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UNDERSTANDING THE MERCHANT CASH ADVANCE
It’s no secret that most businesses often need debt to drive growth and profitability, and in an increasingly digital world, debt is becoming more accessible. However, the growth in debt accessibility isn’t universally a good thing. Some borrowing methods marketed to small business owners, such as merchant cash advances, have confusing marketing, poor underwriting standards, and astronomic cost of working capital that can trap business owners in unsustainable debt cycles.
Although an MCA looks like traditional financing, the transactions are almost completely unregulated. This means that most small business borrowers are not shown the APR or expected monthly payment before they take out a merchant cash advance. And since cash advance issuers aren’t bound by any laws that limit the cost of working capital on funding (usury laws), issuers can legally charge the massive cost of working capital — in excess of 100% in many cases.
Most businesses often need debt to drive growth and profitability. However, the growth in debt accessibility isn’t always a good thing. Some borrowing methods marketed to small business owners, such as merchant cash advances, have confusing marketing, poor underwriting standards, and astronomic cost of working capital that can trap business owners in unsustainable debt cycles.
HOW A MERCHANT CASH ADVANCE WORKS
Merchant cash advances technically aren’t traditional financing. A merchant cash advance provider gives you an upfront sum of cash in exchange for a slice of your future sales. … Instead of making one fixed payment every month from a bank account over a set repayment period, with a merchant cash advance you make daily or weekly payments, plus fees, until the advance is paid in full.
- A business owner receives a set dollar amount in their bank account.
- In exchange, the business owner agrees to pay the issuer a fixed percentage of future credit card sales until the advance, plus a borrowing fee (interest), is paid off.
- Merchant cash advances are fixed-price funding. That means that a business owner will pay a fixed amount of interest for the upfront cash no matter how quickly they pay off the funding.
- Payments on cash advances are made daily, and fluctuate as sales volume fluctuates.
- Whether sales are up or down, the issuer is almost guaranteed to get their cut of the daily sales.
- A merchant cash advance contract would usually require you to agree to operate the business to the best of your ability and not undermine business performance in order to hinder your payments. You wouldn’t be responsible to repay the advance if the business fails for reasons outside your control.
SHOULD I GET A MERCHANT CASH ADVANCE?
There are risks associated with Merchant Cash Advances such as high fees and fast repayment terms. Businesses without other financing options can easily get in trouble having to take on more than one Merchant Cash Advance at a time to try to stay in business.
However, there are some advantages, the application takes minutes and funding is fast, and because payments are based on sales, then a slow day will mean a low payment and vice versa . The more you generate sales, the quicker you pay back the advance.
When a merchant cash advance makes sense
Short-term cash crunch
ALTERNATIVES TO MERCHANT CASH ADVANCES
Business owners aren’t always interested in the absolute lowest cost of financing. Sometimes important factors like speed and ease of application are important. However, business owners should understand the financing alternatives that may be available to them.
Working capital financing
Unsecured working capital financing is another product that tends to carry a high cost of working capital and daily payments. Like merchant cash advances, borrowers can apply and receive funding quickly, often in less than two business days.
If business owners have time on their side, a BDC microloan offers term funding for less than $50,000 at a moderate cost of working capitals (between 6.5% and 9%).
Small business credit cards
Although credit cards carry a higher cost of working capital than most term funding, they offer small businesses multiple benefits. For example, a credit card may help a business build its business credit score, and in many cases, interest on credit card purchases doesn’t start accruing until the end of a billing cycle.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) term business funding
P2P funding isn’t just for consumers seeking personal funding. Certain P2P platforms offer business funding at costs that range from as low as 4.99% to 29.99% APR. This funding requires monthly payments, but they may be funded almost as quickly as cash advances for qualified business owners.
WHERE TO SHOP FOR SHORT-TERM BUSINESS FUNDING
Short-term business funding tends to be a better choice for many businesses. This is due to the fact that many nontraditional Funders are voluntarily disclosing APRs, fees and monthly payments. Contact SharpShooter Funding for a full review and consultation about your financing needs
KEY TERMS TO UNDERSTAND BEFORE YOU APPLY FOR A MERCHANT CASH ADVANCE
Upfront funds: This refers to the cash you’ll get immediately once a merchant cash advance clears. It is the amount of money you borrow in a merchant cash advance. In our examples, the amount borrowed is $10,000.
Price (also fixed fee, total cost): In the following examples, the merchant pays $11,400 to borrow $10,000. That means the merchant must pay back the initial $10,000 plus the $1,400 funding fee. Whether it takes you three months or six months to pay off the funding, the cost will remain $11,400.
Factor (buy rate, cash on): A factor expresses the total cost of funding as a factor of the borrowed amount. In the second example, we see the factor rate 1.14. This means that the merchant will pay $11,400 to borrow $10,000.
Remittance rate (also daily card sales, percentage payback): The remittance rate is not your cost of working capital, even though some borrowers think it is. Business owners pay back their cash advances through a series of variable payments. The exact payment the owner makes each day is based on a percentage of credit card sales for the day. In both examples, we see that the merchant agrees to commit 11% of credit card sales per day to funding. On a day where the merchant takes in $4,000 via credit cards, she will pay $440 toward the advance. On a day where she takes in $8,000 she’ll pay $880 toward it.
Origination fee: Most of the time, origination fees are calculated into the total price of funding (explained above). However, an MCA Funder could charge an origination fee on top of their factor fee. This drives up the total cost of funding.
Example 1: Cash advance product priced based on borrowing cost
|Credit score needed
|Time to get cash
|Percent of daily credit card sales
Example 2: Cash advance product priced based on factor rate