By Chad Brooks, Business News Daily Senior Writer 

Here at Business News Daily, we know that businesses have diverse financial needs. We researched and reviewed dozens of alternative small business loans, and came up with the ones we think are best for a variety of business needs. Here is a roundup of our top picks and an explanation of how we chose them.

Want to learn more about small business loans? Here’s a breakdown of our complete coverage:

  • Small Business Loan Guide
  • REVIEW: Best Alternative Lender for Working Capital Loans
  • REVIEW: Best Alternative Lender for Lines of Credit
  • REVIEW: Best Alternative Lender for Startup Loans
  • REVIEW: Best Alternative Lender for Merchant Cash Advances
  • REVIEW: Best Alternative Lender for Bad Credit Loans

Best Working Capital Loans: Fundation

Fundation offers conventional fixed-rate loansbetween $20,000 and $500,000, with annual percentage rates ranging from 7.99 to 29.99 percent. Applications can be filled out online in 10 minutes, and a final decision on approval takes place within 24 hours. To qualify, you must be in business for at least two years, as well as have at least three employees, an annual revenue of at least $100,000 and good personal credit. Fundation provides excellent customer service over the phone and via live chat. Go here for a full review of Fundation.

Best Lines of Credit: Kabbage

Kabbage specializes in small business lines of credit of between $2,000 and $100,000. Each time you draw against your line of credit, you have six months to pay it off. Instead of paying interest, however, you pay fees of between 1 and 12 percent each month. To apply, fill out an online application, and link the system to either your business bank account or an online service you are already using, such as QuickBooks. Kabbage’s platform automatically reviews the data on those sites to determine if you meet its standards for a loan. The process typically takes just minutes to complete. Once approved, you have instant access to your loan. Go here for a full review of Kabbage.

Best Startup Loans: Accion

Accion is a nonprofit microlender that specializes in small business loans. It offers loans specifically for startup businesses that have been open for less than six months. Accion’s loan amounts and minimum requirements vary by state. Some of the more common requirements are a minimum credit score of 575, sufficient cash flow and proof of income. Maximum loan amounts range from $10,000 to $100,000. Applications can be filled out online, with approval usually taking place within one month. Accion’s loans, most of which have annual percentage rates starting at 10.99 percent, are repaid on a monthly basis over the length of the loan. Go here for a full review of Accion.

Best Merchant Cash Advances: RapidAdvance

RapidAdvance offers merchant cash advances of between 50 and 250 percent of your monthly credit card volume. You repay the loan by giving RapidAdvance a fixed percentage of your future card receipts until the loan is paid off. To qualify, you need to have been in business for at least three months, have at least $2,500 in monthly credit card receivables and have a physical location for your business. You can apply for the advance online or over the phone. The approval process can be completed in 24 hours, with funds becoming available within three days. Go here for a full review of RapidAdvance.

Best Bad Credit Loans: OnDeck

OnDeck offers fixed-rate loans of between $5,000 and $250,000. To qualify, you need a minimum credit score of 500 and annual revenue of at least $100,000, and you have to have been in business for at least one year. The loans have lengths ranging from three to 24 months and an average interest rate of 15 percent of your total loan amount. OnDeck loans are paid back on a daily or weekly basis. You can apply for a loan online or over the phone. Approval can be completed in just a few minutes, and funds will be deposited into your account within 24 hours. Go here for a full review of OnDeck.

Our Methodology

To determine the best alternative lenders, we started with a pool that included all of the lenders on the comprehensive list below. After some preliminary investigation, including a look at other best-pick lists and initial research into each one, we interviewed small business owners to discover new ones to add to our list. We also eliminated peer-to-peer lenders and online sites that match businesses with lenders, because they didn’t fit into this year’s best-pick categories.

Ultimately, we settled on 20 alternative lenders to research as best picks: Accion, American Business Credit Services, American Express, Balboa Capital, BFS Capital, CAN Capital, Dealstruck, Fora Financial, ForwardLine, Fundation, Kabbage, Merchant Advisors, Merchant Cash and Capital, OnDeck, PayPal, RapidAdvance, Rapid Capital Funding, Shield Funding, SnapCap and Square. (See below for the full list of alternative lenders.)

