Many small business owners have only heard of a few ways to fund their businesses. The most popular business financing options include term loans, equity financing, or business credit cards. Yet, another extremely advantageous option often goes overlooked solely because it’s not as popular as a traditional small business loan. This is the Business Line of Credit.
When small business owners learn how business lines of credit operate, their first thought is usually along the lines of “Why don’t more small business owners use this?” A business line of credit is like the best of both worlds. It allows you to access funds without the various hassles or costs that come with other options. You could even view a small business line of credit as a “secret weapon” to bail you out of unforeseen cash flow problems or help you capitalize on unexpected opportunities.
An unsecured business line of credit functions almost like a business credit card. You have a credit line that you can draw funds from at any time. If you’re carrying a balance, you’ll have a minimum payment. You only pay interest on the portions that you borrow. And when you pay off a part of your balance on time, that money usually becomes available to you again. This is because most business lines of credit are technically called “revolving” lines of credit.
A small business line of credit should be a priority because it could play a critical role in a small business’s success. Unlike other small business loans, you don’t need to reapply each time you want to use the money available to you. And as the Small Business Administration (SBA) points out, small businesses need access to cash to survive and thrive.
Online lenders also make it easy to apply and renew your small business lines of credit with them. Most lenders online don’t require financial statements or tax returns like traditional lenders might. While a small business owner might receive lower credit limits with many lenders for not providing tax returns or financial statements, the best business line of credit for their short-term financing needs may not require those documents.
Once you borrow funds from your small business line of credit, you will have to pay interest and have a minimum payment like business credit cards. Depending on the lender, your first payment could be due the following week or at the end of the month. If you repay what you borrowed on time, your business line of credit replenishes. For example, let’s say your monthly payment is $200, and your interest is $10. If you paid back $200, your credit line would go back up by $190. Your interest rate depends on how quickly you pay off your total balance.
In some cases, you may have to pay a small fee (a.k.a. a draw fee) whenever you draw from your business line of credit. Typical draw fees range from 1.6% to 2.5%.
Though you’ll have a repayment term, that’s just the due date for your total balance. As long as you pay back your full balance by that date, the entire credit line will likely become available to you again. Most lenders even allow you to pay off your total balance early to save on interest. Thus, as long as you keep paying off what you borrow and don’t exceed your credit limit, the credit line is essentially yours forever.
Borrowing limits tend to range from $1,000 up to $250,000. Interest rates start at 8%, with terms of up to eighteen months.
Also, small business lines of credit with lower credit limits and higher interest rates are usually reserved for unsecured business lines. This means you don’t need collateral, though you may have to sign a personal guarantee. However, if a small business owner wishes to try for a higher total credit limit, they’d opt for a secured business line of credit by putting up collateral such as real estate.
Medium and high-risk credit applicants were about as equally likely to apply to a big bank (54%) as to an online lender (50%.) And they were more likely to apply to an online lender than to a smaller bank (41%) Source: 2019 Small Business Credit Survey
Not all applicants for business financing get the full amount they request. Almost half of the applicants (47%) reported receiving half the amount they were hoping for. Source: 2019 Small Business Credit Survey
With traditional small business loans, you have to make payments every month, plus interest, no matter what. Payments start immediately after funds are distributed, even if you haven’t used any borrowed capital. With a small business line of credit, you only have minimum payments when you use the money. Some lenders even offer an access card to use in stores and for online shopping.
A small business line of credit is the perfect solution for unexpected misfortunes or opportunities. These things happen all the time in the business world, and every company will eventually need extra cash. Maybe one of your retail items is drawing an unexpected level of demand. You’re on the verge of selling out, but you don’t have the cash to order more items. This is where a business line of credit comes in handy.
On the other hand, demand can also fall unexpectedly. In this case, a business line of credit could act as a cash cushion and allow you to continue running your company.
Sure, you could seek other options, like traditional small business loans. But you’d have to go through the process of shopping for affordable rates, preparing documents, filling out applications, etc. A business line of credit goes in your back pocket and stays there.
Compared to business credit cards, business lines of credit have higher borrowing limits. If you borrow close to your credit limit for a business credit card, your interest will skyrocket, and your credit score would plummet.
Lastly, business lines of credit typically carry looser requirements than other options. You don’t need excellent credit, high annual revenue, or more than one year in business to access enough funds to keep your company alive during an emergency.
Over the past decade or so, business lines of credit have become increasingly accessible. Many online lenders can approve secured & unsecured lines of credit in under 24 hours, even if you have bad credit. However, these products tend to have higher interest rates. And you might not be able to access more than $250,000.
A traditional business lender may offer lower rates and higher borrowing limits in exchange for steeper requirements. You may need high annual revenue, at least two years in business, and excellent credit. Collateral may be required as well.
Another disadvantage to a business line of credit is that the best time to apply is before you need it. If you apply when your company is doing well, you’re more likely to access higher borrowing amounts and lower rates. You probably won’t access the same conveniences if you apply when your cash flow is suffering.
