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How to Successfully Repair Your Credit All By Yourself

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Digging yourself out of a bad credit hole is something you can get professional assistance with, but you can also make significant improvements on your own. This guide provides helpful tips on how to spot credit repair scams, how to fix bad information on your credit report, how to boost your credit score and more.

In this guide

What is negative credit information?

Negative credit information is anything that causes creditors to consider you a riskier borrower, including late payments, accounts in collections, foreclosures, bankruptcy and tax liens. Once negative credit information is introduced into your credit history, you cannot remove it on your own. However, time heals all wounds. The longer it’s been since the negative information was introduced, the less it will affect your credit score. In time, negative information falls off your credit history.

This list details the length of time that negative credit information affects your credit score:

Late payments: Seven years
Bankruptcies: Seven years for completed Chapter 13 bankruptcies and 10 years for Chapter 7 bankruptcies
Foreclosures: Seven years
Collections: Generally, about Seven years, depending upon the age of the debt being collected
Public record: Generally, about Seven years, although unpaid tax liens can remain indefinitely (always pay the tax man first!)

Rather than despair over negative information, take action to improve your score.

The best way to improve your score is to have good behavior reported every  month. For example, you can apply for a secured credit card, which requires that you make a refundable deposit in exchange for a credit limit, typically at least $200. Then, use the card monthly. Charge no more than 10% of the available credit limit, and pay the balance in full and on time every month. Your credit score should improve as your negative information ages and your credit report fills with positive information.

How to spot a credit repair scam

Credit repair scammers prey on people who are desperate to remove negative credit information and improve their credit score. Engaging with these scammers won’t improve your credit and may also lead you into legal hot water.

The signs below indicate that a credit repair company is a scam:

  • The company wants you to pay before it provides a service.
  • The company recommends that you don’t contact any credit reporting agencies directly.
  • The company tells you it can get rid of negative credit information in your credit report, even if that information is accurate.
  • The company advises you to dispute all information in your credit report, regardless of its accuracy or timeliness.
  • The company suggests you create a new credit identity.

Companies that want you to lie about credit history or create a new credit identity can get you into legal trouble. Companies that provide “new” identifying information may use stolen Social Security numbers, and if you use this number, then you are committing fraud. Likewise, using an Employee Identification Number or Credit Profile Number provided by these companies is a crime. Rather than committing fraud, take the steps below to improve credit on your own.

Assess your credit history for free

You are entitled to receive one free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) every year. These credit reporting agencies keep detailed records of your credit history. Assessing your credit involves three simple steps:

  1. Download a free copy of all three credit reports.
  2. Review the credit report to find errors.
  3. Prepare a list of items you need to dispute.

Download free credit reports

AnnualCreditReport.com is a website sponsored by the three major credit reporting bureaus, and they are required to provide you with a full credit report every year. The first time that you assess your credit history, download a report from each of the major credit bureaus by following these steps.

Step one: Visit AnnualCreditReport.com and click on the “Request yours now!” link at the top of the page (in red) or the “Request your free credit reports” red box at the bottom of the page.

Step two: Follow the three-step instructions on the website. Download credit reports from all three bureaus, because a mistake may be listed only at one bureau.

Once you’ve filled out the form and requested reports from all three bureaus, you’ll answer some security questions and be directed to your report, one agency at a time. If the security questions trip you up, the website will lock you out of your report, but it will offer a phone number you can call to get your credit report via mail.

Keep in mind that you do not have to access all three credit bureau reports at the same time. If you prefer, you can space out this access over the year. So, for example, you can request a report from Experian in March, then TransUnion in June and Equifax in September.

After the bureau authenticates you, you’ll be directed to your credit report. In the next step, we’ll show you what you need to review.

Review your credit report

Review every credit reporting agency’s credit report in detail. Each report has the following sections: Credit Summary, Accounts (includes payment history), Inquiries and Negative Information. Reviewing each section can help you understand the source of a poor credit score, and if your report contains errors.

