Compare UK small business loans

compare uk small business loans

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer

Find the finance option that best suits your SME, with our list of nine UK business loan providers


Almost all businesses will require funding at some point in their lifecycle. Whether it’s an established farm looking to bridge the cash flow gap during the barren winter months, or a fintech startup needing its first big break, loans are the veins carrying lifeblood into the hearts of Britain’s small businesses. 

With so many banks and independent finance companies out there, how do you compare between them? How do you know what type of finance is best for your business? And more importantly… does your business even need a loan?

Read on to compare business loan interest rates, minimum/maximum loan amounts, and repayment terms, plus our objective, unbiased reviews of each finance supplier. You can also head straight to our UK small business loans comparison table, or skip directly to our FAQs or jargon buster.

Alternatively, use our online form to provide us with a few details about your SME. It’s free, simple, and takes about thirty seconds. You’ll then receive business loan quotes that are tailored to the specific needs of your company.


Compare UK small business loans

We researched the various providers of small business loans for UK businesses, and compared them based on their rates, lending capacity, and the length of their repayment terms. Jump into the table below to start comparing.

compare uk small business loans
Loan providerMinimum loan amountMaximum loan amountRepayment termRepresentative APR fromRead more
£1,000£50,0001 to 25 years9.3%Lloyds small business loans UK
rbs logo small£1,000£50,0001 to 10 yearsNot statedRBS small business loans UK
barclays logo£1,000£100,000You choose (up to 20 years)9.9%*Barclays small business loans UK
hsbc logo£1,000£25,0001 to 10 years7.4%HSBC small business loans UK
funding circle logo small£10,000£500,0006 months to 5 years1.9%Funding Circle small business loans UK
ortus business finance logo small£1,000£50,000Up to 5 yearsNot statedOrtus Business Finance small business loans UK
iwoca logo small£25,000£250,000Up to 5 years4.5%Iwoca small business loans UK
fleximize logo small£5,000£500,000+Up to 4 yearsNot statedFleximize small business loans UK
cubefunder logo small£5,000£100,0003 to 12 monthsNoneCubefunder small business loans UK
nucleus logo small£25,000£150,0003 months to 3 yearsNot statedNucleus small business loans UK

*Applicable on loans up to £25,000


Business loans: the statistics

A quick glance at the numbers tells us how important small business loans are for UK enterprises. In 2018 alone, 36% of small businesses used external finance

Unsurprisingly, banks are still the popular choice, providing well over £50 billion worth of finance to UK SMEs (small to medium-sized enterprises). 

However, awareness of alternative finance methods is growing, too – 52% of small businesses are now aware of peer-to-peer lenders. On top of all that, 2017 saw the UK’s alternative finance market grow by a third… in just 12 months.

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of loans for small UK businesses.


Types of small business loan

Funding for small businesses in the UK takes a number of forms. As well as the big high street banks, a whole new stratum of ‘challenger banks’ have arrived. Fintech innovation has also seen a plethora of peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms emerge, as well as a host of independent alternative finance providers.

Venture capital and angel investment are also increasingly common forms of finance, while business credit cards and overdrafts remain popular. 

We’ll focus mainly on the following four methods of small business loans in the UK.

Types of small business loan for UK SMEs:

Banks

Banks have always been one of the first ports of call for SMEs seeking finance, and it isn’t hard to see why. Offering transparency and low, fixed interest rates, bank loans are traditionally one of the most affordable, understandable forms of finance available for small businesses. And because bank business loan interest rates are fixed, you’ll get predictable monthly payments – and no nasty surprises.

Having a business loan provided by a bank is also great for building good credit, which can help you with other financial applications in the future. But is there a catch?

Yes. Business loans can be notoriously difficult to be accepted for – the British Business Bank estimates that around 100,000 small businesses are rejected for bank loans every year. 

The underwriting process to get accepted for a business bank loan is typically intensive. High street banks will often require you to have a strong business credit score, collateral, and a personal guarantee. You’ll also need to spend at least a month – potentially even up to three – crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s of the application.

