SBA lines of credit are available through the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) CAPLines Program. The SBA guarantees fixed and revolving lines of credit of up to $5 million, made by partner banks and other direct SBA lenders. Business owners can secure the line with business or personal assets and use the money for short-term or seasonal capital needs.
Many people know about the SBA’s long-term business loans, but fewer are familiar with the SBA’s line of credit offerings. But if you’re in need of flexible financing to solve your working capital or cash flow needs, then an SBA line of credit might be perfect for you.
These lines of credit have all the advantages of traditional SBA loans— low-interest rates, manageable monthly payments—but allow for more flexible use of capital.
In this guide, we’ll walk through everything there is to know about SBA loans vs lines of credit, and where to find the best alternatives if you’re not able to qualify for the SBA program. To begin, here’s a summary of the four main types of SBA credit lines.
The SBA 7(a) loan program is by far the most popular option from the SBA. Fundera does not offer SBA line of credits on our marketplace (more on that below), but if you would like to see if you qualify for an SBA loan or other types of line of credits, get started below.
Most people associate the SBA with traditional small business SBA loans, not with lines of credit. But, a line of credit can be an invaluable financial tool for a small business that is facing a shortfall of working capital, seasonal/cyclical gaps in cash flow, or a big project with an uncertain budget.
The SBA makes lines of credit available through the CAPLines program. As part of this umbrella program, there are four types of lines of credit.
These are the four SBA line of credit options:
The Seasonal SBA Line of Credit can be used to pay for seasonal increases in inventory, accounts receivables, or higher labor costs as you try to meet the demand of the busy season. You can qualify for a credit line of up to $5 million.
The qualification requirements for the seasonal SBA line of credit are similar to traditional SBA loans. You have to meet the SBA’s definition of small business and be a for-profit business. You also should have strong credit and business financials.
On top of the standard SBA loan requirements, the business should be in operation for at least one year and be able to demonstrate a definite pattern of seasonality. For example, your financial statements should reveal clear spikes and declines in revenue at different times of year.
The maximum maturity date on these lines is 10 years, which means full repayment is due within 10 years. However, the lender will require periodic payments of principal and interest that you’ll need to pay by the end of each busy season.
The seasonal SBA line of credit is usually collateralized by the inventory or the accounts receivable of the business. And if that’s not sufficient, the lender might ask you to submit personal assets as collateral.
Note that you cannot use this line of credit as a cash cushion or to cover operational costs during your slow season. Rather, this line of credit is for financing more customer demands and orders during the busier times of year.
Interest rates on these lines of credit are the same as SBA loan interest rates on standard SBA 7(a) loans. Currently, they range from 6% to 8%.
The Working Capital SBA Line of Credit is for businesses that need money to cover general operating expenses. Examples including buying inventory, hiring additional employees, and covering unexpected expenses. Lenders must structure this line of credit as a revolving line of credit.
The requirements for qualifying for this line of credit are the same as a 7(a) loan. The only additional requirement is that you must be a business with accounts receivable or physical inventory (most businesses meet that requirement).
The maximum term for this SBA line of credit is 10 years, and the credit limit is determined by your business’s sales volume and typical sales cycle, and the value of your collateral. The inventory or accounts receivables generally serve as the collateral, but other business assets (e.g. office space, equipment, etc.) and personal assets can also be used as collateral.
Working capital lines of credit have the same interest rates at standard SBA 7(a) loans.
The SBA Contract Loan CAPLine is for small business owners who need materials, supplies, or labor to meet their obligations under a contract or purchase order.
To qualify for a Contract CAPLine, you must show that your business has performed contracts or purchase orders in the past. You business must be profitable. You must also possess the technical expertise to be able to complete the contract on time and at a profit.
A Contract Loan can be as high as $5 million, depending on the scope of your contract or purchase order. You can use a Contract CAPLine to finance one contract or multiple contracts.
The maximum repayment term on a Contract Loan is 10 years. When you use the money towards a specific contract or project, you must pay back those funds when your client pays you.
The interest rate on Contract CAPLines is the same as the rates on a regular SBA 7(a) loan. This line of credit can be revolving or fixed.
A Builders SBA Line of Credit is for businesses that construct or renovate residential or commercial buildings for resale. Businesses can qualify for as much as $5 million and use the money for labor, supplies, materials, equipment rental, and landscaping.
This SBA line of credit is for builders and contractors only. Specifically, this financing product works when you need to build or renovate a residential or commercial building. You need to have demonstrated experience successfully bidding on and completing construction or renovation projects.
The maximum term on a builders line of credit is 5 years, as opposed to the other CAPLines that have 10-year terms. When you use funds for a specific project, you must pay back those funds within 36 months of completing the renovation or selling the property, whichever is the shorter time period.
