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Best small business bank loans

A bank could help you support your business from seed to success, but with strict requirements.

Bank loans are the golden standard when it comes to small business financing. This is where you'll find the lowest rates and fees — and the most favorable terms. Build a borrowing relationship with a bank and you'll also get free advice and a lender who knows your business's finances inside out.

We chose these small business bank loans based on the amount businesses can borrow, minimum requirements and types of loans available. To present the widest scope to our readers, we categorized each lender based on its strength. Most banks offer similar loan products, so you can choose the best loan for your business by evaluating other factors, like business credit card and bank account options.

We also keep this list regularly updated. In May 2021, we added Chase as our best pick for equipment financing and designated U.S. Bank as our pick for a simplified application.

9 best banks for small business loans

Many banks have suspended business loan programs to focus on processing Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan applications. Even those that still offer bank loans will likely have a slower turnaround time. You may want to hold off on applying for a bank loan until this round of PPP funding is over. If you need a non-PPP loan now, compare lenders that are currently accepting applications.

Best for comparing bank loans

SmartBiz business loans


Finder rating 4.5 / 5
★★★★★

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on SmartBiz's secure site

SmartBiz is a connection service that works exclusively with banks. While previously an SBA loan broker that offered packaging services, SmartBiz has branched out to help small business owners find traditional bank loans as well. These loans aren't ideal — they tend to have higher rates than most bank loans and are only available from $30,000 to $500,000. But if you do want an SBA loan, this might also be a great place to start. It only partners with preferred lenders and packaging services can cut the turnaround time from months to weeks.

Best overall

Bank of America business loans


Finder rating 3.6 / 5
★★★★★

Bank of America is a one-stop-shop when it comes to business financing. Under normal circumstances it offers unsecured and secured business loans as well as auto financing — which is unusual for a bank. It also has a specialized financing program for healthcare providers. On top of this, it offers some of the lowest starting rates available at a bank, especially for unsecured loans. But it may be difficult to qualify as a smaller business, especially if you aren’t already a customer.

Best for SBA loans

Wells Fargo business loans


Finder rating 4 / 5
★★★★★

Wells Fargo offers a wide variety of loan options for small businesses, including the SBA 7(a), 504 and Express loan programs. And because it's an SBA Preferred Lender, the approval process won't take months. However, only current customers with a year of banking history are eligible to apply using its online application. And it also doesn't offer non-SBA term loans.

Best equipment financing

Chase business term loans


Finder rating 3 / 5
★★★★★

Chase Bank offers a range of small business loans. But its equipment financing stands out. You can get up to 110% financing for equipment to help fund soft costs associated with making your purchase. Chase also allows you to keep the title in your business’s name from the beginning, treating the equipment like any other business asset your firm already owns. But like many banks, it doesn’t display rates or fees online. You’ll have to set up an appointment to get an idea of the costs. And it’s only available to businesses in 23 states.

Best simplified application

U.S. Bank business loans

U.S. Bank’s Quick Loan is a great option for current customers who don’t have a lot of time to spend on an application. U.S. Bank will prefill part of the form with information it has on record. You can borrow between $5,000 and $250,000 through this process — and even get access to a streamlined SBA loan application. Interest rates are fixed, but U.S. bank doesn’t display a starting rate. You’ll have to fill out an online preapplication form to get an estimate of the cost — which only takes about 10 minutes.

Best for smaller loans

American Express business loans


Finder rating 4.3 / 5
★★★★★

American Express is ideal if you already have a business card and are looking for a small loan amount. While most banks require you to borrow at least $10,000, Amex has a low minimum of just $3,500. And American Express is the only bank on our list that offers loans specifically for working capital and credit card debt consolidation, as well as merchant cash advances.