When you review your credit report, you will need to visit each section of your credit report, and keep notes about erroneous information. Remember, there are three bureaus, so you need to repeat this process for all three reports.

The next section details what you should should note.

Take notes

Accounts section
The accounts section contains a detailed history of all accounts (open and closed), your balance and your payment history associated with each account. You should be able to see month-by-month payment information for seven years of history. Each month will have a symbol next to it that indicates whether the account was paid as expected or if it was late.

Review each account, the balance and the payment history, and ask these questions:

  • Do you recognize all of the accounts on your credit report?
  • Are all your closed accounts noted as closed?
  • Does each account have the appropriate account balance listed?
  • Is your payment history accurate?

If you see missed payments that shouldn’t have been there, write them down. Your credit score is negatively impacted when you are 30 days or more past due. If you see a balance on a card that you haven’t used in years, it could be because the account has been stolen. Misinformation in the accounts section harms your credit score, so make a note of all of it.

For your own records, you should also take note of the following:

  • What is my current balance relative to my available credit (credit utilization)?
  • Do I have any open accounts that have associated late payments?

Resolving these issues can help you improve your credit score moving forward.

Credit inquiries

Credit inquiries are records of new credit for which you’ve applied. For example, if you apply for a new credit card, a car loan or a mortgage, you will see records of credit inquiries.

  • Do you recognize all the inquiries on your credit report?

If someone steals your identity and tries to apply for new credit in your name, an unrecognizable credit inquiry is usually the first sign of a problem. Make a note of any unrecognizable credit inquiries.

You will also want to take note if you see many credit inquiries where you did not receive the line of credit you wanted. Credit inquiries have a slight negative effect on your credit score, so if you’re applying for a lot of credit, you may need to slow down until your credit score improves.

Negative information

Negative information includes negative accounts, collections or public records. Negative information has the biggest impact on your credit score.

  • Do you recognize all of the negative information on your credit report?

If the negative information in your account is not accurate, you will need to contact the credit bureaus to correct it.

Negative information hurts your credit score, but as it gets older, the effect lessens. Take note of all accurate negative information, so you can follow our strategy to avoid it in the future.

Next steps

If all the information in your credit report is correct, learn how to monitor your credit score for free and how to improve your score.

On the other hand, if you don’t recognize all the information, you will need to take steps to remove incorrect information. And if your identity has been stolen, there will be even more steps required.

Resolve incorrect information on your report

Incorrect information appears on your report for four reasons:

  • Someone stole your identity and opened new accounts in your name.
  • Someone stole one of your existing accounts, and started using it.
  • The bank made an error and reported a delinquency or default that never happened.
  • A collection agency made an error and reported a collection item on debt that was never yours.

If someone stole your identity

Incorrect information due to identity theft is a serious issue that you need to resolve as soon as possible. These are some common signs of identity theft:

  • You don’t get your bills or other mail because someone has changed the mailing address on your accounts.
  • Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours.
  • Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use.
  • Your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claims because records show you’ve reached your benefits limit.
  • The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name.
  • You are arrested for a crime someone else allegedly committed in your name.

Warning: A common form of identity theft is when a family member steals your Social Security number and uses it to apply for credit.

You can start to resolve identity theft issues by visiting www.identitytheft.gov to report identity theft and get a recovery plan. This is an excellent, free website created by the Federal Trade Commission. In addition to reporting identity theft, you will receive a free action plan, and you’ll gain access to people who can guide you through the identity resolution process.

Below we detail some important action items you can take.

  1. Place a fraud alert on your account with the credit reporting agencies by calling each credit bureau (numbers below).
    • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
    • Experian: 1-888-397-3742
    • TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
  2. Put a freeze on your credit reports. A freeze blocks potential creditors from getting access to your credit report, making it less likely an identity thief can open new accounts in your name.
  3. Create an Identity Theft Report by submitting a complaint about the theft to the FTC and filing a police report.

