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 I have used all of these services and have found that they have made me more efficient through saving me time and/or money.   This doesn’t mean that these services are the best in their respective categories.  I’m always looking to use the best services for the money and if anyone can recommend something better, please do.  Some of the links to these services are affiliate links which means I get a commission for you clicking on the link.  This commission in no way holds sway over any of my recommendations.

 

Banking: Credit Unions

Currently for my business, I bank with US Bank.  That’s only because during the financial crisis in 2009, US Bank was the ONLY bank to give me a much-needed equipment loan for my business.  I know because I applied to every other major bank at that time Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, and on and on.  BUT, that being said…as soon as I can, I’ll move my business banking to a local credit union.  Credit unions are great because they are essentially member owned.  What that means is that each member of the credit union gets to vote for the Board of Directors every year.  Yes, you get to choose who makes the decisions about the direction of your CU.  I like the accountability that the voting process provides to me as a member.

Credit Unions are also catching up to banks in terms of services…many times offering the same services for FREE or a fraction of what for-profit banks charge.  For example, through an android app, I can make deposits to my CU.  Most credit unions are members of a world-wide banking network called Shared Branching.  Together they have networked their banking systems to create one huge network that allows you to walk into a Shared Branching Credit Union in another state or country and access your account as if you just walked into your local branch.  Here’s the site for the Shared Branching site to check if your credit union is a member:
http://www.co-opsharedbranch.org/

Credit unions are the perfect banking partner for small businesses.

 

Cell Phone Service: Republic Wireless

I just purchased the Moto X from Republic Wireless.  I’ve been contemplating this move for a few months now.  I’ve been looking at some of the online reviews of the Republic Moto X and most people seem to really like the phone with the service.  Also my Sprint Samsung Galaxy S2 has really been having a hard time keeping a charge lately.  I figured that if I don’t decide to change over now, I’ll have to buy a new battery to keep the existing phone alive.  Financially, I’m looking at the $25 a month Republic plan which includes unlimited talk, text, 3G data (uses wifi when available) vs. my current Sprint 700 minutes ( I think I receive bonus minutes for being a long time customer), unlimited data and text, 4G for $79.99 a month.  The difference is that I would have to buy the Moto X outright for $299.  Averaged over 3 years, it only adds $8.33 a month to my cost.

My most pressing concern is that this phone will replace my main business phone so will need to be extremely reliable.  The reviews about the service seem good so I’m going to take a chance.  I’ll update this recommendation as needed.  If you’re looking to purchase, here’s my affiliate link to Republic Wireless.

Credit Cards: CreditCards.com

CreditCards.com is a great site where you can find the best credit cards for you or your business.  It’s a great site because you can compare and contrast cards easily and there are many tools that allow you to search for the best card for you.  These guys really have you (the customer) in mind.  They’re trying to neutralize all the silly tricks the credit card companies use to fool you to sign up.  As far as the best cards to use, personally I like to find the cards with the highest across the board cash back rate.  I find that the more trickery in the card details, the less you get.  Here’s the cards I’m using right now:

Personal Card:   Capital One Quicksilver Cash Reward Card (the one with zero Annual Fee).  It has no annual fee and a straight up 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
Business Card:  Capital One Spark Cash for Business (the one with $59 Annual Fee after the free first year).  2% cash back on all purchases.

*My recommendations here are what I use only.  I’m not a professional credit card guru so do your own homework before taking any credit card into account.

Hosting: Green Geeks

I’ve used several hosting companies in the past and even present.  Godaddy, Gatorhost, and Register.com.  It seems that the most popular hosting companies right now are Blue Host and Gator Host.  I tried out Gator Host for a day and found their interface really easy to use.  I concluded that at this point, most of the bigger hosts out there are fairly comparable to beginners like me in terms of their pricing, usability, and technology. That’s why I chose Green Geeks.  They are competitively priced.  The interface is pretty easy to navigate.  I liked their security at sign up.  The kicker for me was their dedication to the environment (whether this was a marketing decision or not, they are still doing it).  Green geeks buys back 300% of the energy they use in wind energy credits.  That alone is more than what all the other hosting companies are doing and that was enough for me to choose them.
www.greengeeks.com
Full disclosure:  This blog is hosted on Green Geeks.  After choosing Green Geeks as a host, I noticed that I could be an affiliate for them…meaning if you use my link to go to their website and sign up, I get a small commission.  This doesn’t affect your cost at all.  It’s just a little tip for me for talking about why I chose them.

