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What Are Cash Flow Loans and What Options Are Available for Small Businesses?
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With a variety of financing options available to small businesses, you may wonder if cash flow financing would be the best option for you. Although cash flow lending is less secure for the lender and more expensive for the borrower, it can help companies grow and meet daily cash needs when cash flow is inconsistent or sporadic. In this article, we’ll discuss the wide range of cash flow loan options available to business owners so you can find the options that work for you and your business.
What are cash flow loans?
A cash flow loan is essentially a fast and easy loan that’s used more for day-to-day cash needs than long-term needs: think commercial rent, payroll, utilities, and simple supplies. When your company needs a little extra cash flow for the month, it’s best to stay clear of a traditional bank loan. The time-consuming approval process is filled with documentation and several lending decisions, which could prevent your business from getting the cash it needs in a timely manner.
Unlike other types of lending, such as SBA loans, a cash flow loan is backed by the borrower’s personal or business cash flow. In other words, individuals or companies are expected to pay back the loan with incoming funds. So if you’re a company with strong cash flow and few assets, this type of loan can provide a large funding amount. But keep in mind that financing future revenue can be a risky move. And unless you’re clairvoyant, the future is hard to predict.
Cash flow loan examples
Not sure which type of cash flow loan to apply for? Business.org has your back. Here’s a quick comparison chart of our favorite cash flow lenders.
Type of loan
Required annual income
Get a loan
Business line of credit, merchant cash advance, short-term loan
Business line of credit
2-9% for 6-month loans, 4.5-18% for 12-month loans, 6.75-27% for 18-month loans
Business line of credit, short-term loan
9%+ for term loans, 11%+ for line of credit
Business line of credit, invoice financing
4.66% for 12-week term, 8.99% for 24-week term
Business line of credit
Data as of 7/7/22. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
Cash flow loans vs. asset-backed loans: What’s the difference?
When you apply for a cash flow loan, lenders will assess personal credit, business credit, and—most of all—consistency of cash flow. Lenders will mainly approve a loan based on your cash flow projection and history. So rather than using property or assets as collateral, the loan is backed by a company’s future revenue. Some businesses that turn to cash flow loans have high margins or lack hard assets to offer as collateral.
On the other hand, asset-backed loans are secured by tangible assets that can be easily liquidated. This type of collateral mitigates the risk to the lender. If the borrower defaults, the lender will seize the asset and sell it to reimburse its lending costs. As a result, interest rates on these loans are lower than interest rates on an unsecured loan or line of credit, and the terms and conditions of asset-based financing will vary depending on the type and value of assets a business has.
The five core asset types that lenders look for include accounts receivable, inventory, machinery and equipment, real estate, and other tangible assets. To assess risk, the lender will look at the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of any assets, which compares the loan amount to the appraised value of the collateral.
What are the different types of cash flow loans?
Is your head spinning yet? To help you avoid information overload, we’re here to help you decide on a cash flow loan that’s right for your business. Here are several types of loans that are great options for increasing cash flow.
Business line of credit
Before zeroing in on a cash flow loan, it’s important to understand the differences between business loans and business lines of credit. A business line of credit is a flexible loan that business owners can reuse and repay as often as they’d like. Business loans, by contrast, are used one time and have monthly loan payments. Although each loan is different, business lines of credit typically have lower interest rates.
After you apply for a business line of credit, lenders look at bank account information, business financial statements, profit and loss statements, cash flow statements that have been prepared using the indirect or direct method, and the company’s balance sheet. In most cases, businesses must have at least six months of business history under their belt and at least $25,000 in annual income to be approved.1
Short-term business loan
If your business doesn’t qualify for a line of credit, you may be able to obtain capital in the form of a short-term business loan. Unlike long-term loans, short-term loans are designed to cover small or emergency expenses and must be paid back within 18 months. You can find short-term small-business loans from different online peer-to-peer lending or institutional lending companies.
The quick and seamless application process for short-term loans is a lot less thorough than traditional loan applications. And short-term loans are generally known for low borrower requirements, fast funding, and no specific collateral. However, there is a catch. Since short-term loans offer speed and convenience for the borrower, they’re considered high risk for the lender and tend to have expensive interest rates.
Common uses for short-term business loans include these:
- Working capital
- Inventory purchasing
- Equipment purchasing
- Business growth
- Hiring or training new employees
It’s common for small businesses to experience uneven cash flow when their customers pay invoices later than expected—sometimes long after the product or service is delivered. If this sounds like your situation, invoice financing could help bridge the gap. Otherwise known as accounts receivable financing, invoice financing generates fast cash and uses unpaid invoices as collateral. This allows you to get quick cash while waiting for your customers to pay their outstanding invoices. But the amount you can borrow depends on the amount and quality of invoices and credit scores.
Although this type of loan can be more expensive than others, it still has its benefits. For one, invoice financing gives businesses a more predictable cash flow, which will smooth business operations and ease stress. Plus, the financing line can be deployed quickly (usually in a week or two), allowing you to overcome present financial obstacles.
To apply for invoice financing, you’ll likely need bank statements, a decent credit score, outstanding invoices, a driver’s license, and a voided business check.
Merchant cash advance
If your business makes considerable and consistent credit card sales, a merchant cash advance (MCA) may be for you. After the lump sum advance is approved and funded, the lender receives payment by withholding a portion of your daily credit and debit card sales. The percentage you pay is based on the size of the advance, your business’s credit card sales, and the repayment period.
Although a strong credit score is a prerequisite for most business loans, a merchant cash advance grants some leeway in terms of credit. And because they’re considered unsecured loans, you don’t have to put any assets on the line. During the application process, merchant cash advance lenders will consider credit card sales, overall monthly sales, and a variety of other factors.
Although merchant cash advances offer a shortcut to funding and growing your business, there is one major snag. MCAs are considered more costly than traditional financing. In fact, borrowers can pay a whopping 50% over the amount of their funding.2 Despite its disadvantages, a merchant cash advance is a popular choice among small-business owners with bad credit. However, be leery of the high costs.
Which funding solution is the right one for your company?
Now that you know what cash flow loans are available, it’s time to step into the big world of small-business loans. Ultimately, only you can decide which loan option is best for your business, and that decision could rest on what your company’s financial qualifications are. No matter which cash flow loan you choose, remember that the following factors can play a role in your approval:
- Amount of funding
- Time frame
- Purpose of loan
- Credit score
- Monthly and yearly revenue
Whether you’re a startup or fortune 500 company, cash flow is the fuel that makes a business run. It’s necessary to pay salaries, acquire new customers, invest in equipment and supplies, pay rent, and run day-to-day operating activities. But if your business is having a cash flow hiccup, it can be difficult to run things effectively.
So if you are entering a slow period, have outstanding invoices, or are struggling to stay afloat, a cash flow loan is a great source of financing to increase cash inflows. Although interest rates may be a bit high, the convenient, quick approval process and low borrower requirements may be more than worth it for small-business owners.
At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.
- CostOwl.com, “How Much Does a Business Cash Advance Cost” December 8, 2021. Accessed July 7, 2022.