If someone stole your account

If someone stole the account information of an existing account, you should immediately contact your bank or credit card company. Once you report your card as lost or stolen, the bank will typically reissue a new card and correct information on the credit report directly.

Dispute credit report errors

If you do not think you were the victim of identity theft, but believe there is incorrect information on your credit report, you can dispute the information directly with the credit reporting agencies. We will explain how.

Disputing incorrect information involves three steps:

  • Dispute the item online with each credit reporting agency.
  • Write a letter to each credit reporting agency, and keep copies of your correspondence.
  • Write a letter to each organization (bank, collection agency, credit union, etc.) that submitted incorrect information, and keep copies of those letters.

When you dispute incorrect information, you must keep a copy of your mailed correspondence in case the issue does not get resolved right away. Keeping copies of your correspondence will allow you to get help from the Consumer Federal Protection Bureau if necessary. Your dispute should include all of the following:

  • A copy of your report.
  • Specific information about what is incorrect.
  • Any documents that support your position.
  • An explicit request to remove or correct incorrect information.

If you need to dispute information, download the following step-by-step instructions and letter templates that will make disputing incorrect information as pain free as possible.

Download now

Reporting to debt collections agencies can be trickier, as collection agents are more aggressive in their tactics. The Consumer Federal Protection Bureau has a letter template you can use to make it clear that you do not owe the debt.

Download Letter Template Now

After you dispute the incorrect information, you will need to follow up to be sure  the information gets resolved.

If following the steps above seems daunting, some organizations specialize in paid credit repair services. Most of the services require a monthly subscription fee between $60-$100 per month, and most reviews report that the negative items are completely removed within three to five months. Despite the high cost, legitimate companies provide a valuable service if you’ve been the victim of identity theft and you want someone else to do the work for you.

Follow up on disputes

Once you register your dispute with the credit reporting agencies, they must investigate the item in question within 30 days, and they must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information.

If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide credit reporting companies so they can correct the information in your file.

When the investigation is complete, the credit reporting company must give you the results in writing and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. This free report does not count as your annual free report.

If you ask, the credit reporting company must send notices of any corrections to anyone who received your report over the past six months. You can have a corrected copy of your report sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.

What if my dispute isn’t resolved?

If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can request that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You can also ask the credit reporting company to provide a statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. You can expect to pay a fee for this service, and a dispute on your credit report does not improve your credit score.

Do I have any other options?

If you are unhappy with the way your case was investigated by the credit reporting agencies, you don’t have to give up. Instead, you can complain to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

When you complain to the CFPB, you can should provide copies of all of your correspondence to prove your case. The CFPB will reach out to the credit reporting agencies on your behalf and try to help get your situation resolved. At MagnifyMoney, we have worked with many people who have had good outcomes working with the CFPB.

Monitoring your credit score

In order to catch issues, and stay on top of your credit score, you should implement a credit monitoring strategy. You can monitor your credit for free with LendingTree, MagnifyMoney’s parent company. Keep in mind that LendingTree uses VantageScore, which is slightly different than the FICO score, although it has the same score range.

If you prefer more monitoring and additional credit protection, you can pay a fee for services that provide daily three-bureau credit monitoring, resolution assistance if your identity is stolen and insurance if you have to engage in a legal battle. This guide ranks the top identity theft protection services.

Whether you choose a free or paid version, credit monitoring is a great service. As soon as you detect suspicious activity, you can take action. The sooner you work to deal with issues in your credit report, the less the damage may be.

Improve your credit score

Once you resolve issues on your credit report, it’s time to implement a strategy to start improving your credit score. The single best thing that you can do to improve your credit score is to pay current accounts on time and in full every  month. You can picture it as burying negative information under a mountain of positive credit information.

Your top priority should be keeping accounts current. Continue to pay whatever account has the most positive information.

