Comparing Personal Loans vs Business Loans

Comparing Personal Loans vs Business Loans

If you’re looking to start or grow a side hustle or small business, you might think a business loan is the right next step. A personal loan, however, is another popular financial product that you also might be able to use. Or it could free up some cash by covering expenses elsewhere in your budget, so you can put more of your income toward funding your business.

Because there are potential benefits and disadvantages to both types of financing, it’s important to understand the differences. You’ll find that information here and be better equipped to decide whether a business loan vs. personal loan might work best for you.

What Is a Personal Loan?

A personal loan is a source of financing that a borrower typically can use for just about anything. (That said, you may need to get approval from your lender if you plan to use the money directly for your business. This is not always possible.)

Typically, you’ll find unsecured personal loans, with the borrower agreeing to pay back the full amount, plus interest, in fixed monthly payments within a predetermined time frame.

Some lenders also offer secured personal loans, however,which means some form of collateral is involved. Also, some offer personal loans with variable interest rates.

How Personal Loans Work

When you apply for a personal loan, you can expect the lender to review your personal financial information — including your credit score, credit reports, and income — to determine your eligibility. In general, the better your credit, the better your chances of receiving a lower interest rate.

Personal loan amounts vary, but some lenders offer personal loans for as much as $100,000.

Although most personal loans have shorter repayment terms, the length of a loan can vary from a few months to several years. Typically, they last from 12 to 84 months.


💡 Quick Tip: Some personal loan lenders can release your funds as quickly as the same day your loan is approved.

What is a Business Loan?

A business loan is a type of financing used specifically to pay for business expenses. It could be used to purchase equipment or inventory, for example, or to fund a new project.

There are many kinds of small business loans available — with different rates and repayment terms — including Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, equipment loans, micro loans, and more. Rates, terms, and loan requirements also can vary significantly depending on the lender.

How Business Loans Work

Applying for a business loan tends to be more complicated than getting a personal loan. For one thing, you’ll likely have to submit more paperwork to back up your application, including your business’s financial statements and an up-to-date business plan. The lender also usually will want to review your personal and business credit scores. And you may have to be more specific about what the loan will be used for than you would with a personal loan.

If your business is brand new, lenders may be reluctant to give you a business loan. Some lenders might ask you to put up some type of collateral to qualify.

Differences Between Business and Personal Loans

There are several factors you may want to evaluate if you’re trying to decide between a personal loan vs. a business loan, including the loan costs, how you plan to use the money, and how much you hope to borrow. Here’s a look at a few basic differences.

Cost Differences Between Business and Personal Loans

Whether you’re considering applying for a business loan or a personal loan to use for your business, it’s important to be clear about how much it could cost you upfront and over the life of the loan.

Interest Rates

Interest rates for business loans can be lower than for the interest rates for personal loans, but the rates for both can vary depending on the type of loan, the lender you choose, and your qualifications as a borrower.

Fees

Fees also can affect the upfront and overall cost of both personal and business loans, so it’s a good idea to be clear on what you’re paying. Some of the more common fees for business loans and personal loans that you might see include origination, application, packaging, and underwriting fees, and late payment and prepayment penalties.

Some fees may be subtracted from the loan amount before the borrower receives the money. But fees also may be folded into a loan’s annual percentage rate (APR) instead, which can increase the monthly payment.

Down Payment

Business loans may be available for larger amounts than a personal loan. For a larger business loan — a substantial SBA loan or commercial real estate loan, for example — you could be required to come up with a down payment. This amount can add to your upfront cost. However, just as with a mortgage or car loan, a larger down payment can help you save money over the long term, because you’ll pay less in interest.

Whether you’ll need a down payment, and the amount required, may depend on your individual and business creditworthiness.

Different Uses for Business and Personal Loans

One of the biggest differences between business vs. personal loans is the way borrowers can use them.

•   A business loan can be used to finance direct business costs, such as paying for supplies, marketing, a new piece of equipment, business debt consolidation, or a business property. But it typically can’t be used for indirect business costs, which means a borrower can’t pay off personal debts with the money or buy personal property with it.

•   Some business loans have a very specific purpose, and the borrowed money must be used for that purpose. For example, if you get an equipment loan, you must buy equipment with it. Or, if you get a business car loan, you must buy a business car with the money.

•   Because you may be able to use the influx of cash for both business and personal expenses, the uses of a personal loan can be very flexible. But personal loans are typically smaller than business loans, and they generally come with a shorter repayment term. It can be helpful to have a clear intent for how the money will be spent and to keep separate records for business and personal expenses.

•   It’s also important to note that some lenders put restrictions on how personal loans can be used, so you should read the fine print before applying and share your plans with the lender if asked.

Differences When Applying for Business and Personal Loans

The criteria lenders look at can be very different when approving a small business loan vs. a personal loan. Here’s what you can expect during the application process.

