The 20 Best SBA Lenders of 2020

Compare these top SBA lenders to find the right one for your small business to work with.
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Best SBA Lenders for the Most Popular SBA Programs

If you’ve been looking for a business loan, then you probably know that SBA loans are the gold standard of business financing. They come with high loan amounts, low interest rates, and long repayment terms. Plus, SBA lenders are vetted and have to adhere to the standards that the SBA sets through their funding programs.

The catch is that even though the Small Business Administration (SBA) sets some universal standards, like maximum interest rates and terms, lenders retain a significant amount of discretion. Therefore, the speed and ease of your SBA loan process also depend on a given SBA lender’s funding experience.

So, if you think an SBA loan might be the right fit for your business, you’re probably wondering first, which lenders offer SBA loans, and second, which SBA lenders are the best to work with.

We’re here to help. In this guide, we’ll break down the best SBA lenders within the most popular SBA programs—including the 7(a) loan program, microloan program, and 504/CDC loan program. We’ll also explain how to choose the right SBA lender for your business, plus review the basics of the application process and answer some frequently asked questions.

The Best SBA Lenders for the SBA 7(a) Loan and SBA Microloan Programs: A Quick List

  1. Life Oak Banking Company
  2. Wells Fargo Bank
  3. The Huntington National Bank
  4. Newtek Small Business Finance
  5. Byline Bank
  6. Celtic Bank Corporation
  7. JPMorgan Chase
  8. U.S. Bank
  9. First Home Bank
  10. Seacoast Commerce Bank
  11. Justine Petersen Housing and Reinvestment Corporation
  12. Business Center for New Americans
  13. Economic and Community Development Institute
  14. Finanta
  15. Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs Credit Corp.
  16. Accion East, Inc.
  17. Rural Enterprise Assistance Project / Center for Rural Affairs
  18. Flagship Enterprise Center, Inc.
  19. LiftFund, Inc.
  20. Renaissance Economic Development Corporation
See If You Qualify for an SBA Loan

Start Your Business Loan Search With SBA Lenders

When searching for business loans for your company, there are a lot of options you can pursue. Although online business lenders are growing more popular, banks are still the most common place to get a commercial loan. For instance, in 2016, a whopping 96% of business owners who needed financing tried banks, but only 21% tried online lenders.

If you approach a bank for financing, you can apply for a conventional business loan. If the bank participates in the SBA program, then you can apply for an SBA loan. In both cases, the bank is the lender. However, SBA loans come with a guarantee from the Small Business Administration (SBA) that they will repay the bank if the borrower defaults. In this way, SBA loans are more attractive for the lender and result in more favorable terms for the borrower.

On the whole, you’ll find that SBA loans can offer the longest terms, highest amounts, and lowest interest rates on the market, especially in comparison to alternative financing products from online lenders. This being said, although banks are the most popular kind of SBA lender (as well as the most active), nonprofit institutions and community-based lenders also issue SBA loans.

Ultimately, in order to determine which SBA lender to work with, you’ll have to decide which SBA program you want to apply for. Not all lenders offer all of the different types of SBA loans, so you’ll have to figure out which program you want to apply for, and then look for an SBA lender that works within that program.

With this in mind, let’s briefly review the three most popular SBA loan programs:

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The 7(a) Loan Program

The SBA 7(a) loan is the most common SBA loan program. With this program, you can borrow up to $5 million in funds. You can use the funding from a 7(a) loan for almost any purpose—including equipment and real estate purchases, working capital, basic startup costs, or even debt refinancing.

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The Microloan Program

SBA microloans provide funding for entrepreneurs in need of less than $50,000 in financing. The average microloan amount is about $14,000. You can use SBA microloans for a wide range of purposes as well, such as for purchasing equipment, working capital, or covering startup costs.

Although all types of businesses can apply for an SBA microloan, these loans are often considered one of the best options for startup companies.

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The 504/CDC Loan Program

SBA 504/CDC loans are loans specifically for the purchase or upgrade of real estate, equipment, and other fixed assets. With this program, you can borrow up to $20 million in funds.

You can use the capital from an SBA 504/CDC loan to buy property or equipment, make land improvements, renovate an existing property, and other similar uses.

The Top SBA Lenders to Work With

Now that you have a better sense of what each of the three most popular SBA loan programs entails, let’s break down the best SBA lenders based on the program.

Ultimately, due to the way each of the loan programs operates, the top lenders will largely be unique to the specific program.

Let’s learn more.

Top 10 SBA Lenders for the 7(a) Program

As we mentioned above, the SBA 7(a) loan program is the most popular of the SBA loan programs. As a result, this program has the largest number of participating lenders. Large banks, in particular, are very active 7(a) SBA lenders.

