SBA Express Loans: The Ultimate Guide

Learn if an SBA Express Loan program is right for you.
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SBA Express Loans: Your Guide to Quick SBA Funding

SBA Express Loans are loans that are partially guaranteed by the SBA with expedited credit decisions from the SBA. SBA Express Loans offer SBA credit decisions in 24-36 hours, whereas non-Express SBA loans will involve SBA underwriting that will take 5 to 10 business days.

The SBA Express Loan program and the SBA Export Express Loan program, two sub-programs within the SBA 7(a) Loan program, offer loans and credit limits of up to $350,000 and $500,000, respectively. The main draw of these SBA Express Loan Programs is their aforementioned speed.

Plus, these SBA Express Loans can come in the form of term loans and lines of credit. You can use the proceeds of one of these SBA Express Loans to buy real estate, refinance debt, and access working capital, just to name a few of the most popular uses.

Be sure to note, though: In exchange for the speed of these SBA Express Loans, you pay a slightly higher interest rate compared to traditional SBA loans. We’ve compiled everything you need to know about SBA Express Loans—including the requirements, the terms, and how to apply for one. Here is your ultimate resource on all things SBA Express Loans:

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Consider SBA Express Loans If:

You have strong credit, a well-established business, and need $350,000 or less in capital. Or, if you are looking for the SBA Patriot Express Loan program, which is no longer active, the SBA Express Loan program will be your next best option.

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Skip SBA Express Loans If:

You have bad credit or need funds in your bank account quickly. You can typically find online options that fund even faster than SBA Express Loans.

What's the SBA Express Loan Program? A Closer Look

SBA loans are business loans that the Small Business Administration, a government entity, partially guarantees. the SBA never does any direct lending—rather, the SBA has a network of approved lenders who actually underwrite and issue the loans. The SBA just covers a portion of the lender’s loss if the business defaults on the payments.

Because the SBA guarantee is able to mitigate some of the risk that lenders take on lending to small businesses, lenders are more willing to lend to small business and at better rates.

Despite their popularity and favorable terms for small businesses, standard SBA loans have a notoriously long application process. Just submitting all your paperwork and getting initial approval can take several weeks.

That’s where SBA Express Loans come in: If you submit an SBA Express Loan application, the SBA will make their credit decision on is within 24 to 36 hours, depending on which type you apply for.

That’s the general idea, but here are the details:

SBA Express Loans: The Two Types

Within the umbrella of the SBA Express Loan program, there are two types of SBA loans—the standard SBA Express Loan and the SBA Export Express Loan. Both of these SBA Express Loans operate within the SBA 7(a) Loan program, but they offer business funding for slightly different purposes. And, as a result, they’ll function slightly differently. Here are the details on the two types of SBA Express Loans and how they differ:

Standard SBA Express Loans

Your first option for a small business Express Loan through the SBA is the general SBA Express Loan. This SBA loan mimics a standard SBA 7(a) loan in terms of structure and uses.

The key differences are approval time, loan amounts, and interest rates. In contrast to a standard SBA 7(a) Loan, an SBA Express Loan has a fast, 36-hour turnaround. These Express Loans also have a lower maximum loan amount and higher maximum interest rates.

Let’s take a look at the details on SBA Express Loans.

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Uses for an SBA Express Loan

Lenders can structure the financing either as a term loan or as a line of credit, and you can use the money for a number of things: working capital, real estate, equipment, debt refinancing, and much more.

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SBA Express Loan Rates and Terms

Your lender will determine the final terms of your SBA Express Loan, but the SBA does set guidelines.

These are the terms you can expect on an SBA Express Loan:

  • Maximum loan amount of $350,000
  • Maturity: 7 years for lines of credit, 25 years for real estate, and 5-10 years otherwise
  • Interest Rates of Prime + 4.5% to Prime + 6.5%

While terms are less favorable than standard SBA 7(a) loans, they still beat what you’re likely to find through alternative, online lenders.

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Maximum SBA Guarantee for an SBA Express Loan

Standard SBA loans come with SBA guarantees that are as high as 85%, but the maximum loan amount that the SBA is willing to guarantee for Express Loans is only 50%. Because the SBA backs a lower portion of the loan, lenders take on more of a risk when they lend through this program. As a result, the terms are less favorable than standard SBA 7(a) loans.

