Are you behind with bill settlement or did the supplier payment come around but you are cash strapped?
You can always turn to a business loan – especially if you are a running a small to medium enterprise. Going through the terms of different financial services providers, you will realize that some will only advance you cash if you provide a personal or business asset as collateral – these have the lowest APRs, while others don’t mind advancing you unsecured loans – these have higher APRs.
Note that unlike a decade ago when banks were the sole business loan financiers, today we have a growing pool of both conventional and non-conventional financial services providers that are constantly coming up with different loan products ideal for SMEs. These include government-backed agencies, institutional banks, and even innovative finance enterprises. Some of the factors that you should put into consideration when determining the type of loan and the lender to deal with include the interest charged, minimum and maximum loan amounts, and loan repayment period.
To help you identify the best loan service provider for your business, we have vetted different institutions and come up with a list of what we consider the best business loan lenders for 2021. But before we take a closer look at either, lets see why you need a business loan and their merits/demerits.
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Why would you consider a business loan?
I. Capital for business investment
A business loan comes in handy for small and medium enterprises that have viable business expansion goals but still operating under tight budgets. These funds can be used to acquire new, repair or modernize existing business equipment, open distribution centers, revamp aspects of your business like transport and logistics, and even build or rent out more office space.
II. Emergency funding
What do you when your business is running low on funds or need to pay time-sensitive bills like electricity or operation licenses and permits? You will also need a business loan if you don’t have enough in your cash reserves but still need to recover from such unprecedented catastrophes like a fire accident or storm. Some lenders offer quick processing that allows you to get your loan within a few days or weeks.
III. Lower rates and costs
Most business loans carry lower interest rates and other associated costs when compared to such alternatives as a personal loan.
IV. Flexible and convenient repayment plans
Most business loan lenders have flexible repayment terms. These often include extended repayment periods and interest rate discounts for early loan payments.
V. Building business credit
Looking at the qualification requirements set by the different lenders, one thing stands out, they all pay huge emphasis on both the business and in the case of SMEs their managers/directors credit score. While some lenders will advance your loan services with little regard to your poor to bad credit scores, the maximum loan limits will be quite low and their interest rates prohibitively high. Most lenders will help you build or rebuild this credit score by sharing your loan repayment progress with the different credit reference bureaus.
What are the pros and cons of taking a business loan?
Criteria used to rank these business loan providers:
- Ease of business loan application
- Minimum qualification requirements
- Loan processing and approval wait times
- Types of business loans offered
- Interest rates and associated loan costs
- Customer support
- Minimum/maximum loan limits
Best business loans for 2021: Summary
10 best business loans for 2021
1.SmartBiz SBA Loans – up to $5 million at 13% p.a
US SBA (Small Business Administration) loans are perhaps the most popular business loans in the market. SBA partially backs loans from $5,000 to $5 million to aid small businesses. Although the US Government supports the loans, they are offered by commercial banks and lenders who operate online. You can apply for SBA business loans for whatever purpose. Because of their government backing, these loans attract a lower APR and long repayment periods as lenders have confidence that the loan will be repaid in time. There are different types of SBA loans. Microloans offer loans of up to $50,000 while SBA 7(a) covers broader purposes. CDC/504 is ideal for asset financing purposes, like purchasing business equipment. SmartBiz provides different SBA loan options through its online website. Some of their loans include SBA working loans, commercial real estate and debt refinancing among others
- Very low-interest rates (usually between 5% and 13%)
- Extended loan repayment periods (up to 25 years for SBA 7(a) and 20 years for CDC and six years for microloans)
- Relatively easy to qualify for an SBA loan
- Longer application process that can take from 3 weeks to several months
- Requires a strong credit history
2. Funding Circle traditional term business loan– up to $500,000 at 4.99% p.a
Funding Circle is among the best overall lenders offering business loans. This peer-to-peer small business loan marketplace allows you to borrow from $25,000 to $500,000 and repay over a period of 6 months to 5 years. They charge low-interest rates that start from 4.99% over six months for business owners with good credit, to 27.79% over five years for those with low credit. Origination fees also vary depending on your credit score. As a traditional business term loan, you do not require any collateral to qualify. The lender reviews your credit score, annual/monthly revenue, and overall financial health.
