Portions of this article were drafted using an in-house natural language generation platform. The article was reviewed, fact-checked and edited by our editorial staff.

Key takeaways

  • Banks are known for offering low-interest business loans to business owners with good credit and at least two years in business
  • Banks also offer personal loans you may be able to use for business purposes
  • Alternatives to bank business loans include business credit cards and loans from online lenders

Running a small business requires capital to cover everything from purchasing equipment and inventory to financing new projects, paying staff and funding growth.

There are many types of small business loans available to help cover these costs, but it’s important to find the best one for your business and its unique needs. Banks of all sizes offer loans designed with small businesses in mind, but the vast majority of borrowers immediately turn to large banks. The 2022 Small Business Credit Survey found that 43 percent of businesses rely on large banks for financial services, while 30 percent use small banks.

If you’re in the market for a small business loan, read on to learn more about the types of loans offered by banks and their pros and cons.

Types of small business loans offered at banks

Banks offer several different small types of small business loans designed for particular funding needs, including the amount of funding available and repayment terms.

Loan Type Description
Term loan A lump-sum loan that typically has repayment terms of two to five years. Can be used to cover short- or long-term expenses that can’t be paid off quickly.
Business line of credit A revolving credit line that can be used up to a certain limit and typically reused as you pay off your debt.
SBA 7(a) loan The most common government-backed small business loan with loan amounts of up to $5 million available. Money can be used for almost any purpose, including working capital, payroll, expansion and equipment.
SBA 504 loan Another type of government-backed loan, with up to $5.5 million available. Funds can be used for long-term financing for real estate and large equipment.
Commercial real estate loan Designed for businesses that want to open a physical location. The money can be used to purchase property or lease space. May be able to borrow as much as $5 million.
Equipment loan For businesses that need to finance equipment purchases. These loans are secured by the equipment you buy. The amount available depends on the purchase being made.

Pros and cons of a bank business loan

Most types of business loans from banks generally offer attractive terms. But like any type of business loan, there are pros and cons to consider before signing on the dotted line. Here are some of the loan benefits and drawbacks to be aware of.

Pros

  • Longer terms: Banks offer longer loan terms, some as long as five to seven years.
  • Attractive interest rates: Banks often offer lower interest rates than online lenders. Small businesses with excellent credit often pay an average of 6 percent to 7 percent for loans from traditional banks. Online lenders can charge up to 60 percent or more depending on the loan type and the business’s credit score.
  • Flexible use: Unless your loan is for a particular asset or purpose, the proceeds from a bank business loan can typically be used for any business-related expense.
  • Borrower incentives: Banks frequently offer incentives to attract prospective borrowers, such as reduced APRs and autopay discounts.

Cons

  • Documentation requirements: Applying for a small business loan with a traditional bank typically requires submitting extensive documentation.
  • Not ideal for bad credit or startups: Banks often have minimum requirements of a 670 credit score and two or more years in business with proof that you’re operating profitably.
  • May be long waiting periods for approval: It’s common for banks to take several days or weeks to provide a lending decision.
  • Slow funding times: Banks typically take longer to provide funding once a loan is approved. It can take several days to receive the loan proceeds.

Can I use a personal loan from a bank for my business?

Qualifying for a small business loan at a bank can be challenging since banks typically look for experienced, established businesses with a strong credit history. But it may be possible to take out a personal loan instead.

Personal loans are a popular alternative to traditional business loans. They often don’t require collateral and have interest rates that won’t get as high as many bad credit business loans. But interest on personal loans is not tax-deductible. Personal loans are considered consumer debt and do not qualify for tax deductions like business loans.

Before applying for a personal loan to use for business expenses, borrowers should check with the lender to ensure there are no restrictions on using the loan for business purposes.

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Bankrate insight

Upstart personal loans have relaxed eligibility requirements like a minimum credit score of 300 and a full-time job or full-time job offer starting in six months. But you’ll need fewer than six inquiries on your credit report in the last six months, excluding student loans, vehicle loans or mortgages.

Requirements to get a bank small business loan

When you apply for a small business loan, banks will want to see a variety of information about you and your business to assess the risk of lending to you. Lenders may have specific requirements for minimum credit score, revenue, years in business and more. Here are some of the most common requirements to get a small business loan at a bank.