Next, we researched each lender by investigating the types of loans it offered, the amount of money that could be borrowed and for how long, the application and approval process, and repayment procedures. We also considered any general term rates that were listed on these lenders’ websites. After narrowing the list to 14 final contenders, we contacted each lender’s customer-service department by phone, and live chat if possible, and posed as business owners in order to gauge the type of support each one offered.

In all, we analyzed each lender based on the following factors:

  • Application and approval process
  • What it takes to qualify
  • How long it takes to get a loan
  • Loan amounts
  • Loan terms
  • Repayment process
  • Customer service
  • Better Business Bureau ratings and complaints
  • Online user reviews

It’s important to note that our best picks were not selected based on the lender most likely to approve your business. Each lender evaluates businesses differently, and each business has a different financial makeup. Considering these factors, it would be impossible for us to try to determine any business’s likelihood of securing a loan with any of these lenders. In addition, our review process did not fully examine specific loan interest rates. These are determined individually for each business based on the amount of money being borrowed, the loan term and the business’s financial makeup. We did, however, consider any average rates that were provided.

Here is a full list of alternative lenders and a summary of what each company claims to offer. This alphabetical list also includes our best picks.

*Accion: Accion is a small business microloan lender. The company provides two types of loans — one for established businesses and the other for startups. Loan types, amounts and requirements vary by state. Each loan type is secured and features fixed interest rates.

Advance Funds Network: Advance Funds Network (AFN) offers a number of flexible business-financing options for small and medium-size businesses, including bad credit business loans, cash advances, invoice and purchase order factoring, and equipment leasing.  AFN’s products are available to all businesses, regardless of credit score.

American Express: American Express offers merchant financing to small businesses that accept American Express cards. The financing offered is a commercial loan, not a purchase of receivables or a cash advance. A business must repay the loan in full, together with the loan fee, regardless of its future credit and debit card charge volume.

American Finance Solutions: American Finance Solutions purchases businesses’ future credit card transactions, and advances that money to them. After receiving the advance, this lender deducts a fixed percentage of the business’s daily credit card sales until the advance is paid in full. To qualify, businesses must have been in operation for more than a year and process at least $5,000 in credit card sales each month.

Balboa Capital: Balboa Capital offers several small business loan products, including working-capital loans, franchise loans, equipment leasing, and flexible small business loans. The company makes quick credit decisions, offers loans of up to $250,000, processes quickly and has no restrictions on how businesses can use the money.

Biz2Credit: Biz2Credit is an online marketplace for small business funding. The company connects small businesses in need of funding with lenders. Biz2Credit can help small businesses obtain a variety of loans, including SBA loans, equipment financing, business acquisition loans, commercial loans, lines of credit, franchise loans, real estate financing, disaster loans and merchant cash advances.

BlueVine: BlueVine helps businesses free up cash trapped in their invoices by giving them an advance on the amount due. There are no hidden fees, paperwork or obligations. The application is completely online, and there are no long-term contracts or termination fees. Once a business is approved, a credit line will be set to be used as needed.

BoeFly: BoeFly is an online marketplace for small business loans. The site is a loan exchange that connects small business owners with more than 4,000 business lenders. BoeFly is a subscription service that does not charge any transaction fees.

The Business Backer: The Business Backer specializes in small business financing. This lender offers a variety of loan types, including factoring, purchase financing, specialty financing, equipment leasing, traditional loans and lines of credit. To qualify, businesses must have been operating for at least a year, as well as have annual revenue of at least $150,000 and a personal credit score of 550 or higher.

Business Credit & Capital: Business Credit & Capital specializes in offering retailers, restaurants and service businesses merchant cash advances. Business Credit & Capital purchases a percentage of future revenue, and advances those funds to businesses. There are no restrictions on how the money can be used. For businesses to repay the loan, the lender collects a daily percentage of sales.

BFS Capital: BFS Capital offers both small business loans and merchant cash advances. The company provides small business loans of between $4,000 and $2 million to a wide range of industries, including restaurants, retail stores, service providers, manufacturers and wholesalers.

CAN Capital: CAN Capital offers small business loans and merchant cash advances. Loans through CAN Capital range from $2,500 to $150,000, and mature in four to 24 months. No personal collateral is needed, and funds can be transferred in as little as two business days.

Capital for Merchants: Capital for Merchants is a business cash advance lender. Capital for Merchants pays for a business’s future sales up front and gets paid back with a fixed percentage of daily credit card receipts, or via automatic debits from a checking account on a set schedule. Upon approval, funding is available within 72 hours.

