered it was July 20th.

Yes, “Ms. Credit Expert” was late on her second business credit card payment.

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I know I should know better. After all, I am the one who tells small business owners to pay their bills early, so there really is no excuse for my late payment. But c’mon, just over two weeks to get a payment in? At least if this were a personal credit card, I would have 21 days or more before my payment would be due, thanks the Credit CARD Act.

On July 20th, I found myself trying to figure out how to minimize the damage and make the payment as quickly as possible. I called BP Business Solutions and discovered a phone payment would set me back $25, which seemed exorbitant to me. I thought about mailing the payment, but knew that could delay it by several more days.

I decided instead to muscle through their online payment system which, quite frankly, I find a bit bizarre. To use the system, the cardholder has to download a java application, but I couldn’t manage to install it successfully on either my desktop or laptop.

Remembering that the month before I had managed to make an online payment without downloading that app, I clicked around the site until I found the other option. (I later found a PDF on my computer they had sent me when I opened the account. It’s “user guide” to their online payment system. Really—you need a user guide to figure out how to manage your accounts online!)

I couldn’t remember my username or password, but unlike the other online payment accounts I use all the time, there was no online username/password recovery option. So I emailed their customer support department. To their credit, they responded right away, though I found it a little odd that the email came from “Keith Martin (aka Brian).”

I finally processed an online payment that was credited to my account two days later.

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  • Ilya Bodner

    This sounds about right!

    Unfortunately these business credit cards as not as developed as consumer portals. Furthermore, it seems that banks and other creditors don’t make as much of a margin on business lines of credit and thus put those customers second.

    Like BP there’s Comoco, Phillips 66, Chevron and a handful of other gas stations that accomplish the same thing.

    Sincerely,

    Ilya Bodner
    Small Business Owner

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