Merchant Cash Advances - The Basics
Although they may seem like traditional loans, merchant cash advances are a unique and effective financing alternative for businesses that have steady income streams. Unlike loans, which provide companies with a lump sum and a set repayment term, merchant cash advances offer a more flexible solution by working on as needed basis, and featuring daily repayments that help keep costs from ballooning. With merchant cash advances, businesses can guarantee that they will always have cash on hand to cover operational expenses without dipping into their reserves.
How Merchant Cash Advances Work
Merchant cash advances—also known as MCAs—work differently from traditional business loan providers ,giving them more flexibility along with the capability of disbursing funds much faster than other financing alternatives. Merchant cash advances are forwarded to businesses against a percentage of their future sales, similar to how invoice factoring operates. The major difference is that invoice factoring is used exclusively with invoices that are set to be paid. MCAs instead are designed for industries that have steady income streams, such as restaurants, retail stores, and service companies that usually process a substantial volume of credit card sales.
Unlike loans, MCAs involve the selling of future income to the lender in exchange for funds in the present. Normally, a lender and business will agree on how much money will be advanced, the rates and fees attached to the advance, and how long the advance duration will last – terms usually last less than 12 months. Once funds are disbursed to the company, repayment is automated by holding back a percentage of daily credit card sales until the advance is paid in full. Since customers can pay with their credit card receipts, collateral is not necessary for approval. Moreover, this system also means that MCAs have lower qualification requirements, helping small and medium-sized businesses find the financing they need without having to pledge major assets as collateral.
Do You Need a Merchant Cash Advance?
As with most other forms of financing, merchant cash advances can be incredibly useful when used properly. MCAs are used to cover expected shortfalls in everyday cash flow, and for that reason, are more useful for covering normal overhead expenses than they are for major equipment purchases, expansions, hires, and other similar uses. Before applying for a merchant cash advance, businesses should ask themselves the following questions:
- How soon are the funds needed?
One of the biggest hurdles of traditional loans is that approval can be a lengthy process and sometimes funds are needed more expediently. Companies requiring immediate financing to cover everyday operational costs could benefit greatly by selecting a merchant cash advance considering funds can be disbursed as soon as the same day if the approval process goes smoothly.
- How much money is required?
Merchant cash advances are best utilized to cover short-term capital shortfalls, such as a sale or discount that cannot be passed up, a unique investment opportunity, or even payroll for weeks where cashflow was not as stable as usual. Bigger, planned expenses should be covered by loans that have more favorable long-term rates and repayment conditions.
- What is the creditworthiness of the business owner?
One of the biggest roadblocks to receiving approval for a business loan or other traditional financing alternative is an owner’s weak or less-than-stellar credit. Merchant cash advances can help businesses that have a high volume of credit card transactions, even if the owner’s creditworthiness is not perfect.
- What is the biggest form of revenue?
Merchant cash advances are designed to help companies that have steady incomes, usually in more service-oriented industries. Unlike major equipment makers, manufacturers, or wholesalers who invoice customers and get paid once a month, merchant cash advances are geared towards companies such as retailers, restaurants, service industry companies, and others that have a high volume of credit-card transactions paid on a more regular basis.
- How consistent is the business’ cash flow?
One of the more interesting aspects of merchant cash advances is that they tend to work better for customers that are experiencing lower cash flows or seasonal revenue fluctuations. Merchant cash advances collect repayments as a percentage of total daily sales. This means that when a company’s daily transactions are down, they will have to pay less. For companies that have problems with cash flow consistency, a merchant cash advance could be a good way to stabilize their revenue streams. However, companies with high volumes of daily sales may opt for other forms of financing.
How to apply for a Merchant Cash Advance
The application process for a merchant cash advance is fast, painless, and in many ways much more straightforward than the process that accompanies other forms of financing. Because it is not a loan, a merchant cash advance application skips some of the steps traditional financing requires. These are the general steps needed to apply for a merchant cash advance (keep in mind that the specifics may vary from lender to lender):
1. Apply for Funds: This is the initial step, where businesses must fill out an application that covers questions regarding income, revenues, and other financial details about the applicant. In addition, companies must enter identifying information such as a social security number, business tax identity number, and other relevant contact details.
2. Submit Documentation: Once the initial application is completed, businesses are asked to submit documentation to prove the answers given in their application are accurate to determine if a company is eligible for financing or not. Some of the documents required in this step include, but are not limited to credit card processing statements, bank statements, proof of residency or citizenship, identification, and copies of lease agreements.
3. Receive Approval: The length of this step may vary from business to business, as well as between lenders. In most cases, however, the approval process for a merchant cash advance takes as little as 24 hours.
4.Close on Advance Terms: Once approved, the borrower and the lender will finalize the terms of the loan, including the discount rate, the final amount to be advanced, and more.
5.Receive Financing: Once finalized, business owners will receive their funds in short order. In most cases, this happens swiftly after their agreement terms have been finalized.
