top of page

What is the difference between a term loan and a working capital loan?


Difference between term loan and working capital loan

Are You Choosing the Right Loan for Your Business?

Picture this: You're a small business owner staring at your financial statements, realizing you need an influx of cash to take your company to the next level. But as you dive into the world of business financing, you're suddenly faced with a dizzying array of loan options. How do you know which one is right for you? More specifically, what's the difference between a term loan and a working capital loan, and which one aligns best with your business needs?

In this comprehensive blog, we'll demystify these two popular loan types, exploring their key differences, advantages, and ideal use cases. By the end, you'll have a clear understanding of how to choose the perfect financing solution for your unique business situation.

What is a Term Loan?

A term loan is a type of funding typically offered by banks and financial institutions for specific purposes. These loans are characterized by their fixed repayment schedule and set interest rates. Companies often use term loans for long-term investments such as purchasing equipment, expanding operations, or acquiring real estate.

Key Features of Term Loans

  1. Fixed Repayment Schedule: Term loans come with a predetermined repayment plan, which includes regular installments over a set period, ranging from a few years to several decades.

  2. Interest Rates: These loans usually carry fixed or variable interest rates, influenced by the borrower’s creditworthiness and the lending institution’s policies.

  3. Purpose: Term loans are ideal for financing significant, long-term projects that require substantial capital.

  4. Collateral: Often, term loans are secured by collateral, which could be the asset being financed or other business assets.

What is a Working Capital Loan?

A working capital loan is designed to finance the daily operations of a business. Unlike term loans, these loans are short-term and are meant to cover expenses such as payroll, rent, utilities, and inventory management. Working capital loans ensure that a business maintains smooth operations even during periods of low revenue.

Key Features of Working Capital Loans

  1. Short-Term Financing: Working capital loans are usually short-term, often requiring repayment within a year.

  2. Flexibility: These loans offer flexibility in usage, allowing businesses to address immediate financial needs.

  3. Unsecured or Secured: Working capital loans can be either unsecured or secured, depending on the lender's requirements and the borrower's creditworthiness.

  4. Interest Rates: Interest rates for working capital loans are typically higher due to the shorter repayment period and the unsecured nature of the loan.

Understanding the Basics: Term Loans vs. Working Capital Loans

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty details, let's start with a high-level overview of term loans and working capital loans.

Term Loans: The Long-Term Solution

A term loan is a traditional form of business financing that provides a lump sum of money upfront, which is then repaid over a set period (or term) with interest. These loans typically have longer repayment periods, ranging from one to 25 years, depending on the lender and loan purpose.

Key features of term loans:

  • Fixed or variable interest rates

  • Regular, predictable repayment schedules

  • Larger loan amounts

  • Longer repayment terms

  • Often secured by collateral

Working Capital Loans: Short-Term Financial Fuel

Working capital loans, on the other hand, are designed to finance a company's everyday operations. These loans provide short-term funding to cover immediate expenses like payroll, inventory, or unexpected costs. They're typically repaid within a year or less.

Key features of working capital loans:

  • Short repayment terms (usually 3-18 months)

  • Faster approval and funding process

  • Smaller loan amounts

  • Higher interest rates

  • Often unsecured

Now that we've covered the basics, let's explore the key differences between these two loan types in more detail.

Loan Purpose: Long-Term Growth vs. Short-Term Operations

One of the most significant differences between term loans and working capital loans lies in their intended purpose.

Term Loans: Investing in Long-Term Growth

Term loans are ideal for financing large, long-term investments that will generate returns over an extended period. Some common uses for term loans include:

  • Purchasing real estate or expanding facilities

  • Buying major equipment or machinery

  • Financing business acquisitions or mergers

  • Funding long-term research and development projects

  • Refinancing existing debt

These investments typically require substantial upfront capital but are expected to contribute to the business's growth and profitability over many years.

Working Capital Loans: Fueling Day-to-Day Operations

In contrast, working capital loans are designed to address short-term cash flow needs and support a business's daily operations. Common uses for working capital loans include:

  • Covering payroll expenses during slow seasons

  • Purchasing inventory to fulfill large orders

  • Managing unexpected expenses or emergencies

  • Bridging gaps in accounts receivable

  • Funding marketing campaigns or short-term projects

These loans help businesses maintain smooth operations and take advantage of immediate opportunities without disrupting cash flow.

Loan Amount: Go Big or Keep It Modest?

