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8 Best Small-Business Loans for Women

By Randa Kriss
Last updated on June 28, 2024
Edited bySally Lauckner
Fact checked and reviewed
Bank loans, SBA loans, online loans and microloans are some of the financing options available to women-owned businesses.

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Businesses run by women are less likely to be approved for a small-business loan than those run by men, according to data released in 2024 by the Federal Reserve. However, there are options for women business owners seeking funding, and resources like government-backed Women's Business Centers offer training to help bridge the gender funding gap.
Here are some of the best loans for women-owned businesses — including options for minority women, women veterans and those with startups or bad credit — plus information on grants and other programs for female entrepreneurs.

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We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.

Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.

Here are 8 small-business loans for women

LenderNerdWallet RatingMax loan amountMin. credit scoreNext steps

SBA 7(a) loan

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Best for SBA loans

$5,000,000650

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Bank of America Business Advantage Unsecured Term Loan

5.0/5

Best for Bank business loans

Undisclosed700
Read Review

Fora Financial - Online term loan

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4.5/5

Best for Bad credit

$1,500,000570

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Fundbox - Line of credit

5.0/5

Best for Startups

$150,000600
Read Review

Accion Opportunity Fund - Small Business Working Capital Loan

5.0/5

Best for Minority women

$250,000570
Read Review

SBA Microloan

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Best for Microloans

$50,000620

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Huntington National Bank - Lift Local Business Program

Best for Women veterans

$150,000Undisclosed
Read Review

National Funding - Equipment Financing

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4.5/5

Best for Equipment loans

$150,000600

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Here are 8 small-business loans for women

Best for SBA loans

U.S. Small Business Administration

Max Amount

$5,000,000

Min. Credit Score

650

Best for Bank business loans

Bank of America

Max Amount

Undisclosed

Min. Credit Score

700

Best for Bad credit

Fora Financial

Max Amount

$1,500,000

Min. Credit Score

570

Best for Startups

Fundbox

Max Amount

$150,000

Min. Credit Score

600

Best for Minority women

Accion

Max Amount

$250,000

Min. Credit Score

570

Best for Microloans

U.S. Small Business Administration

Max Amount

$50,000

Min. Credit Score

620

Best for Women veterans

Huntington National Bank

Max Amount

$150,000

Min. Credit Score

Undisclosed

Best for Equipment loans

National Funding

Max Amount

$150,000

Min. Credit Score

600

I'M INTERESTED IN:

Our pick for

SBA loans

SBA 7(a) loans are a good option for long-term financing and maximum loan limits of up to $5 million.

SBA 7(a) loan

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Max Loan Amount
$5,000,000
Min. credit score
650
Est. APR
11.50-15.00%
7(a) loans are issued by private lenders and backed by the SBA. They offer long repayment terms and low interest rates.
Lowest interest rate

Max loan

$5,000,000

Min. Credit score

650

Apr range

11.50-15.00%

7(a) loans are issued by private lenders and backed by the SBA. They offer long repayment terms and low interest rates.
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Our pick for

Bank business loans

Bank of America offers a flexible term loan that doesn’t require collateral and can be used for a range of business purposes.

Bank of America Business Advantage Unsecured Term Loan

Max Loan Amount
Undisclosed
Min. credit score
700
Bank of America’s term loan offers competitive interest rates and flexible repayment terms — with no collateral required.

Max loan

Undisclosed

Min. Credit score

700

Bank of America’s term loan offers competitive interest rates and flexible repayment terms — with no collateral required.

Our pick for

Bad credit

You may be able to qualify for a business loan with Fora Financial with a credit score of 570 or higher and at least six months in business.

Fora Financial - Online term loan

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Max Loan Amount
$1,500,000
Min. credit score
570
Fora Financial can be a good fit for borrowers who may fall short of qualifying for traditional bank financing or young but established small businesses looking for speedy financing.

Max loan

$1,500,000

Min. Credit score

570

Fora Financial can be a good fit for borrowers who may fall short of qualifying for traditional bank financing or young but established small businesses looking for speedy financing.
Read Review

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Our pick for

Startups

Fundbox has flexible minimum qualification requirements of at least six months in business and a credit score of 600.

Fundbox - Line of credit

Max Loan Amount
$150,000
Min. credit score
600
Est. APR
36.00-99.00%
Fundbox offers a business line of credit to fill a cash flow gap, and qualifying is easier than with other lenders.
May fund quickly

Max loan

$150,000

Min. Credit score

600

Apr range

36.00-99.00%

Fundbox offers a business line of credit to fill a cash flow gap, and qualifying is easier than with other lenders.

Our pick for

Minority women

Nonprofit lender Accion Opportunity Fund says 90% of its borrowers are women, people of color and/or low-to-moderate income.

