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
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 Sept. 31, 2021.
It’s important to note that most 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.
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 currently holds the spot for the top SBA 7(a) lender in the country by lending volume. In addition, Live Oak offers SBA 504 loans.
Number of loans approved: 1,552
Total amount approved: $2,347,184,900
The Huntington National Bank is a Midwest bank with more than 1,000 branches across 12 states. They are consistently ranked as the top SBA lender in the Midwestern region and, in fiscal year 2021, had approved the most 7(a) loans of any lender on this list. Huntington also offers SBA Express and 504 loans.
Number of loans approved: 4,366
Total amount approved: $927,764,700
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: 1,241
Total amount approved: $859,111,500
Celtic Bank is one of the top SBA lenders and is headquartered in Salt Lake City. Loan customers can be pre-qualified online in a few minutes. After that, as a preferred SBA lender, Celtic may be able to approve applications faster than some other banks.
Number of loans approved: 490
Total amount approved: $725,912,300
Based in Chicago, Byline Bank offers a full range of small-business financial products, including SBA 7(a) loans, 504 loans, CAPLines, and more.
Number of loans approved: 549
Total amount approved: $687,909,400
Readycap Lending is a top SBA lender headquartered in New York City. Readycap Lending offers several business financing products, including SBA loans.
Number of loans approved: 489
Total amount approved: $616,165,600
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: 1,843
Total amount approved: $600,616,000
Orange County, California-based Harvest Small Business Finance makes SBA 7(a) loans for the purpose of commercial real estate purchases. The lender aims to approve applications within four days and close within 30 days.
Number of loans approved: 432
Total amount approved: $502,070,600
Enterprise Bank & Trust offers five different SBA financing programs, including SBA 7(a) loans. The company also provides business banking services and manages certain employee benefits, like 401(k)s.
Number of loans approved: 430
Total amount approved: $477,045,000
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 veterinarians, dentists, and eye care professionals obtain business financing for their practices.
Number of loans approved: 1,692
Total amount approved: $470,332,400
KeyBank is a Cleveland, Ohio-based bank that offers SBA loans and has branches in the following 16 states: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, and Washington.
Number of loans approved: 947
Total amount approved: $434,794,200
Headquartered in Los Angeles, CBB has eight retail banking branches in California and Texas. They make SBA 7(a) and 504 loans.
Number of loans approved: 268
Total amount approved: $407,694,000
MUFG Union Bank is better known as Union Bank. Like many of the top SBA lenders, they offer both SBA 7(a) and SBA 504 loans.
Number of loans approved: 254
Total amount approved: $395,255,200
TD Bank is a top SBA lender on the east coast. In addition to SBA 7(a) and 504 loans, TD Bank offers USDA loans and SBA Express loans.
Number of loans approved: 1,437
Total amount approved: $377,415,700
Metro City Bank has SBA loan officers serving seven states: Georgia, New York, New Jersey, Alabama, Texas, Virginia and Florida. This community bank also can provide personal and business banking services, payroll deposits and more.
Number of loans approved: 169
Total amount approved: $346,322,300
Like most of the lenders on this list, Bank of the West offers SBA 504 loans in addition to SBA 7(a) loans. The bank serves customers in 19 states.
Number of loans approved: 349
Total amount approved: $316,835,600
In addition to SBA loans, Wallis Bank has a wide variety of business loan products, including equipment loans, construction loans, working capital lines of credit and more. The bank has seven branches in California, Texas and Georgia but offers retail banking across the country.
Number of loans approved: 172
Total amount approved: $311,924,600
United Midwest Savings Bank helps businesses including medical and dental practices, insurance agencies and funeral homes secure SBA loans. If you’re looking to borrow $150,000 or less, UMSB offers an accelerated online application that can lead to funding in as little as 10 days.
Number of loans approved: 1,090
Total amount approved: $304,751,400
Berkshire Bank focuses on SBA Express loans, which are loans under the SBA 7(a) umbrella that offer smaller funding amounts but faster turnaround times.
Number of loans approved: 287
Total amount approved: $293,055,600
This Las Vegas- based bank, named in honor of George Washington, offers several different types of government loans as well as business banking services.
Number of loans approved: 132
Total amount approved: $291,480,900
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.
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 Los Angeles County.
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 fourth most active 7(a) lender, also offers 504 loans.
If you’re looking for a CDC/504 lender near you, you can find one using the SBA’s CDC search tool.
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.
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:
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.
Meredith Wood is the founding editor of the Fundera Ledger and a GM at NerdWallet.
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.