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What Is a Neobank?

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What is a neobank?

A neobank is a tech company that provides banking services via mobile app or website. Banking options may include the ability to transfer money electronically, pay bills and receive direct deposit or mobile check deposits. Some of these fintech providers also offer tools to help with budgeting and saving.

Neobanks, sometimes called “challenger banks,” usually specialize in a few financial services, such as spending and savings, and insure deposits through a partnership with a bank insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Institutions that are commonly referred to as neobanks include Chime, Revolut and GoBank.

Providers typically emphasize their mobile apps, but many also let consumers access accounts via website and offer a physical debit card. It’s also not unheard of for a neobank to receive a bank charter, as Varo did in 2020. (Read NerdWallet’s Varo review.)

Here’s a look at neobank upsides, as well as some drawbacks.

Pros of neobanks

Easy access

Neobanks let consumers manage most of their banking on a smartphone app or computer, 24/7, without having to visit a branch. Some of the best neobanks have apps that are highly rated in app stores.

Applying for a neobank account could also be easier than opening one at a traditional institution. Some neobanks don’t check banking histories, for example, meaning your account is more likely to be approved if you’ve had accounts closed in the past.

Lower fees, competitive rates

Like online banks, neobank providers don’t have to pay to maintain branches, and some providers pass on the savings to customers. The savings can take the form of low or no monthly service charges and the ability to earn strong interest rates. If you’re paying a $10 monthly fee at a traditional bank, switching to a neobank with a fee-free account could save you $120 a year.

Make sure you understand the provider’s policies, however. Some neobanks do charge fees for premium services or require that you make a certain number of transactions each month to get the best interest rates. Before signing up, consider whether the offer matches your spending habits and savings goals.

Cons of neobanks

Limited customer service

With no branches, expect limited personal help. Some providers offer customer service through social media accounts or by phone. They may also have online chat options, including chatbots.

Those options can be helpful for basic banking questions. But if your account is frozen or closed because of suspected fraud, for example, you may have a tough time reaching someone who is authorized to help resolve the situation.

Fewer account services

Neobanks offer some digital banking services, but many lack broader banking options, such as the ability to send wire transfers or easily accept cash deposits. In addition, they may offer fewer accounts. As mentioned above, a neobank might offer a spending account, but they might not offer certificates of deposit, investment options or loans.

Unproven history

Neobanks don’t have long track records. Many have opened only within the last few years, and they could fail, like any other startup.

If that happens, consumers typically don’t have to worry about losing their money, because account deposits are usually held at an FDIC-insured partner bank. FDIC insurance covers up to $250,000 per depositor, and funds would be returned to the consumer in the event of a bank closure. But dealing with the process of claiming the money or switching to the partner bank could be a hassle.

Neobanks vs. online banks

While neobanks offer banking services, they’re not necessarily the same as an online bank. The latter usually has FDIC insurance and offers a range of traditional products, such as checking, savings, CDs, investments and loans.

Some brick-and-mortar banks have online-only divisions that offer a full suite of digital accounts consumers can manage from a computer or smartphone app. Since the accounts are offered by a traditional bank, those divisions could be considered online banks instead of neobanks.

It’s worth noting that many traditional banks offer online access to their regular accounts. But they aren’t online-only. Customers have access to bank branches and accounts tend to have monthly fees and low rates.

Neobanks may work for some

If you’re looking for banking convenience and prefer doing most of your financial tasks online, a neobank could be a good choice. You could save on fees and even earn interest. But a neobank account is best for people whose accounts are mostly on autopilot and who don’t need to deposit cash, send wire transfers or use expanded account services.

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Are Small-Business Loans Installment or Revolving?

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A small-business loan provides funds to purchase supplies, expand your business and more. This type of funding can be either installment or revolving. Reviewing the credit terms of your loan offer will help you determine whether you’re being offered an installment loan or revolving credit.

