Owning a small business comes with many responsibilities and challenges. Sometimes, you may be running a bit low on cash and need some temporary funding to keep your company efficiently. For example, if your sales are slowing down due to a specific season that is typically less lucrative for your particular industry, you might need additional funding. A merchant cash advance may be exactly what you need to increase your cash flow during this time. It’s wise to explore this option and its advantages and disadvantages so you can decide if it’s the right avenue for your small business.
What is a Merchant Cash Advance?
A merchant cash advance is an amount of money that can be offered to a small business as an option for financing on a temporary basis. It is a good alternative to a traditional business loan you would acquire from a bank and is extended by other lenders. Small businesses that conduct their sales primarily through credit and debit cards and with checks, instead of invoices, are generally well suited for a merchant cash advance. It is also generally easier to qualify for a merchant cash advance to fund your small business than it is to qualify for a traditional small business loan from a bank.
Overall, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, small businesses around the United States currently have around one million open merchant cash advance accounts. It goes to show how strong of an option this is for fast access to capital when a business needs it most.
It should be noted that a merchant cash advance is not a loan. It is a cash advance based on the credit and debit card sales of a small business. The lender takes a look at the company’s most recent three to six months’ worth of sales receipts to determine how much money to extend and whether the small business is effectively able to pay it back within a specific period of time.
How Does a Merchant Cash Advance Work?
In general, merchant cash advances tend to be the best option for small businesses that garner revenue chiefly from credit and debit card sales. Businesses like restaurants, bars and retail stores are best suited for a merchant cash advance. However, other industries can also take advantage of the perks a merchant cash advance has to offer even if they don’t heavily rely on credit or debit card sales. A merchant cash advance lender extends a specific amount of cash up front in exchange for a percentage of the small business’ future sales.
Generally speaking, the repayments toward a merchant cash advance are designed in two distinct ways as follows:
• A small business can get a specific amount of cash upfront in exchange for a percentage of its future credit and debit card sales.
• The small business can get upfront cash that will be repaid through fixed amounts of money that are directly deducted from a bank account. This is also known as Automated Clearing House (ACH) withdrawals.
On the whole, ACH withdrawals have become the most common types of merchant cash advances. Small businesses that don’t necessarily rely on credit and debit card sales are able to take advantage of this option.
With a traditional small business loan from a bank or other financial institution, you would be required to make monthly fixed payments as part of the repayment plan. However, with a merchant cash advance, the payments are made daily or weekly with fees added on until the entire amount is paid back.
The amount you can receive in a merchant cash advance generally depends on your small business’ ability to pay the money back. There is also a factor rate determined by the provider of the merchant cash advance, which usually ranges from 1.2 to 1.5 percent depending on the level of risk for extending the funds. Overall, the higher the factor rate, the higher the fees that come with the repayment amount.
Key Advantages of a Merchant Cash Advance
In some cases, merchant cash advances should be considered a last resort option for getting fast cash for your small business. However, they do come with three key advantages, which include the following:
• Quick: Getting a merchant cash advance is a quick process. An application can be approved in days and the money given within a week.
• No collateral needed: Merchant cash advances are essentially unsecured, which means you don’t have to put up anything as collateral if you don’t repay the money.
• Payment may be down when sales are down: Since repayment of a merchant cash advance is based on a percentage of a business’ sales, it’s possible to pay less when sales are down.
Depending on the circumstances, a merchant cash advance might be the best option when your business needs capital quickly. Weighing your options compared with a traditional loan can help you to know if this is your best way to get fast funding.