For all the reasons above, bank loans may not be a wise choice for startups or less established businesses. If your SME falls into this category, you don’t have great credit, or you’re seeking finance mainly to combat insufficient cash flow, invoice factoring could be the better option. You’ll also find more accepting alternative finance providers in the next section. 

For bank loan reviews, jump to Lloyds, RBS, Barclays, or HSBC. Alternatively, check out our separate reviews of other high street banks, such as NatWest, Santander, and TSB.

Pros:

  • Low, fixed interest rates
  • Helps you build up good business credit
  • Predictable monthly payments
  • Low minimum loan amounts

X Cons:

  • Usually secured, so will require some form of collateral
  • Can be tough to get accepted for
  • Nightmarish levels of paperwork required

Alternative finance providers

While banks have always been the go-to for small UK businesses needing loans, the last decade has seen a gradual shift away from a reliance on high street banks. A combination of the 2008 financial crisis and tighter lending criteria has made it harder for SMEs to get accepted by the big banks, leaving a void in the finance industry. 

It’s into this void that alternative finance providers (also known as non-bank lenders) have rushed. As the name suggests, these companies provide a form of finance for business that’s entirely separate from the banks. 

The rise of alternative finance providers has allowed more small businesses access to funding, while also opening up a host of new, ambitious ways of raising money. Crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, and invoice factoring are all changing the game for small businesses, providing a more dynamic, flexible form of finance for a new generation of entrepreneurs. 

These alternative finance providers can be a crucial lifeline for small businesses that have been rejected by banks. This is so much the case that, as of a government scheme launched in November 2016, banks are legally required to refer every small business they reject to one of these finance providers. And it works – the scheme has seen an extra 5% of SMEs gain funding they were turned down for by high street banks.

Remember, though, that alternative finance is still an emerging industry. Because it hasn’t been around as long as bank loans have, the regulation is still catching up with the innovation – meaning it’s inherently more risky.

Ortus Business Finance provides unsecured loans from £1,000 to £50,000, while Fleximize promises high-value funding of £1,000,000 and beyond. Fleximize also offers flexible fixed rate loans, as well as revenue finance, where repayments are made as a percentage of your future income.

Iwoca offers revolving credit facilities, so you only pay interest on the part of the loan you’re using (like an overdraft, but cheaper). Cubefunder specialises in short-term loans at a fixed cost, with repayments tailored to your schedule and no APR (annual percentage rate). 

Pros:

  • Higher acceptance rate
  • Low interest rates
  • Application process is usually quick and efficient

X Cons:

  • Less regulated than bank loans
  • More risky than traditional forms of funding

Peer-to-peer lenders

A form of alternative finance provider, peer-to-peer (P2P) lenders connect small businesses seeking finance with investors looking to provide it. Though you apply for finance with a P2P lender, the platform won’t actually stump up the funding. Rather, a number of private investors will contribute individual amounts via an online platform. 

These investments could come from individuals, companies, or local governments. Collectively, they make up the total value of your loan.

Sound alright? Thought so. And the statistics agree – P2P business lending is the largest alternative finance model in the UK, facilitating over £800 million in loans between April and June 2019 alone. More and more SMEs are cottoning on, too – in 2017, P2P lending registered one of the largest growth rates in the industry, ballooning by 66%.

Funding Circle is a popular P2P platform for business finance, offering a representative APR as low as 1.9%. Other firms, such as Funding Options, act as finance brokers, connecting you to a range of independent providers that offer P2P lending, loans, invoice factoring, and asset-based finance.

Pros:

  • Usually unsecured, meaning you won’t have to stump up your prized assets as collateral
  • Easier to get accepted for than bank loans
  • Offers a more dynamic form of finance than high street banks can

X Cons:

  • Interest rates may be higher than with other forms of finance
  • You may have to pay an extra fee to the P2P platform for facilitating the loan

Government schemes

If your business has been denied finance multiple times through conventional routes, the government might be able to help. The UK government (via its proxy, the British Business Bank) funds a range of nationwide and region-specific initiatives to help businesses guarantee unsecured loans.

