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What Is Purchase Order (PO) Financing?

What Is Purchase Order (PO) Financing?
Mike Zaccardi
Mike ZaccardiUpdated January 20, 2023
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Purchase order financing provides funding for businesses to buy goods needed to fulfill outstanding customer orders. It can be a useful solution if your business relies on a third party to supply or manufacture the goods that you sell and you sometimes struggle with cash flow.Purchase order financing comes at a relatively high cost, however. Here’s what you need to know about this type of funding, how it works, its pros and cons, plus alternatives you might consider.

Purchase Order Financing Definition 

Purchase order financing, also known as PO financing, is essentially a cash advance that a company can use to fulfill its purchase orders. With this type of financing, a lender will pay a third-party supplier up to 100% off the cost involved in producing and delivering goods to your customers. If your business is new or has received multiple orders at once, and you don’t have the inventory or cash on hand to complete them, PO financing could be a solution. Rather than turn customers away, you could use this type of financing to pay your suppliers to fulfill the order.While you often need strong credit to get a traditional small business loan, that’s not necessarily the case with PO financing. Purchase order financing companies are typically willing to work with small businesses and startups that have thin or bad credit. These lenders tend to be more concerned about the creditworthiness of your customers, since they will be repaying much of the loan. 

How Purchase Order Financing Works 

To understand how purchase order financing works, here’s an example. Let’s say you receive a large order from a customer but discover that you don’t have enough inventory on hand to fill it. After reaching out to your supplier, you determine that you don’t have enough available cash to purchase the goods needed to fulfill the order either.Rather than turn your customer away, you reach out to a PO financing company. As part of your application for funding, you send the lender your purchase order as well as your supplier's estimate. If the lender approves you for PO financing, they will then pay your supplier all, or a large portion, of the invoiced amount. If, for example, the lender approves you for just 90% of the supplier’s costs, you would need to cover the remaining 10% on your own.The supplier then fills the order and sends the product to your customer. Next, you invoice your customer, who sends payment directly to the lender. The lender then deducts their fees and sends you the balance.

Who Uses Purchase Order Financing? 

You might consider PO financing if your business needs to purchase goods or supplies from a third party in order to fill customer orders but doesn’t always have enough cash reserves to make those purchases. Types of companies that may use PO financing include:
  • Startups
  • Business owners with low credit scores
  • Wholesalers
  • Distributors
  • Resellers
  • Importers/exporters of finished goods
  • Outsourcers
  • Government contractors who are fulfilling government orders
  • Companies with seasonal sales

Purchase Order Financing Pros and Cons 

There are advantages and disadvantages to small business purchase order financing. Here’s a look at how the pros and cons stack up.


  • Enables you to take customer orders you otherwise could not fulfill Purchase order financing allows you to serve customers despite seasonal dips in cash flow and/or take on an unusually large order from a customer. 
  • Can be easier to get than other types of business loans While PO financing companies will look at your business’s financials and credit history, they are typically more interested in the creditworthiness of your customers and the reputation of your supplier. As a result, it can be easier for startups and businesses with less-than-stellar credit to qualify for PO financing compared with other types of business funding.
  • You don’t need to make regular loan payments. Since PO financing is more of a cash advance than a loan, you won’t need to pay the money back in regular installments like you would with a regular term business loan.


  • Can be costly PO financing fees may seem relatively low at first glance, often ranging between 1% and 6% of the total supplier’s costs per month. But when that rate is converted into an annual percentage rate (APR), they are actually fairly high, potentially 20% to 50%-plus.
  • Cost depends on your customer Since fees are charged per month, how much you will end up owing the PO financing company will depend on how long it takes your customer to pay their invoice. This can make it difficult to estimate the total cost upfront. 
  • You’re cut out of the process With this type of financing, the lender and supplier often take over most of what you normally do. In many cases, the lender will pay the supplier, the supplier will ship the product to the customer, and the customer will pay the lender. As a result, you won't have the usual amount of quality control.

