The 7 Best Loan Companies for Small Businesses in 2021

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When starting or running a small business, you will likely need a business loan sooner rather than later. Lending companies are an essential funding source to keep your budget balanced and make the investments you need for long-term success.

Finding the right option for your situation, though, can be more difficult. Going to your local bank or a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan might not be your best choice, either, given their low acceptance rates and potentially high-interest rates.

Online alternatives have grown significantly in popularity as a result. On Google, the search phrase “best loans for business” returns more than 450 million results. Of course, that might be too many to be sure you can find the right option for your needs.

So you go on the hunt for the best loan companies. That might even be why you’ve landed on this article. We’ve done the work, pulling together the 7 lenders for small businesses into one easy-to-skim guide. Let’s dive in.

Best Loan Companies for Small Business 2021

1. First Down Funding

Fast, often non-traditional funding for difficult and unique situations.

Small businesses often struggle to get a sizable loan based on their lack of credit history and the lender’s unwillingness to take a risk. First Down Funding specifically aims to provide alternative funding options for these situations, whether it’s due to a low credit score or an industry with traditional struggles to get a loan contract.

Founded almost a decade ago, First Down Funding offers eight types of business loans:

Small Business Funding, through options like credit lines and invoice financing.

First Down Funding is an online lender offering alternative business loans. They can be a particularly good option if you’ve had a hard time qualifying for a loan due to your industry, credit score, or are in the startup phase.

Its rates are generally more competitive than other alternative small business lenders — they’re even lower than what you might find with mainstream online providers. And they will also offer you a more personalized service and excellent customer service since the Better Business Bureau accredits them with an A+ rating.

Strengths

  • The lender works with most industries, and even with bad credit scores. A 75% approval rate suggests a high tolerance for businesses other banks might deem high-risk.
  • Great for startups, with a minimum time in business of only 100 days.
  • Funds are dispersed in as little as 72 hours, making it a great choice for fast-moving industries and quick PO turnarounds. 
  • Flexibility in funds, with the ability to borrow anywhere between $2,000 and $300,000 depending on your business needs.
  • A straightforward application that only requires the small business owners’ social security numbers, a business tax ID or EIN, and three months’ worth of bank statements.
  • Competitive rates, especially considering the relatively low acceptance criteria and high approval rates.

Weaknesses

  • Some industry limits do exist, as First Down Funding will not provide loans to the firearms, gambling, adult entertainment, or illegal substances industry.

Key Features

  • Minimum loan amount: $2,000
  • Maximum loan amount: $300,000
  • Loan term options: 12 to 120 months
  • Minimum credit score: none
  • Flexibility to change due date: yes
  • APR: Fee-based 
  • Minimum time in business: 100 days

2. Lendio

Lender comparison site that’s great to learn about your options and qualification ranges.

Owing its success to the growth of online marketplaces, Lendio is not actually a singular loan financier. Instead, it’s a comparison site that allows you to plug in your data and find potential partners for low-interest small business loans.

Lendio features a database of more than 300 lenders that offer bank loans for small business, all with different criteria for potential borrowers. It makes matches based on a relatively comprehensive application, including six months of business bank statements, existing debt and monthly payments, and more. 

Types of loans available on this website range from business line(s) of credit to merchant cash advances and more. Funding is available in as little as 24 hours, although it’s important to note that this rate changes depending on the vendor you get matched with.

Small businesses will want to know that Lendio’s funding model is built on leads. Information submitted through its small business loan application remains confidential, and revenue is generated only if the match leads to a qualified relationship between business and on-site lender.

Strengths

  • The wide range of potential partners makes Lendio a great option to ‘shop around’ for your funding opportunities.
  • A wide range of available financing, increasing the chances that you’ll find a partner for your specific situation.
  • Funding can be as quick as 24 hours.
  • The application, though complex, takes only 15 minutes to complete, which is still significantly less than most applications for traditional small business bank loans.
  • Interest rates as low as 6%, depending on your business finances and qualifications.
  • High ratings for customer service and personalization in the process from independent review sites.

Weaknesses

  • Relatively high threshold for qualification: a minimum credit score of 560, plus at least two years in business for moderate to low-interest rates.
  • Although the site’s interest rates can go as low as 6%, they can rise with lower-than-average qualifications or new startups with little built-up credit.

Key Features

  • Minimum loan amount: $500
  • Maximum loan amount: $5,000,000
  • Loan term options: 12 to 300 months
  • Minimum credit score: 560
  • APR: Qualifications-based, starting at 6% and up to 24%. 
  • Other requirements: U.S. or Canada-based business with a business bank account

3. Credibility Capital

Good short-term loan fit for established businesses in growth mode and PPP applicants. 

