Best Small-Business Loans for Veterans of November 2023

Veteran business loan options

Veteran business loans are available through commercial lenders, nonprofit organizations and the SBA.

Although some popular loan programs for veterans have been discontinued, such as the SBA’s Community Advantage loan program, there are plenty of other options for veterans and their families.

SBA loans

SBA loans are issued by banks, credit unions and online lenders. And while they’re partially guaranteed by the SBA — which can make them easier to qualify for — you’ll still need strong credit and solid business financials to qualify. Though the SBA offers a number of loan programs, SBA Express loans and standard SBA 7(a) loans may be of special interest to veterans.

SBA Express loans

Veterans can borrow up to $500,000 through the SBA’s Express loan program. Upfront guarantee fees are waived for veterans, reservists, national guard members and spouses who qualify.
SBA Express loans also have a quicker turnaround time than other SBA loans but the underwriting criteria can be strict. You’ll likely need a minimum FICO score of 650, strong annual revenue and at least two years in business to get an Express loan.

SBA Standard 7(a) loans

Although the SBA 7(a) loan program does not offer any specific benefits for veterans, these loans are a great option if you need a larger loan amount than the Express program offers. SBA 7(a) loans can have maximum loan amounts as high as $5 million and loan terms as long as 25 years, in some cases.

Military reservist loan

The Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan (MREIDL) is a program through the SBA that can provide financial assistance if you have an essential employee who is a military reservist and gets called to active duty. The maximum loan amount is $2 million and funds can be used to cover regular business operating costs. The loan amount is limited to the actual economic incurred and it can’t be used to start or expand a business.

Bank business loans

Small-business loans from banks typically have the lowest interest rates, but they are difficult to access. Many banks require that you have several years in business, a credit score in the 700s and strong revenue to qualify for financing.
If you think your business may be eligible for a bank loan, look for military discounts. For example, Huntington Bank has a business loan program available to veterans where the origination fee is waived and the bank pays the SBA fees for the borrower. And Chase Bank waives the annual fee for the first year on a Chase business line of credit for veteran-owned businesses.

Credit unions

Credit unions can be an option for veterans looking for business financing. Similar to banks, credit unions offer competitive interest rates and terms to their members. However, you’ll also typically need to be an established business with good credit and financials.
Navy Federal Credit Union and Service Credit Union are two options that cater specifically to veterans and active military members. Navy Federal offers a range of small business loans, including lines of credit, term loans and business auto loans. Service Credit Union offers SBA loans, lines of credit, equipment financing, commercial mortgages and commercial vehicle loans.

Credit unions located in your local community may also be an option for business loans.


Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) are private financial institutions that support targeted underserved communities with loan capital, which for some may include U.S. veterans. For example, Colorado Enterprise Fund, Inc.’s VALOR Program offers discounted rates for veterans on loans between $5,000 and $500,000. Underwriting requirements at CDFIs can be more flexible than banks or online loans, so it’s worth checking to see if you can qualify.

Online loans

If you just launched your business, or have a lower credit score (below 690), you might look into online lenders. These lenders tend to have more flexible qualification requirements but higher interest rates.
They offer a variety of products, such as term loans, lines of credit, equipment financing and invoice factoring — and can sometimes provide funding as fast as the same business day.


Nonprofit organizations often focus on funding traditionally underserved businesses in their area, offering smaller loan amounts of up to $50,000.

For example, PeopleFund, a microlender and community development financial institution in Texas, offers fast working capital loans of up to $25,000, as well as other financing options. PeopleFund provides discounts on interest rates for veterans and says 14% of its borrowers are vets.
If you’re a new business or have bad credit, you may still be able to qualify for a microloan.

Are VA loans available to businesses?

Although the Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, guarantees mortgages through the VA home loan program, it doesn’t have any such program for business loans.
Similarly, the SBA doesn’t offer specific VA business loans either. The SBA’s Veterans Advantage program, which launched in 2014, offered certain concessions to veterans applying for specific SBA loans. Currently, fee relief is available to veterans who are approved for SBA Express loans. Under the 2020 CARES Act, the upfront guarantee fee for this specific SBA loan program is permanently fully waived for veteran-owned businesses.