Your next priority should be keeping accounts out of collections. If you owe late payments, work to pay them back before the item goes into collections. Once these accounts are current, they will start to work positively toward your score.

Next, work on paying down your debt to provide positive information. Paying off installment credit (such as mortgages and car loans) will  also add good information to your credit report.

If you have no current accounts, consider taking out a secured credit card and using less than 10% of the available credit each month to add positive information to your report.

The last thing you should do is attempt to resolve debts in collections. Once an item is in collections, paying it off will not improve your credit score.

Going forward, take care to avoid taking on more debt than you can handle, and implement a strategy to pay down your debt quickly. Once you start making positive changes, your credit score should improve, and within a few years, you’re likely to have good credit and be a more desirable loan applicant.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Mortgage

New Mexico First-Time Homebuyer Programs

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Do you want to buy your first home in New Mexico? With the state offering down payment loans and subsidized mortgages, you may be able to buy a house there sooner than you think. These are the most important first-time homebuyer programs for New Mexico’s residents.

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New Mexico first-time homebuyer programs

New Mexico’s first-time homebuyer programs are administered through the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority (NMMFA). This is a quasi-governmental agency that was chartered by the New Mexico state government.

Eligibility for New Mexico assistance

New Mexico’s first-time homebuyer programs are designed for people with low and moderate incomes. Specific income restrictions vary by county and family size. In addition to meeting income requirements, you need at least a credit score of 620 to participate. All of New Mexico’s programs require that the potential homeowner buy a single-family home that they will use as a primary residence.

FIRSTHome Program

What it is

The FIRSTHome loan is a 30-year fixed-interest-rate mortgage that can be combined with New Mexico’s closing cost and down payment loans.

  • No origination fees
  • Competitive interest rates (currently 4.75% to 4.85%)
  • Lower upfront cash requirements (only a $500 contribution is required from the buyer’s own funds)
  • Can be originated as Federal Housing Administration (FHA), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Fannie Mae MyCommunity™ and HFA Preferred™ loans and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 184 Indian Housing program.
  • Can be combined with down payment assistance.
  • Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages only

Requirements

  • Minimum credit score of 620
  • Minimum $500 contribution from personal funds
  • First-time homebuyers only
  • Must earn income below program requirements ($79,179 for a two-person household in Santa Fe, for example)
  • Must occupy the home as a primary residence
  • Single-family homes only
  • Home price must fall below limits ($271,165 in all counties except in Santa Fe [$338,824] and Los Alamos [$350,471])
  • Must complete a homebuyer education course.

How to apply

Only certain lenders can originate FIRSTHome loans. To find a participating lender in your area, use the search tool on the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority’s website. The search tool will give you contact information, so you can reach out to the lenders. When you reach out, be sure to ask about New Mexico’s FIRSTHome mortgage and down payment assistance options.

FIRSTDown Program

What it is

The FirstDown Program offers a down payment loan with a 6% interest rate. First-time homebuyers who meet the income restrictions can borrow up to $8,000 to cover closing costs and down payment requirements.

  • Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgage
  • Six-percent interest rate
  • Lender may charge a $100 origination fee
  • Up to $8,000 loan amount

Requirements

  • Minimum credit score of 620
  • The buyer must contribute at least $500 of their own funds toward home purchase
  • Single-family homes only
  • Must meet income restrictions (which vary by household size and residential area. For example, a two-person household in Santa Fe county must earn less than $79,197.)
  • First-time homebuyers only
  • Must take out a FIRSTHome mortgage
  • Must complete a homebuyer education course
  • Home must be less than price limits ($271,165 in most parts of the state)

How to apply

To take out a FirstDown loan, you need to have a FIRSTHome mortgage. To find a lender that issues FIRSTHome loans, use the search tool on the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority’s website. When you speak to the lender, be sure to mention that you’re interested in a FirstHome mortgage and a FirstDown loan.