Applying for a Personal Loan

When you apply for a personal loan, your personal creditworthiness usually plays a large role in the application and approval process.

•   Lenders typically will review a borrower’s credit scores, credit reports, and income when determining the interest rate, loan amount, and repayment term of a personal loan.

•   Generally, you can expect to be asked for a government-issued photo ID, your Social Security number, and/or some other proof of identity.

•   You also may be asked for proof of your current address. And the lender will want to verify your income.

Applying for a Business Loan

When you apply for a business loan, your personal finances still will be a factor, though other aspects of your application will be reviewed carefully.

•   The loan underwriters also will evaluate your business’s cash flow, how long you’ve been in business, your profitability, the exact purpose of the loan, trends in your industry, your business credit score, and more.

•   The lender may ask for a current profit-and-loss statement, a cash-flow statement, recent bank statements and tax returns for the business, your business license and a business plan, and any other current loan documents or lease agreements you might have.

•   You also will have to provide information about your collateral if you are applying for a secured loan.

Recommended: Understanding Credit Score Ranges

Structural Differences in Business and Personal Loans

Knowing the differences in how personal loans vs. business loans are structured could help you decide which is right for you and your business. A few factors that might affect your choice include:

Loan Amount

A business loan may be more difficult to apply for and get than a personal loan, especially if your business is a startup or only a few years old. But if you can qualify, you may be able to borrow more money with a business loan. While personal loan amounts typically top out at $50,000 to $100,000, some SBA loans can go as high as $5.5 million.

Loan Length

You’ll likely find personal and business loans with both short and long repayment terms. But generally, personal loans have shorter terms (typically one to seven years), while some business loan repayment periods can be up to 25 years.

Tax Advantages

If you have a business loan, deducting the interest you pay on the loan may be possible when filing income taxes if you meet specific criteria.

With a personal loan, it might get a little more complicated. If you use the borrowed money only for business costs, you may be able to deduct the interest you paid. But if you use the loan for both business and personal expenses, you would only be able to deduct the percentage of the interest that was used for qualifying business costs.

And you should be prepared to itemize deductions, documenting exactly how you spent the money. Your financial advisor or tax preparer can help you determine what’s appropriate.

Support

Along with the traditional banking services you might expect to get with any type of loan, a business loan also may come with operational support and online tools that can be useful for owners and entrepreneurs.

Risk

When you’re deciding between a personal vs. business loan, it’s also a good idea to think about what could happen if, at some point, the loan can’t be repaid.

•   If your business has financial problems and you have a personal loan, you (and your cosigner, if you have one) could be held responsible for the debt. You could lose your collateral (if it’s a secured loan) or damage your personal credit.

•   If your business defaults and it’s a business loan, the impact to your personal credit would depend on how the loan is set up.

◦   If you’re listed as a sole proprietor or signed a personal guarantee, it’s possible you could be sued, your personal and/or business credit scores could take a hit, and your personal and business assets could be at risk.

◦   If your business is set up as a distinct legal entity, on the other hand, your personal credit score might not be affected — but your business credit score could suffer. And it could be more difficult for you to take out a business loan in the future.

Structural Differences in Business and Personal Loans

Business Loans Personal Loans
Loan Amount Typically come in larger amounts (up to $5 million) Generally are limited to smaller amounts (up to $100,000)
Loan Length Usually have longer repayment periods (up to 25 years) Generally have shorter terms (a few months to a few years)
Tax Advantages Interest paid on a business loan is often tax-deductible Interest paid on a personal loan used for business expenses may be tax-deductible
Support Lenders may offer operational support and online business tools to borrowers with business loans Lenders may offer more personal types of support to borrowers with personal loans
Risk Defaulting on a business loan could affect the borrower’s business credit score or business and personal credit scores (based on how the loan is structured) Defaulting on a personal loan could affect the borrower’s personal credit score

Pros and Cons of Business Loans

There are advantages and disadvantages to keep in mind when deciding whether to apply for a business loan vs. personal loan.

•   A business loan can be more difficult to get than a personal loan, especially if the business is new or still struggling to become profitable.

•   If you qualify for a business loan, you may be able to borrow a larger amount of money and get a longer repayment term.

•   A business loan also could make it easier to separate your business and personal finances.

•   There could be fewer personal consequences if the business defaults on the loan.

Pros of Business Loans

Cons of Business Loans

Borrowers may qualify for larger amounts than personal loans offer Applying can require more time and effort
Longer loan terms available Qualifying can be difficult
Interest rates may be lower Collateral and/or a down payment may be required
Interest is usually tax deductible Loan must be used for business purposes only
Lenders may offer more business-oriented support New businesses may pay higher interest rates
Debt may be the responsibility of the business, not the individual (depending on loan structure) Responsibility for the debt could still land on individual borrowers

Recommended: Can You Refinance a Personal Loan?

Pros and Cons of Personal Loans

A personal loan vs. business loan can have advantages and disadvantages to consider if you are wondering if you can use one to fund a business.

