Michelle Honeyager is a freelance writer for Bankrate. She has had bylines appear in US News, CNET and other financial publications. She has a passion for helping people make the best financial decisions possible.
Helen Wilbers is a Bankrate editor specializing in auto loans. Helen is passionate about demystifying complex topics, such as car financing, and helping borrowers stay up-to-date in a changing and challenging borrower environment.
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Rating: 4.3 stars out of 5
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Kiva is not a traditional small business lender. Borrowers use Kiva’s platform to crowdfund for zero-interest microloans. Kiva was founded in 2005, and the Kiva website states that 4.7 million people have raised over $2 billion on the platform.
Up to 36 months
Min. annual revenue
Min. time in business
Who Kiva is best for
Kiva is an alternative lender that specializes in micro-funding for startups and small businesses. It’s a nonprofit crowdfunding platform dedicated to increasing access to business funding for underserved communities. The company does not list annual revenue, time in business or minimum credit score requirements.
Kiva loans go up to $15,000, so this is an option for smaller enterprises looking to expand or start up. The website showcases people who have used the funding to open or run shoe businesses, small restaurants, rooftop farms and coffee shops.
Who Kiva may not be best for
Any business that needs access to more funding than $15,000 may want to look elsewhere. Even by microloan standards, it’s a bit low since SBA microloans can go up to $50,000. This platform may not be the best for larger manufacturers, multi-location enterprises or high-cost businesses like transportation.
Kiva also uses a peer-to-peer lending model. Borrowers must invite between five and 35 lenders from their own network. If someone does not have personal contacts that are able or willing to lend, then this might not be the best option.
Kiva loans operate like a hybrid of crowdfunding, microlending and peer-to-peer lending. You fill out the prequalification application, get family and friends to lend to you and then go public on the platform to get funding from other lenders.
Do you qualify?
To qualify for Kiva microloans, your business has to be based in the U.S. You have to be over 18 years old, and use the loan for business purposes. There are no minimum annual revenue, credit score, or time in business requirements. Your business cannot be in foreclosure or bankruptcy, nor can it be under any current liens. Excluded industries include:
Illegal activities like gambling or scams
Marijuana, CBD or hemp
Pure financial investing like stocks
Multi-level marketing or direct sales
Kiva microloans cannot be used to refinance current debts or purchase stock or equity.
What we like and what we don’t like
Like any lending option, there are some good points and some drawbacks that might not make it ideal for all situations.
What we like
Low approval requirements: As mentioned above, there is no minimum credit score, time in business or annual revenue required for Kiva microloans. This is a solid option for small startups trying to get off the ground.
A way to generate buzz for your business: You have to work to get funding from individuals, including friends and family. It can be a good way to get the word out about your new business venture.
0 percent APR and no fees: The 0 percent APR is a massive perk, as even the best startup business loans typically have at least 5 percent interest — or often much higher. No fees is also a perk, since just origination fees can run from 1 to 5 percent for other business loans.
What we don’t like
Need to crowdsource your own funding: If you’re not in a position where friends or family can or will lend to you, this isn’t the option for you. Some people might also just not like the stress of asking people in their network to lend to them.
Microloans may not be enough funding: These microloans go up to $15,000, which is perfect for smaller ventures trying to get off the ground or expand a bit. But larger enterprises may need to look elsewhere.
Unlike traditional lenders, Kiva operates as a crowdfunding platform, connecting individuals to entrepreneurs in need of loans for various business purposes. It offers interest-free loans ranging from $1,000 to $15,000 with a term of up to 36 months. Kiva's approach relies on support from contributors who want to support entrepreneurs by donating funds to their project or business.
Businesses seeking long-term borrowing and higher loan amounts may find a business loan from Accion Opportunity Fund (AOF) is the better fit. While Kiva provides loans of $1,000 to $15,000 with terms of up to 36 months, AOF's Progress Loan offers greater flexibility. AOF borrowing limits range from $5,000 to $100,000 with terms ranging from 12 to 60 months. The lender also provides coaching services to support and empower local entrepreneurs.
Keep in mind Kiva operates as a mix of crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending and microlending. Businesses must do a bit more work to raise funds. But AOF has a simple application that can be completed online or via phone.
AOF charges APRs between 5.99 percent and 17.99 percent, which helps if you don't need a lot of funds and want to keep borrowing costs low. In that case, Kiva's interest-free loans could be ideal.
Kiva vs. Fundible
Either Kiva or Fundible could work for businesses with less-than-perfect credit. But the two have very different loan types, loan amounts and terms.
Kiva gives borrowers access to interest-free loans between $1,000 and $15,000. The loan terms are limited to a maximum of 36 months. Fundible offers a variety of loans, including term loans, business lines of credit, equipment financing and SBA loans. Its loan amounts run between $5,000 and $10 million. And its loan terms range from one year to 10 years, so long-term financing is an option.
Fundible only requires an application and certain business and/or personal documentation. Kiva's model requires borrowers to fundraise and promote their business to attract lenders.
How to apply for a loan with Kiva
Getting a loan with Kiva is a lengthier process than applying for other business loans. You start by filling out the quick online application to see if you’re prequalified. Compared to most lenders, Kiva has low loan documentation requirements.
You then have 15 days to invite friends and family to lend to you. Then you go public on the Kiva platform for up to 30 days. Kiva states your loan is visible to 1.7 million lenders worldwide. You then have up to 36 months to repay the loan.
Required application information
Basic financial information, such as name, address, business name and address, and how much you wish to borrow
A public profile, including a photo of yourself and your business
A few paragraphs who you are, what your business does and what you will use the loan for
Kiva frequently asked questions
Kiva is a legitimate lending option. It received 4.8 out of 5 stars rating based on nearly 400 Kiva loan reviews through Trustpilot. Kiva is listed as a 501(c)3 U.S. nonprofit. It was founded in 2005 and is based in San Francisco.
Yes, you pay the loan back over up to 36 months. First, you have a period of 15 days to invite friends and family to lend to you. The loan goes public for up to 30 days, where over a million lenders can see your business profile. Then you pay back the loan.
On the application page for Kiva, the lowest amount you can select is $1,000. You can select amounts beyond the $1,000 mark in $500 increments up to $15,000.
No, there is not a minimum credit score for Kiva. Kiva states that it uses a process called “social underwriting.” Borrowers gather support from their immediate community to stay accountable for paying back the loan.
How Bankrate rates Kiva
Though Kiva sets few eligibility requirements, its small maximum amount and long funding timeline ding this score.
Kiva doesn’t charge interest or fees on its loans.
Kiva’s eligibility requirements are clear and minimal.
Kiva offers an easy online application. However, reaching a live customer service representative could be tricky.
Kiva only offers one loan product.
years in business
loan features weighed
data points collected
To select the top small business lenders, Bankrate considers more than 20 factors. These factors include loan amounts, approval and funding times, credit requirements, APR or factor rate ranges, fees, and easy-to-find rate and fee disclosures. Bankrate reviewed more than 30 lenders and gave each a rating, which consists of five categories:
Accessibility: Factors considered in this category include minimum loan amounts, approval and funding speed, minimum annual revenue and minimum credit score.
Affordability: This section measures interest or factor rates and fees.
Transparency: How easy it is to find important rates, fees and eligibility requirements are considered in this category.
Customer experience: Customer service hours, online applications and app availability are considered in this category.
Flexibility: This category considers factors like the number of loan products and ability to change payment due date.
Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the lender’s website for the most current information.