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Online Business Loans

Table of Contents:

  1. What is an online business loan?
  2. Online business loan rates and fees
  3. How to be approved for an online business loan
  4. Business loans by industry
  5. Frequently asked questions

What is an online business loan? And how is it different from a traditional bank loan?

An online business loan is the same as any traditional business financing option, with one difference: you can apply, get approved, and be funded all online, without ever having to step into a lending office. 

However, while that is the only true technical difference, the reality is that online lenders tend to provide unique offerings when compared to traditional bank loans.

For one, the application process is typically faster and more stress-free.

With a bank loan, the application and approval process can often take a full month. With an alternative or online lender, you can often be approved and even funded in around 24-48 hours. 

At a time where banks have tightened restrictions and made it more difficult than ever to apply for a business loan from a traditional institution, many new alternative lenders are making it easier than ever. 

Excel Capital’s Business Line of Credit Program

For example, Excel Capital’s business line of credit program offers flexible financing options with rates starting as low as 1.5% (up to 9.5%).

Our business line of credit program gives you access to a recurring reserve of capital anytime you need it. Simply pay your balance down and you can continue to access more capital when you need it. 

Plus, we offer funding even if you don’t have perfect credit. Where traditional bank financing often requires a 680-720+ credit score, our program requires just a 550 score or higher. 

Excel Capital Business Line of Credit Program:

Funding Amount

Get a credit line for your business up to $250,000

Repayment Term

6-12 Months revolving


  • Credit score of 540+
  • Time in business 1+ year
  • $50,000+ annual revenue
  • Less than 3 negative occurrences on your bank account in the past 90 days
  • No hidden fees
  • Simple repayment terms
  • Lightning-fast approval within 30 minutes, funds instantly

We offer a variety of business financing solutions to meet your funding needs. Click here to submit an application and learn more about what options are available to you. 

Online business loan rates and fees

One of the primary differences between traditional business bank loans and alternative or private business loans are the rates and fees.

While alternative business loans offer many advantages over traditional bank loans, because bank loans are offered by huge financial institutions, they can typically offer lower and more competitive rates. 

In addition, online business loans from alternative lenders often have additional fees to cover certain costs. 

However, keep in mind that both rates and fees will depend primarily on the lending product more than the lender you obtain it from.

So, make sure to inspect your loan agreement before signing on the dotted line to make sure you’re getting a fair deal. 

How to be approved for an online business loan

Getting approved for an online business loan from an alternative lender is much easier than with a traditional bank.

However, there are still certain requirements you’ll need to fulfill to be approved. 

Each business financing product is different, but there are a few common qualifications that most require.

Excel Capital’s business financing solutions are designed to be accessible to young businesses just getting off the ground as well as seasoned operations.

Some basic requirements for many of our financing options include:

  • In business for 6+ months
  • Annual revenue of $10,000+
  • Business is in good standing (no bankruptcies, judgments, or liens)

Each of our lending solutions is different. So, to find out more, submit an application here or click below to discover what you can be approved for:

Complete our online application and see how much you can be approved for: Apply Now

Business loans by industry

Excel Capital provides small business financing options specifically suited to a variety of industries, including:

If your industry isn’t listed here, don’t worry!

We offer business loan options to business owners in every industry.

To find out how much you can be approved for and speak to one of our customer service representatives, submit an application here or click the button below:

Complete our online application and see how much you can be approved for: Apply Now

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get a small business loan online?

Yes! Nowadays, there are many options for obtaining a small business loan or other type of business financing online, including:

– Alternative business financing
– Crowdfunding
– Peer-to-peer lending
– Microfinancing
– And more

How do I get a small business loan?

You can get a small business loan online through various means such as applying for a loan with your bank or with a private lender. In recent years, many have turned to alternative or private lending as acquiring a business loan through a traditional banking institution has become increasingly more difficult as qualification requirements tighten. 

To learn more about what options are available to you and see how much you could be approved for, click here to submit a quick 2-minute application

What is the easiest business loan to get?

While banks have continued to tighten approval requirements for their business loan programs, new options have become available through alternative lenders that don’t require stellar credit. Excel Capital prides itself on offering a variety of powerful lending options to businesses that might otherwise not get approved by a traditional bank. 

Private Business Loans

Table of Contents:

  1. What are private business loans?
  2. What types of private business loans are there?
  3. Why get a private business loan?
  4. How to get a private business loan
  5. Frequently asked questions

What are private business loans?

Private business loans don’t refer to a specific type of business loan.

Rather, it refers to any alternative business loan (i.e. a business loan offered by a lending institution other than a traditional bank) offered by a private lender.

Hence, the private in private business loans. 

Private funding can include several different lending types, including:

  • Crowdfunding and peer-to-peer funding
  • Microfinancing
  • And most of all, alternative business loans

Private business loans specifically offer one unique advantage of traditional bank financing: an alternative source of business funding. 

And that funding is often easier to obtain or offers alternative qualification requirements, that combined allow you to potentially obtain funding for your business when otherwise you wouldn’t.

What types of private business loans are there?

As we said earlier, private business loans doesn’t refer to a single loan type.

In fact, there are many different kinds of alternative business loans you can take advantage of for a variety of purposes.

The one central quality of all alternative business loans is that they don’t have the same stringent credit requirements that traditional bank loans have, often requiring a 680-720+ credit score. 

By comparison, you can be approved for most kinds of private business loans with bad credit, provided your business is in good standing.

Another common factor between all or most alternative business lending methods is their speed.

Most bank loans take weeks to get funded and the application process is long and arduous.

With alternative lending, funding is often approved within a mere 24-48 hours. 

Here’s a quick sample of a few of the more common types of private business loans:

Term loans

Term loans are your traditional business loan with a repayment term on either a short term or medium-term basis.

Typically, repayment is set somewhere between 6 months to 2 years. 

For term loans, you receive a chunk of capital and, in exchange, you repay that amount over your repayment term (depending on what you were approved for). 

As with most alternative business loans and other funding methods like lines of credit, the amount you’re approved for is based on several factors centered around the complete health of your business, as opposed to simply your credit score. 

Business line of credit

Not technically a business loan but a business financing method, a business line of credit is essentially a form of recurring financing.

As opposed to getting access to a single amount of capital, you get access to a set amount that you can tap into repeatedly upon payment of your balance, very much like a typical credit card.

Merchant cash advance

A merchant cash advance, or MCA, is an advance of capital in exchange for a percentage of your future sales. 

So, as opposed to a term loan where you repay the loan over time on a set repayment schedule, with an MCA that repayment is done automatically through your daily credit card batches.

Each time you batch out, a set percentage of your business credit card sales is put aside to repay the MCA.

This makes MCAs particularly well-suited for businesses that depend on daily debit transactions.

Invoice financing

Somewhat similar to how a merchant cash advance uses your future sales to secure an advance, invoice factoring uses your outstanding invoices as a kind of collateral to obtain financing. 

With invoice financing, or invoice factoring as it’s often called, the factor or company which “purchases” the invoices from you then issues an advance for a percentage of the total invoice amount.

Once the factor receives the total amount (whether from a collection of multiple invoices or just one), the remaining amount is paid minus fees and interest.

Why get a private business loan?

So, why get a private business loan?

As touched on earlier, private or alternative lending solutions offer several unique advantages over traditional banking options.

Those include, most notably:

  • Easier approval: Private lenders take into consideration the complete picture of your business’ health, not just your credit score. Because of this, you can often be approved for a loan or advance with bad or fair credit. 
  • Faster funding: Private lenders typically pride themselves on their speed as they don’t have to move through the same hoops that clog the bank loan approval process. Most alternative lending options fund in 24-48 hours. 
  • More options: Private lenders have a variety of funding options even beyond that which traditional banking institutions typically offer. For example, if you need funds but don’t have the money now to start paying off a loan but do have outstanding invoices, invoice factoring could offer you the chance at getting the funding you need when a traditional bank funding application might leave you without anything to show. 

Get the funds you need without the headache– and fast– with Excel Capital

At Excel Capital, we know how much work it takes to run a business.

You have enough to deal with, you don’t want to stack the often painful process of applying for a loan that is often the bank application process on top of that.

Plus, what if you don’t have the credit?

You work hard each day to grow your business, and sometimes, just to keep it afloat.

Times change, sometimes there’s growth, other times you’re fighting to survive.

In both cases, a little extra capital may be exactly what you need to keep things moving forward. 

That’s why we’re here to help.

We believe that the traditional process of jumping through hoops to be approved for a bank loan and needing stellar credit just to get approved is unrealistic for modern businesses. 

That’s why we’ve designed a collection of flexible business financing options that offer everything you need, whether you’re looking for:

  • A quick infusion of cash to pay the bills
  • A seasonal boost to prepare for your busy time
  • Or a large sum of capital in times of growth

Our application process is quick, simple, and easy.

