How To Get Small Business Loans For Restaurants

Restaurants have a (somewhat unfair) reputation for being especially risky businesses that are hard to get off the ground. The good news is that restaurant business loans aren’t especially hard to find, even if you’re looking for a loan to open a restaurant.

Want to know how to get restaurant financing or a loan to open a restaurant? Below, we’ll look at how to finance your restaurant with working capital. If you’re specifically looking to finance restaurant equipment, check out our companion post on restaurant equipment leasing.

Comparison Chart

fundation logo
Read Review Read Review Read Review Read Review Read Review
Borrowing Amount  $10K – $5M $10K – $5M $2K – $100K $20K – $500K $1K – $5M
Term Length Varies by product Varies by product 3 – 36 months 1 – 4 years Varies by product
Required Time In Business Varies by product Varies by product 1 years 12 months 6 months
Required Sales $1.50 for every $1 borrowed $100K/yr $10K/mo
Required Credit Score 640 670 620  660 550

 

kiva logo avant logo
Read Review Read Review Read Review Read Review Read Review
Borrowing Amount  $5K – $500K $5K – $500K $6K – $5M $25 – $10K $1K – $35K
Term Length 3 – 36 months 13 – 52 weeks 6 – 12 months 3 – 36 months 2 – 5 years
Required Time In Business 6 months 9 months 6 months N/A N/A
Required Sales $10K/mo $42K/yr $120K/yr N/A N/A
Required Credit Score 550 550 600  N/A 600

Where To Get Restaurant Business Loans

Most traditional and alternative lenders, at least on paper, offer restaurant lending services. Typically, your ideal option for restaurant funding is a bank or credit union with whom you have an established relationship. In most cases, they’ll offer the best rates and terms.

If you or your business are too risky for a traditional lender, however, there are still restaurant financing options in the form of alternative lenders.

The Cost Of Restaurant Financing

Before we look at your restaurant funding options, you want to be able to compare the offers you might come across.

Here are some of the data points to consider when comparing restaurant loans:

  • Term Length: The amount of time you have to pay back your loan. The longer the term, the higher your interest or factor rate will usually be.
  • Interest/Factor Rate: A percentage or decimal multiplier that determines the amount of money you have to pay back. For short-term loans, this may be a flat fee rather than accumulate over time.
  • Origination Fee: This is a closing fee some lenders charge in addition to interest. It’s either a percentage of the amount you’re borrowing (1% – 5% is typical) or a flat fee. In most cases, it will be deducted from the amount of money you receive from the lender.
  • Administration Fee: This is a fee charged to maintain or set up your account. It may be a percentage or a flat fee. Sometimes charged in place of an origination fee.
  • APR: Annual percentage rate represents what your effective interest rate over a year would be. This can help you determine how expensive a product is relative to another.
  • Payment Schedule: If you’re used to monthly billing, you may be surprised to hear that some lenders expect payments weekly or even daily. May sure you’re prepared for whatever terms you accept.
  • Collateral: An asset, property, or cash deposit used to secure a loan. Not all loans require collateral.

Types Of Restaurant Business Loans

Restaurant loans and related products come in a few different forms. When you’re looking for a lender, you’ll also want an idea of the type of financial product you’re seeking. All of these products will get you the money you’re seeking, but with different terms. Some are cheaper; others are more versatile. Some are more available to applicants with bad credit.

  • Term Loans: Term loans are for a specific amount that, once received, is paid off in regularly scheduled installments (they’re also sometimes called installment loans). Medium and long-term loans usually accrue interest over time while short-term loans have flat fees.
  • Lines Of Credit: Lines of credit are a bit like credit cards. You’ll be approved for credit up to a set limit. You can draw on your account as often as you want as long as you stay below your limit, paying interest only on the outstanding balance.
  • SBA Loans: As is the case for other business types, there are Small Business Administration loans for restaurants. These loans are partially guaranteed by the SBA, allowing you to access better rates. Just bear in mind that the application process is usually more complicated and often slower.
  • Merchant Cash Advance: MCAs aren’t technically loans, but can serve as the financial product of last resort for businesses with bad credit but steady credit card revenue.
  • Equipment Leasing: If you’re looking to finance restaurant equipment, you also have the option to lease it, which you can read about in more detail in our restaurant equipment financing article.

Restaurant Loans For Start-Ups

If you’re looking for start-up restaurant financing, you’ll face a narrower band of options, but you aren’t completely out of luck. Conservative lenders may still consider approving a loan to start a restaurant if you have a good business plan and credit and are able to put some of your own money into the mix. Additionally, some alternative lenders offer loans specifically geared toward brand new businesses.

Restaurant Loan Providers

Not sure where to start looking for small business loans for restaurants? Here are some lenders to consider.

For Good Rates

Wells Fargo

Borrower Requirements:
• Credit score of 640 or higher
Read Our Review

 

As big banks go, Wells Fargo is one of the easier institutions for small businesses to work with. Due to their size and resources, they can offer a wide range of products for restaurants of any size. Their credit restrictions are higher than those of most of alternative lenders and they require you to show strong month-to-month revenue, but they’re more accessible than many of their conservative competitors.

Chase

Borrower Requirements:
• Excellent credit
Read Our Review

 

Chase has a reputation for offering some of the best business loan rates out there. The trick will be qualifying for them. Despite its size and prominence, Chase is very conservative about who they lend to. You’ll also need to have a branch near you as you’ll need to go to your local branch to apply.

StreetShares

Borrower Requirements:
• 1 year in business
• 620 credit score
Get Started With StreetShares

Read Our Review

 

If you don’t have a bank in your area with whom you’ve built a good relationship, you can still find good rates with online lenders. StreetShares is a bit more selective than many of their competitors, but they offer loans and lines of credits at reasonable rates with no collateral.

Fundation

fundation logo
Borrower Requirements:
• 1 year in business
• 660 credit score
• $100K/yr
Get Started With Fundation

Read Our Review

 

Fundation is another option for borrowers with good credit who would prefer (or have) to avoid dealing with a traditional bank. Fundation offers both installment loans and lines of credit with no collateral needed. Just be prepared for a slightly lengthier application process than you’ll typically experience with alternative lenders.

For Borrowers With Bad Credit

Lendio 

Borrower Requirements:
• 6 months in business
• 550 credit score
• $10K/month
Get Started With Lendio

Read Our Review

 

Lendio is an online lending platform that matches businesses with lending partners. This is a handy service for restaurant owners who don’t have a lot of time to compare loans on their own, or who have bad credit. Lendio’s pool of potential lenders is big enough that you’re more likely than not to find one willing to work with you, even if you haven’t been in business very long. If you’re looking for a loan to open a restaurant, however, you may have to look elsewhere.

OnDeck

Borrower Requirements:
• 12 months in business
• 500 credit or higher
• $100K/year
Get Started With OnDeck 

Read Our Review

OnDeck is one of the bigger names in alternative online lending and a solid choice for borrowers with poor credit but decent cash flow. Just be aware that their factor rates use a per month formula rather than a flat fee, which can make them a little bit difficult to compare to many of their competitors.

OnDeck offers installment loans and lines of credit.

LoanBuilder

Borrower Requirements:
• 9 months in business
• 550 credit or higher
• $42,000K/year
Get Started With LoanBuilder 

Read Our Review

LoanBuilder doesn’t offer as many products as some of the other lenders on the list, but they do give you the freedom to tweak the terms of a short-term loan to your liking. Combined with relatively low qualifications and integration with PayPal’s infrastructure, working with them should be pretty painless.

BlueVine

Borrower Requirements:
• 3 months in business
• 530 credit or higher
• $100,000K/year
Get Started With BlueVine 

Read Our Review

If your company is profitable, but you haven’t been in business long enough to build up a good credit score, BlueVine might be the lender for you. Rather than offering installment loans, BlueVine gives you the option of getting a line of credit or, if you do a lot of B2B business, invoice factoring. Just be aware that their lines of credit aren’t available in every state.

For Borrowers Starting Their Restaurant

Kiva

kiva logo
Borrower Requirements:
• A strong professional and social network
Read Our Review

 

If you’re coming up blank with ideas about how to get a loan to start a restaurant, Kiva is one possible solution. Kiva is a nonprofit microlender that operates worldwide. Rather than measure your income and credit, Kiva uses a process called “social underwriting” to measure your community standing and character. Best of all, the loans have zero interest.

So what’s the catch? Well, Kiva uses a type of crowdfunding to finance your loan, which means you’ll be waiting longer to get your funds than you would with most other lenders. You’ll also be limited to a maximum of $10,000, which may not cut it for your business plan. If you have some of your own money to put into your new business and just need to make up that last few thousand dollars, though, it’s worth a look.

Avant

avant logo
Borrower Requirements:
• Credit score of 600 or higher
Read Our Review

 

Another way around the time in business restrictions you’ll often encounter when seeking new restaurant business loans is to forget the “business” part and get a personal loan. While you won’t be able to borrow the large amounts that you can with a business loan, they can get you a modest ($1,000 – $35,000) amount of money with which to start a restaurant.

Note that you’ll still have to show a strong income relative to the amount of money you’re seeking. Additionally, Avant cannot currently lend to individuals in Colorado, Iowa, Vermont, or West Virginia.

Final Thoughts

If you didn’t find what you were looking in our examples above, don’t fret! We’ve barely scratched the surface of the resources restaurants can tap to find funding. If you don’t have much in the way of collateral, you can try to get an unsecured business loan.

If you’re looking to finance restaurant equipment, check out our resources on leasing and equipment loans. Good luck hunting for restaurant business loans! Do your research and you’re sure to find something that fits your needs.

The post How To Get Small Business Loans For Restaurants appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Banks For Small Business Loans

Not impressed with the easy applications but high interest rates offered by alternative lenders? Well, the good news is that, despite the ubiquity of online financing, most of the best rates in the business continued to be offered by local banks and credit unions. Because you’re likely to encounter stricter credit requirements, as well as geographic constraints, the best bank for your small business is often one you’ve already built a good relationship with. Below we’ll look at a few of the biggest financial institutions that offer business lines of credit, business term loans, and SBA loans, as there’s a better chance of them operating in your area.

If your credit is below 600 or your business hasn’t been around very long, you’ll likely have a hard time qualifying for a bank loan from any of the lenders below. Online lenders like Ondeck, Lendio, LoanBuilder, and National Business Capital often have less stringent qualifications when it comes to credit scores and time in business. Our small business loan comparison chart can point you in the right direction.

Here are the best banks for small business loans.

1. Chase Bank

Best For: Small businesses and start-ups with excellent credit.

Borrower requirements:
• Must have excellent credit (high 600s)
• Must have access to a Chase Bank branch
Read our Chase Bank review

Checkered reputation aside, Chase is one of the largest and most accessible banks, boasting tons of locations — especially in the nation’s most populous states. Chase Bank also features some of the best small business loan rates you’re likely to see from a for-profit lender.

Chase offers business lines of credit, business term loans, and SBA loans to small businesses.

How To Apply For A Chase Loan

Despite its position as industry leader, Chase is surprisingly traditional when it comes to the lending process; you’re going to have to go to a branch and meet with a Chase representative in person.

Takeaway

With high credit requirements, Chase is a fortress that’s tough to breach, but businesses with excellent credit will find some of the best rates in the industry.

2. Wells Fargo

Best For: Businesses looking for a modern and easy application process.

Borrower requirements:
• Must have $1.50 in cash flow for every dollar borrowed.
• Must have a personal credit score of 640 or above.
Read our Wells Fargo review

Wells Fargo (read our review) has developed a reputation for being a big bank that’s willing to work with small businesses. Like Chase, Wells Fargo has made some headlines for the wrong reasons in recent years, but most of those aren’t related to this area of lending.

Wells Fargo is notable for offering fast, unsecured business loans online (similar to those of an alternative lender), but at bank rates. The online application process can be especially useful for businesses without a branch nearby.

