What is an SBA Loan?

The U.S. Small Business Administration, or SBA, is a federal agency that provides loan guarantee programs and other services to support and encourage the growth and development of small businesses across the United States. It was founded on July 30, 1953, and has delivered over 20 million loans, guarantees, counseling sessions, contracts, and other forms of assistance to small businesses across the country. SBA loans are offered to merchants through multiple financial institutions.

SBA Loan Guarantee Program

The SBA guarantees a portion of the loan, which makes it easier for funders to provide loans to small businesses that may fall in a higher risk category. These businesses may not be in a strong enough financial position to obtain traditional bank small business loans, and therefore rely on the SBA guarantee.

Common SBA Loan Program Features

SBA programs offer lower down payments and longer term financing, which can help businesses just starting out, those looking to expand, or better manage their cash flow. This allows small businesses to focus on operational expenses rather than debt repayment.

What Can I Use an SBA Loan For?

Loans from the SBA are provided for various purposes. These include business start-ups or acquisitions, working capital, owner-occupied real estate, franchise financing, inventory, debt refinancing, equipment, and even improvements and renovations.

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SBA Express Loans

Good source of long term financing for working capital needs.

Merchant(s), Business and Use of Proceeds all need to be eligible. Age of business needs to be greater than 18 months. Owners should either be US citizens or Green card holders.

Usually used for financing working capital needs or for buying equipment.

Up to $350,000. Loans up to 100,000 do not require any proof of income. Loans above $100,000 require last 2 yrs of business and personal tax returns on all principals having more than 20% stake.

Rates adjust quarterly, indexed off the Wall Street Journal Prime rate. Typical rates vary from prime plus 1 to prime plus 4.

Up to 7 years, fully amortized. Typical loan term is around 3 to 5 yrs with an option to roll over up to 7 yrs.

SBA 7 (A) Loans

Excellent source for flexible use of proceeds. No balloons or calls and provides highly leveraged financing.

Merchant(s), Business and Use of Proceeds all need to be eligible. Owners should either be US citizens or Green card holders. Foreign aliens can qualify if they own less than 49% of the business.

Usually used for financing working capital needs or for buying equipment.

Up to $5,000,000. Loans require last 3 yrs of business tax returns, real estate schedule if applicable and 2 yrs of personal tax returns on all principals having more than 20 % stake.

Rates adjust quarterly, indexed off the Wall Street Journal Prime rate. Typical rates range from Prime plus 1 to prime plus 2.

Amortization depends on the use of proceeds. Loans amortize from 7 to 25 years. Loans are fully amortized with no Balloons or Calls.

SBA 504 Financing

An excellent long term fixed rate product.

Small business must occupy at least 51% of real estate asset and comply with federal business size standards. The business cannot have sales over $6 million or employ more than 500 employees.

Used to finance long term assets like real estate or equipment.


  • 1st Mortgage = No Limit
  • 2nd Mortgage = *
  • *$1,500,000 – Standard
  • $2,000,000 – Public policy goal
  • $4,000,000 – Manufacturing

Rates adjust quarterly, indexed off the Wall Street Journal Prime rate. Typical rates range from Prime plus 1 to prime plus 2.


  • 1st Mortgage = Both fixed and adjustable rates are available.
  • 2nd Mortgage = Fixed rates only.

Typical rates are around prime minus 1 on fixed rates.


SBA 7 (A) Loans

What is the most popular SBA Loan for Small Business

According to the Small Business Administration, “The 7(a) Loan Program, SBA’s most common loan program, includes financial help for businesses with special requirements.”

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Who is eligible for an SBA 7 (A) Loan?

Eligibility requirements for the 7(a) loan program are based on several key characteristics of the business and its owners. According to the SBA, eligibility is based on how the company earns its revenue, the background of its owners and where it operates.

SBA does not specifically list companies eligible to receive 7(a) loans. However, they do provide a list of industries that are ineligible for these types of loans. However, there are some basic requirements to be eligible for assistance. Businesses must:

  • Operate for profit
  • Be small, as defined by the SBA
  • Be engaged in, or propose to do business in, the United States or its possessions
  • Have reasonable invested equity
  • Use alternative financial resources, including personal assets, before seeking financial assistance
  • Be able to demonstrate a need for the loan proceeds
  • Use the funds for a sound business purpose
  • Not be delinquent on any existing debt obligations to the U.S. government

How can I use money from an SBA 7 (A) Loan?