Complete our online application and see how much you can be approved for: Apply Now

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get a small business loan?

You can acquire a small business loan from several places, from a traditional bank to an alternative private lender or peer-to-peer lending institution. 

In recent years, alternative private lenders have become popular as they’re not typically bogged down with the high credit requirements and slow application processes that are synonymous with applying for a business loan at a major bank. 

What is the easiest business loan to get?

Easy is relative when it comes to business funding options, but getting a loan from a traditional bank is generally much harder than with an alternative lender as credit requirements are stringent, typically requiring 680-720 or higher just for initial approval. Alternative lenders, on the other hand, offer business financing solutions on fair and even bad credit, provided your business is in good standing.

Who can qualify for a small business loan?

Nowadays, anyone can qualify for a small business loan, provided your business is in good standing. Traditional banking institutions require 680-720+ credit while SBA loans require 620+. However, alternative lenders offer financing solutions in the fair to bad credit range.

How much money can you borrow for a small business loan?

With Excel Capital, you can be approved for a loan up to $2,000,000, depending on various factors. Apply today to find out how much you can be approved for

How to Find an ABA or Routing Number


What is an ABA routing number?

An ABA number, more commonly known as simply your routing number, is the nine-digit code that identifies which bank you do business with (see bottom left):

What is a voided check? How to void a check example

So, what is it used for? 

Chances are you’ve already used your own bank account’s routing number to do an automatic bill pay transaction, transfer money to an acquaintance, or set up direct deposits at work.

Where did ABA routing numbers come from?

ABA numbers have now been around for more than a century, having been created in 1910 by the American Bankers Association (or ABA). 

ABA numbers were created as a system that would allow banks and other institutions a way of easily identifying a particular bank. 

For example, if your employer banks through Chase but you have a checking account through Bank of America, the routing number on your checking account will help Chase identify where to send the money, at least down to the particular bank (account number does the rest). 

In the past, this was only relevant to paper checks. However, over time, this expanded to include various electronic transfer types like the ones we mentioned earlier. 

How ABA / routing numbers work

Nowadays, the process of utilizing your ABA number (or routing) is as simple as providing your routing number along with your account number to a particular vendor or institution. 

From there, computer systems will automatically take care of all the heavy lifting. 

Even if your bank fails or is merged/sold to another, you’ll automatically receive a new ABA number without having to do anything. 

You can even often continue using your old number uninterrupted in some cases. 

So, exactly how does a routing number work?

Digits 1-4 of your routing number are designated for your bank’s physical address. Nowadays, due to merges and other factors, that’s not always the case though. 

Digits 5-6 tell the computer system which Federal Reserve location your money will route through when you set up a transfer of any kind.

Digit 7 designates which Federal Reserve check processing center was assigned to your bank.

Digit 8 tells which Federal Reserve district your bank is in.

And digit 9 tells the checksum. 

Checksum is a number calculated using the first 8 digits of your routing number designed as a security check. If the checksum number doesn’t add up when trying to set up a transfer, the account is flagged.

How to find your ABA or routing number

If you ended up here because you need to get your routing number for the first time, whether that be to set up direct deposit with your employer, set up bill pay, or transfer money somewhere, we’ve got you covered. 

There are a few easy places to get your routing number from.

First, the most commonplace to get it by logging in to your online/mobile banking account.

For most banks, you should have a login where you can view your balance and all kinds of jazz. 

From there, you typically need to click on the specific account you’re looking to set up the transfer/deposits to or from (because each account has a different account number, and you probably need both your routing and account number at the same time).

For example, with Bank of America, once you click on the particular account, you can access your routing and account number by clicking on “Account Details” (keep in mind this information is subject to change as their website is updated and menu items are moved/changed).

Look for an “account information” or equivalent selection, where you’ll be able to view both your routing and accounting number. 

At this point, you might get a bit tripped up wondering whether you should use your print or electronic routing number.

Generally, you’ll be using your electronic routing number if you’re setting up something like direct deposit or bill pay. 

And if you’re not sure, defaulting to your electronic routing number is always a safe bet (though it doesn’t generally matter which you use, so don’t worry too much). 

A second and very easy place to grab your routing number is from your checks.

Checks are a bit dated now, however, if you happen to have ordered checks when opening your bank account or you need them for business, it’s incredibly fast to grab your routing number that way– if you know what you’re looking for. 

Here’s where to look:

What is a voided check? How to void a check example

Keep in mind, though, that this might not be the correct routing number for ACH or wire transfers.

So, if you’re unsure, call your bank with your online banking account open and ask them which of your listed routing numbers is the one you should use for your particular case. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I find my ABA or routing number without a check?

While finding your ABA routing number with a check is quick and easy, nowadays, it’s just as easy to find it by logging into your online banking account. 

For most banks, after logging in you simply click on the particular account, then account details, then you can view both your routing and account number simultaneously. 

Are bank routing numbers public information?

Your bank account number is unique to you and private as it’s used to identify your specific bank account.

However, the routing number on your account is used to identify information such as your banking institution, its location, and the location of the nearest federal reserve bank, not your personal information. So, it’s public information and not exclusive to your particular bank account. 

Is an ABA or routing number the same as an account number?

Your bank account number and routing number are two different numbers that serve different purposes. 

An ABA or routing number identifies banking institution-related information, not information specific to you or your bank account. Your bank account number, however, identifies your specific bank account and should be kept private. 

Where can I find my ABA routing number online?

In most cases, your bank’s online banking should make accessing your ABA routing number quick and easy. 

Each bank is different, however, by clicking on the particular account (each of your bank accounts will have a different account number, though the routing will likely be the same), you should see a section which will provide “account details” or something similar. This is typically where your account and routing number is located. 

Top 7 Best Ecommerce Platforms for 2021


You’ve spent time coming up with your next big (or first) business idea…

… and now you’re ready to pull the trigger.

The only problem?

You have no idea what ecommerce platform to pick. 

It’s true that there are a ton of great options out there for anyone interested in starting an ecommerce platform in 2021. 

However, once you’ve found those options, it can be hard narrowing it down to find the one that’s a perfect fit for your needs and goals. 

That’s where this guide comes in.

Below, we’ll not only show you what the best ecommerce platforms are for 2021, we’ll breakdown the highlights of each so you can make an informed decision on which is right for you.

So, let’s get to it. 

The Top 8 Best Ecommerce Platforms for 2021

The best ecommerce platforms for 2021 are (in no particular order)…

  1. Squarespace
  2. Wix
  3. Shopify
  4. Magento
  5. WooCommerce
  6. Salesforce Commerce Cloud
  7. Square Online Store

Here’s a detailed breakdown of each of the best ecommerce platforms:


1. Squarespace

While not a dedicated ecommerce platform, Squarespace has risen as a major player in the space.

Not to be confused with Square, the payment processor and checkout solution, Squarespace is known for its beautiful site designs and ease of use. 

Similar to Wix, what many consider to be one of the top 3 ecommerce platforms, Squarespace offers a simple drag-and-drop interface that makes it simple and easy to build your ecommerce site from scratch. 

It also offers:

  • 14-day free trial
  • Unlimited products
  • Physical and digital product compatibility
  • Mobile-optimized checkout
  • Multiple payment methods
  • Ecommerce analytics
  • Subscriptions
  • Cart recovery
  • And more features

Squarespace is particularly well-suited for artists and any creative type selling a custom product or artwork as many of their themes are designed to help you show off your creative work. 

It also has nice blogging features and podcast integration to take care of the content marketing side of things. 


Square space offers several tiered plans at:

  • Personal: $12 / month
  • Business: $18 / month
  • Basic Commerce: $26 / month
  • Advanced Commerce: $40 / month

However, keep in mind that Squarespace is not a dedicated ecommerce platform.

Their personal plan doesn’t offer ecommerce functionality and their business plan has 3% transaction fees while also not having access to 100% of Squarespace’s ecommerce features.

To take advantage of the abovementioned ecommerce features, you’ll need to go with their Basic Commerce plan for $26 a month.

Try Squarespace


2. Wix

Wix is well-known for its online influencer and celebrity commercials that show just how easy it is to create your website. 

It’s not all show, either. 

Wix is probably the easiest of the drag-and-drop platforms, and that’s saying something since they already make creating a website from scratch far easier than it’s ever been before. 

However, Wix has more going for it than just its ease of use. It’s also a fantastic ecommerce platform. 

You can set up your entire ecommerce website– adding products, details, images, you name it– using that same drag-and-drop functionality. 

Plus, Wix has literally hundreds of ecommerce templates to choose from, so you can easily find one that fits your style. 