Another key difference between term loans and working capital loans is the typical loan amount.

Term Loans: Larger Sums for Bigger Projects

Term loans generally offer higher loan amounts, often ranging from $25,000 to several million dollars. This makes them suitable for substantial investments and long-term projects that require significant capital. The larger loan amounts are justified by the longer repayment terms and the expectation that the financed project will generate returns over time to cover the loan payments.

Working Capital Loans: Smaller Amounts for Immediate Needs

Working capital loans typically involve smaller amounts, usually ranging from $5,000 to $500,000. These lower amounts reflect the short-term nature of the funding and the focus on immediate operational needs rather than long-term investments. The smaller loan amounts also contribute to faster approval processes and less stringent qualification requirements, making working capital loans more accessible to a wider range of businesses.

Repayment Terms: Marathon vs. Sprint

Term loans, often seen as the long-distance runners in the financing world, offer extended repayment periods ranging from 1 to 25 years. This extended timeline allows businesses to spread the cost of significant investments over time, resulting in lower monthly payments and reduced strain on cash flow. Common repayment structures for term loans include fixed monthly payments, balloon payments, and seasonal payments. Fixed monthly payments involve paying a set amount each month, covering both principal and interest. Balloon payments start with smaller regular payments, ending with a large lump sum at the term's end. Seasonal payments adjust based on a business's revenue cycles, providing flexibility and the ability to align loan payments with expected returns from investments.

In contrast, working capital loans are the financial sprinters, characterized by much shorter repayment terms, typically ranging from 3 to 18 months. This short repayment period reflects the immediate nature of the funding and the expectation of quick repayment from incoming revenue. Repayment structures for working capital loans often include daily or weekly payments, invoice-based repayment, and revenue-based repayment. Daily or weekly payments involve small, frequent deductions from the business's bank account. Invoice-based repayment ties payments to the collection of outstanding invoices, common in invoice financing. Revenue-based repayment uses a percentage of daily sales to repay the loan, a structure often seen in merchant cash advances. The shorter terms result in higher periodic payments but allow businesses to clear the debt quickly.

Interest Rates and Costs: Balancing Risk and Reward

Term loans generally offer lower interest rates compared to working capital loans due to several factors. The longer repayment periods spread the risk over time, and the larger loan amounts often entail more thorough underwriting. Collateral requirements further reduce the lender's risk. Established businesses with strong credit profiles are more likely to qualify for these loans. Term loans can have fixed or variable interest rates. Fixed rates provide consistent payments throughout the loan term, while variable rates fluctuate based on market conditions, potentially offering lower initial rates. Additional costs for term loans may include origination fees, appraisal fees (for collateral), closing costs, and prepayment penalties. While the overall cost of borrowing might be higher due to the extended repayment period, the lower interest rates and predictable payments make term loans attractive for long-term financing needs.

On the other hand, working capital loans generally come with higher interest rates due to their shorter repayment terms and often unsecured nature. The less stringent qualification requirements and faster approval and funding processes also contribute to higher costs. Interest rates for working capital loans can vary widely depending on the specific product and lender. Common pricing structures include factor rates, which apply a multiplier to the loan amount, annual percentage rates (APR) that reflect the annualized cost of borrowing, and daily or weekly interest accrual. Additional costs may include origination fees, draw fees (for lines of credit), maintenance fees, and early repayment fees. Despite the higher costs, the quick access to funds and flexible use of capital make working capital loans valuable for addressing immediate financial needs.

Qualification Requirements: Jumping Through Hoops or a Quick Leap?

The ease of qualifying for a loan is a significant consideration for many businesses, especially those with less-than-perfect credit or limited operating history. Term loans typically have more stringent qualification requirements due to the larger loan amounts and longer repayment terms. Lenders want to ensure that borrowers can repay the loan over an extended period. Common qualification criteria for term loans include strong personal and business credit scores (often 680+ for traditional banks), at least two years in business, annual revenue requirements (often $100,000+ for online lenders, higher for banks), collateral (for secured loans), a detailed business plan and financial projections, and a personal guarantee from business owners. The application process for term loans is often more involved, requiring extensive documentation and a longer approval timeline, sometimes several weeks for traditional bank loans.

