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Where Can You Get Your Personal Credit Report for Free? (2024 Guide to Obtaining and Reading Your Credit Report)


Your personal credit report acts as a gateway to your financial future.

Right now, your report may or may not be very promising. 

The good news is you’re in full control of what shows up on your credit report, so you ultimately decide that future. 

And with the right steps, you can open the way to the funding your business needs any time you need it.

But first, you need to obtain your credit report so that you know what you’re working with.

And that’s exactly what we’re going to help you with in this guide.

Below, we’ll cover:

  • The single best– and only officially recognized– way to obtain your credit report (for free)
  • How to read your credit report
  • How your credit score is calculated
  • Tips for cleaning up your credit report and improving your credit
  • And how to obtain business funding no matter what condition your personal credit is currently in

Obtain a business loan even with bad credit. Apply to see if you’re approved today: Apply Now

How to Obtain Your Credit Report for Free (Only Officially Recognized Method)

By law, U.S. citizens are entitled to obtain their credit report for free, once from each of the three major credit bureaus every 12 months.

However, many credit monitoring services will mask this fact behind a paywall of credit monitoring.

While credit monitoring can be useful, you’re not required to pay for monitoring to obtain your credit report. 

According to the FTC.gov, only one website is officially authorized to provide U.S. citizens with a free credit report.

That site is AnnualCreditReport.com (annualcreditreport.com/index.action). 

This means you do not have to pay any company or service for access to your credit report

If you haven’t already obtained a copy of one of your credit reports (no matter from which credit bureau), it’s suggested you have that as we go through the rest of this guide. 

Having it on hand will allow you to make notes and mark it up with areas that need attention, whether that’s improvement, removal, or simply some research. 

So, if you haven’t yet, head to AnnualCreditReport.com to get a free copy of your credit report. 

How to Read Your Personal Credit Report

Your credit report is a collection of your financial data (such payment history, current debt) gathered by a credit bureau, typically one of the major bureaus in Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. 

Access to your credit report can be requested by you or anyone you authorize to run your credit for the purpose of using your credit score and/or report to help grade your financial eligibility. 

The information on your credit report is separated into 4 major sections:

  • Personal information
  • Credit history
  • Credit inquiries
  • Public records

Personal information

This section includes basic information such as your name, address, and phone numbers:

Understanding Your Personal Credit Report 1

Credit history

Credit history includes credit accounts, how much you owe (if anything), how long the account has been open (or closed), and whether you’ve ever been late on payments:

Understanding Your Personal Credit Report Example 2

Credit inquiries

When you apply for credit, that company or lender will run a hard inquiry on your credit, which impacts your credit score immediately up to 1 year and lasts on your credit report for up to 2 years. 

Those inquiries appear on your credit report in the proceeding section, typically just after your accounts:

Understanding Your Personal Credit Report 3

Public records

Finally, public records includes all assorted items such as judgments, liens, bankruptcies, and foreclosures

Once you understand how your report is structured and what is included in each section, it’s much easier to read through your report. 

However, there are some confusing terms that show up in credit reports you’ll want to know as well to make sure you understand everything that’s included in one of your credit reports.

Understanding Your Personal Credit Report 4

A quick breakdown of all those confusing credit report terms

Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the most common terms that may appear on your credit report:

  • Collection account: When a debt can’t be collected, large companies tend to sell that debt off to a debt collector. That account will show up as a collection account. 
  • Charge-off: You might notice that some of your credit accounts say “Charged-off”. This means the creditor has given up on trying to collect the debt and written that debt off as a loss on their taxes. That debt may or may not have then been sold to a debt collector, so check to see if that same debt shows up as another account under a different name. 
  • Open account: An open account includes any financial responsibility to which you pay off each month, such as a cell phone or utility bill. 
  • Revolving account: This includes revolving credit accounts to which typically a portion of the balance is paid each month such as credit cards.

For a list of additional terms and codes that may appear on your credit report, several credit bureaus and other financial institutions offer handy guides, such as Creditfirm.net

How to Calculate Your Credit Score

Now that you understand how to read your personal credit report, let’s dive into your credit score. 

Your credit score is a direct reflection of the state of your credit report. 

If you learn what factors impact your credit score and how to read your credit report, you can put that knowledge together to vastly improve your credit. And you can do it often within a relatively short period of time. 

*Getting 9002 or 9003 credit when running your credit score? Find out what it means and what you can do about it. 

How you credit score is calculated

Credit agencies such as FICO and VantageScores take the data collected by the various bureaus to calculate your score. 

