Is a Business Debit Card a Good Idea?

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• 2 minute read

San Francisco startup, Bento’s co-founders Farhan Ahmad and Sean Anderson, think their new prepaid MasterCard (that acts like a debit card) is just the ticket for startups whose employees purchase equipment, supplies, services, or company travel.

The card is designed to help small business owners put limits on employee cards and manage their spending. The card also allows business owners to pre-determine where employees can use the card. For instance, if an employee has no business reason for making a purchase at Best Buy, the charge will be declined.

“Even well-funded startups and small businesses face challenges getting credit cards and when they do qualify, there is very little designed to meet their needs,” writes Eilene Zimmerman who writes about startups and technology for Forbes. “Yet if you’re a small business owner, how do you control spending and expenses? A credit card. Business owners often use their personal credit card for company expenses and that can get messy, intermingling personal and business spending. It means trusting that employees will record their spending properly. Traditional credit cards—whether business or personal—also don’t allow for preset spending limits.”

While there are some business credit cards that offer similar services to what Zimmerman describes above, Bento’s offering seems to be intended for those that fall through the cracks. Those that maybe can’t otherwise qualify for a business credit card and are relying on their personal credit cards to fund business purchases.

Business owners manage the cards through an online portal and not only have visibility into what employees are purchasing and when they’re purchasing it, they also get a notification when charges are denied (which could flag an employee trying to use the card where they shouldn’t). Business owners can also activate or disable cards online so if an employee leaves and takes their card with them, it can be disabled in seconds.

While the idea of a pre-paid credit card, even a pre-paid business credit card, is not really a new idea—what Bento is offering is a new twist. Is this something that would make sense for your business? Would you use a business debit card?