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SBA Express loans

Federally-sponsored loans for small business owners don't have time for your typical SBA loan.

This article was reviewed by Brad Stevens, a member of the Finder Editorial Review Board and 30-year veteran of the credit industry who specializes in rehabilitating struggling banks.

The Small Business Administration (SBA)’s Express loan program is a government-guaranteed financing option for small business owners looking for a loan under $500,000 that requires less work.

You can often get an SBA Express loan within 30 days. But it guarantees a lower portion of the loan, is available at lower loan amounts and you may pay a higher rate than you would on a 7(a) loan.

SBA Express loans are smaller and faster than other 7(a) loans

The SBA Express program offers relatively simple loans and lines of credit to small businesses for most business uses. Here’s a snapshot of how this loan program works:

  • Maximum loan amount: $500,000
  • Maximum interest rate: 10%
  • SBA guarantee: 50%
  • Maximum loan term: 10 years — with exceptions for real estate and fixed assets
  • SBA turnaround time: 36 hours

The maximum loan term of 10 years applies to both SBA Express term loans and lines of credit. Businesses that take out an SBA Express loan to purchase a fixed asset will have a term based on the useful life of the asset. The maximum term for real estate loans is around 25 years.

Maximum interest rates and fees

Like with other SBA loan programs, the maximum interest rates and fees, depend on on how much you borrow.

  • Loans under $50,000: Prime + 6.5%
  • Loans over $50,000: Prime + 4.5%

The SBA was not charging any guarantee fees until October 1, 2021. Since the SBA guarantee fee waiver ended, SBA Express loan borrowers must pay between 0.25% to 3.75% of the guaranteed portion of the loan at closing. The guarantee fee depends on how much you borrow and the loan term.

How the SBA guarantee fee works

SBA Express loan relief ended in October 2021

As part of the COVID-19 relief efforts, the SBA had made several temporary changes to the Express loan program:

  • The maximum loan amount was temporarily increased from $350,000 to $1 million.
  • After October 1, 2021, the maximum loan amount will permanently changed to $500,000.
  • The guarantee percentage for loans under $350,000 was 75%. But this decreased to 50% in October. All other Express loans receive a 50% SBA guarantee.
  • There were no guarantee fees for new loans made before October 2021.
  • SBA Express loan borrowers didn’t have to pay an annual service fee on Express loans until October 2021.

With the exception of a higher maximum loan amount, these changes no longer apply to new SBA Express loans.

No additional requirements for SBA Express loans

SBA Express loan requirements are the same as any SBA 7(a) loan program — there are no additional criteria to receive a faster turnaround. The government requires borrowers to meet the following requirements:

  • Meet the SBA’s size standards for your industry
  • Operate a businesses in an eligible industry
  • Run a for-profit enterprise in the United States
  • Demonstrate need for funding

Many lenders will also set additional requirements on top of the SBA’s basic criteria.

Typically, your business must be profitable and up and running for at least two years. It must also must have few debt obligations compared to revenue. And business owners must have good credit — usually a personal credit score of at least 670.

How to qualify for an SBA loan

SBA Express loan collateral requirements

The SBA’s collateral requirements are also the same as your typical 7(a) loan.

  • Loans of $25,000 and under have no collateral requirements.
  • Loans over $25,000 are collateralized to the greatest extent possible.

Generally, lenders rely on their collateral policies for non-SBA loans on Express loans over $25,000. You won’t be turned down if your small business doesn’t have enough assets to fully collateralize the loan — as long as you can demonstrate your ability to repay by other means.

SBA Express loan proceeds can cover most financing needs

You can use your SBA Express loan for the same expenses as an SBA 7(a) loan. Generally, these include the following types of expenses.

  • Working capital
  • Refinancing debt
  • Business acquisition or change of ownership
  • Real estate purchases or improvements
  • Inventory
  • Equipment
  • Fixtures

Ask your lender about any restrictions on how you can use the loan before you apply.

Apply through an SBA 7(a) lender

You can apply for an SBA Express loan through most SBA-approved lenders — though make sure it offers Express loans, not just standard 7(a) loans. Typically, the turnaround time on an Express loan is around 30 days. But there are a few ways to speed it up.

  • SBA-preferred lenders, like Chase or Citizens Bank, that offer SBA Express loans have the authority to approve your application without waiting for SBA approval.
  • Lenders that offer an online application may have an even faster turnaround than your typical SBA lender — especially if they’re also preferred.
  • Providers like SmartBiz can reduce the turnaround time by weeks by helping you find an SBA-preferred lender and completing the application. But they usually charge a packaging and broker fee.

