- General 7(a) SBA loans
- 10 year term lengths
- APRs between 7% and 9%
- Time to funding 2 months or less
- Monthly repayments
- No prepayment penalty
- Excellent customer service
If you’re familiar with any of my other work on business loans, you’ll know that I constantly talk about how time-consuming bank and SBA (small business administration) business loans are to get. This isn’t just my opinion; it’s undeniably true. In fact, it’s commonly stated that the time to funding on an SBA loan takes between 60 and 90 days. If you’re not going through the SBA, you’ve got to find a bank (or credit union) that will even give your business the time of day. For smaller businesses, that can take a while.
Nonetheless, I encourage merchants to apply for a bank loan whenever possible because banks will offer you the best rates. On the other hand, I understand why merchants would want to go for a lender that can get them money significantly faster, and with less work, despite the higher rates.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could have the best of both worlds?
With SmartBiz, you can (sort of). This lender, a product of the technology company Better Finance, is an SBA/online loan hybrid. Their intent is to use technology to streamline and speed up the process of getting an SBA loan.
Believe it or not, SmartBiz can determine if you’re eligible for one of their loans within minutes. Then, after you’ve provided all documentation, funding usually takes seven days or less. Crazy, right?
SmartBiz, self-described as the “white knight in small business lending” can do this because they only offer one product, so they’re just looking for businesses that fit the bill. Unlike the SBA as a whole, which offers term loans, microloans, disaster relief loans, equipment loans, lines of credit, and everything else under the sun, SmartBiz only offers the general 7(a) small business loan. The term length: 10 years. The interest rates: prime rate + 2.75% or 3.75% depending upon your borrowing amount.
Obviously, SmartBiz is looking for very specific businesses to lend to. Sorry startups, but you have to be in business at least 2 years to qualify. You also have to have at least fair personal credit and a healthy cash flow.
While this company does eliminate some of the undesirable elements of SBA loans, they can’t eliminate them all. These loans still require a massive amount of paperwork. If you aren’t prepared, gathering those documents can significantly slow the whole process down. I’ve seen customers say that they got funding in under three weeks, but I’ve also seen customers who said that it took almost two months.
Despite the long process, SmartBiz is an excellent resource for merchants who want an SBA loan. If you’re a mid-prime business owner who doesn’t mind paperwork, this is the loan for you. Read on for the details!
SmartBiz offers general SBA 7(a) term loans.
To be eligible, you and your business have to meet these minimum requirements:
|Time in business:||2 years|
|Revenue:||A healthy cash flow to support repayments|
In addition, your business not have any outstanding tax liens, a history of defaulting on government-backed loans, or any bankruptcies or foreclosures in the last three years. You also must be a US citizen or a legal permanent resident.
Terms and Fees
These are the terms and fees stated on SmartBiz’s website:
|Borrowing amount:||$30K – $350K|
|Term length:||10 years|
Prime rate + 2.75% or 3.75%
|SBA guarantee fee:||2.25% (only for loans above $151K)|
|Bank closing costs:||Typically $317|
|APR:||Currently 7.73% – 8.44%|
Lien on business assets
SmartBiz has just about the least complicated interest rate structure I’ve ever seen. If your loan is between $30K and $49K, your interest is the prime rate + 3.75%. If your loan is between $50K and $350K, your interest is the prime rate + 2.75%.
Keep in mind that SmartBiz’s interest rates are variable. If the prime rate increases (according to the Wall Street Journal), so will your interest rates. We’ve been in a period of very low-interest rates for a very long time now. Currently, SmartBiz’s interest rates are 6.25% or 7.25%, but they will almost definitely be increasing in the next 10 years future. That means your payments will increase too.
For comparison’s sake, most online lenders that target the same businesses as SmartBiz have APRs between 6% and 36%.
SmartBiz does not charge a prepayment penalty.
