Key takeaways

  • Small business financing isn’t limited to traditional banks
  • Online lenders provide accessible and fast loans compared to traditional banks
  • CDFIs and MDIs specialize in helping provide capital to businesses in underserved communities

You might have come up with a solid business idea or even established your business out of passion for what you do. But along the journey, every business needs funding to grow and become sustainable in the long term. Getting the right business loan can make all the difference in accessing enough capital to buy equipment, hire employees or cover daily expenses.

Take a look below to find all the options you have to get small business financing, including banks and alternative sources like crowdfunding.

1. Bank loans

Who it’s best for: Businesses with strong credit

Where to get bank loans: Traditional banks, such as the bank where you do business banking

Chances are, when you think of business loans, you think of a traditional, brick-and-mortar bank. You can apply for a business loan with most traditional banks.

But banks focus on providing loans to creditworthy businesses, so be prepared for strict qualifications to apply. Common requirements for traditional banks are:

  • Minimum credit score: 670+
  • Minimum annual revenue: $100,000 to $250,000
  • Minimum time in business: 2 years

A good place to start is with the bank where you keep your business bank account. Some banks require you to have a relationship with them to get approved for a business loan, though not always.

In exchange for a strong credit history, banks typically offer some of the lowest interest rates for business loans among lenders. They also tend to stick to conventional types of financing, such as term and equipment loans and business lines of credit.

Pros and cons


  • Low starting interest rates
  • Bank branches for in-person support
  • Variety of conventional loans


  • Strict requirements to qualify
  • Not ideal for startups
  • May have to apply in person

2. Online loans

Who it’s best for: Businesses with fair-to-bad credit or needing funds quickly

Where to get online loans: Fintech lenders without bank branches

Online loans are offered through lenders that don’t have branches and typically don’t offer business bank accounts. Because of relaxed eligibility guidelines, these loans are usually more accessible to startups or businesses that need to rebuild credit. Typical requirements for online loans include:

  • Minimum credit score: 550 to 660
  • Minimum annual revenue: $50,000 to $250,000
  • Time in business: 6 months to 1 year

Online loans also have fast funding speeds, as quick as 24 to 48 hours. This makes them ideal if you need funds quickly to cover a cash flow gap or emergency expense.

Online lenders may specialize in specific types of business loans, including alternative financing like merchant cash advances. Repayment terms tend to be five years and under, shorter than traditional banks that can go as long as 10 to 25 years.

And while starting interest rates can be similar to banks, rates for bad credit business loans can get up to 99 percent or higher.

Pros and cons


  • Relaxed eligibility requirements
  • Welcomes startups and bad credit businesses
  • Alternative financing options
  • Fast funding in 24 to 48 hours


  • Interest rates can be high
  • Repayment terms typically 5 years or less
  • Fewer loan options than traditional banks

3. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans

Who it’s best for: Businesses that don’t qualify for conventional loans

Where to get an SBA loan: SBA-approved or preferred lenders

Small Business Administration loans are term loans or lines of credit partially guaranteed by the U.S. government. These loans have requirements and maximum interest rates set by the SBA.

They’re offered through approved SBA lenders. These are often traditional banks, but some fintech lenders like Lendistry offer SBA loans.

Because SBA loans are competitive, lenders often add strict criteria that business owners have to meet. For example, you may need a minimum credit score of 670 and two years in business. Lenders also have to get SBA approval to guarantee the loan, slowing down funding time to 30 to 90 days.

The SBA offers several types of SBA loans, including:

Type of SBA loan Description
7(a) loan Most popular SBA loan, used for general purposes, including working capital, equipment and real estate
504 loan Designed for equipment and real estate purchases or construction improvements
Express loan A 7(a) loan with quicker approval times and maximum loan amounts up to $500,000
Microloans Designed for underserved communities with loan amounts up to $50,000

Pros and cons


  • For businesses that don’t qualify for other loans
  • Competitive interest rates
  • Variety of loan types
  • Fee and interest rate limits set by SBA


  • Strict guidelines to apply, based on lender
  • Funding can take 30 to 90 days
  • Lender must be SBA-approved

4. Community-based lending

Who it’s best for: Minority business owners, startups and businesses with bad credit

Where to get community-based loans: Certified Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) or Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs)

Community-based loans are provided by lenders with a mission to support and develop certain communities. They focus on underserved markets like minority business owners and businesses in financially at-risk areas. They may also offer educational support to set businesses up for success and sustainability in their markets.

