Lou Peppe Business Services Blog



Non-Bank Alternatives

posted Oct 30, 2013, 1:10 PM by Lou Peppe   [ updated Oct 31, 2013, 5:22 AM ]

Looking for back to basics banking? 


Here are some great “non-bank” alternatives for people who don't have bank accounts or want to scale back from the fees and overdraft charges of traditional banks. 


These “non-banks” or “near-banks" are similar in that they all offer

·         No Fees – No Minimums

·         Have No Traditional Brick-and-Mortar locations

·         Are FDIC Insured

·         Use technology to access their features online and through mobile devices

·         Offer Easy Enrollment


          

Bluebird: Bluebird is a partnership with Wal-Mart and American Express.  Billed as “Your Checking & Debit Alternative”, it has no annual, monthly or overdraft fees and no minimum balance requirement. 

You get a reloadable American Express card that lets you add funds with direct deposit, transfer funds from traditional bank accounts or add cash at Wal-Mart checkout registers or deposit checks through their mobile app.  The cards can be used at Wal-Mart ATMs or any of the 22,000 ATMs in the MoneyPass network.  There is no ATM fee if you have direct deposit.  You can write checks, pay bills online and more.  It is easy to apply for since there are no credit checks.  

With Bluebird you have access to American Express Purchase Protection and Fraud Protection.  It also includes roadside assistance that can jumpstart your vehicle, arrange for towing, change a flat tire, deliver 2 gallons of gas or provide a lockout service if you get locked out of your car!

 

Simple: has partnered with Bancorp to provide an FDIC insured “Worry Free Alternative to Traditional Banking”. With Simple you get a Simple Visa Card, no overdraft, minimums, or monthly fees.  Access to 55,000 Fee Free ATMs, Photo Check Deposit, and ability send checks and pay bills.

Like Bluebird you can add funds with direct deposit or transfers from a bank. Features include Photo Check Deposit, A Fast ATM Locator, and the ability to send money to anyone by typing in their name, address, and the amount. Simple does not charge if you use an out-of-network ATM although the ATM owner probably would.

 

GoBank:  Green Dot, a big player in the prepaid card business, has partnered with Bonneville Bank to offer the same no fee, FDIC insured, non-checking, debit account model as Bluebird and Simple.

GoBank is “The Mobile Bank Account.  No Overdraft Fees.  No Worries’. 

Like Bluebird and Simple, you can fund your account through Direct Deposit or transfer funds from a bank account. With GoBank you get a Visa Debit Card (you can personalize it with any photo for a $9 fee), a Mobile app for scanning and depositing checks, and an online checkbook to pay bills or send money.  The GoBank ATM network has over 40,000 free ATMs.


These products are all designed for simplicity and meant to appeal to those unhappy with their current bank checking account and those who are "unbanked" or underserved by traditional accounts.  

How to Get Paid Quicker and Easier

posted Nov 28, 2012, 12:05 PM by Lou Peppe   [ updated Nov 28, 2012, 12:54 PM ]

Want to make it easier for your business to get paid?  Cash Flow is the lifeblood of a small business so the quicker you can get paid the better able you are to compete in today’s market.  Here are some great products I’ve found that can help your small business compete. 

Accept credit card payments with your smart phone

Email your invoices and payment requests and get paid online

Simplify Processing Your Customer Check Payments


Accept Credit Cards with Your Smart Phone

There are several great, inexpensive alternatives that are easy to sign up for and easy to use.  Each includes a free card reader and smart phone app. Here are five that I’ve found:

1.       Square  - Square accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover cards for a transaction fee of 2.75 percent per swipe. The fee for keyed-in transactions is 3.5 percent plus 15 cents.

2.       Intuit GoPayment - GoPayment accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover cards for a fee of 2.7 percent of the total sale for swiped transactions, or a 3.5 percent fee for keyed-in transactions.  They also offer a $13-per-month subscription plan, and your fees drop to 1.7 percent per swiped transaction, or 2.7 percent per keyed-in transaction.

3.       PayAnywhere and Phone Swipe - Pay Anywhere and Phone Swipe both use North American Bancard as their back end processor.  Each accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover cards with a transaction fee of 2.69 percent per swipe. Keyed-in transactions are subject to a fee of 3.49 percent plus 19 cents.