Below, we’ve listed the top SBA lenders within this program, with data on the loan volume and number of loans updated by the SBA as of September 30, 2019. The average loan size should give you a good idea if the lender is a good fit for you.

It’s important to note that all of these lenders are part of the SBA’s Preferred Lender Program. This means the SBA has authorized these lenders to approve applications for SBA funding without submitting the application to the SBA first. Working with a Preferred Lender will save you valuable time when searching for a business loan.

Here are the top 10 SBA lenders for 7(a) loans.

Check Your Loan Options
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1. Live Oak Banking Company

Based in Wilmington, NC, Live Oak Bank doesn’t offer any consumer loan products and does not have physical branches. Instead, this bank focuses exclusively on business loans, including SBA loans.

Live Oak offers a streamlined, electronic application for their SBA loan process and currently holds the spot for the top SBA 7(a) lender in the country. In addition, Live Oak works with other SBA loan programs as well, including the 504, 504 Green program, and more.

Number of loans approved: 913
Total amount approved: $1,347,089,600
Average loan amount: $1,475,454

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2. Wells Fargo Bank

Wells Fargo is an SBA lender that offers a variety of financing options for small businesses: lines of credit, term loans, real estate financing, and equipment financing. As of the last update of this article, Wells Fargo’s SBA loan volume makes them the second-most active SBA lender for 7(a) loans.

Number of loans approved: 3,149
Total amount approved: $786,394,900
Average loan amount: $249,728

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3. The Huntington National Bank

The Huntington National Bank is a Midwest bank with more than 1,000 branches across eight states. They are consistently ranked as the top SBA lender in the midwestern region.

Number of loans approved: 3,594
Total amount approved: $640,008,500
Average loan amount: $178,076

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4. Newtek Small Business Finance

Within the realm of business solutions, Newtek’s business loans are only one feature this company offers. This being said, however, in terms of financing products, Newtek provides both SBA loans and traditional term loans, as well as lines of credit.

Number of loans approved: 886
Total amount approved: $618,409,600
Average loan amount: $697,979

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5. Byline Bank

Based in Chicago, IL, Byline Bank offers the full range of small business financial products, including SBA 7(a) loans, 504 loans, CAPLines, and more.

Number of loans approved: 462
Total amount approved: $524,855,900
Average loan amount: $1,136,051

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6. Celtic Bank Corporation

Celtic Bank is one of the top SBA lenders, but this bank is a little different from most traditional banks. Celtic is a branchless bank and processes and underwrites loan applications completely online. This works in your favor because the Celtic Bank SBA loan process goes faster, and there’s no need to visit a branch in person.

Number of loans approved: 751
Total amount approved: $500,313,400
Average loan amount: $666,196

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7. JPMorgan Chase

You’ve probably already heard of JPMorgan Chase. This is one of the nation’s biggest banks and they are also a very active SBA lender. Along with a wide range of business loan products, Chase offers some great business credit cards.

Number of loans approved: 1,890
Total amount approved: $471,737,100
Average loan amount: $249,596

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8. U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank is another bank that you have probably already heard of. In addition to the standard U.S. Bank small business loans and lines of credit, this institution specializes in helping health care practices obtain business financing.

Number of loans approved: 2,756
Total amount approved: $423,918,900
Average loan amount: $153,816

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9. First Home Bank

Second-to-last on our top 10 list is First Home Bank, a Tampa Bay, Florida-based bank. Although based in Florida, the bank can help businesses nationwide obtain SBA loans.

Number of loans approved: 1,470
Total amount approved: $369,153,700
Average loan amount: $251,124

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10. Seacoast Commerce Bank

Finally, our last top SBA lender is Seacoast Commerce Bank, which is based in South Carolina. Seacoast specializes in a variety of business financing products, including SBA loans.

Number of loans approved: 286
Total amount approved: $320,688,200
Average loan amount: $1,121,287

Top 10 SBA Lenders for the Microloan Program

As we mentioned above, microloans are a good option for entrepreneurs who need startup capital or funding for very small businesses.

Microloans are a little different from SBA 7(a) loans. Most of the top 7(a) lenders, as you will notice above, are large banks. However, these large banks don’t provide microloans, in most cases, because doing so simply isn’t profitable for them.

To provide microloans, the SBA partners with specially designated intermediary SBA lenders. These intermediaries are generally nonprofit, community-based organizations that have experience in lending. And as an added benefit, these SBA lenders usually provide management and technical assistance to small business owners—assuring that the money borrowed will be well spent.