•   Personal loans can offer borrowers more flexibility than business loans in terms of usage.

•   They’re generally easier to qualify for and may have lower interest rates.

•   One major hurdle may be tracking whether the funds were used for business or personal expenses, which can be crucial, especially for income taxes.

Pros of Personal Loans

Cons of Personal Loans

Application process is usually quick and easy Lending limits may be lower than business loans
Qualifying can be less challenging than with a business loan because it’s based on personal creditworthiness Borrower doesn’t build business credit with on-time payments
Can use funds for both personal and business expenses (unless there are lender restrictions) Defaulting can affect personal credit score/finances
Most personal loans are unsecured Interest rates are generally higher than for a business loan
Interest may be tax deductible (when funds are used for business) Shorter loan terms than business loans typically offer



💡 Quick Tip: Swap high-interest debt for a lower-interest loan, and save money on your monthly payments. Find out why SoFi credit card consolidation loans are so popular.

Is a Business or Personal Loan Right for You?

Considering the differences between a personal loan and a business loan can help you decide which is right for your needs. You may want to do some online research, compare rates and terms, and/or ask a financial professional or business mentor for advice before moving forward with this important decision. Here are some things to think about as you look for a loan that’s a good fit for your personal and professional goals.

A business loan may make sense if:

•   You’re seeking a lower interest rate and/or repayment term.

•   You want to keep personal and business expenditures separate.

•   You’ve been successfully running your business for a while.

•   You need more money than you can get with a personal loan.

•   You hope to build your business credit.

•   You want to limit your liability.

A personal loan may make sense if:

•   Your goal is to grow your startup or new business and the loan allows this usage.

•   You plan to use the money for both business and personal expenses.

•   You can find a personal loan with a lower interest rate than a comparable business loan, and the lender approves the loan for business expenses.

•   You want to get the money as quickly as possible.

•   You are seeking a shorter repayment term.

•   You don’t want to secure the loan with collateral.

•   You feel confident about your personal ability to repay the loan.

Recommended: Can I Pay Off a Personal Loan Early?

The Takeaway

If you’re seeking funding to start or grow your business, you may have to decide between personal and business loans. Personal loans are typically easier to apply for and offer quicker access to funds, but often at a somewhat higher interest rate and shorter term vs. business loans. Also, business loans usually offer significantly higher loan amounts and the interest can be tax-deductible. It’s worthwhile to consider the tax and credit implications of each type of loan too, among other factors.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.


SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2023 winner for Best Online Personal Loan overall.

FAQ

Are business loans more expensive than personal loans?

Business loans typically have lower interest rates than personal loans. Still, it’s probably worth comparing both types of loans and the rates lenders are willing to offer you and/or your business before making a final decision between the two.

Is it illegal to use personal loans for business?

Most (but not necessarily all) personal loans can be used for just about anything. Your lender may not even ask how you intend to spend the money. But it’s a good idea to check the lending agreement in case there are any restrictions. And if the lender wants to know the purpose of the loan, you should be honest about your intentions.

Are startup loans personal loans?

There are a few different options for funding a startup, including SBA loans, family loans, or crowdfunding platforms. But if you have good credit and are confident you can make the monthly payments, taking out a personal loan could be an effective strategy for funding a startup, if the loan permits that usage.


Photo credit: iStock/MicroStockHub

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.

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Refinancing Your Student Loans While Starting a Business

If you want to start a business, one thought may go through your mind (particularly if you’re funding your business out of pocket): “If I didn’t have to repay my student loans, I’d have more money to put toward my business.”

No doubt about it, student debt can be steep. The current average federal student loan debt per borrower is $37,338 and $54,921 per private loan borrower. Student loan borrowers who feel stymied by their debt may wonder how to get their business idea off the ground.

If student loans gobble up a chunk of your cash every month, refinancing might free up funds to put your fledgling business on the right track. Read on to learn how refinancing student loans can benefit the launch of your new business.

What Is Student Loan Refinancing?

Before diving into the definition of student loan refinancing, let’s discuss the components that make up a student loan: principal, interest rate, and loan term.

•   Principal: The principal is the original amount that you borrowed, which you will repay with interest over time.

•   Interest rate: The interest rate is a percentage of the loan principal that you pay monthly — on top of a portion of the principal. This is charged by the lender and is how they earn money while lending you cash.

•   Loan term: The loan term is the amount of time in which you will repay your loan.

Student loan refinancing means replacing your existing student loan with a new student loan. You can refinance either federal or private loans with funds from a private lender. There are two important points to keep in mind if you are considering refinancing. These factors can help you determine if refinancing is a good fit for you.

•   When you refinance federal loans with a private loan, you forfeit federal protections and benefits, such as deferment and forbearance.

•   If you refinance for an extended term, you may end up paying more in interest over the life of the loan, even if your monthly payment is lower.