Wix also offers:

  • A 14-day free trial
  • Unlimited products
  • Multiple carrier functionality
  • Cart recovery
  • Dropshipping (new)
  • Zero transaction fees (only payment processor fees from your processor)
  • And more


Wix offers 4 ecommerce plans:

  • Business Basic: $23 / month
  • Business Unlimited: $27 / month
  • Business VIP: $49 / month
  • Enterprise: $500 / month

Each of Wix’s payment plans offers unlimited bandwidth, with only a small difference in terms of features, the main difference being in available storage space. 

Try Wix


3. Shopify

Shopify is one of the most well-known ecommerce platforms there is.

The unique part about Shopify, and its strong point, is that it can accommodate the new solopreneur as well as the large-scale startup.

The platform is super easy to use right out of the box with its drag-and-drop functionality, but it also has powerful features that large-scale ecommerce operations need to make the most of things. 

Features such as:

  • 14-day free trial
  • Built-in payment processor
  • Mobile-optimized themes
  • Point-of-sale systems available
  • Gift cards
  • And more

Where Shopify also stands out is in its award-winning, 24/7 support, which is a rarity in an industry that has notoriously bad (or, at best, shoddy) customer service. 


Shopify has three different basic plans:

  • Basic Shopify: $29 / month
  • Shopify: $79 / month
  • Advanced Shopify: $299 / month

You’ll notice right away that Shopify is much more expensive compared to some of the simpler drag-and-drop platforms such as Squarespace and Wix. 

While they’re not quite as simple or inexpensive, Shopify contrasts that by offering room to grow with your business, where something like a Wix or Squarespace can feel limiting if your business starts to take off. 

However, like the first two platforms we mentioned, Shopify also has a 14-day free trial you can use to check it out first to see how you like it. 

Try Shopify


4. Magento

Another long-time major player, Magento stands apart as an enterprise-level ecommerce solution compared to the other platforms on this list.

In other words, it’s really powerful, but also really expensive. 

For example, it’s used by companies like:

  • Nike
  • Hewlett-Packard (HP)
  • And Canon

It requires a huge upfront investment but offers features and bandwidth unmatched by most other competitors. 

If you’re in need of something much more robust, this might be the right choice for you. Features include:

  • 1000+ themes
  • Customer segmentation
  • Industry-leading mobile optimization and features
  • Instant purchases
  • Content staging
  • And more


Being an enterprise-level solution, Magento is designed for large businesses. 

Its main pricing plan starts at $20,000. 

It does have other small business plans, but you don’t get the majority of the features that make Magento a stand-out option, so they’re not really worth considering. 

Try Magento

5. WooCommerce

WooCommerce is one of the longest-standing ecommerce solutions for businesses online, having been around since 2008. 

What sets WooCommerce apart is that it’s a plugin designed specifically for the WordPress platform.

So, the main reason you’ll likely decide to use WooCommerce is if you decide WordPress is your website platform of choice.

However, that’s not the only pro of WooCommerce.

WooCommerce places the majority of its special features in hundreds of free extensions, including subscriptions and additional payment options such as Google Wallet. 

Not all of these are free, though. Some of the more premium extensions can cost upwards of $300. 


WooCommerce itself is a free plugin, so it’s the only truly free option on this list and a worthy mention for that reason alone.

Starting a website on WordPress is also free. 

However, to make the most of your site you might find yourself wanting to pay for one or more plugins to get features you might otherwise get included in a platform like Wix or Squarespace (though there are typically free alternatives, some of these plugins are less than optimal). 

Also, while the price might be attractive it is worth mentioning that it will likely take you a good bit longer to get your website up and running.

It’s easy to get your website up with WordPress, at least compared to starting a site a few years back.

However, it still can’t be compared to the Wixs and Squarespaces of the world, which make the process quick and virtually painless.

Try WooCommerce

6. Salesforce Commerce Cloud

Salesforce is considered by many to be one of the best and most powerful CRMs on the market.

Now, it’s expanded into the ecommerce arena with its own offering.

Similar to the WooCommerce + WordPress combo, going with Salesforce Commerce Cloud means you get the power of the Salesforce CRM and their ecommerce platform in one, which can be an attractive offer when you see everything Salesforce can do. 

It’s not particularly well-suited for new businesses and even less suited for solopreneurs without employees.

However, if you have a team, it could be the right fit. 

It’s an especially good fit for B2B businesses as well as Salesforce CC has many B2B specific features. 

One of those unique features is Salesforce’s powerful AI tools, which allow for certain automation and data extraction capabilities from things like purchase history and visitor behavior that other platforms just can’t do. 


Being a higher-end (typically enterprise-level) company, Salesforce Commerce Cloud doesn’t list their pricing on the website.

In other words, that means it isn’t cheap.

Having said that, they do offer a free trial to get a feel for the platform and see if it might offer what you’re looking for before jumping in. 

Try Salesforce

7. Square Online Store

Our final option on the list, Square Online Store is a unique one.

Chances are, you’ve seen one of Square’s physical POS terminals in a business you’ve bought something from without even knowing it. 

That’s because, well… they’re everywhere

What isn’t as widespread is the knowledge that they also offer an ecommerce platform to go along with those POS terminals. 

Square’s ecommerce platform offers a few unique features, such as scheduling pickups and Instagram selling.

However, where it really shines is in the integration of its POS terminals with its ecommerce platform, which opens up a collection of features that are hard to get otherwise.


Square is 100% free to get started with.

However, they do have processing fees which are fair and typical at 2.9% + .30 cents per transaction. 

Monetarily, where Square really shines is if you decide to integrate Square’s POS systems with their ecommerce platform, where you can maximize their combined power for unique features if you have a physical location that requires POST terminals. 

Otherwise, Square has a hard time performing on the same level as other ecommerce platforms. 

Try Square

Which of the best ecommerce platforms should you choose?

There really is no one “best” ecommerce solution online.

Which you should choose comes down to a few basic questions:

  • Do you need POS terminals (i.e. do you sell something in a brick-and-mortar store)? Square is likely best.
  • Are you a solopreneur or do you have a large team? Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, or WooCommerce is generally best for solopreneurs while Magento or Salesforce CC for enterprises. 
  • Would you prefer a little more customizability (WordPress) or ease-of-use (Squarespace, Wix)?
  • Is visual style more important (Squarespace) or functionality (Shopify)?
  • Do you prefer to have more features (Shopify, WooCommerce) or want a simple out-of-the-box solution (Wix, Squarespace)?

Whichever you choose, most platforms offer a free trial period. So, jump in and try a few out to get a feel for which ecommerce platform feels right for you. 

Legalshield Review: Is Legalshield Worth It?


What is LegalShield?

Founded all the way back in 1972, LegalShield is a pioneer in affordable legal services.

Instead of paying exorbitant hourly rates for legal advice with the typical law firm, you can pay a low fixed monthly fee to get advice and legal representation from one of LegalShield’s many participating law firms. 

LegalShield is available in all 50 states and offers a variety of legal services through their monthly subscription including:

  • Legal consultations (for both general and more specialized legal issues) 
  • Legal document reviews
  • Phone
  • Debt collection assistance
  • Trial defense services
  • And more

So, is LegalShield worth it? And why should you choose the service over working with a traditional attorney? 

Let’s dig into their plans and pricing so you know exactly what you get from LegalShield’s service. 

LegalShield review: Plans and pricing

LegalShield offers a variety of monthly plans, each mainly offering slightly more volume in terms of:

  • Consultations, and
  • Document reviews

Here they are, broken down by price as well as features:

LegalShield also offers a trial defense add-on for $9.95 per month which offers pre-trial support and advice in case you’re called to trial. 

Keep in mind that for each phone consultation, your attorney will allocate 1 hour of legal work to handle your request. After that, if the attorney needs more time to handle any work you need done, they may charge you at their standard hourly rate, though you do get a 25% discount through LegalShield. 

LegalShield pros and cons

Now, let’s dig into the pros and cons of LegalShield’s service. 

LegalShield offers an invaluable service for business owners and individuals who need affordable legal help. 

However, like all services, it has its pros and cons which are important to know when deciding whether to pay for their service. 

So, let’s jump into the next section of our Legalshield review.

Here are the pros and cons of LegalShield: 

Pro: Affordable legal assistance

Mentioned earlier, LegalShield is unique in that it offers comparable legal services in several areas for a fraction of the price.

You won’t get everything a good lawyer can get you, but if hiring a full-time lawyer for your business needs is outside your price range, this is an invaluable alternative.

Pro: Work with the same law firm for all your needs

When you start working with LegalShield, you’re assigned a law firm. You may be assigned a different lawyer for different services you request, but once thing you won’t have to deal with is being passed to multiple law firms.

You’ll always deal with the same law firm for every service throughout your LegalShield membership, which is nice in particular because that law firm can get to know you and your situation (and you them). 