Based in New York, Credibility Capital is a financing option similar to Lendio but with a more narrow focus. It connects small businesses with banks, hedge funds, insurance companies, and other investors to simplify the traditional process of getting a small business loan.

The Better Business Bureau accredited credibility Capital in 2019 and currently has an A+ rating. That year, CEO and co-founder Brett Baris mentioned in a public statement that the average loan size through the company is about $175,000.

One unique feature of this lender is its ability to connect small businesses with the Payment Protection Program (PPP) lenders. The site promises to help businesses who have struggled to qualify for COVID-related funds find a bank that might work with them, an important consideration in the current economic environment.

As outlined below, credibility Capital’s qualification requirements are relatively stringent and make this platform better for established businesses than startups. If you match these requirements, you will receive loans at competitive rates, but a close look can help make sure you’re the right fit.

Strengths

  • Funding options from both traditional banks and online vendors.
  • Competitive APR rates make Credibility Capital an option to refinance existing business loans.
  • No pre-payment penalties, providing flexibility for businesses looking to minimize debt.
  • Flexibility in approvals, meaning there is no hard cut off for low credit scores if other metrics score well.
  • Automatic payment options that keep your due dates and minimize additional work.

Weaknesses

  • Lower approval rates than most other online options for small business loans.
  • High approval requirements include automatic disqualification for permanent U.S. residents (non-citizens) and Nevada residents, North Dakota, South Dakota, or Vermont.
  • Relatively short loan terms (3 years maximum) result in high monthly payments on larger amounts.
  • A personal guarantee is needed for owners who own more than 25% of their business, resulting in a potential loss in personal assets should the loan default.

Key Features

  • Minimum loan amount: $50,000
  • Maximum loan amount: $250,000
  • Loan term options: 12 to 36 months
  • Minimum credit score: 650 (with approval options for lower scores)
  • APR: Qualifications-based, starting at 8% and up to 20%. 
  • Minimum time in business: 2 years
  • Other requirements: U.S. citizen; not located in NV, ND, SD, or VT; proven and ongoing business revenue; no personal bankruptcies in the last 5 years

4. Funding Circle

High-value, low-interest loans that come with stringent requirements.

Like the previous two options, Funding Circle is a platform connecting you with your actual loan financier. It’s a peer-to-peer lender, although much of that connecting happens in the background. Small businesses apply for, receive funds, and make their payments directly through the site.

The investors partnering with the platform are closely vetted, and all loans are secured. Since launching in 2010, it has provided more than $11 billion in business loans to more than 81,000 businesses.

The Better Business Bureau accredits funding Circle with an A+ rating and consistently ranks highly on independent review sites as well. It was approved by the Small Business Administration to begin offering SBA loans and began offering PPP loans in January 2021.

That high credibility, though, comes with a price. The origination fee (3.49% to 6.99%) is higher than most of its online competitors, and a 5% late fee applies immediately if a payment is received after its due date. In exchange, you get some of the lowest interest rates in the business. 

Strengths

  • Flexible loan terms, ranging from as short as 6 months all the way to 60 months.
  • Low-interest rates start at 4.99% for high-value loans to highly qualified borrowers.
  • No pre-payment penalties, meaning you can pay off your loan early and reduce your debt at no additional cost.
  • Flexibility in applying to more than one loan through the platform, though a wait time of 6+ months between applications is required.
  • SBA loan availability can range up to $5 million for up to 10 years.

Weaknesses

  • High origination fee that has to be calculated into your total loan amount, reducing cash in hand.
  • High requirements, such as a credit score of at least 620 and a minimum of two years in business, reduce this creditor’s potential partners to established small businesses.
  • Relatively slow turnaround times compared to the other options on this list, at 5+ business days.
  • Requirements of a personal lien and personal guarantees from all owners, potentially endangering personal assets.

Key Features

  • Minimum loan amount: $25,000
  • Maximum loan amount: $500,000 ($5 million for SBA loans)
  • Loan term options: 6 to 60 months (120 months for SBA loans)
  • Minimum credit score: 620, with the average borrower having a credit score of 700.
  • APR: Qualifications-based, starting at 4.99%. 
  • Minimum time in business: 2 years
  • Other requirements: Not located in NV; for-profit business; no personal bankruptcies in the last 7 years.

5. OnDeck

Fast approvals and money in the bank with loyalty rewards for repeat borrowers.