💡 Quick Tip: Get flexible terms and competitive rates when you refinance your student loan with SoFi.

Benefits of Student Loan Refinancing

Some of the key reasons to refinance your student loans include the following:

•   Potentially lowering your interest rate: Reducing your interest rate on your student loans can save you a lot of money over time because you won’t pay as much in interest per monthly payment. Check with various lenders to ensure you’re getting the lowest interest rate possible. You can usually get the best rates by having a strong credit score and a steady source of income. Your credit score is the three-digit number that reflects how well you’ve paid back debts in the past.

•   Reducing your monthly payment: When you work with a lender to extend your loan term, you may reduce your student loan payments per month. For example, you may extend your loan term from 10 years to 15 years, though the specific options will depend on your lender. Note, however, as mentioned above, that extending your term often means you’re likely paying more interest over the life of your loan.

•   Obtaining a single monthly payment: Instead of making multiple monthly payments, you can refinance and make one monthly payment. Sticking to one monthly payment can help you stay organized and make your payments on time. You don’t have to refinance all of your student loans, however. For example, if you have five student loans and you have a low interest rate on one and a high interest rate on the rest, you could refinance just those four. Use a student loan refinance calculator to determine how different refinance scenarios might work to your advantage.

•   Choosing between variable- and fixed-rate loans: Refinancing may allow you to choose between a fixed- or variable-rate loan. A fixed-rate means your interest rate stays the same throughout the life of the loan, while a variable rate changes — and could increase or fall over time.

Note that you can also consolidate student loans, which involves combining several federal student loans into one loan, through the Direct Loan Program.


💡 Quick Tip: Refinancing could be a great choice for working graduates who have higher-interest graduate PLUS loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and/or private loans.

How Refinancing Student Loans Can Benefit a New Business

So, how exactly does refinancing student loans benefit a new business? Here’s a closer look.

1. Lower Your Loan Payments

As mentioned earlier, refinancing can help lower your loan payments by possibly offering a lower interest rate and/or by stretching out your loan term. Lowering your monthly payments can allow you to devote more financial resources toward your new business. You can also use the extra money to pay for household expenses or financial goals, like the down payment on a house or your retirement nest egg.

2. More Money to Get Business Loan

First, to clarify: Using student loans to start a business is a no-go. Student loan money should go toward education costs, living expenses, and housing. When you refinance, you can lower your monthly repayment amount. That can help your overall financial outlook. Then, if you apply for a business loan, you may have a more creditworthy profile.

A bank or credit union will review your financial information to evaluate your qualifications for a business loan. If you refinance your student loans and lower your monthly payment, that could help improve your debt-to-income ratio (DTI), an important indicator when you apply for a loan. Your DTI is calculated by all your monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income. If you lower a component of your monthly debt (say, your student loan), you can lower your overall DTI, which is a positive.

3. Use Business Income to Pay Student Loans

Are you wondering, “Can my business pay my student loans?” The answer to that is “no,” if you mean pay directly through your enterprise. However, if you launch a business and earn income, of course you can use your pay to eliminate your debt, whether from a student loan or another source.

Keep in mind that as a business owner, you could get tax breaks that other taxpayers can’t claim, but you can’t deduct the principal payments you make on student loans.

Recommended: How to Get Out of Student Loan Debt

Refinancing Student Loans With SoFi

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

FAQ

Can you start a business if you have student loans?

Yes, you can start a business if you have student loans, but it may be harder to access business credit and save cash to put toward your business. No matter what, you must keep up with your student loan payments. Not making your payments can hurt your credit score later, which in turn can hurt your application for a small business loan.

How do I start a student loan?

You can apply for federal student loans by filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which helps determine the amount of federal student aid you can receive. You can apply for private student loans on lender websites.

Can I get an SBA loan with defaulted student loans?

Through the Small Business Administration, SBA loans require potential borrowers to keep up to date on student loan payments. Unfortunately, you could become ineligible with defaulted student loans.


Photo credit: iStock/ferrantraite

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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What to Know About Short-Term Business Loans

Owning a small business can mean keeping a lot of plates spinning, including making sure the cash is flowing during fluctuations in income and sales.

You may need to buy more materials, pay additional workers, improve your physical location (say, something breaks), and deal with other expenses. And, because you are a small business, it may all be on you to manage this.

At times, you may need a little outside help to cover costs. You may know about long-term business loans, which can be used for borrowing large sums and take many years to pay off, but how about short-term business loans? Here, you’ll learn more about them, their pros and cons, and whether they might be right for you.

What Is a Short-Term Small Business Loan?

A short-term small business loan is a loan that is designed to help small businesses maintain cash flow and cover small expenses. Because they are meant to be paid off on a shorter timeline (usually within three to 24 months) than long-term loans, they tend to have higher interest rates and can be secured very quickly. Basically, they can get you cash fast.


💡 Quick Tip: Need help covering the cost of a wedding, honeymoon, or new baby? A SoFi personal loan can help you fund major life events — without the high interest rates of credit cards.