Pro: Unique debt and defense services other attorney services don’t offer

In the next section, we’ll talk about some comparable legal services similar to LegalShield. 

However, even when compared to these services, LegalShield offers several unique services that the others don’t.

For one, LegalShield is the only affordable legal service that offers trial defense services. This is invaluable as it can save you literally thousands upon thousands of dollars in the case of a lawsuit.

Another service only LegalShield offers is debt collection. With LegalShield, you can request an attorney serve as a debt collector on your behalf, helping collect unpaid invoices and improving cash flow in the process. 

Con: No free trial

One of the main cons of LegalShield is more an inconvenience than anything. 

LegalShield doesn’t offer a free trial, which means if you want to try out LegalShield’s service, you’ll need to pay at least for the $39 per month plan.

On that note, LegalShield also doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee. 

So, keep in mind that any money you spend trying it out (in the case that the service doesn’t work out for you) you won’t be able to get back. 

Having said all that, LegalShield offers affordable pricing, especially at their lowest membership tier Small Biz 50. Plus, you can always cancel your membership so you’re not charged for the following months.

Con: Plan limitations

One of the main cons of LegalShield’s service is the limitations that come with it. 

They’re to be expected considering what price you’re paying, but they should be mentioned:

  • You only get so much time with your assigned lawyer
  • There are also limits on the number of pages you can get reviewed per month
  • Some law firms don’t participate in a specified feature/benefit, meaning you could be locked out of one of LegalShield’s features based on the firm that is assigned to you. 

Con: Hit-or-miss customer service

This is probably the most commonly listed complaint about LegalShield and should be considered if you’re choosing between multiple similar services. 

Many customers report emailing support and never getting a response. And, of that that do, others report support not being able to answer their question.

While this isn’t the case across the board, it is worth strongly considering if you’re choosing between going with an affordable LegalShield-esque service vs. working directly with an attorney. 

LegalShield alternatives

While LegalShield is a great comprehensive service, there are other good alternatives out there that might be slightly better suited to what you need.

Here are two great alternatives to LegalShield:

Best for business owners who need tax assistance: LegalZoom

LegalZoom is probably the most well-known legal service online, with offerings comparable service to LegalShield with some differences.

Like LegalShield, LegalZoom offers:

  • Legal phone consultations
  • Document review
  • And help with legal forms

From here, LegalZoom splits with LegalShield.

LegalShield offers unique debt collection, trial defense, and home business benefits within its monthly membership that LegalZoom doesn’t.

LegalZoom also limits its phone consultations (which LegalShield only does on consultations for special legal issues) and document reviews, both of which LegalShield offers more flexibility on. 

However, LegalZoom goes all-in on the business side by offering business formation, living will, DBA, and other services though at an extra fee. 

Another area they specialize in is tax advice, and this is the one feature that is unique to LegalZoom’s monthly legal service. 

As part of their comparable legal service membership, you get access to a tax professional who can answer your pressing tax accounting questions. 

Best for more complex legal needs: UpCounsel

Similar to LegalZoom, UpCounsel is a similar service to LegalShield with one main benefit that makes it stand apart from LegalShield: legal assistance for special or more complex legal issues.

One of the only limitations on LegalShield’s monthly plan is that it limits consultations and document review for specialty level issues. 

Where UpCounsel is uniquely positioned is in dealing with these more complex legal issues. 

Examples include:

  • Intellectual property
  • Import and export
  • And employee issues

However, keep in mind that UpCounsel, though not expensive as a traditional attorney, is significantly more expensive than LegalShield or another comparable service, often charging several hundred dollars per hour on phone consultations. 

Is LegalShield a scam?

LegalShield has been around for nearly 50 years. 

However, the nature of its service and its iffy customer service has led to some unwanted rumors about the service’s integrity. 

While we can’t speak first-hand, countless customers report being fully satisfied with LegalShield’s services as well as support, far more than there are complaints.

That said, digital business services akin to LegalShield (and LegalZoom) are notorious for having badly exported customer service, which definitely doesn’t help their reputation and likely hasn’t helped stem off such rumors. 

Is LegalShield worth it?

Was this Legalshield review helpful in deciding which legal assistance tool to go with (and whether it would be worth it in the first place)?

Only you can decide whether LegalShield is worth it for you. 

However, ask yourself these questions to help you come to your own decision:

  • Do you have a regular need for legal services?
  • Can you afford a full-time lawyer?
  • Can you make use of LegalShield’s debt collection or trial defense benefits?

One thing is for sure: if you run a business in a high-risk industry, you need to plan accordingly to make sure you have the right pieces in place to protect yourself.

LegalShield may be useful in helping you do exactly that. 

Top 6 Free Accounting Software for Small Business


Free accounting software comes in all shapes and sizes.

There’s the simple and intuitive kind with a user-friendly interface. 

Then there’s the more comprehensive kind which tends to be a bit dated in terms of front-end design but can do the job almost as well as premium accounting software

Lastly, most premium accounting software offers a 30-day free trial. That allows you to dip your toes into each of the premium software before having to commit.

Ultimately, whether a free accounting software or a free trial of a premium one is best for you comes down to:

  • Are you averse to paying for accounting software? Maybe your business is new and you’re trying to minimize expenses as much as possible. 
  • Or do you mainly just not want to get locked into committing to a software choice that you end up not liking?

Fortunately, no matter where you land, in this article we’re going to cover both the best free accounting software and a quick list of premium accounting software that offer free trials. 

The Top 6 Free Accounting Software for Small Business

Keep in mind, the list below isn’t in any particular order, as most free accounting software generally offer the same features. 

Some do have a paid version you can take advantage of if you end up liking one so much that you want to stick with it but need some more premium features.

However, keep in mind that generally, premium accounting software offers a lot that base-free accounting software doesn’t. 

With that said, let’s get to the list:


1. ZipBooks

One of the more recognizable names in the world of free accounting software, ZipBooks offers virtually everything you’d want in a free accounting software for small business purposes. 

ZipBooks offers:

  • Reports
  • Invoicing
  • Billing
  • Expense management
  • And more

Some features you’ll need to do a little extra leg-work for, such as online payments (can link up Square or PayPal) and payroll, which they offer a paid add-on for $39/Month (which is sometimes discounted). 

However, those features aside, ZipBooks can do about everything you’d need a basic business accounting software to do. 

Try ZipBooks accounting software for free


2. TurboCASH

TurboCASH offers many of the same features as ZipBooks and then some, such as:

  • Reports
  • Invoicing
  • Purchase orders
  • VAT
  • Multiple users/companies

However, what is unique about TurboCASH is:

  1. It’s been around since 1985 (!)
  2. Its large online community, boasting more than 100,000 users across the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia.

If you’re new to business accounting, the helpful community itself could be considered a valuable feature. 

However, keep in mind that the software is a bit on the complicated side. So, it’s definitely not best suited for new business owners or particularly built for solo business owners, including sole proprietors and freelancers. 

Try TurboCASH accounting software for free


3. GnuCash

Similar to TurboCASH, GnuCash has been around for quite a while.

The software itself is a bit dated not, but it has gotten the job done for thousands of businesses since being founded in 2001. 

GnuCash offers features such as:

  • Reports
  • Invoicing
  • Vendor tracking
  • Job costing
  • And more

The nice part about GnuCash is that it’s a free download– no strings attached. No using the software from the website via a backend login like most online accounting software does.

You simply click “Download” and you’re good to go and use it to your heart’s content. 

Try GnuCash accounting software for free


4. CloudBooks

CloudBooks, not to be confused with QuickBooks or FreshBooks, is a no-cost accounting software that offers:

  • Reports 
  • Invoicing
  • Expense tracking 
  • Time tracking
  • Multiple users
  • Estimate calculator
  • And more

CloudBooks is unique in that while they do have an entirely free version, there are limitations in place.

As opposed to offering a premium version with additional features, the free version of CloudBooks is limited in the number of invoices you can send per month at 5. 

If you want to send more invoices than that per month, you can opt-in to the basic paid plan at $10 per month. 

Try CloudBooks accounting software for free


5. Zoho Invoice

One of the most recognizable names in the accounting software space, Zoho has several offerings– and it’s arguably one of the best free options available.

Zoho Invoice is Zoho’s free accounting software offering (while Zoho Books is their paid premium offering), with features such as:

  • Reports
  • Invoicing (Up to 5 customers)
  • Automated workflows
  • Expense tracking
  • Time tracking
  • Client portal

One unique feature of Zoho is that they offer the ability to add users without moving up to their paid tier.

So, if you like the features that Zoho Invoice offers but don’t want to have to pay for a full plan for multiple users, you add another user for just $2 per month (or $20 per year).

