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Learn about different types of business loans and finance
Running or starting a business usually requires large amounts of capital and businesses often use various forms of finance to help either start things up, expand or keep things ticking along smoothly. Business loans are popular finance options offered by both banks and non-bank lenders. Businesses can either be lent a lump-sum payment or a revolving line of credit, which is repaid, with interest, over an agreed term (generally anywhere from three months to five years).
Business loans come as either secured or unsecured loans and allow businesses to borrow from $5,000 to $1,000,000, though some lenders do not have limits on their borrowing amounts. Most business loans come with a fixed interest rate and you will need to make repayments on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Two types of business loans
Secured business loan You will need to use an asset, generally a residential or commercial property, as security against the loan. In return, you will generally receive a lower interest rate, have the ability to borrow a larger amount and are more likely to be approved by the lender. Some lenders do not have a limit on the funds that you can borrow with a secured business loan. The amount that you qualify for will instead be determined by your asset value.
Unsecured business loan You do not need to use an asset as security on an unsecured loan. As an unsecured loan represents more of a risk to the lender, you will generally be offered a higher interest rate and may be less likely to be approved for a loan, depending on the strength of your application. Unsecured loans can be beneficial for business owners who do not own an asset of value, or would prefer not to risk their personal or company property.
Compare the following business lenders
Quick guide to business loans
Am I eligible for a business loan? What's the best loan for my business? How do I compare business loans? How do business loan applications get approved? We take you through your business loan application to help you get it across the line.
Is your business eligible for a loan?
Age of the business
You'll usually need to have been operating for at least six months to a year for most unsecured business loans offered by alternative lenders and banks, but some do offer unsecured start-up finance. Invoice factoring and equipment loans have less stringent criteria on business age, but you'll need to have been operating for at least one year for business overdrafts or lines of credit.
Your business may need to be making a certain amount of turnover in order to be eligible for a loan. This revenue may be monthly or yearly and can range from $50,000 to $200,000+ p.a. Other lenders simply require you to connect your business's accounting software or financials as part of the application process so they can calculate a loan your business can afford.
The lender may check the personal credit histories along with the company's credit (unless you're a start-up). If the business has unpaid defaults or tax debt, you may need to find a bad credit business loan. However, most invoice financing companies also do not require perfect credit histories.
You'll need to have an Australian Business Number (ABN) or Australian Company Number (ACN) to qualify for any form of business finance.
What's the best loan for your business?
The best loan for your business will vary depending on a number of factors, such as:
How much money the business needs
The nature and structure of your company
Whether you need one large lump sum or a series of smaller cash injections
What your business is buying/spending the money on
Your personal circumstances/the circumstances of any other owners or directors
Your business's revenue
Every business is different and will therefore have different needs and requirements. Luckily, nobody understands your business better than you do – all you need is to understand your options. That's what we're here for.
How can you compare business loans?
Do you meet the eligibility criteria?
You can find details of the eligibility criteria involved with each loan product by clicking the "More info" buttons on the comparison table. Checking whether you meet the minimum eligibility criteria before you apply is the first step in your comparison process. This will help you to narrow down choices that are the most suitable for you. If you do not meet the minimum eligibility criteria for a loan, do not apply for that loan.
How much will the business loan cost?
If you know what loan you need, the next step is deciding what your business can afford. Look at your incomings and outgoings to see what you could comfortably repay without putting too much strain on the business. If it's a loan for a start-up, you'll need to rely on cash flow projections.
Compare business loan interest rates and fees
Once you've determined what you can afford to borrow, you should compare the rate and any fees or charges for a variety of business loans to find the one that represents the best value for your business.
Do the repayment terms meet your business's needs?
Lenders offer repayment terms of varying flexibility. Some will allow you to repay daily, others weekly and some will require you to repay your loan monthly. Work out which will best meet your business's needs in terms of your cash flow.
How do lenders judge your business loan application?
Lenders use a variety of criteria to see if you fit their risk profile and ensure your business can repay the loan.
Age and turnover of the business
Start-up finance is usually harder to find and be approved for, so if your business is established, you will find it easier to get a loan. The business turnover is also considered and lenders usually have a minimum requirement for monthly or annual turnover. They may also use your turnover to determine what the business can afford to repay.
The lender will assess the company directors' personal credit scores as part of the application process, and if the business is established, the lender will also check the company's credit score. Assessing credit scores allows lenders to determine how risky your business is to lend to.
Credit card volume
If you receive credit card payments in your business, lenders may use the volume of these payments to judge your ability to repay the loan. The assumption among some new lenders is that you will use this volume to repay the loan.
Similar to credit card volume, lenders may factor your accounts receivable value into their asset ratios to help them make a decision.
Lenders will check what company structure you have and how long you have been in the existing structure. If you have recently undertaken a restructure or are applying for finance in the middle of restructuring, lenders may not want to finance you at this time.
Does your business have an existing debt with another lender? This will be considered as part of your application.
For various business loans, including for example a revolving line of credit, your business will usually need to be profitable to be approved.
What should I avoid when applying for a business loan?
There are a number of mistakes that applicants make when applying for a business loan, from choosing the wrong loan option to submitting an incomplete application.
In terms of the type of loan, it's always a good idea to try to think realistically about what would best suit the business in terms of finance volume, flexibility and repayments.
When it comes to submitting the documents, you should always understand what you'll need to provide to the lender before beginning your application. Omitting or forgetting to submit vital information or documents may lead to an application being delayed or rejected altogether.
There are a number of reasons why a lender may reject a business loan application. It is important to ask for feedback from your lender if they do reject your application. This feedback will give you insight into what you did wrong, which you can improve on for the next time you apply. If the lender is unable to provide this feedback, you may want to review your application and see if you can spot any red flags yourself.
Is my personal credit file checked or my company credit file?
The lender will specify which credit history they will need to check, but generally, the lender will want to verify the company directors' credit histories. Your business's financials may also be checked using accounting information that you supply as part of the application process.
Business finance is split into two main categories: debt finance and equity finance. Equity finance is provided by an owner or an external investor, whereas debt finance is provided by a bank, credit union or business lender. Below, you can find out more information about the different types of short-term and long-term business debt finance that are available.
Elizabeth Barry is Finder's global fintech editor. She has written about finance for over five years and has been featured in a range of publications and media including Seven News, the ABC, Mamamia, Dynamic Business and Financy. Elizabeth has a Bachelor of Communications and a Master of Creative Writing from the University of Technology Sydney. In 2017, she received the Highly Commended award for Best New Journalist at the IT Journalism Awards. Elizabeth has found writing about innovations in financial services to be her passion (which has surprised no one more than herself).
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