An emergency, limited-time growth opportunity or other unforeseen business expense can create an urgent need for working capital. Most business loans take weeks to months to be approved and funded, but with fast business loans — typically available through online lenders — you can get the cash you need in less than five days.

In exchange for faster funding, you’ll often pay high interest, so it may not be a good fit for all situations.

When to consider a fast business loan

Quick funding is the main draw of fast business loans. A situation may arise where you have an immediate need for cash, and waiting a week or more for a loan to be approved may not be an option.

1. Business is in danger of closing

Rent, utilities, payroll and other business expenses add up and revenue doesn’t always keep pace. You need money to afford your fixed expenses to keep the doors open and give your circumstances a chance to improve. A fast business loan could buy time for business revenue to increase.

2. Limited-time growth opportunity

If the chance to expand your business unexpectedly presents itself, you don’t want to miss out. You might want to take advantage of discounted professional marketing services or buy a new office space in an area of town you love.

3. Unexpected expenses

Business operation costs can be unpredictable. Small businesses often run into various unforeseen expenses, such as increased utilities or supplier costs or equipment breakdowns. You may need to address these costs immediately to avoid impacting daily business operations. If you don’t have cash on hand, a fast loan could save the day.

4. Not eligible for other types of business financing

Lending criteria for traditional business loans may not be as accommodating as what you’ll find for fast business loans, which are often offered by alternative lenders. Since credit score, time in operation and annual revenue are major factors that impact approval, anyone with bad credit or just starting a business may not be eligible to secure a traditional business loan.

When to consider alternatives to fast loans

A fast business loan may be the solution for certain financial situations, but don’t rush to sign up for a potentially expensive option. You want to take the time to consider your circumstances and make sure an alternative wouldn’t be a better fit for your situation. A fast loan may not be a good fit if:

  • Your need for capital is not urgent.
  • You need access to a higher loan amount than what a fast loan can provide.
  • You qualify for other types of business financing, such as a business line of credit or business credit card.

Alternatives to fast loans

A fast loan isn’t your only option when you need quick access to working capital. Instead, consider:

  • Business lines of credit: Business lines of credit give business owners up to a certain amount of credit to draw from to cover various business expenses. Similar to a credit card, a line of credit only requires interest to be paid on the amount borrowed, but there may also be fees, including a draw fee and maintenance fee.
  • Business credit cards: Business credit cards work similarly to personal credit cards, but they are designed specifically for business purchases. You spend up to the credit limit and pay your balance in full, or the card issuer will charge interest on any unpaid portion. The credit limit is typically lower than a business line of credit, but businesses often get perks and bonuses for using their cards. Note that with this option, a personal guarantee from the business owner may be required.
  • SBA Express loans: Approval for a Small Business Administration loan typically takes at least 30 days. But the Express loan, which has a max loan amount of $500,000, offers an accelerated process that guarantees the review of loan applications within 36 hours. However, funding takes additional time.

The bottom line

When you need immediate access to working capital, a fast loan may be the answer. You can get cash in your hands in less than five days, but you still want to consider the benefits and drawbacks before applying for a fast business loan. Other financing options might be a better fit for your situation.