Using Accounts Receivable To Finance Your Business

An alternative to bank financing for your small business

Two male business partners meet to discuss finances in a restaurant looking at a laptop
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Using your accounts receivable, or your customers’ credit accounts, to obtain financing for your small business is another method of raising money for working capital needs. Both accounts receivable financing and inventory financing are usually used for quick, short-term loans when it is not possible to obtain a short-term loan from a bank or other financial institution. Both are used to raise working capital or the money you use for your daily operations. Here's how it works.

Key Takeaways

  • Accounts receivable financing is a way for you to finance your small business.
  • There are two methods of accounts receivable financing: pledging and factoring.
  • Interest rates are usually higher on this type of financing than on a traditional bank loan.
  • Accounts receivable financing may not be ideal for long-term business financing needs.

2 Methods of Accounts Receivable Financing

Accounts receivable financing can be used as an alternative to bank financing. Commercial finance companies often offer accounts receivable financing to small businesses. Sometimes, commercial banks or other financial institutions will also offer accounts receivable financing. Interest rates are usually higher on this type of financing than on a traditional bank loan.

There are two methods of accounts receivable financing: pledging and factoring.

Pledging Accounts Receivable

Pledging, or assigning, accounts receivable means that you essentially use your accounts receivable as collateral to obtain cash. The lender has the receivables as security, but you, as the business owner, are still responsible for the collection of the debts from your customers.

A lender looks at the aging schedule of your business firm’s accounts receivables in determining which ones to accept as collateral. Usually, the lender only accepts those receivables that are not overdue. Overdue accounts don’t make good collateral. Also, if a customer has credit terms extended to them that the lender thinks are too long, the lender may not accept those particular receivables either.

After examining a company’s receivables for overdue accounts and terms the lender doesn’t like, the lender then determines what amount of the company’s receivables they will accept.

After that, the lender will typically adjust that amount for returns and allowances. At that point, it will decide what percentage of the value of the acceptable receivables it will loan and make the loan to your small business. The percentage it will loan is usually around 75% or 85%.

If a business defaults on the accounts receivable financing loan, the lender will take over the company’s accounts receivables and collect on the debts themselves.

Factoring Accounts Receivable

Factoring your accounts receivables means that you actually sell them, as opposed to pledging them as collateral, to a factoring company. The factoring company gives you an advance payment for accounts you would have to wait on for payment. The advance payment is usually 70% to 90% of the total value of the receivables. After charging a small fee to the company, usually 2% or 3%, the remaining balance is paid after the full balance is paid to the factor.

Factoring is a relatively expensive source of financing, but the cost is lowered because the factoring company takes on all the risk of default by the customer.

Factoring is important in the retail industry in the U.S. Many small businesses in a huge variety of industries use this form of financing when they need short-term working capital loans.

Sometimes using accounts receivable financing is all that stands between your small business and bankruptcy, particularly during a recession or other types of tough times for your business. Don’t hesitate to use it for your working capital needs if you need to. It may not be acceptable financing, however, for longer-term business financing needs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is accounts receivable financing?

Accounts receivable financing is when a business pledges its accounts receivable—the money it is still owed from customers and clients—as collateral to obtain a loan from a lender. There are two kinds: pledging, which means you put up the accounts receivable as collateral, and factoring, where you actually sell them to a company that pays you upfront the money you'd normally wait for from customers.

What is invoice financing?

Invoice financing is just another name for accounts receivable financing, which is when you pledge your invoices as collateral or sell them to a company so that you can get a short-term loan for your business. Your invoices are money that is still owed to you, so instead of you waiting on that money to come in, you exchange it for money now from a lender.

Article Sources

  1. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. "Accounts Receivable and Inventory Financing."

  2. Comptroller of the Currency, Administrator of National Banks. "Accounts Receivable and Inventory Financing."

  3. Universal Funding. "Invoice Factoring Rates."

  4. J&D Financial. "Factoring Rates for Our Services."