Both types of loans can be found in the Small Business Administration, or SBA, loan program and at banks, credit unions and online lenders. While each can provide much-needed funding for your business, there are some key differences to keep in mind.

Installment loans vs. revolving credit

Installment loans provide a lump sum of money

An installment loan is a credit agreement where the borrower receives a specific amount of money at one time and then repays the lender a set amount at regular intervals over a fixed period of time. Typically, each payment includes a portion for interest and another amount to pay down the principal balance.

Business term loan is another common name for this type of loan. After the loan is paid off, the borrower typically must apply for a new loan if additional funds are needed.

Revolving credit provides flexible funds

A revolving loan is a credit agreement where the borrower can withdraw money as needed up to a preset limit and then repays the lender a portion of the balance at regular intervals. Each payment is based on the current balance, interest charges and applicable fees, if any. You pay interest only on the funds that you use — not the maximum limit.

A business line of credit is a common type of revolving credit. Revolving credit gives the borrower flexibility in determining when to withdraw money and how much. As long as the credit balance remains within the preset limit and you continue to make timely payments, you can continue to draw from the line again and again.

Differences between installment loans and revolving credit

The terms of a loan can vary depending on the type of loan, lender and your business’s credentials. Your loan may be a unique combination of terms. However, the following are some common differences between installment and revolving loan programs.

Installment loan

Revolving credit

Loan amount

Fixed amount.

Maximum limit.

Withdraw as needed.

Payment amount

Fixed amount.

Minimum amount based on balance and interest with option to pay more.

Interest calculation

Based on loan amount.

Based on current balance, not maximum loan limit.

Ability to renew

Not renewable, typically.

Renewable, typically.

  • SBA loans.

  • Business term loans.

  • Commercial real estate loans.

  • Equipment loans.

  • Microloans.

  • SBA lines of credit.

  • Business lines of credit.

  • Business credit cards.

When to use an installment loan

Set loan amount is needed

If you’re confident in the loan amount you need, then an installment loan may be the right fit, especially if you need the money in a lump sum. For example, if you’re using the funds to make a one-time purchase, you’ll likely want an installment loan.

Long-term financing needs

Some term loans can offer you more time for repayment when compared with revolving credit. When you stretch your payments out over a longer period of time, it can mean a lower monthly payment. However, that trade-off typically means you’ll pay more in interest costs over the life of the loan.

Larger funding needs

If you’re looking to purchase property, equipment or other large-ticket items, there are a number of installment loans that can be used for this purpose. Revolving credit limits are often less than term loan maximums.

Preference for predictable payments

With a set monthly payment amount, it can be easier to budget for an installment loan compared with a revolving loan, where the payment varies depending on how much of the credit line you use.

When to use a revolving loan

Short-term financing needs

Revolving credit can be good to handle short-term cash shortages or to cover unexpected expenses. Some businesses use lines of credit as an emergency fund of sorts since they’ll pay interest only on the funds they use.

Fluctuations in cash flow

Businesses that experience major fluctuations in their cash flows may benefit from revolving credit. For example, seasonal businesses that don’t have consistent revenue throughout the year can use lines of credit to cover operational costs during their slow season.

Preference for flexible loan amount and payments

If you don’t know exactly how much money you need, then revolving credit will give you the option to qualify for a maximum amount but only withdraw funds as you need them. This way, you’ll pay interest only on the current amount owed.

Compare small-business loans

To see and compare loan options, check out NerdWallet’s list of best small-business loans. Our recommendations are based on the lender’s market scope and track record and on the needs of business owners, as well as rates and other factors, so you can make the right financing decision.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of a Business Bank Loan

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According to the Federal Reserve’s 2021 Small Business Credit Survey, banks remain the most common source of credit for small businesses — compared with options such as online lenders, community development financial institutions or credit unions.