Try Zoho Invoice accounting software for free


6. Wave

Another one of the most recognizable names in the free accounting software space, Wave is a free accounting software with many features.

Those features include:

  • Reports
  • Expense tracking
  • Income tracking
  • Invoicing

One notable feature that Wave doesn’t offer is direct payments, which they charge a pretty standard 2.9% + $0.30 processing fee for each credit card payment (and 1% per ACH payment). 

Wave also doesn’t offer payroll through its free service, which you’ll need to pay between $20-35 monthly for + $4 per employee or contractor included on your payroll. 

Try Wave accounting software for free

Premium accounting software with free trials

Earlier, we touched on the fact that free accounting software is often missing useful features that you might need to do your business accounting optimally.

That’s why a nice middle point between: 

  1. Finding something free to start off with and
  2. Getting the features you need to properly run your business accounting 

can be taking advantage of one of countless premium accounting software’s free trials. 

If you’re not really concerned with paying for accounting software so long as you know it does what you need it to do, and you mostly just don’t want to get hooked into some paid plan before you figure out if the software works for you, you’re in luck.

Some of the best premium accounting software have generous 30-day free trials you can use to try each software and find which works best for you.

Those companies include (click on the links below to go to their free trial page):

Keep in mind, being premium accounting software, all of the above options offer virtually the same features. 

However, there are some small differences between the services that you’ll want to check out, mostly in terms of user interface and extra features.

For example, FreshBooks can serve as a great dual business + personal accounting software, something you don’t need but might want while QuickBooks is great if you also need a place to keep track of your company inventory. 

Ultimately, though, you can’t really go wrong with any of these options, so give them a try and see which feels/works best for you.

Which free accounting software is the best fit for you? 

There are a ton of different free accounting software options out there, from truly free to free but limited and finally free trials on premium software.

Which works best for you depends on several factors, including:

  • Which less standard features you need
  • How the user interface feels
  • And how tech-savvy you are

At the end of the day, there’s no way to know which free accounting software solution will work best for you. 

However, they’re free! You can try several out before committing to one that you like. 

So, consider which features are critical for you and your business and make a shortlist of a few that seem like they’re a good fit on paper. 

From there, you can expedite the decision without the whole process being too time-consuming (because let’s face it, you probably have better things to do than wade through accounting software!). 

How to Franchise Your Business: 6 Steps to Starting Your Franchise


Want to know the steps to franchising your business? Franchising offers a big potential return on investment, but it also comes with a big cost. Read on to learn more. 

What is franchising and how does it work?

Thanks to fast-food restaurants in the 1950s like McDonalds, franchising is a household term.


How does it work? Franchising is a legal structure that allows businesses to sell the right to open their own franchised locations of that business. 

With franchising, you can elicit the help of eager franchisees to help grow your business, with the potential to significantly increase the rate of that business’ growth. 

In exchange for being able to open a franchise, franchisees will pay you a franchise fee along with ongoing royalties based on sales from each of their locations. 

However, to franchise your business, you’ll have to create the legal documents and operational guidelines necessary for those franchisees to operate– and that’s no small task. 

Not to mention, the training, systems, supplier connections, and support they’ll need to run their business (just to name a few things).

But before you do all that, the first step is to create your Franchise Disclosure Document (or FDD). 

Your FDD details 23 different sections or pieces of information related to the business that helps disclose to the franchisee the information they need to make an informed decision about becoming a franchisee.

Example FDD cover page by Franchiseprep.com

Once they’re ready to get started, to sell a franchise you need to provide them a franchise agreement (best prepared by your attorney) to make the sale official.

That all sounds great and everything, but making the move into franchising is an enormous undertaking. So, you shouldn’t take it lightly. 

First, let’s talk about the pros and cons of franchising so you can better understand why you might want– and not want– to open your business up for franchising. 

Pros and cons of franchising

Franchising has both big pros and big cons, both of which you should be aware of when considering whether to franchise or not.

Here are the pros and cons of franchising:

Con: It’s expensive

You’re going to need a lot of extra cash– or funding– to go into franchising.

That’s because franchising requires legal prep, systems set up, supplies, and everything else needed to set up your franchising program and help your franchisees get off the ground and stay in business.

At the end of the day, franchise experts suggest you have $500,000-1,000,000 before considering going into franchising. Anything less is a risk to your primary business. 

Pro: But the payoff is (potentially) huge

With that said, the payoff for franchising is enormous; there are few ways to multiply your business revenue as effective as franchising. 

It will do much more than help you get a return on your investment. After the first few years, franchising could be a huge portion of your annual revenue for the remainder of the life of your business. 

Con: It takes (a lot of) time

Franchising isn’t just monetarily expensive, it’s time expensive too. 

From the day you launch your franchising program and get your first franchisee, it can be years before you see any real return. 

If you’re not willing (or able) to invest 3-5 years in franchising before seeing a profit, you’re probably not in a position to pull the trigger yet.

However, if you understand that franchising is a long-term endeavor and you have the capital and business stability to invest fully in it now knowing you may not see a return for several years, it’s worth considering.

Pro: Franchising can put you on the map (literally)

A successful franchise business can single-handedly exploded your number of locations, especially if you snag a few great franchisees in key markets. 

More than just the revenue, the want franchising can expand your business into new markets you otherwise might never have entered makes it an invaluable vehicle for exponential business growth. 

How to franchise your business

Now that we’ve covered the big pros and cons of franchising, let’s talk about how to do it in detail.

There are essentially 7 steps to franchising any business. They are: 


1. Create a Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD)

First, you’ll need to create your FDD, which we touched on earlier. 

An FDD is required by law to provide potential franchisees the information they need on your business. 

Make sure that when you’re creating your FDD you:

  • Include the ability to purchase multiple franchises, often referred to as multi-unit, and
  • Make sure the FDD is multi-state, meaning it’s valid for all U.S. states where a franchisee may want to open a franchise

2. Register your FDD

Now that you have your FDD completed, you’ll need to register it in certain states so that it’s valid. 

Certain states are considered “franchise registration states”, such as New York and California, while others have instated similar franchise guidelines that require registration. 

For more information, check out the latest information on all 50 states from this spreadsheet resource by the International Franchise Association. 

3. Write your operations manual 

Once your FDD is done, you’ll need to create the operations manual which all franchisees will follow to run their franchise. 

This manual should be extensive, including everything from:

  • Training guidelines to
  • Serving instructions
  • Recipes
  • Operational conduct
  • And anything else relevant in terms of running of the franchise location and adhering to brand conduct guidelines

Make sure not to skimp on this and invest the time necessary to create something that will clearly lay out what is required of your franchises. 

4. Create your franchise company 

Franchises must create separate franchise entities from their main business (for example: Barron’s Burgers vs. Barron’s Burger Franchising, Inc.). 

Along with this, you’ll need to create a separate business bank account for this new entity, which is what will be used in the creation of your FDD. 

5. Draft your franchise development plan

Now that the real technical stuff has been taken care of, it’s time to cover two more vitally important steps that will influence the success of your franchise.

First, you’ll want to create your plan for how to franchise will grow, develop, and support its franchisees.

Your franchise program will only be as successful as the time and effort you invest in it (if you’ll excuse a tired old phrase), so take time to think about:

  • How will you support your franchisees?
  • What new systems do you need in place?
  • How can you streamline preexisting processes to help with the implementation of your new franchise program?
  • What kind of budget are you setting for the next 1-5 years for franchising?
  • And how will you market your franchise? (More on that in the next point.)

6. Create your franchise sales strategy

Next, and an easy step to gloss over, you’ll need to sit down and create a comprehensive franchise sales strategy.

The last thing you want to do is invest all this time and money in setting up your franchise only to have a subpar marketing strategy to go along with it.

And yet, it’s the easiest thing to forget about in the larger scheme of things.

Take time thinking about how you’ll reach out to potential franchisees, whether through digital advertising or organic reach, both, or something else altogether, and what percentage of each.

Consider recently successful franchises and study how they had such explosive growth and you could take from that to improve your own marketing plan. 

What documents do you need to franchise your business?

Now that we’ve covered the steps to getting your franchise started, you might be wondering a little bit more about the documents we mentioned earlier.

When it comes down to it, there are really just two primary documents you’ll need to draft to get your franchising journey started (besides the typical business documentation you already have):

  • Operations/Franchise manual
  • Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD)

Of those two, it’s the latter that has strict requirements. 

There are 23 separate items, or pieces of information, you must include in your FDD to provide to prospective franchisees.