What Can You Use a Short-Term Business Loan for?

There are several common uses for short-term loans. A popular one is to cover project start-up costs. If your business is launching a new product or service, a short-term loan can help you avoid disrupting your business’s cash flow.

They can also help bridge cash flow gaps related to uneven sales or seasonal effects, cover emergency repairs, and purchase discounted inventory that you’re confident will sell fast and at a profit.

A short-term loan can also help small businesses take advantage of unexpected growth opportunities by giving them the capital they need to keep production running in a short time period.

Recommended: What Are Financial Hardship Loans?

What Are the Drawbacks of Short-Term Business Loans?

In addition to high interest rates, short-term loans often require frequent repayments. Instead of the customary monthly payments that come with a lot of loans, short-term business loans often require weekly, and in some cases daily, repayments. While these payments tend to be small, they can be difficult to manage, particularly if your business has uneven sales or a lower cash-flow.

There’s also a risk of accumulating debt when using short-term business loans. Because they can be so easy to get (note: there are still eligibility requirements for these types of loans), using them could potentially lead to a business owner relying on this type of small business debt financing.

This could lead to a debt trap where someone would continue rolling over their short-term debt instead of paying it off on the predetermined repayment timeline. Ultimately, rolling over the debt means the business owner would accrue significant interest if they weren’t able to pay the short-term business loan within the initial term.

Recommended: Typical Small Business Loan Fees

What Alternative Financing Options Are Available?

There are a number of alternative financing options when you need cash for your company.

•   A business credit card is another way to cover small expenses that you plan to pay back quickly. On the flip side, business credit cards can come with high interest rates. And credit card debt is considered “revolving,” which involves borrowing against a credit limit, as opposed to paying off your debt on a defined term.

•   Short-term lines of credit can help you manage day-to-day cash flow, too. Lines of credit can help provide flexibility for business owners. You can borrow up to a set amount of money but are only required to pay interest on the actual amount of money that you borrow.

You can then borrow and repay the funds on a payment schedule similar to how a credit card. Similar to credit cards, this is considered a “revolving debt.” Short-term lines of credit may come with maintenance fees. And the interest rate could go up if you fail to pay on time.

There are many financing options available to help pay for your business expenses. Short-term business loans can help you get the cash you need for your business quickly, and pay it off on the predetermined schedule, or add additional payments as your cash flow picks back up again.

Recommended: Business vs. Personal Loan: Which Is Right for You?

About SoFi Personal Loans

While you cannot use a personal loan for business expenses, there may be times in your life that a personal loan is appropriate; say, if you want to consolidate your credit card debt (which could free up funds for your small business). In those situations, see what SoFi offers.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.


SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2023 winner for Best Online Personal Loan overall.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How Much Does It Cost to Start a Business?

Looking to start your own business? You’re not alone. Some 76% of Gen Z and millennials dream of being their own boss, according to a 2022 Microsoft report.

While launching your own business allows you plenty of professional freedom, it can also be expensive. As you’re creating your business plan, one question you’ll likely face early on is, how much does it cost to start a business?

The average small business owner spends around $40,000 in their first full year. But that amount can vary based on a number of factors, including the size, type and location of your business.

Let’s take a closer look at the startup costs of different types of businesses and common ways to cover the expenses.

Typical Small Business Startup Costs

The old adage is true: You have to spend money to make money. And unfortunately, some of the biggest business costs can come during the startup phase, when you are defining your business goals, finding a location, purchasing domain names, and generally investing in the infrastructure.

In order to make sure your business is on firm financial footing, it’s important to estimate your small business startup costs in advance. Here are some common ones to keep in mind:

Payroll

Many small businesses start out as a company of one. But if you’re planning on having employees, salary will likely be one of the biggest costs you’ll have. After all, offering an attractive pay and benefits package can help you recruit and retain top talent.

In addition to wages, you might also want to budget for other types of payroll costs, such as overtime, vacation pay, bonuses, commissions, and benefits.

Office Space

No matter what your business is, you’ll need somewhere to work. Are you leasing a storefront, or will you buy a membership to a co-working space or startup incubator? If you’re planning to work from home, consider whether your new business will increase your internet or utility bills.

And don’t forget about the supplies you’ll need to do the work. Depending on your business, this could include things like computers, phones, chairs and desks, paper supplies, or filing cabinets.


💡 Quick Tip: Some lenders can release funds as quickly as the same day your loan is approved. SoFi personal loans offer same-day funding for qualified borrowers.

Inventory

If you’re starting a business that sells products, you’ll need to have some inventory ready to go. Calculating stock as part of your start-up costs ensures that you can buy your product in advance, so that you’re ready to serve customers from day one.

Licenses, Permits, and Insurance

Some businesses, especially storefronts and restaurants, require more legal leg work than others.