Corporate Business Lending: Corporate Business Lending specializes in working with business owners with less-than-perfect credit. The lender, which has a quick application process, works with both startup and established businesses.

Credibility Capital: Credibility Capital is a marketplace lender focused on prime-credit small business borrowers. Its platform matches businesses with institutional investors to fund loans ranging from $10,000 to $150,000. The Credibility Capital Risk Score incorporates a range of data to arrive at a recommendation for a particular interest rate. The lender’s borrowers are small businesses seeking capital primarily for business expansion and inventory financing.

Credit Card Processing Specialists: Credit Card Processing Specialists offers merchant cash advances to small businesses. Its merchant cash advance services work by providing funds up front while taking repayment back when it processes payments based on an agreed-upon percentage.

Dealstruck: Dealstruck provides a variety of small business funding options, including business term loans, revenue-secured term loans and asset-based lines of credit. The company offers loans between $50,000 and $250,000. Businesses approved by Dealstruck need to be profitable, with annual sales of at least $250,000 and more than one year of operating history.

Everest Merchant Services: Everest Merchant Services provides small businesses with merchant cash advances. Its four-dimensionalunderwriting and approval process focuses on future credit card transactions and receivables revenue as a repayment method. This system allows the company to quickly estimate and assess its return probability using all the dimensions of a business and not just a credit score. Repayment is based upon future swiped Visa and MasterCard credit card transactions.

Fastpoint: Fastpoint is a merchant cash advance provider. Fastpoint buys a portion of a business’s future credit and debit card transactions at a discounted rate. The advance is repaid with a fixed percentage of the business’s daily transactions. Only businesses with a credit card processing account may apply for a cash advance through Fastpoint.

FastUpFront: FastUpFront provides completely unsecured business cash advances up to $250,000. All businesses that accept credit cards are eligible for a cash advance from FastUpFront. The cash advances are based on future sales, not credit scores.

First Working Capital Group: First Working Capital Group specializes in small business funding. The lender offers a variety of loan types, including ongoing lines of credit, merchant cash advances, equipment leasing and franchise financing. First Working Capital Group provides loans regardless of credit history. Instead, this lender gives considerable weight to how long businesses have been open when determining the amount of funds that can be provided.

Fora Financial: Fora Financial offers flexible working-capital solutions to small businesses in need of financing. The lender offers both small business loans and merchant cash advances. Fora Financial serves a variety of industries, including manufacturing, medical, retail, wholesale, transportation, restaurants, construction and auto. The lender makes funds available within 24 hours of approval.

ForwardLine: A nationwide supplier of financing to small businesses, ForwardLine uses technology and nontraditional credit algorithms to finance 98 percent of U.S. businesses that banks consider too small and too risky for a business loan. ForwardLine offers both small business loans and merchant cash advances. Financing is based on monthly credit card sales volume. Repayment is made by applying a small percentage of credit card transactions to the balance.

*Fundation: Fundation is a direct lender that delivers small balance commercial loans. The firm provides fixed rate loans of up to $500,000 using its own capital. Loans are available in one- to four-year repayment periods. Long-term loans are designed for borrowers who are looking to make large investments in their business (such as by expanding a product or service, hiring new employees and making capital improvements), and shorter-term loans are designed to help business owners with everyday operating costs. Both types of loan have fixed interest rates starting as low as 7.99 percent, with payments automatically debited from the customer’s account twice a month.

Fundera: Fundera gives small businesses access to multiple loan offers through one application. Fundera does not loan money directly to small businesses, but rather connects small businesses with different financing options. Types of loans the company helps set up for small businesses include small business loans of up to $1 million, merchant cash advances, equipment loans, factoring, 401(k) rollover funding and lines of credit.

Fundbox: Fundbox offers business owners a way to fix their cash flow by advancing payments for their outstanding invoices. There is no approval process, no forms to fill out, no phone calls to make and no obligation. Businesses connect their accounting app to add their unpaid invoices, and pick the unpaid invoices they want to clear. An advance for the amount is automatically transferred to their bank account.

GoKapital: GoKapital helps entrepreneurs obtain business loans nationwide. With GoKapital, you can apply for a number of business lending options, including SBA loans, short term loans, lines of credit, merchant cash advances, equipment financing, franchise loans business acquisitions loans, loans for Latinos and small business loans for women. Businesses can be instantly pre-qualified for a loan by filling out an online application.