4.       Verifone SAIL - SAIL accepts Visa, MasterCard, and Discover cards for a per-transaction fee of 2.7 percent, or 3.7 percent for keyed-in transactions. The transaction fee for American Express cards is 3.7 percent.  The optional SAIL subscription plan is $10 per month, and transaction fees drop to 1.95 percent per swipe or 2.95 percent per keyed-in transaction.

Each of these offers a low cost alternative for the small business who wants to accept credit cards but doesn’t want to get locked in with a large processor.  Each offers slightly different rates and services so you need to see which is best for your particular business.  My business group uses Square for our dues and processes 5 to 8 transactions per month.  We rarely exceed $100 per transaction.  Square support is only via internet and email with no live support.  Other services offer 24/7 phone support.  You need to see which is best for you.

Email Invoices and Get Paid Online

Intuit PaymentNetwork (IPN) is an excellent option for receiving customer payments via electronic check (ACH-Automatic Clearing Account) or credit card.  Intuit PaymentNetwork provides small businesses with an inexpensive way to get paid electronically. The service is simple: Move money directly from a sender’s bank account to a receiver’s bank account for one low flat fee of 50 cents. It’s online, so users could make and request payments from anywhere.  It can integrate with QuickBooks so customers can pay directly from their Emailed invoice.

Features Include:

  • ONLY 50 cents per bank payment received
  • No set-up, monthly or cancellation fee
  • No interchange fee for bank payments
  • No hardware or equipment needed
  • Request money from anyone that has an email address
  • All payments automatically credited to any U.S. bank of your choice
  • Credit Cards payments accepted. You pay 3.25% of the transaction amount. There are no additional fees and no commitment. You can turn the credit option on and off at will.

 

Simplify Processing Your Customer Check Payments. 

 

If you use QuickBooks for your business then Intuit’sCheck Solution for QuickBooks is an attractive option for processing your customer’s checks without having to go to the bank. No more matching payments to invoices, shuffling through photocopies of checks or going back to fix data entry errors. Simply scan or enter checks in QuickBooks and hit "Send.".

Their Advertised Features Include:

·         Scan up to 30 checks per minute using a high speed check scanner or use with any flatbed or sheet fed scanner

·         Send your check payment transaction to the bank electronically, anytime. Funds are usually available by the next business day

·         Eliminate time spent filling out deposit slips and trips to the bank

·         Take checks over the phone or obtain written authorization to process electronic check payments from your customers on an ongoing basis — key enter check information directly into QuickBooks (scanner not required)

·         Cost is $9.95 per month and $ 0.23 transaction fee per check.

Finding a Business Bank Account With Free Remote Deposit

posted Nov 17, 2012, 6:39 AM by Lou Peppe   [ updated Nov 17, 2012, 7:34 AM ]

My clients pay me by check so several times a week I find myself driving to my bank to deposit them.  The bank does offer a check scanner for remote deposits but it comes with a hefty fee of $60 per month.  The other day I decided it’s time to find a bank for my business account that meets my criteria plus offers free remote deposit. I will preface this by saying that I do not deal with the large banks.  Citibank, Wells Fargo, Chase, Bank of America all have fees of one sort or another so I avoid them like the plague.  My criteria, by order of importance, are pretty basic:

·         Business Checking

·         FDIC Insured

·         No Fee / No Minimum (Any Transaction limit must be above 100 per month)

·         Same Day / Next Day fund availability

·         Free Bill Pay

·         Free check card (everybody has this now)

·         A large ATM network

Additional options I like but can live without are a local branch office (the only time I go to the bank is to make a deposit), free starter checks, No fee business credit card, reimbursement for out of network ATM fees and the ability to transfer funds to accounts in other banks.

I started by looking at local banks and although some touted remote deposit most were linked to merchant services and all came with a fee.  I broadened my search to the internet and here I found several banks with free remote deposit.  Most featured either the ability to scan checks on your home scanner or a smartphone app that takes a picture of the check.  These banks include Ally, ING Direct, Charles Schwab Bank, USAA Federal Savings Bank.  These are all great banks if you are looking for a personal account.  I need a business account however and to my surprise none of these offer business accounts.  My search continued and at the end I came up with the following three banks that meet my criteria.