After calculating the data, they produce a score somewhere between 300 and 850 based on various factors, one score for each major credit bureau. 

It’s these agencies that calculate and produce your score, not the credit bureaus themselves. This is an important differentiation that’s critical to understand if you want to fully comprehend how your credit report and score work.

What factors impact your score? 

So then, how is your credit score calculated? 

There are 5 major items from your credit report that impact your score and these are the items you should be looking for when reviewing your credit report for possible improvements.

Below, we’ve organized those major factors in order of importance. The percentage (out of 100% total) indicates how important that particular factor is in calculating your score:


  1. Payment history: 35%
  2. Credit utilization: 30%
  3. Credit history: 15%
  4. Credit mix: 10%
  5. New credit: 10%

Payment history: 35%

Easily the most important factor when it comes to calculating your credit score at 35% of your score, payment history accounts for just over ⅓ of your entire score’s calculation. 

This includes the number of on-time payments, late payments, and when those payments were made.

Suffice it to say, try to never be late on a payment. 

However, it’s also important to note that FICO and other agencies state a couple of late payments aren’t going to kill your score. 

It’s much more of a collection of factors taken together than any one thing dominating the scoring calculation. 

Credit utilization: 30%

The second of the two most important factors in calculating your credit score is credit utilization. Taken together, payment history and credit utilization account for 65% of your score 

Credit utilization takes into consideration the amount you owe, particularly what percentage of your available credit you’ve borrowed from. 

The less you’re borrowing from your available credit, the better your score.

For example, it’s generally advised to use no more than 20-30% of your available credit. If you have a $250 credit card, another $500 card, and a final card with a $1000 limit, your available credit is $1750. 

However, you should shoot for spending just $350-525 of that amount (the less the better). 

Credit history: 15%

Most notably, this takes into consideration the age of your credit accounts. 

The longer your accounts have been open, the better your credit score will be. However, this also accounts for how long you’ve been actively using those accounts.

Ideally, you should have multiple accounts open for a long period of time all which you’re also actively using, even if it’s only a small portion of the available credit.

Credit mix: 10%

Credit mix accounts for just 10% of your score’s calculation and it has to do with the combination of credit accounts you have on your report.

This one is a bit vague, but it’s generally suggested that a good mix of revolving and installment accounts of different types is best. 

The idea is that it indicates the borrower (you) can handle different types of credit, further increasing your credit score. 

New credit: 10%

New credit is the final element and it accounts for another 10% of your score.

This includes two different things: 

  1. New inquiries
  2. New credit accounts

First, soft inquiries don’t affect your credit. However, hard inquiries– such as when a car dealership or bank runs your credit for a loan– do impact your credit and stay on your credit report for up to 2 years. 

Second, opening several new accounts within a small window of time can also impact your score, as it can suggest that you’re in financial trouble. 

However, something else not often considered: opening new accounts lowers your average account age, which also impacts your credit history. 

4 Best Tips for Improving Your Credit


Now that we’ve covered what to look for on your credit report to start building toward a better credit score, we’ll cover some of our best tips for improving your credit.

Here are tips for improving your credit: 

1. Get credit monitoring

One of the single most important things you need to do if you’re serious about working on your credit is credit monitoring.

Credit monitoring, through sites such as Credit Karma, gives you a gateway into your credit activity. 

It will tell you not only when something has positively or negatively impacted your score, it will tell you when new items are added to your credit report, and help you identify credit fraud swiftly.

2. Remove old, erroneous, and fraudulent items

If you haven’t been keeping an eye on your credit report all this time, chances are that one or more items have landed on it that can be removed.

This includes items that: 

  1. simply old and should have fallen off
  2. Erroneous items such as credit accounts being listed twice, and
  3. Fraudulent items you might never have noticed

Examples of items you might see and be able to remove from your credit report include a UCC filing or UCC lien, which often stay on your credit after they’ve expired and can easily be removed, tax liens, or judgments

Sometimes, companies will run your credit without your authorization. If you notice an inquiry you know you did not permit, you can request to have it removed.

Another example is a credit account which you’ve paid off or has been charged off, both of which can often be removed in some cases. 

3. Pay on time, no matter what

As we talked about earlier, your payment history accounts for ⅓ of your entire credit score. 

That means making sure that you’re paying on time is one of the single most important things you can do to improve and maintain your credit score. 

Don’t forget that if you’re having trouble paying something on time, you can call most companies and request an extension. Many industries offer up to 2 extensions a year (or more), which means you have flexibility if need-be. 