Wells Fargo offers business terms loans, lines of credit, and SBA loans.

How To Apply For A Wells Fargo Loan

Depending on the product you want, you’ll be able to either apply online at Wells Fargo’s site or will have to go to your local branch to meet with a Wells Fargo representative. You can apply for unsecured loans online.

Takeaway

Businesses seeking bank interest rates with some alternative lender conveniences should give Wells Fargo a look.

3. U.S. Bank

Best For: Mature small businesses outside of the East Coast, including areas underserved by bigger banks.

Borrower requirements:
• Must be located in a state served by U.S. Bank
• Must have been in business for two years
Read our U.S. Bank review

U.S. Bank (read our review) is one of the largest national banks in the country, serving the middle and western parts of the country. For some areas, it is the biggest banking institution available.

U.S Bank has a reputation of being a bit more personable and flexible than many of its similarly-sized or larger competitors while offering competitive interest rates. Just be aware, U.S. Bank prefers to lend to well-established businesses.

You can get a term loan, line of credit, or SBA loan through U.S. Bank.

How To Apply For A U.S. Bank Loan

U.S. Bank provides several options for application, which you can do by submitting a contact form, calling them directly, or going to your local branch. You will, however, eventually need to meet with them personally to complete your application.

Most importantly, you’ll need to live in one of the 25 states served by U.S. Bank.

Takeaway

U.S. Bank may be a good option for established companies that may not want to do business with a huge, international behemoth. East Coasters will have to look elsewhere, however, as the bank has no immediate plans to enter that market.

4. Bank of America

Best For: Mature businesses with excellent credit.

Line of credit borrower requirements:
• Must have been in business at least 2 years.
• Must have a personal credit score of 670 or above.
• Must have revenue > $200,000 for unsecured products, or greater than $250,00 for secured products.
Read our Bank of America review

Bank of America (read our review) is one of the more conservative lending institutions on this list, but it does offer a versatile array of products at excellent rates and, as the second largest bank in the country, is accessible to most population centers in the U.S.

Despite stringent lending standards, the bank has modernized its application processes more than some of the other banks on this list.

Bank of America offers business lines of credit, business term loans, and SBA loans to small businesses.

How To Apply For A Bank of America Loan

If you already have a Bank of America ID (from an existing account), you can use it to apply for unsecured loans and lines of credit on the Bank of America site.

You’ll need to submit basic information about yourself and your business, as well as your number of employees, profit, sales, outstanding obligations. You’ll also need to submit personal information about each additional business owner, guarantor, and controlling manager.

Depending on the product, you may need to have a business checking account with Bank of America if auto-debiting is required.

If you’re not a current customer, you’ll need to apply by phone or at your local branch.

Takeaway

Bank of America offers some online convenience for existing customers while providing the excellent rates you’d expect from a large banking institution. Their steep prerequisites might disqualify many businesses, however.

5. TD Bank

Best For: Mature East Coast businesses with excellent credit

Borrower requirements:
• Must have been in business for 2 years
• Must have excellent credit, 680 or above
Read our TD Bank review

T.D. Bank (read our review) may be of particular interest to readers located on the East Coast (particularly those who let out a forlorn sigh when they read that U.S. Bank doesn’t operate in their region). T.D. Bank operates almost exclusively on the East Coast and can be a good option for those looking to avoid the Big Four.

Businesses seeking less than $100,00o in funding will appreciate the fact that T.D. Bank doesn’t charge origination fees on small loans.

Small businesses can get a term loan, line of credit, or SBA loan through T.D. Bank.

How To Apply For A T.D. Bank Loan

While they’re fairly traditional, T.D. Bank gives you the opportunity to begin your application from home by downloading forms available on their site. Depending on the type of financing you’re seeking, you may need to attach additional information or forms.

You can also submit your information in a contact form if you’d like a representative to help walk you through the process.

Takeaway

While East Coasters usually have a lot of banking options available to them, T.D. can be a reasonable compromise for those looking to working with a reasonably large, but not behemoth lending institution.

Final Thoughts

You have as many potential bank loan options as you have banks operating in your area. That said, they can be tough nuts to crack, especially for businesses with less-than-perfect credit.

Don’t think you can make the cut for a traditional bank loan?

Online lenders, like Ondeck and Lendio, aren’t quite as particular when it comes to credit scores and time in business. Our small business loan comparison chart can point you in the right direction.

The post The Best Banks For Small Business Loans appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Can I Afford A Small Business Loan?

Can You Afford A Small Business Loan?

“Can I afford a small business loan?”

For many business owners, this is (literally) the $64,000 question!

With so many variables in play, it may seem daunting to calculate whether you can actually cover new loan payments. Luckily, there are multiple financial ratios in place to help you do just that.

In this post, we’ll teach you how to use the debt service coverage ratio and the debt-to-income ratio to determine whether you can afford a loan, what borrowing amount is right for you, what monthly payment you can afford, and if a loan is actually the right choice for your business. (If it turns out, based on these ratios, that you can’t afford a business loan just yet, we’ll also give you six practical tips to better your financial situation.)

Read on to see if your small business is ready for financing.

Is A Small Business Loan Right For Me?

This is the very first question you should ask yourself. Just because you can afford a loan doesn’t mean you should take one out. Before you start seeking funding, take the time to really consider your business’s financial situation.

Ask yourself what problems you would be solving by taking out a business loan and consider whether there is another way to solve those problems.

For example, if you’re looking for start-up funding, have you considered venture capital? Angel investors? Crowdfunding? If you’re having trouble maintaining consistent cash flow, have you carefully analyzed your operating costs or cut back unnecessary business expenses to increase revenue?

Make sure to explore all of your options before jumping the gun on your loan search. Now, that being said, there are plenty of solid reasons to get a business loan:

  • To expand your business
  • To purchase inventory
  • To buy equipment
  • To cover off-season expenses
  • To take on a new, high-potential project
  • To build business credit

When determining whether a small business loan is right for you, carefully meditate on your business’s short-term and long-term goals. If you haven’t already, make a business plan to help you achieve your future goals.

If a loan fits into this plan and benefits your business, great!

Next, we’ll talk about how to know if you can actually afford a loan, how much you can borrow, and what to change if you can’t afford a loan.

What Do Small Business Lenders Look For?

At the most basic level, lenders want to see that:

  1. Your business has enough cash flow to afford monthly payments.
  2. You can make those payments on time.

There are many factors that lenders consider when analyzing a loan application, but some of the most important variables are your credit score, your debt service coverage ratio, your debt-to-income ratio, and your ability to put up collateral.

We’ll cover all of these factors in greater detail below.

Using The Debt Service Coverage Ratio

The debt service coverage ratio is one of the main tools lenders use to determine whether you are eligible for a loan — it’s also one of the most important calculations small business owners can do before taking on new debt.

The debt service coverage ratio (DSCR) measures the relationship between your business’s income and its debt. Lenders use this ratio to gauge the risk of lending to you and to see if you can afford to make payments on a loan, given your business’s cash flow.

How To Calculate The Debt Service Coverage Ratio

Each lender calculates the debt service coverage ratio differently. Some lump the business owners’ personal income in with the net operating income; others don’t. We’ll cover the most common DSCR formula, but be sure to ask your lender how they calculate DSCR for the most accurate ratio.

Most often, your business’s DSCR is calculated by dividing your net operating income by your current year’s debt obligations:

Net Operating Income / Current Year’s Debt Obligations = Debt Service Coverage Ratio

Your net operating income is the total revenue generated by selling services or goods, minus your operating expenses (operating expenses include things like inventory, employee wages, rent, utilities — anything that is directly related to purchasing, creating, or selling your goods and products).

Your current year’s debt obligations comprise the total amount of debt you must repay in the next year, including interest payments and fees.

Let’s look at an example:

A business owner wants to know whether or not they can afford a loan to purchase some new equipment. The business takes in $65,000 in revenue annually but pays $15,000 in operating expenses, resulting in a net operating income of $50,000.

Each month, the business spends $2,000 on its mortgage, $400 on a previous loan, and $100 on a business credit card, making a total monthly debt of $2,500. Since the DSCR calculation requires the current year’s debt, we need to multiply our monthly debt by 12. That gives us a total of $30,000 in debt obligations for the year. Now, let’s plug these numbers into the DSCR formula from earlier.

Net Operating Income / Current Year’s Debt Obligations = Debt Service Coverage Ratio

50,000 / 30,000 = Debt Service Coverage Ratio

50,000 / 30,000 = 1.666667

When you divide 50,000 by 30,000 you get 1.666667. Round this number to the nearest hundredth to get a current debt service coverage ratio of 1.67.

We’ve successfully calculated a debt service coverage ratio! Plug in your business’s information to determine your own DSCR.

What Is The Ideal DSCR?

How do we know what a good DSCR is? What does the DSCR mean in terms of your business?

When it comes to DSCR, the higher the better. Let’s say your DSCR is 1.67, like in our earlier example; that means you have 67% more income than you need to cover your current debts. A DSCR ratio of 1 would indicate that you have exactly enough income to pay your debts but aren’t making any extra profit. If your DSCR is below one, then you have a negative cash flow and can only partially cover your debts.

Obviously, you don’t want a negative cash flow, and breaking even doesn’t quite cut it if you want to take out a loan. So what’s the ideal debt service coverage ratio?

In general, a good debt service coverage ratio is 1.25 or higher. This can vary by lender and by the state of the economy, but overall, a high DSCR suggests that you have enough income to take on another loan and are more likely to qualify for the loan you want.

How Much Can I Borrow?

Not only can your DSCR tell you if you can afford a loan, it can also help you determine the size of the loan you should take out.

Let’s take a look at our earlier example again. We calculated the business’s DSCR at 1.67. This is well above the 1.25 DSCR mark, yes, but it doesn’t necessarily tell you the size of loan the business can afford to borrow.

To figure out the amount the business can safely borrow, we’ll take its annual income and divide it by 1.25:

Net Operating Income / 1.25 = Borrowing Amount

50,000 / 1.25 = 40,000

From the calculation above, we can see that the business can afford to pay up to $40,000 a year on total debt obligations. In our example, the current year’s debt obligations were already $30,000/year. All in all, the business can take on an extra $10,000/year in debt (because $40,000 – $30,000 = $10,000). That amounts to roughly $830/mo.

Plug your own information into the equation so you can determine the ideal borrowing size for your small business loan. This will give you a clear idea of how much you can realistically afford to pay each month before you go and speak to a lender.

To learn more about the debt service coverage ratio, read our post Debt Service Coverage Ratio: How To Calculate And Improve DSCR.

Using The Debt-To-Income Ratio

Lenders also use your personal debt-to-income ratio to evaluate whether or not your business is eligible for a loan. The debt-to-income ratio is used primarily for personal loans (especially mortgages), but this ratio is still important for small businesses, especially sole proprietors.

The debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is a financial tool used to measure the relationship between a person’s debt and income.

Why Is DTI Important?

Your DTI is an important indicator of your trustworthiness. Whereas your credit score shows how likely you are to make your payments on time, your debt-to-income ratio shows lenders if you can afford the monthly payments on a personal loan or mortgage.

But if the debt-to-income ratio is predominantly for personal loans and mortgages, why is it important for small businesses?

For sole proprietors and freelancers seeking funding, this ratio is particularly important. Since sole proprietors aren’t legally considered separate business entities, they don’t have a debt service coverage ratio. Instead, the debt-to-income ratio is the main tool lenders will use to analyze a loan application.

While the debt service coverage ratio is by far a better indicator of small business’s financial state, lenders still look at the business owner’s DTI ratio. Lenders evaluate your DTI to see if you are trustworthy and to ensure that you can personally guarantee your business loan if no other collateral is provided.

