The 20 Best SBA Lenders of 2021

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Best SBA Lenders for the Most Popular SBA Programs

SBA loans are the gold standard of business loans. They come with high loan amounts, low interest rates, and long repayment terms. Due to the way each government loan program operates, the best SBA lenders will largely be unique to the specific program.

In this guide, we’ll break down the best SBA lenders for the most popular types of SBA loans—including the 7(a) loan program, microloan program, and CDC/504 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 Program

  1. Live Oak Banking Company
  2. The Huntington National Bank
  3. Celtic Bank Corporation
  4. Newtek Small Business Finance
  5. Byline Bank
  6. Wells Fargo Bank
  7. Readycap Lending
  8. Key Bank
  9. U.S. Bank
  10. JPMorgan Chase
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Top 10 SBA Lenders for the 7(a) Program

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

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 December 31, 2020.

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.

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1. Live Oak Banking Company

Based in Wilmington, North Carolina, Live Oak Bank does not have physical branches. This primarily online bank focuses 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 by lending volume. In addition, Live Oak works with other SBA loan programs, including the 504, 504 Green program, and more.

Number of loans approved: 515
Total amount approved: $746,986,400

2. 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 and, as of Dec. 31, 2020, had approved the most 7(a) loans for the second-most volume.

Number of loans approved: 1,581
Total amount approved: $301,081,700

3. 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: 212
Total amount approved: $276,789,900

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, Newtek provides both SBA loans and traditional term loans, as well as lines of credit.

Number of loans approved: 380
Total amount approved: $249,861,300

5. Byline Bank

Based in Chicago, Illinois, 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: 193
Total amount approved: $231,177,300

6. Wells Fargo Bank

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

Number of loans approved: 762
Total amount approved: $220,968,000

7. Readycap Lending

Readycap Lending is a top SBA lender headquartered in New York City. Readycap Lending specializes in a variety of business financing products, including SBA loans.

Number of loans approved: 120
Total amount approved: $147,038,600

8. KeyBank

KeyBank is a Cleveland, Ohio-based bank that offers SBA loans and has branches in the following states: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, and Washington.

Number of loans approved: 319
Total amount approved: $126,628,500

9. U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank is a 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: 637
Total amount approved: $121,772,300

10. JPMorgan Chase

The last entry on our list of best SBA lenders is one of the biggest banks in the nation: JPMorgan Chase. Chase has more than 4,700 branches across the nation, but is less active than other SBA lenders. Along with a wide range of business loan products, Chase offers some great business credit cards.

Number of loans approved: 119
Total amount approved: $27,628,100

Top 10 SBA Lenders for the Microloan Program

SBA microloans provide funding for entrepreneurs in need of less than $50,000. You can use microloans for a wide range of purposes, such as for purchasing equipment, working capital, or covering startup costs.

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.

The lenders that offer SBA microloans will vary depending on your location. To find an SBA microlender in your area, you can use the SBA’s personalized lender matching tool or check out the SBA’s list of approved intermediaries in each state.

Here is a list of the top 10 SBA microlenders by number of loans closed as of 2016, the most recently available data.

1. Justine Petersen Housing and Reinvestment Corporation

State: Missouri
Number of microloans: 502
Microloan volume: $2,612,154

2. Business Center for New Americans

State: New York
Number of microloans: 291
Microloan volume: $1,137,503

3. Economic and Community Development Institute

State: Ohio
Number of microloans: 290
Microloan volume: $1,890,135

4. Accion, East

State: New York
Number of microloans: 174
Microloan volume: $2,176,917

5. Finanta

State: Pennsylvania
Number of microloans: 150
Microloan volume: $1,012,020

6. Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs Credit Corp.

State: Oregon
Number of microloans: 139
Microloan volume: $1,170,138

7. Community Ventures Corporation

State: Kentucky
Number of microloans: 107
Microloan volume: $573,608

8. Renaissance Economic Development Corporation

State: New York
Number of microloans: 103
Microloan volume: $2,525,136

9. Rural Enterprise Assistance Project / Center for Rural Affairs

State: Nebraska
Number of microloans: 101
Microloan volume: $575,105

10. Flagship Enterprise Center

State: Indiana
Number of microloans: 99
Microloan volume: $1,930,164

Top SBA Lenders for the CDC/504 Program

SBA CDC/504 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.

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) and a bank. Banks make 50% of the loan. CDCs are usually nonprofit, community lenders and make 40% of the loan. The remaining 10% is a down payment from the borrower.

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.

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 third 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 looking for a CDC/504 lender near you, you can find one using the SBA’s CDC search tool.

How SBA Lenders Work

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.

How to Choose the Right SBA Lender for Your 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, 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.

SBA Lenders: Frequently Asked Questions

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, there isn’t a cut-and-dried 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.

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Meredith Wood
Founding Editor and VP at Fundera

Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood is the founding editor of the Fundera Ledger and a vice president at Fundera. 

Meredith launched the Fundera Ledger in 2014. She has specialized in financial advice for small business owners for almost a decade. Meredith is frequently sought out for her expertise in small business lending and financial management.

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