How I paid my business start-up costs with a credit card — then put the bonus miles right back into the business

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  • I opened a new credit card when I knew I’d have a lot of start-up costs for my small business.
  • By using the welcome bonus miles to offset some of my expenses, I was able to save money.
  • I redeemed miles for travel, office supplies, gift cards, and cash back to pay vendors.
  • Read Insider’s guide to the best small-business credit cards.

When I started my business a few years ago, I didn’t want to dip too much into my personal savings account to front the start-up costs. I knew that if I pulled too much cash out of places like my emergency savings account or retirement fund, I would never pay it back.

Instead, I decided to open up a small-business credit card, the Capital One Spark Miles for Business, and use it in a strategic and well-planned way so that I could use it to pay for initial costs while also putting all the rewards I earned right back into my business.

The Capital One Spark Miles for Business offers a bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first 3 months. With so many start-up costs, I knew I’d be spending more than that during that time.

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Here’s how I paid for initial start-up costs using this Capital One credit card and used the miles I earned to help grow my business.

We’re focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.

Capital One Spark Miles for Business

Capital One Capital One Spark Miles for Business

I knew that around five or six months after starting the business, the travel would kick in and I’d need to plan for at least one round-trip flight during that time frame. That’s exactly what I put some of the miles toward and was able to fly two times without paying a penny.

It helped that I had a strategy and plan for what the first six months of being in business would look like. It allowed me to apply for the credit card at the right time (when I had a lot of back-to-back expenses) and when I’d need to use those reward points to cover business travel that was on the horizon.

Plan as far ahead as you can when you’re starting a business so you can manage your initial spending to maximize credit card offers and rewards. 

I covered purchases with miles

During the first couple of months of starting my business, I found myself buying much-needed items that were around the $5 to $25 price point. Some of those items included online software to help with marketing and business cards.

I decided to use around 25,000 miles to cover these smaller items. While I could have paid them off with cash, these small items started to really add up, and being able to pay for some using credit card rewards helped me lower my balance.

Keep track of your spending when you first start a business so you can determine which purchases you want to pay for with credit card points to lower your bill (and even help you lower your credit card utilization). 

I used miles to pay for Amazon purchases

One perk of the Capital One Spark Miles for Business is that it gives you the option to use your credit card rewards when you check out at Amazon. As a new business owner, I found myself buying something on Amazon at least once a day (mostly a lot of office supplies). I used around 10,000 miles for these purchases that were around $75 total.

Check out how your credit card reward points are structured and see where else you can redeem them. Even if your rewards program is primarily travel-oriented, some credit cards give you the option to use those points at retailers or on e-commerce websites. 

I cashed in miles for gift cards to buy office supplies 

Because I was using my credit card a lot during those early months, and earning 2x miles on every purchase, I started accumulating a couple of thousand miles every month. 

I started to use some of those points (at the six-month and nine-month mark of starting the business) to buy gift cards, mostly to cover the purchase of electronics. I used 12,500 points to get a $100 gift card from Best Buy that helped me buy a USB microphone to use for my business.

Capital One miles are worth, on average, 1.3 cents each according to Insider’s points and miles valuations. That’s in part because you can transfer them to airline and hotel partners and potentially get outsized value. You’ll typically get less of a return if you redeem for gift cards or statement credits.

Eyeball how your credit card points can convert to gift cards from retailers (you can access them through your credit card reward portal). It can be a good way to use your points to grab gift cards from stores or even restaurants you know you’re going to need something from in the near future.

I traded miles for cash to pay for one-off services 

At the nine-month mark of starting my business, I decided to use any leftover miles I had to redeem for cash.

I had a few one-off services to pay for (a copy editor and a photo editor) that I wanted to pay for using cash and not put their bills (which ranged from $25 to $50) on my credit card. I decided to redeem 15,000 miles for $75 in cash (mailed to me as a check). I used that cash to pay those vendors. 

There are so many different ways you can use your credit card points when you’re starting a business. Begin by understanding, forecasting, and planning for upcoming expenses. Then do a deep dive so you can strategize how to use the different reward offerings your credit card provides. These points can do more for you and your balance than you think — you just have to get creative. 

Jen Glantz is a personal finance writer, small-business owner, and the author of Amazon-bestselling books “All My Friends are Engaged” and “Always a Bridesmaid for Hire.” 

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