For example, if you’re starting a native-plants landscaping business, will you need a permit? If you’re starting a new bar, will you need a liquor license? Licenses and permits vary by city and state, but most come with an application fee.

Likewise, your new business may require one or more insurance policies to protect you in case of future litigation, so be sure to factor in the cost of monthly premiums.

And don’t forget about the costs associated with registering your business. Whether you plan to set up shop as a sole proprietorship, corporation, limited liability corporation or other business entity, you’ll need to pay a nominal fee. The amount will depend on the state where you operate.

And if you plan on enlisting the help of a lawyer, accountant or tax professional to get your business up and running, add those potential costs to your budget as well.

Advertising

Getting the word out about your new business is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that business starts off strong. Whether you want to advertise on social media or take out a billboard, your startup costs should reflect money you plan to put toward taking out ads for your business.

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Differences in Startup Costs Based on Industry

The actual cost of starting a small business can vary by business and industry. Here’s what you might be looking at if you want to start a few common types of small businesses.

Online Business Startup Costs

Like brick and mortar stores, the cost of doing business online varies depending on the type of business you have. But in general, you’ll need to budget for things like:

•   Web hosting service and domain name

•   Web design and optimization

•   E-commerce software

•   Payment processing

•   Content creation and social media

If you’re selling products, you will need to invest in inventory and shipping. If you’re providing services, you may need to hire employees. All of these costs can be significant.

However, one benefit of starting your small business online is that you may be able to keep other costs low. For example, if you can conduct business from home, you may not need to rent office space, which can be a major savings. If you’re able to do the work without purchasing inventory or hiring employees, the startup costs can be even lower.

Average startup cost: $500 to $20,000 or more (depending on your business)

Storefront Startup Costs

If your business idea requires a physical space, your startup costs might range from $1,000 for a small kiosk inside a mall or park to more than $69,000 for something like a home goods store.

Although $69,000 might seem like a daunting number, remember that many smaller, independently owned stores began with a much smaller budget.

Average retail startup cost: $39,210

Restaurant Startup Costs

If you’re betting on bringing in bank by selling your grandma’s famous bánh mì, you could be looking at startup costs of anywhere from $40,000 for a used food truck or cart to up to $3.7 million to buy a franchise restaurant. Typically, small restaurant costs, including coffee shops, fall somewhere in the $80,000 to $3000,000 range.

Average startup cost: $375,000

How to Finance Your Startup Business

Many who want to start a business are overwhelmed by the initial costs, but there are several ways to fund your passion project.

Friends and Family

Perhaps one of the most common ways to raise money for your small business is to ask friends and family to invest in you.

Friends and family loans can be ideal for financing a new small business because you can negotiate low-interest rates, flexible pay-back schedules, and avoid bank fees. Of course, borrowing money from friends and family can quickly become complicated by family drama, so make sure to agree on conditions before taking out a family loan.

Outside Investors

When we hear about startup companies, we frequently hear about so-called “angel investors” sweeping in to fully fund new businesses. But there are other practical ways to fund your small business with outside investors.

Some small businesses use crowdfunding platforms to find investors who each contribute a small amount, and others use startup funding networks to find investors looking to fund their specific type of business. Outside investors want to know that your business is likely to succeed, so you’ll need a solid business plan to land outside funders.

Personal Savings and Investments

Most people end up covering some of their small business start-up costs out of their own pocket. Self-funding your new business venture can be the most convenient option. After all, if you’re your own funder, you don’t have to worry about family drama or picky investors. And putting your own money on the line can be an extra motivation to make sure that your business is set up to succeed.

Of course, it can seem overwhelming to save up enough money to fund your small business. Luckily, there are simple strategies to effectively manage your money.

Business Loans

If you’re looking to purchase equipment, inventory, or pay for other business expenses, a business loan might make sense for you.

There are various types of small business loans available, each with different rates and repayment terms. Note that in some cases, lenders may be reluctant to give loans to a brand-new business. You might need to put up some type of collateral to qualify for funding.

Personal Loans

A personal loan can be used for just about any purpose, which can make it attractive for entrepreneurs who want to turn their passion project into a reality. These loans are usually unsecured, which means they’re not backed by collateral, like a home, car, or bank account balance.

Personal loan amounts vary. However, some lenders offer personal loans for as much as $100,000. Most personal loans have shorter repayment terms, though the length of a loan can vary from a few months to several years.

While there’s a great deal of latitude with how you use the funds, you might need to get your lender’s approval first if you intend on using the money directly for your business.


💡 Quick Tip: Before choosing a personal loan, ask about the lender’s fees: origination, prepayment, late fees, etc. One question can save you many dollars.

The Takeaway

Going into business for yourself can be personally and professionally fulfilling. But it can also be expensive, especially if you’re starting from scratch. Estimating your startup costs early on can help ensure you’re on solid financial ground from the get-go. Labor, office space, and equipment are among the biggest expenses facing many entrepreneurs, but there are smaller fees and charges you’ll likely need to consider.