When deciding whether your business can afford a small business loan, make sure you also consider if you can afford to personally take on the business loan payments if your business goes under. No one wants to think about the fact that their business may fail or that they might default on a business loan. But this scary reality is one you must consider before accepting a business loan. If you can’t afford to offer up collateral or take on the implications of a personal guarantee, then maybe a business loan isn’t right for you.

How To Calculate The Debt-To-Income Ratio

To calculate your debt-to-income ratio, divide your total recurring monthly debt by your gross monthly income:

Total Monthly Debt / Gross Monthly Income = Debt-To-Income Ratio

Your total monthly debt should include all recurring minimum monthly debt payments, while your gross monthly income should include your total monthly income before taxes.

Let’s do an example:

You’re trying to use your DTI to see if you qualify for a mortgage. You pay $300/mo for your car and $200 on student loans for a total monthly debt of $500. Your monthly gross income is $3,500/mo.

500 / 3,500 = Debt-To-Income Ratio

500 / 3,500 = 0.142857

When you divide 500 by 3,500, you’re left with 0.142857. To turn this decimal into a percentage, simply move the decimal point two places to the right and round to the nearest tenth. This gives you a current debt-to-income ratio of 14%. Easy!

Add your own financial information into the formula to see what your debt-to-income ratio is.

What Is The Ideal DTI Ratio?

Now that you know how to calculate your DTI ratio, what does that percentage mean? How do you know if you have a good DTI ratio or a poor ratio?

Unlike DSCR, when it comes to debt-to-income ratios, the lower the better. A low DTI indicates that you can afford to take on an additional loan and are more likely to get approved for the loan you want. A high DTI ratio means that you may have too much existing debt or too little income to be able to afford monthly payments on a new loan.

Generally, a DTI ratio of 36% or lower is considered a good debt-to-income ratio. Many lenders will finance (up to) 43%, but if your DTI is higher than 43%, you may have a hard time getting approved for a loan.

However, these percentages may vary by lender. Real estate and mortgage lenders are known to stick more closely to these guidelines, while other lenders may be more lenient. So be sure to research your lender’s requirements.

What Monthly Payment Can I Afford?

You can use the debt-to-income ratio to determine how much you can afford to pay each month on a loan.

This calculation is most important for sole proprietors seeking funding and individuals seeking mortgages. However, small businesses should still do this calculation to make sure that they can personally afford to cover the payments on a defaulted loan.

Let’s return to our example from earlier. Remember, you were trying to qualify for a mortgage loan. We calculated your current debt-to-income ratio at 14%.

To maintain a good debt-to-income ratio, you don’t want your total DTI ratio to exceed 36%. That means a potential mortgage can take up 22% of your total debt-to-income ratio (36 – 14 = 22).

In this example, to determine the size of the mortgage loan payment you could afford each month, simply multiply your gross monthly income by 22%. (To convert the percentage to a decimal, move the decimal point two spaces to the left.)

3,500 x .22 = 770

Assuming you still want to stick to a 36% DTI, you can afford to pay $770/mo on your mortgage while continuing to make your other monthly loan payments and covering everyday expenses.

To learn more about DTI, read our complete post: Debt-To-Income Ratio: How To Calculate And Lower DTI.

Consider Your Return On Investment

Finally, when determining whether your business can afford a business loan, you want to make sure the benefits ultimately outweigh the costs.

If you are spending the time, money, and effort on a loan, it’s important to have a good return on investment (ROI). Able Lending puts it this way:

The reasonable expected return on your investment must be greater than the APR.

In other words, a loan is only worthwhile if it ultimately helps your business’s profits exceed the costs of the loan, plus interest and fees. Before you borrow money, make sure you have a clear business plan and know exactly how you intend to use your loan to improve your business.

What If I Can’t Afford A Loan?

If you’ve made it to the end of this post and realized that you can’t afford a loan, don’t worry. It’s not the end of the world. There are plenty of ways to improve your business’s financial position so that you can afford a loan in the future.

1. Increase Revenue

Increasing your income can open the doors to more business opportunities and additional funding. By increasing revenue, you can improve your DSCR, lower your DTI ratio, and boost your chances of qualifying for a loan.

2. Decrease Existing Debt

Another way to increase DSCR and lower DTI is to pay off some existing debt. With old loans out of the way, you can move on and take out new loans to help propel your business forward.

3. Improve Your DSCR

We already mentioned that increasing your revenue and decreasing your existing debt can help improve your DSCR. Another way to improve your debt service coverage ratio is to decrease operating expenses. By cutting back on unnecessary expenses and streamlining your business processes, you’ll have a greater overall net operating income — which means more money that you could apply towards a loan.

4. Lower Your DTI

We also already mentioned that increasing your revenue and lowering your debt improves your debt-to-income ratio as well. For borrowers seeking a mortgage, making a bigger down payment is another good way to lower your DTI and decrease the size of your monthly payments.

5. Improve Your Credit Score

Another major roadblock businesses and individuals run into when seeking funding is a low credit score. Improving your credit score can help unlock better loans and rates. To learn more, read the Ultimate Guide To Improving Your Business Credit Score or our article on 5 Ways To Improve Your Personal Credit Score.

6. Lower Your Borrowing Amount

Maybe you really can afford a loan right now and just need to lower your borrowing amount. You may not be able to afford the $100,000 loan you were hoping for, but can you afford the monthly payments on a $50,000 loan? If you can satisfy your needs with a smaller borrowing amount, you should try to do so; if a smaller amount won’t meet the brief, use the first 5 tips above to improve your financial situation so you can afford the loan you want.

Final Thoughts

When wondering whether you can afford a small business loan, you should ask yourself:

  • Do I have a debt service coverage ratio of 1.25 or higher?
  • Do I have a debt-to-income ratio of 36% or lower?
  • Do I have collateral or can I confidently sign a personal guarantee?
  • Will the loan lead to a good return on investment?

If you’ve answered yes to all of these questions, odds are your business is in a healthy financial spot to take on a new small business loan. Use the debt service coverage ratio and debt-to-income ratio to discover exactly how big of a loan you can afford.

Wondering what type of small business loan you should take out? Not all loans are created equal, and a bank loan will be worlds apart from an atypical online lending product. Traditional term loans, short-term loans, SBA loans, and merchant cash advances all have very different rates, fees, and terms. Make sure you understand the differences between different types of funding before you jump the gun on any loan product. Our small business loan calculators can help.

Looking for good lending options? Our small business loan reviews cover online lenders and major banks that offer various types of loans (bank loans, SBA loan, short-term loans, installment loans, lines of credit and more). If you’re just starting out, you might want to consider taking out a personal loan and using it for your business.

To evaluate multiple low-interest lenders at once, it’s a good idea to use a free loan matchmaking service, often called a “loan aggregator.” Merchant Maverick has partnered with Mirador Finance, a financial technology company, to bring you the Merchant Maverick Community of Lenders. By filling out one application, you can be matched to multiple potential lenders. Check your eligibility below.

Borrower requirements:
• Free loan aggregation service; requirements vary by area and lender.
Check your eligibility
Learn more about the Community of Lenders

If can’t afford a loan yet, you should focus on increasing your ability to afford a loan and your chances of getting approved by a lender. Download our free Beginner’s Guide To Small Business Loans for more information, or consult any one of the following articles:

Debt Service Coverage Ratio: How To Calculate And Improve DSCR

Debt-To-Income Ratio: How To Calculate And Lower DTI

The Ultimate Guide To Improving Your Business Credit Score

5 Ways To Improve Your Personal Credit Score

The post Can I Afford A Small Business Loan? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Debt Service Coverage Ratio: How To Calculate And Improve Your Business’s DSCR

Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR)

Applying for small business loans can be stressful. But it wouldn’t be so bad if you knew exactly what lenders are looking for, right? One of the biggest factors in lending decisions is your debt service coverage ratio (DSCR).

But what is the DSCR and how can you figure out what yours is?

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the debt service coverage ratio. We’ll teach you what a DSCR is, how to calculate your debt service coverage ratio, what a good DSCR looks like, how to increase your debt service coverage ratio, and more.

What Is The Debt Service Coverage Ratio?

The debt service coverage ratio (DSCR) measures the relationship between your business’s income and its debt. Your business’s DSCR is calculated by dividing your net operating income by your current year’s debt obligations.

The debt service coverage ratio is used by lenders to determine if your business generates enough income to afford a business loan. Lenders also use this number to determine how risky your business is and how likely you are to successfully make your monthly payments for the length of the loan.

Why Is The Debt Service Coverage Ratio Important?

The debt service coverage ratio is important for two reasons:

  1. It shows how healthy your business’s cash flow is.
  2. It plays a factor in how likely your business is to qualify for a loan.

The debt service coverage ratio is a good way to monitor your business’s health and financial success. By calculating your DSCR before you start applying for loans, you can know whether or not your business can actually afford to make payments on a loan.

A high DSCR indicates that your business generates enough income to manage payments on a new loan and still make a profit. A low DSCR indicates that you may have trouble making payments on a loan, or may even have a negative cash flow. If this is the case, you may need to increase your DSCR before taking on more debt.

In this way, knowing your DSCR can help you analyze your business’s current financial state and help you make an informed business decision before applying for a loan.

For lenders, the debt service coverage ratio is important as well. Your DSCR is one of the main indicators lenders look at when evaluating your loan application.

Lenders use the DSCR to see how likely you are to make your monthly loan payments. They also look at how much of an income cushion you have to cover any fluctuations in cash flow while still keeping up with payments. This ratio can also help lenders determine the borrowing amount they can offer you.

Here are some of the benefits of a high DSCR ratio:

  • More likely to qualify for a loan
  • More likely to receive an offer with better terms
  • Increases your chances of lower interest rates and a higher borrowing amount
  • Indicates your business can manage debt while still bringing in income
  • Shows your business has a positive cash flow

Unlike your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, which is healthiest when it is low, the higher your debt service coverage ratio, the better. It is not uncommon for lenders to ask for your debt service coverage ratio from previous years or for up to three years of projected debt service coverage ratios.

How To Calculate Your Debt Service Coverage Ratio

The debt service coverage ratio differs from the debt-to-income ratio in another significant way — lenders don’t all agree on how the DSCR should be calculated.

Different lenders have different ways of calculating your debt service coverage ratio. Some lump the business owner’s personal income in with the business’s income; others don’t. We’ll teach you the most common way to calculate DSCR, but be sure to check with your potential lender for the most accurate DSCR calculation.

Most often, the debt service coverage ratio is calculated by dividing your business’s net operating income by your current year’s debt obligations:

Net Operating Income / Current Year’s Debt Obligations = Debt Service Coverage Ratio

But what is net operating income and how do you determine your current year’s total debt?

Net Operating Income

Your net operating income is your total revenue or income generated from selling products or services, minus your operating expenses. According to the Houston Chronicle:

Operating expenses are those directly related to acquiring and selling your products and services. Such expenses might include costs to make or buy inventory, wages, utilities, rent, supplies and advertising. Operating expenses exclude interest payments to creditors, income taxes and losses from activities outside your main business.

Net operating income is also sometimes referred to as a business’s EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes). To calculate your net operating income, use accounting reports to find your annual income and average operating expenses.

Note: Some lenders calculate your debt service coverage using your EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) instead of your EBIT.

Current Year’s Debt Obligations 

Your current year’s debt obligations refer to the total amount of debt payments you must repay in the upcoming year.

This includes all of your loan payments, interest payments, loan fees, business credit card payments, and any business lease payments. Tally up your monthly charges and multiply them by 12 to get your total year’s debt.

Examples

Now that you know how to figure your net operating income and total debt, let’s do an example using the DSCR formula from earlier:

Net Operating Income / Current Year’s Debt Obligations = Debt Service Coverage Ratio

Let’s say you’re calculating your debt service coverage ratio to see if you can take on a new small business loan to expand your business.