4. Optimize your credit utilization

Similarly, credit utilization is nearly ⅓ of your entire score. 

Many aren’t aware of the importance that credit utilization plays in terms of your credit score. And, if they are, many more aren’t aware of just how much of their credit they should be spending. 

Most sources will suggest you keep your credit utilization below 30%. This is technically true. However, if you keep it to under 20%, the difference is significant and it requires just a little extra self-restraint.

Alternatively, you can look into whether you’re available for a credit limit increase from any of your credit cards. 

Obtain the Funding Your Business Needs (Even without Great Credit) with Excel Capital

You credit is a gateway to some of life’s most important moments: your first (or next), a new home, or obtaining a business loan to get your business off the ground. 

Now that you have your credit report in hand, you might be wondering what your options are.

If you’re working on improving your credit, don’t let that hold you back from obtaining the cash your business needs to move forward.

At Excel Capital, we’ve helped thousands of business owners find the perfect funding solution for them.

We know that every business owner is at a different stage and a lack of accessible capital (or good credit to get that capital) shouldn’t be the reason your business doesn’t succeed.

We’ll work with you to identify the perfect option to fit your business– and your goals– no matter where you are in your credit-building journey.

Click below to apply:

Get the capital your business needs. Apply with Excel Capital today: Apply Now

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?

Private business loans encompass a whole suite of lending products. 

Some are short-term, some medium, some long. Some offer a one-time lump sum, others a more continuous flow of capital based on your needs. 

And still others are designed specifically for certain types of businesses, including those which invoice their customers.

The more you know about each loan type, the better you’ll be able to identify a funding vehicle that’s the best fit for accomplishing your business goals. 

Here are the main types of private business loans:

Term loans


Term loans are primarily separated into 2 different loan types: short-term and medium-term.

Term loans is a blanket term which refers to virtually every type of private business loan, including:

  1. Unsecured business loans
  2. Business lines of credit
  3. Merchant cash advances
  4. Invoice factoring
  5. Asset-based loans

Learn more about short and medium-term business loans.

Business lines of credit


A business line of credit is a unique lending vehicle that gives you access to a pool of credit that you can tap into whenever you need it.

When you’re approved for a business line of credit, you’re given a credit limit. All you have to do is make sure that you pay off your balance regularly and you’ll be able to continuously tap into it over time.

This makes a business line of credit especially great for seasonal businesses. 

Learn more about business lines of credit.


Financing is an umbrella that includes two main types of funding products: equipment financing and invoice financing: 

Equipment financing

Equipment financing gives you the ability to get the funding you need to finance a vital piece of equipment when you don’t have the cash to get it on hand. 

You’re able to fund the full cost of that piece of equipment with the equipment itself working as collateral as you pay it off at interest. 

Learn more about equipment financing.

Invoice factoring


Invoice financing works similar to equipment financing in that you use one or more (often many) of your business’s invoices as collateral (instead of a piece of equipment) to obtain financing which you then pay off at a specified interest rate. 

Invoice financing is useful as a way to bridge the gap when you have open invoices in your accounts receivable and need to maintain a steadier cash flow, something many businesses suffer from.

Learn more about invoice factoring.

Merchant cash advance


A merchant cash advance is a unique type of business financing in that it uses your daily credit card sales as a form of soft collateral that also determines your loan amount.

You get an amount based on your regular credit and debit card sales which you then pay off with interest by setting up an ACH auto debit straight from your credit card processor each time you batch out. 

MCA’s are flexible in that because you’re paying the loan off at a percent of your credit card sales; when your sales dip so does your loan repayment amount go down. 

Learn more about merchant cash advances.

Hard money lending


Hard money lending is a type of asset-based lending, a type of financing secured by a tangible asset such as a car, property, or liquid asset such as cash savings.

Hard money lending specifically works as a short-term “bridge loan”, named so because it’s designed to help businesses bridge the gap on large projects where the project must be completed before getting paid.

Think hard money lending is the perfect option for your business? See what you could be approved for. 

Peer-to-peer lending


Peer-to-peer lending (also referred to as P2P), is a form of crowdfunding which has become increasingly popular over the past few years. 

With P2P, a group of people come together, typically on a P2P lending platform that facilitates the transaction, and offers a pool of funds to a borrower at interest. 

Learn more about peer-to-peer lending.

Pros and cons of private business loans


Private business loans tend to work a bit differently than traditional bank loans. 