HOMENow Down Payment Assistance Program

What it is

The HOMENow loan is a forgivable down payment loan with no interest. Eligible borrowers don’t have to make any payments on this loan, which covers up to 8% of the purchase price of a home (up to $8,000). After 10 years, the loan is forgiven.

  • A loan for up to 8% of the purchase price (or $8,000)
  • The lender may charge a $100 origination fee
  • Zero-percent interest rate
  • Forgivable after 10 years
  • No monthly payments

Requirements

  • Minimum credit score of 620
  • Must be a first-time homebuyer
  • The buyer must contribute at least $500 of their own funds toward home purchase
  • Must earn less than 80% of area median income (for example, $44,400 for a-two person family in Santa Fe)
  • Must be used in conjunction with a FIRSTHome mortgage
  • Single-unit homes only
  • The home must be below price limits (for example, $322,525 for an existing home in Santa Fe County)

How to apply

People who qualify for the HomeNow loan must take it out in conjunction with New Mexico’s FIRSTHome mortgage. To find a lender that issues FIRSTHome loans, use the search tool on the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority’s website. When you speak to a lender, be sure to ask about the HOMENow mortgage.

National first-time homebuyer programs

New Mexico’s first-time homebuyer programs have strict income and property-value limits, so not all first-time buyers will qualify for them. However, homebuyers in New Mexico aren’t limited to just the state programs. Homebuyers can also consider some of the federal first-time homebuyer programs. These programs help New Mexico residents with limited savings or fair credit scores buy their first house.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

By clicking “See Rates”, you will be directed to LendingTree. Based on your creditworthiness, you may be matched with up to five different lenders in our partner network.

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Small Business

Working Capital Loans: The Complete Guide

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

working capital
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As a business owner, you know that you need working capital to turn a profit. Without inventory, cash and receivables, you’re unlikely to stay in business long. However, getting the working capital you need can be a challenge.

In an ideal world, your business would generate working capital from cash flow. Unfortunately, over a third of all business owners rank cash flow as a top challenge facing small business owners. Without sufficient working capital, your business could be one of the 50% of businesses that fail within their first five years.

If you’re a company owner looking to boost your bottom line, improving the amount of working capital available may be the key to your success. By managing your company’s financial needs, creating a financial plan and using debt intelligently you will set your company up for long-term success.

What is working capital?

Working capital measures your company’s ability to meet your financial obligations in the short term. Lenders may want to look at your working capital to see how well you manage your company’s cash flow.

Another way to define working capital is the measure of your assets that can easily be converted to cash. To calculate your company’s working capital, add up your company’s current liquid assets (including cash, inventory and accounts receivable) then subtract your current financial obligations (including accounts payable, short-term loans, utilities, payroll, taxes etc.).

For example, an auto repair shop may have $32,000 in cash, $18,000 in accounts receivable (invoices that will be paid in the next month) and $14,000 in inventory.

These are the shop’s current assets:

Current AssetsCurrent Liabilities
Cash $32,000Accounts payable: $10,000
Accounts receivable: $18,000Payroll: $8,000
Inventory: $14,000Credit card payment: $6,000
Long-term loan payments: $3,000
Total current assets: $64,000Total current liabilities: $27,000

Working capital


$64,000 - $27,000


=


$37,000

When your current assets are worth more than you owe, you have positive working capital. On the other hand, when your current bills exceed your liquid assets, you have negative working capital.

Without sufficient working capital, your company could run into a cash crunch. At the very least, companies without much working capital struggle to jump onto new opportunities. In a worst-case scenario, your company’s bills go unpaid (or are paid late).

A few late payments might not seem like that big of a deal, but the problem could have cascading effects. Paying banks and vendors late will negatively affect your commercial (or business) credit score. In a short amount of time, vendors may start to give you less favorable terms. Your business becomes unlikely to get favorable financing rates, and your commercial insurance premiums may start to rise. With all these factors working against you, staying in business and avoiding further liquidity crunches become a huge challenge.

