09 Sep 23

Merchant Cash Advance Alternatives

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Last Updated on: 19th September 2023, 07:18 pm

Merchant Cash Advance Alternatives: Other Options for Quick Business Financing

Merchant cash advances (MCAs) have become a popular financing choice for many small business owners. By providing quick access to capital based on future credit card sales, MCAs can help cover short-term cash flow gaps; however, they also come with some downsides like high costs and daily repayment obligations. For businesses looking for working capital without taking on an MCA, what are some alternatives to explore? Let’s review options that may work better in certain situations.

Traditional Bank Loans

Getting a term loan from a bank is arguably the most conventional small business financing route. Compared to MCAs, bank loans generally have lower rates and longer repayment periods. On the other hand, they also involve stricter eligibility requirements, more paperwork, and longer approval times.


  • Lower rates and monthly payments
  • Fixed terms up to 10+ years
  • Predictable repayment schedule


  • Lengthy application and approval process
  • Strong credit score and financials required
  • Collateral often required

Bottom line: Bank loans work for established businesses with strong finances and the patience to go through the full underwriting process. Those needing quick financing may find the timing too inconvenient.

SBA Loans

Backed by the government, SBA loan programs are designed to help small businesses access affordable financing. Like bank loans, they offer better rates and terms than MCAs. But SBA loans also aim to be more accessible for startups and risky borrowers.


  • Competitive rates
  • Long repayment terms
  • For startups and weaker credits


  • Still a lengthy process
  • Requires solid SBA partner bank
  • Lower maximum loan amounts

Bottom line: SBA loans provide nice middle ground between conventional financing and high-cost products like MCAs. Just be prepared for paperwork and patience.

Invoice Factoring

With invoice factoring, a business sells its unpaid customer invoices to a lender for immediate cash. The lender collects payment from the customers. There are no fixed repayment schedules like with MCAs.


  • Quick access to cash
  • No fixed repayment obligations
  • Flexible structure


  • Costs add up over time
  • Customer invoices must be very solid
  • More complex setup

Bottom line: Invoice factoring yields fast working capital against money you’re owed but haven’t yet received. The flexibility makes it preferable to MCAs for some.

Business Credit Cards

Putting expenses on a business credit card essentially gives you an interest-free loan until the balance comes due. While not suitable for huge needs, credit cards provide quick access to smaller amounts.


  • Fast and easy to obtain
  • No repayments for 1-2 months
  • Build business credit history


  • High interest rates
  • Lower maximum limits
  • Personal credit checks

Bottom line: Business credit cards work best for smaller financing needs you can pay back within a few months. The easy access and lack of fixed repayment schedule makes them an alternative to MCAs.

401(k) Business Financing

Some lenders let entrepreneurs borrow against their 401(k) retirement funds for business purposes. While not ideal for all situations, it’s an option business owners sometimes utilize when other financing avenues are unavailable.


  • Quick access if you have 401(k) funds
  • Competitive rates
  • No traditional credit check


  • Risks your retirement savings
  • Limits use of retirement funds
  • Tax penalties if not repaid properly

Bottom line: While 401(k) business loans may fill urgent needs, the risk and complexity make them just an option of last resort. Explore other paths first.

Friends and Family Loans

Borrowing from friends or family sidesteps impersonal lenders altogether. Since they already know you, qualifying is easier. Just be sure to formalize the loan agreement properly.


  • Fewer qualification hassles
  • More flexible terms
  • Support your relationships


  • Strains personal relationships
  • Unclear terms risk conflict
  • They have limited capital

Bottom line: Friend/family loans make most sense for small needs or bridging brief cash gaps. Keep terms professional, not casual.

Business Cash Advances

Some companies offer lump sum cash in exchange for a fixed percentage of future sales. This works much like an MCA but with a flat fee instead of interest and daily repayments.


  • Quick cash without complex applications
  • Fixed flat fee, not interest
  • Terms tailored for your business


  • Gives up 1-15% of future sales
  • Threshold sales levels required
  • Limited upper amount available

Bottom line: For eligible businesses, cash advances supply fast working capital without the MCA repayment rat race. Just know the tradeoffs.

Online Business Lenders

A new breed of online small business lenders has emerged. Backed by investors, they provide fast financing by streamlining the application process – but at higher costs.


  • Super fast approvals
  • Minimal documents required
  • Funds in days or hours


  • Very high costs
  • Short repayment terms
  • Financial transparency required

Bottom line: Online lenders work best for urgent micro-loans despite steep costs. For larger or longer-term needs, explore alternatives first.

The Bottom Line

Rather than jumping into an MCA, taking a strategic view of the different financing options can lead to much better choices aligned with your business situation. Assessing options like SBA loans, invoice factoring, 401(k) financing, and online lenders with an open mind may reveal opportunities previously overlooked.

No one approach is right for everyone. But with so many available alternatives, most small businesses can find less risky and expensive paths to obtain funding beyond merchant cash advances.

Key Takeaways

  • Term loans, SBA loans, and credit cards provide lower rates than MCAs
  • Invoice factoring offers flexibility but higher long-term costs
  • 401(k) financing is quick but risks your retirement
  • Friends and family loans work for some situations
  • New online lenders offer speed yet expensive terms
  • Taking a portfolio approach to financing leads to optimal mixes

With the right information and strategy, securing necessary working capital doesn’t need to mean resorting to expensive MCAs. Savvy small business owners explore a diverse range of options first.


[1] SBA guide to alternative lending options–alternative-lending-options-small-businesses

[2] Invoice factoring pros and cons

[3] 401(k) small business financing risks

[4] Friends and family business loans

[5] Online lender comparison