SmartBiz can determine if you’re eligible for a loan in a few minutes via their website. This is a massive improvement over regular SBA loans, where you might not know if you’re eligible until you’ve put together the whole application and sent it in.
To determine whether your business meets the minimum borrower requirements, SmartBiz will ask you a number of basic questions. They’ll also ask for your NAICS code, which can be found here. Pre-qualification does not impact your credit score. You’ll get an email letting you know if you’ve been approved or denied.
If you’ve been approved, you will be assigned a personal “relationship manager,” who will help you with your application throughout the process.
Now you’ll have to start gathering all the documents SmartBiz will ask for. The larger your loan amount, the more documents they’ll want. But regardless of how much you’re asking for, they’ll ask for a lot of documents. And I mean a lot. Get the documents in as quickly as possible, because documents are often prerequisites for other documents. This step can take anywhere between one week and two months, depending upon how organized you are, how much paperwork SmartBiz needs, and how much help you have.
After you’ve submitted all the documents, SmartBiz will let you know how much money you’re eligible for, and when you’ve decided on an amount, the loan (minus any fees) will be deposited into your bank account.
Time to funding can take anywhere between one week and two months depending upon how long it takes to gather documents, and how large your loan is.
Sales and Advertising Transparency
I would be surprised if SmartBiz had poor advertising transparency. They’ve got a great product; why would they want to hide that?
SmartBiz discloses everything you need to know before getting a quote: maximum borrowing amount, interest rates (and APRs), fees, and term lengths. You don’t even need to go looking around for this information because it’s right there on their website.
Customer Service and Technical Support
SmartBiz has an excellent FAQ, which is capable of answering most of the questions that you’ll have about the loan process. They are also available by email or phone.
After you’ve begun the loan application process, you will be assigned a dedicated “relationship manager” who will help you through the application process, answer any questions you might have, and generally be available if you need anything.
Negative Reviews and Complaints
Negative reviews revolve around what you’d expect:
- Endless paperwork: SmartBiz is still an SBA program, and that means they’ve got to adhere to all the paperwork requirements.
- Lots of fees: Before you get your money, you will be charged at least three or four fees. That money comes right out of your principal before it’s deposited into your bank account. SmartBiz charges 4% for loans under $150K, and 6.25% for loans above $150K. The bank also charges a fee that is “typically” $317, according to the FAQ. Minorly annoying, but it’s to be expected.
For what it’s worth, SmartBiz is very active about responding to negative reviews wherever they crop up. It’s not unusual to see a response along these lines:
We are truly sorry about the experience you had with SmartBiz. A number of things simply went wrong. No excuses. We screwed up and we apologize.
All we can say is this is not the usual customer experience, and we hope you’ll give us another chance if the opportunity arises, so we can prove to you that the great majority of customers are very pleased with their SmartBiz experience, which is why we have a 90% plus customer satisfaction score.
That’s a classy response, folks.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials
- Personal relationship managers
- Speed of funding (relative to other SBA loans)
- Transparent advertising and customer service
- Excellent loan terms
I can think of only four legitimate reasons you wouldn’t want to use SmartBiz:
- You don’t want to deal with the paperwork
- Your business is not eligible
- You don’t want a 10-year long loan with a variable interest rate
- You need cash now
For everybody else, SmartBiz is a fantastic resource to get a term loan with excellent terms and fees. Unfortunately, lots of paperwork comes with the territory. On the bright side, in general, the more documentation you have to provide, the better terms you’ll get. That’s one of the reasons you get such terrible rates with merchant cash advances.
In my mind, SmartBiz’s biggest perk is that you have somebody helping you complete the application. No more guesswork, no more agonizing over whether or not your application is complete before you turn it in. A SmartBiz loan might still take a while, but you’re not on your own.
As always, don’t forget to make some comparisons. Most marketplace term lenders, such as Lending Club, Funding Circle and Fundation will be able to provide an estimated rate before you get into anything too serious.