What Is a Factor Rate?

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DEFINITION
A factor rate is used to calculate the borrower’s cost of taking out a loan—including principal amount and total interest—and is expressed as a decimal.

Whenever you take out a business loan, you pay back the loan with interest. In some cases, the interest rate is expressed as a percentage (10%), and in others, it’s expressed as a decimal (1.1). When the rate is expressed as a decimal, it is called a factor rate. 

Below, we’ll delve further into what a factor rate is, how it works, and how to calculate it. 

Definition and Examples of Factor Rates

A factor rate is used to calculate the borrower’s cost of taking out a loan—including principal amount and total interest—and is expressed as a decimal. It is typically used when businesses seek out short-term funding such as merchant cash advances

For example, Joe Smith Extrusion Company takes out an advance that has an associated factor rate of 1.2. That means that if Joe’s company borrows $1,000, it will pay back $1,200. Typically, factor rates will fall between 1.1 and 1.5, designating how much you’ll be paying back on your business loan. However, the factor rate you qualify for will depend on criteria such as business tenure, your industry, revenue, and financial projections.

While factor rates are somewhat comparable to interest rates, or APR (annual percentage rate), there is a key difference. While factor rates apply only to the original amount borrowed—and don't compound or change as you pay off your loan—APR will change as your principal loan amount drops.

One of the great advantages of loans that use factor rates is that they are often available to businesses with less-than-stellar credit—which means you can get money when you need it, even if your business is going through a rough patch.

How Factor Rates Work

While factor rates are specifically used for business financing (not personal loans), they typically aren’t applied to traditional business loans. In fact, unless you apply for a merchant cash advance or another alternative form of small business funding like a short-term loan, you may never see the term applied. 

Will Your Factor Rate Be High or Low?

Factor rates will vary depending on your answer to several key questions including:

  • What is your industry? If you’re a seasonal business you may have to cope with a higher factor rate. The same is true if you’re in a risky business or in an industry that’s on the decline (such as travel agencies).
  • How long have you been in business? The longer you’ve been in business, and the stronger your track record is, the lower your factor rate will likely be.
  • Is your business stable and growing? If your business is stable and growing, you’re a good credit risk. If not, you may pay for your lack of stability with higher factor rates.

If you are applying for a merchant cash advance, your factor rate will also depend to a large degree on your monthly credit card sales. That’s because merchant advance funding is repaid with monthly credit card income.

How To Calculate Factor Rates

It’s a fairly straightforward process to calculate factor rates. Simply multiply the principal amount you’re borrowing by your factor rate. For example, if you’re borrowing $1,000 at a 1.3 rate, multiply 1,000 x 1.3 and you’ll find that you will be paying $1,300 for your loan.

Are Factor Rates Higher Than APR and Interest Rates?

Loans that use factor rates are sometimes, but not always, higher than those with interest rates or APR. That’s because, even if the rate appears higher at first glance, the latter type of loans:

  • Change over time for many different reasons. For example, your APR may go up if you miss a payment. And even if you don’t miss a payment, APR may go up if the prime interest rate goes up.
  • Often stipulate that you may not repay the loan early. That means you have less flexibility with your money.
  • May be out of reach if your business has a poor credit history
  • May take a long time for the application process as lenders to decide whether you qualify

Key Takeaways

  • Factor rates help describe the amount you pay for a business loan and are expressed in decimal form.
  • Factor rates are usually applied to merchant advance loans or other non-traditional, short-term business loans.
  • Your factor rate is applied to your entire loan and will not change over the life of the loan.
  • The factor rate you receive is based on your business’s financial stability, credit rating, industry, revenue, and other issues.
  • Loans that utilize factor rates are usually available even if you have poor credit, and can provide funding quickly.

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