Accion Opportunity Fund - Small Business Working Capital Loan

Max Loan Amount
$250,000
Min. credit score
570
Est. APR
8.49-24.99%
Accion is a good option for businesses that haven't been able to secure traditional financing. The lender targets its funding efforts toward minority, women and low-to-moderate-income entrepreneurs.

Max loan

$250,000

Min. Credit score

570

Apr range

8.49-24.99%

Accion is a good option for businesses that haven't been able to secure traditional financing. The lender targets its funding efforts toward minority, women and low-to-moderate-income entrepreneurs.

Our pick for

Microloans

Offered through nonprofit community-based organizations, microloans can provide funding up to $50,000 for working capital and other needs.

SBA Microloan

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Max Loan Amount
$50,000
Min. credit score
620
Est. APR
8.00-13.00%
SBA microloans are small-sized loans funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and issued through approved intermediaries, typically nonprofit and community lenders.

Max loan

$50,000

Min. Credit score

620

Apr range

8.00-13.00%

SBA microloans are small-sized loans funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and issued through approved intermediaries, typically nonprofit and community lenders.
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Our pick for

Women veterans

Huntington National Bank’s Lift Local Business loan program can be a source of funding for women veterans who need capital to start a business or operate an existing one.

Huntington National Bank - Lift Local Business Program

Max Loan Amount
$150,000
Min. credit score
Undisclosed
Huntington National’s Lift Local Business loan program is designed to support minority-, woman- and veteran-owned small businesses from startup and on.

Max loan

$150,000

Min. Credit score

Undisclosed

Huntington National’s Lift Local Business loan program is designed to support minority-, woman- and veteran-owned small businesses from startup and on.

Our pick for

Equipment loans

National Funding offers equipment loans up to $150,000 with no collateral requirement to businesses that have been in operation for at least six months.

National Funding - Equipment Financing

Read Review

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Max Loan Amount
$150,000
Min. credit score
600
Borrowers who can't qualify for more traditional loan options might consider National Funding for fast access to capital.

Max loan

$150,000

Min. Credit score

600

Borrowers who can't qualify for more traditional loan options might consider National Funding for fast access to capital.
Read Review

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A closer look at the best business loans for women

SBA 7(a) loan

Best for: SBA loans
Notable features: SBA 7(a) loans are the most common type of SBA loan and can be used for a variety of purposes. These loans are partially guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration, like most other types of SBA loans. Maximum loan amounts can reach $5 million or more in some cases.
Why we like it: An SBA 7(a) loan will offer women entrepreneurs low interest rates and long repayment terms, plus the versatility to use the funds for working capital, supplies, inventory, equipment, real estate and other purchases. Also, because of the SBA guarantee, lenders can often relax their qualification requirements making it easier to qualify for these loans.

Bank of America Business Advantage Unsecured Term Loan

Best for: Bank business loans
Notable features: Bank of America’s unsecured term loan does require collateral. Interest rate discounts and other benefits may be available through the Preferred Rewards program. The minimum credit score requirement is
700
.
Why we like it: For women who have established businesses, solid revenue and excellent credit scores, the best interest rates and terms will typically be offered by a traditional lender like Bank of America may be able to offer.

Fora Financial - Online term loan

Best for: Bad credit
Notable features: Fora’s minimum credit score requirement is
570
and its longest loan term is
18
months. Businesses need to be in operation for a minimum of
6
months. Note that Fora charges a factor rate instead of an interest rate which can make it harder to compare the cost of lending products.
Why we like it: For women with low credit scores, Fora’s
570
minimum credit score requirement is one of the lowest for online term loans. Collateral isn’t required and discounts for repaying the loan early are offered.

Fundbox - Line of credit

Best for: Startups
Notable features: Fundbox requires a minimum time in business of
6
months and minimum annual revenue of $100,000. Minimum credit score requirement is
600
. The lender doesn’t charge prepayment penalties, maintenance fees or inactivity fees.
Why we like it: Fundbox is friendly to women with startup businesses due to its low time in business, annual revenue and credit score requirements.

Accion Opportunity Fund - Small Business Working Capital Loan

Best for: Minority women
Notable features: Accion Opportunity Fund is a nonprofit lender that works primarily with women, people of color and entrepreneurs with low-to-moderate income. Your business will need to be in operation for
12
months and have annual revenue of $50,000. Educational resources and other types of support are offered.
Why we like it: Accion is a good option for women with businesses that have been in operation for at least a year and that haven’t been able to secure financing from other types of lenders. Also, business mentoring and educational resources can be helpful in growing your business.

SBA Microloan

Best for: Microloans
Notable features: SBA microloans are another low interest loan offered through nonprofit organizations with maximum loan amounts of $50,000. The non-profit offering the loan sets their own lending requirements. These loans can be used for a variety of purposes, except to pay existing debts or purchase real estate.
Why we like it: SBA microloans can be a good option for women who need a small business loan at a low interest rate. Loan funds can be used for working capital or to make supply, inventory or equipment purchases.