As well as the bank referral scheme mentioned above, the government offers plenty of other routes to finance, including:

Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG): Guarantees 75% of the losses a lender may suffer if you default on the loan. 

UK Export Finance (UKEF): Provides guarantees to lenders, helping support businesses that can’t secure funding to export goods via the UKEF’s Export Working Capital Scheme.

Startup loans: Unsecured personal loans to help your new business get off the ground. You won’t have to stump up any collateral or provide a personal guarantee, but you will be personally liable to repay the loan if things go south.

Did You Know?

In the UK, 382,000 new businesses are formed every year. That’s more than 1,000 every single day!


Bank small business loans

Got this far, and decided that a loan from a high street bank is the best way forward for your business? Scroll down for our bank small business loan comparisons.

Compare UK bank business loans:

Lloyds

You probably recognise the iconic black mare and rich green lettering – and you might already use Lloyds services for your personal banking. But did you know Lloyds also offers business loans? Lloyds’ repayment windows are some of the most generous on the market, with terms of up to 25 years. There are no arrangement fees on loans less than £25,000, and no early repayment costs, either – showing that Lloyds is clearly dedicated to helping small businesses develop.

  • Approves 9 out of 10 loans
  • Allows you to check your eligibility online, without affecting your credit rating
  • Variable and fixed rates available
  • Apply in minutes and get an instant decision on low-value loans
ProductLoan amountRepayment termRepresentative APR
Base Rate LoanFrom £1,0001 to 25 yearsFrom 9.3%
Fixed Rate LoanFrom £1,000 to £50,0001 to 10 yearsFrom 9.3%
Commercial Fixed Rate LoanFrom £50,001 to £500,0001 to 25 yearsNot stated

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)

RBS provides a range of fixed and variable loans for small businesses. Whether you want the certainty of fixed payments and a static interest rate, or to take advantage of a larger value loan, RBS can help. Good customer support is included, too – there’s an array of resources on its website to help you understand its lending criteria, as well as advice for moving into a new business premises. RBS also offers invoice and asset finance, for a faster, more flexible approach to funding your growth.

  • No loan arrangement fees
  • A personal guarantee may be required
  • Easy application process for existing RBS customers
  • No early repayment charges
ProductLoan amountRepayment termRepresentative APR
Small Business LoanFrom £1,000 to £50,0001 to 10 yearsNot stated
Variable Rate Loan£35,000+3 months to 25 yearsNot stated
Fixed Rate LoanFrom £35,001 to £10,000,0003, 5, 7, or 10 yearsNot stated
Commercial MortgageFrom £35,001 to £10,000,000+Up to 25 yearsNot stated

Barclays

One of the world’s leading high street banks, Barclays serves 48 million customers across 50 countries. It isn’t hard to see why, either – Barclays’ small business loan lets you choose your own repayment term, and benefit from the security of a fixed interest rate. Better still, its unsecured business loans lets certain borrowers borrow up to £100,000 – one of the highest funding limits among the UK’s high street banks. Barclays also provides the option to take a 6-month repayment holiday from your loan, as well as a representative APR as low as 8.9%.

  • Funds usually arrive in your account within 48 hours of signing the paperwork
  • Interest-only repayments available on larger business loans
  • Commercial mortgages and asset finance also available
  • Intuitive online banking services
ProductLoan amountRepayment termRepresentative APR
Small Business LoanFrom £1,000 to £25,000You choose8.9% to 14.9%
From £25,001 to £100,000You choose (up to 20 years)Provided on application

HSBC

Another highly recognisable high street bank with global reach, HSBC offers a fixed rate small business loan with flexible repayment terms. Though the funding limit of £25,000 is lower than those offered by the other high street banks on this list, its 7.4% APR representative is also the best to be found among the banks here. You can also take a repayment holiday for the first three months of the loan, and can benefit (with some options) from up to two years of interest-only payments.