This being said, the SBA lenders that offer SBA microloans will vary depending on your location. The SBA has a personalized lender matching tool that will help you find a microlender and other SBA lenders near you. To find an SBA microlender in your area, you can also check out the SBA’s list of approved intermediaries in each state.

Here is a list of the top 10 SBA microlenders as of 2015, the most recently available data.

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1. Justine Petersen Housing and Reinvestment Corporation

Number of microloans: 367
Microloan volume: $1,463,554

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2. Business Center for New Americans

Number of microloans: 266
Microloan volume: $1,035,000

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3. Economic and Community Development Institute

Number of microloans: 218
Microloan volume: $1,571,391

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4. Finanta

Number of microloans: 185
Microloan volume: $1,624,400

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5. Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs Credit Corp.

Number of microloans: 131
Microloan volume: $1,075,530

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6. Accion East, Inc.

Number of microloans: 105
Microloan volume: $1,173,452

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7. Rural Enterprise Assistance Project / Center for Rural Affairs

Number of microloans: 97
Microloan volume: $679,575

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8. Flagship Enterprise Center, Inc.

Number of microloans: 83
Microloan volume: $1,693,002

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9. LiftFund, Inc.

Number of microloans: 83
Microloan volume: $672,488

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10. Renaissance Economic Development Corporation

Number of microloans: 76
Microloan volume: $1,662,695

Top SBA Lenders for the CDC/504 Program

The CDC/504 loan program works perfectly for small business owners who want to finance the purchase or upgrade of equipment or real estate.

Ranking the top CDC/504 lenders isn’t that easy because this loan actually comes from two lenders. An SBA-approved certified development company (CDC) makes 50% of the loan. CDCs are usually nonprofit, community lenders. Banks make 40% of the loan. And the remaining 10% is a down payment from the borrower.

With this in mind, the best bank and CDC lenders for SBA 504 loans vary significantly based on region. Regional SBA offices usually rank local CDCs and banks. For example, here’s a list from the mid-Atlantic region, one from Austin, Texas, and another from Los Angeles County. Over 270 CDCs exist nationwide and operate primarily in their state of incorporation.

This being said, however, you may find that many of the banks that are top SBA 7(a) lenders also offer loans within the CDC/504 program. Celtic Bank, for instance, which is the sixth-most active 7(a) lender, also offers 504 loans. Additionally, Five Star Bank, based in California, also offers both 7(a) and 504 loans. Although not in the top 10 SBA lenders for 7(a) loans, Five Star does make the top 100 list for this program (and also works with Fundera, along with Celtic Bank).

If you’re interested in a CDC/504 lender near you, you can find one using the SBA’s CDC search tool.

How to Choose the Right SBA Lender for Your Business

So, now that we’ve discussed the best SBA lenders within each individual program, you might nevertheless be wondering: How do I choose the right SBA lender for my business?

Although there is no set-in-stone method for deciding which SBA lender will be the best to work with, there are a few things you can keep in mind as you explore your options:

  • Does the lender have the SBA program you want? Of course, you’ll need to compare different lenders that actually offer the program you want.
  • What does the lender’s application process look like? Some SBA lenders may have online, expedited application procedures, whereas others may require that you complete the application at a branch. You’ll want to consider what kind of process you prefer and how each individual lender conducts their application.
  • How long is the lender’s timeline? On the whole, the SBA loan timeline is going to be one of the longest that you’ll find, especially in comparison to more short-term products from alternative lenders. This being said, however, you’ll want to see what the timeline looks like for any specific lender—is it around 30 days? Longer?
  • Will you actually qualify? Although there are some standard SBA loan requirements, it will largely be up to the lender to determine the qualifications you’ll need to meet. You’ll want to investigate what the typical requirements are for any particular SBA lender to see what your chances are of qualifying. You don’t want to waste your time on the application process if you know right off the bat you won’t qualify with that lender.
  • Who will you be working with? Some SBA lenders will assign a specialist or representative to work exclusively with you on your application, whereas others might have a less-defined assistance procedure. You’ll want to know how this part of the application process will work, as well as what kind of system you’d prefer before you decide to work with any specific lender.

What SBA Lenders Look for in Your SBA Loan Application

Once you’ve gone through your list of the top SBA lenders and found what you think is the best fit for your small business, your next step is to apply.

As we’ve mentioned, SBA loans are favorable products for small business owners—you can score a large loan over a long term, with low interest rates. But, SBA lenders only work with the most qualified small business owners. You can set yourself up for success—and up your chances of approval—by preparing yourself before you apply.

Every loan program will have specific documentation that you’ll need to provide in your application. This is especially true if you’re applying to SBA lenders for a loan from the CDC/504 and microloan programs—the intermediary lenders in these programs will require their own specific documentation.