Even with positive working capital, some companies may struggle with their cash flow. Eric Giltner, who heads the North Dakota region of the Small Business Administration, recounted this story: “I counseled the owner of a lawn service who had receivables of over $40,000 and $25,000 in debts. The owner’s problem was there was no ‘teeth’ in his policy on collecting those dollars [from customers]. The business owner had to get aggressive in his collection procedures and was able to recover enough to pay his bills.”

When collecting payments takes too long, staying in business becomes difficult.

If you have negative working capital, or your company regularly struggles with cash flow issues, you will need to start making some changes. Giltner recommends meeting with a local Small Business Development Center that can help you develop a cash flow projection for free. If you’re more interested in the DIY approach, you can use some of the financial projection templates from SCORE, a nonprofit organization that helps entrepreneurs and small business owners.

“Too many small businesses fail to do a cash plan,” Giltner said. “It’s the biggest reason that small companies run into cash flow problems.” Working on a cash flow projection not only helps you shore up your business model, it may actually help you get funding for a working capital loan.

Understanding working capital loans

If your company is low on working capital, you may want to look into a working capital loan to help you boost profitability. Working capital loans are short-term loans that aren’t secured by equipment, land or inventory. We’ve rounded up some of the best options for small business loans, including working capital loans with interest rates starting around 6.75%.

You can use a working capital loan to pay for almost any business need. Whether you need to expand your marketing efforts, pay for additional inventory or consolidate debt, you can use the funds from a working capital loan to meet your business objectives. Some business owners even use working capital loans to cover everyday operating expenses during a low profitability season.

Most working capital loans are issued by nonbank lenders. With typical bank financing, business owners spend an average of 33 hours per year seeking financing. Working capital loans are underwritten quickly.

Although the speed and flexibility of working capital loans make them appealing to many business owners, they have drawbacks. Most working capital loans have extremely short terms ranging from three months to three years in length. The loans often have weekly or even daily repayment requirements.

They also may carry high interest rates. A typical rate for a working capital loan is 1%-3% per month, plus a 2.5% origination fee. This works out to at least a 15%-45% APR based on a 1-year repayment schedule.

How to use a working capital loan

The interest rates on working capital loans are much higher than rates on business lines of credit from traditional banks. Business owners shouldn’t think of working capital loans as long-term solutions. Instead, business owners should use the loans as a quick source of capital while they work toward lower-cost, more sustainable borrowing options.

However, even high-interest loans may have their place in your business. These are just a few reasons you might consider the loans:

To cover seasonal hiring needs: If you work in construction or other seasonal businesses, you may need to pay seasonal workers before you get paid. A working capital loan can help you bridge the gap that your savings won’t cover.

To pay bills: If you don’t have the money to cover rent, utilities or vendor accounts, you can use the proceeds from a working capital loan to pay the bills while you work on boosting the bottom line.

To purchase inventory: Restaurants, food trucks and stores often have to pay for several days (or weeks) worth of materials before they can make money from the inventory. A working capital loan can help you cover a big upfront expense, so you can earn a profit over time.

To fund unexpected opportunities: If a low cash balance is keeping you from taking on a bigger, more profitable project, a working capital loan could help you take your business to the next level.

To fill a financing gap: Your business may have qualified for a loan from a traditional bank, but not for the amount you needed. A working capital loan can cover the gap, so that you can develop your business further.

Debt consolidation: If you owe multiple lenders or vendors money, and your company is at risk of missing a payment, a working capital loan could help you consolidate your payments into a single loan at a manageable interest rate.

Is working capital financing right for your business?

Depending on the opportunities and risks facing your business, a working capital loan may make sense. It’s important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of working capital loans. Business owners should also consider whether they have alternative financing options (including using cash savings).