In many ways, OnDeck is one of the original online lenders for small businesses out there. Over its life, it’s provided more than $13 billion in funding to organizations across the United States.

The creditor has built its business model on both immediacy and loyalty. The application only takes a few minutes and requires nothing but three months of business bank statements. A phone application is available, as well. Once complete, funds are in your account within 24 minutes of application submission.

The loyalty aspect is the second important piece to mention. OnDeck reduces its fees and rates for repeat borrowers, making it a good fit for businesses looking for more than just a one-time cash infusion.

On an important COVID-19 relief note, OnDeck currently only offers a limited amount of available standard small business loans due to an increased focus on PPP funding that started in June. You may still find a regular business loan that fits, but your selection might be limited.

Strengths

  • Easy application, including limited paperwork and the ability to apply via phone.
  • The application uses a soft credit report, meaning your business credit score will not be affected when searching for loans.
  • Great for small businesses that might need multiple loans, thanks to its rate and fee discounts.
  • Relatively low credit score requirement, starting at 600.
  • Fast access for capital in your bank account, owing to both the easy application and the 24-hour approval process.

Weaknesses

  • Only relevant for short-term business loans with a maximum term of 12 months.
  • Payments have to be made daily or weekly, requiring cash fluidity to stay on schedule.
  • High APR and origination fees for first-time borrowers.
  • Fixed fee structures, meaning that an early payback of your loan will not save in interest.
  • A significant list of restricted industries, which will be unable to receive a loan. 

Key Features

  • Minimum loan amount: $5,000
  • Maximum loan amount: $250,000
  • Loan term options: 3 to 12 months
  • Minimum credit score: 600
  • APR: Qualifications-based, ranging between 11% and 99%. 
  • Minimum time in business: 1 year
  • Minimum annual revenue: $100,000

6. Kabbage

Technology-heavy loan alternative that emphasizes speed but lacks transparency.

Founded in 2012 as a technology company looking for new and innovative ways to fund small businesses, Kabbage functions on an intriguing business model: a more flexible loan opportunity. You apply only once and can draw additional funds (starting at $500 per draw) that technically count as new loans but don’t require separate applications or approvals.

Because of that business model, Kabbage doesn’t charge interest in the traditional sense. Instead, loans get assessed a fee between 1.5% and 10% of the total amount are due monthly alongside the principal payment. That has led to confusion among some of its customers, making these loans challenging to compare to others on their face.

As expected from a technology company, the integrations add to the convenience. Businesses can withdraw to up to three bank accounts, a physical card with its checking account, PayPal, and even its mobile app. Loan options, typically in the form of a line of credit, are both secured and unsecured.

Importantly, before we go into the service’s strengths and weaknesses, Kabbage has temporarily paused its small business loan and business line(s) of credit program. Having been acquired by American Express in 2020 and during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has focused its services around its payment solutions. Businesses can leave their information with the service to be notified when loans become available once again.

Strengths

  • The flexibility of withdrawals, making it a more intuitive solution to receive cash on an as-needed basis, starting as low as $500.
  • Convenient ability to receive payment in multiple ways (business bank account, checking account with a card, mobile app, or PayPal.
  • Funding is available in minutes after requesting a new round, thanks to a digital-first financing approach.
  • A transparent application that requires minimal paperwork and focuses on technology integrations instead.
  • Potentially low fees that can drop to a consistent 1.5% with regular payments.

Weaknesses

  • Not currently accepting new business financing applications.
  • Lack of transparency on its fee structure, especially considering the unusual setup compared to most other lenders.
  • Qualification requirements may not be a good match for startups (1 year minimum in business, $4,200 minimum monthly revenue).

Key Features

  • Minimum loan amount: $500
  • Maximum loan amount: $250,000
  • Loan term options: 6 to 12 months
  • Minimum credit score: none
  • APR: Fee-based structure, between 1.5% and 10% of the total loan amount charged monthly. 
  • Minimum time in business: 1 year
  • Minimum annual revenue: $50,000 ($4,200 minimum monthly revenue).

7. Currency Pay

Equipment lending mechanism that combines the purchase with affordable low-interest small business loans.

Unlike the other lenders on this loan, Currency Finance (the company behind the Currency Pay product) shines in its specificity. It’s built specifically to help small businesses afford pieces of equipment they need to sustain and grow their revenue.

According to its website, Currency Pay is a platform “designed to buy & sell heavy equipment, machinery, and other large-ticket items.” In turn, that platform connects directly with Currency financing options, allowing buyers to become more flexible in their purchasing process without requiring immediate liquidity.

