How a small business line of credit can boost cash flow and grow your business.

It's great to consistently have enough cash stored in your bank account to cover ongoing expenses. That probably means your business is doing well. But you also may want to consider the ways that having a business line of credit (LOC) can work to your advantage. Chances are, there'll be situations over the life of your business where it would make more sense to borrow, rather than completely empty your accounts.

If you were suddenly hit with an emergency, what would that do to your available cash? By spending a lot of money to fix your problem, you could end up sacrificing all that available cash—which is one of your most valuable assets. Opening a business LOC can help protect your assets by giving you a short-term boost to your cash flow.

But they're not just to help in an emergency. A business LOC can also be helpful when you have a chance to make a significant investment that can immediately improve your business. What if you come across an excellent deal on restaurant equipment or a new work van that would surely expand your customer base? Or if you have an opportunity to buy inventory at a steep discount? With access to a small business LOC, a business could be in prime position to take advantage of these opportunities.

A small business line of credit (LOC) allows a borrower to draw against a lender-specified amount of financing on an as-needed basis. The advantage of a business credit line is that you only pay interest on the funds you actually draw, so you’re not stuck paying interest on capital you don’t have an immediate use for. Here are a few small business line of credit options to consider: 

1. Traditional line of credit:

The traditional line of credit is typically meant for experienced business owners with proven business models. Which makes sense since the credit maximums are sizable, the rates are lower, and the requirements demand higher credit scores and annual revenue reporting. If you’re a business owner taking out a line of credit, you’ll be spending that flexible cash on seasonal business expenses, payroll and other operational costs, insurance against emergencies and for sudden opportunities. In other words, as a capital cushion. It’s there for you when you need it.

2. Short-term line of credit:

The difference between a short-term line of credit and a traditional line of credit is more or less the same as the difference between your typical short-term loan and conventional bank or longer-term online loan  Therefore, a short-term line of credit has a higher interest rate, lower credit maximum, faster turnaround time and looser application requirements. Unlike the traditional line of credit, the short-term line of credit is generally offered by alternative lenders rather than by banks. The point isn’t that one is better or worse, they appeal to different groups of business owners. Those with lower credit scores, smaller annual revenues, or newer businesses might only qualify for a short-term line of credit. And although the short-term line of credit tends to be more expensive, its value lies in giving younger small businesses the opportunity to maintain a flexible pool of capital. A small business line of credit provides flexibility that a regular business loan doesn’t. With a small business line of credit, you can borrow up to $100,000 and pay interest only on the money borrowed. You then draw and repay funds as you wish, as long as you don’t exceed your credit limit. Need to manage cash flow? Buy inventory? Pay for a surprise expense? Then a business line of credit makes sense.

3. Invoice-backed line of credit:

The basic idea behind invoice financing (also called accounts receivable financing) is that, sometimes, customers take a long time to pay you back -- but you might not be able to wait. Instead of relying on short-term loans to cover operating costs, or digging into your savings, you could just get those invoices paid right away -- although you’ll have to shoulder the costs of that speed and efficiency. An invoice-backed line of credit follows the same logic. The value of your invoices determines your credit maximum, and you can draw capital as needed instead of relying on your customers to pay on time. And as your invoices increase, you’ll typically have access to more cash from the line of credit as well.

Is a line of credit loan a good fit for my business?

While it’s ideal to have savings to help your business weather storms, the next best thing is to apply for a line of credit. Business credit lines were designed to help you meet short-term cash needs, such as purchasing supplies or additional inventory or covering operating expenses. Essentially, a business line of credit can help small businesses thrive and grow. A business line of credit is a good option to offset fluctuations in working capital when your expenses stay constant. A line of credit will give you access to funds to continue to pay bills on time or purchase additional inventory if needed. The advantage of a line of credit over a regular business loan is that interest is only charged on the funds you actually use. Additionally, your business can draw on the line of credit at any time that you need.