The Many Kinds of Small Business Loans

by Benjamin Gran

Every small business owner occasionally runs into a cash flow crunch. Sometimes customers are slow to pay their bills, unexpected expenses come up, big sales, projects, or contracts get delayed, and other circumstances beyond your control suddenly put your business in a short-term financial hole. When cash flow shortfalls arise, one way for business owners to stay afloat is by getting a small business loan, line of credit, or working capital loan. With the right type of small business loan, your company can meet its short-term cash flow needs or invest in bigger purchases for the future.

There are several types of small business loans, and each one has unique advantages depending on your business needs:

Small Business Line of Credit

A small business line of credit is also known as a revolving loan, which works similarly to a credit card. Instead of borrowing a fixed amount of money upfront and then pay it back in monthly installments, a business line of credit gives your company permission to borrow a certain amount of money up to a certain credit limit that's set in advance by the lender. A line of credit can be a very flexible option to access cash on an as-needed basis. Many companies choose to set up a small business line of credit in order to navigate short-term cash flow shortfalls and manage their operating expenses. With a line of credit, you can borrow as much or as little as you need each month, and then repay the money over time or all at once—as long as you make your minimum payments and manage your credit limit according to the conditions of the agreement with your lender.

Unsecured Term Loan

The traditional small business loan is typically a fixed-term loan. This means that it's a one-time source of money that requires a predetermined monthly payment amount, with equal payments each month over a fixed term of years. For example, you might borrow $100,000 and pay it back within five years (with interest), over 60 monthly payments. An unsecured loan does not require collateral, and you do not have to put up any of your business's assets or your personal assets to secure the loan. If you have strong credit history, an unsecured term loan can often provide lower interest rates than a business credit card.

Secured Term Loan

If your credit is less-than-perfect, you might need to go with a secured term loan. Unlike an unsecured loan, this type of loan requires collateral, which is a valuable asset that can be claimed and sold by the bank or lender in case you're unable to repay the loan. For example, many secured loans involve mortgaging the business's commercial real estate, or borrowing against the business's heavy machinery or other capital-intensive equipment. The terms of a secured term loan work in a similar manner to an unsecured term loan—but with the added element of risk of possibly having to give up your collateral in case of a default.

Small Business Working Capital Loans

A recent development in small business finance has been the rise of “alternative lenders," or “platform lenders." These companies offer short-term working capital loans for small business owners that typically involve higher risk because of higher interest rates and smaller loan amounts than a traditional bank loan would offer. Startups and small companies with limited credit history or less-than-perfect credit—who cannot get approved from a loan or line of credit from a traditional lender—might be a good fit for a working capital loan. But be sure to do your research, understand all the various fees, read the fine print, and make sure you're working with a reputable lender.

There are several financing options available to help your small business navigate short-term cash flow shortfalls and make bigger capital-intensive investments. However, make sure you're getting the right loan or credit option that suits your business's needs. Ideally, a small business loan or line of credit should help you maintain your daily business operations—and set up your company for future growth.


Explore Borrowing Options Available from PNC[1]

Whether the flexibility of a Line of Credit will help you best prepare for the changing needs of your business, or you're looking for a Term Loan to provide a specific amount of credit to purchase assets or meet specific financing need, PNC has a variety of borrowing options to meet your needs. 

Learn more about PNC Business Lines of Credit »

Learn more about PNC Business Term Loans »

About This Author

Benjamin Gran

Benjamin Gran is a full-time freelance writer specializing in blog articles, white papers, technical writing, speech writing and other business writing.


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Important Legal Disclosures and Information

  1. All loans and lines of credit subject to credit approval and require automatic payment deduction from a business checking account. Origination and annual fees may apply.

PNC is a registered mark of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (“PNC”). This article has been prepared for general information purposes by the author who is solely responsible for its contents. The opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of PNC or any of its affiliates, directors, officers or employees. This article is not intended to provide legal, tax or accounting advice or to suggest that you engage in any specific transaction, including with respect to any securities of PNC, and does not purport to be comprehensive. Under no circumstances should any information contained in the presentation, the webinar or the materials presented be used or considered as an offer or commitment, or a solicitation of an offer or commitment, to participate in any particular transaction or strategy or should it be considered legal or tax advice. Any reliance upon any such information is solely and exclusively at your own risk. Please consult your own counsel, accountant or other advisor regarding your specific situation. Neither PNC Bank nor any other subsidiary of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., will be responsible for any consequences of reliance upon any opinion or statement contained here, or any omission.  Banking and lending products and services, bank deposit products, and Treasury Management products and services for healthcare providers and payers are provided by PNC Bank, National Association, a wholly owned subsidiary of PNC and Member FDIC. Lending and leasing products and services, including card services and merchant services, as well as certain other banking products and services, may require credit approval.