Say your business earns $65,000 in revenue annually but pays $15,000 in operating expenses. That leaves you with a net operating income of $50,000.

Now, let’s say each month you spend $2,000 on your mortgage, $400 on a previous loan, and $100 on your business credit card. That means you pay $2,500/mo on debt. Since the DSCR calculation requires the current year’s debt, we need to multiply our monthly debt by 12. That gives us a total of $30,000 in debt obligations for the year. Now, let’s plug these numbers in.

50,000 / 30,000 = Debt Service Coverage Ratio

50,000 / 30,000 = 1.666667

When you divide 50,000 by 30,000 you get 1.666667. Round this number to the nearest hundredth to get a current debt service coverage ratio of 1.67.

Now you’ve successfully calculated a debt service coverage ratio! Try plugging your own business’s numbers into the formula. And be sure to remember that this is only one way of calculating your DSCR. While this way is fairly common, be sure to ask your lender how they calculate DSCR for the most accurate ratio.

What Is A Good Debt Service Coverage Ratio?

So now you know how to calculate your DSCR, but you may not know what makes a DSCR good or bad. How can you tell whether your debt service coverage ratio will qualify you to take out a new loan or if it means you’re in trouble?

When it comes to DSCR, the higher the ratio the better. Let’s say your DSCR is 1.67, like in our earlier example; that means you have 67% more income than you need to cover your current debts. If you have a DSCR ratio of 1, that means you have exactly enough income to pay your debts but aren’t making any extra profit. If your DSCR is below one, then you have a negative cash flow and can only partially cover your debts.

Obviously, you don’t want a negative cash flow, and breaking even doesn’t quite cut the mustard if you want to take out a loan. So what’s the ideal debt service coverage ratio that lenders look for?

In general, a good debt service coverage ratio is 1.25. Anything higher is an optimal DSCR. Lenders want to see that you can easily pay your debts while still generating enough income to cover any cash flow fluctuations. However, each lender has their own required debt service coverage ratio. Additionally, accepted debt service coverage ratios can vary depending on the economy. According to Fundera contributor, Rieva Lesonsky:

In general, lenders are looking for debt-service coverage ratios of 1.25 or more. In some cases — when the economy is doing great — they might accept a ratio as low as 1.15, but in others — when the economy is tight — they may require a ratio of 1.35 or even 1.5.

FitSmallBusiness writer, Priyanka Prakash, notes that multiple aspects of your loan application can affect whether you are approved as well, not just your DSCR. Prakash says:

Your lender may be willing to overlook a slightly lower DSCR if other aspects of your application, such as business revenue and credit score, are very strong.

Be sure to carefully research each lender’s application process and qualification requirements before applying for a loan. Again, make sure you know how that specific lender calculates DSCR. This is important both for before you apply and after you are accepted as many lenders require you to maintain a certain DSCR throughout the length of your loan.

Most lenders will reevaluate your DSCR each year, but you may want to check your debt service coverage ratio even more often to make sure you’re on track to meet your lender’s requirements. If you don’t meet their DSCR requirements, they may say you’re in violation of your loan agreement and expect you to pay the loan in full within a short time period.

To be safe, it’s always best to know exactly what your lender’s policies are and try to keep your DSCR as high as possible.

Using DSCR To Determine Whether You Can Afford A Loan

Not only can you use your DSCR to check your business’s financial health and ability to pay its debt, you can also use it to determine if you can afford a loan and how big of a loan you should take out.

Let’s return to our example from earlier. Your business is trying to decide if it can afford to take out a business expansion loan. We calculated your current DSCR at 1.67, which means you have an extra 67% of income after you’ve paid your debts. This is well above the 1.25 DSCR mark, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate the size of the loan you can reasonably afford to borrow.

Take your annual income and divide it by 1.25 to figure out how much you can afford to pay back each year:

Net Operating Income / 1.25 = Borrowing Amount

50,000 / 1.25 = 40,000

In our example, your current year’s debt obligations were $30,000/year. From the calculation above, we can see that you can afford to pay up to $40,000 a year on your debt obligations. So, you can take on an extra $10,000/year in debt (because $40,000 – $30,000 = $10,000). That amounts to roughly $830/mo.

If you approach a potential lender knowing exactly how much you can afford to pay each month, you can avoid being pressured into borrowing more than you can afford.

If you aren’t comfortable with a 1.25 DSCR and would rather have a little more wiggle room, that’s totally fine. Don’t ever borrow more than you are comfortable with. The good thing is, you can use the debt service coverage ratio to see exactly how much you can safely borrow while maintaining your desired DSCR. Simply replace “1.25” in the formula above with your desired ratio to figure the payments you can afford.

How To Improve Your Debt Service Coverage Ratio

To increase your chances of getting a loan — or to maintain payments on your existing loan — you may need to improve your DSCR. Here are a few ways to increase your debt service coverage ratio:

  • Increase your net operating income
  • Decrease your operating expenses
  • Pay off some of your existing debt
  • Decrease your borrowing amount

To increase your net operating income, consider various ways to increase your revenue. Maybe offer additional services or goods or raise your prices. Try a new marketing strategy that brings in additional buyers or offer an extra incentive to existing buyers to make them purchase more goods.

Increasing sales isn’t the only way to increase your net operating income. A huge portion of your net operating income comes down to operating expenses. Cut back unnecessary expenses. Find ways to streamline your work processes and make employees more productive during work hours. Ask your existing vendors about discounts for buying in bulk. Maybe even consider eliminating products that don’t sell well or are too time-consuming and expensive to make.

Besides increasing your net operating income, a good way to lower your debt service coverage ratio is to lower your existing debt. Carefully evaluate your budget. Cut unnecessary expenses and allocate that money to paying down your debt instead. You can pay off your debt quickly using various methods like the debt snowball method or the debt avalanche method. Depending on your financial situation, consolidating your business debt might also be a good option.

Final Thoughts

For small business searching for funding, the debt service coverage ratio plays a huge factor in lending decisions. Lenders use your DSCR to determine whether you can afford to make regular loan payments and how much you can borrow.

But more than that, your debt service ratio is also a great tool for understanding your business’s financial health and cash flow. Your DSCR can show you both how much income your company has after debt payments and whether it’s financially wise to take out a loan. The higher your DSCR, the better.

As always, we recommend carefully evaluating your financial situation before seeking a loan. Calculate your DSCR, see if you can afford to take on a loan, and know exactly how you are going to use that loan before you borrow. With debt service coverage ratios, it’s more important than ever to carefully research your lender’s requirements as each has their own way of calculating the DSCR. And don’t forget to confirm whether your lender requires you to maintain a specific DSCR for the length of the loan.

Looking for good lending options? Our small business loan reviews cover both online lenders and major banks. To evaluate multiple low-interest lenders at once, it’s a good idea to use a free loan matchmaking service, often called a “loan aggregator.”

Merchant Maverick has partnered with Mirador Finance, a financial technology company, to bring you the Merchant Maverick Community of Lenders. By filling out one application, you can be matched to multiple potential lenders. Check your eligibility below.

Borrower requirements:
• Free loan aggregation service; requirements vary by area and lender.
Check your eligibility
Learn more about the Community of Lenders

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What Is A Merchant Services Provider?

What is a merchant services provider?

If you’ve just started your own business or you’re looking to add credit and debit cards as payment methods, you’re going to be bombarded by a bewildering variety of new terms and concepts that you’ve never encountered before. One very basic term you’ll want to familiarize yourself with is the type of business entity known as a merchant services provider.

To understand what a merchant services provider is and what it can do for your business, you’ll first need to understand the concept of merchant services. This term describes the range of services and hardware and software products that allow merchants to accept and process credit or debit card transactions. Before the internet came along, things were pretty simple. Merchant services consisted of countertop terminals to input card payments, processing services to approve the transaction, and merchant accounts to deposit the money in after the sale. Today, it’s a much more complicated landscape, with eCommerce opening up far more opportunities for selling products remotely than just mail and telephone ordering. Software products such as payment gateways allow customers to pay for purchases directly over the internet, while inventory management and online reporting services give you the power to track virtually every aspect of your business on your computer.

Merchant services providers are sometimes also referred to as acquirers, processors, or merchant account providers. Here at Merchant Maverick, we use the term merchant services providers as a catch-all to cover entities such as merchant account providers, payment services providers (PSPs), payment gateway providers, and any other type of business that allows you to accept payment methods other than cash or paper checks.

Types of Merchant Services Providers

Not all merchant services providers offer the same features, but most fall into one of several categories that help to differentiate them a little from their competitors. The most common types of merchant services providers include the following:

Merchant Account Providers

These entities are the most commonly encountered merchant services providers. A merchant account provider can, at a minimum, provide you with a merchant account and processing services to ensure that you receive your money when a customer pays by credit or debit card. While all merchant account providers can set you up with a merchant account, only a few of the largest companies can also offer processing services to process your transactions. These companies are called direct processors, and include industry leaders such as First Data (see our review), Elavon (see our review), and TSYS Merchant Solutions (see our review). Most other merchant account providers rely on one of these direct processors to process their merchants’ transactions.

Payment Services Providers (PSPs)

While having a merchant account is a good idea for all but the smallest of businesses, you don’t absolutely need one to accept credit or debit card payments. A payment services provider (PSP), such as Square (see our review) or PayPal (see our review) can give your business the ability to accept these kinds of payment methods without a dedicated merchant account. Instead, your account will be aggregated with those of other merchants, and you won’t have a unique merchant ID number. This arrangement has the advantage of virtually eliminating the account fees and lengthy contract terms that often come with a traditional merchant account. However, these accounts are more prone to being frozen or terminated without notice, and customer service options aren’t as robust as they are with a full-service merchant account. PSPs are an excellent choice for businesses that only process a few thousand dollars a month in credit/debit card transactions or only operate on a seasonal basis.

Payment Gateway Providers

With the advent of eCommerce, a new kind of provider has come on the scene: the payment gateway provider. These companies can offer you a payment gateway, which you’ll need to accept online payments. However, they may or may not also offer you a merchant account to go with it. Authorize.Net (see our review), one of the largest and oldest gateway providers, gives you a choice between one of their merchant accounts or using their gateway with your existing merchant account. Other providers, such as PayTrace (see our review), offer a gateway-only service. You’ll have to get your own merchant account from a third-party provider.

Types of Merchant Services

Most merchant services providers offer a wide variety of products and services to allow merchants to accept credit and debit card payments, as well as manage their inventory and track other aspects of their business. Your needs as a merchant will depend on the nature and type of your business. While all businesses will need either a merchant account or a payment service account (if you’re signed up with a PSP), other features will only be useful for certain types of businesses. For example, if your business doesn’t sell anything online, you won’t need a payment gateway. Here’s a brief overview of the most common types of merchant services:

Merchant Accounts

Every business that wants to accept credit or debit cards as a form of payment will need a merchant account. While most merchant account providers offer full-service merchant accounts, those from PSPs like Square (see our review) lack a unique merchant ID number. Merchant ID numbers make your business easier to properly identify to payment processing systems, giving you some protection from fraud and adding stability to your account. A merchant account is simply an account where funds from processed transactions are deposited. Those funds are then transferred by your provider into a business account that you specify, such as a business checking account.

Credit Card Terminals

Retail merchants will also need a hardware product that can read your customers’ credit and debit cards and then transmit that information to your provider’s processing network. Traditional countertop terminals such as the Verifone Vx520 can connect to processing networks via either an Ethernet connection or a landline. Wireless models are also available, but they tend to be bulkier and more expensive than wired models, and require a wireless data plan (usually around $20.00 per month) to operate.