Headway Capital: Headway Capital offers small businesses lines of credit ranging from $5,000 to $30,000. Once approved, businesses can borrow as much money as needed, whenever it’s needed, up to the available credit limit. With each draw, a business can select the repayment schedule that best suits its needs. In order to be eligible to apply, your business must have been in operation for at least one year, and it must be located in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington or Wisconsin.

*Kabbage: Kabbage is a provider of working-capital loans to small businesses. Kabbage uses data generated by dozens of business operations to understand performance and deliver fast, flexible funding in real time. Kabbage can support any small business by analyzing various data sources that you use every day to run your business.

Kalamata Capital: Kalamata Capital is a data-driven, alternative finance company focused on small business. The lender offers a wide range of loan types, including working-capital loans, business expansion/acquisition loans, SBA loans, lines of credit, equipment financing, inventory financing, accounts receivable factoring and merchant cash advances. Utilizing automated data aggregation and electronic payment technology, Kalamata Capital can make credit decisions in as little as 24 hours.

Kiva Zip: Kiva Zip is a program that provides small business owners in the U.S. with access to capital through person-to-person lending. Its loans are crowdfunded by a community of lenders from around the world. As first-time borrowers on Kiva Zip, small businesses have the opportunity to raise up to $5,000 in capital with no interest or fees. Through Kiva Zip, anyone who wants to support small business growth and local job creation can choose to lend $5 or more to a small business of his or her choice.

Lending Club: Lending Club offers loans to most types of businesses in 45 states, including professional and personal services, retailers, contractors, health and wellness providers, automotive, wholesalers, manufacturers, and restaurants. Its loans can be used for a variety of purposes, including business expansion, inventory or equipment, working capital and refinancing.

LendingTree: LendingTree connects consumers to lenders that compete for their business. LendingTree lenders offer an array of loan types, including business loans. The loan amount approved for a business is based on several key factors, such as how long the company has been in business, its annual revenue and its credit score.

Lendio: Lendio is an online service that helps small businesses quickly find the right business loan. Lendio makes business loans by matching qualified small business owners with active banks, credit unions and other lending sources.

Maverick Capital: Maverick Capital is a business funding provider that offers loans of up to $250,000 and merchant cash advances. This lender also offers a Hybrid Program that combines traditional cash advances with microloans. With the Hybrid Program, the cash advance is paid back through a combination of a holdback percentage of your credit card sales and a weekly payment.

Merchants Advance Network: Merchants Advance Networkis a merchant cash advanceandunsecured loan provider. The lender offers loans and cash advances of between $2,500 and $1 million. To apply, businesses must fill out a loan application and provide three months of their most current credit card and bank statements to document sales. The entire underwriting process typically takes between five and seven days.

Merchant Advisors: Merchant Advisors offers an assortment of loan types, including small business loans, working-capital loans, restaurant loans, bad-credit loans, cash advances, SBA loans, restaurant equipment leasing, lines of credit, franchise financing, 401(k) business funding and home-based business loans.

Merchant Cash and Capital: Merchant Cash and Capital purchases a business’s future sales or credit card transactions and advances that money to them up front. After the business gets the advance, Merchant Cash and Capital deducts a fixed percentage from the company’s daily gross sales or credit card sales until the advance is made whole. To qualify, a business must have been in operation for at least six months, have a minimum of $10,000 per month in gross sales and not have any bankruptcies.

National Funding: National Funding offers small businesses a range of financial services and products, including working-capital loans and merchant cash advances. The company’s small business working-capital loans require no pledge of personal assets.

*OnDeck: OnDeck offers loans to small and medium-size businesses. The company uses data aggregation and electronic payment technology to evaluate the financial health of businesses when determining whether to approve a loan request. The company’s proprietary credit models look deeper into the health of a business, focusing on overall business performance rather than the owner’s personal credit history.

PayPal: PayPal offers working-capital loans to small businesses that already process payments through PayPal. In most cases, the maximum loan amount is 8 percent of the sales a business has processed through PayPal in the past 12 months. When applying for a PayPal working-capital loan, businesses select the daily repayment percentage, which is the portion of future sales that will go toward repaying the loan balance. The loan balance is repaid automatically as businesses make sales through PayPal.