Fortunately, small business owners have no shortage of options when it comes to covering startup costs. Dipping into personal savings, or asking friends and family to invest are popular choices. Taking out a business loan or personal loan is another way to help finance a new business. The money can be used for a variety of purposes, and that flexibility can be especially useful when you’re just starting out.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2023 winner for Best Online Personal Loan overall.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Personal Loan Alternatives

If you’ve been denied a personal loan recently or don’t think a personal loan is right for you, you might feel at a loss as to how to cover a large expense or fund a major project.

The good news is, there’s no shortage of personal loan alternatives that suit a variety of situations. Let’s take a closer look.

Credit Card

A credit card offers you a line of credit that can be used for a variety of purchases. You can borrow up to a set credit limit, and each month that you carry a balance, you’ll owe at least the minimum payment. Credit cards are generally seen as a better option for smaller, everyday purchases, while a personal loan may make more sense for larger, more expensive items, such as a house or car.

Using a credit card responsibly can be a good way to establish your credit history, so long as you make timely payments each month. And some cards may come with perks, such as rewards points or travel rewards.

On the downside, if you don’t pay off the full balance of your credit card each month when it’s due, then your balance will accrue interest. (And credit cards typically have higher interest rates than personal loans.) If you continue to make charges on the credit card while only making minimum monthly payments, then it will take you even longer to pay off the balance. To find out how much interest you’ll pay on any balance, you can use a credit card interest calculator.

Applying for one credit card can ding your credit score by just a few points. But applying for multiple cards at once could raise red flags for lenders and can drag down your credit score.

Pros

•   Can tap into funds as needed and repay as you go

•   Can build credit as long as you make on-time payments

•   Some cards come with perks such as rewards points and travel-related benefits

Cons

•   Can have higher interest rates than personal loans

•   May take you longer to pay off the balance if you only make the minimum payments

•   Applying for too many cards at once may hurt your credit

Recommended: Personal Loan vs. Credit Card

Personal Line of Credit

A personal line of credit is a type of revolving credit line that can be used for many different things. Like credit cards, a personal line of credit has a maximum credit limit, and borrowers are required to make a minimum monthly payment. Once the debt is repaid, money can be withdrawn once again. Personal lines of credit may be secured, which require collateral, or unsecured, which do not require collateral.

When comparing a personal line of credit vs. a personal loan, you may discover that a personal line of credit allows you to access money over time instead of all at once. This level of flexibility may reduce interest charges, because you’re only taking out the money you plan on using right away. And generally speaking, the interest rates on a personal line of credit tend to be lower than those on a credit card.

However, it can be difficult to qualify for an unsecured line of credit with a good interest rate, as they’re more risky for the lender. Plus, the flexibility of a line of credit could make it easy for borrowers to take on more debt or take longer to pay off what they owe.

Pros

•   Typically has a lower interest rate than credit cards

•   Funds can be used for a variety of purposes

•   You can access funds as you need them

Cons

•   May be difficult to qualify for an unsecured line of credit with a good interest rate

•   Can be easy to take on more debt or take longer to pay off the balance

Recommended: Personal Line of Credit vs. Credit Cards

Home Equity Loan

If you’re a homeowner and meet certain requirements, you may have the option to take out a home equity loan. This means you’re essentially borrowing against the equity you’ve built in your home.

Like a personal loan, funds from a home equity loan are disbursed in one lump sum, and you owe monthly payments for the life of the loan. Your home secures the loan, and because of that, lenders tend to offer a lower interest rate than they would on most unsecured loans. Interest rates are usually fixed.

It’s worth noting that repayment begins right away, and if you fall behind on your payments, you risk losing your home. In addition, the loan amount is set, so if you need more money, you’ll need to apply for another loan.

Pros

•   Low interest rate

•   Can borrow large amounts of money

•   Funds can be used for a wide variety of purposes

Cons

•   Risk losing your home if you fall behind on payments

•   Repayment begins immediately

•   Loan amount is set

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

Like a home equity loan, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) is secured by the equity you’ve built in your home, and your home is used as collateral.

One of the main differences is that a HELOC offers a revolving line of credit, which means you can tap into funds as needed and only pay interest on what you borrow. There are usually low or no closing costs involved with a HELOC, and the interest rate is likely to be variable.

There are some potential drawbacks to keep in mind when comparing HELOCs vs. personal lines of credit. For starters, you may have to pay closing costs on the loan amount, though some HELOCs come with low or zero fees. Your interest rate will likely change with the federal funds rate, which means that over time, your monthly payment amount may fluctuate. Also, if you fail to make payments and the loan goes into default, you risk losing your home.