SBA Export Express Loans

Another option for a small business express loan is the SBA Export Express Loan. Export Express loans are much more specific and less versatile than the general SBA Express Loans. That said, they come with better terms. One of the biggest benefits: A super-fast 24-hour turnaround from the SBA.

Let’s take a look at all the details.

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Uses for an SBA Export Express Loan

SBA Export Express Loans are designed for small export businesses. This loans helps businesses enter a new export market or expand in an existing market, If you’re looking to up your business’s ability to export goods and services, then an Export Express Loan could be the perfect funding for your business’s growth.

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SBA Export Express Loan Rates and Terms

Though these small business express loans also come with an expedited SBA review, they offer even better terms than the SBA Express Loans do:

These are the terms you can expect on an SBA Express Loan:

  • Maximum loan amount: $500,000
  • Maturity: 7 years for lines of credit, 25 years for real estate, and 5 to 10 years otherwise
  • Interest Rates: Prime + 4.5% to Prime + 6.5%

As you can see, there’s a higher maximum loan and faster SBA approval for the Export Express Loan, compared to the general Express Loan. This is because the SBA understands that exporters often need to move very quickly to capitalize on opportunities overseas.

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Maximum SBA Guarantee for an Export Express Loan

The Export Express Loans that the SBA offers come with better terms than the SBA Express working capital loan, and that’s because the SBA is willing to guarantee a higher percentage of an Export Express Loan.

For Export Express loans of $350,000 or less, the SBA guarantees up to 90% of the loan. For Export Express loans above $350,000, the SBA guarantees up to 75% of the loan.

SBA Express Loan Requirements

The speedy turnaround and favorable terms of SBA Express Loans make them very attractive for small business owners. But, unfortunately, getting funding through the SBA Express Loan Program isn’t really a viable option for many businesses.

The SBA itself has easy eligibility criteria that most applicants satisfy. For example, you must have a for-profit business and be based in the US. On top of these simple requirements, the lenders who provide these loans often have their own, stricter requirements for SBA Express Loans.

These are the eligibility requirements that you can expect for SBA Express Loans:

Before you dive into the application process with a lender, be sure to check their minimum requirements for SBA Express Loans, so you don’t sink time into an application they’re unlikely to approve.

Top SBA Express Loan Lenders

Many lenders participate in the SBA Express Loan Program, so the biggest challenge is narrowing down the list and choosing the lender who is best for your business. You can access these loans through regional banks and some nonprofit lending institutions.

Here’s a list of popular SBA Express Loan lenders:

  1. Citizens Bank
  2. TD Bank
  3. US Bank
  4. Northeast Bank
  5. Associated Bank

To get started, try the SBA’s lender match tool. really big banks, like Chase and Wells Fargo, don’t participate in the SBA Express program (because the loan amounts are too small for the program to be worth their time), but they are traditional SBA 7(a) lenders.

Lenders will first have you fill out SBA Form 1919, the standard borrower information form for SBA loans. This form will go off to the SBA for review. Once the SBA reviews your application, they will respond within 24 to 36 hours with an initial approval decision. If you are approved, you’ll need to submit paperwork to your lender and proceed with underwriting and loan processing. A Fundera loan specialist can help you put your business loan application together.

See Your Loan Options

SBA Express Loans: The Pros and Cons

Many small business owners look to SBA Express Loans as a quicker alternative to traditional SBA funding.

Once you submit an SBA Express Loan application, the SBA will respond to your application within 36 hours (24 hours for Export Express Loans). By contrast, standard SBA loans come with an SBA review that lasts anywhere from 5 to 10 business days.

This is great, but there’s a caveat: SBA review is only a small portion of the entire funding process. Once the SBA gives approval, the lender will still need to underwrite and approve your application and close your loan. This can still take several weeks to happen.