Advantages of working capital loans

Speed: The most important reason to consider a working capital loan is the speed of funding. Entrepreneurs know that time is money. If you have to spend weeks applying for a loan, a business opportunity may pass you by.

Cash flow: Despite their high interest rates, working capital loans are designed to be easier on cash flow than traditional loans. With daily or weekly payment requirements, business owners don’t have to worry about making a big payment at the end of the month.

No collateral: Working capital loans are typically a form of unsecured credit. That means that you don’t need to put up land, equipment or other assets as collateral for the loan.

Flexible use: Finally, working capital loans are more flexible than traditional business loans. You can use the proceeds from a working capital loan for almost anything related to your business. For example, you can use loan funds to meet payroll, cover an inventory expense or create a new marketing campaign.

Available for subprime borrowers: Borrowers with personal credit scores as low as 500 can qualify for a working capital loan.

What type of business should use working capital financing?

Working capital financing is generally best for companies that have to complete a long project before their client pays them. For example, a construction company may obtain a working capital loan to purchase materials or pay employees while completing a building project that will take several months to build.

Working capital loans also makes sense when the loan will allow a company to take on bigger or longer projects than they could do with their current cash on hand. For example, a parts manufacturer can use a working capital loan to pay for materials and direct costs while they fulfill an order that is much bigger than usual.

Due to the fast underwriting and funding time, working capital loans may make sense for entrepreneurs who need funding now but can obtain a lower cost loan (such as an SBA loan) within a few months.

It’s important to remember that working capital loans require daily or weekly payments, so you must generate sufficient cash to cover payments while your business works to make a profit.

Disadvantages of working capital loans

High cost: The biggest drawback to working capital loans is the cost of borrowing. Although the interest you pay will depend on a variety of factors, borrowing money is always more expensive than using cash. In some cases, a business credit card may be a less expensive alternative.

Frequent payments: Although the daily or weekly payment schedule may be easier for cash planning, the frequent payments could make it tough to grow your savings.

Short payback: Working capital loans have terms ranging from three months to three years, but a common payback period is less than one year.

May not help you build business credit: Not all lenders of working capital loans report timely payments to Dun & Bradstreet, the primary creator of business credit reports.

Who should avoid a working capital loan?

Many business owners seeking a working capital loan need money fast, but Giltner recommends that business owners should create a cash flow projection before seeking funding.

Entrepreneurs can get free help creating cash flow plans through their local small business development center. In addition to projecting cash flow, Giltner urges businesses to taking steps to boost their bottom line. In particular collecting overdue receivables, selling excess inventory and seeking out better terms with vendors can help business owners gain working capital without taking on loans.

Even when you need cash quickly, a working capital loan may not be the right answer. Some business owners can get better interest rates and terms using a small business credit card. An unsecured line of credit from a local bank could serve a similar function to a working capital loan, but at a lower interest rate (in some cases).

Shopping for working capital loans

When shopping for a working capital loan, it’s important to understand that working capital loans can be quite different than other forms of loans. The first major difference between traditional financing and working capital financing is how interest rates are expressed.

The typical term for interest rate is “Cents on” as in you’ll borrow $10,000 for 25 cents on the dollar. That means you’ll pay $12,500 to borrow $10,000. This cost includes $10,000 in principal balance repayment, and $2,500 in interest and fees. Some contracts allow borrowers to defray the interest cost by paying early, but other borrowers must pay the full amount whether they pay early or not. If you prefer to think in annualized interest rates, you can ask your lender to convert the fees to an annualized percentage rate (APR).

No matter how the loan interest rate is expressed, you must take the time to understand the terms. Are you paying an origination fee? You can see the cost of the fee in your loan funding documents. It’s common for working capital loans to carry a 2.5% origination fee. You should also understand whether the loan has late payment fees, prepayment penalties or other hidden costs. Before signing any loan documents, take the time to understand the loan contract. A loan officer should be able to explain all the fees in the loan documents.

