Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Credit Cards Replace Small Business Loans

As commercial loans become harder to find, small business owners give in to aggressive credit card marketers and get slammed with 30% interest rates

The 30% interest rate on their small business credit card shocked James and Heather Hills enough to stop using it entirely in April. The couple had turned to credit cards in early 2006 to get their Elgin (Ill.) startup, mhn Internet Marketing and PR, off the ground, after three loan officers told them that they wouldn't qualify for a bank loan without capital equipment to put up as collateral. So the Hills, who have no outside employees, took out a $50,000 home equity line of credit and two personally guaranteed small business credit cards.

They had a handle on their debt until a partner abandoned a planned joint venture in March 2007 and the Hills were left with almost $10,000 for the project on their Advanta (ADVNA) card. Since then, they say they've been late on a couple of payments, and their interest rate has steadily increased from 11.74% to 30.99%. "It suddenly starts being several hundred dollars worth of interest charges," James Hills says. Even without new purchases, they don't expect to pay off the remaining debt, still over $6,000, before 2009. (Advanta, citing privacy laws, declined to comment.)