Those are:

  1. Franchisor and all parents/affiliates: Parent companies, etc. 
  2. About your business: How long have you been around, where do you operate, who are your competitors, and any other detail you feel would be important such as special documentation or requirements necessary for you to operate your type of business.
  3. Bankruptcy: You must list if you or any other executive has filed for bankruptcy while working at the company.
  4. Litigation: Any and all litigations regarding your company must be listed.
  5. Initial fees for starting a franchise with you
  6. Other fees: Deposits, etc.
  7. Initial investment: An estimate of what is required to get started
  8. Restrictions (on suppliers/vendors): What vendors must be used for certain supplies? Etc. List them all along with any necessary instructions.
  9. Expectations/Obligations: What do you expect from franchisees? What do you commit to providing to them? 
  10. Financing opportunities: If you’re offering any sort of financing to franchisees to get started, list it.
  11. Training: How will franchisees be trained? What programs will you offer?
  12. Territory: Are they receiving a protected territory? This must be clearly outlined along with all other relevant details. 
  13. Trademarks: List all trademarks associated with the franchise system and whether they’re filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, along with all other relevant information. 
  14. Copyrights, patents, etc.: List all along with proprietary information. 
  15. Obligations to participate: What obligations are you setting forth for franchisees to participate in the franchise on a day-to-day basis? 
  16. Selling restrictions: How much control do you have over what a particular franchise sells? What may or may they not sell? This needs to be outlined in detail. 
  17. Transfer/Renewal/Termination: All relevant information related to this and any disputes must be mentioned in its own section as well. 
  18. Public figures: Have you hired any celebrity or equivalent to advertise your product? List them here. 
  19. Financial performance: You’re not required to include Financial Performance Representations, but whether you are or aren’t you must list that here
  20. Outlets: List al corporate and franchised outlets over the past 3 years along with projections for the future. 
  21. Financial documentation: Statements, etc.
  22. Contracts: List all contracts that the franchisee must sign for you, the franchisor. 
  23. Receipts: Include two copies of the receipt page, which is the signature page confirming the proper delivery of the FDD. 

Remember, an FDD is required by law, so take every precaution to make sure you’ve filled out your FDD and can check off all 23 individual points. 

Take your business to the next level with franchising

Franchising your business is a huge step forward that has a big price with even bigger potential returns.

Take the time to heavily consider the cost of franchising your business, whether you’re truly ready, and whether you’re prepared to make the time and financial investment necessary to create a successful franchising program with your business.

Frequently asked questions

What is franchise tax?

Franchise tax is not a tax charged to franchises, but rather a tax paid by some businesses for the privilege to operate in a particular area (in most cases, a particular state). Franchise tax is paid in addition to federal and state income taxes. 

How long will it take to franchise my business?

Typically, it can take anywhere from 90-120 days. This all depends on various factors unique and not unique to your business, including local state regulations, requirements, and your own team. 

How much does it cost to franchise a business?

The initial fees to start your franchise– drafting your operations manual, creating your FDD, and the legal infrastructure and systems your franchise system will require– will likely cost anywhere from $20,000 – 30,000. 

However, keep in mind that the cost to franchise your business is in reality much higher when you factor in the time and monetary investment necessary to market to, train, and support franchisees, from several hundred thousand to several million over 3-5 years.

Stripe vs. Square: A Comparison of Online Payment Processors


Stripe vs. Square: An Overview 

Looking for a good payment processing solution for your business that caters to both retail and online sales?

When it comes down to it, there really isn’t a whole lot to choose from that cover both types of transactions. At least, the best options are leagues better than the rest. 

Which is ironic, since every ecommerce– and many other– businesses online needs one to operate.

That’s why most businesses that need a digital payment processor look to one of two big hitters: Stripe and Square.

Which is better? Where do they each excel, and which is best suited for your business? 

Below, we’ll dive into the details and cover everything from pricing to features and deliver the final verdict on which is likely a better fit for your business. 

But first, check out the 10,000-foot overview below if you want to get a quick comparison summary: 


Stripe Overview

Stripe is known as being a super developer-friendly payment processor.

It isn’t the easiest to set up if you’re new to ecommerce or digital sales in general. 

However, Stripe does offer a comprehensive set of features that allow you to do just about anything you’d want with a digital payment processor. 

Best for: Those who are a bit more tech-savvy and want more robust developer features.


Square Overview

Square is an easy-to-use digital payment processor and point-of-sale (POS) system. Meaning you can take payments at a physical store and also accept payments online using the square platform. 

If you’re not tech-savvy and need a solution that’s easy to use right out of the box, Square makes it about as easy as can be to get set up and start taking payments. 

They offer a free website with Square payment processing already built-in, simple and straightforward POS terminals as well as their Square Reader for accepting in-person payments, and other ready-made solutions. 

Best for: New or solo business owners who aren’t tech-savvy and want something simple and easy + brick and mortar businesses needing an easy to use point-of-sale system. 

Before we dive into the details, it’s worth mentioning that both Stripe and Square:

  • Offer competitive transaction fees
  • A comprehensive service that does the job it’s supposed to
  • And great customer support

No matter which you go with, both will be able to do the job if all you’re looking for is a dependable digital payment processor. 

However, each has a niche that allows them to expand beyond that central service to offer more.

With that quick summary out of the way, let’s dive into the details.

First, let’s start with pricing. 

Stripe vs. Square: Pricing

In terms of pricing, Square and Stripe couldn’t be more similar, though there are some notable areas where they differentiate that are worth noting.

Here’s the breakdown:


Stripe pricing

Both Stripe and Square are equal in terms of online credit card transaction fees at 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction.

Similarly, in-person transactions are virtually equal at 2.7% + 5 cents for Stripe and 2.6% + 10 cents for Square.

However, where Stripe differs is in ACH and recurring transactions.

Stripe charges 0.8% per ACH debit transaction, at a $5 cap, while charging just 2.9% + 30 cents per recurring transaction.

Square pricing

While similar in online credit card and in-person transactions, Square differs from Stripe in recurring and most notably ACH transactions.

Square has a higher percentage on recurring transactions, though a lower flat fee on top of it at 3.5% + 15 cents per transaction.

However, where Square stands out most is in ACH transactions, as they don’t charge a fee, unlike Stripe. 

Pricing: the verdict

All-in-all, the pricing grid for both Stripe and Square is incredibly similar.

However, if you have a large number of recurring transactions, Stripe is the marginal winner. 

Similarly, if you process a large number or size of ACH transactions, Square is the obvious choice. 

Stripe vs. Square: Features

Next, let’s dive into both Stripe and Square’s features and see where each excels (and which has the features most relevant to you).

Here’s where each stands out: 


Stripe features

While both Stripe and Square offer comparable digital payment services, when you look a little more closely, they diverge in a few key areas. 

Unmatched developer tools

When it comes to Stripe, their stand-out characteristic is their unmatched developer features.

Stripe gives developers and business owners who want (or need) to customize their payment gateway the tools to do exactly that, with things like custom checkout options and UI tools. 

This first point is the most notable differentiator for Stripe, and it’s a big one, but Square has a few other notable features aside from this. 

Such as…

24/7 Phone support

One surprising feature Stripe offers that Square doesn’t is full 24/7 phone support for all customers. 

In an age where most modern digital-focused startups seek to nudge customers with sophisticated AI chatbots to their knowledge base of common questions and answers, Stripe goes the opposite direction and offers unrivaled support to its customers in the form of (gasp) real live people. 

A diverse range of payment methods

Another place where Stripe is the clear winner is in payment methods.

Stripe has gone out of its way to offer an extensive list of payment options, from various credit cards to countless digital payment methods, ACH, and digital wallets such as Apple and Google Pay.

Square features

So, where does Square stand out from Stripe? 

Where Stripe is perfect for developers and power players who want more and diverse features to let them create things like custom checkout experiences, Square is the king of ease of use (among other things). 

Super user friendly

Where Square makes a name for itself is in how easy it is to use. 

While Stripe gives users numerous toys to play with to customize and build out, Square’s service is clearly built for the opposite: to offer the best out-of-the-box and user-friendly experience possible.

Everything from their payment gateway templates to their free and ready-made online store makes getting started a breeze for any business owner who is new to accepting digital or in-person payments, all while doing so safely and professionally.

Free POS software

To bounce off the first point, Square also makes getting started with in-person payments simple and easy.

How? By offering free point-of-sale (POS) software that is plug-and-play ready. 

This pairs nicely with the ease of setting up digital payments with Square, making for an all-in-one digital + physical payment system that can be set up within a single day. 

Did we mention their USB and full terminal devices are stylish? Definitely not your typical retail checkout terminals. 

Verdict: Stripe vs. Square– Which should you choose? 

So, which should you choose: Stripe or Square?

The question mostly comes down to two things:

  1. How tech-savvy you are, and
  2. Whether you need a point-of-sale (POS) system

If you need a digital payment processor with a POS system, Square makes getting set up to take in-person payments incredibly easy and efficient. 

