In general, small business loans help businesses access the money they need to operate and grow. However, there are several types of small business loans, and it’s important to find the best fit for your needs.
SBA loans are small business loans that are guaranteed by the Small Business Administration, including the SBA 7(a), 504, CAPLines, Export, Microloan and Disaster loan programs. These loans typically range from $30,000 to $5 million and come with low interest rates and extended repayment terms—up to 25 years. That said, qualification requirements are more demanding than for other loans not backed by the government, and the application process typically takes longer.
Common types of SBA loans include:
- SBA 7(a) loans. With maximum loan amounts up to $5 million, the SBA 7(a) loan program is the SBA’s main offering. Loans are commonly used to purchase real estate but may also be used for working capital, debt refinancing and the purchase of business supplies. Current interest rates, as of Oct. 7, for SBA 7(a) loans range from 5.5% to 11.25%.
- SBA 504 loans. Available up to $5 million, SBA 504 loans must be used for major fixed assets, like existing buildings or land, new facilities and long-term machinery and equipment. As such, 504 loans may not be used for working capital, inventory or other common business uses. Rates on SBA 504 loans are lower than those imposed by the 7(a) program, and range from about 2.81% to 4%.
- SBA microloans. SBA microloans extend up to $50,000 and are intended to help small businesses start or grow. This may involve using the funds for working capital, inventory, machinery, equipment and other fixtures and supplies needed to do business. Rates typically range from 8% to 13%, but this varies by lender.
Terms loans are a traditional form of financing that’s repaid over a set period of time. In general, short-term loans range from just three to 18 months, whereas long-term business loans may be extended for up to 10 years. While some term loans are designed for specific uses—like financing equipment or inventory—term loans traditionally can be used to fund most large business-related purchases. Business term loans are typically available up to around $500,000, and annual percentage rates (APRs) start around 9%.
Lines of Credit
Unlike a term loan that’s paid out in a lump sum, a line of credit is a set amount of money that a business owner can access on a revolving basis. This means the borrower can draw against the line of credit for a set period of time—usually up to five years. If the borrower pays back a portion of the line of credit early, they can access it again until the draw period ends.
Once the draw period is over, the borrower enters the repayment period and can no longer access the revolving funds. Rather than pay interest on the entire amount, as with a term loan, a business owner who accesses a line of credit is only charged interest for what they actually use.
Lines of credit are a good option for businesses that want to access cash on an as-needed basis for things like unexpected expenses and other cash-flow issues. Borrowing limits generally range from $2,000 to $250,000 and come with APRs from 10% to 99%.
Invoice Factoring and Financing
Invoice factoring is the process of selling a business’ outstanding invoices in exchange for a lump sum cash payment. Invoices are sold to a third-party factoring company at a discount, so you won’t get paid for invoices in full. And, once you sell an invoice to a factoring company, the factoring company assumes responsibility for collections.
However, this form of financing can be an effective way to access cash quickly without having to wait the 30 to 90 days customers usually have to pay invoices. For that reason, invoice factoring is a helpful strategy when you need short-term financing or help managing cash flow. In general, invoice financing amounts can extend up to $5 million with APRs between 10% and 79%.
Merchant Cash Advances
Merchant cash advances (MCAs) let business owners access a lump sum of cash by giving the lender—often a merchant services company—a portion of future sales receipts. In contrast to a traditional business loan, a merchant cash advance and related fees are repaid from the business’ individual sales or through automatic clearing house (ACH) payments on a daily or weekly basis.
Under this strategy, a business owner borrows a set amount of cash at a factor rate usually between 1.2 and 1.5. To repay the loan, the business must repay the advance with a set percentage of daily credit card sales over an estimated repayment term. A merchant cash advance may be a good option for businesses that experience a high volume of sales and need to access cash quickly—without qualifying for a traditional business loan.
Equipment financing is a form of small business loan that helps businesses purchase the equipment and machinery needed to start and maintain operations. This flexible financing can typically be used for everything from office furniture and electronics to manufacturing equipment.
Equipment loans are collateralized by the items being purchased, so the size of a loan depends on the value of the equipment and the size of the down payment. However, the best equipment financing companies offer terms and limits of up to 25 years and $1 million or more.
Interest rates on equipment financing may be lower than available through other types of financing and typically range from 8% to 30%. As with other small business loans, rates vary by lender and borrower creditworthiness.