The Bankrate promise
At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for .
According to the Census Bureau, in 2020, veterans owned 320,864, or 5.6 percent, of employer businesses in the U.S.
Many small business owners, including retired and active-duty service members, turn to small business loans to start a business or grow an existing one.
The U.S. Small Business Administration, banks, credit unions and online lenders all offer business loans to veterans, but they each carry different requirements. If you want to decide which is the best small business loan for you, take a look at each option.
Small-business loans for veterans
The Veterans Advantage program is no longer an option, but veterans looking for small business loans can consider options through the SBA as well as other lenders, including banks and credit unions.
SBA 7(a) Loans
While the Veterans Advantage program that reduced or eliminated fees on SBA 7(a) loans for veterans has been discontinued, veterans are still eligible to apply for SBA 7(a) loans. Loans are good for up to $5 million in funding. To qualify, businesses must be for-profit and must not be delinquent on any debts to the U.S. government. Also, the business owner must have exhausted other funding sources, including their own pockets.
SBA business loans are appealing because of government-imposed rate caps, which often make them less expensive than alternatives. And if you’re approved for an SBA 7(a) loan, you can use the funds for the purchase of equipment, real estate, supplies and more. This is also a chance to build business credit, which is important for a business just opening its doors.
SBA Express Loans
If you’re a veteran or spouse of a veteran, you can qualify for fee discounts on one type of SBA 7(a) loan: the SBA Express loan. Veterans currently pay no upfront fees (essentially, origination fees) on these loans.
With an SBA Express loan, the approval process takes a maximum of 36 hours. It will take longer than that to actually get your money, but knowing whether you are approved or not can be useful.
SBA Express Loans are capped at $500,000 and terms can be up to ten years. Keep in mind is that SBA Express loans usually carry higher interest rates than 7(a) loans since the government guarantees less of the loan amount.
To qualify for this fee relief, your business must be at least 51 percent owned by someone who falls into one of these groups:
- A veteran who didn’t receive a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge
- A service-disabled veteran
- An active duty military service member in the Transition Assistance Program
- A reservist or National Guard member
- A current spouse of one of the above, or one whose spouse died while in service or of a service-connected disability
Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan (MREIDL)
The SBA’s Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (MREIDL) provides low-interest business loans when an “essential employee” is called up for active duty in the Reserve or National Guard. The loan provides up to $2 million to help business owners cover operating expenses that they would have been able to pay if the employee had not been called up.
Bank and credit union loans
Many banks and credit unions offer small business loans to veterans and other types of business owners. Though banks usually have more stringent eligibility requirements, you may find that the APR range is more competitive than what online lenders offer. Plus, if you already have a relationship with the lender, you may be offered an APR discount.
Certain banks, including Huntington Bank, even offer veterans discounted fees and interest.
You can also apply for small-business loans through a credit union that caters to veterans, like Navy Federal Credit Union. Since credit unions are member-owned, not-for-profit institutions, they tend to have less-strict borrowing requirements than traditional banks.
Several online lenders also offer small-business loans to veteran business owners. These loans typically come with less-stringent eligibility requirements than traditional lenders like banks and credit unions.
However, a potential tradeoff to keep in mind is that they usually have higher average APRs than traditional options — especially if you have bad credit.
Other resources for veteran business owners
The SBA and other oragnizations offer various resources geared toward veterans to help them excel as entrepreneurs, including classes on military bases, mentorships, online programs for women veterans and training in how to bid on government contracts.
- Boots to Business: Training and resources available to veterans via domestic and international military installations.
- Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD): Entrepreneurial resources such as workshops, mentorship and training, with locations across the country.
- Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE): Women-specific resources to help train veteran entrepreneurs.
- Veterans Business Outreach Centers: Offers entrepreneurial development resources such as business plan preparation, training and counseling, and mentorship.
- American Corporate Partners (ACP): ACP focuses on providing support to veterans during their transition back to civilian life by providing veterans with their long-term career goals through a yearlong mentorship.
Grants for veterans
Business loans are risky. Your business and personal credit score could plummet if you default on the loan, so you have to be careful with this type of funding.
Grants are a great alternative to business loans because they don’t have to be repaid, and they don’t impact your credit score. Organizations like Second Service Foundation and Warriors Rising offer small business grants for veterans in varying amounts. Veterans can also find small bsuiness grants through Grants.gov.
But be prepared: Grants are often competitive, and funding timelines may be long. Have a backup plan in case you can’t land funding through a grant.
FAQs about small business loans for veterans
Although you’re not likely to receive the best interest rates, it’s still possible to receive a small business loan with bad credit. Before choosing the best bad-credit loan for your small business, be sure to compare loan terms, interest rates and fees.
Veterans Advantage small business loans are no longer available. However, small business owners have several options for funding, including an SBA 7(a) loan, an SBA Express loan and a Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan (MREIDL).
The Department of Veterans Affairs does not offer business loans. Instead, the VA’s website directs veterans to check out the SBA’s offerings.
Through 2018, the Small Business Administration (SBA) had reduced fees for veteran business loans through the Veterans Advantage program. SBA loans for veterans worked the same way as regular SBA loans — private lenders made the loans, and a portion of the loans were guaranteed by the federal government. Then the money could be used to start a business, pay operating expenses, buy equipment or real estate or pay down higher-interest debt.The reduced fees for VA business loans expired in 2019. While veterans are still eligible to apply for SBA 7(a) loans, they pay the same fees as all other applicants.
The bottom line
VA loans in the traditional sense ended in 2019. However, veterans still have plenty of small-business loan options to choose from. For some, SBA Express or MREIDL may be the best option. Other veteran business owners may prefer getting their small-business loans through their local credit unions, online or peer-to-peer lenders or state programs. For others, a personal loan, home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC) may be the best option.