I personally hate debt. Both in business and my personal life.
That said, there’s a time and a place for it. Whether it’s for startup costs, equipment, expansion, refinancing, or just some help covering operating expenses, a loan at the right time can make all the difference.
But there are hundreds, if not thousands, of places to get a small business loan. The options are overwhelming.
If your business needs money at favorable lending terms, I’ll show you the best small business loans, the different types of small business loans, and how to find the best lender for your needs.
The 10 Best Small Business Lenders
Most small business owners start their loan search at a bank. But according to Forbes, just 27.3% of small business loan applications are approved at large banks.
This is a new record high approval rate, but it’s just barely above one in four odds. I don’t like those chances. That’s why you won’t find any big banks on my list.
These ten small business lenders below are the first places I’d look if I needed a loan today.
BlueVine offers business loans from $5,000 to $5 million, with rates as low as 4.8%. You can get approved in just five minutes by applying online.
This lender has three different funding solutions based on the specific needs of your business:
- Line of Credit — Borrow up to $250,000 on a revolving line and only pay for what you use. No prepayment penalties.
- Term Loan — Lump sum of cash up to $250,000. Pay a fixed weekly rate with no origination fees.
- Invoice Factoring — Use unpaid invoices to get a credit line up to $5 million. No long-term contracts and only fund the invoices you select.
BlueVine has helped more than 15,000 customers secure over $2 billion in funding. They have an outstanding reputation and an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Over 200,000 small business owners trust Kabbage for their lending needs. This is one of the most popular loan solutions on the market today.
With that said, Kabbage is not for startups. There are two main requirements before you can consider applying for a loan:
- Your business must be operating for at least one year.
- The revenue of your business must be $4,200 per month or $50,000 per year.
Assuming you meet these qualifications, you’ll give Kabbage read-only access to your bank account so they can review the performance of your business.
Once approved, funds are available immediately. You can withdraw funds from your line of credit from any device at any time.
Kabbage offers up to $250,000 at 6, 12, or 18-month loan terms. There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties. You won’t be charged anything for getting approved. Only pay when you withdraw from your line of credit.
Lendio is a bit different from some of the other options on our list. It’s a loan marketplace, so you aren’t borrowing directly from them.
There are more than 75 lenders in the Lendio network, including Chase, American Express, Kabbage, and some of the other lenders in this guide.
Just take 15 minutes to fill out an application online, and Lendio will automatically match your business with potential lenders for your needs. They’ll show you the list of loans that your company qualifies for and give you access to cash as fast as 24 hours after approval.
Since Lendio works with so many different lenders, the platform offers a wide range of small business loans:
- Business line of credit
- Equipment financing
- Commercial mortgage
- Term loans
- Startup loans
- Small business credit cards
Lendio has funded 73,000+ loans totaling over $1.4 billion.
Fundbox offers lines of credit to small business owners. To apply, simply connect Fundbox to your bank account or accounting software.
Their algorithm will give you a credit decision in just a few minutes. If approved, you’ll be able to transfer funds into your account as soon as the next business day.
One potential drawback of using Fundbox is the loan must be paid back in 12 or 24 weeks, depending on the terms you choose. So it’s not ideal if you want to borrow a lump sum and pay it back for over the next two years.
Fundbox will automatically debit weekly payments from your account, so you won’t have to worry about paying the loan back manually or forgetting to write a check.
Another interesting service offered by this lender is the ability to extend credit to your customers. If you’re a merchant that sells high-ticket items and want to give your customers the ability to buy now and pay later, Fundbox can get you paid upfront and they’ll assume responsibility for collections. You’ll just have to pay a merchant fee depending on the lending terms.
Funding Circle is one of the largest and most well-established small business lenders. They’ve loaned $10.9 billion to 77,000+ business owners across the globe.
Small business owners can borrow between $25,000 and $500,000 with Funding Circle at rates as low as 4.99%. Choose repayment terms between six months and five years.
Unlike other lenders on our list, Funding Circle does charge a one-time origination fee, which costs between 3.49% and 6.99% of the loan amount. But this is really the only drawback of getting a loan from this lender, and it’s common practice for larger loans.
Fortunately, you won’t incur any prepayment penalties if you decide to repay the loan early.
