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As a small biz owner, I know how the right credit card can help my business (invoicing, sufficient credit and bookkeeping) but it can also pour some sweet rewards into my pocket. And my expenses aren’t all that much.
If you’re a plumber, you can reap some sweet rewards given all the materials you buy monthly on top of business expenses (gas, tools, marketing, etc.).
Fortunately, there are some sweet options. Below I set them out.
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1. Home Depot (Commercial Account)
While Home Depot offers two credit programs for plumbers, I want to focus on the “on account” program which is actually a charge card. The reason I like this option is the credit card, while okay, isn’t as good IMO as AMEX or the others listed here.
However, the on-account program is an outstanding credit option for plumbers and plumbing companies.
Here’s how it works.
The commercial account is like a bar tab except instead of beer you get pipe and wrenches. You buy your stuff at the store and pay later. You can authorize other people to buy stuff on the commercial account card as well like your kids who want 300 feet of PVC pipe for the backyard (haha, I actually bought my 5-year-old son a bunch of 8 foot PVC pipes with connectors for the backyard – he loves the stuff). I’m kidding, your kids don’t get to use it cause that’s not a business expense unless it’s your adult kids who are joining you in the plumbing biz.
But, you can have employees buy stuff and charge it to your account. This is a no-brainer because when they’re on a job while you’re on the golf course, the last thing you want to do is leave on the 5th hole to go buy plumbing supplies. That’s why you have employees, right?
60 days to pay
While your bartender might give you 6 months to pay, Home Depot isn’t so generous, but the 60 days is better than most credit cards. That 60 days hopefully gives you enough time to invoice your client, get paid and so you don’t have to pony up your cash to finance jobs. Of course, that’s bound to happen, but the less it does, the better. After all, you have country club fees to pay every month.
So you’re a high-roller plumber flush with cash so you go buy a brand new Sprinter van. You get your logo plastered on it and custom shelving. All that’s left is to fill it up with plumbing supplies and tools. You head to Home Depot and drop a wad to outfit your new van.
6 months later you do inventory and notice that you have a lot of a particular type of supply that you never use. Instead of tying up money in useless supplies, you decide to return it. When you buy on account at Home Depot, you can return the stuff up to a year later.
2. The Business Platinum Card from American Express
I use the Business Platinum Card from American Express for my business and have for years. It offers mountains of credit (which must be paid off in full each month), all the bookkeeping features I need (should say my accountant needs) and the rewards I earn are fantastic.
Let’s talk about AMEX’ bookkeeping features for businesses.
Formats: You can download your statements in CSV, Excel, PDF or Quickbooks format for the past 6 months at any given time. This comes in handy. Personally I wish these formats were available for 18 months because there have been years where I don’t start gathering all this stuff until the fiscal year is over. Therefore, be sure to download it regularly.
If you need statements older than 6 months, you can request older statements but they are only available in PDF. It’s better than nothing, but not ideal. I’ve told them they need to make CSV formats available indefinitely, but they haven’t done so yet.
You can get secondary cards for your employees so they can buy materials and gas. In fact, it’s a necessity for employees to be able to buy what they need when they need it. However, if there are trust issues, you might prefer going with an on-account arrangement at Home Depot or Lowe’s where they can’t charge $50 lunches or worst. You can do some real damage with an AMEX card in short order.
I love the simplicity of AMEX rewards with respect to accruing them, understanding them and spending them.
In a nutshell, for every dollar you spend you get 1 reward point. Some purchases net more rewards (i.e. a higher ratio). Your rewards points can be applied to any travel purchases (hotels, car rentals, flights). That said, there are often offers where you can get a much higher dollar value for fewer points. You can also buy all kinds of stuff available in the AMEX rewards store.
Finally, your points never expire and there is no cap on how much you can spend to earn rewards. If your plumbing business spends $1 million per year on plumbing supplies and business expenses, you can accrue 1 million points. I love accruing hundreds of thousands of points and then enjoy a free vacation with my family.
Please note that the AMEX Platinum is a charge card which means you must pay off the balance each month. This is actually quite good for my business because I remain debt-free. It’s not a bad idea for any business owner to avoid credit card debt.
I chose AMEX platinum for two reasons:
Huge credit limit: Some months I spend hundreds of thousands on advertising. Therefore I needed a charge card that would extend such credit to me. AMEX said it would and did.
Easy points redemption: I don’t collect air miles and never plan to. It’s too much hassle to manage. With AMEX rewards, I book my flights, rental car and hotel, then apply accrued rewards points to those purchases. I’m not subject to blackouts or other restrictions.
3. Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
Chase is known for some very sweet credit card offers for consumers and businesses.
The Chase Business Preferred card is sweet mainly because of its rewards system. Get a load of this:
You get 3 points for every dollar spent on advertising, internet, cable and phone, and travel expenses. Sadly, not for plumbing supplies, but you do get 1 point for every dollar spent on plumbing supplies.
You can redeem points for cash and travel. If you redeem for travel, you get a nice little 25% top-up. In other words, if you have 800,000 points, instead of $8,000 for travel, you get $10,000 toward travel as long as you’re in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.
There is no additional cost to hand out this card to employees. Employees spend and you accrue points. You almost want to approve a shopping spree for your employees… but not quite LOL.
4. Lowe’s (On Account)
If you’re a Lowe’s person, you have a few good credit options.
- Lowe’s credit card for business: Only use at Lowe’s.
- Lowe’s charge card: Only use at Lowe’s and must pay off each month.
- Lowe’s Business Rewards Card from American Express: Pay off or carry a balance.
All three options include 5% off every day. That’s a sweet offer. The “Lowe’s-only” restriction may be a good thing if you hand ’em out to employees. While they can still blow a ton at Lowe’s, that’s much less likely than if they can use it anywhere and hence book a $20K safari.
Only the Lowe’s AMEX can be used for purchases elsewhere (which also accrues rewards points). However, the rewards points can only be redeemed for Lowe’s gift cards and American Express gift cards.
While the two Lowe’s cards (credit and charge) can only be used at Lowe’s, one nice perk is reduced delivery rates to job sites.
With the Lowe’s cards you can authorize employees to buy on them with a cap. Yeah, you can cap ’em just in case a new hire decides to order up a new kitchen for their house on your dime. The trouble with capping the cards though is if an employee is on a big job and needs to make a huge purchase for supplies and materials. If they can’t make the purchase, you gotta leave the golf course which will no doubt ruin your day and make you think about increasing that cap.
5. Capital One Spark Cash for Business (Credit Card)
Capital One was my first credit card. It wasn’t the Spark for Business card, but it sure sticks out as a good company for me because they approved me when young (early twenties). I was elated, not because I wanted to go blow 10 large on it, but so many things require a credit card which now I had.
Back to business. My entry-level credit card doesn’t do much for plumbers, but the Capital One Spark Cash for Business sure does.
This sucker pays 2% cashback all purchases, which is really good. You can opt to get your hands on the cash via check or applied as credit to your card. You can view this 2% as an additional profit for your plumbing business. In fact, it could amount to more than 2% profit since you earn that 2% on the materials you buy and expenses to run your biz.
Let’s crunch the numbers with an example.
Suppose you do a plumbing reno for a client. The materials alone come to $10,000. You order those materials on your Capital One card. That’s an extra $200 in your pocket simply by ordering materials. Suppose your profit on the job is $5,000, that $200 cashback is actually a 4% bump in profit. Not bad for swiping a card, right?
There are a bunch of additional rewards such as points when you sign up but I don’t consider that when picking a credit card. I focus on the ongoing rewards program because in the long run, that’s what’s going to pay off.
Additional credit card considerations for plumbers
What type is best for you? Charge card, on account or credit card?
This is the first consideration. Charge cards like AMEX are great because you can usually get a much higher credit limit. The downside is you must pay it off in full each month. The credit card is a great option as long as your anticipated spend doesn’t exceed your credit limit. The on-account option can be excellent if you make the lion’s share of your plumbing supplies purchases at the same store because the deals and discounts and store credit you accrue can be very impressive.
Inquire about statement formats and whether you can access older statements. Trust me, in the throes of running a busy plumbing business, the last thing you will do is stay on top of your credit card statements and expenses. Before you know it, 3 months have gone by, your accountant calls you asking for your expenses and then you need to dig them up. This is when having access to previous statements in CSV or Excel is a huge advantage.
Inquire about spending caps, fees for adding employees and expense tracking by job or client.
Can you use the card to make purchases anywhere or just one store? There are pros and cons for both
You can’t ignore the rewards. Maybe 5% off at Lowe’s works out way better than 2% cash back or 1.25% for travel. IMO, the rewards are biggest benefit unless you have particular payment requirements like longer interest-free periods or you need credit for many months (and are willing to pay interest on the balance). On the flip side, perhaps you like being forced to pay off the balance every month to avoid accruing debt. In this case a charge card is best.
Something is better than nothing
Any plumber not taking advantage of a credit card is missing out. If you play your cards right and pick the best credit card, you can benefit tremendously and make it easier to run your plumbing business.
Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.