That’s mostly a good thing. However, there are not only pros but also cons to this as well.

Before deciding how you’ll be funding your business capital needs, you should know what those pros and cons are to help you make an informed decision. 

Pros of private business loans

The major overarching pros of private small business loans are:

  • 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. 

Within these points are many positive subpoints such as no hard collateral requirements, little or no credit requirement in many cases, and more convenient terms.

However, each lender is different. Make sure to take time to look at your options and go with the product, lender, and terms that make the most sense for your business and its goals.

Cons of private business loans

When it comes down to it, there really is just one primary con of private business loans: higher rates.

Not all private business loans have higher rates, but most do. That’s for one primary reason: most have different qualification requirements. 

As we touched on a moment ago, private business loans have more flexible terms and qualification requirements. In particular, that means two things:

  • You don’t need great or even good credit to get a private loan.
  • Most business loans through private lenders don’t require hard collateral like bank loans do such as property, a vehicle, or cash savings. 

Those are big positives. However, the flip side of that is many private loan products have higher APRs and shorter loan terms to make up for that increase in risk the lender takes on as a result. 

It’s important to make sure and review any loan contract before signing to make sure that the numbers make sense for you and your business. 

It’s easy for a high APR to become overwhelming. But many private lenders offer fair and competitive APRs, so do your homework before taking that final step. 

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

What is a Voided Check? How to Void a Check + Voided Check Examples


What Is a Voided Check?

A voided check is an official check from your banking institution that has had the word “VOID” written clearly (and in large print) all the way across the front of the check.

The process of writing VOID across your check essentially “disables” the check so that it cannot be used as legal tender any longer, but it still allows the electronic banking information contained within to be used by individuals or organizations looking to connect to your bank account.

The process of figuring out how to void the check by writing VOID clearly across it guarantees that anyone the check might be handed to cannot simply fill in the blanks and draw money from your account.

Any bank teller (even those working the first hour of their first shift) will understand that the check itself is anything but legitimate and you will have nothing to worry about.

Next, we’ll break down simple instructions for voiding a check properly.

How to Void a Check


Voiding a check is straightforward, but you’ll want to make sure to do it right to make sure that the check cannot be used:

1. Pull out a blank check from your checkbook

Make sure to note its official check number in your ledger as you do. Make a note of “VOID check” to make sure you know why that check is skipped when you’re balancing your checkbook.

2. Grab a permanent marker

Make sure that you’re using a permanent marker if possible. However, a pen can work if you don’t have one on hand. Just make sure that it’s in blue or black ink. 

3. Write in big, bold, clear print VOID on the face of the check

Write the word “VOID” in large letters, big enough to cover most of the face of the check (except for the banking details we mentioned above).

It can help to add some spacing between each letter (V O I D) to ensure you can cover the entire check.

4. Leave the checking account and routing number area clear

Just remember to leave the bottom of the check where your checking account and routing number are listed legible, otherwise it won’t be much good as a voided check. 

Also, you don’t need to bother endorsing the check as you won’t actually be using it. 

What if you don’t have a spare check?

If you don’t have a spare blank check and still need to figure out how to get a voided check, there are a couple of options as well.

You can ask your bank to draw you up a “counter check”, a special type of check that can be officially voided by the bank but still includes your important account information. You might also ask the business or organization requesting a voided check if they would accept a deposit slip that has been voided as well.

If both of these options fail you might want to ask the bank to record your pertinent account information and then notarize the letter, making sure it’s printed on their official letterhead. That’s almost always a solid approach, though circumstances will rarely dictate you have to go down that road.

At the end of the day, you shouldn’t have any trouble at all getting your hands on a voided check– and taking advantage of all the benefits it offers– with the help of this quick guide!

Voided Check Example

Here’s a quick voided check example to understand how VOID should be written across the check

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

Most importantly, make sure you cover the “Pay to the order of” section.

Generally, if “VOID” is written across a check, no matter how or where, it will be recognized as a voided check.

However, you don’t want to take any kind of chances when it comes to your banking information.

So, be thorough and write it large and wide across the majority of the check.

Why Would I Need a Voided Check? 4 Reasons to Use Voided Checks


There are dozens of different reasons why you may need to void a check, such as applying for an unsecured business loanor setting up direct deposit with your employer.

The most purpose in pretty much every case is to provide critical banking information to an individual or an organization so they can establish a direct link to that account. 

This can be because you are looking to make an ACH or Wire payment to someone’s account or to receive an ACH or wire into your bank account.

