Finding the right Small Business Administration (SBA) lender can set your business up for success. Some can even save you time by helping with the notoriously complicated SBA loan application.
When compiling our list of the best SBA loan providers, we first confirmed each lender’s legitimacy, business practices and website security. We then analyzed each lender based on the variety of SBA loans offered, range of loan amounts, rates and terms, and how easy it is to apply. We also considered factors such as how much these lenders typically fund in SBA loans and if they specialize in SBA financing.
Customer reviews on sites like Trustpilot and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) factored into our decision as well.
We changed our categories to better reflect each lenders’ strengths. We also added more details about each lender so you can make a more informed decision on the best financing decision for your business. And while our list largely stayed the same, we chose to remove a few lenders that no longer meet our criteria so we can truly reflect the best options for an SBA loan.
SmartBiz is one of the top SBA connection services and works with a wide range of lenders that offer 7(a) loans. You can prequalify in a few minutes and get your funds in as little as a week after finishing the application — though it can take longer for larger amounts. It charges a referral and packaging fee in exchange for finding your business a lender and doing some of the more time-consuming paperwork for you. While it might cost more, it takes less time.
Main Street specializes in helping small businesses that struggled to qualify for an SBA loan in the past or didn’t think it was even an option. It works with you on improving your business’s finances and your own personal credit score to increase your chances of approval. This means it could take up to a year to get your SBA loan, though Main Street allows you to combine it with its bridge loans to keep your business afloat in the meantime.
Lendio is an online connection service that partners with lenders that offer a slew of SBA financing options, including loans through the 7(a), 504 and Express programs. And while there is technically no cost to use Lendio to compare your business loan options, you may pay an origination fee to Lendio once your loan has been funded.
As a business loan connection and consulting service, Seek Business Capital specializes in connecting startups to funding — including SBA loans. It’s not for businesses that haven’t opened their doors yet, though. You’ll need to be up and running for at least six months to qualify. And it's one of the slowest lenders on this list — it can take up to six months to get your funds.
Newtek is the only online lender that ranks in the top 10 list of the SBA’s most active 7(a) lenders. It offers financing up to $10 million with terms as long as 25 years. Instead of having business owners apply for an SBA loan specifically, it has you prequalify for a term loan, line of credit or commercial real estate loan. You then discuss your options with a loan specialist to decide if an SBA loan or other type of financing is the best fit. It’s not a good choice for startups, though: Your business must be around for at least two years to qualify.
National Business Capital has a unique approach to SBA funding that cuts the turnaround from six months to as few as 45 days. And while you’re waiting for your government-backed loan to come in, it works with over 75 lenders to help you find bridge financing in the meantime. But you’ll need to have a credit score of at least 685 to qualify. And it’s not open to fledgling companies just getting off the ground.
You can borrow up to $12.5 million through the SBA 504 program — making Chase a great choice if you plan on expanding your physical locations. It also allows you to finance up to 90% of the cost of your project with extended loan terms.
You may not have heard of Celtic Bank, but this Utah-based provider consistently earns a top spot on the SBA’s list of most active 7(a) lenders. It offers up to $10 million for loans issued under the 504 program, and its 7(a) loans go up to $5 million. But if you want to visit a branch, you’re out of luck if you don’t live in Salt Lake City.
Large loan amounts available
Relatively quick turnaround
SBA Preferred Lender
Only one branch in Utah
Not open to gas stations, convenience stores and hospitality businesses
Min. Loan Amount
Interest Rate Type
Min. Credit Score
How to find the best SBA lender for your business
Ready to begin your search for an SBA lender? Here are some pointers to find the right one for your business.
Make sure your business qualifies. Qualifying for an SBA loan might not be as easy as you think. Make sure your business is eligible for an SBA loan in the first place before you start comparing lenders.
Research the different types of SBA programs. The 7(a) program is the most popular, but that also means more competition. You might want to look into the 504 or Microloan programs if 7(a) isn’t an exact fit for your small business.
Nail down your priorities. Decide what matters to your business most and let that guide you when comparing lenders. Do you have time to apply on your own, or do you want to pay a lender to package the application? How long can your business afford to wait?
Don’t limit yourself to banks. Going directly to a bank might be a popular choice, but banks aren’t the only SBA lenders out there. An online lender might be a better fit for smaller businesses, as can using a service like SmartBiz.
How much do SBA loans cost?
SBA loans are known for being inexpensive. That’s because the SBA sets limits to how much lenders can charge in interest and fees. Within those limits, lenders have some flexibility. They can decide whether to offer your business fixed or variable rates and the exact rate you qualify for.
SBA loans are notoriously difficult to qualify for and may take months to fund. If your business doesn’t qualify — or if you simply need fast access to funds — consider these alternatives:
Business term loans. Most SBA loans are term loans — but backed by the federal government. If your business doesn’t meet the rigid requirements set by the SBA, it may still qualify for a term loan offered by a bank, credit union or online lender.
Business lines of credit. If your business needs consistent access to funds, consider a line of credit. These have lower rates than business credit cards, and many can be secured with your business’s assets, making it easier to qualify for than an SBA loan.
Business credit cards. Business credit cards are also helpful for businesses that need frequent, quick access to funds. But while they give you access to rewards, they carry higher APRs than business term loans and lines of credit.
There’s no one best SBA lender for all small businesses. Banks could be a better choice for established businesses looking for a large amount of funds. But online lenders and connection services tend to be quicker and have more forgiving eligibility requirements. There’s also a chance that an SBA loan isn’t right for your small business at all.
These lenders are separate from the SBA loan program and offer private loans for businesses. For quick results tailored to your business, you may want to consider one of these lenders to bridge gaps in funding.
Anna Serio is a trusted loans expert who's published more than 800 articles on Finder to help Americans strengthen their financial literacy. A former editor of a newspaper in Beirut, Anna writes about personal, student, business and car loans. Today, digital publications like Fundera, Business.com, and ValueWalk feature her professional commentary, and she earned an Expert Contributor in Finance badge from review site Best Company in 2020.
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