Huntington National Bank - Lift Local Business Program

Best for: Women veterans
Notable features: Huntington’s Lift Local Business loans are designed to support businesses owned by women, veterans and people of color. Business planning, entrepreneurial courses and other services are also available. Loan amounts range from $1,000 to $150,000 with no origination fees or SBA fees.
Why we like it: For women looking for low-fee business loans, a Lift Local Business loan is a good option. There’s no origination fee or SBA fee charged, plus the education courses and other services are an added benefit of this loan.

National Funding - Equipment Financing

Best for: Equipment loans
Notable features: National Funding offers equipment financing with maximum loan amounts as high as $150,000. Collateral is not required to secure the loan. Businesses need to be in operation for a minimum of
6
months and have annual revenue of $250,000. A minimum credit score of
600
is also required.
Why we like it: National Funding’s equipment loans are startup-friendly and also don’t require a high credit score. Because the equipment purchased is typically used to secure the loan, additional collateral is not required. Prepayment discounts offered by the lender can also reduce the cost of the loan.

Types of small-business loans for women

Although business loans set aside specifically for women-owned businesses are limited, the SBA and some lenders do invest in programs to help level the playing field when it comes to accessing capital. As a result, women-owned companies may be able to tap into multiple types of business loans, including:

SBA loans

There are several SBA loans that female entrepreneurs can use for financing, including the flagship SBA 7(a) loan program. Banks, online lenders and other financial institutions offer these loans, which are backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The SBA 7(a) loan program offers low interest rates and long repayment terms — making it a good option for a variety of use cases. To date, small businesses that are more than 50% female-owned have received $3.3 billion in SBA 7(a) funding in the 2024 fiscal year, according to the SBA.
SBA 7(a) loans are traditionally slow to fund, but if you need access to capital more quickly, the SBA Express loan provides a faster timeline. These loans have smaller maximum funding amounts of $500,000, but still offer competitive interest rates and repayment terms for those who qualify. The SBA strives to return decisions on Express loans within 36 hours.

🤓 Nerdy Tip

Utilizing the free resources offered by the SBA-affiliated agencies and nonprofit organizations, many of which are specifically designed for women business owners, can help you prepare a business plan, navigate the loan application process and secure funding.

Bank business loans

Small-business loans from banks typically come with the lowest costs but toughest eligibility qualifications. You will likely need good personal credit (a score in the 700s), at least a couple years in businesses and strong annual revenue to qualify.
When seeking financing, 42% of women-owned businesses apply for funding at large banks and 19% at small banks, according to data released in May 2024 from the Federal Reserve. And when considering all funding sources, applications for women-owned businesses had a 44% approval rate.
Huntington National Bank, with branches in 11 states, is one bank that offers a loan program targeted to women as well as veteran and minority business owners. Its Lift Local Business loan program features lower fees and credit score requirements, plus longer repayment terms.

Online loans

If you have a bad or fair credit score (a score between 300 and 689) or have been in business for less than two years, an alternative online lender could be a good choice — although programs specifically for female entrepreneurs aren’t typically available.
These lenders offer multiple products (including term loans, lines of credit, equipment financing and invoice factoring), specialize in speedy funding and have looser qualification requirements than banks. The trade-off for those conveniences, however, is borrowing costs may be higher than other options.

Microloans

Microloans may be your best option when seeking business loans targeted specifically to women. Many mission-based nonprofit organizations offer microloans to local businesses, often focusing on businesses owned by women, people of color and veterans.
For example, Grameen America provides first-time business loans ranging from $500 to $2,500 to low-income women who live within 15 miles of one of its branch locations.
Microloans can be a good option if you can’t qualify with a bank or online lender or have a small financing requirement.

Business loans for minority women

Female business owners in historically underserved communities can access funding from SBA lenders, nonprofit organizations and specialty programs — and may have more success with these options than applying for traditional business loans.
Nonprofit lenders and community development companies who applied for the new Community Advantage Small Business Lending Company license can offer funding through the 7(a) loan program. CA SBLCs prioritize small-business loans for women and other borrowers in underserved markets.
Many nonprofit lenders also offer microloans and other forms of business financing for women- and minority-owned businesses in their communities outside of the SBA loan program. For example, Accion Opportunity Fund describes nearly 90% of its clients as women, people of color or low-to-moderate income borrowers.
U.S. Bank has a special Business Diversity Lending Program that offers loans and lines of credit to women-, veteran- and minority-owned businesses with more flexible qualifications than its standard business loans.