Terminals may be purchased outright or leased from your merchant services provider. Because most providers support the same terminals, we recommend either buying your terminal directly from your provider or purchasing it from a third-party supplier. Terminals require a software load which must be installed before they can accept transactions. If you buy your terminal from a third-party source, you’ll need to have it re-programmed to install this software. We strongly discourage terminal leasing due to the noncancelable nature of the leases and the fact that you’ll pay several times more than the value of the terminal over the lifetime of the lease.

In shopping for a terminal, you should select an EMV-compliant model as a minimum. Support for NFC-based payment methods (such as Apple Pay and Google Pay) is also a good choice as these methods are becoming more popular among customers.

Point of Sale (POS) Systems

POS systems combine the functions of a credit card terminal with a large computer display, enabling you to manage inventory and monitor your sales through a single piece of equipment. These systems include fully-featured, dedicated terminals and tablet-based software options that can run on an iPad or Android tablet. Many providers offer optional accessories such as tablet mounts, cash drawers, and check scanners, allowing you to accept any form of payment through a single device.

Mobile Payment (mPOS) Systems

These systems allow you to use your smartphone or tablet as a credit card terminal. mPOS systems consist of a mobile card reader that connects to your mobile device and an app to communicate with your provider’s processing network. While Square (see our review) was the first provider to offer a simple mPOS system, most providers now offer similar products. Although they’re difficult to find and cost more than simple magstripe-only readers, we recommend selecting a card reader with EMV compatibility and a Bluetooth connection (rather than the traditional headphone jack plug) to future-proof your system.

Payment Gateway

A payment gateway is simply software that communicates between your website and your provider’s processing networks, allowing you to accept payments over the internet. Because not all merchants need a gateway, providers usually charge a monthly gateway fee (around $25.00) to access this feature. Most gateways include support for recurring billing, a customer information management database, and security features such as encryption or tokenization to protect your customers’ data.

Virtual Terminal

A virtual terminal is another software product that turns your computer into a credit card terminal. Transactions can be entered manually or swiped using an optional USB-connected card reader. Virtual terminals are most commonly used by mail order/telephone order businesses that don’t have an eCommerce website.

Online Shopping Carts

Shopping cart software is designed for eCommerce merchants who need a more specialized shopping experience or want to customize the features of their website. Shopify (see our review) is one of the most popular online shopping carts. Check compatibility with your merchant services provider before selecting an online cart.

eCheck (ACH) Processing

eCheck processing is an optional feature offered by most merchant service providers. It allows you to scan paper checks and instantly confirm that funds are available to cover the purchase. This service protects you from fraud and saves you a trip to the bank.

Merchant Cash Advances and Small Business Loans

Merchant cash advances and small business loans provide another way for your business to receive funds when you need them, and most merchant services providers offer them. Check out our Merchant’s Guide to Short-Term Loans for more information.

Final Thoughts

Which specific merchant services you need will depend on the nature of your business. Retail-only businesses won’t need a payment gateway, but they will need reliable credit card terminals. eCommerce businesses can’t function without a payment gateway, but do not require terminals. Of course, if your business operates in both the retail and eCommerce sector (which is becoming more common), you’ll need just about every service your provider has to offer.

Every merchant service provider has their own unique combination of products and services, so you’ll want to ensure that a provider offers the features that you need before you sign up. Many of these services are proprietary, meaning they’ll only work with the provider that offers them. While this helps to ensure compatibility between different products, it also means you won’t be able to take your favorite product with you if you switch providers. This is more of a factor in the eCommerce sector, where payment gateways are often proprietary products. For an overview of our highest-rated merchant services providers, check out our Merchant Account Comparison Chart.

The post What Is A Merchant Services Provider? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Is Invoice Factoring Right For Your Small Business?

invoice factoring small businesses

Invoice factoring — selling unpaid invoices to a factoring company in exchange for immediate cash — is a useful financing tool for certain businesses. If your business, like many others, has slow-paying customers that affect your cash flow, invoice factoring might help you manage your finances. But how, exactly, does invoice factoring work? And should your business use factoring services? Keep reading to find out!

Invoice Factoring Basics

Invoice factoring is essentially a sales transaction in which a business sells their unpaid invoices to a factoring company, at a discount, in exchange for immediate cash. Typically, the factoring company will hold a percentage of the invoice value in reserve; when the customer pays, the company will send you that money, less the factoring fee.

Factoring is generally used to solve cash flow problems caused by slow-paying customers. Instead of waiting 60, 90, or even 180 days for a customer to pay, the business can sell the invoice to a factoring company to get the cash needed to maintain business operations or take on new projects.

A factoring arrangement might look like this: You sell an invoice valued at $5,000 to a factoring company. The factoring company sends you $4,500 (90% of the invoice value) and keeps $500 on reserve. Your factoring fee is 0.06% per week. Your customer pays after 35 days, or 5 weeks, so your fee is $180 ($30 per week). The factor deducts their fee, and sends the remaining reserve, totaling $320, to you.

Invoice Factoring Eligibility

If you run a B2B business and you invoice your customers, chances are you’re a good candidate for invoice factoring.

Unlike with many other types of business financing, your business’s revenue and creditworthiness are not especially large considerations when determining eligibility; invoice factors are more concerned with the creditworthiness of your customers because your customers are the ones paying the bills. So, even if you own a young business without a financial track record, or you don’t make very much money, or you have poor personal credit, you might still be eligible for invoice factoring.

Is Invoice Factoring Right For My Business?

You may be eligible for invoice factoring, but should you use a factoring service? There are a lot of pros to factoring your invoices, but it’s not a perfect fit for all businesses. To determine whether factoring is right for your situation, ask yourself these questions:

Are my finances suffering due to slow-paying customers?

Slow-paying customers can affect many areas of your business. If you aren’t paid for your work until months after you have completed the job, you might have trouble meeting business expenses, purchasing inventory and supplies, paying employees, or paying for overhead costs. If this is the case, invoice factoring can be a simple way to ensure that you have the working capital you need.

However, invoice factoring is not always cheap, which is why you need to consider this next question:

Can I afford invoice factoring?

In general, factoring fees (called discount rates) range from about 1% – 6% of the invoice value per month, depending on the particulars of your factoring arrangement and how high-risk your client is. If you sell an invoice from a particularly slow-paying client, and you have a high factoring rate, you could wind up paying around 18% of the invoice value in fees for the opportunity to get your money sooner.

Many invoice factors also charge additional fees for factoring services. You might be charged money transfer fees, servicing fees, monthly minimums, or other expenses, which can add up over time. Head over to our explanation of factoring rates and fees to learn about discount rates and other commonly charged fees.

All that said, your fees will depend on a number of components, including the factoring company you are working with, the creditworthiness of your customers, the number and size of the invoices you want to sell, the industry your business is in, and other considerations. You will have to look at your options and decide whether the cost is worth it to your business.

Even if you decide that you need a financial solution, invoice factors most likely aren’t your only option.

Would an alternative financing solution work better?

Now, more than ever, businesses have a plethora of financial solutions available. While invoice factoring might seem like the perfect solution to your cash flow problems, the following might be a better fit:

  • Asset-Backed Lines Of Credit: These credit lines can be backed by unpaid invoices or (occasionally) assets like inventory or other receivables. The amount you are able to borrow depends on the value of your collateral. Asset-backed lines of credit work similarly to invoice factoring, but might offer more flexibility in some ways. These credit lines also tend to have lower rates than financing that isn’t backed by anything, so you might qualify for low rates and fees in comparison to other options.
  • Revolving Lines Of Credit: With a revolving line of credit, the amount you are able to borrow replenishes as you repay your debts. While some revolving lines of credit are backed by collateral, some simply require you to sign a personal guarantee and/or pledge general business assets via a blanket lien. With this type of financing, you’ll always have money available when you need it. And because you repay weekly or monthly, you don’t have to worry about getting fined because your customers forgot to pay their bills. Head over to our article on business lines of credit to learn more about this type of financing, or scan this list of our favorite lines of credit if you’re interested in learning about your options.
  • Business Credit Cards: Business credit cards can be useful if you need cash short-term for business expenses. You can put many purchases on credit cards and repay them on a timetable that works for you. However — especially if you tend to carry a balance — you might want to consider other options, because credit cards have notoriously high rates and fees. If you’re looking for a business credit card, check out some of our favorites.
  • Small Business Loans: If you only need funds one time, or if you need a large sum of money, a small business loan might be a good bet. Some lenders have long application processes, but many, including PayPal Working Capital and OnDeck, can let you know if you’re eligible within a very short time period. Most small business loans come in the form of installment loans or short-term loans. Small business loans can be used for a number of purposes, such as working capital, payroll, inventory purchasing, and other uses.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve decided that invoice factoring is a potential solution for your business, good for you! Invoice factoring can be a very viable way to maintain cash flow for your business, especially if you tend to get bogged down by slow-paying customers.

Interested in learning more? The following resources provide additional information about invoice factoring and may assist you to find the right factor for your business:

  • A Basic Introduction To Invoice Factoring: Invoice factoring basics, including what to look out for, a basic explanation of fees, and alternative services to factoring
  • Understanding Invoice Factoring Rates & Fees: An in-depth look at factoring rates and fees, including the variables that affect your rates, the three most common fee structures and their differences, and other fees you might have to look out for.
  • Spot Factoring vs. Invoice Factoring: A guide to help you determine whether your business should choose a spot factoring service, a high-volume factoring service, or some other alternative service.
  • Merchant Maverick’s comprehensive reviews of invoice factoring services provide honest and thorough assessments of some of the most popular invoice factoring services available.

The post Is Invoice Factoring Right For Your Small Business? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Accounting Software For 2018

Best Accounting Software for 2018

What’s better than a table full of New Year’s appetizers? Better than a good glass of champagne? Even better than a midnight kiss to ring in the new year?

Accounting software.

Okay, that’s a stretch. But you can’t blame a girl for trying.

Each new year brings fresh, exciting opportunities. In the accounting world, this translates to shiny new features. This year, in particular, has seen some very impressive feature developments. In fact, a few key advances in functionality have already set three accounting software companies apart from the rest. These changes have generated press attention and positive user feedback, and earned Wave, Quickbooks Online, and Zoho Books a place in this article about the best accounting software for 2018.

Wave

Best Accounting Software 2017

Wave (see our review) is a free, cloud-based software with a beautiful user interface (no wonder we like it right?). The company was founded in 2010 by Kirk Simpson and James Lochrie and is now used by 3 million small business owners.

Wave was built with small business owners in mind. The ability to separate business expenses from personal expenses makes the software a great choice for freelancers and the self-employed as well.

Some of the most notable features in Wave include beautiful invoicing, contact management, accounts payable, expense tracking, basic inventory, and the ability to capture pictures of receipts and convert them into expenses.



But the reason we really love Wave is that these features are always getting better. The software constantly updates to fit the needs of business owners. Last year, Wave became the first accounting software company to offer a fully-integrated lending feature. This lending feature allows users to request loans between $5,000 and $500,000. Loan applications are approved through Wave, and once approved, funds are received as quickly as 24 hours.

This year, Wave continues to roll out the updates. The software offers two new reports, better navigation, and a company file export (which is usually only found with QuickBooks). Wave also plans to add:

  • Multi-currency support
  • A product report
  • An FX report
  • Duplicate transaction detection

Wave’s robust and varied features rival those of even some paid software options, especially considering some of these new updates. This is why Wave is Merchant Maverick’s pick for Best Free Accounting Software for Small Businesses and one of my favorite choices for small business owners.

Although Wave is free and intends to stay that way, there are a few extra costs you should be aware of if you’re considering this software:

  • Payroll – $15/mo +$4/mo per employee
  • Credit Card Processing – 2.9% + $0.30/per transaction
  • Chat support – $9/mo
  • Chat and Phone support – $19/mo

To learn more about Wave, read our full review and be sure to keep your eye open for the next big wave of updates.

QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online (see our review) is an easy-to-use, cloud-based accounting solution with a healthy feature set and a strong reputation. QuickBooks has basically been around since the dawn of time (in terms of accounting software), but the newer, online version has been particularly well-received by users since it is easier to use and more mobile than QuickBooks Desktop Pro.

QuickBooks Online is ideal for all types of business. Scalable pricing plans and diverse functionality make the software fit numerous business needs. Some key features include a clean interface, accounts payable (essentials and plus plan only), budgeting (plus plan only), contact management, beautiful recurring invoices, ample accounting reports, class and location tracking, inventory (plus plan only), and a strong chart of accounts.



For a long time, the most common complaint about QuickBooks Online was that, while it was good, it was not as good as QuickBooks Pro. One of the reasons QuickBooks Online is on the rise in 2018 is that the software is now being updated multiple times every month; in fact, it is finally starting to catch up to QuickBooks Pro.

Last year, QuickBooks underwent a huge design overall and added a key project management feature, as well as inventory reorder points, mileage deductions, invoice and payment trackers, and more.

One of the biggest reasons QuickBooks Online won a spot on this list is its brand-new, built-in lending feature — Get Capital. According to Techcrunch:

QuickBooks users can now get access to small business loans up to about $35,000 for up to six months from inside their bookkeeping software.

QuickBooks Online has won our Best Accounting Software for Small Businesses title. We did recently drop its rating from 5/5 stars to 4.5/5 stars for some usability and navigation difficulties, but with multiple updates coming out each month, we’re hopeful that QuickBooks Online will be back to 5/5 stars in no time. In short, this software really worth keeping an eye on in 2018.

If you are interested in QuickBooks Online, here are the available pricing plans (QuickBooks Online often has sales promotions, so be sure to check these before purchasing):

  • Simple Plan –$15/mo
  • Essentials Plan – $35/mo
  • Plus Plan – $50/mo
  • Payroll – Pricing starts at $39/mo + $2/mo per employee

To learn more, read our full QuickBooks Online review and use the free trial to take advantage of the new features.

Zoho Books

Best Accounting Mobile Apps

Zoho Books (see our review) is an easy-to-use accounting program with unbelievable invoicing features. The Zoho Corporation has been around since 1996. It launched its accounting program, Zoho Books, in 2011.

Zoho Books is ideal for small businesses that want strong accounting and attractive invoice templates at an affordable price. The software is also ideal for international businesses that require multi-currency support and the ability to send invoices in multiple languages.

Zoho Books Review
Zoho Books Review
Zoho Books Review

For a long while, Zoho Books was known to have some of the best invoicing around, but a few key issues were holding the software back. Lately, though, the software has crept up like a dark horse. Recent updates have put Zoho Books almost completely on par with QuickBooks Online in terms of features, which is why we’ve named this software one of the best of 2018.

While Zoho is not incredibly forthcoming about future updates, the company updates their software multiple times each month. In the most recent updates, the company has increased usability, created customizable purchase orders, and added a brand new retail invoices feature.

The software is unbeatable in terms of invoice features and customizations and offers incredibly affordable prices, which makes it worth watching this year.

If you are interested in Zoho Books, here are the three pricing plans available:

  • Basic — $9/mo
  • Standard — $19/mo
  • Professional — $29/mo

There is no payroll available at this time. To learn more or check out this software’s competitive features and recent updates, read our full Zoho Books review and take the free trial for a spin.

How To Choose Accounting Software

Wave, QuickBooks Online, and Zoho Books are all powerful accounting programs with innovative updates and abundant features. And they seem to be getting better and better with time.

But with three great options to choose from, it is difficult to know which is the best choice for your company — especially if you don’t have an existing accounting software. Our Complete Guide to Choosing Online Accounting Software is a helpful tool and a good place to start your search.

If you have an existing accounting solution that doesn’t quite measure up to the programs discussed above, it might be a good time to change allegiance. Your business is your livelihood, and software that fully meets — and exceeds — your business needs is important for success and growth.

If you are already a Wave, QuickBooks Online, or Zoho Books user, congratulations! You’ve made a good decision, and we hope the features rolled out this year serve you well.

Best wishes to all this new year. May 2018 be a season of joy, dreams, and, most importantly, smooth accounting.

Wave QuickBooks Online Zoho Books
Wave Accounting for small business review QuickBooks review Best Accounting Mobile Apps
 
Read Review Read Review Read Review
Visit Site Visit Site Visit Site
Price  $0 $15 – $40/mo $9 – $29/mo
Accounting Method  Accrual  Both accrual and cash-basis Both accrual and cash-basis
Web-based or Installed Web-based Web-based Web-based
Highlights Free
Numerous features
Good customer support
Easy to use
Attractive invoice templates
Impressive features
Advanced inventory features
Numerous integrations
Good tax support
God mobile apps
Competitive pricing plans
Easy to use
Good mobile apps
International invoicing
Excellent customer support

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8 Ways To Finance Your Small Business

Business financing is often a necessary part of growing a business, but when it comes to finding capital, it can be difficult to know where to start. Should you get a credit card? What about a loan from your local bank? Is there useful financing out there that you haven’t even heard of?

Read on, and we’ll point you in the right direction. This article discusses the most common (and some less common) ways of getting financing for your business. And, if you find the right type of financing for your business, we’ll give you the next steps to continue your search.

Want help finding a business loan? Apply now to Merchant Maverick’s Community of Lenders. We’ve partnered with banks, credit unions, and other financiers across the country to bring you fast and easy business financing.

1. Business Loans

As you might expect, business loans are one of the most popular and versatile ways of financing your business. Most businesses will qualify for a business loan of one sort or another, and they can be used for many business purposes, from working capital to business expansion to refinancing.

Business loans come from many different places. While everybody knows that you can get a business loan from a bank, you might not be aware that other financial institutions offer business loans. Many offer loans that are easier to qualify for and have faster applications than bank loans. Here are places that commonly offer business loans:

  • Banks and credit unions offer business loans and other types of financing.
  • Nonprofits, not-for-profit institutions, and microlenders offer small business loans and other types of financing to create jobs and fuel community growth.
  • The Small Business Administration partners with financial institutions to offer business loans. Read more about SBA loans in our guide to their programs.
  • Online lenders, also called “alternative lenders,” offer business loans and other types of financing with fast, semi- or fully-automated application processes.

Loans come in many different forms. The most common are installment loans, in which the money is granted to the business in one lump sum and then repaid via incremental, fixed, payments. However, some loans might have special fee and repayment structures — you might find loans with fixed fees (like short-term loans), loans that have repayment rates based on the percentage of money you make every day or month, or other arrangements. In other words, with a little looking, most merchants will be able to find something that is suited to the needs of their business.

For more information on small business loans, check out our free Beginner’s Guide to Small Business Loans. Or, to read reviews of individual lenders, head over to our small business loans review category.

2. Business Lines Of Credit

Business lines of credit are a sort of hybrid between business loans and credit cards. Like business loans, with a line of credit, you can borrow a sum of money which is (normally) repaid along with interest in installments over a set period of time. Like credit cards, you can request funds at any time, up to your available credit limit.

If you occasionally need funds to make ends meet or grow your business, or you simply want a safety net in case of emergencies, a line of credit is an excellent tool at your disposal.

Credit lines can be especially useful to businesses on a timeline because you don’t need to apply every time you need to borrow funds. When you are approved for a credit line, you’re granted access to a certain amount of money from which you can draw at any time. If you have a revolving line of credit, the amount you can borrow will replenish as you repay outstanding debts.

Some credit lines, such as asset-backed lines of credit, can work a little differently. If you have access to a credit line secured by unpaid invoices, inventory, or other assets, the amount you can draw at any given time will depend on the value of the assets you have outstanding. These credit lines are normally best for B2B businesses.

Credit lines carry a few drawbacks — most credit lines have variable interest rates, which mean that your rates might change without notice. And, if you aren’t very good at managing money, you might find that you don’t have emergency funds when you need them. However, lines of credit are useful tools for many businesses.

In the past, it was difficult for all but the most well-established and prosperous businesses to get credit lines. With the advent of online loans, it’s becoming easier for businesses of all sizes to access this useful financing tool. Check out our guide to business lines of credit for more information, or, if you’re interested in procuring one, take a look at our favorite line of credit services.

3. Business Credit Cards

There are many reasons to get a business credit card for your business.

For starters, most credit card issuers offer rewards and benefits to merchants who have signed on with their services. By using the card, you could be earning savings in the form of cash back points (that can be redeemed for travel or other expenses). These rewards add up in the long run, and you might be able to save your business quite a bit of money. Additionally, many credit card issuers offer benefits to cardholders, such as extended warranty, price protection, roadside assistance, and other perks.

Credit cards are also convenient ways to keep track of expenses and smooth out cash flow. If you put all your purchases on your credit card, you can easily see what you’ve been spending money on and where you might be able to cut costs. Because the money isn’t coming out of your own account right away, you can defer payments until a more convenient date. You don’t have to struggle to come up with money for expenses if you don’t have it at the moment, or it would be more convenient to pay later.

Of course, credit cards do have some downsides: the APRs can be expensive, so if you don’t pay your bills in time you could wind up with hefty fees that can be difficult to pay off. Additionally, some credit cards carry extra fees, like annual fees and balance transfer fees, which could eat into the money you save by using the card in the first place. However, if you are good at managing money, and spend time choosing a card that will maximize your savings based on how much you plan to utilize the card, credit cards can be excellent tools for many businesses.

Interested in getting a business credit card? Check out a list of our favorite business credit cards. Or, if you are starting a business, you might be interested in our favorite personal credit cards that can be used for business.

4. Merchant Cash Advances

If you need a one-time amount of funds, it might be worth considering a merchant cash advance. This type of financing can be useful for B2C businesses with strong daily sales.

In practice, merchant cash advances are similar to business loans, with the exception of how they’re repaid. Cash advances are repaid by deducting a small percentage of your daily sales; the amount you are repaying each day will vary along with your cash flow. These financial products don’t have a set repayment date, but are normally repaid in a year or less.

Merchant cash advances are an excellent tool for B2C businesses that need a small infusion of cash for working capital, business growth, or other reasons. Know, however, that cash advances have a few downsides: they can be very expensive, and the cost might not be immediately apparent because the fee structure is different than a traditional loan. Instead of interest, cash advance fees are calculated using a factor rate, which can obscure the true cost of the advance.

Head over to our comprehensive article on merchant cash advances for more information, or take a look at our reviews of merchant cash advance providers if you’re interested in finding an advance.

5. Personal Loans

While business loans are based on the credibility and strength of your business, personal loans are based on your personal creditworthiness and financial health. For this reason, these loans can be useful for entrepreneurs, startups, and other businesses that don’t yet have a credit history. You’ll want to give this option a pass if you have separated your business and personal finances, but if you’re not there yet, a personal loan can help you get your business up and going.

Personal loans are normally available from banks, credit unions, and online lenders. You’ll have to have a steady source of income, a solid debt-to-income ratio, and fair credit to qualify for reasonable rates.

Take a look at our guide to personal loans for business for more information, or check out our startup business loan reviews for reviews on personal lenders.

6. Crowdfunding

Rising to prominence due to the internet and some changes in legislature, crowdfunding allows you to finance your business via a network of your peers.

Crowdfunding is normally used by entrepreneurs to get a startup off the ground, or by creators who need money to fund a product. In a crowdfunding arrangement, the entrepreneur creates a campaign, which usually includes a description of their business or product, information about the founders and their partners, a rough timeline, potential problems, and other frequently asked questions.

