• United States
Contributing Writer

Keep ‘em separated

Mar 01, 20063 mins
ComputersSecuritySmall and Medium Business

* Even if you are a sole proprietor, you should keep your business and personal credit card accounts separate

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The recent gaffe by the Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram Gazette hit close to home. Well, actually, it hit directly home – my home.

When news came across the wire that the parent company of both, the New York Times Company, had accidentally distributed the personal information, including credit card numbers, of more than 240,000 subscribers to its distribution centers, I thought, “What are the odds that my information was compromised?”

Well, I was one of the lucky 240,000 whose data was printed out on the back of a packing slip sent who-knows-where. My sense of dread was compounded by a simple fact: my business credit card and my personal credit card were one and the same.

Why does this matter? Simple, when I called up my credit card company to find out my options for dealing with this matter, their suggestion was to cancel the card outright. One problem: All my recurring business transactions are linked to that card, including my domain payments, software licenses and other critical services. I’d have to do some serious legwork to track down everything that would need to be changed to the new credit card. And surely, something would fall through the cracks.

This raised a flag to me as a business owner. Even if you are a sole proprietor, you should keep your business and personal credit card accounts separate. Failure of one should not inextricably take down the other. Fault tolerance 101.

I could just as easily have lost my credit card on a vacation and faced the same issue, or had something happen to the magnetic strip. Although I am committed to business continuity in networking, I failed to have it in my business accounting.

A friend who is a small business owner suggests getting a credit card for ongoing fees and services and is not used for everyday transactions. She recommends keeping a log of all the recurring fees you pay as well as the site address of their account update forms so you don’t have to scramble each time you get a new credit card.

She also recommends having a credit card for common business transactions such as office supplies, travel, meals and entertainment expenses. Again, this card should be separate from personal credit cards.

While it seems a lot to manage a handful of credit cards, online account management services make it a breeze to monitor and pay your bills.

The goal is to keep your business protected and be able to get back on your feet quickly in case of identity theft or a lost or stolen card. Applying the same principles you would to the network – i.e. a back-up plan for paying business bills – will keep your business insulated from even the most random financial disasters.