Coping with credit cards


Yes, credit cards make it easier for clients to pay. But the costs add up. Use these tips to balance the fees and turn credit card use to your benefit.

From a business owner's standpoint, accepting credit costs big bucks. Nearly 2 percent—or more—of each charge your clinic runs goes back to the credit card company. And this number goes up the more clients use reward cards. Somebody has to pay for the rewards, after all.

Charges now make up about 50 percent of your sales, if not more. So on that record $100,000 month you had this summer, clients paid $50,000 on credit. And at the end of the month, credit card companies garnished $1,000 (2 percent) from your bank account or about 1 percent of your total revenue.

I hate the monthly automatic deduction. But I can benefit from credit cards, too. Whether you're an owner, associate, or team member, you can use credit cards wisely and to your benefit if you're disciplined. Just remember not all cards are created equal. Research the best cards for you.

Two areas where you can score big: maximum rebates and low-interest-rate offers. Credit cards can be gimmicky, but if you're going to deal with one or more anyway, why settle? Why not get the biggest bang for your buck?

From my perspective, cash is king when it comes to rewards. I was happily banking my miles for travel and gifts when I discovered cash rewards programs. And I realized I could take the cash and buy my own airline tickets or gifts without red tape.

You can also get low-interest-rate offers for balance transfers or purchases for six to 12 months or longer. If you trade in a higher interest option, that's good news. The real deal here is finding the balance transfer that's low and locks in at a low rate for the life of the balance. For example, I've saved a lot of money trading in $40,000 of an 8 percent practice loan for a locked-in balance transfer at 1.99 percent, good for the life of the balance.

Practice owners, I'd charge just about everything you can on a credit card—even if you hate credit cards. The charges should earn you at least a 1 percent rebate. If you're charging $5,000, $10,000, or $20,000 per month, those rebates act almost like added income. You're spending the money anyway, right? You might as well get rewarded for it.

Dr. Jeff Rothstein

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA, is the president of The Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group in Michigan.

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