Pros

•   Only borrow what you need

•   Lower initial interest rates than unsecured loans

•   Repayment terms can be flexible

Cons

•   Can lose your home if the loan goes into default

•   Variable interest rates

•   Can be upside-down on your mortgage (i.e., you owe more on your home than what it’s worth)

Retirement Loan

Also known as a 401(k) loan, a retirement loan is a type of loan where you borrow from your retirement account and pay yourself back over time with interest. You can typically borrow against a 401(k), 403(b), or 457(b) retirement plan.

Per IRS guidelines, you can borrow up to $50,000 or 50% of your account balance, whichever is less. Unless you’re putting the money toward buying your primary residence, you have five years to repay your loan and need to make quarterly payments.

Pros

•   Don’t have to go through a lengthy application process

•   Doesn’t impact your credit

•   Loan repayments are automatically taken out of your paycheck

Cons

•   Can’t borrow more than $50,000

•   Missing out on compound interest and growing your retirement funds

•   If you file for bankruptcy, you’re still on the hook for paying off the loans

Peer-to-Peer Loan

Also known as social lending or crowd lending, a peer-to-peer loan (P2P loan) is a financing model where individuals borrow from others through an online platform. In turn, the financial institution is cut out of the picture, and individuals can borrow from individual investors or lenders.

The main draw for lenders is that they might earn more on the interest than if they put their money in a savings account. Borrowers might be eligible for lower interest rates or less-strict lending criteria. What’s more, the funding process is often quicker than going through a bank — an application may be approved within minutes and funds disbursed within a few business days.

Pros

•   Flexibility in how funds can be used

•   Speedy funding process

•   May qualify with fair credit

Cons

•   Often have origination fees (up to 8% of the loan)

•   Might have a higher interest rate

•   Might have late fees

Salary Advance

If you have an urgent financial need or personal emergency, you might be able to get part of your future paycheck now. In essence, it’s a loan from your employer, with the expectation that you’ll pay it back.

Your company might charge a fee or interest rate to cover the extra paperwork and accounting. However, it could be a solid way to pay for an emergency, provided you know the terms, restrictions, and what a salary advance entails.

Pros

•   Easy repayment methods (i.e., funds are automatically deducted from your paycheck)

•   Can provide easy, quick access to funds

•   Interest rates may be lower than other types of loans

Cons

•   Not offered by all employers

•   May need to meet eligibility requirements, such as a minimum number of years of employment and no previous paycheck advance requests

•   Might get complicated if you leave your job and haven’t repaid the advance

•   Smaller-than-usual paychecks could make it more difficult to make ends meet

Mortgage Refinance

A mortgage refinance is when you’re swapping your current mortgage for a new one. There are different reasons why this route might be attractive for you, such as locking in a lower interest rate or a lower monthly payment. With a cash-out refinance, for example, you replace your existing mortgage with a new mortgage for more than the previous balance. You receive the difference in cash.

Pros

•   You can receive a tax break if funds are used for home improvements

•   Can have relatively lower interest rates than other types of financing

•   Can stretch out your repayment period

Cons

•   Can risk foreclosure if you aren’t able to keep up with payments

•   Will need to pay closing costs


💡 Quick Tip: In a climate where interest rates are rising, you’re likely better off with a fixed interest rate than a variable rate, even though the variable rate is initially lower. On the flip side, if rates are falling, you may be better off with a variable interest rate.

Small Business Loan

If you plan on using a personal loan for business-related reasons, you might consider a small business loan instead. There’s no shortage of financing for small businesses, and lenders include banks, credit unions, online lenders, P2P platforms, and loans backed by the Small Business Association (SBA).

The requirements, loan amounts, and options might vary widely among lenders and loan types. But in general, lenders will look at your personal credit score, finances, and debt-to-income ratio. You’re also often required to provide a business plan.

Pros

•   Longer repayment terms

•   Flexible business-related uses

•   Typically have better interest rates

Cons

•   Slower financing times

•   Rigorous documentation requirements

•   Might need to provide collateral

The Takeaway

There are pros and cons of personal loans, so if you decide to explore other funding options, rest assured there’s no shortage of personal loan alternatives. Examples run the gamut from home equity loans and HELOCs to personal lines of credit and credit cards and more.

By knowing what’s out there and weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each, you’ll stand a stronger chance of figuring out what is best suited for your needs, preferences, and situation.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.


SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2023 winner for Best Online Personal Loan overall.

FAQ

What alternatives to personal loans are the most popular?

The most popular options for personal loans are credit cards, retirement loans, home equity loans, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), peer-to-peer loans (P2P), and a cash-out refinance.

Each option has its pros and cons and different lending requirements. And each may be better suited for specific borrowers.

Why would you need to use an alternative to a personal loan?

You might need a personal loan alternative if you don’t qualify for a traditional personal loan, or, if, after doing your research, you’ve found that it isn’t the best option for your needs.

Can you use personal loan alternatives even if you have a personal loan?

Yes, you can use personal loan alternatives if you currently have a personal loan. However, if you have multiple loans, it’s important to ensure you can keep up with the payments.


Photo credit: iStock/zamrznutitonovi

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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