  • Make additional payments at no extra cost
  • There is a range of ways to apply: online, over the phone, or at your nearest branch
  • Track your loan balance and repayments easily via HSBC’s online banking tool
  • You don’t need an HSBC current account to get started
ProductLoan amountRepayment termRepresentative APR
Small Business LoanFrom £1,000 to £25,0001 to 10 yearsFrom 7.4%
Arrangement fee: £100

Peer-to-peer business loan platforms

Funding Circle is one of the most prominent (and highly-rated) peer-to-peer business loan platforms in the UK. Read on to find out if it’s right for your business.

Funding Circle

With a four-star Trustpilot rating and over 52,000 businesses in the UK financed, Funding Circle is a popular P2P pick. It offers unsecured loans from £100,000 to £500,000, repayable from six months to five years. Better yet, you can check if you qualify in just half a minute, apply in 10, and receive a decision in just 300 (that’s five hours). And with interest rates as low as 1.9% and no early repayment fees, Funding Circle can offer some serious value for small businesses.

  • Hidden fees may apply
  • Service delivered by an experienced team of dedicated account managers
  • Loans funded by thousands of investors, including individuals and local governments
  • Award-winning, globally recognised P2P platform
Loan typeLoan amountRepayment periodRepresentative APR
UnsecuredFrom £10,000 to £500,0006 months to 5 yearsFrom 1.9%
Did You Know?

In 2017, P2P lending registered £2 billion in transaction volume, representing a 66% year-on-year growth rate.


Alternative finance providers

The companies below offer small businesses an alternative finance option to banks, and in doing so provide a route into funding that may otherwise have been blocked. Jump into the list below to peruse reviews of five alternative finance providers in the UK.

Compare UK business loans from alternative finance providers:

Ortus Business Finance

Whether you’re after a small, unsecured loan or a larger, secured finance deal, Ortus Business Finance can help. If you’re a homeowner, you can get an unsecured loan of up to £50,000, with flexible repayment options available. Alternatively, you can borrow up to £1,000,000… if you’re happy to leverage your property as part of the bargain. Ortus Business Finance’s repayment periods are fairly lengthy, too – and its loans are even accessible to startups and companies with poor credit.

  • Response guaranteed within two hours
  • UK-based customer support
  • Also offers equipment leasing
  • Personal guarantee may be required
Loan typeLoan amountRepayment periodRepresentative APR
UnsecuredFrom £1,000 to £50,000Up to 5 yearsNot stated
SecuredFrom £25,500 to £1,000,000From 3 months to 10 yearsNot stated

Iwoca

Iwoca burst onto the scene in 2011, making a name for itself with low rates, open transparency, and quick, excellent service. Now, it’s provided more than £900 million in funding to thousands of small businesses around the world. Why is it so popular? Well, Iwoca’s online application can be completed in minutes, with funds in your account within a day. Better still, its award-winning tech means your business will be evaluated not only on its credit score, but on performance, too – so you won’t get instantly brushed aside because of a poor credit rating.

  • Rated five stars on Trustpilot
  • Offers a straightforward online loan management interface
  • Minimum monthly repayments taken straight from your debit card for convenience
  • Option to make early repayments
Loan amountRepayment periodRepresentative APR
From £25,000 to £250,0003 to 5 yearsFrom 4.5%

Fleximize

While Fleximize does offer higher value funding for more established companies, it excels in its finance options for small businesses. Fleximize provides both unsecured and secured loans for SMEs, with flexible options and funding from £5,000 to £500,000. While its repayment term is more restrictive than some of the other loan providers here, Fleximize makes up for it with other great features: among these are a dedicated relationship manager, penalty-free early repayments, and repayment holidays.

  • Receive funds in as little as two days
  • Superbly rated on online customer approval sites
  • Offers a member benefits scheme for discounts on other business tools and services
  • You can increase your loan amount after completing a few repayments
ProductLoan amountRepayment termRepresentative APR
Small business loanFrom £5,000 to £500,0001 to 24 months (unsecured), or up to 4 years (secured)From 18%
High-value loanFrom £500,001 to £1,000,000+Not statedNot stated

Cubefunder

Unlike the other alternative finance providers compared here, Cubefunder has no APR. Instead of shelling out for ongoing, additional interest charges, you’ll pay an agreed fixed cost of credit when you take out the loan. You can apply with ease online – and if you’re approved, you’ll receive between £5,000 and £100,000 in funding, within two working days. To be eligible, you’ll need at least £4,000 in monthly revenue, and must not be in the gambling or cryptocurrency sectors. Cubefunder also offers finance to businesses with bad credit ratings, though it’s likely you’ll have to provide a personal guarantee to be accepted.

