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Peer Lending for Entrepreneurs

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This story first appeared in the February 2010 issue of Entrepreneur. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

If your banks aren't showing the credit love lately and you don't have a wealthy friend or uncle in the ranks, there still may be hope. Curtis Arnold, founder of CardRatings.com and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Person-to-Person Lending, says person-to-person, sometimes called peer-to-peer, or P2P, lending, has taken off and may provide options for cash-strapped businesses.

Prosper.com
Offers: Fully amortized 3-year unsecured personal loans
Limit<:/strong> $25,000
Other: Minimum credit score of 640 Fixed interest rates

Lending Club.com
Offers: 3-year unsecured personal loans $25,000
Limit: $25,000
Other: Minimum credit score of 660
Fixed interest rates
Allows up to two loans

Peer-Lend.com
Offers: Loan terms vary
Limit: $100,000
Other: No minimum credit score

A number of websites has cropped up to cater to this market, Arnold says, providing a structured environment through which you can carry out transactions. You still need to be credit-worthy and abide by the rules and regulations of the sites. (It's also a good idea to check with your tax adviser to determine whether there are any tax implications before you borrow.) However, P2P sites have a personal element that may offer hope for those with a few blemishes on their credit records.

"You can tell your story," Arnold says. "If you had years of credit, then hit a hard time during the recession, you can tell that story and people may still be willing to lend to you."

Lenders sometimes form affinity groups within the sites, too, so approaching groups of lenders from your alma mater or those who have other similarities may up your chances as well.

But take it seriously. The sites may sock you with late penalties and report late payments to credit reporting agencies, which could affect your personal or company credit score, Arnold says. And investigate the sites to get a lay of the land before diving in, he says. That way, you'll be sure to negotiate the best deal possible.