Does your business ever experience temporary cash flow gaps or unexpected expenses? A business line of credit might be the solution you’re looking for. 

Unlike a traditional loan that provides a lump sum upfront, a business line of credit acts like a revolving credit card. It gives you access to a pre-approved credit limit that you can tap into as needed. This offers incredible flexibility for managing your business finances, but there are also some important considerations before diving in. It’s important to have a clear understanding of both business line of credit pros and cons.

What is a Business Line of Credit?

A business line of credit is a flexible financing option that functions similarly to a credit card for your business. Here’s how it works:

  • Approval and Limit: After applying and undergoing a credit check, your business will be granted a credit limit, which is the maximum amount you can borrow.
  • Access to Funds: Once approved, you can withdraw funds from your line of credit as needed, up to your limit. This provides flexibility in managing cash flow.
  • Repayment and Interest: You only pay interest on the amount of money you withdraw. As you repay what you’ve borrowed, the available credit in your line of credit is replenished, allowing you to borrow again.

Imagine your business, a bakery, experiences a surge in cupcake orders before a holiday. Your regular revenue stream might not be enough to cover the additional ingredient costs. With a business line of credit, you could withdraw funds to purchase the extra ingredients, only paying interest on the amount borrowed. Once you earn revenue from the cupcake sales, you can repay the borrowed amount, making your credit line available again for future needs.

The 9 Pros of a Business Line of Credit

For many small business owners, a business line of credit is a lifeline: access to money on-demand. It’s a lever they can pull to support growth, cover unexpected expenses, and rely on in emergencies. Here’s a look at the benefits of a business line of credit:

  1. Manages Short-Term Needs and Seasonal Fluctuations: Many businesses experience periods of lower income or unexpected expenses. A line of credit acts as a safety net, allowing you to cover payroll, rent, or supplier costs during slow periods. Similarly, seasonal businesses can use the credit line to bridge the gap between peak and off-seasons.
  2. Covers Unexpected Expenses: Unexpected repairs, legal fees, or other emergencies can disrupt your budget. A business line of credit provides a readily available source of funds to address these unforeseen circumstances, preventing them from derailing your operations.
  3. Pay Only for What You Borrow: Unlike a traditional loan where you receive the entire amount upfront, a business line of credit offers a significant advantage. You only pay interest on the portion of the credit limit you actually use. This allows you to manage your borrowing strategically and minimize interest costs.
  4. Less Stringent Requirements: Traditional loans often require a strong credit history, a detailed business plan, and collateral. Qualifying for a business line of credit might be easier, with lenders placing less emphasis on these factors.
  5. Faster Application Process and Approval: The application process for a business line of credit is typically simpler and quicker than for a traditional loan. This can be crucial for businesses needing access to funds rapidly to capitalize on opportunities or address immediate needs.
  6. Regular Repayments Improve Credit Score: Making on-time payments on your line of credit helps build a positive business credit history. This strong credit score can be advantageous when seeking future loans or financing for your business.
  7. Establish Rapport with Lenders: Building a relationship with a lender through responsible management of your business line of credit can be valuable. This established rapport can make it easier to secure financing in the future, potentially with more favorable terms.
  8. Seize Unexpected Business Opportunities: A line of credit allows you to act quickly on unexpected business opportunities, such as bulk purchases with significant discounts. This can give you a competitive edge and boost your profitability.
  9. Invest in Inventory or Marketing for Growth: A line of credit can provide the temporary capital needed to invest in inventory or marketing initiatives to fuel business growth. This can help you take your business to the next level.

Ultimately, a business line of credit gives small companies ready access to something they desperately need: cash. Whether it’s funding for a new project, padding for higher expenses, or security in the event of an emergency, a business line of credit is a fallback that’s nice to have. 