Are there startup business loans for veterans?

Lenders generally prefer to do business with established companies that have strong cash flow. This often disqualifies startups with less than a year of operating history and little revenue.

However, veterans with new businesses still have options.

The SBA microloan program caters to startups and businesses in underserved communities. These loans are issued by certified development companies and nonprofit organizations, which often focus on working with businesses owned by veterans, women and minority groups.

If you have good personal credit, alternative options for your startup also include:

  • Business credit cards typically provide up to $50,000 in revolving credit, meaning you can borrow and repay from the credit card as needed, and pay interest only on withdrawn funds.
  • Personal loans for business offer a lump sum of cash, with a fixed interest rate and repayment terms. But you’ll be on the hook for repayment, not your business.

Both options are unsecured, meaning you won’t have to put down collateral — an asset, such as real estate or inventory — to qualify.

Who qualifies as a veteran-owned business?

To qualify as a veteran-owned business, your business must typically be 51% owned by someone in one of the following categories:

  • Active-duty military service members participating in the Transition Assistance Program.

  • Honorably discharged or service-disabled veterans.

  • Reservists and active National Guard members.

  • Current spouse of a veteran, active-duty service member, reservist or guard member.

  • Widowed spouse of a service member who died in service or from a service-related disability.

How to apply for a small-business loan as a veteran

The loan application process will vary from lender to lender. In general, you may need to provide basic information such as:

  • Military identification.

  • Background information about your business.

  • Business financial documents such as profit and loss statements, tax returns or bank statements.

  • Personal guarantee.

If you’re applying for a small-business loan that offers discounts for veterans, like the SBA Express loan program, you’ll likely need to provide documentation to show that the business is at least 51% owned by a veteran or their spouse.

You’ll also need to meet general small-business loan qualifications, such as credit score, revenue and time in business. The exact veteran business loan requirements will vary by lender.

Other resources for veteran-owned businesses

Government and nonprofit organizations offer financial resources, grant programs, business training and other assistance for veteran-owned businesses. Here are some of the available resources:

  • Veterans Business Outreach Centers. These centers offer workshops, training, counseling and other services to help veteran business owners start, grow and expand their businesses. There are VBOCs across the country — and these organizations can help connect businesses with SBA partners, including community lenders and other resources.
  • Veteran entrepreneurship training programs. The SBA works with nonprofit organizations and universities across the U.S. to provide in-depth business training programs for veterans and their spouses. These initiatives include the well-known Boots to Business and Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship programs, as well as the Service-Disabled Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program, which offers training to service-disabled veteran entrepreneurs looking to start or grow a small business.

  • Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization. Although the VA doesn’t offer business loans, the OSDBU is a part of the agency that provides a variety of resources for veteran entrepreneurs. Through the OSBDU website, you can find upcoming webinars and training sessions. To get verified to participate in the VA’s Vets First program, visit the Veteran Small Business Certification portal managed by the SBA.
  • SBA 8(a) program. The SBA offers this business development program to eligible businesses, which can include those owned by veterans. The SBA 8(a) program provides small businesses with a certification that can improve their chances of winning government contracts, as well as help navigating the bidding process.
  • Second Service Foundation. The Second Service Foundation, formerly the StreetShares Foundation, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting military entrepreneurs. The organization offers an annual grant program — the Military Entrepreneur Challenge — as well as networking events, coaching, training and other resources for business owners.

  • Small-business grants for veterans. Government agencies, nonprofit organizations and private companies all offer small-business grants for veterans. You can search to find all active government grants for businesses, or use a free website like GrantWatch to filter specifically for grants for vets.

Find the right business loan

The best business loan is generally the one with the lowest rates and most ideal terms. But other factors — like time to fund and your business’s qualifications — can help determine which option you should choose. NerdWallet recommends comparing small-business loans to find the right fit for your business.

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