Typical Purchase Order Financing Rates 

Purchase order financing rates can run high. They are often quoted in monthly percentage rates, usually in the 1% to 6% range. This percentage is charged on the supplier’s invoice amount, and your total fee will depend on how long it takes your customer to pay the purchase order financing company.If the supplier’s bill is $100,000 and the lender charges 3% per 30 days, for example, the fee will be $3,000 if the customer pays within 30 days. If the customer pays in 60 days, the fee will be $6,000.

Applying for Purchase Order Financing 

Purchase order financing is primarily offered by online financing companies, some of which specialize in PO financing. Some banks offer PO financing but typically only offer it to large companies or existing clients.To qualify for PO financing, you usually need to:
  • Have a purchase order of $50,000 or more
  • Sell finished goods (not parts or raw materials) that you don’t make yourself 
  • Sell to business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-government (B2G) customers
  • Have profit margins of at least 20%
  • Have creditworthy customers (some lenders will conduct a detailed credit check on your customers)
  • Have reputable and trustworthy suppliers 
If you meet the basic criteria for PO financing and want to apply, you’ll typically need to have the following documents:
  • The customer’s PO
  • Your supplier’s invoice
  • Your invoice to your customer
  • Your purchase order to your supplier
  • Information about your business
  • Financial statements (such as your balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement)
  • Tax returns

Alternatives to Purchase Order Financing 

If PO financing doesn’t sound like the right financing solution for your business, you’re not necessarily out of luck. There are a number of other small business financing options that can help smooth out dips in cash flow and help you grow your business. Here are some to consider.

Invoice Factoring 

Invoice factoring is a type of invoice financing that involves “selling” some or all of your company's outstanding invoices to a third party, called an invoice factoring company. The factoring company will typically pay you 80% to 90% of the invoice amounts right away. They then collect payment directly from your customers (which, unfortunately, will tip your customers off about your financial struggles). Once the factoring company gets paid by your customers, the company will pay you the remaining invoice amount — minus their fee.

Small Business Loans 

With a traditional term business loan, you receive a lump sum of capital upfront and then pay it back (plus interest) in regular installments over a set term. While banks typically have strict criteria for business loans, online business lenders tend to have more flexible qualification requirements and are faster to fund. A short-term business loan from an online lender can help solve a short-term cash crisis, but rates and terms are generally higher than bank loans.

Merchant Cash Advances 

A merchant cash advance (MCA) might be an option if you do business using credit card transactions. With an MCA, you get a cash advance in exchange for a fixed percentage of future credit card receipts. Typically, the MCA provider automatically deducts a daily (or weekly) percentage of your debit and credit card sales until the advance, plus fees, is repaid in full. While an MCA can be a quick source of cash, this is one of the most expensive types of small business financing.

Business Lines of Credit 

You can also use a business line of credit for short-term financing. Similar to how a credit card works, a line of credit allows you to draw up to a certain limit and only pay interest on the money you borrow. You then repay the funds and can continue to draw on the line. A business line of credit can be used for a variety of immediate needs, such as managing cash flow, buying inventory, or paying employees.

Compare Small Business Loan Rates

If purchase order financing isn’t right for you, you may want to shop around and compare other small business financing options. With Lantern by SoFi’s online lending platform, you can access multiple loan offers from small business lenders matched to your needs and qualifications with just one application and no commitment. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is PO financing a loan?
What documents are required for purchase order financing?
Can purchase orders be used as collateral?
Photo credit: iStock/SolStock

About the Author

Mike Zaccardi

Mike Zaccardi

Mike Zaccardi, CFA, CMT, is a finance expert and writer specializing in investments, markets, personal finance, and retirement planning. He enjoys putting a narrative to complex financial data and concepts; analyzing stock market sectors, ETFs, economic data, and broad market conditions; and producing snackable content for various audiences.
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