According to the Small Business Administration, there are some rules on how you can and cannot use proceeds from an SBA-guaranteed 7(a) loan. Typically, the use of loan proceeds is very general according to SBA loan rules. However, there are some limitations and restrictions on the use of funds. “For example, proceeds can’t be used to buy an asset to hold for its potential increased value or to reimburse an owner for the money they previously put into their business.”

Acceptable uses of SBA 7 (A) Loan Proceeds

Financing for long and short term assets used in normal business operations. Acquisitions and refinances are eligible, and may include real estate and business goodwill. Working lines of credit up to $100,000 are also eligible.

  • To purchase equipment, machinery, furniture, fixtures, supplies or materials
  • To purchase real estate, including land and buildings
  • To construct a new building or renovate an existing building
  • To establish a new business or assist in the acquisition, operation or expansion of an existing business
  • To refinance existing business debt, under certain conditions

SBA Loans cannot be used for these purposes

  • To refinance existing debt where the funder is in a position to sustain a loss and SBA would take over that loss through refinancing
  • To affect a partial change of business ownership or a change that will not benefit the business
  • To permit the reimbursement of funds owed to any owner, including any equity injection or injection of capital to continue the business until the SBA-backed loan is disbursed
  • To repay delinquent state or federal withholding taxes or other funds that should be held in trust or escrow
  • For a purpose that is not considered to be a sound business purpose as determined by the SBA
  • If you are unsure whether or not your anticipated use of funds is allowed, check with your SBA-approved funder.


What are SBA Loan amounts minimums and maximums?

There is no official minimum loan amount for SBA 7(a) loans from the SBA. Funders may set minimum amounts. The maximum loan amount is $5 million. According to the latest figures available from the SBA, the average 7(a) loan amount in fiscal year 2015 was $371,628.

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SBA 7a loan Small Business Administration agreement.

What are SBA Loan fees?

Loans guaranteed by the SBA are assessed a guarantee fee. This fee is based on the loan’s maturity and the dollar amount guaranteed, not the total loan amount. The SBA-approved funder is responsible for paying the guarantee fee to the SBA; and the funder has the option of passing that cost along to the merchant. According to the SBA, “The funds to reimburse the funder can be included in the overall loan proceeds.”

  • On loans under $150,000, the fees will be set at zero percent.
  • On any loan greater than $150,000 with a maturity of one year or shorter, the fee is 0.25 percent of the guaranteed portion of the loan.
  • On loans with maturities of more than one year, the normal fee is 3 percent of the SBA-guaranteed portion on loans of $150,000 to $700,000, and
  • 3.5 percent on loans of more than $700,000.
  • There is also an additional fee of 0.25 percent on any guaranteed portion of more than $1 million.

What are SBA Loan interest rates?

For loans guaranteed by the SBA, rates are negotiated between the applicant and funder and subject to the SBA maximums. Both fixed and variable interest rate structures are available. The maximum rate is composed of two parts, a base rate and an allowable spread. There are three acceptable base rates:

  • A prime rate published in a daily national newspaper (*All references to the prime rate refer to the base rate in effect on the first business day of the month the loan application is received by the SBA.),
  • London Interbank One Month Prime plus 3 percent; and an ,
  • SBA Peg Rate.

Funders are allowed to add an additional spread to the base rate to arrive at the final rate. For loans with maturities of shorter than seven years, the maximum spread will be no more than 2.25 percent. For loans with maturities of seven years or more, the maximum spread will be 2.75 percent. The spread on loans of less than $50,000 and loans processed through Express procedures have higher maximums.

Percentage of SBA Guarantee

SBA can guarantee as much as 85 percent on loans of up to $150,000 and 75 percent on loans of more than $150,000. SBA’s maximum exposure amount is $3,750,000. Thus, if a business receives an SBA-guaranteed loan for $5 million, the maximum guarantee to the funder will be $3,750,000 or 75%. SBA Express loans have a maximum guarantee set at 50 percent.

Find Out How Much Funding You Qualify For