1. Credit score

Though specific requirements vary by lender, banks will likely consider your personal and business credit score. Banks typically review your FICO score to gauge your personal credit history and look for a score of at least 670.

Various business credit bureaus, such as Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian, review a business’s credit score. The scoring models used by each bureau vary.

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Bankrate insight

You can build business credit by paying your bills on time and keeping your debt low.

2. Revenue

Similar to credit score requirements, revenue requirements may vary by lender and loan type. But it’s not unusual for banks to require that applicants meet a minimum amount of revenue to prove that they have the cash flow for a loan. Many national banks have a minimum requirement of $250,000.

3. Years in business

Banks typically require applicants to have a minimum of two years in business to qualify for a loan.

4. Business plan

Many banks also like to see a business plan from small business applicants. A business plan outlines business goals and generally maps out a strategy for achieving those goals. This plan should also outline how you intend to use the loan funds and how additional financing will benefit your business.

5. Collateral

Because lending to small businesses often involves taking on more risk, traditional banks may ask for collateral to secure the loan. Depending on what type of loan you’re seeking, this could be the inventory, equipment or other assets you’re using the loan for. In some cases, it may be personal assets.

6. Documentation

When applying for a small business loan, gathering and preparing the necessary documents in advance is important. While specific requirements vary from lender to lender, you should be ready to provide personal financial documents such as bank statements, personal tax returns and business documents.

The business documentation requested may include tax returns, profit and loss statements, banking records and information about debts.

Alternatives to bank business loans

If you don’t qualify for a business loan from a bank or want to review other options, there are several alternatives to consider.

  • Business credit cards: Business credit cards often offer rewards and the potential for a lower or introductory APR. Borrowing is also flexible — the card can be used when needed. You may also receive a business card decision and approval faster than a bank business loan.
  • Online lenders: Online lenders feature quick and easy application and funding timelines. They are also typically more willing to work with business owners with bad credit and startups. But these lenders may also charge higher rates than banks, depending on your credit score and the loan type.
  • Merchant cash advance: For businesses that generate a significant amount of sales through debit and credit purchases, a merchant cash advance (MCA) may be a good choice. MCAs provide a lump sum of cash, which you repay using a percentage of future card-based sales. That said, they typically have higher fees than other borrowing options.
  • Invoice financing and factoring: Invoice financing and factoring are similar types of loans. Using invoice financing, you use the money you’re owed based on invoices for collateral to get a loan. And as you get paid for those invoices, you repay the debt. Using invoice factoring, a lending company buys the invoices directly from you. When the invoices are paid, the money goes to the factoring company instead of you. Factoring companies pay you 70 percent to 90 percent of an invoice’s face value upfront and then the remaining amount minus fees.
  • Microloans: A microloan, as its name indicates, is a loan for a relatively small amount of money. Typically these loans are for $50,000 or less. The SBA estimates the average amount of a microloan is $13,000.
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Bankrate insight

Some online lenders can help business owners with credit scores as low as 500. There are also online lenders and nonprofits that can help you get an SBA loan if you can’t qualify with a bank.

Bottom line

Before applying for a business loan, make sure to consider all your options. If you have good-to-excellent credit, a bank may be your best chance at a low-interest business loan. But funding times may be slower than other lenders, and you may have to apply in person. Make sure to compare loans from different types of lenders, including online lenders to find the best small business loan for you.

Frequently asked questions about a bank loan for business

  • Yes, 43 percent of businesses applied to a large bank for financing and 30 percent applied to a small bank, according to the 2022 Small Business Credit Survey. Additionally, 53 percent of applications from small businesses for loans, lines of credit and merchant cash advances were fully approved in 2022, and 26 percent were partially approved.
  • If you’re in the market for a loan, it’s important to be prepared when approaching a bank. You should know how much money you’re seeking to borrow and have a business plan ready to show a lender, along with any additional documentation or requirements they may have.
  • Many national and regional banks offer attractive rates and terms, but the best bank for your business loan will depend on your specific financial needs and qualifications. It’s important to review all your options before deciding which bank is best for your business loan.