Purchase order financing explained

Get the funds you need to fill orders when sales are greater than your incoming cash.

Last updated:

We value our editorial independence, basing our comparison results, content and reviews on objective analysis without bias. But we may receive compensation when you click links on our site. Learn more about how we make money from our partners.

When your business is growing, sometimes its sales can get ahead of revenue. Purchase order (PO) financing is designed to help when your cash flow just doesn’t cut it — giving your business the funds it needs to fill customer orders. It’s not for every business, however. Your clients must be other businesses or government agencies — no individual consumers — and you can only use it to buy ready-made products from suppliers.

How does purchase order financing work?

Purchase order financing works by giving your business access up to 100% of the funds needed to buy products to fill customer orders. Instead of giving your business the funds, a PO finance company directly pays your supplier for the products and other fees like shipping. Your customers then pay back the PO financing company when it fills the invoice — usually within 30 to 90 days after receiving it.

How PO financing works in 8 steps

  1. A customer places an order, but your business doesn’t have the cash on hand to fill it.
  2. Your business asks its supplier for a written estimate of how much it would cost for you to fill the order.
  3. Apply and get approved for funds from a PO financing company for the amount you need.
  4. Your PO financing company directly pays your supplier or offers a letter of credit for up to 100% of the cost to fill your order.
  5. Your supplier fills your order, and your business sends it to the customer.
  6. Your business sends its customer an invoice.
  7. The customer pays your PO financing company.
  8. Your PO financing company gives your business the profits after subtracting a fee.

How could purchase order financing benefit my business?

Any business that relies on orders from other businesses and government organizations can benefit from PO financing. It can be particularly useful if your business experiences seasonal sales, is quickly growing or just doesn’t have a steady cash flow yet. Businesses in the wholesale, manufacturing, distribution, reselling and importing industries might want to take a closer look at it. Here are some reasons why your business might want to consider PO financing.

  • You don’t need excellent credit. Rather than looking at your and your business’s credit, PO financing considers your customer’s and supplier’s creditworthiness instead.
  • Startups may be able to qualify. While you won’t be able to use PO financing companies to cover startup costs, the fact that they care more about your customer’s history of repayment than your business’s makes it a viable option for new businesses.
  • Helps your business grow or stay afloat. PO financing can help a growing business keep up the pace or maintain sales during the slow season.
  • Doesn’t appear on your business’s balance sheet. Since PO financing doesn’t work like a traditional business loan, it won’t appear on your company’s balance sheet.

Compare 3 top PO financing lenders

Think your business could use PO financing? Shop around before settling on a lender to make sure your business is getting the best deal it can qualify for. Let’s take a look at how some of the top PO financing providers work.

King Trade CapitalParagon Financial GroupPurchase Order Financing
How much you can financeStarting at $250,000.Starting at $50,000.$500,000–$25 million, up to 100% of your purchase order costs or $10 million for each purchase order.
How long it takes to pay supplierVaries depending on the vendor.As soon as the order is completed.Typically between 24–48 hours after the order is completed.
EligibilityDoesn’t work with construction or service contracts. No specific credit, business age or revenue requirements.Customers must have good credit and items must be drop shipped.Have a valid and verifiable purchase order.
CostVaries.Varies.Typically a fee of 1%–3%.

What will I need to qualify?

With PO financing, your business’s creditworthiness doesn’t matter as much as your supplier’s and your client’s. Here are some typical requirements you can expect from your lender.

  • B2B or B2G business. Your company must have either other businesses (B2B) or government organizations (B2G) as its clients to be eligible for PO financing.
  • Profit margin. PO financing companies usually require your business to make a minimum profit from the sale. Your business should sell its product for between 15% and 20% more than it costs to buy it from the supplier.
  • Sell a physical product. If your business offers services rather than goods, it probably won’t qualify for PO financing.
  • Work with creditworthy customers and suppliers. Generally, your clients and suppliers should have a history of making on-time payments and not have any past bankruptcies or other similar legal run-ins.

How much does PO financing cost?

Compared to other financing options, it’s not cheap. Typically, PO financing companies charge a percentage of the supplier costs, usually between 1.8% and 6% each month it takes for your clients to pay their invoices. Often, lenders charge one fee for the first 30 days and then another rate each additional day or every 10 days. Your clients usually have between 30 and 90 days to pay off their invoices, though the longer it takes the more expensive it gets.

For example, say your business qualified for $100,000 in PO financing with a fee of 5%. Generally, it’ll pay $5,000 for the first 30 days it takes your clients to fill their invoices. After that, you might pay an additional fee of 1% every 10 days or 0.1% per day. Let’s take a look at how this $100,000 PO financing loan works in different scenarios.

Cost example on $100,000 purchase order financing

DaysTotal cost at 1% every 10 daysTotal cost at 0.1% per day

As you can see, it can be less expensive to go with a lender that charges a percentage every 10 days, rather than every day. You might also come across PO financing providers that charge the initial fee for the first 20 days before charging a daily fee or every 10 days.

Why might I consider a different type of financing?

PO financing isn’t right for every type of business. Even if you can qualify, you might want to consider other financing options first. Here are some drawbacks to PO financing that might have you looking elsewhere.