Community-based lenders are certified under special designations called Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) or Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs). These can be banks, credit unions, loan funds or venture capital funds.

CDFIs are financial institutions that aim to develop businesses in target markets, including minority and low-income areas. They must offer training and education to support their communities. CDFIs are certified by the CDFI Fund, which offers lenders training, financial awards and specialized lending programs like its Small Dollar Loan Program.

Minority Deposit Institutions are organizations that are mostly owned (51 percent) by people of color and serve minority communities. MDIs also should have a board of directors made up of mostly minority individuals. They’re often located in a minority community and may offer bilingual services to promote an equal playing field for financial understanding.

Pros and cons


  • Supports minority and underserved businesses
  • Relaxed credit requirements
  • Offers extra resources like mentoring and bilingual services


  • Few community-based lenders
  • Must qualify for that lender’s target community
  • Limited loan options and sizes

5. Business credit cards

Who it’s best for: Any business, including startups and those that don’t qualify for conventional business loans

Where to get business credit cards: Banks or your preferred credit card issuer

If you’re just finding your footing as a business or need to cover small expenses, a business credit card is a solid place to start. You typically need a good credit score of 670 or higher, but they’re otherwise easier to qualify for than a business loan.

You won’t have to meet requirements for making enough revenue or staying in business for a set amount of time. You don’t even need to be registered as a business entity, although the application will ask you to define your business.

Business credit cards typically offer APRs in the 14 percent to 28 percent range. While you can find business loans with lower interest, business loans can soar up to 99 percent. You may see high rates if you don’t meet a traditional lender’s criteria and need an online or alternative loan.

Other benefits? Business credit cards typically let you earn cash back for everyday purchases or rewards to redeem for travel. They may also offer multiple cards for employees complete with spending limits.

Pros and cons


  • Use for expenses any time
  • Easier to qualify for than loans
  • Earn cash back or rewards
  • Payment due 21+ days after billing cycle


6. Small business grants

Who it’s best for: Startups or underserved businesses needing free capital

Where to get business grants: Governments, private corporations and non-profits that provide business grants

If your business meets qualifications, business grants are the ideal choice to get funding that you don’t have to pay back. That doesn’t mean grants are easy to apply for and win.

Your business has to match the grant’s specific criteria, such as being a minority business owner. You then have to compete with other businesses that also meet the criteria, possibly showing a detailed business plan or presenting your business idea and goals.

If you get the grant, you may have to report business results to the organization. You also have to be patient about waiting to hear back from the company giving the grant.

Pros and cons


  • Free money
  • Focuses on underserved groups like minorities, women and veterans
  • May offer education and resources


  • Must meet specific requirements
  • Getting a grant is competitive
  • Not a quick source of funding
  • Limited grants available

7. Crowdfunding

Who it’s best for: Businesses that can stoke public or investors’ interest

Where to get crowdfunding: Crowdfunding platforms like Kiva and Kickstarter

Crowdfunding is a form of business financing that raises funds from interested private investors or customers. These may be angel investors with enough capital to invest in a risky venture or crowdfunding platforms that take small investments from multiple people.

Getting funding this way works best for businesses with a unique product or those filling a gap in the market with few competitors.

Crowdfunding can be a simple, one-off fundraiser. Or it may involve giving investors equity in your business or rewarding them with gifts, profits or the product itself.

Pros and cons


  • Ideal for startups and one-time funding
  • No strict requirements to be eligible
  • Can start relationships with investors


  • Doesn’t work for ongoing needs
  • Need to engage interest in your business
  • May have to report business results

Bottom line

If you’re a small business in need of funding, you have options. Bank and online loans may offer the lump-sum funding you need, while lines of credit and credit cards are a better option for ongoing funds. Before agreeing to small business financing, be sure to compare various lenders to make sure you get the best rate and terms for your business’s needs.

Frequently asked questions

  • Small business loans are usually funded through traditional banks and online lenders. If you’re looking for an SBA loan, you’ll need to find a lender approved by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Similarly, community-based lenders will need to be certified by their specific designation, such as a Community Development Financial Institution or Minority Deposit Institution.
  • You can get small business loans from brick-and-mortar banks, online lenders or community-based lenders that focus on underserved communities. Some lenders specialize in certain types of loans or industries, such as semi-truck loans or merchant cash advances.
  • Small businesses with fair-to-excellent credit can get conventional loans, including term loans, business lines of credit and equipment financing. Businesses with bad credit may qualify for alternative financing, like invoice factoring, asset-based lending or merchant cash advances.