The 6 Cons of a Business Line of Credit

Beyond the bevy of benefits a business line of credit can offer small businesses, there are also a few important considerations. Before applying for a line of credit with a bank or broker, consider some of the drawbacks that can potentially impact your finances:

  1. Interest Rates Can Be High, Especially for Smaller Businesses: Interest rates on business lines of credit can be on the higher side, particularly for businesses with a shorter credit history or lower credit score. This can significantly increase your borrowing costs if you’re not strategic about utilization.
  2. Temptation to Overspend Can Lead to Debt Burden: The easy access to funds can be tempting, leading to overspending and accumulating significant debt. Responsible budgeting and discipline are essential to avoid this pitfall.
  3. Fees Associated with Application, Maintenance, and Inactivity: There might be associated fees for applying for the line of credit, maintaining it annually, or even for inactivity if you don’t use it for a certain period. Understanding these fees can help you factor them into your financial planning.
  4. May Not Be Enough for Major Expenses: Business lines of credit typically have lower credit limits compared to traditional loans. This might not be suitable for financing major equipment purchases, real estate investments, or large-scale expansion plans.
  5. May Require Multiple Lines for Larger Funding Needs: If your business requires a significant amount of funding, you might need to secure multiple lines of credit from different lenders, which can become complex to manage.
  6. Pressure to Repay Quickly Can Strain Cash Flow: Short repayment periods can put pressure on your cash flow, especially if you’re borrowing a significant amount. Carefully consider your repayment capacity before utilizing the credit line extensively.
  7. Unsuitable for Major Equipment Purchases or Real Estate: The high interest rates and shorter repayment terms make lines of credit a poor choice for financing long-term assets like machinery or property.

The good news is that most of these potential drawbacks are easily mitigated with responsible use and utilization of a business line of credit. Managing your credit appropriately and staying on top of fees, repayment, and interest expense can swing the balance in favor of a resource, rather than a liability. 

A Note About Alternative Financing Options

Before deciding on a business line of credit, consider other financing options that might better suit your specific needs. These may include:

  • Term loans: Offer a lump sum upfront for a fixed repayment term and typically have lower interest rates than lines of credit.
  • Equipment financing: Specifically designed to finance the purchase of business equipment with longer repayment terms.
  • Merchant cash advances: Provide a cash advance based on your future sales receipts but can come with high fees.

Discussing your business goals and financial situation with a qualified financial advisor can be highly beneficial. They can help you assess the best financing option for your specific needs and, if you do choose a business line of credit, ensure you leverage it strategically to achieve your goals.

Is a Business Line of Credit Right for You?

Securing a business line of credit can be a strategic financial decision for your business. It offers significant flexibility in managing cash flow, covering unexpected expenses, and potentially seizing growth opportunities. Additionally, responsible use can help build your business credit score and establish a positive relationship with a lender.

However, it’s crucial to weigh the potential drawbacks as well. High-interest rates, the temptation to overspend, and limited credit limits can all lead to financial burdens. Short repayment terms can strain cash flow, and lines of credit are not suitable for long-term financing needs.

Ultimately, the value of a business line of credit comes from how you use it. If you’re ready to open one, NorthOne is ready to help you make the most of it. Borrow as you need and pay only for what you use. NorthOne account holders can access a line of credit of up to $250K and, best of all, applying won’t impact your credit score! Learn more today.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Have questions about the pros and cons of a business line of credit? Here are some answers to help you better-understand if a line of credit is right for you and your business.

When should a business use a line of credit?

A business line of credit is ideal for managing short-term cash flow gaps, covering unexpected expenses, or seizing quick business opportunities. It’s also useful for building business credit and lender relationships.

Is it better to get a line of credit or business loan?

It depends on your needs. Lines of credit offer flexibility for ongoing needs, while business loans provide a lump sum for specific purposes (often with lower interest rates) but require stricter qualifications.

What are the benefits of a business line of credit?

Benefits include improved cash flow management, easier access to funds than traditional loans, potential to build business credit, and the ability to act quickly on opportunities.