  • You won’t be credit checked unless you pass the initial assessment
  • No default charges for late payment
  • Apply online or over the phone
  • Live, Windsor-based lending centre offers entirely UK-based customer support
Loan amountRepayment termRepresentative APR
From £5,000 to £100,0003 to 12 monthsNone

Nucleus

From invoice finance to specific solutions for the construction and education industries, Nucleus offers a range of funding options for growing businesses. You can get a loan of up to £2,000,000 with your house or business property as collateral, or go for an unsecured loan worth up to £150,000. To be eligible, you’ll need to own your own home, and have three years of trading under your belt.

  • Receive your funds within 24 hours
  • Also provides asset-based lending
  • Get a cash advance of as little as £3,000
  • Dedicated account manager provided
ProductLoan typeLoan amountRepayment termRepresentative APR
Cash Flow FinanceUnsecured£25,000 to £150,0003 months to 3 yearsNot stated
Property FinanceSecuredFrom £25,000 to £20,000,000Up to 7 yearsNot stated
Business cash advanceNot statedFrom £3,000 to £150,000Not statedNot stated

Does your business need a loan?

Business loans aren’t for everyone. Some small businesses may be better off opting for more flexible forms of finance (like invoice factoring), or they may be better off just… not taking out a loan at all.

So, does your small business need a loan? Let’s take a look.

A business loan may be beneficial if:

  • You’re sure you can grow your revenue by purchasing additional assets (such as new premises, stock, or equipment), but lack the cash to do so
  • You have a shortage of working capital for carrying out the day-to-day operations of your business (such as paying staff or suppliers)
  • You’re a seasonal business and need money to tide you over in the off months, or to financially prepare for the busy ones

You shouldn’t take out a business loan if:

  • You’ve been bleeding cash, and are looking for finance to cover your business’ losses
  • You don’t have a plan in place to repay the debt
  • You have lingering doubts surrounding your business’ ongoing profitability and your ability to meet the loan’s obligations

Let us put this in no uncertain terms – while certain types of loan may be riskier than others, taking out any kind of loan comes with an element of risk. You’ll be expected to pay it back in regular instalments, and could rack up some hefty debt in the process. 

For that reason, it doesn’t always make sense to take out a business loan. If it makes sense for you, though, make sure to research all your options extensively. Then, when you’ve settled on the right provider, take the afternoon off and research them some more

If you’re sure that a business loan is the right direction for your business, let us help take your research to the next level. Simply complete our free webform with a few details about your situation. We’ll ask you how long you’ve been trading for, what type of business you are, and for a rough figure around how much you’re looking to borrow.

The form takes about thirty seconds – and when you’re done, you’ll receive business loan quotes tailored to the specific needs of your SME.


FAQs

How much finance might my small business be eligible for?

How much finance your small business is eligible for will depend on a number of factors. These include:

  • Your annual turnover and profit
  • The length of time you’ve been in business
  • Your credit rating, and any history of late or missed payments
  • The amount of finance you’re seeking
  • The state of your business’ cash flow
  • The creditworthiness of your clients (in the case of invoice factoring)

Of course, each individual bank or independent finance provider will impose its own limits on the amount of funding it’s willing to dish out. To brush up on what these could be, head back up to our small business loan comparison table.

How long will I have to repay a small business loan?

The repayment term you’re offered will depend on your finance provider, as well as whether the loan is secured or unsecured. Unsecured loans typically come with a repayment term of less than five years, while secured loans can span decades – up to 25 years, or even more. 

The amount of time you’ll have to repay the debt will also vary depending on whether it’s a short, medium, or long-term loan.

Short-term loans are agreements lasting anywhere between one month and two years, while medium to long-term loans come with a repayment term of two years plus.

Are there any restrictions on who can get a small business loan?