Conversely, working capital loans generally have more relaxed qualification requirements, making them accessible to a wider range of businesses, including startups and those with less-than-perfect credit. Typical qualification criteria for working capital loans include minimum credit score requirements (often as low as 500-550 for some online lenders), at least six months in business (though some products may require one or more years), and lower annual revenue thresholds (often $50,000-$100,000). Consistent cash flow or accounts receivable may also be necessary for specific products like invoice financing. The application process for working capital loans is usually simpler and faster, with many online lenders offering approval decisions within hours and funding within 1-3 business days.

Choosing the Right Loan for Your Business

Deciding between a term loan and a working capital loan involves considering several factors. The purpose of the loan is crucial: for long-term investments or major purchases, a term loan might be more suitable, while working capital loans are better for short-term operational needs or unexpected expenses. The loan amount needed is another factor; large sums for significant projects are typically covered by term loans, whereas smaller amounts for immediate needs are better suited for working capital loans.

Repayment capacity is also important. If a business can manage higher payments over a shorter period, a working capital loan might be appropriate. For those needing lower, more manageable payments over an extended period, a term loan would be a better fit. The business stage and financials also play a role; established businesses with strong financials may qualify for favorable term loan rates, whereas newer businesses or those with less-than-perfect credit might find working capital loans more accessible.

Finally, the urgency of funding and collateral availability are critical considerations. Businesses needing money quickly may benefit from the faster approval and funding process of working capital loans. Those that can wait for a more thorough approval process might find term loans offering better rates. If a business has valuable assets to secure a loan, a secured term loan could provide better terms.

Conclusion


In the world of business financing, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Both term loans and working capital loans have their place in a company's financial toolkit. Term loans provide the fuel for long-term growth and major investments while working capital loans offer the flexibility to manage day-to-day operations and seize immediate opportunities. By understanding the key differences between these loan types – including their purpose, loan amounts, repayment terms, costs, and qualification requirements – you're now equipped to make a strategic decision that aligns with your business goals.

Remember, the best loan for your business is one that not only meets your immediate financial needs but also supports your long-term growth and success. Whether you're expanding your facilities with a term loan or bridging a cash flow gap with a working capital loan, choosing the right financing option can be the catalyst that propels your business to new heights.

So, are you ready to take the next step in your business's financial journey with QuickSettle? Armed with this knowledge, you can confidently explore the path that leads to sustainable growth and prosperity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What is the primary difference between a term loan and a working capital loan?


The primary difference between a term loan and a working capital loan lies in their purposes and repayment periods. Term loans are designed for long-term investments and major purchases, offering extended repayment terms ranging from 1 to 25 years. In contrast, working capital loans are intended for short-term operational needs, with repayment periods typically between 3 to 18 months.


How do the repayment structures of term loans and working capital loans differ?


Term loans generally have longer repayment structures, which can include fixed monthly payments, balloon payments, or seasonal payments that align with the business’s revenue cycles. This allows for lower monthly payments and less strain on cash flow.


On the other hand, working capital loans have shorter repayment periods and often require more frequent payments, such as daily or weekly deductions, invoice-based repayments, or revenue-based repayments tied to daily sales.


Why do term loans usually have lower interest rates compared to working capital loans?


Term loans typically have lower interest rates because they spread the risk over a longer period, involve larger loan amounts that undergo thorough underwriting, and often require collateral, reducing the lender’s risk. Additionally, term loans are usually granted to established businesses with strong credit profiles. Conversely, working capital loans have higher interest rates due to their shorter repayment terms, often unsecured nature, less stringent qualification requirements, and faster approval processes, all of which increase the lender’s risk.


What are the typical qualification requirements for term loans versus working capital loans?


Term loans have more stringent qualification requirements, including strong personal and business credit scores (often 680+), at least two years in business, annual revenue thresholds (often $100,000+), collateral for secured loans, a detailed business plan, financial projections, and a personal guarantee from business owners. Working capital loans, however, have more relaxed requirements, such as minimum credit scores (often 500-550), at least six months in business, lower annual revenue thresholds (often $50,000-$100,000), and consistent cash flow or accounts receivable for specific products like invoice financing.


When should a business consider a term loan over a working capital loan and vice versa?


A business should consider a term loan when it needs to finance long-term investments or major purchases, requires a larger loan amount, and can benefit from lower, more manageable payments over an extended period. Established businesses with strong financials that can provide collateral are ideal candidates for term loans. Conversely, a working capital loan is suitable for addressing short-term operational needs or unexpected expenses, requiring a smaller loan amount, and benefiting from quicker approval and funding. Newer businesses or those with less-than-perfect credit might find working capital loans more accessible.

Comments


bottom of page