 

Password Manager: Dashlane

I’ve finally started using a password manager.  A password manager is a program that securely stores all your passwords and remembers them every time you visit a site that needs a password.  You create one master password that you use to log in with the password manager.  It almost seems too simple.  I thought that for years until a couple of days ago….just too many damn passwords.  I must have at least 20 sites that I need a password for.  And I guess you’re not supposed to use the same password for multiple sites.  Good luck with that.  Anyway, I did a little bit of research and found Dashlanewww.dashlane.com.  It’s free if you just use it on one device.  I plan on putting it on at least two computers so at the end of my free one month trial of the premium version, it will cost about $30 a year.  I figure the time saved typing in passwords for a year would be worth over $30 easy.
–Update 11/5/13–
NPR just did a piece today on passwords right after I posted.  They were looking more into the future of passwords using biometrics and voice recognition but I thought it was relevant.  Check it out here:  http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/11/05/243060103/the-most-secure-password-in-the-world-might-be-you

 

Signs and Marketing Material: Fast Signs, Vistaprint, PsPrint, Cmcprinting

If you’re  a retail or even wholesale-based business, you will need marketing material.  Every city has small mom and pop print shops and I definitely recommend using them when you can find them.  Sometimes as a small business owner you don’t have the time to shop quotes for simple marketing projects.  Here are my go to companies that I use:

Fast Signs – These guys use a franchise model so each franchise owner is in effect their own small business.  I’ve gotten to know the guys at my local FastSigns pretty well and will use them to print out menus, A-boards, shelf signs, etc.  They do a good job for the price and do it quickly and professionally.  www.fastsigns.com

Vistaprint or PsPrint – Both of these companies offer inexpensive printing.  For printing brochures of 300 or less, they have great pricing and often will have great incentives to get you to use them.  Vistaprint is pretty sneaky in the way they offer discounts.  As a new user to Vistaprint, you’ll get a great discount on printing.  I’ve done this several times and it’s worked – google your print need, eg. “printing brochures”.  Vistaprint usually shows up on the first page.  If you choose that link, you’ll almost always notice that the pricing is discounted steeply.  If you were a returning customer and logged into Vistaprint and then searched their site for “printing brochures”, the results wouldn’t yield as high of a discount if any.  In other words, new users to Vistaprint get great discounts.  For returning users to Vistaprint, I would enter the site from a google search.  Get in their, load your shopping cart, get to the page just before you have to pay, and then log in.  That way the discount will remain.  www.vistaprint.com

PsPrint is similar to Vistaprint.  I would shop around between the two to see which site offers you the better deal.  www.psprint.com (affiliate link)

CmcPrinting - these guys are great for high volume printing.  If you need 2,000 color copies of your newsletter, these guys are the best.  They are quick and professional and are perfect for small businesses.  I create my own quarterly newsletter for my retail market.  In the past I’ve hired people to hand them out door-to-door but soon I’ll look into the direct mail program that CMC has on their site.  These guys were perfect for my high volume printing needs and I consider them a hidden gem because of their low-cost yet high quality.  www.cmcprinting.com

Supplies: Amazon Prime Membership

I’ve purchased a zillion things from Amazon for my business.  I always like to price shop when I need to purchase things.  Even if it’s just to take a couple minutes to check the Internet, or specific stores, I always like to get a quick idea of what I’m paying for something and if it’s reasonable.  Amazon usually ranks high in terms of offering good deals.  That being said, if you do shop on Amazon, Amazon Prime is a must.  It’s such a good deal at only $79 a year.  Here’s what you get with Amazon Prime:

  • FREE Two Day Shipping on all Amazon Prime designated products.  And most of the products fall into this category.
  • Amazon Prime has a service similar to Netflix, a movie and TV show streaming service.   I watch maybe one or two movies a week.  The selection is great.  From kids shows to dramas, I’ve seen may movies on Amazon Prime that’s not on Netflix.  I’m sure the opposite is true as well.
  • Borrow from the Kindle library for free.  There are a ton of books that you can “borrow”.  You don’t need a Kindle to do this.  You can download and log in to the Kindle app from any mobile device or from your computer.

For $79 a year, you get a lot.  And if you join up using my link, it’s still $79 a year…I’ll just receive a small commission for the recommendation.
Update:  Check out my Amazon Prime Review here