You can use a business bank loan for a variety of purposes: working capital, real estate acquisition, equipment purchase or business expansion. To qualify for one of these small-business loans, however, you’ll likely need excellent credit and several years in business.

Before applying for a business loan from a bank, consider the following advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of business bank loans

Flexible use of funds

Banks offer a range of different business loan products, including term loans, business lines of credit, equipment financing and commercial real estate loans, among other options. Unless you opt for a product that has a specific use case, like a business auto loan, for example, you can generally use a bank loan in a variety of ways to grow and expand your business.

When you submit your loan application, the bank may ask you to identify a purpose for the financing to evaluate the risk of lending to your business. Once you’re approved, however, the bank is unlikely to interfere if you change your intentions, as long as you make your payments. This flexibility is perhaps one of the biggest advantages when comparing debt versus equity financing.

Large loan amounts and competitive repayment terms

Bank loans are often available in amounts up to $1 million or more. Many online lenders, on the other hand, only offer financing in smaller amounts. Popular online lenders OnDeck and BlueVine, for example, both have maximum loan limits of $250,000.

Business loans from banks also tend to have long terms, up to 25 years in some cases. These loans usually have monthly repayment schedules, as opposed to daily or weekly repayments.

In comparison, online business loans typically have shorter repayment terms, ranging from a few months to a few years. Many of these loans require daily or weekly repayments.

Low interest rates

Banks typically offer small-business loans with the lowest interest rates. According to the most recent data from the Federal Reserve, the average business loan interest rates at banks range from 3.19% to 6.78%.

Although some online lenders can offer competitive rates, you’ll find that their products are generally more expensive than bank loans, with rates that range from 7% to 99%.

The interest rates you receive on a bank loan, or any small-business loan, however, can vary based on a number of factors, such as loan type, amount borrowed and your business’s qualifications, as well as any collateral you provide to back the loan. In general, the stronger your qualifications and the more collateral you can offer, the better rates you’ll be able to receive.

Relationship with a bank lender

Many banks provide ongoing support for their lending customers, such as business credit score tracking or a dedicated relationship manager to work with your business. Most banks also offer other types of financial products, such as business checking accounts, business credit cards and merchant services, if you prefer to use one institution for your financial needs.

Although some alternative lenders offer additional support and services, the Federal Reserve’s 2021 Small Business Credit Survey reports that businesses that receive financing are more satisfied with their experience with small banks (74%) and large banks (60%) compared with online lenders (25%).

Disadvantages of business bank loans

Intensive application process and slow to fund

To apply for a small-business loan from a bank, you’ll need to provide detailed paperwork that may include, but is not limited to, business and personal tax returns, business financial statements, a loan purpose statement, business organization documentation, a personal financial statement form and collateral information. You may have to visit a bank branch and work with a lending representative to complete and submit an application — although some banks offer online applications for certain business loan products.

The entire process, from application to funding, can take anywhere from several days to a few weeks, or even longer, depending on the type of loan and the bank. Some banks will also require you to open a business checking account with them before you can receive funds.

In comparison, alternative lenders typically have streamlined, online application processes that require minimal documentation. Many of these lenders also offer fast business loans — in some cases, funding applications within 24 hours.

Strict eligibility requirements

To qualify for a business loan from a bank, you’ll generally need strong personal credit (often a FICO score of over 700), several years in business and a track record of solid business revenue. Bank of America, for example, requires a minimum annual revenue of $100,000 for unsecured term loans and a minimum annual revenue of $250,000 for secured term loans.

Depending on the bank and the loan type, you may need to provide collateral, such as real estate or equipment, to secure your financing. Most banks will also require you to sign a personal guarantee that holds you personally responsible for the debt in the event that your business can’t pay.

Online lenders, on the other hand, have more flexible qualifications and some will work with startups or businesses with bad credit. To qualify for a business line of credit with Fundbox, for example, you only need six months in business, a credit score of 600 or higher and at least $100,000 in annual revenue.

