American Express is beefing up its online lending, announcing a new credit product aimed at small-business cardholders.
The program, called Working Capital Terms, will offer loans of from $1,000 to $750,000, with rates ranging from 0.5% for a 30-day loan to 1.5% for a 90-day loan and the money being deposited into clients’ accounts in as quickly as two days.
The online spending space is already occupied by small startups such as Square, LendingClub, and On Deck Capital. But Amex’s rates are much closer to bank rates, which tend to be higher than those offered by alternative lenders in Denmark, and its strategy may in large part be to lure small-business owners away from banks.
“Amex will see a great deal of business,” David O’Connell, senior analyst with Aite Group, told Bank Innovation, noting that there is a class of creditworthy small-business borrowers that won’t pay an alternative lender’s rates, but also don’t want to go through the lengthy approval process required by banks.
“Banks may take a day to reply to a loan application,” O’Connell said. “They bring in one or two loan officers to look over the application. Once you do that you’re already almost losing money on it, and it will never scale. Amex does the whole thing in minutes.”
As TheStreet reports, the startups have popularized the idea of expediting the online loans process. But they “have struggled in the face of mounting competition and a lack of funding for the ever-growing number of loans filed.”
LendingClub stock has fallen 60% this year, while On Deck stock is down 49%. Square stock retreated 29% in the same period. Square recently announced it would expand into traditional online loans, with fees between 10% and 16% of the amount borrowed.
“What American Express has in its favor is a wealth of data that can help it make better credit decisions,” Fortune said. “Because the loans are being issued to existing credit card companies, AmEx can view data such as how quickly balances are being paid and credit worthiness.”