  • Can be expensive. If you have a good credit score, high annual revenue and have been around a few years, other cashflow fixes like business lines of credit may be cheaper.
  • High profit margin required. Your profit margin may need to be 20% or higher to qualify for PO financing. That’s almost twice the average profit margin of businesses in 2017.
  • Only for finished goods. You can’t use PO financing to cover other costs that might be associated with the sale, including installation or customization.
  • Might not get 100% financing. Not all businesses can qualify for funds to cover 100% of the costs, leaving you to find money for the rest elsewhere.
  • Your customer’s and supplier’s credit counts. As a business owner, you have less control over the creditworthiness of your customers and suppliers.

Alternatives to consider

Think PO financing might not be for your business? Curious about other options? You might want to look into these alternative cashflow fixes.

Invoice factoring

Invoice factoring is maybe the closest alternative to PO financing. It involves selling your company’s unpaid invoices to a third party for a percentage of the value up front, typically between 80% and 90%. Once your customers fill their invoices, your factoring company gives your business the remaining percentage with a fee subtracted — typically between 2% and 5%.

Invoice factoring fee structures work a lot like PO financing. Many charge one fee for the first 30 days and then a fee per day or every 10 days after you pay back your loan.

How invoice factoring can help your business

Invoice financing

Similar to invoice factoring, invoice financing involves borrowing against your business’s unpaid invoices, which act as collateral. You’ll be able to use the funds how you see fit and can maintain a relationship with your customers. Generally, you can get up to 100% of your invoice’s value and pay it back as your customer pays you — typically over a maximum of three months. Costs typically include interest of 12% to 60% and a 1% to 5% servicing fee.
How invoice financing works

Short-term business loan

For one-time cashflow fixes, a short-term business loan might be a better solution, especially if your business has a hard time qualifying for a long-term business loan or line of credit. These come in smaller amounts than your standard business loan, typically between $2,000 and $250,000 — but you can get your funds in as little as one business day.

APRs typically start at around 10% and terms last between a few month and a few years. Short-term loans also often come with daily or weekly repayments.

Is a short-term loan right for your business?

Business credit card

Business credit cards can provide another quick fix to expenses that are too small to be covered by PO financing. Once your business has a credit card in hand, you can get access to funds as fast as you can swipe. Getting that credit card can take a couple of weeks, so it works better as a preemptive measure.

This isn’t the cheapest option out there since rates typically run higher than business loans, often ranging from 14% to 25% APR. Some come with a 0% introductory rate, however, so for the first year your business can take more than a month to pay off its balance without gaining any interest.

Compare business credit cards

Line of credit

Similar to a credit card, business lines of credit give you access to funds as you need them. Rather than applying for a fixed amount, your business qualifies for a credit limit, which it can draw from multiple times. Often, each withdrawal you make turns into a short-term loan with terms ranging from six months to a few years. Many are renewable, so your business can continually access funds.

A line of credit makes the most sense when your business has ongoing cashflow gaps and other recurring financing needs. Typically, rates range from 12% to 36% APR

When it makes sense to get a business line of credit

Compare business loan providers

Updated October 21st, 2019
Name Product Filter Values Min. Amount Max. Amount Requirements
Annual business revenue of at least $42,000, at least 9 months in business, personal credit score of 550+.
Customizable loans with no origination fee for business owners in a hurry.
6+ months in business, $100,000+ annual revenue, 600+ credit score, not based in North Dakota or South Dakota
Get a predictable business loan with a fixed weekly rate.
2+ years in business, 620+ credit score, not a sole proprietorship or nonprofit, strong financial history
Financing for high-risk industries with transparent rates and terms.
600+ personal credit score, 1+ years in business, $100,000+ annual revenue
A leading online business lender offering flexible financing at competitive fixed rates.
Your company must have been in business for at least 6 months and have an annual revenue of at least $100,000.
Get a large business loan to cover your financing needs, no matter what the purpose is. Startups welcome with 680+ credit score.
1+ years in business, $50,000+ annual revenue or $4,200+ monthly revenue over last 3 months
A simple, convenient online application could securely get the funds you need to grow your business.
Varies by lender and type of financing
Varies by lender and type of financing
Varies by lender, but many require good personal credit, minimum annual revenue and minimum time in business
Multiple business financing options in one place including: small business loans, lines of credit, SBA loans, equipment financing and more.
1+ years in business, $10,000+ monthly revenue
Apply online and get approved within hours with minimal paperwork. Multiple financing options available.
Must operate a business in the US or Canada, have a business bank account and have a personal credit score of 560+.
Submit one simple application to potentially get offers from a network of over 75 legit business lenders.
Credit score of 500+, legal US resident and ages 18+.
Use this connection service to get paired with a loan you can use for business.

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

PO financing could be a useful resource for B2B and B2G businesses that have more orders than they can afford to finance. But the restrictions on what kinds of businesses and purchase orders can qualify means that it’s only really an option for a few key types. The high costs might also make you want to look elsewhere for funds, especially if your business has been around for a few years, makes more than $10,000 a month and you have good to excellent credit.

To learn more about your financing options check out our business loans guide. There, we break down how it all works and offer some options you can compare.

Frequently asked questions

Image source: Shutterstock

Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
Go to site