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Is a Merchant Cash Advance Right for Your Business?

Learn the ins and outs of merchant cash advances, the types of businesses that benefit most, and if an MCA is right for your capital needs.

Run your BusinessFinancingInsights

By Pipe  February 23, 2024

For small businesses, access to capital is critical for growth and success. One option that small business owners are increasingly turning to for quick and nimble access to capital is a merchant cash advance (MCA).

However, like any financial decision, there are pros and cons to consider before proceeding with this type of alternative funding. In this article, we’ll dive into merchant cash advances to help you determine if they’re the right choice for your business.

Understanding the merchant cash advance 

Before digging into the pros and cons, let's first understand what a merchant cash advance is. Simply put, it’s an alternative form of financing where an MCA company provides a lump sum payment to a business’s bank account in exchange for a percentage of its future credit and debit card sales.

Merchant cash advances have gained popularity among small businesses in recent years thanks to their flexibility and accessibility. Unlike traditional bank loans, which often require extensive paperwork, a lengthy approval process, and oftentimes collateral, not to mention years of operating history, MCAs offer a quicker and more streamlined funding solution.

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What is a merchant cash advance exactly?

A merchant cash advance is not a loan but rather an advance on future revenue. This means that the funder takes a calculated risk based on the business's projected credit and debit card sales. In return, the business agrees to pay the advance, along with a predetermined fee, by allowing the provider to collect a portion of its daily or weekly credit and debit card transactions.

One of the key advantages of a merchant cash advance is that it allows businesses to access funds quickly, without the need for collateral or a high credit score. This makes it an attractive option for businesses that may not otherwise qualify for traditional loans or have urgent funding needs, such as an oven on the fritz or a truck in the fleet requiring repair.

How does an MCA work?

Once approved for a merchant cash advance, the business receives a lump sum payment in their bank account. This capital injection can be used for a wide range of use cases for your business, such as purchasing inventory, repairing or upgrading equipment, or covering unexpected expenses, to name a few.

The payment is structured to ensure that the capital provider receives a portion of the business's daily or weekly credit and debit card sales until the advance, along with the agreed upon fee, is fully repaid. This payment arrangement continues until the capital provider has recouped the full amount, plus the fee, also known as a factor rate, which is the amount fluctuates based on the business's sales volume typically expressed as a decimal in a range of 1.1-1.5. 

For example, a $10,000 USD advance at a factor rate of 1.2 is another way of illustrating a fee of 20%. Here’s the equation:  

1.2 x $10,000 USD = $12,000 USD total payments  

It's important to note that the payment process is typically automated, with the funder deducting a fixed percentage from the business's daily or weekly credit and debit card transactions. This means that the payment amount fluctuates based on the business's sales volume, providing some flexibility when times are slow. 

Merchant cash advances are often used by businesses in industries with high credit and debit card usage, such as retail, restaurants, and e-commerce. The payment structure aligns with the business's cash flow, as the provider only collects a percentage of the credit card sales, rather than a fixed monthly payment. When business is good, payments are on the higher side while during slow periods payments are smaller.

Furthermore, merchant cash advances are not subject to strict payment schedules or term limits. This allows businesses to focus on their operations and growth, without the added pressure of meeting monthly loan payments.

The pros of MCAs 

Compared to more traditional options, a merchant cash advance offers several advantages that can benefit businesses in need of quick access to capital.

Immediate access to capital

One of the primary benefits of a merchant cash advance is the quick infusion of cash it provides. Unlike traditional loans, which can take weeks or even months to be funded, a merchant cash advance can be obtained within days. This swift access to capital allows businesses to seize opportunities and cover immediate expenses that they might otherwise miss.

No collateral required

Additionally, unlike conventional loans, a merchant cash advance does not typically require collateral, such as a piece of real estate or machinery to back the funding. Instead, the capital provider assesses the risk based on the business's credit and debit card sales volume and reserves the right to collect a portion of future transactions. This eliminates the need for businesses to put up valuable assets as collateral so a business owner can sleep better at night. MCAs also don’t typically require personal guarantees, which are common with loans.

High approval rates

Yet another advantage of a merchant cash advance is that they often have higher approval rates. Traditional lenders may deny loan applications due to various reasons, such as a less-than-perfect credit score, insufficient credit history, or lack of collateral. However, with a merchant cash advance, the primary consideration is performance, more specifically the business's credit and debit card sales volume, making it easier for businesses with lower credit scores, a limited operating history, or few assets to obtain financing.

The cons of MCAs 

While merchant cash advance offers several benefits, it is crucial to consider the potential drawbacks before making a decision. 

Higher costs and fees

One of the potential drawbacks of a merchant cash advance is the cost. Since the capital provider assumes a higher risk by not requiring collateral or performing an extensive credit check, the fees associated with this type of financing may be higher than those of traditional loans. It’s essential to carefully consider the cost and evaluate if the benefits outweigh the expenses before signing on the dotted line.

Impact on cash flow

Another consideration is the potential impact an MCA can have on cash flow. Payment for a merchant cash advance is directly tied to the business's daily or weekly credit card sales. During periods of lower sales, the payment amount decreases. When sales are up, the payment amounts will also increase. It’s important to consider your future revenue and whether you anticipate a spike that could cause your payments to go up. 

Evaluating your business needs

As with any business decision, it is vital to thoroughly evaluate your specific needs and goals before pursuing a merchant cash advance.

Assessing your financial situation

Take the time to review your financial situation and determine if a merchant cash advance aligns with your business's financial goals. Consider your current cash flow, revenue projections, and the potential impact of payments on your day-to-day operations. Keep in mind the short-term nature of MCA financing and the expectations of the funder. 

Furthermore, clarify your business goals and growth plans. Evaluate whether a merchant cash advance will contribute to your business's long-term success or if alternative financing options may be more suitable. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons against your unique circumstances.


In conclusion, a merchant cash advance can be an attractive option for businesses in need of short-term working capital. However, it is important to carefully consider the pros and cons and assess your specific business needs before making a decision. By doing so, you can determine if a merchant cash advance is the right choice for your business's financial goals and chart a path to success.

Disclaimer: Pipe and its affiliates don't provide financial, tax, legal, or accounting advice. What you're reading has been prepared for knowledge-sharing and informational purposes only. Please consult your financial and legal advisors to determine what transactions and decisions are right for you and your business.

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