But as far as all SBA loans go, there’s basic documentation that you’ll need to apply to any of the SBA lenders.

Here’s what you’ll need to get in order for an SBA loan application.

Personal Background and Resume

Lenders will want to verify both your personal and professional background. For personal information, they’ll want to see previous addresses, official names used, criminal record, educational background, and so on.

You’ll also be asked to provide a professional resume, explaining your work background and any relevant experience in your industry. SBA lenders are attempting to decide whether lending to your business is a smart decision. To gauge how well you’ll run your business and how responsibly you’ll use the capital, lenders can use resumes to see your past business achievements.

Business Plan

Every SBA loan program requires that applicants provide a sound business plan. Remember, SBA lenders want to fund businesses that will be successful—and your business plan is your place to prove that your business is a smart investment.

Your business plan should include financial information—profit and loss statements, cash flow, balance sheet, etc. You’ll also need to provide more qualitative goals for your business. Why is your business a unique and important contribution to the market? How do you compare to your competitors? Where do you see it growing in the next five years?

A well-thought-out business plan will show that you’re prepared to be successful, and are determined to grow your business.

Personal and Business Credit Reports

Your personal and business credit rating will play a large part in your SBA loan eligibility. SBA lenders will need to gauge how responsible you are with your personal finances, and how trustworthy you’ve been with your business finances. Unfortunately, you’ll typically need to meet minimum credit score requirements to qualify for an SBA loan—this minimum usually falls around 650 or above.

And if you have a startup, you’ll need even better credit.

Before you apply for an SBA loan, make sure you know where your personal credit score stands. You should know your business credit score as well.

Financial Documentation

You should be prepared to submit balance sheets, profit and loss statements, bank account statements, and a business debt schedule to verify your business’s financial standing with your lender.

You can check out our guide to all the SBA loan requirements to learn the specifics on each of these documents.

SBA Lenders: Frequently Asked Questions

What is an SBA Preferred Lender?

If an SBA lender is a Preferred Lender, this means that they are a member of the SBA’s Preferred Lender program, in which the SBA grants certain lenders the ability to process, close, service, and liquidate SBA loans.

Essentially, this means whereas other lenders must submit an SBA loan package directly to the SBA for approval, a Preferred Lender has the discretion to approve applications without the input of the SBA.

How does a bank or other financial institution become a Preferred Lender?

A lender can ask an SBA field office to be considered for preferred status and the office will evaluate the lender based on their process, loan packages, and SBA performance history. On the other hand, an SBA field office can also nominate a lender within their area.

Working with a Preferred Lender, like all of the lenders we’ve listed above, is beneficial to small businesses for a number of reasons. First, working with a Preferred Lender means your SBA loan application process should be faster and more efficient than if you were working with another lender. Additionally, using a Preferred Lender means you have a lender with the experience and knowledge necessary to abide by the SBA regulations, make the process as seamless possible, and ideally, get you the best possible financing for your business.

Which banks offer SBA loans?

Although not all banks offer SBA loans, there are a variety of banks that do, including some of the best banks for business loans.

As we mentioned above, some of the biggest banks in the U.S. are among the most active SBA lenders, including Live Oak Bank, Wells Fargo, Huntington National Bank, Celtic Bank, Chase, U.S. Bank, and First Home Bank.

Although they are not among the top 10 SBA lenders, other big-name banks that offer SBA loans are:

  • KeyBank
  • TD Bank
  • BBVA
  • Bank of America
  • SunTrust Bank
  • First Bank
  • Citizens Bank
  • Capital One
  • PNC Bank
  • Five Star Bank

If you’re wondering if any particular bank offers SBA loans, you can explore the business loans section of their website, or contact them directly for more information.

What is the best bank for SBA loans?

If you’re looking for the best bank for SBA loans, unfortunately, there is no objective answer to this question.

The best bank for an SBA loan is ultimately going to depend on your business—what you’re looking for, what your qualifications are—as well as what programs the bank offers, and what their application process looks like.

As we explained above, Live Oak Bank is currently the most active SBA lender—meaning they have the greatest loan approval amount. This doesn’t mean, however, that they’re necessarily the best bank for SBA loans. Nevertheless, starting with the top, most active SBA lenders is a great method for finding the right lender for your business.

The Best SBA Lenders: The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, there isn’t a cut-and-dry formula for finding the perfect SBA lender to work with.

Nevertheless, you can set your business up for success by researching the SBA lenders who participate in the program you’re applying to. You can also review your own qualifications, the lender’s application process, and the top lenders with each individual program, as we listed above.

By understanding all the options at your disposal, you’ll have a better idea of which SBA lender will work best for your business.

See If You Qualify for an SBA Loan