What To Look For In A Merchant Cash Advance Contract[yoast-breadcrumb]
What To Look For In A Merchant Cash Advance Contract
Merchant cash advances can provide much-needed capital for small businesses, but they also come with risks. When considering a merchant cash advance, it’s important to thoroughly review the contract and understand all the terms and conditions. Here are some key things to look for when evaluating a merchant cash advance contract:
Fees and Interest Rates
The fees and interest rates associated with a merchant cash advance can vary widely between providers. Make sure you understand:
- The factor rate – This is the amount you’ll pay in fees, expressed as a multiplier of the cash advance amount. For example, a 1.4 factor rate on a $10,000 advance means you’ll repay $14,000 total. Higher factor rates mean more expensive financing.
- The fixed daily payment amount – Many providers will collect a fixed percentage of your daily credit card sales until the advance is repaid. Understand exactly what this percentage is.
- Any additional fees – Some providers charge application fees, origination fees, or other administrative costs. Factor these into the total cost.
- The effective APR – Ask the provider to disclose the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) to allow comparison to other financing options. MCA APRs often fall between 60-300%.
Merchant cash advance repayments are taken directly from a percentage of your daily credit card sales. This means:
- Repayment amounts fluctuate based on sales volume. Lean months could extend the repayment period.
- There’s often no fixed repayment schedule. The advance is outstanding until the total amount plus fees are repaid.
- Ask when repayments will begin. Some providers take the first payment upfront.
- Understand if there are minimum monthly amounts even if sales are low.
Personal Guarantees and Collateral
Many merchant cash advance providers require a personal guarantee from the business owner, making them personally responsible for repaying the advance if the business can’t. Be aware of:
- Whether a personal guarantee is required and who has to sign it.
- If any business or personal collateral is required for security.
- The extent of your personal liability in the event of nonpayment.
Right of First Payment
Most providers will establish a first priority lien on the business’s future receivables or revenues until the cash advance is repaid. This means:
- Your credit card processor will pay the MCA provider before any funds come to you.
- The MCA provider has first rights to your receivables in case of default.
- You may not be able to get another cash advance until this one is paid off.
Merchant Account Requirements
To obtain a merchant cash advance, you’ll need an established merchant credit card processing account. Be prepared to provide:
- Bank statements showing recent credit card sales history. Many providers require 3-12 months of statements.
- Access to make daily withdrawals from the merchant account to collect payments.
- Potentially a lockbox account controlled by the MCA provider where all credit card funds are deposited first.
- Minimum monthly processing volumes may be required to qualify, often $5,000-$10,000.
Merchant cash advance contracts often contain restrictive covenants that limit your business’s financial and operational flexibility. Watch for clauses that:
- Prevent you from taking out additional financing.
- Require that all credit card processing be done through the MCA provider.
- Limit your ability to open new locations, return merchandise, or make refunds.
- Allow the provider to modify the contract, increase rates, or call the advance due if you violate any terms.
Right to Examine Statements
Most providers retain the right to access and examine your merchant account statements, credit card receipts, and bank account records at any time. They can use this information to:
- Verify credit card processing volumes and ensure daily payments are being withdrawn correctly.
- Assess whether restrictive covenants are being followed.
- Determine if grounds exist to call the advance due or increase fees.
Events of Default
Understand exactly what constitutes a default under the contract, such as:
- Failure to make the daily payments for a specified period. This may be as brief as 3-5 days.
- Filing for bankruptcy or insolvency.
- Violating any restrictive covenants.
- Failure to provide access to bank/merchant account statements.
- Closure of the merchant processing account.
Defaulting allows the provider to call the full advance immediately due or increase fees significantly.
Collection Rights and Costs
If you default, the provider can aggressively collect through:
- Withdrawing any remaining funds from your merchant or bank accounts.
- Sending the unpaid balance to collections, damaging your credit rating.
- Enforcing any personal guarantee or collateral provided.
- You may be liable for the provider’s collection costs, including legal fees.
Some providers allow cancellation within a short period after signing, such as 5-10 days. Understand:
- If there is a cancellation period and any fees due if you cancel.
- Whether the provider can cancel the contract early and under what circumstances.
- If you’ll owe interest/fees for the time the advance was outstanding upon cancellation.
Read the Fine Print Carefully
- Never rely solely on a verbal explanation – review the full written contract yourself.
- Make sure you understand each term and its implications for your business.
- Consult a lawyer if you have questions or concerns about any provisions.
- Negotiate for modifications or removals of restrictive clauses when possible.
While merchant cash advances provide fast financing, the high costs and rigid terms aren’t ideal for every business. Before signing, explore:
- SBA loans with lower fixed rates and longer repayment periods.
- Business lines of credit through traditional lenders.
- Invoice factoring or revenue-based financing options.
- Crowdfunding campaigns to raise capital.
With careful review of the contract terms, a merchant cash advance can be an appropriate short-term financing option for some small businesses. But due diligence is crucial – know exactly what you’re getting into before signing on the dotted line.