Business owners also need to prepare to get loan offers for a smaller amount than they need. Under certain circumstances, lenders will fund a business owner’s full request for a loan, but sometimes they lend as little as half the requested funds. The total amount your business receives may depend on your business’s profitability, your credit history and other factors.

The loan offer experience will vary by lender, but approved borrowers can typically choose from a range of loan amounts and repayment periods. You’ll need to weigh the total cost of borrowing and the daily or weekly payments to determine which loan works best for your business.

Consider starting your small business loan search on LendingTree, our parent company. You simply fill out a short form and can potentially receive up to five offers from lenders.

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Minimum requirements for a working capital loan

Although working capital loans are more accessible than other forms of business financing, you must still meet some baseline requirements to qualify.

These are the other things you may need to qualify for a working capital loan:

A reason for seeking financing: Before applying for a business loan, you need a solid explanation for why you want the funds. Business owners who can’t explain how they will use the loan, may struggle to find a lender willing to work with them. Lenders want to be repaid, so they need to see that the loan is part of your financial plan. Even if you need the loan to catch up on bills, you need to explain how you’ll use your new financial position to boost your profits.

A business checking account: To qualify for a working capital loan, you may need a separate business checking account. This is the account where you pay most of your businesses expenses, and where you deposit income.

Business bank statements: Recent bank statements (from your business bank account) can show your historic spending. They will also prove whether you meet gross revenue requirements.

Annual revenue: Different lenders have different revenue requirements for business borrowers.

Time in business: To prove your business’s track record, you may be asked for a copy of your articles of incorporation, a business tax return or older business bank statements.

Personal credit score: The business owner may need to show their personal and/or business credit score(s).

If you qualify for a loan, you may need to submit further documentation before the loan becomes funded.

How to apply for a working capital loan

Thanks to internet marketplaces, applying for a working capital loan is now easier than ever. Many online applications will ask about the following areas:

Your industry: Some lenders specialize in working with borrowers from specific industries, so lenders may ask about your company’s industry.

Annual revenue: You need to provide an estimate of current and projected revenue for the upcoming year.

Personal credit score: To help with underwriting the loan, you need to provide an estimate of your personal credit score. Many credit cards provide estimates of your credit score. You can also get a free credit score from LendingTree, MagnifyMoney’s parent company.

Date of incorporation: This is the date your business was founded. If you have articles of incorporation, the date will be on those documents. If you’re a sole proprietor, give the date you started doing business.

Entity type: Is your business an LLC, a partnership or a sole proprietorship? Maybe it operates as an S or C Corporation. Although the entity type won’t affect your profitability, it will affect how your lender writes the funding contract.

Employer Identification Number (EIN): The EIN is a nine-digit business tax identification number assigned by the IRS. You will need this number to apply for credit. If you don’t have an EIN, you can use your Social Security number.

Social Security Number (SSN): Your SSN helps validate your personal credit score.

In addition to the information above, you may need to upload a few documents to the lender’s secure website.

Once you complete your application, you should keep your phone handy. A representative may call to clarify some details in your application. You may also be asked to submit more documentation.

For example, some businesses may need to provide include month-to-date bank statements, older bank statements, proof of payoff letters or other documents explaining your company’s financial health. You may also need to submit your company’s articles of incorporation, a business tax return or a copy of your driver’s license.

Some lenders provide fast funding as quickly as 24 hours.

Do I need a business credit score to qualify for a working capital loan?

Your business does not need a business credit score to qualify for a working capital loan. That’s good news for businesses that don’t have any existing credit. A lack of business credit score won’t hurt you when applying for a working capital loan through most online lenders.

If your business has a credit score, lenders may consider it during underwriting. Businesses with good business credit scores may be able to qualify for better terms and rates on working capital loans. On the other hand, a business with a bad business credit score may not qualify for a working capital loan.

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