Document requirements

The SBA Express loan application is similar to an SBA 7(A) loan application. Along with the application form, you typically need to submit the following documents:

  • SBA Borrower Information Form 1919 for all business owners
  • SBA Personal Financial Statement Form 413 for all business owners and cosigners
  • Business financial statements
  • Personal and business tax returns
  • Business certificates and licenses
  • Past business loan application records

How to apply for an SBA 7(a) loan

Compare SBA loan providers

These lenders participate in federally sponsored loan programs. Fill out the form with basic information about yourself and your business to see personalized results.

Name Product Filter Values Loan amount APR Requirements
Lendio business loans
Finder Rating: 4.75 / 5: ★★★★★
Lendio business loans
$500 – $5,000,000
Starting at 6%
Operate business in US or Canada, have a business bank account, 560+ personal credit score
Submit one simple application to potentially get offers from a network of over 300 legit business lenders.
ROK Financial business loans
Finder Rating: 4.7 / 5: ★★★★★
ROK Financial business loans
$10,000 – $5,000,000
Starting at 6%
Eligibility criteria 3+ months in business, $15,000+ in monthly gross sales or $180,000+ in annual sales
A connection service for all types of businesses — even startups.
Seek Business Capital loans
Finder Rating: 4.5 / 5: ★★★★★
Seek Business Capital loans
$5,000 – $500,000
Varies by lender
Personal credit of 680+, no bankruptcies in the last 4 years.
Startups and newer businesses could qualify for loans and credit cards with a custom financing package.
SmartBiz business loans
Finder Rating: 4.5 / 5: ★★★★★
SmartBiz business loans
$30,000 – $5,000,000
4.75% to 7%
640+ personal credit score, US citizen or permanent resident, 2+ years in business, $50,000+ annual revenue, no outstanding tax liens, no bankruptcies or foreclosures in past 3 years
Get funding for your small business with a government-backed loan and extended repayment terms.
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Compare up to 4 providers

When to get an SBA Express loan

An SBA Express loan makes the most sense when you’re looking for low-cost financing for an existing business that can’t qualify for a bank loan. If you don’t have time to spend on a standard SBA 7(a) loan application, an SBA Express loan can be a more realistic option for low-cost financing.

SBA Express loan alternatives

In some cases, other business loan options can be a better fit. Consider these options if an SBA Express loan doesn’t meet your business’s needs.

  • An SBA 7(a) loan offers financing for a project that costs more than $500,000 and features lower interest rates.
  • A microloan can fund startup expenses, unlike an Express loan. These small-dollar business loans are available through nonprofit lenders.
  • An SBA disaster loan can assist your business when you need help recovering from a disaster like COVID-19.
  • An online business loan can send funds to your business bank account within days, not weeks.

In some cases, an alternative to business loans may be a better option.

SBA Export Express loans for international businesses

(Source: Page 359 of the SOP, plus this quick reference sheet to confirm some slightly different language: https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/articles/FY_2019_LoanQuickReference.pdf )

The SBA Export Express loan program offers term loans and lines of credit as a a part of the SBA’s general trade financing program. Here’s how they differ from your typical SBA Express loan:

  • Intended to cover expenses related to expanding the exporting side of a small business
  • Higher SBA guarantee of 90% for loans of $350,000 or less and 75% of loans over $350,000
  • Shorter line of credit term of seven years — otherwise terms are the same as Express loans

Export express loans can also be more difficult to find. Start your search with providers that specializes in international trade financing.

SBA Express Bridge loans are no longer available

The SBA Express Bridge loan program offered short-term loans to small businesses waiting for approval on an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) due to COVID-19. While you EILD applications are still open, the SBA Express Bridge loan program expired on March 13, 2021.

Here’s how it used to work:

  • Loan amounts stopped at $25,000
  • The SBA guaranteed up to 50% of loan
  • Loan terms ran for as long as seven years

While the SBA directly funded EIDLs, Express Bridge loans were were only available through an SBA Express lender. These loans may become available again during other disasters. If the program reopens, they will be available for up to six months after an official disaster declaration.

Bottom line

SBA Express loans can be faster than your typical SBA 7(a) loan, but they have higher interest rates because they offer a smaller loan guarantee. To reduce the time spent filling out forms and get your funds even faster, you might want to consider applying through a service like SmartBiz.

Want to learn about your other options? Read our guide to SBA loans or learn more about business financing.

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