Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Sam's Club tests small business loans

By Catherine Clifford, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Sam's Club, the members-only wholesaler owned by Wal-Mart, is testing out an online program to offer discounted loans to its small business customers.

The program is essentially a white-label arrangement with Superior Financial Group, the nation's most active Small Business Administration lender. Superior Financial, based in Walnut Creek, Calif., specializes in loans of $5,000 and $25,000, often made through the SBA's "express" program for smaller loans.

By applying for the loan through Sam's Club as a member, small businesses will get $100 off Superior Financial's loan packaging fee (typically $350 to $450, after the discount) and 0.25% off the market interest rate. Sam's Club gets a $50 referral fee for each loan funded.

The new Sam Club's venture launches amid a bleak credit landscape for small companies. Banks have slashed their lending portfolios and credit lines, leaving many companies scrambling to find the capital they need to operate. "Unable to find credit, many small businesses have had to shut their doors, and some of the survivors are still struggling to find adequate financing," a recent government study concluded.

That's one motive for Sam's Club to wade into the lending market: If customers are strapped for cash, they don't shop.

Small businesses "are a big portion of our business, so if we can help small business, that helps us," said Hiren Patel, director of financial services at Sam's Club.

Rival wholesaler Costco has tried three times to pair up with small business lenders. "The results have been underwhelming in each iteration," said Joel Benoliel, senior vice president at Costco (COST, Fortune 500). Costco linked up with Key Bank in 2000, American Express in 2003 and Capital One 2007.

"The assumption is that there is this big need, and we are all about small business as our members, so we have really, really tried over the past decade," Benoliel said. "In each case, the main problem was the same: we had low member approval rates."

Businesses that already have an established relationship with their bank tend to apply for loans with that bank. Those looking to apply for a loan through an alternate avenue aren't typically the most attractive customers.

"Maybe they will have success where we didn't," Benoliel said of the new Sam's Club venture. "The lending environment is entirely different since the last time we tried this in 2007."

The Sam's Club arrangement is an open-ended pilot program. "We will monitor on a monthly basis, report back to our executives on a quarterly basis, and see where we want to go with this," Patel said. To top of page

Questions & Answers



QHow does a florist sell more in this economy? We changed our business to designing weddings and events only, as the everyday flowers are not selling. We had to throw out too much product at the end of the week -- flowers are perishable! More
Get Answer
- The Flower Lady, Suwanee, Ga.
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.93%4.14%
15 yr fixed3.03%3.14%
5/1 ARM3.32%3.28%
30 yr refi4.02%4.21%
15 yr refi3.11%3.21%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Sponsors

Sections

Loosening state restrictions have given gun silencer sales a boost. Silencers are now legal in 41 states, compared to 37 four years ago. Also some gun makers are making it easy to attach them. More

Beijing has just won the 2022 Winter Olympics but the competition was weak after many rivals dropped out due to concerns about the costs and lack of economic benefits. More

Mozilla CEO Chris Beard called the new default browser setting 'very disturbing' in an open letter to Satya Nadella. More

Fast-food chains that operate in more than 30 locations nationwide are the sole target of a new rule in New York to hike their minimum wage to $15. But consumers and small business owners, as well as some employees, may be the ones to pay the price. More

You can't blame it on the economy anymore. More Millennials now have jobs, but are still living at home. More