That financing piece is what this review will focus on. It’s most likely to happen as part of the transaction, although you can apply for qualification even before you shop to see where your total amount, fees, and payments land. The application itself consists of basic information, a soft credit check, and Tax Guard, allowing the lender to see your tax records.

The platform is technically a lender marketplace, although it doesn’t feel like it from a borrower’s perspective. That’s because Currency pre-selects one lender that has the best terms, which is your recommended choice for the equipment financing loan.  

Strengths

  • Relatively low rates, starting as low as 6% for large amounts. Borrowers that the platform deems ideal have the chance of 0% APR.
  • The ability to connect your loan directly with the equipment buying process adds significant convenience to the process.
  • Peace of mind on equipment purchases. As you wait for approval, Currency actually checks on the piece of equipment you’re buying to ensure it’s in good shape.
  • Fast approval, especially considering the above-mentioned equipment quality check. Most borrowers receive their funds within 72 hours.

Weaknesses

  • High qualification hurdles, with a minimum credit score of 585, minimum time in business of 6 months, and minimum of $75,000 in annual revenue, only qualifying you for rates in the mid-20%s. 
  • Currency accepts only companies without a net loss of 10% or more in the past 12 months, taking out high-growth-mode startups as potential qualifiers.
  • A pre-payment fee prevents you from paying off the loan early to save funds if your profitability rises higher than expected.
  • No streamlined online application, as the process can differ depending on the lender pre-selected for you.

Key Features

  • Minimum loan amount: $5,000
  • Maximum loan amount: $500,000
  • Loan term options: 24 to 72 months
  • Minimum credit score: 585
  • APR: 6% to 24%, though some borrowers may qualify for 0% financing. 
  • Minimum time in business: 6 months
  • Minimum annual revenue: $75,000 (with no net loss above 10% in the past 12 months).

What Are the Best Small Business Loans?

Determining the best small business bank loans depends on your situation. Options like First Down Funding are good for personalized excellent customer service and flexibility, while Lendio is ideal for various scenarios. Kabbage works well for smaller amounts and flexibility, while products and services like Currency Pay are narrowly focused.

Generally speaking, you can determine the best small business loan for your needs through these criteria:

  • The total amount of money available to borrow.
  • Loan term and payment schedule, allowing you to understand how to repay the loan.
  • Low-interest rates that maximize return on your (debt) investment.

If you need help, you can submit an online application to First Down Funding or call them on 410 310 8542 for more information.

Other Business Owners Also Asked

What Kind of Credit Score Do You Need to Get a Small Business Loan?

You will need a credit score of 680 or higher to qualify for a bank or SBA loan in most cases. That becomes more flexible for an online business lender, who typically starts in the 550 to 650 credit score range.
Some popular online loans, like First Down Funding and Kabbage, require no credit score at all. They rely on other proof points (like your business bank statements) to review your online loan application. Of course, going beyond these minimum requirements will give you a better chance at the best business loan rates.

How Much Money Can You Get With a Small Business Loan?

We found the maximum loan amount in reviewing the best small business lending option was $5 million, which was an investor within the Lendio platform. Most online loans range up to $250,000 and, in some cases, $500,000 to fund your business expenses.

How Can You Get Approved for a Small Business Loan?

Most digital platforms simply ask you to complete an online application for a small business loan. Some, but not all, require attachments like bank statements, and all promise a quick review. As long as you meet their minimum requirements, as outlined above and in their own application process, you will most likely get approved.

How Can You Get a Loan to Start a Small Business?

Getting a loan to start a small business can be difficult because many online loan companies hedge against start-ups by requiring a set amount of minimum years or months in business. Use a marketplace like Lendio to find lenders that don’t require minimum time in business or proven ongoing revenue.

What is the Best Loan to Start a Business?

Look to First Down Funding to find arguably the best loans for businesses that are just getting started. The platform specializes in the term ‘alternative’, difficult situations such as bad credit or new business loans. Lendio may also be an excellent alternative to check for loans without minimum time in business requirements.

What is the Easiest Business Loan to Get?

Generally speaking, online loans are easier to get than traditional bank loans. However, it’s important to note that loans that are easy to get are not always the loans with the lowest interest, which may have a more complex application or stringent requirements.

The Takeaway

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Looking for the best online loans is relative because the definition depends entirely on your business needs. Instead of merely picking one from the list above, use this guide to build your consideration set, then match your needs and finances with the online platforms most likely to help you build business debt the right way.

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