Can you get a VA business loan?
To qualify for a veteran business loan, your business must be majority owned (at least 51%) 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.
Veteran business loan options
Veteran business loans, often referred to as VA loans, are available through commercial lenders, nonprofit organizations and the Small Business Administration. (The Department of Veterans Affairs does not provide business loans.)
While some popular loan programs for veterans have been discontinued, including the SBA’s Veterans Advantage and Patriot Express Loans, there are plenty of other options for veterans and their families.
Veterans can borrow up to $1 million ($500,000 after Oct. 1, 2021) through the SBA’s Express loan program. Upfront guarantee fees, typically 2% to 3% of the loan, are waived for veterans, reservists, national guard members and spouses who qualify.
SBA Express loans have a quicker turnaround time than other SBA loans — 36 hours compared with several weeks or months — 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.
If you just launched your businesses or have bad credit, look into online lenders, which tend to have more flexible requirements (but higher rates).
Other SBA programs for veterans or service members include:
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.
Business credit cards. These 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$50,000 in revolving credit, meaning you can borrow and repay from the credit card as needed, and pay interest only on withdrawn funds.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. These offer a lump sum of cash, with a fixed interest rate and repayment terms.
Both options are unsecured, meaning you won’t have to put down collateral — an asset, such as real estate or inventory — to qualify.
Comparing small-business loans for veterans
When shopping for a loan, be sure to compare annual percentage rates, or APRs, which give you a holistic picture of a loan's cost. NerdWallet's small-business loans comparison tool can help. We've gauged lender trustworthiness, market scope and user experience, among other factors to help you choose the best loan.
If you're a veteran or related to a servicemember, look at lenders that cater to the military. Some may not offer funding; for example, USAA’s business loan program ended in 2018. But discounts may be available from other lenders. Bank of America reduces loan administration or origination fees 25% for veterans, for instance.