Bank of America was once the Bank of Italy, founded in San Francisco by Italian immigrant Amadeo Giannini in 1904. The bank, which lent to immigrants, working men, and others to whom the big banks would not extend credit, soon found its business booming.
When the 1906 San Francisco earthquake sidelined many of the city's banks, Amadeo -- who had spirited his bank's stocks of cash away in a horse-drawn carriage -- made loans to the displaced and dispossessed, often on the basis of a quick sizing up of the borrower's character and a handshake. From those humble beginnings, Bank of America has become the second largest bank in the United States and a lender of choice for small businesses.
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Small Business Loans Offered by the Bank of America
Business Line of Credit/Business Loans: A business line of credit affords businesses a revolving line of credit ($10,000 and up), which can be either unsecured (for lines of credit less than $100,000) or secured via either a blanket lien on business assets, or a certificate of deposit. Rates are variable, and are indexed to the prime rate. Business loans are available from $25,000, are disbursed as a lump sum, and are secured in the same ways as a business line of credit.
Commercial Real Estate: Bank of America offers purchase and refinance assistance to commercial real estate customers. Loans are offered for amounts up to 80% of property value, including closing costs and fees. Loans between $25,000 and $2 million are available on new or existing commercial properties. Business equity can also be used on either a one-time basis or as a line of credit. The minimum borrowed is $25,000, with a maximum of $1 million for a line of credit and $2 million as a one-time loan. The loan is capped at the greater of the dollar amount or 80% of property value, including closing costs and fees. All loans are secured by owner-occupied real estate.
Equipment Financing: Minimum loan amount is $25,000 for a standard term equipment loan or equipment lease, and $50,000 for an equipment line of credit. The former is helpful for a large initial outlay, while the latter is better suited to businesses with equipment purchases that are recurring or spread out over time.
Farm equipment loans are also offered, with flexible repayment over 7 years that accounts for the seasonal nature of the business. The loans, which start at a minimum of $25,000, are processed through a dedicated agriculture lending team, and BoA is a Farm Service Agency (FSA) preferred lender.
Vehicle Loans / Leases: Using a minimum $25,000 loan, businesses can buy or lease cars, vans, light and commercial trucks, and trailers, generally with flexible terms. Lessors have the option to buy the vehicle at the end of the lease term for one dollar.
Specialized Loans: Bank of America offers fixed-rate loan programs designed for medical practices, including general practitioners, dentists, veterinarians, and optometrists. These loans cover several aspects of a medical practice's cash flow, from startup costs to debt consolidation, real estate, equipment purchases, renovation, expansion, and relocation. SBA Loans: Bank of America is an SBA Preferred Lender, meaning that they meet SBA guidelines for proficiency in processing, lending and servicing SBA-guaranteed loans. The bank primarily offers SBA 7(a) and SBA 504 loans, with a limited number of SBA Express loans issued annually as well. Borrowers should be aware that the SBA requires paperwork in addition to that required by lenders. Find out more about SBA loans and programs.
Who Qualifies, and How to Apply
All Bank of America financing requires the business to have logged at least two years under its current ownership. Because the loan is serviced electronically, prospective borrowers must also have an active Bank of America account.
The loan application asks for the name, address, phone number and tax ID of the business, as well as the type of business, number of employees, annual gross sales and net profit, list of current obligations, personal information on the business's owners/guarantors, and information on the use of the funds. Provided that all information requested is provided at the time the loan is requested, a credit decision usually comes within a week. If further information is required, this extends the process.
Other Business Services Offered by Bank of America
Bank of America offers several services to small businesses in addition to their small business loans. These include:
- Online Banking (with QuickBooks integration)
- Mobile Banking
- Online Tax Services
- Express Invoicing
- Direct Payments
- Account Management
- Remote Deposit
- HSA (Health Savings Accounts)
- Employer and employee investment services through Merrill Lynch
- Self-Service and Full-Service Payroll Services
In addition, the Bank of America Small Business Community provides its members with access to articles, a lively discussion forum, and member stories. With these resources, business owners can find advice on startups, legal issues, HR and personnel issues, sales, marketing and tech advice, merchant services, cash management, and other topics.
Jim Ellis Automotive Group
When Jim Ellis and his wife Bobbie started a Volkswagen dealership in 1971 by selling their assets, cashing out Bobbie's retirement fund, and taking $165,000 in loans from Bank of America, it must have seemed to friends and family as either the ultimate leap of faith, or an exercise in madness. 44 years later, that single dealership has blossomed to a 14-dealership auto group. Beyond lending, BoA's dedicated Dealer Services Group offered valuable business advice to enable Jim Ellis Automotive Group to manage the day-to-day of their business, and to grow the business sustainably. The company credits Bank of America's approach that combines lending with careful stewardship with helping their business to thrive.
Bank of America has come a long way from the days when Amadeo Giannini disbursed loans in cash from a crude table stretched between two barrels on the streets of San Francisco. For all that has changed, one thing has remained constant: when small businesses seek to start out, to expand, or even to recover in the wake of a natural disaster, Bank of America remains the lender of choice for many.