Business loans for women with bad credit

If you’re a female entrepreneur with bad credit, it may be more difficult to get a loan for your business. There are a few options for bad-credit business loans, but keep in mind interest rates may be higher than alternatives.
Some online lenders are willing to work with businesses with bad credit, especially if they have strong finances. Fora Financial, for example, only requires a minimum credit score of
570
and you may be able to work with Fundbox with a
600
credit score.
Nonprofit lenders and community financial development institutions (CDFIs) also offer small-business loans for women with bad credit. These lenders often provide funding to traditionally underserved business owners, which can include those with poor or limited credit.
For instance, TruFund is a CDFI that operates in New York, New Jersey, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Georgia. The organization issues a variety of types of business loans, including term loans that only require a minimum credit score of 600 to qualify.

Business loans for women veterans

Business loans offered by banks and credit unions, as well as SBA loans may be a good fit for women veteran entrepreneurs.
The upfront guarantee fee for SBA Express loans (loan amounts up to $500,000) is waived for a veteran or the spouse of a veteran. And the SBA’s Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan (MREIDL) program can be used to cover regular business operating costs when you have an essential employee who is called up to active duty as a military reservist.
Women veterans can get a 25% discount on loan administration or origination fees for certain small business loans offered by Bank of America. Navy Federal Credit Union is a credit union that caters specifically to veterans and active military members to provide a variety of business financing options.

Other resources for female entrepreneurs

Government and nonprofit organizations offer free assistance to women entrepreneurs. These programs may provide women with help completing steps to getting a small-business loan, like writing a business plan, and guidance on topics like starting a business, financial management and marketing.

How to get certified as a women-owned business

Getting certified as a women-owned business can help your business grow by boosting your reputation and helping you find and be recognized for various programs and lending opportunities. Since there is no universal certification, how you get certified will depend on your type of business and where you are located. Follow these steps to start your certification process.
1. Make sure you qualify
Even though different agencies might have different qualifications, some common requirements are as follows:
  • Your business is at least 51% owned by a woman who is a U.S. citizen.
  • Your business meets the SBA’s small business size standards.
  • In addition to ownership, your daily business operations are managed by a woman.
  • Your business is a for-profit business.
Different agencies may verify this information using different methods, like sworn affidavits or site visits to your business.
2. Find a certification agency
You can become certified through the federal government or a private agency, depending on your type of business.
3. Organize your documents
Although it varies, most agencies have similar requirements, so it’s prudent to be organized going into the process. These documents may include:
  • Business certification and registration paperwork.
  • Proof of good standing with your secretary of state.
  • Business licenses.
  • Owner resumes.
  • Brief history of business.
  • Proof of citizenship of owners.
  • Business financial documents.

Alternative funding options for women-owned businesses

If you aren’t able to qualify for a business loan, here are some additional options that may allow you to secure funding for you business:
  • Grants for women-owned businesses. Women-owned businesses can get free funding through small-business grants from private companies and nonprofit organizations. Here are places to look for small-business grants for women. Grants can be highly competitive, but if you do receive funding, that money may help you start or expand your business.
  • Business credit cards. Business credit cards also offer financing for women-owned small businesses that are starting out or need working capital. Qualification can be easier than for a business loan because approval generally relies more heavily on personal credit history instead of business credit score and revenue.
  • Equity financing for women-owned businesses. Equity financing can include angel investors, venture capitalists and crowdfunding. Although women-owned businesses can face the same obstacles with equity financing as they may with other types of funding, there are programs and companies that target female entrepreneurs, including startup businesses. IFundWomen and 37 Angels, for example, are companies that offer crowdfunding platforms as well as resources for women entrepreneurs to learn and connect with one another.
  • Bootstrapping. If you’re having trouble qualifying for funding, you may want to consider bootstrapping where you rely on your own personal resources to start or expand your business. Unlike equity financing, you’ll be able to retain full control of your business. However, you may be putting personal assets at risk, as is the case when you pull money out of a retirement account to use for your business.
Last updated on June 28, 2024

Methodology

NerdWallet’s review process evaluates and rates small-business loan products from traditional banks and online lenders. We collect over 30 data points on each lender using company websites and public documents. We may also go through a lender’s initial application flow and reach out to company representatives. NerdWallet writers and editors conduct a full fact check and update annually, but also make updates throughout the year as necessary.
Our star ratings award points to lenders that offer small-business friendly features, including: - Transparency of rates and terms. - Flexible payment options. - Fast funding times. - Accessible customer service. - Reporting of payments to business credit bureaus. - Responsible lending practices.
We weigh these factors based on our assessment of which are the most important to small-business owners and how meaningfully they impact borrowers’ experiences.
NerdWallet does not receive compensation for our star ratings. Read more about our ratings methodology for small-business loans and our editorial guidelines.

Wondering if you qualify?

It’s possible to get a business loan even if you have bad credit. Bad-credit business loans are available from alternative sources, like online or nonprofit lenders.

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Frequently Asked Questions