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Best SBA Lenders of 2024

SBA-approved lenders vary based on the loan program. The best lenders have ample experience processing and issuing SBA loans.
By Randa Kriss
Last updated on December 21, 2023
Edited bySally Lauckner

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⏰ Estimated read time: 10 minutes

Most SBA loans are issued by banks, credit unions and other financial institutions, not the government. The best lenders have substantial experience with these small-business loans, so you get effective help during the application process and hopefully increase your chances of approval.
Here are the best SBA lenders by loan program, as well as tips on how to find the right SBA lender for your business.

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Best SBA 7(a) lenders

Many national, regional and local banks are SBA 7(a) lenders, including big-name institutions like Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo. You’ll want to find an SBA 7(a) lender that works with small businesses in your area and offers competitive interest rates and loan terms.
The best SBA 7(a) lenders will have an established history of issuing these loans with the streamlined application process and dedicated loan specialists to show for it. These lenders are often members of the preferred lenders program, or PLP.
SBA preferred lenders can make final credit decisions without sending applications to the SBA, allowing them to speed up the loan approval timeline. As an example, SBA preferred lender Citizens Bank approves and closes SBA loans in about 45 days, which is much faster than the typical 60- to 90-day timeline.`
In the 2023 fiscal year, preferred lenders approved 27,810 SBA 7(a) loans, worth almost $21.5 billion.
Here are some of the best SBA 7(a) lenders based on their loan processing volume, loan approvals and availability.

Live Oak Banking Company

Live Oak Banking Company was the most active SBA 7(a) lender by dollar amount, approving over $1.8 billion in loans during the 2023 fiscal year.
Based in Wilmington, North Carolina, Live Oak Bank offers an online-based, streamlined application to small businesses across the U.S. and is part of the SBA PLP.
Live Oak offers SBA 7(a) loans of up to $5 million with up to 90% bank financing and typically a 10% down payment. The bank accepts a minimum credit score of 650.
Additionally, Live Oak is an SBA 504 lender, providing loans of up to $15 million. Using its combination debt financing solution, the bank is able to fund larger 504 projects compared to other lenders.
You can work with a Live Oak specialist to get started creating a loan package since SBA 504 loans require that you work with a Certified Development Company (CDC) as well as a private lender. Read our full Live Oak SBA Loan review.

Huntington National Bank

Huntington National Bank approved the most 7(a) loans of any SBA lender in fiscal year 2023, with over 7,000 loans for a total of nearly $1.4 billion.
The bank offers loans of up to $5 million, down payments as low as 10% and dedicated SBA specialists who work directly with borrowers to help them start and complete the application process.
Huntington Bank is also an SBA Express loan lender. A subset of the SBA 7(a) loan program, SBA Express loans offer a faster turnaround time but smaller loan amounts.
Additionally, Huntington administers the Lift Local Business Program, which supports minority-, woman- and veteran-owned businesses. Through the program, small-business owners can receive financial education courses and other resources, as well as SBA loan assistance.
SBA loans from this program have no origination fees, lower credit score requirements and Huntington pays the government fees for the borrower.

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Newtek Small Business Finance

Newtek is one of the most active non-bank SBA lenders. In fiscal year 2023, Newtek issued almost 1,300 7(a) loans for a total of nearly $814 million. The company markets itself as a business and financial solution provider, offering business loans, payment systems, web solutions, insurance and more.
Through the SBA 7(a) program, Newtek lends to for-profit, U.S.-based businesses with two to three years of tax returns. In addition, when applying for one of these government small-business loans through Newtek, you’ll work with the same lending specialist throughout the process and Newtek will complete all required documents and forms for you.
To learn more about the Newtek SBA loan program, you can call customer service, or submit an online inquiry form to prequalify.

Celtic Bank Corp.

Celtic Bank processed almost $510 million in SBA 7(a) loans in fiscal year 2023. Celtic Bank specializes in small-business loans, offering a range of products in addition to SBA financing.
This bank is headquartered in Salt Lake City but operates completely digitally with no branch network. Therefore, unlike many SBA lenders, Celtic allows you to get started and manage your SBA loan application online.
Celtic Bank is an SBA preferred lender, offering standard 7(a) loans in amounts up to $5 million with fixed or variable interest rates and terms up to 25 years.
In addition, the bank offers its Celtic Express loan, designed to finance working capital needs or equipment purchases, with amounts up to $150,000 and terms up to 10 years. With these loans, Celtic provides a simpler, streamlined application process for SBA-secured loans in smaller amounts.
Celtic Bank is also an SBA 504 lender, offering this long-term financing for real estate purchases or construction, as well as machinery or equipment purchases.