Every check (official check, anyway) includes a couple of key pieces of data that can be used by individuals and organizations to send or request money directly from your account.

This information includes:

  • The actual bank/credit union that the account is hosted at
  • The bank account number for this specific account and
  • The code that identifies your bank electronically (most commonly referred to as the routing number or ABA number)
  • The name of the owner of the account commonly referred to as account name
  • Check Number
  • The address associated with the account (not all the time)

The name of your banking institution is going to be printed prominently at the top left-hand corner of your check. At the very left-hand bottom of the front of your check is going to be your routing number, your account number, and the official check series number (in that order).

This is the information that today’s electronic banking services need to set up an electronic transfer between two different entities.

1. Direct deposit

Setting up direct deposit for your paychecks (or for one-off payments, if you are a freelancer for example) is incredibly simple with the help of a check that has been voided out.

All you have to do is provide this check to the department responsible for processing payments and they’ll be able to input the information we highlighted above into their system and you’ll get your money a lot faster than you would have traditionally.

You also don’t have to worry about losing a paper check, having a paper check expire and going through the process of requesting another, or any of the other hassle and headache that traditional paper paychecks inevitably bring to the table. The money also becomes immediately available as soon as it has been deposited directly into your account which is another huge bonus.

2. Automate bill payments

Another advantage of utilizing a voided check is to set up automated bill pay services, streamlining your budget significantly and taking a lot of stress and pressure off of your shoulders trying to remember if and when you have to pay bills every month.

Never again do you have to worry about finding your checkbook several times a month and firing off payment through the mail (hoping it gets there on time).

Nor do you have to worry about logging onto online bill payment services after you set up automatic electronic transfers, either.

Think of this as a reverse direct deposit. After you have used a voided check to set up automatic bill pay, you can schedule these bills to be paid instantly when they are due and on a recurring basis – essentially a set it and forget style payment system.

3. Mistakes made with a check

Anyone that has a checkbook is made at least a mistake or two filling out the important information when writing a check, but too many people don’t realize that they need to “secure” that check by voiding it out.

Without going through the process of voiding the check folks run the risk of someone getting their hands on the incomplete check, filling the rest of the details out themselves (and usually making the check out to themselves), and then emptying your account of your hard-earned money.

By voiding out your check that’s never going to happen.

4. To obtain funding for your business

As a business owner, you’ll need a voided check during the funding process so that your lender knows where to deposit your funds.

They also use the information to verify that your account matches where the funds are being sent to ensure they’re going to you.

What happens when a check is voided?

So, what happens when a check is voided?

Once you’ve voided a check, it’s essentially disabled and cannot be used any longer.

It doesn’t matter if someone else picks that check up and tries to write over it.

Provided you’ve written “VOID” largely and clearly across the entire check, it can no longer be used.

You can still use that check to grab or provide your bank routing and account number as those numbers are tied to your bank account and not individual checks, however.

Get the Cash Your Business Needs with Excel Capital

Acquiring business funding can be difficult if you don’t have perfect credit, tons of collateral, or established connections.

Adequate business funding shouldn’t be out of reach for new business owners, which is why at Excel Capital we’ve made it easier than ever to acquire the funding your business needs:

  • Without perfect credit
  • Or stringent collateral requirements

We have options to fit every need and qualification level, so you can get the cash your business needs to keep surging forward– or get through a rough patch.

Apply today:

Get the capital your business needs. Apply with Excel Capital today: Apply Now

What Is a Bridge Loan? + How to Get One


What Is a Bridge Loan?

A bridge loan is short-term, loan that helps “bridge the gap” until a longer-term funding method can be secured by the borrowing party. 

A bridge loan– sometimes referred to as a swing loan, bridging loan, bridge financing, or gap financing– has several unique applications, especially in terms of real estate where a bridge loan can allow you to purchase a new property before selling your current one. 

A bridge loan has several unique applications, especially in terms of real estate where a bridge loan can allow you to purchase a new property before selling your current one. 

For that reason, bridge loans are often secured using an existing property. 

Table of contents

  1. How do bridge loans work?
  2. Bridge loan examples: What can you use a bridge loan for?
  3. Pros and cons of bridge loans
  4. Is a bridge loan for you?
  5. Frequently asked questions

Get the capital your home-based business needs. Apply for an unsecured business line of credit with Excel Capital: Apply Now

How Do Bridge Loans Work? 


Bridge loans work differently depending on the reason why they’re being used. 