I’d recommend Funding Circle for the following types of loan purposes:
- Equipment financing
- Purchase order financing
- Inventory financing
- Business expansion
It takes just six minutes to apply for a small business loan online. Once approved, you can have access to funding in as little as three business days.
Kiva is perfect for microloans under $10,000. It’s a nonprofit crowdfunding platform offering loans at 0% interest. To qualify for a Kiva loan, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Be living in the US
- Use the loan for business purposes
While you won’t have to pay interest to borrow money from Kiva, the approval process is quite lengthy compared to other loan options on our list.
The application itself takes up to 30 minutes and the fundraising process takes another month. However, Kiva lets you repay your loan up to 36 months, which is exceptional at no interest for a small loan amount.
If you’re launching a startup and need access to smaller sums of cash, but you’re not in a rush to get it, Kiva should definitely be on your radar.
Accion is another nonprofit small business lender. For more than 25 years, they’ve delivered loans to more than 500,000 entrepreneurs across the US.
You can get a term loan from Accion for up to $250,000 at fixed interest rates as low as 7%.
The whole purpose of this nonprofit organization is to empower entrepreneurs and create jobs in their communities. They go beyond lending money by providing other business resources and guidance to business owners. Every borrower is matched with a dedicated loan expert to guide them through the entire process.
Accion lends money to:
- Business owned by women
- Minority-owned businesses
- Businesses owned by veterans
- Businesses owned by people with disabilities
- Small business owners
- Companies “going green”
- Food and beverage businesses
The application process is simple and straightforward. Apply online in just 15 minutes.
OnDeck has loaned $12+ billion to businesses throughout the world. They have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and a 4.9/5 star rating on Trustpilot.
There are two types of loans you can get from OnDeck:
- Line of credit from $6,000 to $100,000 with rates starting at 10.99% APR.
- Term loans from $5,000 to $500,000 with rates starting at 11.9% APR.
OnDeck serves more than 700 industries, but it does have some industry restrictions. For example, they won’t loan money to drug dispensaries, firearms vendors, casinos, adult entertainment companies, nonprofits, and a handful of other high-risk businesses.
There are also minimum requirements you must meet before applying for a loan with OnDeck.
- Business must be operating for at least one year.
- Personal credit score of at least 600.
- Business annual revenue of $100,000.
- Need to have a business bank account.
With that said, OnDeck says their typical customers have been in business for more than three years, generate $300,000+ in annual revenue, and have a personal credit score of at least 650. So meeting the bare minimum requirements might not be enough to get favorable loan terms.
StreetShares offers business loans up to $250,000. This lending service lets you borrow money from a network of nearly 70,000 members and investors. They provide:
- Unsecured business loans
- Secured business loans
- Veteran business loans
- Business lines of credit
- Short term loans
- Inventory financing
- Equipment financing
- Merchant cash advance loans
- Working capital loans
StreetShares has a reputation for funding veteran-owned businesses. However, you don’t have to be a veteran or have any affiliation with a veteran to apply for a loan.
Loan terms range from 3-36 months. It doesn’t cost anything to apply and takes less than ten minutes to fill out a form online. Alternatively, you can call StreetShares, and they’ll walk you through the process over the phone.
Currency specializes in equipment loans and working capital loans. They offer various funding options and loans up to $500,000. You can get flexible loan terms up to 72 months.
Currency doesn’t charge prepayment penalties and even has some 0% interest programs for eligible businesses.
In addition to the loan options, Currency also provides payment processing solutions for large ticket items. They specialize in processing transactions over $10,000.
So if you’re in need of a loan and a new high-ticket payment processor, you can potentially get both from the same provider.
Currency’s loan process is very fast. You can apply and get funded within minutes.
Types of Small Business Loans
There are several types of business loans that can be used for different purposes. The type of loan you get will also impact your interest rates, payback period, and other term details.
Here’s a quick overview of the different ways to get a small business loan:
- Business line of credit — Lenders approve you for a revolving line of credit (similar to a credit card). You’ll be charged interest only on the amount you borrow, as opposed to the maximum limit of your credit line. A business line of credit can be used for any business-related needs.
- Term loans — Get a lump sum of cash for a fixed term and repayment amount. Each payment covers both the principal and interest of the loan.
- Equipment loans — As the name implies, these loans must be used to finance equipment purchased by your business. In many cases, a down payment will be required, and the equipment will serve as collateral against the money you borrow.
