Cash flow is often a difficult thing to predict for those engaged in business. To an extent, cash flow must be managed because if a business does not have the necessary funds to pay its bills, it cannot continue to operate as a going concern. However, any business can expect that it will have peaks and valleys in its receipts. However, expenses and overhead may remain constant, even as incoming funds wane, and the bills must still be paid. In order to smooth out revenue streams and manage cash flow, a business may obtain a type of financing called a merchant cash advance. This can help a company receive financing when money is less abundant and pay it back from future receipts, when cash flow is not as much of an issue.

A merchant cash advance results in an upfront disbursement of monies to a business. This is not in the form of a loan. Instead, this cash advance is backed by some sort of income stream that a business has. For most businesses, this will be future sales. The business guarantees the advance provider that they can take a certain percentage of sales in the future until the advance is paid back in full.

For some merchant cash advances, the provider is allowed to access the future credit card receipts of the business. Businesses should know that the amount of repayment does not vary based on the amount of the sales, but is fixed. The rate of repayment is estimated at the outset of the agreement and is based on how fast it is anticipated that the business can pay back the advance. In some cases, businesses may be able to negotiate flexibility if sales are turning out to be below estimates.

Alternatively, the provider is allowed under the terms of the advance to withdraw a fixed amount daily or weekly from the business’ bank account. This is also known as an ACH cash advance, and it is becoming the most popular type of merchant cash advance. This is a form of short-term financing, and it is secured by the business’ bank account.

Of course, a merchant cash advance does have a cost for the business that receives it. Instead of being calculated as a percentage interest rate, each business is assigned a factor rate. The factor rate is the amount that the business must repay to the provider. If the factor rate is 1.2, the business must repay the amount of the advance plus twenty percent. The factor rate is assigned based on a variety of factors. One of the considerations is how long the business will take to repay the advance. Another consideration is how likely the provider thinks that the business will be able to repay the amount advanced. In other words, credit score and risk is part of the overall picture for how advantageous the terms of the advance are. If the business has a robust checking account or cash flow, it is not as much of a risk. Accordingly, the factor rate may be lower since providers will not have as much risk.

Merchant cash advances are not suitable for every business, but are a sound way to obtain short-term financing for some companies. There are various reasons why a business will want a merchant cash advance as opposed to a loan. One reason may be that a loan will negatively impact the business’ credit report. Each account and line of credit has the potential to harm the business’ credit score. A merchant cash advance is not a loan so it will not show up as part of the credit score.

In addition, merchants who have a seasonal business are better candidates for a cash advance. Business loans are repayable in fixed amounts over time and a business that is in a slow cycle may have trouble making the monthly payment. Merchant cash advances may have some flexibility built in to the repayment agreement to accommodate variations in a company’s business cycle. This means that payments can be larger when a business has more revenues if it is negotiated between the parties.

In order to know which option is best, businesses should study the terms of both merchant cash advances and business loans to know which suits the business the best. In some cases, a merchant cash advance will be the better financing option that can provide a quick cash infusion that can suit business patterns.

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