Wells Fargo

In fiscal year 2023, Wells Fargo approved just over 2,100 SBA 7(a) loans, for a total of over $427 million.
Wells Fargo offers a wide range of services to small businesses across the U.S., which includes its SBA lending program. The bank offers SBA 7(a) loans up to $5 million with fixed or variable interest rates.
In addition, Wells Fargo offers SBA 504 loans, with loan amounts up to $10 million for the bank portion and up to $5 million for the CDC portion. Like the bank’s 7(a) loans, interest rates can be fixed or variable.
Wells Fargo is an SBA preferred lender, meaning it can make final credit decisions without requiring approval from the SBA, streamlining the application process compared to non-preferred lenders.
You can learn more about Wells Fargo’s SBA loans and find out how to submit an application by making an appointment at your local branch location or calling the National Business Banking Center customer service line. Read our full Wells Fargo business loan review.

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Best SBA 504 lenders

Unlike SBA 7(a) loans, SBA 504 loans are funded in three parts. Typically, 50% is funded by a bank or credit union, 40% is funded by a CDC and the final 10% is funded as a down payment, or equity injection, by the business owner.
Many banks, credit unions, and other private financial institutions that offer SBA 7(a) loans are also SBA 504 lenders. Again, like 7(a) loans, some of the biggest national banks offer 504 loans, including Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank.
These institutions provide the “bank” portion of the loan and can often help you find a local CDC in your area to fund that portion of the loan.
In the 2023 fiscal year, 180 CDCs in the U.S. provided at least one SBA CDC/504 loan. If you want to find a CDC to work with first, you can use the search tool on the SBA website to find a CDC lender near you.
You might also be able to find a list of CDCs ranked and published by your local SBA office or released in a local business publication.

Best SBA microloan lenders

SBA microloans are distributed by non-bank, intermediary lenders — nonprofit community-based organizations that have been approved by the SBA.
Unlike other SBA lenders, microloan intermediaries receive funds directly from the SBA. Then, these lenders manage their own programs and issue SBA microloans to eligible borrowers.
The best SBA microloan lenders largely vary based on region similar to the way CDC lenders work. As of October 2023, there are 160 active microloan intermediaries serving all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. You can find an intermediary in your state using the microloan list of lenders search tool on the SBA website.

How to choose an SBA lender

Follow these tips to find and choose the best SBA lender for your needs.

Start with a financial institution you know

Banks and credit unions often prioritize borrowers they have an existing relationship with, so contacting a financial institution where you have a business account (or have worked with before) can be a great place to begin your search.
If you’re a customer at your local bank, even better. According to a 2023 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, although the majority of growth in small-business lending has traditionally come from larger banks, smaller banks actually lend a higher share of their assets to small businesses.
Similarly, Biz2Credit’s monthly Small Business Lending Index report consistently shows that small banks approve business loans at a higher rate than their larger competitors, 19.3% compared to 13.1% as of September 2023.

Connect with lenders through the SBA lender match system

Through the SBA website, you’ll answer a few brief questions about your business and in two business days you’ll receive an email with possible lender matches. Then, you can contact the lenders for more information, or the lenders may reach out to you directly.

Make sure it’s a good fit

Before choosing a lender, ask about interest rates, loan amounts, repayment terms and prepayment penalties, as well as its SBA loan requirements, such as minimum credit score and time in business criteria.
It can also be helpful to ask about how the application process works. Does the lender assign a loan specialist to assist you throughout the process? What is the timeline for applications and approvals — is it faster than the typical 60 to 90 days? Is the lender an SBA preferred lender?
This information can help you get a better sense of whether a particular SBA lender is right for your business.

Find the right business loan

The best business loan is generally the one with the lowest rates and most ideal terms. But other factors — like time to fund and your business’s qualifications — can help determine which option you should choose. NerdWallet recommends comparing small-business loans to find the right fit for your business.

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