Perhaps the most well-known type of crowdfunding, popularized by services such as Kickstarter (read our review) and Indiegogo (read our review), is rewards crowdfunding. You may not be aware that there are actually quite a few different type of crowdfunding available:

  • Rewards crowdfunding, from services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, allows contributors to receive products in exchange for backing the business or project.
  • Donation crowdfunding, on sites like Razoo (read our review), involves funds that are donated to your cause. This type of crowdfunding is typically only used for nonprofits or other charitable projects.
  • Debt crowdfunding, from services such as Kiva U.S. (read our review), works similarly to a business loan — backers contribute money with the expectation that it will be paid back, normally with interest.
  • Equity crowdfunding, from company’s like Fundable (read our review), works when backers contribute money in exchange for equity in your business.

Between all the different types available, most entrepreneurs should be able to find a type of crowdfunding that will suit their business or project. Some less-than-sexy businesses, however, might find that they have trouble appealing to casual investors. While debt and equity crowdfunding — which tends to attract more serious backers — might solve that problem, some businesses might still need to look at other financing options.

Crowdfunding also tends to take a long time. Typically, the entrepreneur has to create a campaign and enter into a one- to three-month funding period. The funding period might require a fair amount of marketing, networking, communicating with current and potential backers, and other work to get your project funded.

Interested in crowdfunding? Head over to our startup business loans review category to read reviews of crowdfunding services.

7. Invoice Factoring

Invoice factoring is a financial solution for B2B businesses that invoice their customers. If you have cash flow struggles due to slow-paying customers, invoice factoring is a potential solution. Factoring is commonly used in industries such as construction, manufacturing, printing, and other B2B businesses.

Invoice factors purchase your unpaid invoices at a discount. While you’ll have to take a bit of a loss, invoice factoring can get you the money you need, when you need it, to keep your business going.

When you sell an invoice to a factoring company, you will receive most of the money up-front, and the factor will place a small amount on reserve. Then, when your customer pays the invoice, the funds are diverted to the factoring company, and you will receive the rest of the money in the reserve, minus the invoice factor’s fee.

There are many invoice factoring arrangements, depending on the factoring company and the needs of your business. You can find factors that require you to sell a lot of invoices or ones that let you pick and choose more carefully. Some factors require that your customers know about the arrangement, while others will keep it a secret, and so on.

Invoice factoring has gotten a bad rap in the past because some factoring companies employed poor practices, such as failing to disclose extra fees, requiring long-term contracts and monthly minimums, and other reasons. However, if you do your due diligence, you will be able to find an invoice factor that suits your business’s needs without employing poor tactics. Check out our Basic Introduction To Invoice Factoring to learn what to look for, and take a look at our comprehensive invoice factoring reviews to learn about individual factors.

8. Equipment Financing

If you run a business that relies on computers, manufacturing equipment, restaurant equipment, vehicles, or other equipment that might be difficult to pay for out of your business’s own pocket, equipment financing might be right for you.

Equipment financing covers two types of financing: equipment loans and equipment leases.

Equipment loans are similar to traditional business loans, but the equipment is generally used as collateral. In a typical equipment loan arrangement, the lender will cover 80% to 90% of the equipment, and you will be responsible for paying the other 10% to 20%.

Equipment leases are arrangements in which you rent the equipment for a certain period of time. In practice, some lease arrangements are similar to loans, because you have the opportunity to buy the equipment at the end of the leading period, but other arrangements are designed so that you can return or trade in the equipment after a certain period of time. Because you don’t have to purchase the equipment, leases can be a good option for businesses that only need equipment for a short time, or frequently need to upgrade expensive equipment (like computers) due to changes in technology.

Equipment financing, especially equipment loans, will most likely be more expensive in the long run than purchasing the equipment outright. However, if you can’t afford what you need, an equipment loan or lease is an excellent way to get financing.

Head over to What Is Equipment Financing? to learn more about this type of financing, or our equipment financing review category to learn about individual financiers.

Final Thoughts

Business owners have many financing tools at their disposal, but finding the right tool for the job can take some work. The above resources will point you in the right direction.

Need some more help? Merchant Maverick’s Community of Lenders is there for you. We’ve teamed up with banks, credit unions, and other financiers across the country to provide our readers with fast and easy business financing. With one short application, you can check your eligibility for all participating financial institutions. Read more about the service, including a step-by-step guide through the application process, in Mirador Finance & Merchant Maverick: Making Small Business Loans Easier.

The post 8 Ways To Finance Your Small Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Business Financing: Should You Take Out A Loan, A Credit Card, Or A Line Of Credit?

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When it comes to business financing, merchants have many options to choose from. Three of the most popular sources of financing are small business loans, business credit cards, and lines of credit. All are useful options, but each carries its own separate advantages and disadvantages.

Which is best for your business financing needs: a business loan, line of credit, or business credit card. Or should you get some kind of combination of the three? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know.

Table of Contents

Loan, Credit Line, & Credit Card Uses

Your ultimate intention for borrowed funds is very important when considering the right type of financial product for your business. While there is a lot of overlap, some financial products are better suited to different situations and uses than others.

Here is a table illustrating what each loan or credit card is typically used for:

Loan & Card Uses
Small Business Loan Line Of Credit Business Credit Card
• Business growth projects
• Asset purchasing
• Bridge loans
• Working capital
• Cash flow needs
• Disaster assistance
• Debt consolidation and refinancing
• Business growth projects
• Bridge loans
• Working capital
• Cash flow needs
• Disaster assistance
• Emergency funds
• Everyday purchasing
• Saving money by earning points or cash back
• Working capital
• Cash flow needs
• Emergency funds

Small business loans are a very popular financing option, and it’s easy to see why — they can be used for many business purposes, such as asset purchasing, business growth projects, and debt consolidation or refinancing. However, there are times when lines of credit or a business credit card are better options for your business.

In particular, lines of credit and credit cards are better for situations where you need money quickly or need only a small sum of money. While you wouldn’t take out a business term loan without a fair amount of planning and a fairly long application process, lines of credit and business credit cards are designed so that you have the cash available when you need it; they are better for cash flow problems, emergency funds, and other situations where you don’t have time to apply for a business term loan.

Credit cards have an additional advantage because you can use them to solve cash flow problems by deferring everyday payments to a later date. And, because credit cards offer rewards programs for using the card, you might be able to save a little money via cash back or points simply by using your card.

Naturally, however, there are many overlaps between potential uses for these three types of financing — all are commonly used for working capital and other cash flow needs. You’ll need to consider the scope of your project, as well as the following advantages and disadvantages of each financial product, to decide which is best for your business.

Small Business Loan Pros & Cons

Small business loans are usually installment loans (also called “term loans”), but might also be short-term loans. Loans are dispersed as one lump sum, and repaid in installment over a set period of time.

Loans usually involve high borrowing amounts and lower rates than other options, but they also have long application processes and you might have to pledge a personal guarantee, lien, or other assets in exchange for funding.

Pros

  • High Borrowing Amounts: If you need a large amount of money, a small business loan is your best bet. At a minimum, small business lenders will offer 15% to 25% of your annual revenue, but many lenders are willing to offer more. The size of your loan will depend on your annual revenue and projected revenue, your intended use of proceeds, the creditworthiness of your business, and other factors.
  • Low Rates: Some business loans, such as those offered by a bank or the SBA, will have lower rates of borrowing than credit cards. For example, while credit cards have APRs from 10% to 25% or higher, interest rates for a 7(a) loan from the SBA currently range from about 6.7% to 9.75%. That said, some online loans will have higher fees; use our Small Business Term Loan Calculator to calculate the APRs (and other borrowing metrics) on your potential business loans.
  • Longer Time To Repay: Business term loans carry longer times to repay than lines of credit and business credit cards. Some loans, such as some SBA loans, carry term lengths up to 25 years. For this reason, small business loans can carry small incremental payments, even if you are borrowing a large sum of money.
  • Unsecured & Secured Options: Businesses with collateral can leverage it to borrow money with very low interest rates. On the other hand, if you don’t have specific collateral, you will still be able to find a business term loan; the fees will be a little higher than they would be with a secured loan, but you will still have the money you need to grow your business.

Cons

  • Long Application Process: Business term loans tend to have a more detailed application process than credit cards. You will need to submit a fair amount of documentation and spend some time talking to an underwriter before you’re approved for a loan. Non-traditional online loans tend to have shorter application processes, but you will have to pay higher rates and fees. The application process can take anywhere from a few days to a few months, depending on the lender you’re working with. As a general rule of thumb, the longer the application process, the better rates and fees you’ll receive.
  • Long-Term Debt: While a small business loan generally entails smaller payments than other options, it also means that you’ll be paying your debt off for a long time. Outstanding debt might make it more difficult to find financing in the future, and you risk not being able to pay it back if something goes wrong with your business.
  • Blanket Liens & Personal Guarantees Required: While you can find loans that don’t require you to put up specific collateral, you’ll likely have to sign a personal guarantee and/or agree to have a blanket lien placed on your business assets.

Head over to our guide to installment loans for more information on small business loans.

Line of Credit Pros & Cons

When you gain access to a credit line, you’ll be able to draw from a sum of money, up to your available limit, at any time — no application required. You only have to pay interest on the amount that you borrow, and once it’s repaid, you’re free to borrow that money again.

Despite the benefits, lines of credit carry some drawbacks: the initial application can be somewhat time-consuming, and if you have variable interest rates they could change over time.

Pros

  • No Application To Borrow: After you gain access to a credit line, you will not have to go through an application process whenever you need funds. Typically, you’ll receive access to requested funds between a few hours and two days, depending on how your lender transfers funds.
  • Low Rate Of Borrowing: Lines of credit have very affordable rates and fees. In general, these will be lower than credit card rates and fees, and might even be lower than those of many small business loans. As you might expect, however, some online lines of credit will carry higher fees than you would be charged by a bank, credit union, or the SBA. To get an idea of what sort of rates you can get from online lines of credit, which have shorter initial application processes but might have higher rates and fees, check out a comparison of our favorite business credit lines.
  • Only Pay Interest On Borrowed Funds: For most lenders, you will only have to pay interest on the money you have withdrawn from your credit line. You will not have to pay interest on the funds you are not using.

Cons

  • Long Initial Application: While you can typically receive requested funds from your credit line within a couple of days, the process to get access to a credit line might not be so easy. Lines of credit can have fairly long application processes, including gathering a lot of financial documents and possibly talking to an underwriter. Some online lenders have shorter application processes (some are even automated and only take a few minutes to complete), but they will have higher rates and smaller credit facilities.
  • Variable Interest Rates: Lines of credit often have variable interest rates, which means that your interest rate will change along with the prime rate or a similar metric. If the prime rate goes up, your interest rate will also increase, and you will have to pay more for borrowing.
  • Potential Revenue Checks Before Borrowing: If you don’t borrow very often, lenders might want to take a look at your finances before letting you draw from your line. This additional check might cause a delay in your funds because you have to gather and send in the documents and await the lender’s decision before you’re allowed to access funds.
  • Blanket Liens & Personal Guarantee Required: To be approved for a credit line, you might have to sign a personal guarantee or agree to a blanket lien placed on your business.

For more information on lines of credit, check out our guide to lines of credit.

Business Credit Card Pros & Cons

Business credit cards are credit cards used for business purposes. You can use these cards to pay for goods and services up to your available credit limit.

Credit cards can offer your business savings in the form of rewards programs, and they can make it easier to keep track of purchases and defer payments to a more convenient time. However, if you don’t pay your card off in a timely manner, interest rates can be quite high.

Pros

  • Rewards Programs: Credit card issuers reward businesses for using their card. Depending on the card you have, you could earn points for travel or other expenses, or earn cash back, simply by using your credit card. In other words, as long as you pay off your debt in a timely manner, using a credit card can save your business a little money.
  • Signup Bonuses: On top of rewards systems, many credit card issuers offer bonuses when you sign up for, including earn points or cash back for putting enough charges on your card within a certain time period, or a 0% APR for a certain amount of time.
  • More Time To Pay: Credit cards are the easiest way to defer payments for everyday purchases to a more convenient date. You can use credit cards to smooth out your cash flow and pay at a time more convenient to your business.
  • Emergency Funds: As long as you don’t make a habit of maxing out your credit card, you’ll always have a little money at your disposal when you happen to need it.

