Book royalties and mustering-out money. New home loans, pension funds, insurance policies, and tax refunds. The INC. 500 CEOs have shown some innovation when it comes to finding seed capital.

But now we've found a new wrinkle: entrepreneurs who finance with credit cards.

"I always thought I was the only one," said Lew Gould, a manufacturer of ceramic-tile tools in West Nyack, N.Y., when we called him about plastic financing. "Back then, there was no cash flow here, so I used cards to finance office supplies, typewriters, non-capital goods of all kinds, in addition to using it for travel and entertainment. It's the best thing to happen to seed capital since God made rich and gullible aunts."

Or take H. Bruce Sauls. While other kids collected baseball cards, Sauls had collected bank cards from the age of 12. Then, when he was 26 and ready to start his furniture company, "I just walked into a local bank, plunked down half a dozen cards on the counter, and told the teller to give me the maximum cash allowance. It came to about $3,700, just enough to cover the bad check I had written to a supplier several days before."

A spokeswoman for American Express said she has heard it all before. "There is no official policy" about start-up financing, she explained -- only that "everyone has to pay his bill within 30 days."