- Invoice financing — Also known as invoice factoring. Best for businesses struggling with cash flow because of unpaid invoices. You can sell portions of outstanding invoices to lenders at a discount for a fee based on the percentage of the invoice, plus interest on the cash received in advance.
- Merchant cash advance — Lenders provide your business with a lump sum of cash in exchange for a percentage of future sales. You’ll pay back the loan, plus fees, with debit and credit card sales on a daily or weekly basis. These loans typically have high interest rates.
- SBA loan guarantee — SBA-backed loans are offered by commercial lenders approved by the Small Business Administration (a government agency). The SBA guarantees 85% of loans up to $150,000 and 75% of loans higher than that amount. This reduces the risk to lenders, so the borrower can get favorable lending terms.
- Real estate loans — These are usually long-term and fixed-rate financing for real estate projects and equipment. Funds can be used to purchase land, buildings, machines, construction projects, or renovations.
- Franchise loans — For business owners who want to purchase or expand a franchise. You can use the funds to pay for things like franchise fees, operating expenses, and marketing costs.
- Business credit cards — Just like a personal credit card, a business credit card is a great way to pay for everyday expenses on credit. The approval process is quick, and you can get multiple credit cards from different financial institutions.
How to Choose The Best Small Business Lender
With so many options to choose from, finding the best small business lender for your needs can be challenging. This is the methodology that we used to decide which business lender is the best.
Type of Lender
These are the different places you can get a small business loan:
- Banks and credit unions — In most cases, banks loan money to large and well-established businesses. That’s why such a large portion of small business loans get rejected. But if you have an existing relationship with a bank, you can start your search here. This is the best way to get an SBA-backed loan.
- Direct lenders — A direct lender funds your loan without a middleman. So there’s no broker, private equity firm, or investment bank involved in the loan. You’ll borrow money directly (hence the name) from a direct lender.
- Alternative lenders — An alternative lender can usually offer more flexible terms compared to large national banks. That’s because there are fewer restrictions and less regulations on the types of loans they can offer.
- Peer-to-peer (P2P) lenders — Online P2P lending connects business owners with investors. The loan amount of your small business loan will usually be divided among multiple investors in the P2P lending network. P2P financing poses a greater risk for lenders, so interest rates are generally higher.
Assess the different lender types to see what you’re most comfortable with, and what you’ll qualify for.
The funding amount you’re seeking will have a significant impact on the lender you choose.
Some lenders only offer microloans of up to $10,000, while other lenders will give small business owners loans of up to $500,000 or $5 million.
Make sure you find a lender that can fund the loan amount you need.
All lenders do not offer every single loan type.
One lender might offer equipment financing, but that’s useless to you if you need the money to buy inventory or pay for operating expenses.
Lenders that offer business lines of credit will usually be your best option. You can use a line of credit for anything, and you only have to pay interest on the amount you borrow.
Most lenders will require specific qualification terms to accept an application. Depending on the lender, some of these terms are stricter than others.
In most cases, qualification terms include:
- Minimum length of time in business (usually one year).
- Minimum personal credit score.
- Minimum annual or monthly revenue.
- Age requirements.
- Residency requirements.
Always check the qualification terms before you apply for a loan. Some lenders will require “read-only” access to your bank account to verify your business history.
Application Process and Funding Time
The application process varies by lender. Some online forms can be filled out in just a few minutes, while others will take about half an hour.
Once your application has been completed, how long will it take for you to get approved? In some cases, lenders give you an approval answer immediately, with access to funds in less than 24 hours. Other lenders have a more lengthy approval process.
For me, waiting a few days to get money isn’t a big deal if it means getting the loan I need at terms I’m comfortable with. But if you’re in a jam and need financing ASAP, you’ll need to find a lender that can accommodate you.
Always shop around for the best interest rate. Loan terms will vary significantly based on the lender, loan type, your qualification terms, and the loan amount.
There are some 0% interest rate options out there, but usually, rates range from 7% to 39%.
BlueVine has interest rates as low as 4.8%, but you’ll need to have exceptional credit to qualify for those terms.
If you don’t need a loan right away, it’s worth waiting if you can improve your credit score to get favorable financing terms. The difference between paying 11% interest and 5% interest is enormous, especially for larger loans.
Don’t rush this process. It’s worth taking the time to find the best lender and loan type for your small business needs.
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