Best for large loan amounts

SunTrust business loans


Finder rating 3.15 / 5
★★★★★

SunTrust — now operating under Truist — offers some of the largest business loans out there, with its maximum amount topping out at $50 million on equipmetnt financing. Its rates are competitive, and terms span up to 20 years. It also offers four types of SBA loans on top of traditional bank loans and lines of credit to suit your business's needs.

Best regional bank

PNC Bank business loans


Finder rating 2.53 / 5
★★★★★

This regional bank's loan officers offer the quality service you might find with a local bank — but you can manage your account and even apply online if you're already a customer. It doesn't require collateral on loans under $100,000 — rare for a bank. And it's an SBA Preferred Lender, meaning that it has the authority to process applications for you. The main drawback is that its customer service team gets poor customer reviews.

Best for business lines of credit

BBVA business loans


Finder rating 2 / 5
★★★★★

Most banks have unsecured and secured lines of credit, but BBVA Compass has three options with different credit limits and collateral requirements for each. And if you already bank account with BBVA, you may qualify for an autopay discount of 0.25% to 1% off your APR. However, BBVA only operates in a handful of states, and it has quite a few negative reviews — with multiple complaints about its customer service and high fees.

How to find the best small business bank loan

Borrowing from a bank is different from going to an online lender. It’s usually about more than just getting one loan, but developing a relationship. Instead of looking at rates and terms — which can be difficult to find — consider these factors:

  • Your business’s banking history. Banks prefer to work with current customers, and the longer you’re with the bank the better deal you’ll get on financing. If you already have a business checking account start your search with that bank.
  • Other available products. Look at all of the other services that the bank offers and try to go for one that you — and other business owners — would be comfortable with as a go-to for financial products.
  • Industry specialists. Often banks have loan officers that are experts in a specific industry. They can provide valuable insights into your business’s operations and anticipate your financing needs.
  • Types of loans. If you’re looking for a specific type of financing — like an SBA Export Express loan — make sure a bank offers it before reaching out.
  • Customer reviews. Look to sites like Trustpilot and the Better Business Bureau see what customers have to say about loan officers and customer service. But take it with a grain of salt – customers generally write reviews in extreme situations.
  • Employee reviews. A bank with low employee ratings could be a warning sign, especially with local banks. Low morale can be a sign that you might not get top-notch service and have to switch loan officers frequently.

Types of banks that offer business loans

The type of bank you go with makes a difference in the experience you have with a lender. These are the main types of banks you’ll find in your search.

Large national and international banks

Big names like Wells Fargo and Chase fall under the category of large national banks. The benefit of working with these banks is that they’re available in most states and have the budget to invest in new technology that smaller banks might not access.

These might benefit businesses that operate in multiple states. But large banks approve the lowest number of applications and have a lower level of customer satisfaction than smaller counterparts, according to the Federal Reserve's 2021 Small Business Credit Survey (SBCS).

Regional banks

Regional banks typically offer services that are a little more tailored to the industries in the states that they serve. They also typically have multiple branches and offer a wide range of online services and tools. These are generally a good option for businesses owners that want a personal touch but also would like to manage their accounts virtually.

Community banks

Community banks specialize in financing the local businesses in their areas. Loan officers are often experts in the local market as well as popular industries in their area. They often have a high level of customer satisfaction and approve a larger portion of applications, according to the SBCS.

These are your best bet when you want to develop a close, mutually beneficial relationship with a financial institution in your area.

But they often only have a handful of branches. They were also traditionally slow adapt to new technology — though have started partnering with tech companies to bring applications online.

6 expert tips to find the best community bank for your small business

CDFIs

Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs, are typically community banks with a mission to develop the economy of the area it serves. These often have special financing programs for underrepresented business owners — such as women, minorities and veterans. And they often offer services like training for entrepreneurs and financial management courses.

CDFIs also typically offer financing to business owners with poor credit and startups, often at a more competitive rate than you’d find online.

What types of business loans do banks offer?

