By Parag Nevatia

We know money is green, and in the eyes of an entrepreneur, money is money. They don’t really care where it comes from or what color it is. But when they have it, they put it into a business to make more money from it.

Understandable, and fundamentally correct. When capital is required to start or grow a business, people don’t really care where the money comes from; they just need it, even if it’s a loan…or a line. What’s the difference? A difference exists, and is important to understand. It’s important for the community on a smaller scale, and the economy on a larger platform.

Let’s simply discuss some key characteristics and differences of each:

A loan is usually a long term debt, used for a specific purpose (this is huge: lenders want to know exactly what you need the money for), and paid back in the same amount on a monthly basis.

Whereas, a line of credit is used multiple times, for various purposes, and paid back in the amount of money used from the limit.

Loans are best for long term purposes such as business acquisition and renovation, and lines of credit are best for short term purposes such as financing receivables and making payroll.

For example: needing money when buying a property necessitates a different risk assessment, from perhaps, requiring money to meet payroll because the client is due to pay an invoice in another 45 to 90 days.

Money is required in both cases, but when it comes to how the lender will get paid back, he has to assess both scenarios differently.

The whole risk-assessment process (industry, experience, credibility, historic returns, etc.) is a lot more complex now than it was in the early 2000’s, in my opinion. Lenders were not focusing so much on controlling risks then, which often led businesses to not be able to pay back.

After realizing the continuous mistakes in the financial world, lenders had to double check their underwriting standards and their distribution of funds. The point I am making with this background of why the risk assessment process is so complex is that lenders want to know whether the borrower is utilizing the money appropriately and if he will be able to repay the debt.

This complexity takes place for both loan and line of credit processes. There is a phrase referred to as Use of Proceeds in the financing world, which in simple terms means, “what do you need the money for?”. Only after understanding the uses, will the lender be able to determine how you will be able to get the money—through a loan or a line of credit.


Returning back to our example: If it is determined that a business is doing well and there are adequate profits on financials to sustain loan payments, then the risk is minimized, and a lender would take a more conservative approach to issue a loan in this case.

If it is determined that an accounts receivable-based business needs money to meet small-term payroll costs, then the lender would most likely issue a line of credit. This is perceived as a little more risky by lenders as the business will pay back once they get paid by their clients, within 45-90 days that is.

All of this can seem overwhelming, especially since banks are approving a single-digit percentage of the applications they get from entrepreneurs. For now, take a deep breath and learn if you’ll need a loan or a line of credit.


Parag Nevatia

Parag Nevatia

Parag Nevatia is:

* Advisory Board Member at NJ SBDC (Small Business Development Center) in Middlesex County.

* Counselor at SBDC, conducting monthly seminars at Rutgers University focusing on helping businesses

get access to capital. Go to for details on SBDC seminars).

* Ambassador Committee Member of Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce.