Best Small Business Loans of 2020
Updated: September 18, 2020
Update: We've updated our FAQs with information on what assets can be used to secure a business loan and the typical loan terms.
Securing funding during critical times is a challenge for most small business owners. Alternative lending offers multiple options, including working capital loans, merchant cash advances, equipment financing, invoice factoring and term loans. We researched more than 100 lenders, scrutinizing their application process, qualification requirements, and loan rates to determine the lenders we think are best for various types of loans.
Our Best Picks
Best for Merchant Cash Advances
Best for Bad Credit Loans
Best for Invoice Financing
Best for Small Business Lines of Credit
Best for Working Capital
Editor's note: Looking for the right loan for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.
To apply with Rapid Finance, you'll need to provide a government-issued photo ID, a voided check from your business's checking account, the last three months of your company's bank account statements and the three most recent credit card processing statements. You can apply online or over the phone. Approval typically takes 24 hours, with funds available in three days.
Loan terms vary, ranging from three to 36 months, and are paid back on a daily or weekly basis. You can apply online or over the phone. Approval takes just minutes, with funds deposited into your account within 24 hours.
To apply, you fill out an online application and link Kabbage to either your business checking account or a software application you already use, such as QuickBooks. Kabbage reps will review the data to determine if you meet the company's qualification standards. The process typically takes a few minutes to complete. Once approved, you have instant access to your line of credit.
To qualify, you must be in business for at least two years and have a minimum credit score of 700. The approval process can be completed in as little as four hours.
How to Choose the Best Loan for Your Business
Choosing the right loan involves a clear understanding of two things: your business's current financial position and the future you see in store for your business. You want to carefully choose a loan that will not create problems for you down the road.
When you need capital fast, it's important to maintain a clear head and think through some important issues. Assess how much money you need, how fast you need it and what you'll use it for – some loan options work better than others. You also want a clear plan before you agree to any type of loan about how you will repay it. If you don't take the time to answer these key questions and devise a repayment plan, you could be setting yourself up for a potential disaster.
Before you apply with any lenders, reflect on how a lender would view you and your business. Also, scrutinize the lender's requirements. Check out the interest rates and determine if the loan is an amount you can reasonably afford to pay back. Compare the interest rates of various lenders until you find the rate that is best for you.
Take time to understand the repayment terms, too. What does the payment schedule look like, and how long do you have to pay it back? Ask yourself: Does the term, the principal (the amount borrowed), and the interest rate make sense for you and your company?
What Type of Business Loan Is Best for Your Small Business?
Whether you're expanding your business, investing in marketing or advertising, or managing cash flow, it's hard to grow without the right kind of financing. Luckily, there are several different types of financing options for small business owners.
Traditional banks offer long-term loans for major purchases, SBA partners can provide small business-specific loans, and alternative lenders provide creative options like invoice financing and lines of credit.
Banks and alternative lenders can generally meet your funding needs if your business is financially stable.
Here is a brief overview of the types of loans that are available to small business owners and how the funds can be used.
U.S. Small Business Administration loans are processed by lenders and banks. They are low-interest loans that are available to help business owners expand their business (buy a business, land or equipment) or recover after a natural disaster. The maximum amount of money you can receive from an SBA loan is $5 million.
There are four specific types of SBA loans:
- SBA 7(a) loans are a good option for buying a business, working capital or buying equipment for your business. These loans are ideal if you're looking to grow your business. You can borrow up to $5 million. SBA 7(a) loans feature a variable interest rate, which is tied to the prime rate. Collateral is required.
- A 504 loan also has a cap of $5 million. Many business owners use a 504 loan to purchase machinery or land. 504 loans cannot be used for working capital or inventory. Interest rates are typically fixed and are based on five and 10-year U.S. Treasury bond rates. No collateral is required.
- SBA microloans can be used for working capital, to purchase supplies or equipment or fixtures or furniture. Rates vary from 8-13%. Loans are available from community-based nonprofits, and the maximum amount you can borrow is $50,000.
- An SBA disaster loan offers up to $2 million in loans. They are designed specifically for small business owners affected by natural disasters or global crises. According to the SBA, interest rates are fixed and are determined by legally established formulas (Rates typically range from 3-7%.)
When you take out a term loan, you get a sum of money that you are required to pay back in installments over a set time period.
- Short-term loans are designed to be repaid in less than a year. Funding can be quick – it can take one or two days before the borrower can access funds. Loan amounts range from $5,000 to $250,000.
- Long-term loans are designed with established businesses in mind that are looking to grow. Repayment terms cover several years. They have low monthly interest rates and financing can be up to $100,000.
Line of Credit
An option for small business owners is a line of credit (LOC). LOCs provide quick access to capital, and you're not bound by certain rules about what the money can be used for. LOCs can be secured or unsecured (most are unsecured). The amount you can borrow and the interest rate are determined by the lender. Also, interest begins accruing as soon as you draw on your LOC. Many LOC loans have qualification requirements such as a minimum annual revenue, how long your company has been established, and, in some cases, business owners must have a minimum credit score of 500 or higher.
Merchant Cash Advance
A cash advance is a lump-sum payment – an advance – that business owners borrow against future income. Businesses repay advances using a portion or percentage of credit card income. The fees for merchant cash advances can be very expensive.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending is a loan from another business owner or individual investor interested in financing your business. This cuts out the need for banks. However, P2P lending is not allowed in some states.
Unsecured and Secured Loans
An unsecured loan doesn't require you to put up collateral. However, you must have good credit to qualify, which is considered a score of 630 to 850. Maximum loan amounts go up to $50,000.
A secured loan requires collateral. Loan amounts range from $50,000 to $100,000, and many owners use these funds to cover startup costs.
Key Aspects to Pay Attention to When Shopping for a Business Loan
When seeking a loan, understanding the ins and outs of the lending process, the lender's qualification requirements and the terms of your loan is vital to securing the capital you need now without compromising your business's future.
As you compare various lenders, pay attention to the following elements.
As you evaluate lenders, ask how long or detailed the application process is. During this time, your lender collects information like how much income your business generates and the debts you have to assess your ability to pay back the loan.
In each of our reviews, we've listed the average turnaround time from the time an individual applies to when the loan is funded.
You can speed the approval process by having certain documents in order, including your business's tax income tax forms, bank statements, financials, and possibly other documents like your articles of incorporation, franchise agreements, etc. As part of our reviews, we've listed the documentation you'll likely be asked to provide.
Small business loans accrue interest, which is the price you pay for a loan. Rates can be fixed or fluctuate (variable). Generally, though, alternative lenders offer a fixed interest rate. Your interest rate will vary depending on the lender you partner with, your business's financials, the credit score and credit history of the business owner, and how long your company has been established.
The loan term is the period of time the lender specifies during which you make minimum payments that comprise the principal of the loan and interest. Ensure the loan has a reasonable term that helps you plan accordingly so you can meet your company's needs while also making the minimum payment.
There is a lot that goes into getting approved for a business loan. Qualifications are the standards a lender has for its borrowers. If there is a specific loan you have in mind, investigate the lender's qualification criteria beforehand so you know what you need and must do to qualify.
Typically, lenders have certain minimum credit score requirements or expectations regarding other aspects of your business that they use to determine if you qualify. We've detailed eligibility requirements for each of our six best picks.
Collateral is an asset you offer or pledge to back your loan. In the event you cannot pay back your debt, the collateral is forfeited to the lender. Collateral can be your building (if you own it), equipment, personal accounts or property.
Lenders that offer secured loans usually request that the business owner put up a certain amount of collateral. Unsecured loans, though, do not require collateral. But before you breathe a sigh of relief, lenders sometimes require that the business owner make a personal guarantee – a binding legal document that states you will personally pay back the loan if your business can't. If the debt is nondischargeable and you go on to file personal bankruptcy, you're still obligated to repay the debt.
Qualifying for a loan is great, but it is important to know when you will actually have the funds deposited into your account. Knowing this upfront helps you plan accordingly so you're not in a cash crunch for payroll or other business operating expenses.
Some lenders require you to provide additional documentation like tax returns, photo identification, bank and credit processing statements or a voided check. We've specified with each of our best picks the documentation requirements they have.
We reached out to our small business owner readers about the qualities they looked for in a lender. Chef Kyndra McCrary, owner of Swift Cafe LA, said she wanted a lender who offered flexibility and support. McCrary said OnDeck had the qualities she wanted most in a lender. They met her at her level, and she used the funds to launch her business.
"It was more customized," McCrary said. "And the terms and rates were more lenient." OnDeck, she said, took the time to build a rapport with her, and understand her business situation and needs. This level of communication was important to McCrary. "[OnDeck] worked … to [provide] the payments and terms that fit our time frame."
Consistency was another feature that stood out to McCrary and why she chose OnDeck. During her search, she encountered lenders who provided inconsistent information on their website and in person, which made working with them difficult. Transparency and consistency are key qualities in a good lender, McCrary said. It is also a vital part of the loan process, because trusting your lender eliminates back and forth and confusion.
"They were truthful, and I went to them more than once, and they were honest with their information," McCrary said about OnDeck.
Other qualities that McCrary looked for in a lender were the interest rates and terms offered. McCrary said she wanted to choose a lender who would best serve her financially and not cripple her later with a difficult repayment plan.
In the case of Brian Cairns, CEO of ProStrategix Consulting, a long loan term, coupled with low-interest loans, were important for him. Cairns has used SBA loans and highly recommends them, if you qualify.
"These are the most stringent with qualifying requirements," Cairns said. "If you do not qualify for an SBA loan, commercial loans from smaller banks and alternative lenders are a good fallback."
Using a merchant cash advance can be difficult in the long run if you do not do your research, said Cairns. He suggested using a merchant cash advance as a last resort. "We've seen many companies get into trouble by not doing their due diligence before entering these contracts."
Business Loan FAQs
What is the easiest business loan to get?
The answer to this question depends on how much you need and how you intend to use the funds. There are many lenders that have minimal qualification requirements for annual revenue, time in business and the personal credit score of the business owner. This is helpful for startups without a financial history that cannot meet the requirement lenders have for more established organizations. Be sure to read our reviews to see which lenders have less-onerous eligibility requirements.
Do startup business loans require personal guarantees?
If the loan you're considering is unsecured (no collateral is required), more often than not, you're going to need to provide a personal guarantee. This is the case for most startup loans because this is how lenders protect themselves if you're unable to repay the loan.
Will lenders look at my personal credit?
If you are starting a new business, there isn't a financial history for your company. Rather than evaluate your business's credit, lenders check your personal credit. This is common, especially if you are a new business owner. Sometimes looking into your personal credit is the only option lenders have.
What is the minimum credit score for a small business loan?
Lenders have different requirements, and, often, the type of loan you're applying for will also influence the minimum credit score needed for the loan.
SBA 7(a) and SBA 7(a) express loans require a score of 640 and higher, while an SBA CAPlines and SBA export loan has a minimum credit score of 660. To get an SBA microloan, your score must be between 620 to 640. For an SBA 504 loan, you need at least a score of 680 to qualify.
Online lenders often have more flexible requirements. Some provide loans to businesses with credit scores between 500 and 550. However, if your credit score is that low, you will likely pay higher interest rates.
Can you get a business loan if you have bad credit?
It can be hard, but it's not impossible. There are lenders who don't use your credit score as a determining factor in whether you qualify for a business loan or not. Some weigh your financial history and business success more than your credit score.
If your credit score isn't great, shore up other parts of your business's value, such as revenue or sales.
What credit score do I need to qualify for a small business loan?
The minimum credit score you need to qualify for a loan ranges from 620 to 640 or more. However, the requirements are based on the type of SBA program you're seeking and your lender. For an SBA 7(a) loan or SBA 7(a) express loan, borrowers should have a score of 640 or more. If you're interested in the SBA CAPLines program or an SBA export loan, you should have a credit score of at least 660. SBA CDC/504 loans require a minimum score of 680, and for an SBA microloan, a score of 620 to 640 is preferred.
If you are looking for a loan from an alternative lender, you may be approved with a credit score below 600, but it's likely that the terms of your loan will be less than favorable.
What documentation is required to get a business loan?
Among the documents you will need to provide lenders are your annual business revenue and profit, bank statements, personal and business tax returns, a business plan, business licenses and permits, proof of collateral, a balance sheet, a copy of your commercial lease, and any legal contracts and agreements you already have in place.
What is the fastest and easiest way to get a business loan?
The traditional way of borrowing money has long been to tap a local bank or credit union, but this route can take weeks before your business is approved and funded. Online lenders tend to do a better job in this regard, getting loans into business owners' hands in days.
Alternative lenders typically offer several loan options, including working capital loans, merchant cash advances, equipment financing, term loans and invoice factoring. Depending on the type of loan you choose, you could have money in your bank account in less than 24 hours.
Either way you go, you can speed up the entire approval process by having your business documentation ready, including tax forms, bank statements, financials and other documents related to your enterprise.
Does applying for a business loan affect your personal credit score?
Often, to be approved for a small business loan, you must personally guarantee the debt, meaning you will pay back the loan yourself if your company doesn't. The lender has every right to go after you individually if the loan is delinquent, and that could hurt your personal credit score. The same applies to a business line of credit. If you personally guarantee any loan and the business is unable to pay it, you are on the hook for it.
What assets can be used to secure a business loan?
Lenders vary in the collateral they'll accept, but in general, anything with value can be used. Common types of collateral for business loans are equipment, vehicles, real estate, inventory and accounts receivables.
Some lenders may require you to offer personal collateral not tied to your business. This could include vehicles, real estate and cash in the bank.
What are typical business loan terms?
There are several types of business loans, all with varying terms. Business loan terms can be as short as a few weeks or as long as 25 years.
A traditional bank loan has terms from three to 10 years. Medium-term business loans last one to five years, while short-term business loans are typically three to 18 months in length.
SBA small business loans have terms up to 25 years, but 10-year loans are more common.
What to Expect in 2020
Everything seems to be digital these days. Even grocery shopping has become a digital task, so it's no surprise business loans have followed suit. In 2020, the number of organizations that offer online and mobile lending is expected to increase.
While some credit unions and banks may jump on the bandwagon by creating digital loan applications for businesses, their platforms aren't expected to perform as well. Digital options offer more financing options and faster approval, which is why they've become popular among small businesses.
Companies like Amazon and PayPal have joined the small business lending market. Amazon gave more than $1 billion in loans to American small business owners. PayPal has shelled out $10 billion within five years. Along with Square, they have become primary loan options for small businesses.
We expect more lenders to follow the example of digital lenders like Amazon and PayPal, increasing their personalized offers to small businesses to provide entrepreneurs with the specific funding they need, when they need it.
Another trend we expect to increase in 2020 is small businesses seeking funding on P2P business lending platforms. Transparency Market Research predicts the global P2P lending market will reach $897.85 billion by 2024.
P2P lending is expected to increase in popularity, thanks to its low interest rates and loan offers based on a business's earning potential instead of its credit score. Automated lending platforms have grown steadily, which are steering businesses away from traditional methods and lenders and toward businesses within their circles and communities.
To help you find the right business loan, we researched and analyzed dozens of options. Here is a roundup of our 2020 best picks, followed by an explanation of how we chose them.
Locating the Best Services
We asked small business owners which lenders they have used and would recommend to others. To this list, we added lenders on our current vendor list, those who had reached out to us asking to be reviewed, plus others we learned about as we researched this topic.
Choosing the Best Services
After preliminary investigation, including a look at other best-pick lists, Better Business Bureau ratings, and initial research into each lender, we whittled the list down. After several rounds of research and other considerations, we arrived at a shortlist of companies to research further.
Researching Each Service
Next, we researched each lender, investigating the types of loans it offers, the amount of money that can be borrowed, the loan term, the application and approval process, and repayment process. We contacted each lender by phone and live chat (if this option was possible) and posed as business owners to gauge the support each company offers.
Our Best Picks
Ultimately, we settled on six best picks: Rapid Finance, OnDeck, Noble Funding, Kabbage, SBG Funding and Crest Capital.
Full List of Business Loans
1st Merchant Funding
6th Avenue Capital
Advance Funds Network
Alpha Funding Corp.
American Capital Group
Apple Capital Group
Business Capital USA
Business Credit & Capital
Business Finance Advance
CAN Capital Merchant Services
Chase Business Loans
Chase - Loans
Citi Wide Merchant Funding
Credit Card Processing Specialists
David Allen Capital
Excelsior Growth Fund
First American Merchant
First Working Capital Group
Fountainhead Commercial Capital
Grand Coast Capital Group
Horizon Business Funding
Innovative Lease Services
Key Equipment Finance
Keystone Equipment Finance and Leasing
Liberty Capital Group
LQD Business Finance
National Business Capital
NDC Grow America Fund
North Shore Funding Co.
OCM Financial Group
Patch of Land
PayPal Business Loans
Prompt Advance Lending
Rapid Capital Funding
Silver Rock Funding
Small Business Loans Depot
South End Capital
Sure Funding Solutions
The Business Backer
Total Merchant Resources
United Capital Source
Editor's note: Looking for the right loan for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.