Prosper: Prosper loans are not traditional small business loans; they are personal loans based on applicants’ credit scores and are issued to individuals, not businesses. These loans are desirable in a variety of cases, such as when a business doesn’t yet have a proven track record. Prosper loans are unsecured and don’t require any collateral.

SBL Group: SBL Group offers loans ranging from $5,000 to $1 million. Funds are typically available within 24 hours, with repayment terms ranging between three and 24 months. To qualify, businesses must have been in operation for more than three months, have income of more than $100,000 over the past 12 months and have a credit score higher than 500.

*RapidAdvance: RapidAdvance offers small business a variety of financing options, including loans, merchant cash advances, lines of credit and SBA bridge loans. Businesses can be approved for loans in 24 hours and receive funds within three days. RapidAdvance has provided more than $700 million in financing to thousands of small businesses. Read our full review here.

Rapid Capital Funding: Rapid Capital Funding specializes in merchant cash advances for small and medium-size businesses. Rapid Capital Funding qualifies businesses for advances of between $5,000 and $500,000. The actual amount depends on each business’ sales and history. Unlike other financing options, Rapid Capital Funding does not require a plan for the money and doesn’t require it to be used for any specific purpose.

RedFynn: RedFynn offers a variety of credit card processing solutions, including business cash advances. Eligibility for cash advances is not determined by credit score alone; a business’s current sales and length of time in operation are also considered.

SmartBiz: SmartBiz offers SBA loans of up to $350,000 with interest rates between 6 and 8 percent. After completing the application, businesses can receive funds in as little as seven days. SmartBiz is a joint effort of Golden Pacific Bancorp and Better Finance. Golden Pacific is a member of the SBA’s Preferred Lenders Program, and Better Finance is a financial technology company that provides leasing and credit solutions.

Shield Funding: Shield Funding is an alternative lender specializing in bad-credit business loans. To be eligible, you need to have been in business for at least four months, and have bank receipts or accept credit cards as a form of payment. A minimum of $5,000 per month in gross revenues is required for companies that accept credit cards, and approximately $20,000 a month in gross revenues is required for those that do not. Shield Funding provides business cash advances and unsecured business loans of up to $500,000 for a variety of purposes, including to improve or expand a company, manage payroll costs, purchase inventory or equipment, acquire customers via marketing, improve or create a website and pay off creditors.

Small Business Loans Depot: Small Business Loans Depot offers an assortment of loan types, including bank statement loans, small business loans, working-capital loans, equipment loans and equipment refinance loans. Loans are available from $5,000 to $150,000. The amount for which a business can qualify depends on business and personal credit, time in business, the amount of equipment owned and gross sales.

SnapCap: SnapCap is an alternative lender that specializes in unsecured business loans of between $5,000 and $600,000 for general purposes, expansion, inventory or equipment. The lender offers a paperless application process and a 48-hour turnaround. There are no collateral or annual revenue requirements. In addition, SnapCap places little emphasis on personal credit when determining whether to grant a loan.

Square: Square offers small business funding to its customers that have an active credit card processing account with Square. Square capital can be used to increase inventory, buy equipment or open a new location. Businesses make loan repayments to Square automatically as a fixed percentage of their daily card sales. The payments are tied directly to card sales. Businesses pay more when sales are strong and less if things slow down.

Sure Payment Solutions: Sure Payment Solutions is a small business financing company. The lender offers loans of up to $500,000, business cash advances and accounts receivable financing. Sure Payment Solutions offers flexible payment options, no early or late payment penalties, no application fees and 24-hour approvals.

Swift Capital: Swift Capital provides fast business funding, with amounts ranging from $5,000 to $300,000 and pricing starting as low as 9.9 percent. Through the use of its data and technology systems, Swift Capital can streamline the approval process and eliminate the paperwork. For funding amounts of $10,000 or less, funds can be wired to your account within one hour. Repayment is typically made through daily automatic deductions from each business’s checking account.

United Capital Source: United Capital Source offers a variety of loan types, including small business loans, accounts receivable factoring and merchant cash advances. The company can approve loans of between $5,000 and $2 million. Businesses with bad credit are not automatically eliminated from loan consideration. Approvals can be granted in as little as 24 hours. United Capital Source’s loans are unsecured and don’t require a personal guarantee or collateral.

Are you an alternative lender that would like to be added to this list? Please feel free to contact Chad Brooks at [email protected].

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