However, in terms of real estate– where they’re commonly used to purchase a new home before selling your old property– they work like this:

  • You, the borrower decide you want to purchase a new property before selling your current home
  • You apply and are approved for a bridge loan
  • You then use the equity in your home as collateral for the down payment on the new home loan
  • Finally, you begin paying back the bridge loan

Keep in mind that it’s possible you’ll need to begin paying back the bridge loan before the old property has sold.

That can put added pressure on you as you’ve just taken up a new mortgage (depending on whether that new mortgage is more or less expensive than the old one). 

Bridge loan vs. Traditional loan

Often, approval for a bridge loan works a bit differently than a traditional loan. 

How are they different? Here are the main ways a bridge loan tends to be different from a traditional bank loan:

  • They often have faster approval time and funding speed
  • They also typically have higher interest rates
  • Terms tend to be shorter than traditional loans, from a few months to one year in most cases
  • Approval factors tend to be different than traditional loans as well, with lower FICO requirements and debt-to-income ratio guidelines. 

Bridge Loan Examples: What Can You Use a Bridge Loan For?

As we talked about earlier, bridge loans are common in real estate as they serve as an effective way to close what can be an awkward gap between waiting for a property to sell and buying the next.

With a real estate bridge loan, the property owner can move forward with purchasing that new loan without having to wait for the old property to sell, giving them added flexibility especially if they think the property may take a while to sell. 

The two mortgages are then combined with the loan itself covering 80% of the combined value of both properties. 

However, this isn’t the only way that bridge loans are used.

Bridge loans are used commonly by both large businesses and individuals to bridge the gap between the time it takes for them to obtain funding when purchasing things such as:

  • A new facility for a product-based business
  • A larger office
  • An investment property for the purpose of real estate investing
  • Or even the materials needed for a large construction job

Pros and Cons of Bridge Loans


While bridge loans have several unique qualities, there are also disadvantages that make them great for some in certain situations and not in others.

Here are the pros and cons of bridge loans:

Pros of Bridge Loans:

Pro: Flexibility to bridge the gap between important purchases

The primary benefit of bridge loans, the flexibility you gain by being able to bridge the gap between a sale or more secure funding for a large property or equipment purchase isn’t a small thing at all. 

The ability to buy a new home before you sell your home you’re currently living in is a big benefit that many find worth the higher interest rates. 

Pro: Might skip payments

Depending on various circumstances, by using a bridge loan to purchase a new property before your old one sells, you can often skip several mortgage payments in the process.

While this might sound like a small plus, considering that could be all or most of the time you need to get the sale, that can often be the perfect reprieve to manage the challenge of handling both mortgages while waiting for that old property to sell. 

Cons of Bridge Loans:

Con: High interest rates

Bridge loans typically have higher interest rates than home equity loans, typically about 2% higher than the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, making them more expensive in the short term. 

Con: Handling two mortgages at once can be stressful

While a bridge loan rolls both mortgages up into one, you’re still handling the two simultaneously, which can create added stress while you’re looking for a buyer for the old property. 

Is a bridge loan for you?

Whether a bridge loan is the funding tool you need depends on what you need funding for and your timeline.

If you’re looking to make a new real estate purchase and you’re on a short timeline, or it will take time to sell, a bridge loan might be a good option.

If you need to make a large equipment purchase now but securing the funding will take time, a bridge loan could be exactly what you need to get that critical piece of large-scale equipment in place now so that you don’t skip a beat. 

However, it’s also important to know that many other funding options are available to you, so take the time to consider your options and make the choice that best fits your needs. 

Apply for a Bridge Loan with Excel Capital

If you’re in need of capital fast and can’t qualify for traditional financing due to strict credit requirements or you simply need funding faster than a traditional institution can provide, apply with Excel Capital.

Depending on which funding option you choose, you could be approved and funded in as little as 24-48 hours.

Get started and see what you can be approved for:

Get the capital your business needs fast. Apply for a bridge loan with Excel Capital: Apply Now

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a bridge loan cost?

In most cases, bridge loan interest rates range from 8-10%, with closing costs from 1.5-3% depending on your creditworthiness, debt-to-income ratio, and other qualifying factors. 

How can a bridge loan help my business?

A bridge loan is useful if you’re in need of making a fast purchase for something like real estate, especially when the market is up and your window to take action is small. 

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 are online business loans? 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 bank or 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. After all your applying for business funding online from the comfort of your own home. 

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 monthly rates starting as low as 1.5% (up to 9.5%).

Our online 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.  now that’s an easy online business loan. 

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. 

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.