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The Difference Between a Term Loan and a Business Line of Credit

Last Modified : Mar 19, 2024

Reviewed by: Bruce Sayer

In the realm of business finance, understanding the nuances between different funding options can empower entrepreneurs to make informed decisions tailored to their specific needs. Two common forms of financial structures that often come into consideration for businesses are commercial term loans and business lines of credit. Each serves distinct purposes and offers unique advantages, depending on your business goals and financial situation. Let’s dive into the differences between these two financing models to demystify the options and guide you towards the best choice for your enterprise.

Term Loans Explained

A term loan is straightforward: your business borrows a fixed amount of money, which you agree to pay back, plus interest, on a specific schedule over a predetermined period. These loans are often used for specific, one-time investments such as purchasing equipment, expanding your business, or refinancing existing debt. Term loans are typically categorized by their duration: short-term (less than a year), medium-term (1-5 years), and long-term (more than 5 years).

Key Characteristics of Term Loans:

  • Fixed Amount: The loan amount is determined upfront.
  • Scheduled Repayment: You’ll have a clear repayment schedule, typically monthly, over the loan’s term.
  • Interest Rates: Rates can be fixed or variable, but you’ll know your rate before you agree to the loan.
  • Use of Funds: Best for long-term investments or large, one-off purchases.

Ideal Use Cases for Term Loans:

  • Expanding Operations: Perfect for financing significant one-time investments such as opening a new location or purchasing heavy machinery.
  • Capital Investments: Ideal for buying long-term assets that will contribute to your business’s growth and operational efficiency.
  • Refinancing Debt: Consolidating existing debts into a single loan with potentially lower interest rates or more favorable terms.


  • Fixed Interest Rates: Provides predictability in budgeting and financial planning.
  • Clear Repayment Schedule: Helps in planning cash flow around set repayment dates.
  • Potential for Large Amounts: Depending on creditworthiness, businesses can secure substantial funding to support significant investments.


  • Less Flexibility: Once you receive the lump sum, you cannot borrow more without applying for another loan.
  • Early Repayment Penalties: Some term loans penalize you for paying off the loan early.
  • Collateral Requirement: Often requires collateral, which could be at risk if you fail to repay the loan.

Business Line of Credit: Flexible Financing

A line of credit, on the other hand, offers flexibility. Think of it as a pool of funds you can draw from as needed, up to a maximum limit. You only pay interest on the amount you use, and as you repay what you’ve borrowed, the funds become available again. It’s akin to a safety net for cash flow, ideal for managing day-to-day expenses or unexpected costs.

Key Characteristics of Lines of Credit:

  • Revolving Funds: Borrow, repay, and borrow again up to your credit limit.
  • Interest Only on Used Funds: You’re not paying for the money you haven’t used.
  • Flexible Repayment: Often, you can choose to make minimum payments or pay more to reduce your balance quicker.
  • Use of Funds: Ideal for ongoing operational expenses or as an emergency fund.

Ideal Use Cases for Lines of Credit:

  • Managing Cash Flow: Excellent for smoothing out the ups and downs in cash flow, especially for businesses with seasonal revenue fluctuations.
  • Emergency Funds: Acts as a safety net for unexpected expenses or opportunities requiring quick access to cash.
  • Ongoing Projects: Suitable for funding projects with unclear costs or timelines, allowing you to borrow as the project progresses.


  • Flexible Access to Funds: Borrow exactly what you need, up to your limit, without reapplying.
  • Pay Interest Only on What You Use: Unlike a term loan, you’re not paying interest on unused funds.
  • Reusable: As you repay the borrowed amount, your available credit replenishes, ready for future use.


  • Variable Interest Rates: Rates can fluctuate, making it harder to predict monthly payments.
  • Temptation to Overuse: Easy access to funds might encourage unnecessary spending.
  • Possible Maintenance Fees: Some lines of credit come with annual fees or charges for inactivity.

Choosing the Right Option for Your Business

The decision between a term loan and a line of credit comes down to your specific business needs:

Consider a Term Loan if:

  • You have a large, one-time project or purchase.
  • You prefer predictable monthly payments.
  • You’re looking for potentially lower interest rates for a fixed amount of money.

Opt for a Line of Credit if:

  • You need flexibility for irregular cash flow.
  • You want immediate access to funds for unforeseen expenses.
  • You’re managing day-to-day operational costs or seasonal fluctuations in revenue.

Practical Tips for Business Owners

  1. Assess Your Financial Health: Before applying, ensure your business finances are in order. Lenders will look at your credit score, revenue, and financial statements.
  2. Understand the Terms: Beyond the interest rate, be aware of fees, penalties, and the repayment schedule. Ask questions until you’re clear on every detail.
  3. Plan Your Use of Funds: For a term loan, have a clear project or purchase in mind. For a line of credit, consider how it fits into your overall financial strategy.


Whether you choose a term loan or a line of credit, the key is to use the financing effectively to grow and sustain your business. By understanding the fundamental differences between these options, you can make a strategic decision that supports your business’s financial health and long-term goals. Remember, the best financial decisions are those that are informed and align with your business strategy.


ABOUT eCapital

Since 2006, eCapital has been on a mission to change the way small to medium sized businesses access the funding they need to reach their goals. We know that to survive and thrive, businesses need financial flexibility to quickly respond to challenges and take advantage of opportunities, all in real time. Companies today need innovation guided by experience to unlock the potential of their assets to give better, faster access to the capital they require.

We’ve answered the call and have built a team of over 600 experts in asset evaluation, batch processing, customer support and fintech solutions. Together, we have created a funding model that features rapid approvals and processing, 24/7 access to funds and the freedom to use the money wherever and whenever it’s needed. This is the future of business funding, and it’s available today, at eCapital.

As Chief Executive Officer of the Asset-based Lending division, Brian Cuttic brings over 25 years of experience to his role, focusing on delivering results with the speed and certainty both he and eCapital have become synonymous for.

Respected within the industry for his ability to think creatively and strategically for his clients, Brian skillfully combines his background in both the traditional and alternative lending space alongside his own entrepreneurial experience. This results in a unique and beneficial perspective when applied to eCapital’s diverse portfolio of commercial clients.

Prior to eCapital, Brian has held executive level positions at organizations such as Bank of America, First Capital, Veritas Financial Partners, and Synovus Bank. Brian holds a Bachelor of Science, Accounting, from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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