American Express is expanding its business financing product suite outside of the United States with the launch of Business Loans in Australia.

Offering unsecured capital to small and medium enterprise (SMEs) customers in Australia, American Express Business Loans are available for funds between $5,000 and $250,000 for a term of 6, 12, 18 or 24 months with annual interest rates starting at 10.95% per annum.

The online application process is quick and simple and there are no set-up or early repayment fees. There is a $30 fee for a missed payment.

The loans will initially be offered to a select group of American Express business card members, with more customers invited to apply within the first half of this year. 

American Express’ move coincides with its newly released SME Recovery Survey to better understand the current environment for business owners and uncover how they are reacting as business conditions shift.

The research shows that the majority of Australian SMEs (53%) are optimistic about the year ahead, despite the pandemic and expected end of JobKeeper in March, which according to 55% of respondents, helped or was vital in keeping their business afloat.

However, feelings of optimism are tempered knowing that more than two in five businesses will need to access additional capital in the form of a loan this year – one in four (26%) say as a direct result of JobKeeper ending. On average, those seeking a loan intend to request just under $100,000.

Many businesses are still feeling the full impact of the Covid-19 crisis, while others have rebounded with their sights firmly set on growth, American Express Australia vice president of global commercial services, Martin Seward said.

“We have taken a transformational step to evolve our business beyond our existing card offering to help support businesses on their journey forward.”

The American Express research reveals that the top business resolution for nearly two in five SME operators this year is to try new ways to grow their business. Of that group, more than a quarter believe this growth could be significantly greater with the appropriate amount of capital. And yet, nearly half of SMEs who sought funds from other lenders during the pandemic said they faced challenges – from finding the process complex to being asked to use personal assets as security.

“We don’t believe SME’s growth should be obstructed by red tape or unneeded complexity, and certainly not at the expense of having to put a house or business on the line – something that extraordinarily a third (32%) of SMEs needed to do to raise capital during the pandemic,” Seward said.

“Our unsecured business loans remove some of the existing complexity that comes with many other loans on the market, with funds deposited into a customer’s account typically within two business days of approval.”