The exact loan options will depend on the bank, but many offer a combination of these:

  • Term loans. Most banks offer simple term loans to improve cash flow or cover a large expense. Terms are typically three to five years, and interest rates may be fixed or variable.
  • SBA loans. Banks may work with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to offer loans backed by the federal government. This allows them to keep interest rates low and accept businesses that might otherwise not qualify for funding.
  • Lines of credit. Business lines of credit allow you tap into cash as needed for ongoing expenses or as an emergency fund. Your business only repays what it borrows — and some banks may allow your business to increase its credit limit over time.
  • Equipment financing. Banks commonly offer loans to buy equipment with amounts and terms based on your purchase. Usually you can get up to 110% to 120% of equipment's value with a term based on how long it's expected to be useful to your business.
  • Real estate financing. Banks may offer commercial real estate financing as term loans or lines of credit, and you’ll find options with either fixed or adjustable rates.

8 financing options for your business

How to qualify for a small business bank loan

To improve your chances of being approved for a small business loan, focus on banks that accept smaller businesses. Having a business banking account, exceeding minimum revenue requirements and proving your business can repay what it borrows will help you get approved.

Here are a few points banks look for when you apply:

  • Error-free application. One of the main reasons lenders reject applicants is because they find errors or inconsistencies in the application.
  • Excellent credit. It’s standard for banks to require some kind of personal guarantee from each business owner, so it may consider your personal credit score as well as your business’s credit score — especially if you haven’t been open long.
  • Time in business. Banks typically want to see at least two years in business. The longer your business has been around, the more likely you are to qualify.
  • Strong business plan. A strong business plan demonstrates that you have a plan for your funds and know how your business will be able to pay back the money you borrow.

Everything you need to know about business loan requirements

What should I do if I was denied for a business loan?

Like any loan application, the first step is to reassess. Look into why you were denied by the lender and start making any changes that could improve your chances of being approved later. Reworking your business plan and paying down other debt are simple ways to get started. You may also want to open an account with the bank and establish a relationship with it before applying again.

But there are some things that take time. If your business only just meets a bank’s minimum time-in-business or annual revenue criteria, you may not be approved. Consider other types of business loans or an online lender for funding while you work on polishing your business to meet the requirements set by a bank.

5 alternatives to small businesses loans from banks

Banks are easy, safe and familiar. But if your business doesn’t quite meet a bank’s requirements, you might want to consider these alternatives:

  • Online lenders. Online lenders don’t have the overhead costs of traditional banks — meaning they can sometimes extend better deals — and they may be willing to work with newer businesses that have a lower annual revenue.
  • Peer-to-peer lenders. Investors work through peer-to-peer lenders to offer businesses financing — then earn money back through interest. One or more investors can fund your loan, allowing you to get funding from a variety of sources with one application and have just one spot for repayments.
  • Personal loans. Businesses that haven’t opened their doors and startups can benefit from personal loans. You may be eligible for up to $100,000 based on your personal credit and finances, not the profitability of your business.
  • Business credit cards. If your business needs frequent funding for small expenses or you want the flexibility to make purchases as needed, a business credit card may be a good option. Just be aware of the typically high interest rates that accompany a credit card’s convenience.
  • Grants. Depending on your business, you may be eligible for grants from your local or state government and some nonprofit organizations. However, funding is typically limited, and you’ll need to spend quite a bit of time getting an application ready.

Recap: Best small business bank loans

  1. SmartBiz: Best for comparing bank loans
  2. Bank of America: Best overall
  3. Wells Fargo: Best for SBA loans
  4. Chase Bank: Best for equipment financing
  5. U.S. Bank: Best for a simplified application
  6. American Express: Best for smaller loans
  7. SunTrust: Best for large loan amounts
  8. PNC Bank: Best regional bank
  9. BBVA Compass: Best for business lines of credit

Bottom line

Banks are still one of the primary sources of funding for many businesses. But they aren’t the only place that offer small business loans. Before you spend time applying, compare all your business loan options to make the most out of your time.

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