If you’re in need of a dependable digital payment processor with lots of potential, especially if you are or have a developer, Stripe has the most robust features. 

Stripe is also ideal if you need to set up a way to collect recurring payments from your customers. 

However, if you’re not tech-savvy and aren’t looking to do anything custom– in other words, you just need a reliable way of accepting payments online and/or in person, and to do it easily right out-of-the-box– Square is a perfect fit.

Minority Business Loans: A Guide to Minority-Owned Business Financing Programs


Minority business loans and other unique programs exist for minority-owned businesses throughout the U.S. While many of these programs are state or community-specific, there are some large-scale programs as well. Read on to find out more. 

What are minority business loans?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 1 million businesses in the U.S. are now owned by minorities, roughly 17% of all U.S. businesses. 

In total, minority-owned businesses account for about $1.8 trillion in annual revenue and employ over 6 million workers throughout the country. 

However, despite the considerable growth in minority-owned businesses, it remains unfairly difficult for minorities to obtain traditional loans, even when comparing equal credit and other financial determinations.

Fortunately, several organizations and programs have stepped up to help bridge that gap and make it easier for minority-owned businesses to get the funding they need to build and grow. 

Minority business loans are one such umbrella of programs, which refers to any loan program specifically designed for minority-owned businesses.

In addition, later we’ll also break down some additional resources that minority-owned businesses can take advantage of to obtain funding and grow their business.

Minority business loan options

Several minority business loan options are available, from SBA loan programs to other major loan programs as well as state and local programs. 

Here are just some of the programs available to minority-owned businesses: 

minority business loans - SBA

1. SBA 8(a) Business Development Program

One of the most notable minority-based business funding programs, the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program was created for minority and disadvantaged businesses.

Technically not a loan program, 8(a) participants enjoy several benefits related to easier access to business funding.

Most notably, members of the 8(a) program have access to an annual pool of federal contract funds reserved for 8(a) participants. That means not only fairer qualification given the program guidelines but less competition as a whole. 

And if the idea of applying for federal contracting dollars sounds daunting (as with anything government-related, it can be painfully confusing), you get access to a specialist representative who will help you through the entire process.

So, how do you become a part of the program?

To be approved for the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program, you must meet these guidelines:

  • Be 51% or more owned and controlled by U.S. citizens who qualify as economically and socially disadvantaged
  • Must be involved in the day-to-day operations of the business itself
  • Have a personal net worth of less than $250,000
  • And have less than $4 in assets

Keep in mind that there are additional guidelines to qualify as an 8(a) business you’ll need to meet as well.

For all the information you need to get started with the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program, see here

Community Advantage Lender - Minority Business Loans

2. SBA Community Advantage loans

The second of three main programs the SBA offers to minority-owned businesses, SBA Community Advantage loans are a part of the SBA’s flagship 7(a) loan program, which is offered in conjunction with local lenders. 

The SBA Community Advantage loan program offers funding in the form of term loans to business owners in underserved markets, between $50,000 and $250,000 in funding. Interest rates typically range from 7-10%. 

To learn more about the SBA’s Community Advantage loan program, click here.

3. SBA Microloans

The third and final SBA program minority-owned businesses can take advantage of is the SBA Microloan program.

SBA Microloans are exactly what they sound like: small loans between $500 and $50,000 (with the average Microloan being $13,000).

The Microloan program is designed for new businesses that are minority, women, or veteran-owned or low-income, with roughly half of all Microloans going to minority-owned businesses each year.

Microloans have a relatively short-term repayment plan at within six years and have an average interest rate of 8-13%. 

To learn more about the SBA’s Microloan program, click here

Business Consortium Fund

4. Business Consortium Fund 

The Business Consortium Fund, or BCF, is a U.S. Department of the Treasury certified Community Development Financial Institution designed to help minority business owners in various ways.

The BCF has several programs, including its Direct Lending Program, which offers minority business owners $75,00 to $500,000 either in the form of a term loan or as a business line of credit. 

To be approved for the program, you’ll first need to get your business certified as a minority-owned business with the National Minority Supplier Development Council. 

Click here to find out more about certifying with the NMSDC or here to learn more about the BCF’s Direct Lending Program

State and local minority loan options

While several national programs exist to help minority-based businesses, programs also exist on the state and local level.

Below is a list of example state and local programs for minority-owned businesses, but take the time to research what programs might exist in your area as this list is definitely not exhaustive.

CDFI Fund - Minority Business Loan Programs

1. Community Development Financial Institution Fund

The Community Development Financial Institution Fund was established by the U.S. Department of Treasury. Through the fund, CDFI’s or Community Development Financial Institutions offer both financial and technical assistance to minority-owned businesses.

These institutions come in two forms: 

  1. The Bank Enterprise Award Program, and 
  2. Native Initiatives

The BEA Program’s mission is to facilitate investment in economically distressed communities around the country to revitalize those areas.

Native Initiatives offers monetary awards and technical training opportunities to help create jobs, build businesses, and create economic growth in Native Communities. 

As a whole, the CDFI provides affordable credit, capital, and other business and financial growth opportunities to minority and economically distressed communities nationwide.

Click here to view the CDFI’s Award Database to search for these and other CDFI organizations in your state to see what awards are available. 

Minority and Women Revolving Loan Trust Fund program

2. Minority and Women Revolving Loan Trust Fund program

The Minority and Women Revolving Loan Trust Fund program offers working capital and fixed asset loans to women and minorities in New York.

The loans range up to $35,000 for their trust fund program and $50,000 for fixed asset loans and require businesses have less than $100,000 in annual gross revenue. 

3. National African American Small Business Loan fund

The National African American Small Business Loan fund offers business loans to African American-owned businesses in several major cities throughout the U.S., including New York and Los Angeles. 

The fund also offers comprehensive business services, including marketing, business plan development, and tech assistance.

Loan amounts range from $35,000 to $250,000 and can be provided in the form of short-term loans or business lines of credit.

Do you qualify for minority business loans?

Now that we’ve covered some unique options for minority-owned businesses to obtain funding, you might be wondering: will I qualify?

The main prerequisite for most minority business loan programs is that the majority owner (51%+) must be part of a minority group.

It is possible in some rare cases that a program might require all owners to be part of a minority group, but most programs only require a single majority owner. 

Beyond that, every loan program is different, so you’ll need to check with each individual program’s qualification factors to figure out what you’ll need to qualify. 

Grants and additional resources for minority-owned businesses

In addition to the above minority business loan programs, there are several grants and additional resources for minority-owned businesses to take advantage of.

While obtaining a business loan is generally easier (both to find and obtain), grants and other similar programs are a chance at debt-free capital for your business, so they’re worth looking into.

Here are a few: 

U.S. Minority Chamber of Commerce - Minority Business Loan Programs

1. U.S. Minority Chamber of Commerce

The Minority Chamber of Commerce is a national organization supporting minority-owned businesses throughout the U. S. 

While not offering any direct grant or funding programs, the MCC is great for connecting you to existing resources, including both grants and new and existing funding programs. 

MBDA - Minority Financing Programs

2. Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Centers

MBDA business centers connect minority-owned businesses in 34 states with countless small business services.

Services include:

  • How to secure funding
  • Other financial counseling
  • And contract acquisition

Financial counseling is 1-on-1 and offers minority-owned businesses an invaluable financial overview from one of the MBDA’s own financial experts.

3. Grants.gov

A final and the best general source for finding qualifying grants is Grants.gov.

The site offers up-to-date information on more than 1,000+ grant programs throughout the U.S.

It has an easy search function with access to information on countless minority-based grant programs, such as the Minority Research Grant Program.

Make your dream business a reality

Much still must be done to bridge the divide that minority-owned businesses face in today’s business world.

However, progress has been made and there are programs and resources available to business owners who are willing to look.

Get the funding your business needs to make your dreams a reality, with the loan programs and additional resources we covered in this guide. 

Frequently asked questions

How do I get a minority business grant?

To apply for and potentially obtain most minority business grants, you must:

– Get certified as a minority-owned business
– Create your business plan
– Visit a grant directory such as Grants.gov to find a grant that matches your business
– Gather your business documents
– Apply for the grant (double-check whether there is a deadline, as most grants work on an annual limited-time application schedule)

How do I certify as a minority-owned business?

To certify as a minority-owned business, apply with the National Minority Supplier Development Council (or simply NMSDC).

The NMSDC has regional offices throughout the country where you can apply to become a recognized minority-owned business. 

The 14 Best Banks for Small Business


It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about starting up your business, but choosing which bank to work with is a vital part of your daily business dealings. 

For that reason, it’s important to invest the time and energy in finding a bank that works for you and your business. 

You should consider:

  • How many monthly deposits do you make?
  • Do you need funding in the form of a business or real estate loan?
  • Are the number of available physical branches important to your business?
  • How often do you use mobile banking?