We won’t sugarcoat it – loans for small businesses can be hard to come by. The extensive underwriting process will often exclude startups, businesses with small turnovers, or those in high risk industries. The main reason that small businesses in search of funding get turned away at the door, though, is for having a bad credit rating.

If this is you, don’t worry. Now more than ever, there’s a range of alternative finance providers and independent investors willing to take a chance on small businesses with bad credit.

Be warned, though. Bad credit business loans come with some of the highest interest rates on the market, so make sure you’re fully aware of any and all charges you’re set to pay – before you go anywhere near that dotted line.


Jargon buster

One of the tough things about the finance industry is the seemingly interminable amounts of jargon you face when trying to understand it. Let’s debunk some of the more mystifying terms involved with understanding small business loans

APR

APR (annual percentage rate) is a fancy way of referring to the interest rate you’ll pay on a loan. It’s the extra amount you’ll have to pay back on top of the money you’ve borrowed – in other words, the cost of taking out the loan. 

The APR is commonly expressed as a percentage of the amount owed. The APR must include the cost of borrowing, as well as any additional included fees associated with the loan.

See also: Representative APR

Asset-based lending

Also known as commercial finance, this is a form of business-to-business (B2B) finance where the borrower’s assets are used as collateral to secure the loan. These assets often take the form of property, or invoices owed to the borrower for work already completed.

Collateral

This term refers to an asset that a business loan lender accepts as security for a loan. If you take out a loan with, say, your house as collateral – and then end up defaulting on that loan – the lender can repossess your home and sell it to recoup its losses.

Fixed interest rate

This means that the interest rate will stay static over the entire specified period of your loan. Your monthly payments will remain predictably the same – in contrast to a variable rate, where the level of interest may fluctuate.

Personal guarantee

Many finance providers will ask for a personal guarantee before issuing a loan – especially if your business has bad credit. So what does it mean?

Making a personal guarantee when you take out a business loan means that you’re making a legal promise to accept liability for the debt. If your business goes bust, you take the fall – and that’s you as a person, not you as a representative of the business.

Representative APR

representative apr example

When you’re accepted for a loan, you won’t necessarily get the same APR (annual percentage rate) as, say, your neighbour Bill. That’s because you and Bill will likely have different credit profiles, and will accordingly be offered different deals by the loan provider.

How, then, do finance providers and banks advertise the correct interest rates to potential customers? Here’s where the representative APR comes in. It’s designed to give a more general, ‘representative’ rate of what the average joe can expect to pay back.

More specifically, it looks at the lowest rate that 51% of loan applicants will be given. The remaining 49% will most likely receive a higher rate, and will pay more than what’s advertised. 

Representative APR also doesn’t include the applications rejected by the finance provider. Hence, while the representative APR is a good rough indicator of what you’ll be expected to pay back, it should be taken with a moderate-sized pinch of salt.

Repayment term

Also known as the loan period, the repayment term denotes the amount of time over which a borrower will have to repay the lender. During this period, the borrower will make regular repayments (usually monthly) against the loan.

Revolving credit facility

This type of small business loan is when the borrower has access to an agreed amount of credit over a set period. During this term, the business can draw down on as much or as little finance (within the limit) as they require, and will only pay interest on the portion of the loan they’ve dipped into.

Secured loan

A secured loan is one in which some form of collateral (a car, property, or any other asset deemed valuable by the lender) is offered up by the borrower to… secure the loan. If the borrower defaults, the lender assumes ownership of the pledged assets.

Unsecured loan

You guessed it – unsecured loans are the opposite of secured loans, and so are not connected to any piece of collateral on the borrower’s part. Because this kind of loan involves less security for the lender, it typically comes with higher interest rates than its secured counterpart.

Expert Market is a trading name of Marketing VF Limited, which is an appointed representative of Resolution Compliance Limited (FRN: 574048) ) which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Marketing VF Limited is registered in England and Wales. Company number: 06951544. Registered office: Imperial Works, Block C, Perren Street, London, NW5 3ED, United Kingdom.
Rob Binns
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, social media monitoring, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

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