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Chris Mettler, founder and president of CompareCards.com, has been educating consumers on managing credit and personal finances since the launch of the site in 2005. After working with companies like global manufacturer Illinois Tool Works, launching a successful web-based company and graduating with a Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University, Chris created CompareCards to help consumers make sense out of the ever-expanding landscape of credit card offers available for people.
With recommendations that put the consumer first, CompareCards provides instrumental resources for homebuyers, students, business travelers and others to secure deals tailored for their own specific needs and circumstances.
MO: What inspired you to launch CompareCards?
Chris: Banks and credit card companies offer a lot of different credit card options for consumers and it is difficult to navigate through all of these offers. Being someone who never likes to get the 2nd best deal or offer, I felt that the Internet was a great tool to assist with comparing information. The ability to see all credit card offers in one place inspired me to develop the website and we have grown to over 200,000 unique visitors per month.
MO: How long did it take from having the initial idea, to getting the site up and running? What were some of the major obstacles you faced during the development stages and how did you overcome them?
Chris: It took 3 months to get the site running. This involved building a unique content management system so that I could make data updates universally throughout the website, in one central location, versus having to update each specific location of an individual credit card offer. The banks are particularly sensitive to information not being outdated as they don’t want to mislead consumers as to interest rates and terms of the offer. This central administration tool saved time and helps make certain that data is accurate in all locations of the website.
Another obstacle was the ability to keep editorial credit card rankings up to date for specific category pages. In the early days I had to copy and paste the html code to move credit cards into different ranked positions on the website – with updates and investment in the content management system, I can now simply drag and drop where our editor’s choose credit cards to be located.
MO: This isn’t your first business. What was your first business venture, what did you learn and where does your passion for entrepreneurism come from?
Chris: My first business venture was a comparison shopping engine called Surfari. I started this company right after graduating from college and the Internet was definitely booming at the time. It was one of the first concepts for an Internet website which compared prices for the same item among multiple retailers. Of course, now, there are numerous shopping engines so I take some pride in being one of the first to market. I sold the business in 2000 to CoolSavings and never got out financially what was put into it. My biggest learning’s from that experience have been to spend every dime like it was your last – I definitely wasted money at things that weren’t critical for the business and to really spend a lot of time on the front end challenging your idea and envisioning how the end product will add value to others. Is that value worth the time and effort?
My passion for entrepreneurism stems from the thrill of creating a tool or service which solves a problem or issue. I can appreciate the security of working for someone else, but when you have the freedom to do what you want to do and don’t need to explain why you’re doing it, it’s really invigorating.
MO: Can you give us a credit card fact that would surprise most readers?
Chris: Most people don’t know that the more credit cards or available credit that you show on your credit report, the higher your credit score will likely be. Many people associate multiple credit cards with too much spending, but if you keep your debt to credit availability below 30% and increase the amount of credit available, it can raise or keep your score higher. It’s when people run their balances near their available credit that they get themselves in trouble with lower credit scores.
MO: For a small business owner, what are some tips on choosing the best suited credit card for their needs and circumstances?
Chris: You don’t need to have a business credit card to deduct expenses or credit card interest. Most people like rewards programs these days because they receive something more for their dollar. In other words, their dollar goes further. Even if it isn’t a business credit card, open a credit card that you use only for business expenses and make certain that it is tied to a rewards program. This way, you can receive cash back tax free and use as a business surplus or reward yourself toward free travel as a result of taking on the risk of owning a small business.
MO: What are some common mistakes that people make when choosing a credit card and how can we avoid them?
Chris: The most common mistake is people not knowing what their credit score is prior to applying for a credit card. Many times, people believe that their credit score is higher than it really is, so they simply apply for a credit card. The credit card companies use a FICO responder to automatically deny, approve or request additional information. I hear a lot of frustration from people who believe they have excellent or good credit, apply for a card and then are denied approval. They take this out on the bank as “well, you don’t want my business” when in fact they didn’t know that credit scoring algorithms have changed in the past three years and various credit history factors are now weighted differently.
Another common mistake is not knowing that interest rates among banks can vary and the lowest interest rate featured isn’t necessarily the rate that a consumer will receive when they are issued their new credit card. The range on low interest credit cards can be 11.99% to 18.99%, so they need to understand where the bank has placed them before actually using the card.
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