Plus, in exchange for the quick turnaround, the SBA Express Loan program comes with lower loan amounts ($350,000 is the maximum) and higher interest rates. So if you’re considering an SBA Express Loan for quick SBA funding, read up on both the pros and cons that come with this quick SBA funding option:

SBA Express Loans: The Pros

First, let’s take a look at the main advantages of choosing to fund with an SBA Express Loan. Here are the main upsides of choosing this SBA funding program:

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Fast Response from the SBA

When measured against the 5 to 10 business days it takes the SBA to make a credit decision for standard SBA loans, the 24- to 36-hour turnaround for SBA Express Loans is a major upside for this funding option.

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Less Paperwork

The stack of documents required to apply for an SBA Express Loan won’t be quite as hefty as the stack of documents required to apply for a traditional SBA loan. That you won’t have to collect and fill out so much paperwork can make the SBA Express Loan application process run that much smoother, as one of the biggest hindrances of fast funding typically ends up being the process of collecting documentation.

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Available as Term loans or Revolving Lines of Credit

The added flexibility that comes with the two funding products available through the SBA Express Loan program is a huge plus: Whereas an SBA Express term loan will be better fit for one-off expenses, SBA Express lines of credit will be a great choice for sustained working capital needs.

SBA Express Loans: The Cons

Now, it’s time to consider some notable imperfections in the SBA Express Loan program. Here are some downsides to SBA Express Loans to keep in mind before taking one on:

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Smaller Loan Amounts

While SBA Express Loans only offer loans and credit limits of up to $350,000, standard SBA 7(a) Loans can be as large as $5 million. So, if you’re in the market for larger amounts of funding, then the SBA Express Loan program won’t be for you.

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Higher Interest Rates

Standard SBA 7(a) Loans can come with interest rates as low as the market Prime Rate + 2.25%, but SBA Express Loans will have higher interest rates. This, ultimately, will be due to the quicker funding process. Because the underwriting process for SBA Express Loans won’t be as thorough, lenders will want to make sure that lending through the SBA Express Loan is worth the relative risk.

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Lender Underwriting Can Still Lag

You’ll notice that the express in SBA Express Loans really only applies to the SBA’s underwriting processes. So, even though the SBA will be quick about deciding whether you qualify for an SBA Express Loan, lender’s aren’t guaranteed to have as much urgency.

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Difficult to Qualify For

At the end of the day, SBA Express Loans are still pretty tough to qualify for. Even though there will be a quick underwriting process, there will still be some lofty minimum requirements to fulfill before you’re able to even apply for an SBA Express Loan.

An SBA Express Loan Alternative: SmartBiz

SBA Express Loans have a quick 24-hour to 36-hour response time from the SBA, but the process can slow down once your application reaches your lender.

For businesses seeking quick SBA funding, we recommend SmartBiz. Through SmartBiz, you’ll be able to access standard SBA 7(a) loans in as few as 7 days. Loan amounts range from $30,000 to $350,000, repayments terms are set at 10 years, and the interest rates are as low as the market Prime Rate+ 2.25%.

Plus, you’ll get all the flexibility that SBA 7(a) loans come with—the SBA loans that SmartBiz funds can be used for anything from refinancing debt to acquiring another business.

That said, SmartBiz SBA loans still come with the main downside of SBA loans in general—they’re still pretty difficult to qualify for.

SmartBiz establishes the following minimum requirements:

  • A personal credit score of at least 650
  • At least 24 months in business
  • At least $100,000 in annual revenue

Though SmartBiz can offer you both remarkable funding speed and stellar terms, they’ll only be beneficial to you and your business if you’re able to compile the stack of paperwork and qualify for the product. If not, don’t despair. There are plenty of alternative lenders who can offer surprisingly affordable funding to business owners with less-than-perfect credentials with an even quicker turnaround than SBA Express Loans and SmartBiz—sometimes as quickly as the same day you submit your application.

Compare Your Loan Options

SBA Express Loans: The Bottom Line

SBA Express Loans offer the best of both worlds: the favorable terms of SBA funding and fast approval times. If you’re a business owner with a great credit score and a well-established business, then an SBA Express Loan might be a perfect option for you. However, if you’re unable to qualify, there are dozens of other lenders, many of them faster than SBA Express Loans, who might be able to fund your business.

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