Choosing the Right Cash Advance
Another crucial step when working to identify the right funding solution is to ensure that the merchant cash advance selected is the best potential financing option available. Before selecting a solution, companies should answer the following questions:
- Does the chosen merchant cash advance service have specific experience in the business’ industry?
- What are the best possible rates that can be achieved with the business’ financial circumstances?
- Are there any fees and penalties that are included in the agreement?
- Are merchant cash advances the best way to access the funds needed?
The Right Cash Advance for Your Business
Finding the right financing solution for a business, especially a small business ,can be a tricky affair, but selecting a merchant cash advance can solve many problems other financing solutions pose. For those businesses that have steady income but require a little more cash flow to truly take off, a small merchant cash advance is an excellent way to supplement short-term capital and get the lift needed to expand. Moreover, businesses that are revenue-heavy but have less-than-stellar credit can benefit from the simple structure of merchant cash advances and the friendlier approval requirements. Before selecting a merchant cash advance, discover our expert reviews and find the solution that best fits your business needs.
The Top 3 Business Line of Credit Providers
- Ideal for - Lendio is ideal for businesses with less than stellar credit who want to fill out one loan application and get offers from multiple lenders on a number of different loan types.
- Funding Amounts - Lendio is a network for lenders that offer loans from $1,000 to $2 million for a variety of business needs.
- Minimum Requirements - To qualify for a loan from Lendio, you must be in business for at least 6 months and have $8,000 in monthly revenues. There is no minimum credit score requirement, although individual lenders may have their own credit requirements.
- Repayment Terms and Fees - Lendio works with lenders who offer APRs from 4.00% to 30% with 1 to 5 year loan terms on traditional business loans.
- Funding Time - Lendio's online application process is quick and easy, particularly because only one application must be filled out for multiple lenders. Once you’ve been approved, funding can be obtained in as little as a few days, depending on the individual lender.
- Bottom Line - Lendio is an entire marketplace of lenders competing for your business. By filling out a single application you can see what type of loans you’re eligible for and which lenders are competing for your business. You’ll have a selection to choose from, allowing you to shop around for the best APR and most favorable repayment conditions.
Our full review of Lendio provides more details.
- Ideal for - Kabbage is ideal for small businesses that need immediate access to capital, and borrowers with less than perfect credit that have been in business for at least one year.
- Funding Amounts - Kabbage offers lines of credit from $2,000-$150,000 for covering any type of expense.
- Minimum Requirements - To qualify for a Kabbage line of credit you must be in business for at least a year and have $4,200 in monthly revenues. There is no minimum credit score requirement.
- Repayment Terms and Fees - Kabbage customers must payback their loans within either 6 or 12 months, depending on their qualifications. Each month they pay back one sixth or one twelfth of the loan plus a monthly fee. Monthly fees range from 1% to 10% for the first 2 months, and settle on 1% for each month thereafter.
- Funding Time - Filling out a Kabbage application takes minutes and money can be accessed in as little as a few hours. The company's automated system reviews applicant data, calculating the funding and payback term that the potential borrower qualifies for. If approved, funds can be deposited into the account of your choice in a short time. For those who do not initially qualify, Kabbage keeps their information on file and informs them if funding has become available.
- Bottom Line - Kabbage is a good option for businesses who need working capital, in the form of a line of credit, to cover certain expenses when cash flow is low. The application process is simple, and funds are delivered quickly. There are no upfront fees and the payment structure is straightforward and transparent.
Read our in-depth review of Kabbage to find out more about this lender.
- Ideal for - Because LendingTree offers loans from $2,000 to $1,000,000, it is a solid option for both small businesses looking for a quick influx of cash for mall purchases and larger companies looking to shore up capital ahead of a major purchase. The company is perhaps best though for small businesses – especially ones with irregular cash flow - due to the educational resources it offers, the large number of lending providers it uses, and the flexible loan terms and repayment options.
- Funding Amounts - LendingTree facilitates loans from $2,000 to $1,000,000
- Minimum Requirements - Specific requirements tend to vary between loan providers on LendingTree. Still, businesses should plan to have a business license, a previous bank statement, a recent balance sheet, legal documents proving ownership of the company, personal and business tax returns, and any documents that show outstanding debt. Some loan providers may also ask for credit scores, and typically look for one in the “fair” range (630-689).
- Repayment Terms and Fees - Lending Tree’s partners offer repayment terms that vary from 3 months to 15 years. APRs tend to range from 5.00%-35% depending on the borrower’s credit score and the terms of the loan.
- Funding Time - Receiving a loan on Lending Tree is quick and easy. You fill out a basic questionnaire about your company and your financial history which typically takes just a few minutes. Once you’re done, LendingTree will automatically display at least four matches for you to choose from. Funding can be approved even within a few hours, and depending on the company, you can receive the funds as soon as in a few days.
- Bottom Line - LendingTree’s business model is all about getting banks to compete for you, and offer competitive rates that you’ll benefit from. The company offers an easy to fill out and process application process that should have you receive a loan in no time, with flexible rates and terms that you can make work for you.
Read our full LendingTree review to find out more.