1.       smallbusinessbank.com
SBB is the online presence of Gardner Bank located in the Kansas City area.  They offer "No Bull Checking" and "No Bull Remote Deposit".  The free remote deposit comes in either a smartphone app or a check scanner.  If you go with the check scanner there is a refundable deposit. 

2.       bofifederalbank.com
BOFI Federal Bank is a NBNM (No Brick No Mortar) internet only bank.  The no minimum / no fee account require a $1,000 initial deposit that must remain in the account for 24 hours.  Remote deposit is via a smartphone app.

3.       gtefinancial.org/
GTE Financial is a credit union with locations in West Central Florida.  Its services include a feature called “Popmoney” that allows you to send money for free with just an email address or cell phone number.  I sometimes send gift money to my kids so this is a great, free alternative to Western Union or MoneyGram.  Remote Deposit is a smartphone app called Deposit2GO.  In addition they support scanning checks with your home scanner.

In conclusion, remote deposit is a great new feature that is quickly rolling out in the big banks.  The smaller banks will follow in the future while any of the three banks above will give you the opportunity to be on the bleeding edge with this new technology.  I applied to GTE Financial and am waiting to hear back.  Check back here in a few weeks for my evaluation.

Looking For A Payroll Service?

posted Nov 13, 2012, 7:00 AM by Lou Peppe   [ updated Nov 13, 2012, 7:04 AM ]

We offer all the benefits of the large national payroll companies (ADP, PayChex, CompuPay etc) PLUS personal one-to-one support that you can't get from them.  Have a question or need assistance?  Call us and you speak to US.  We're always available to assist you.  We offer flat rate monthly plans that can save you hundreds of dollars over the national companies.  We offer pay-as-you-go Workers Comp and efile for all your Federal and State tax forms.  We also handle W-2's and 1099's.  
You can call in your hours or email them.  You also have the option to input your payroll online.  Interested in employee time tracking?  We offer that as well so your employees can enter their hours online.  All this at a very competitive price.  Contact  us today for a quote.  Want a Demo?  http://www.managepayroll.com/demo

Five “Must Do” Practices for the Small Business Owner.

posted Sep 17, 2012, 7:10 PM by Lou Peppe   [ updated Sep 18, 2012, 4:54 AM ]

There are some things that every small business needs to do to be successful.  Whether a Sole Proprietor, LLC, C or S corporation the basics for the small business person are the same.  Follow these 5 common business practices and the likelihood of your business to succeed and grow will increase dramatically.

1.     Maintain Separate Bank Accounts 

If you don't do anything else at least open a separate bank account for your business. If you have more than one business open a separate account for each one. Do not co-mingle (mix) your personal expenses or receipts with your business expenses or receipts. Deposit all your business receipts into your business accounts(s) and write checks for your major business expenses from your business checking account(s). If you need money from your business for personal expenses write yourself a check from your business checking account(s) and deposit it in your personal checking account.

2.       Prepare Good Documentation/Deposit Slips 

The area for descriptions on most deposit slips is not big enough to enter detailed information. Your entries on your slips should just be a summary entry such as the customer's name and/or check number. You need to record the detailed information regarding the check or cash deposited on a separate form. I call it a Deposit Receipts Form and it becomes the detail backup for your deposit. You can make up the form yourself and call it whatever you like.  The important thing is that you record:

Customer's Name 

Customer's Check Number or Cash Receipt # (If you were paid in cash you should have provided your customer with a cash receipt)

Method Of Payment-Cash or Check

Total Amount Received 

Invoice Number(s) Paid and Amount 

All customer remittance advices (form attached to check that shows the invoices paid) should be saved and attached (stapled) to your form. If your deposit is 5 customer checks and 1 cash payment then you should have 6 Deposit Receipt forms filed with your copy of the deposit slip.

3.       Deposit All Cash Receipts In A Timely Matter 

If your activity warrants it you should deposit your receipts each day in order to reduce the risk of money being lost or stolen. If your business does not have a lot of cash receipts activity you should at least deposit your receipts every week regardless of the amount of cash on hand. All currency, checks, and cash items received should be deposited intact without any deductions for expenses or advances. Use your petty cash fund to pay expenses or advances that require currency. You should not keep large quantities of cash on your premises. If you need cash (currency) for a specific purpose go to the bank and cash a check when it is needed.