Although online lenders may still require a personal guarantee, they’re less likely than banks to require physical collateral.

Find and compare small-business loans

Still trying to determine the right way to finance your business? Check out NerdWallet’s list of the best small-business loans for business owners.

Our recommendations are based on the market scope and track record of lenders, the needs of business owners, and an analysis of rates and other factors, so you can make the right financing decision.

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Banking

Fidelity Bonds: What They Are, How to Get One

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Fidelity bonds are insurance policies that protect a business’s finances in case an employee steals from the business or commits fraud. Fidelity bonds are also known as employee dishonesty insurance.

You can buy a fidelity bond on its own or as part of a commercial crime insurance policy. Consider purchasing this coverage if your employees routinely handle money or valuable assets that belong to your business or your customers.

What are fidelity bonds?

Fidelity bonds are a type of business insurance that protects your business finances if an employee steals money or property from your company or customers.

This coverage can pay out to make your business whole if an employee or group of employees commits theft on the job. It goes by a few different names, including “employee dishonesty insurance,” “fidelity bond” and “employee dishonesty bond.”

Despite the name, fidelity bonds are insurance policies, not bonds. Historically, fidelity bonds were similar to surety bonds, which are agreements among the business owner, their client and a third party promising that work will be completed. Today, fidelity bonds are structured like insurance policies. Some companies still use the term “fidelity bond,” while others use “employee dishonesty insurance.”

Does your business need a fidelity bond?

Fidelity bonds are important for businesses where lots of employees have access to your business finances or customers’ property. Consider purchasing this coverage in the following instances:

If your employees have access to your business finances: Nonprofits, medical offices, professional offices and other kinds of businesses where employees make financial transactions are all at risk of employee theft.

If your employees have access to customers’ money or assets: If your employees regularly enter customers’ homes or businesses, a fidelity bond can set you apart from your competitors because customers know their assets are protected. This may be important for janitorial and cleaning businesses, HVAC businesses, plumbing businesses and other in-home service providers.

If you need this type of protection, look for business service bonds or third-party fidelity bonds, which specifically protect a business’s customers from losses due to theft.

If you work as a contractor or consultant: Clients may request that you buy a fidelity bond before beginning work with them. In this case, you’ll also want a business service bond.

If you work in the financial services industry: You may need a specialized type of fidelity bond known as a financial institution bond, which protects financial institutions. If you’re a pension plan trustee, you’re also required by law to have an ERISA bond, which protects pension plan participants and their beneficiaries.

How to get a fidelity bond

You can get a fidelity bond on its own or as part of a commercial crime insurance policy. If your business faces risks like forgery, computer fraud, extortion and counterfeiting, opting for a broader commercial crime policy may make sense.

NerdWallet recommends getting business insurance quotes from multiple companies so you can compare coverage details, coverage limits and premium costs before choosing a policy. Start your search for fidelity bonds with these companies:

If you need a business service bond to protect customer assets: Nationwide sells business service bonds, which cover your customers’ losses if one of your employees commits theft or fraud on their premises, as well as employee dishonesty bonds and ERISA bonds. Read NerdWallet’s review of Nationwide business insurance.

If your primary concern is your company’s assets:

You can also look into bonding companies, which specialize in products like surety and fidelity bonds. Merchants Bonding Company, for instance, was one of the 10 largest writers of fidelity and surety bonds by premium values in the first half of 2021, according to the Surety & Fidelity Association of America

How much do fidelity bonds cost?

The cost of a fidelity bond depends on the size of the bond, which is the most the insurance company will pay out to cover a loss.

According to BondExchange, a wholesale insurance marketplace that helps insurance agents find policies for their customers, fidelity bonds insuring five or fewer employees can cost:

  • $100 per year for a $5,000 bond.

  • $167 per year for a $20,000 bond.

  • $257 per year for a $50,000 bond.

  • $359 per year for a $100,000 bond

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