This segues into a significant reason business lines of credit aren’t as popular as other options. Most business owners are notoriously busy. When their businesses are doing well, applying for small business loans is likely the last thing on their minds. To access the highest possible credit limit, you must somehow find the time to apply amid your hectic schedule. It’s simply not natural to think about applying for loans when you don’t need the money.
|LOAN TYPES||MAX AMOUNTS||RATES||SPEED|
|Merchant Cash Advances||$7.5k – $1m||Starting at 1.09%||1-2 business days|
|SBA Loan||$50k-$10m||Starting at 5%||3-5 weeks|
|Business Term Loan||$10k to $5m||Starting at 5%||1-3 business days|
|Business Line of Credit||$1k to $250k||Starting at 8%||1-3 business days|
|Receivables/Invoice Financing||$10k-$10m||Starting at 5.8%||1-2 weeks|
|Equipment Financing||Up to $5m per piece||Starting at 5%||3-10 business days|
|Revenue Based Business Loans||$10K – $5m||Starting at 9%||1-3 business days|
Eligible small businesses must be in business for at least six months and have a minimum credit score of 550. You must also be able to prove that your company is currently earning a profit. If approved, you can get funded in 1-3 business days.
Here’s how to get started:
Unlike other loans, business lines of credit are often not pursued with specific investments in mind. After all, you’re supposed to apply before you need the money. For this reason, aspiring borrowers might not know exactly how much funding to request. So, think about how you’ll most likely use your funding and why you are applying in the first place. This will help us understand why you’re requesting this amount.
Depending on your creditworthiness, you might not all of the following documents. However, it’s better to have them on-hand just in case:
You can begin the application process by calling us or filling out our one-page online application. Either way, you’ll be asked to enter the information from the previous section along with your desired funding amount.
Once you apply, a representative will reach out to you to explain the repayment structure, rates, and terms of your available options. This way, you won’t have to worry about any surprises or hidden fees during repayment.
If and when you’re approved, funds should appear in your bank account in 1-2 business days.
A small business loan isn’t just a way to get financing for your company. It’s also an excellent opportunity to start building (or improving) your credit.
Regardless of the type of small business loan you get, make all of your required payments on time and in full. If you get a business credit line or another form of revolving credit, keep your balance below the credit limit and follow all the terms and conditions.
Consistently making your payments on time and in full will positively impact your credit. And that means preferred rates and terms when you next need a business loan.
If your application gets declined, it might be because a small business line of credit isn’t the right tool for your financing needs. In this case, we might recommend other working capital loan offers, business credit cards, or even a personal loan, both of which can be obtained through our partners. Once you establish a solid payment history with either option, you may see a different outcome if you apply for working capital a second time. You’ll also get a better idea of which expenses can be covered by a business credit card and how to make the best use of your borrowing limit.
Another possibility is that you were declined due to poor personal credit scores. If so, you should consider our credit repair services. We can help you boost your personal credit scores by eliminating the issues that are keeping them down. We can also help boost your business credit rating with business credit bureaus if that happens to be the reason why your company was declined. The small business administration (SBA) generally requires excellent credit so it always makes sense to work on your personal and business credit scores just in case. Credit unions are also a great outlet for a business line of credit. If you are a member of one, credit unions often have great rates and programs to offer their members.
Due to the lower borrowing limit, shorter terms, and interest system, it’s best to use a business line of credit for short-term initiatives. Examples include ordering inventory, covering operational business expenses for a month or two, or hiring more workers for a last-minute project.
This depends on your ability to meet requirements like minimum credit score, annual revenue, or time in business for business lines of credit. If you can meet these requirements with flying colors, you might consider seeking funding from a bank or credit union. These lenders offer higher borrowing amounts, lower rates, and longer terms. However, their application process is considerably more involved than an alternative or with online lenders. And you may have to provide collateral. Thus, if you cannot meet these requirements, you may still be able to access a substantial borrowing amount for a business line of credit through online lenders, even with bad credit, secured business line, or unsecured.
This is one of the first questions you should ask when seeking a credit line: Is the product revolving or non-revolving? With a revolving line of credit, paying back what you borrow makes those funds available again. As long as you continue to pay off your total balance, your terms and interest rate stays the same.
A non-revolving line of credit, on the other hand, does not replenish when you pay off the total balance. You borrow, pay it back, and then it’s gone.
An unsecured business line of credit is essentially a revolving credit card with a higher borrowing limit and lower interest rate. Hence, this decision primarily depends on the cost of the expense at hand.
If you’re looking to cover a few minor, recurring expenses, a business credit card might be the better choice. If you’re looking to cover more considerable temporary costs, you should probably pursue a small business line of credit. To clarify, a small business line of credit makes more sense when you regularly need extra cash for more substantial expenses. On the other hand, a business credit card is best for smaller expenses that don’t increase in cost.
Will a small business line of credit work for you? At United Capital Source, we’ve helped get revolving credit lines for hundreds of industries, from retail to landscaping to auto repair. If your company experiences lots of seasonal fluctuations, this option is probably your best one. When considering a small business line of credit, ask yourself these questions:
Do I need…
If you answered yes to these questions, then small business lines of credit are probably the right choice for you.
This product is available to borrowers with bad credit, but your borrowing limit may be lower, and your interest and terms will be less convenient. However, if your cash flow is solid, poor credit may have less impact on your borrowing limit, interest, and terms.
We’ve repeatedly mentioned that the best time to apply is before you actually need the money. Thus, if you’re concerned about poor credit impacting your borrowing limit or interest, you should definitely work on improving your minimum credit score before you apply. UCS even offers credit repair services for this exact situation.