4.       Prepare & Review Monthly Bank Reconciliations 

You wouldn't believe the number of small businesses that call the bank to see how much money they have. This frequently is NOT your actual balance. You can have checks and even deposits outstanding that the bank doesn’t know about because they haven’t processed yet!  All businesses should not only know their actual balance in the bank on a monthly basis but often on a daily basis as well. Reconciliations should be done to the penny.  You should not have a "Discrepancy" Account.  There is always a reason why the account doesn't reconcile and you need to find it. Writing off a discrepancy could be masking a larger problem. As an owner you may have someone doing the reconciliation for you but you should still occasionally check to see that this task is actually being performed and performed correctly.

5.       Prepare Monthly Financial Reports 

You're in business to make money so you need a report card to see how you actually did. You need to prepare monthly financial statements or have them prepared in order to monitor the success or failings of your business. Understand how to read a Profit & Loss Statement and Balance Sheet and review them each month. Having Timely and Accurate Financials Statements and sharing them with your tax accountant before the end of the year can help you with strategies and investments that can reduce your overall tax burden.  

Benefits Of A Business Credit Card

posted Sep 11, 2012, 6:24 AM by Lou Peppe   [ updated Sep 18, 2012, 4:53 AM ]

Do you have a credit card that you use solely for your business?  Business credit cards have names like “Small Business” or “Professional” to distinguish them from personal credit cards.  If you use your business credit cards smartly, by charging only business expenses on them and paying them off in full each month, you can reap the benefits of using them without getting stuck with the disadvantages.  Advantages of using a business credit card include:

1.    Keep track of all your business expenses.

The easiest way to miss out on deductible expenses is to pay for things with cash.  If you use a credit card you get a statement of all your expenses that you can reconcile each month.  If you lose a receipt for a credit card purchase it’s not the end of the world.  You’ll still pick up the expense from the monthly statement.  If you lose a receipt for cash you miss out on the deduction. The $20 or so you spend on paper and printer ink each time you go to Staples can add up to real money by the end of the year.

2.    Keep your personal and business expenses separate.

Mixing business and personal expenses is the #1 way small businesses get in trouble with the IRS.  The IRS is less likely to allow business deductions if they are co-mingled with your personal expenses.  Further, intermingling business and personal transactions could destroy the “corporate shield” that protects you and your family from the debts and liabilities of the business.

3.    Establish business credit and build a good credit rating

Effectively managing your business credit is just as important as your personal credit reputation.  If your business doesn't have much of a track record financially, it's very unlikely you'll get a loan from a bank.

4.    Earn Points or get cash back on your credit card.

A business credit card can be your ally if you own a small business. Not only do you get a line of credit to meet your business expenses without putting up any collateral, many business credit cards offer a rewards program where you can earn cash back or rewards points on your spending.  Whether it’s earning points that can offset purchases of office supplies, gasoline and hotel stays or cash back on similar purchases; using a credit card can reduce your business expenses and in turn improve your bottom line.

Charitable Donations

posted Sep 9, 2012, 7:43 AM by Lou Peppe   [ updated Dec 6, 2013, 1:09 PM ]

The end off the year is rapidly approaching so now is a good time to think about weeding out your clothes closet and little used kitchen gadgets and donating them to charity.  It’s a great way to pass on items to those who can use them and earn you a tax deduction.  You do need to keep track of the items you donate and determine their real value.  Most organizations that accept donations will have a guide to help you determine their value.  Here is a link to Goodwill’s list.

Keep in mind that:

·         Items need to be in good condition

·         If the value is more than $500 you need an extra tax form

·         If the value is more than $5,000 you need an appraisal.

 

There are many free online tools to help you track your donations.  I use TurboTax’s ItsDeductible Online and have for several years.

There are also easy to use smartphone apps that help you track and value your charitable donations.  IDonatedIt is a popular app that only costs a couple bucks and is available for both android and iphone.

 

As with any tax related issues it is always valuable to consult your tax accountant.  

Home Office Deduction

posted Sep 8, 2012, 7:15 PM by Lou Peppe   [ updated Sep 18, 2012, 4:56 AM ]

Do you have a home office for your business? A percentage of your household expenses are deductible as home office expenses.  Common expenses like electricity are deductible but other expenses like lawn care, home security system, pest control, etc. may be as well. Discuss it with your tax accountant for your particular situation.  I have a simple spreadsheet I use to track my home office expenses.  If you are interested contact me and I'll send you a copy.

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