The only problem is, there are a lot of banks out there, and with all of them vying for your business, so it’s hard figuring out which one is best for you. 

That’s the purpose of this guide. 

Below, we’ll take you through each of the best banks based on a variety of factors including:

  • Number of branches
  • Fees
  • Online-only checking option
  • Monthly transactions
  • And the best credit unions

So, let’s get to it:

best banks for small business

Best for low fee checking: Bank of America

A mainstay in top small business banking lists, Bank of America is known for having high customer satisfaction ratings compared to most other major banks (with only Chase consistently beating it out).

However, one of its most notable features is its low-cost small business checking account.

Bofa business checking accounts have an $18 fee, but they offer numerous ways to avoid said fee, including:

  • $5,000 average monthly balance
  • $3,000 minimum daily balance
  • $15,000 combined average of all linked BofA accounts
  • Or, most notably: if you charge just $250 monthly to a business debit or credit card

That last one, in particular, makes it incredibly easy to avoid the monthly fee. 

Combine that with the fact that all BofA business checking accounts offer free cash deposits and free online and mobile banking, and BofA is the stand-out winner for the lowest fees for any small business checking account. 

Best for number of ATMs and branches: Wells Fargo

If a vast network of ATMs at your fingertips is important to you, Wells Fargo is a choice to consider. 

It’s worth noting that they have the lowest approval rating on average compared to any other major bank.

However, with more branches than any bank in the nation, you can’t argue with their convenience. 

Wells Fargo also offers no-fee withdrawals from its network of branches, which serves as a nice compliment. 

It’s also worth noting that their Simple Business Checking Account offers the option to avoid fees by maintaining a low minimum balance of just $500, which is far better than BofA’s $5,000 (though their $250 monthly debits is still king above that).

Like BofA, Wells Fargo also offers a wide variety of small business lending products. 

In fact, it’s the largest Small Business Administration (SBA) lender in the country, offering more SBA loans than any other major bank. 

However, it’s important to mention that you won’t get competitive rates compared to most local credit unions, which is usually the first place you should start if you’re looking for funding from a local bank. 

Best credit union: Navy Federal Credit Union

Often reported as one of the highest-rated credit unions in the country, the Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) was originally founded to serve the U.S. Armed Forces.

However, it now serves civilian individuals and business owners throughout the country with a variety of services.


  • Business checking
  • Savings
  • Business loans
  • Credit cards 
  • And employee benefits such as insurance and retirement 

The NFCU is known for its stellar customer service record, above and beyond even the average credit union, but that’s only a part of why they’re on this list. 

What makes credit unions in general so notable is that, partly because they’re not-for-profit entities, interest rates and fees tend to be lower. 

And that’s the case for the NFCU, who offer everything from term loans to business lines of credit at affordable rates.

The only drawback is that you need to be a member first to take advantage of any of their offerings (typical for all credit unions).

Also, to become a business member, you must first become a personal member first then apply to become a business member (along with a $100 opening deposit). 

However, all things considered, the benefits you get far outweigh the drawbacks. 

Best digital (online-only) checking: Azlo

Countless new digital banking options have sprouted up over the years, but few have reached the heights of online bank Azlo

Born from the digital boom that saw freelance and entrepreneurialism explode online, digital or online-only banking offers a convenient option for solo business owners to manage their banking online without ever having to step into a physical branch. 

Best banks for small business

Azlo, in particular, stands apart from other online banking options for one big reason: there are little to no fees.

With Azlo’s small business checking account, there no fees for:

  • ATM use
  • Domestic and international wire transfers
  • ACH transfers

They also offer mobile check depositing and minimum balance or basic checking fee.

Overall, their lack of extensive and confusing fees makes Azlo refreshingly transparent when compared to the average major bank. 

best banks for small business

Best for high monthly transactions: Capital One

If you tend to pull a high number of monthly transactions, Capital One is a great option. 

Some banks will often either put a restriction on your number of transactions or add unnecessary fees that make those frequent transactions more of a challenge (or at the very least, eat into your bottom line).

Capital One’s small business checking account options, on the other hand, have no such cap. 

Their Spark Business Basic Checking account offers:

  • Unlimited monthly transactions
  • No fee on deposits up to $5,000
  • $15 service fee that’s easily avoidable, either by having three or more Capital One products or by maintaining an average balance of $2,000 over either a 30 or 90-day period

With a Spark business account, you also get access to a collection of financial management tools that can help you better manage your business’s cash flow. 

All of that combined makes Capital One’s business checking options a great fit for any small business owner, especially if you make frequent transactions and/or high-value deposits.

best banks for small business

Best overall: Chase Bank

Consistently rated highest in customer satisfaction, Chase Bank stands atop the collective.


Besides customer service, there’s no one thing that sticks out about Chase compared to other major banks such as Wells Fargo and BofA. 

It’s a collection of several different factors that, taken together, that help it securely take its spot at the top. 

According to Consumer Reports:

“Banking surveys, such as one from J.D. Power, also shows that many consumers appreciated Chase’s ATM and branch network, and mobile and online services, as well as the quality, clarity, and relevance on the advice provided about financial products it offers.”

One of the more notable features of Chase’s business checking is that it offers no checking fees if you maintain a balance of just $1,500, low relative to competitors such as BofA’s $5,000. 

Not to mention, Chase’s mobile banking app and mobile check deposit functionality are both highly rated (which says a lot considering most major bank’s mobile apps, including BofA’s, are ridden with issues).

Another notable mention is Chase’s Ink Business credit card, which has a great rewards program and a consistently high rating.

That’s not to mention the transparent presentation of Chase’s credit products themselves, which makes shopping for a business credit card if you bank with Chase an all-around pleasant experience. 

Add on top of that the fact that with 16,000 combined branches and ATMs, Chase has one of the largest networks nationwide, and you’ve got the overall best bank in the country for small business. 

Best banks by state

While the above are the best overall banks for small businesses throughout the country, we couldn’t end this list without giving you a list of the best banks by state.

The reality is, while the list above gives you a general idea of which banks are best to go to for certain features and aspects of small business banking, the best offerings vary wildly by state.

And they’re local credit unions, not big banks.

So, without further ado, here are some of the best banks by state:

Best in Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania: First Peoples Community Credit Union

Founded in 1959 under the Amcell Corporation, First People’s Community Credit Union currently serves over 30,000 members in and around the Maryland area as well as parts of Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

FPC is best known for its convenient digital and local branch services, a rare combination for a local credit union. 

Best in Minnesota and Illinois: BCU Credit Union

Originally founded to serve Baxter Healthcare more than forty years ago, BCU Credit Union was recently rated as one of the most loved banks in both the Minnesota and Illinois area. 

Best in Massachusetts and New Hampshire: Digital Federal Credit Union

Founded in 1979, Digital Federal Credit Union or DCU started out serving the New England area then branched off to the greater Massachusetts as well as the New Hampshire area. 

Many customers cite their reliable customer service, with the only drawback being slightly lower interest rates on accounts compared to similar credit unions. 

Best in Utah and Idaho: Mountain America Credit Union

Known partly for their mortgage program and high customer service rating, Mountain America Credit Union (or MACU) was recently rated the bank in Utah as well as in the top five in Idaho. 

Best in Texas and Colorado: Security Service Federal Credit Union

Known for its low rates and good auto loans, Security Service Federal Credit Union was recently ranked as one of the top banks in both Colorado and Texas. 

Best in Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Michigan: Huntington Bank

Huntington has long been a favorite throughout Columbus, Ohio. However, it’s now expanded far beyond its roots and become a top-rated bank in:

  • Ohio
  • Kentucky,
  • Wisconsin
  • Michigan 
  • Pennsylvania

In fact, no other bank in the country is rated number one in more than one state, something that Huntington has accomplished and then some. 

A unique feature of Huntington compared to most local banks is that it’s investing heavily in AI tech, including updates to its app that will notify its customers when their spending increases and isn’t likely to cover their future balance.

Best in Virginia, Louisiana, and Delaware: Capital One

Finally, major bank Capital One is one of the only major financial institutions to be rated highly in multiple states, even compared to credit unions.

It was ranked among the best banks in:

  • Virginia
  • Louisiana
  • Delaware
  • Maryland
  • And Washington, D.C. 

Capital One is particularly strong when it comes to digital resources, boasting one of the highest-rated apps among major banks, and offering a great digital-only banking service.

The best bank for small business is the bank that serves you

You have a lot to choose from when it comes to picking a bank for your small business.

It might feel a bit overwhelming having to look through countless features, options, and resources just to decide which bank to go with.

However, the bank you choose to work with plays an important role in the daily operation of your business, so it’s an important choice you need to invest some time and energy into.