Cons

  • Low Credit Facilities: Credit card issuers don’t typically grant you as large a credit facility as you’d be able to get from a line of credit or business term loan. Additionally, utilizing too much of your credit line can have a negative impact on your credit score, so you will have to consider the consequences of using too much of your available credit line.
  • High Rates: Credit cards tend to have higher interest rates than you might be able to get from a loan or line of credit. Typically, credit card rates range from about 10% to 25%, and rates for credit card advances can be even higher. Additionally, credit card rates are variable, which means that your interest rate will fluctuate along with the prime rate.
  • Fees: Credit cards can carry fees in addition to the interest rate, such as annual fees, late payment fees, balance transfer fees, foreign transaction fees, advance fees, and others. These fees can add up over time, which could impact the amount you actually save by using the credit card.

Final Thoughts

The financing option that’s best for you will depend on the needs and eligibility of the business. Small business loans are most appropriate for business growth projects and other situations in which you need a relatively large sum of money, whereas lines of credit and credit cards work well for situations in which you need a smaller amount of money quickly for business maintenance or growth. You might even find that your business would benefit from a combination of two or even three of these financing options.

Ready to find a loan, credit line, or credit card for your business? Check out these resources:

Bianca Crouse

Bianca is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. As a product of the digital age, she likes absorbing large amounts of information and figures she might as well pass it on. When not staring at a screen, she is probably foraging for food outside, playing board games, or harassing somebody with theories about that movie she just watched.

Bianca Crouse
Bianca Crouse
Bianca Crouse

“”

SBA Loans Explained: Everything You Need To Know

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The Small Business Administration (SBA) is an excellent resource if you need a business loan. Loans offered in partnership with the SBA tend to have better rates and fees than other types of loans, typically boasting longer term lengths and lower interest rates. And, because the SBA guarantees a portion of these loans, they are often easier to obtain than bank loans.

Does the SBA offer the type of loan you’re looking for? Read on to find out!

Table of Contents

What Is The SBA?

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a government institution that was founded in 1953. Its mission is to “aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.”

The SBA assists small businesses in a number of ways, but arguably, its most important contribution to the American business landscape is its loans program.

There are a number of SBA loan programs; these vary according to business need. The most popular are the 7(a) Loans, but the SBA also offers a Microloan program, CDC/504 Loans, and Disaster Loans. These programs are typically offered in partnership with banks, credit unions, nonprofits, and other organizations.

SBA Loan Programs At A Glance

Below is a short summary of each loan. In the following sections, we’ll go over individual loans in more detail.

7(a) Loans General-use small business loans for many business purposes.
Microloans Small (max $50,000) loans for working capital, equipment, inventory, or other business projects.
504 Loans Large loans used to acquire fixed assets such as real estate and equipment.
Disaster Loans Loans used to rebuild and maintain businesses following a disaster.

7(a) Small Business Loans

The 7(a) Loan Program is the SBA’s primary program, and it’s by far the most popular. Many loans fall under the umbrella of the 7(a) program. These include:

  • Standard 7(a) Loans
  • 7(a) Small Loans
  • SBA Express Loans
  • Export Express Loans
  • Export Working Capital Loans
  • Veteran’s Advantage
  • CAPLines

Loan Uses

This is the SBA’s most popular loan program, in part because it’s so versatile and widely applicable to most business needs, though some loans are for specific businesses or specific uses. Of particular note is the SBA Express program. While SBA loans can still have time-consuming applications, the SBA Express program is designed to make the process a little faster.

7(a) loans can be used for many business purposes:

  • Working capital
  • Expansion or renovation
  • Construction
  • Land and real estate purchasing
  • Equipment purchasing
  • Inventory purchasing
  • Starting a business
  • Debt refinancing
  • And other reasons

Eligibility

Eligibility is dependent on the SBA’s standards as well as the standards of the partner lender.

The SBA’s standards are fairly straightforward:

  • Your business must be for-profit
  • You must do business in the United States or its territories
  • You must have reasonable owner equity
  • You must have used personal savings and other alternative financial assets before seeking an SBA loan

If you meet those requirements, you have a good chance of qualifying for an SBA loan, at least in the eyes of the SBA (partner lenders have more standards). That said, the SBA will not fund certain industries, including gambling businesses, pyramid sales plans, and lenders. Other business types, such as farms, recreational facilities, and fishing vessels, might have to meet certain requirements or submit extra documentation to be approved.

Partner lenders might also have additional requirements. Most will require you to have been in business a certain amount of time, have a certain credit score, and maintain a debt-to-income ratio that will support repayments. Specifics regarding these standards will vary according to partner.

Rates & Fees

The maximum amount you can borrow via most 7(a) programs is $5 million. Some programs, such as the SBA Express and 7(a) Small Loan programs, will allow a maximum of $350,000.

Term lengths vary according to why you are borrowing. For most loan purposes, including working capital and equipment, the maximum term length is 10 years. If you are using the loan to purchase real estate, the term length can go up to 25 years.

Interest rates vary depending on the financial institution you’re working with. That said, the SBA has set maximums regarding how much the lending institution can charge.

Currently, these are the maximums:

Loan Amount Less Than Seven Years More Than Seven Years
Up To $25,000 Base rate + 4.25% Base rate + 4.75%
$25,000 – $50,000 Base rate + 3.25% Base rate + 3.75%
$50,000 Or More Base rate + 2.2% Base rate + 2.75%

The base rate can be determined by one of three sources: the prime rate (such as the one published by the WSJ), the LIBOR, or the SBA Peg Rate. Rates can be fixed ( the rate stays the same over the life of the loan) or variable (the interest rate will change if the base rate changes).

For example, if you are borrowing $100,000 and your term length is 10 years, your maximum interest rate might be 7% (the current WSJ prime rate plus 2.75%). As you can see, SBA loans tend to have more reasonable interest rates than many other business lenders, whose rates generally range from about 5% – 30%, or even higher.

The interest rate isn’t your only fee, though. In addition to the interest, SBA 7(a) loans come with a guarantee fee, which varies based on the size and length of the loan. This fee is initially paid by the partner lender, but they can pass the cost on to you. Partner lenders can also charge other fees in addition to the guarantee fee.

Microloans

Microloans are small loans that are typically granted to businesses in need of an infusion of cash to start or continue business growth. The SBA doesn’t originate microloans itself—it loans money to intermediaries, which are then responsible for passing the money to small businesses.

SBA microloans can be a good resource for startups or small businesses that need a small amount of money. Microloans do not exceed $50,000 and have short term lengths, which make them less risky (and easier to qualify for) than larger-sized business loans.

Loan Uses

Microloans are not as all-encompassing as 7(a) loans. Still, these loans can be used for many business purposes, including “working capital and acquisition of materials, supplies, furniture, fixtures, and equipment.” You can’t use these loans to purchase real estate.

Eligibility

In the eyes of the SBA, any business eligible for a 7(a) business loan is also eligible for a microloan. Non-profit childcare centers are also eligible for this type of loan.

That said, the SBA does not actually have a hand in evaluating loan applicants or distributing loans. The intermediaries responsible for distributing the loans have separate application processes and their own qualification requirements. It’s important to note that the intermediaries you’re eligible to borrow from will depend on where your business is located.

Rates & Fees

Microloans max out at $50,000. According to the SBA, the average microloan size is $13,000.

The interest rates are set by the intermediary, but the SBA will not allow them to go over a certain amount. Generally, you can expect interest rates between 7% and 10%. Intermediaries are allowed to set term lengths as well, but these cannot go over six years.

CDC/504 Loans

The 504 Loan Program is designed to promote small business growth and job creation by financing the acquisition of fixed assets such as land, real estate, or machinery.

The SBA works with Community Development Companies (CDCs) and partner lenders to offer 504 loans. CDCs are not-for-profit organizations certified by the SBA that are dedicated to, as you might guess, developing communities. Partner lenders are typically banks and other financial institutions.

Loan Uses

504 loans can be used to fund fixed assets, such as land, real estate, long-term equipment, and construction. Loans can also be used to refinance debt, but only if the debt is “in connection with an expansion of the business through new or renovated facilities or equipment.”

SBA 504 loans cannot be used to fund short-term needs or current assets, such as working capital or inventory. They also cannot be used to refinance most debt (unless the debt meets the above standards).

Eligibility

These are the requirements you must meet in order for the SBA to approve a 504 loan:

  • Your business must be for-profit
  • You must have used other resources before seeking a 504 loan
  • Your business must have a tangible net worth below $15 million
  • Your business must have an average net income of $5 million or less after federal taxes for the last two years
  • You must not be engaged in non-profit, passive, or speculative activities

You must also meet other standards set by the SBA, the CDC, and/or the partner lender. For example, the project has to meet certain community development goals by creating or retaining jobs, improving the local economy, increasing competitiveness, etc. Naturally, you must also be able to prove that your business is creditworthy and that you can repay the loan.

Rates & Fees

504 loans do not have a maximum borrowing amount, but the maximum the SBA will contribute in most cases is $5 million. The amount contributed to fund projects is divvied up between three parties: the SBA, a partner lender, and your business. Typically, the SBA puts up 40%, the partner lender puts up 50%, and you contribute 10%. In some cases, you will have to contribute as much as 20%.

Term lengths vary depending on the use of the proceeds. The term length is 10 years for equipment and machinery and 20 years for land and buildings. Interest rates are based on 5- and 10-year US Treasury rates.

Disaster Loans

If your business has incurred physical or economic damage due to a disaster, you may be eligible for a disaster loan from the SBA.

Disaster loans are designed to help small businesses that have been affected by disasters such as floods, hurricanes, or earthquakes. Small businesses in a declared disaster area can apply for a long-term, low-interest loans to rebuild or weather the aftermath of the disaster.

Loan Uses

Disaster loans can be used to cover physical damage and economic injury losses. Physical damage losses include, as you would expect, damage to real estate, equipment, or inventory. Economic injury is a little more complicated — this term applies to businesses that cannot resume normal operations because of the disaster. A portion of the loan can also be used to make improvements that will minimize or prevent damage in the future.

Eligibility

Private property owners are eligible for disaster loan assistance. This includes small for-profit businesses, private non-profit organizations, homeowners, and renters.

To qualify for a disaster loan, you must be in a declared disaster area. You can check whether your area qualifies via the SBA’s Disaster Loan Assistance website.

Rates & Fees

For small businesses, the maximum borrowing amount for a physical damage or economic injury disaster loan is $2 million. Naturally, the maximum amount you can borrow is based on your need and ability to repay the loan, among other factors. According to the SBA, “The amount SBA will lend depends on the cost of repairing or replacing your business and business contents…minus any insurance settlements or grants.”

Your maximum interest rate and term length will depend on whether or not you have credit available elsewhere. If you do, the maximum rate is 8% and the maximum term length is seven years; if you don’t, the maximum rate is 4% and the term length is 30 years. Disaster loan interest rates are fixed, which means your rate will not change over the life of the loan.

How To Find SBA Loans

The easiest place to start your search for an SBA loan is via the organization’s Lender Match service. After answering a few questions about yourself, your business, and the financing you’re looking for, the SBA promises to match you up with eligible partners within two business days.

If you think you might be eligible for a disaster loan, you might want to take a look at the SBA’s Disaster Loan website. And if you’re looking for a microloan, the SBA has a list of lenders available on their list of intermediaries page.

Bianca Crouse

Bianca is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. As a product of the digital age, she likes absorbing large amounts of information and figures she might as well pass it on. When not staring at a screen, she is probably foraging for food outside, playing board games, or harassing somebody with theories about that movie she just watched.

Bianca Crouse
Bianca Crouse
Bianca Crouse

“”