The lender will use the property that you are constructing or renovating as collateral for the line of credit.
The interest rate on these lines of credit are the same as a standard SBA 7(a) loan. These lines of credit can be revolving or fixed, depending on the lender and your qualifications as a borrower.
Just like any other business line of credit, an SBA line of credit can be fixed or revolving. A credit line provides access to a pool of cash that you can draw on as needed for business reasons. And you only have to pay interest on the cash that you actually draw from your account. The difference between fixed and revolving credit lines lies in what happens when you make payments.
With a fixed line of credit, your overall credit keeps decreasing every time you withdraw money from your credit line. But with a revolving credit line, the credit limit gets replenished every time you pay back what you borrowed plus interest (kind of a like a credit card).
Note that the SBA itself doesn’t issue loans or lines of credit. Instead, they guarantee business loans offered by partner banks and SBA lenders. For lines of credit, the SBA guarantees 75% or 85% of the loan amount. By providing a guarantee, the SBA removes some of the bank’s risk when working with small business owners. As a result, the bank can offer low interest rates and favorable terms for the borrower.
The qualification standards for an SBA credit line are almost identical to the qualification requirements for standards SBA 7(a) loans. There are a few additional requirements for the line of credit, depending on which of the four CAPLines programs you’re applying for.
Here are the general requirements to qualify for an SBA line of credit:
This is a long list of conditions, but don’t worry if you don’t meet each of these requirements. Business owners who are unable to qualify for an SBA credit line have several alternative options, which we cover in the guide.
The SBA line of credit rates and SBA 7(a) loans are the same. The SBA sets maximum interest rates on a 7(a) loan, and lines of credit are subject to these same maximums.
The SBA sets rate caps based on the prime rate, a benchmark interest rate that serves a reference for many types of loans.
Loans and lines of credit with less than 7 years’ maturity:
You can check the current prime rate by going here.
You should also be aware that, like a 7(a) loan, an SBA line of credit from one of the 4 CAPLines programs comes with a guarantee fee. The SBA charges lenders a guarantee fee for the risk that the SBA takes on in guaranteeing a portion of the loan. Lenders typically pass this fee on to the borrower.
Here’s how the SBA guarantee fees stack up:
These fees are assessed on the guaranteed portion of the loan, not on the full loan amount. The SBA guarantees up to 85% of the loan. For example, a lender might extend you a $100,000 working capital line of credit. The SBA will guarantee $85,000 of that loan. The fee will be 2% of $85,000, which is $1,700.
Lender cannot charge a higher fee on SBA-guaranteed loans and lines of credit than on similar non-SBA guaranteed products.
Each of the SBA credit lines have a maximum maturity date of 10 years, with the exception of the Builders Line, which has a maximum maturity date of 5 years.
The maturity date is the date by which you must repay the lender in full. But, there are smaller payments that might be due along the way. For instance, if you’re using funds from a Seasonal CAPLine to finance a specific contract, you must pay back the lender once your busy season is over.
Every month, you’ll receive a statement showing your minimum payment (just like a credit card bill). You can pay the minimum amount, but to save on interest, you can pay more than the minimum or the full amount you’ve borrowed to date.
Again, Fundera does not offer any SBA line of credits within our marketplace, but if you would like to see if you qualify for an SBA loan or other types of line of credits, get started below.
As you read up on SBA lines of credit, be sure to remember one crucial detail: Banks issue SBA loans and lines of credit. And bank financing is very tough to qualify for, even if you do have the SBA’s guarantee attached to it.
But if your local bank declines your application for an SBA business line of credit, that doesn’t mean you’re out of options. Lots of online alternative lenders offer lines of credit. These options are certainly costlier than SBA financing, and you won’t be able to get nearly as much capital. However, they offer you the same flexibility of use and repayment and are a lot easier to qualify for.
Here are some popular online line of credit lenders:
OnDeck offers both short-term loans and revolving lines of credit for a variety of funding needs.
A line of credit with OnDeck goes up to $100,000 and features a repayment term of 12 months. The APRs on an OnDeck line of credit start as low as 29.9% (based on loans originated in the half-year ending March 31, 2022).
To qualify, you’ll need a 625 personal credit score, one year in business, and at least $100,000 in annual revenues.
Bluevine is a lender that offers revolving lines of credit for small businesses. It’s easy to apply online for a Bluevine line of credit, and you can get funding within just a day or two.
Read our full Bluevine review.
As a reminder, Fundera does not offer SBA line of credits in our marketplace, but if you would like to see if you qualify for an SBA loan or other types of line of credits, get started below.
The SBA has a great line of credit program. With low interest rates and repayments terms of up to 10 years, any small business owner would be lucky to qualify. But the SBA isn’t the only option around. If you’re seeking flexible capital but can’t qualify for an SBA line of credit, several alternatives are available.