- Maintains some of the lowest interest rates for good credit borrowers
- Allows you to borrow bigger amounts
- Suitable for those with good credit score
- May carry early repayment charges
- Not accessible to poor and businesses with bad credit score
3. Kabbbage business line of credit loan– up to $250,000 at 10% p.a
Kabbage is arguably the best loan for a Business Line of Credit type of loan. They are also touted as the best loan offer for those who seek quick disbursement. Business Line of Credit loans are more like credit card loans, but they are also available to businesses with a low credit score. One can apply for the maximum amount of loan they can take on their card. The more you pay on time, the higher the amount you will be able to access. Kabbage offers loans between $2,000 and $250,000 and can verify your application details and approve your loan within 10 minutes. Kabbage offers its loans online and also allows same-day disbursement. No origination fees are charged, but every monthly installment carries a charge, which can be anything from 1.5% to 10%. Loans taken via Kabbage should be paid within 6 months or 12 months as disclosed in the terms.
- Fast loan application and processing speeds
- Attractively high maximum loan limits
- Maintains some of the lowest interest rates and
- Will only issue secured loans
- Punitive penalties for delayed repayments
4. FundBox invoice financing loan – up to $100,00 at 4.66%
Invoice Financing is a type of business loan that allows you to borrow the maximum amount for the invoices you are waiting to be paid on. You can then repay the loan once your clients pay your invoices. Another variant is invoice factoring, which involves selling your invoices at a discount. FundBox is one of the popular lenders offering both invoice financing and line of credit loans. Their invoice financing allows you to borrow from $1,000 to $100,000, which should be paid between 12 to 24 weeks. Loan funds are disbursed within the shortest time possible, and you can receive your loan in the next business day.
- Fast approval times (loan funded within a matter of hours)
- Low minimum requirements, easy to qualify for a loan
- Low-interest rates and no additional on costs
- One may consider their $100k maximum loan limit relatively low
5. Credibility Capital business term loans – up to $400,000 at 20% p.a
Credibility Capital is another lender that provides business term loans that are paid within a specified time. However, this lender suits a credible, financially healthy business with a credit score of at least 650.They offer loans from $10,000 to $400,000 paid over 1, 2, or 3 years. All loans carry a one-time origination fee of 3%, interest rates range from 8% to 20% with no monthly payment fees charged. Credibility Capital only awards loans to companies that have been in business for at least 24 months.
- Higher maximum loan amounts
- Quick loan disbursement
- Fixed interest rates thus predictable monthly instalments
- Strict loan requirements like high credit score limits
- Not suitable for startups
6. BlueVine equipment financing – up to $2.5 million at 30% p.a
Traditional business loans can be used to buy equipment. However, it is recommendable to take a dedicated equipment financing loan for this purpose. These loans use the equipment purchased as collateral, and you can continue using your gear as you pay the loan. They also attract lower APRs between 8% and 30%. BlueVine is a leading lender that offer equipment financing loans. You can borrow from $5,000 to $2.5 million. They also offer invoice factoring and line of credit loans. The loan amount you are eligible for depends on the value of the equipment you want to purchase. You can borrow up to 100% of the cost.
- Helps fund equipment acquisition that then serves as the loan collateral
- Quick online application and fast processing
- High maximum loan limits
- Your equipment may become obsolete by the time you clear the loan
- One may consider their maximum 30% interest rates quite uncompetitive
7. The Lending Club – up to $300,000 at 35.7%
The Lending Club is a vast marketplace where you can get your business funded for any purpose. It is one of the largest and oldest of its kind. You can borrow from $5,000 to $300,000 with repayment terms of 1-5 years. The lending club charges interest of 9.7% to 35.7% depending on your credit score. Origination fees also vary from 1.99% to 8.99%. Your business must have at least $50,000 in annual sales and must have been in operation for the past 12 months.
- Fast loan processing and funding
- Straightforward loan application process that can be carried out wholly online
- Relatively attractive loan amounts of up to $300,000
- Not ideal for startups and less than perfect credit
- Charges high origination fees
8. Torro merchant cash advance loan – up to $250,000 at 15% APR
Merchant Cash Advance loans are another type of business loan that works in a non-traditional way. Rather than paying a fixed interest rate for a given time, these loans are offered in exchange for a set percentage of daily credit card transactions. This means the loan has no fixed rate or repayment period. It all depends on how much sales you can make daily. The percentage charged on credit transactions ranges from 1.14% to 1.48%. This can translate into around 15% APR but can go into triple digits depending on the loan and transactions paid. Torro is the popular lender offering merchant cash advance loans for both new startups and existing companies. They also provide working capital loans and traditional business term loans. The approval process is fast and efficient with loans funded within 48 hours of application. You can borrow up to $250,000.
- Well-structured loans that fit both start-ups and established enterprises
- Considers more than just the credit score in assessing creditworthiness
- Fast loan processing and approval
- Runs a complicated interest rate and loan cost calculation scheme that may push the APR to unsustainable levels
9. American Express Business Loan – up to $2 million at 19.97% p.a
American Express is another reputable lender known for its business credit card products. They are one of the options you have if you do not want to pay the high origination fees other lenders impose on business loans. You can borrow from $3,500 to $50,000 and pay within 12, 24, and 36-month terms. American Express charges fixed interest rates that range from 6.98% to 19.97% depending on the loan amount and conditions. Other loan offers include merchant financing and working capital loan whose limits are set at $2 million and $750,000 respectively.
- Provides you with several highly customisable loan products
- Fast disbursement of funds for qualifying loans
- Relatively high maximum loan limits
- Not accessible to businesses with poor to bad credit scores
- Not suitable for start-ups
10. Kiva startup funding–up to $10,000 at 0% for micro loans
Kiva is one of the top choices if you are looking for startupfunding and microloans for your business. Most lenders require proof of operation, which makes it difficult to find loans to finance a new business. Kiva is among the few reliable lenders that offer microloans designed to help new business owners get off the ground. You can borrow up to $10,000, and while this is a small amount, no interest is charged. With repayment periods of up to 36 months and no credit checks, Kiva is one of the best lenders if you want to build business credit. However, they do not lend you directly. Kiva uses individual lenders in its extensive network of over 1.6 million investors. You also need social underwriting to qualify for a loan.
- Ideal for startups
- No interest fee charged on microloans
- Online application process
- Extremely low maximum loan limits
- Relatively slow loan processing and funding
Factors to consider when choosing a business loan lender
I. Your credit score
Most lenders require personal guarantee before awarding business loans. They will, therefore, look into your credit score to ensure you can repay the loan even if the business fails. Borrowers with excellent credit can enjoy a lot more options and attract better rates. On the other hand, having a credit score that needs work will limit you to only a handful of lenders. Nonetheless, there are still some viable offers for those with bad credit.
It is essential to ensure you understand everything in the loan contract. Different lenders have different terms, so make sure you settle for the best conditions for your business needs. Some loans are offered with shorter repayment duration while others carry high-interest rates and fees. These factors may increase the financial pressure you are already facing. Lenders also have a minimum loan amount so you should consider this before applying. For instance, if you need a $2,000 loan and the minimum amount allowed is $3,000, you should look elsewhere to avoid taking a higher loan than you need.
III. Minimum and maximum loan limits
You also have to put into account the business need you intend to solve. For instance, how much do you need and how much is your preferred business loan provider offering?
IV. Type of loans available
Some business loan providers will only finance specific business needs. Kiva, for instance, is only suitable for small business microloans while Bluevine will only advance you a loan for equipment purchases. It is imperative that you match your business cash needs with a suitable financier as this goes a long way in speeding up the loan processing and funding process.
V. Loan processing and funding speeds
When faced with cash sensitive emergencies like repairs after a fire and other accident or after equipment breakdown, you will want to deal with a loan services provider with the fastest loan processing speeds. In such a case, you are better off turning to lenders that guarantee same-day loan processing and funding.
While there are numerous lenders and banks offering business loans, getting the right one for your business needs is not always a smooth process. There is paperwork to complete, terms to go through and repayment commitments that accompany every loan and this applies for every loan provider, including Advance America and Balance Credit. You should make your company’s goals your main priority when comparing loans. It is also recommendable to look up reviews from real customers and experts for more insights. If you follow all the guidelines provided above, you should be able to find a suitable business loan for your next move.
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Glossary of Loan Terms
What is a business loan?
A business loan is a secured or unsecured cash advance provided by a bank, a non-bank financial institution like a credit Union or a peer to peer lending platform to a business. These lenders have the right to express their discretion in setting such loan terms as the minimum/maximum loan limits, interest rates and repayment periods. Vet different lenders and only settle with one whose terms of engagement you consider most tolerable.
Can I get a business loan to fund a start-up?
Most lenders will only advance business credit to established enterprises with solid cash flows and verifiable future earnings projections. You will note that most lenders on this list have either explicitly ignored start-ups in their business loan programs or set a cap on the maximum limits they can afford them.
What does a lender take into account when assessing my businesses creditworthiness?
Most lenders will take into account such factors as your businesses earning history, cash flows, and projected future incomes. In the case of partnerships, sole proprietorships, private companies and other small to medium enterprise, they will also pull the manager/director’s credit scores.
How much cash advance can I get for my business?
Most lenders have set up clear lower and upper loan limits available to businesses. Some have gone a step further and come with specific limits for their different loan products. How much you get as the business loan is, therefore, highly dependent on your preferred lender’s generalized or loan-type limits.
What happens if I delay repayments or default for an unsecured business loan?
If you delay or miss several repayment deadlines, the lender starts by imposing late payment charges and penalties. In the case of default, however, the lender reports this to the different credit reference bureaus, effectively hurting your credit score and negatively affecting your future access to both personal and business loan services with every other lender.