Sam's Club said Tuesday it will offer loans of up to $25,000 to its small business members.
The division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which is based in Bentonville, Ark., is testing a program with Superior Financial Group, one of 13 federally licensed nonbank lenders, and will offer $5,000 to $25,000 loans to members who qualify.
Sam's Club says 15 percent of its business members reported they were denied a loan in a November survey. That's up from 12 percent in April 2009.
The program will focus on minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses.
Sam's Club members who apply for a small business loan during the pilot will receive $100 off the application fee, a 20 percent discount and a discount on interest rates.
Businesses can pay $35 for a membership to Sam's Club that includes three annual membership cards that allow them to shop at 600 Sam's Clubs in the U.S. Sam's Club offers other memberships to consumers and businesses that cost as much as $100 annually depending on the features included.
Although the economy has grown for three straight quarters, tight credit remains a problem for many consumers and businesses.
"Access to capital is a major pain point for our members," said Catherine Corley, vice president, membership at Sam's Club.
The loan program isn't Wal-Mart's first attempt to offer financial products. In 2007 it tried to establish a bank, but dropped the bid after heated debate over whether the world's largest retailer should be allowed to gain the added financial power of a federally insured bank.
In June, the company took a 1 percent stake in Green Dot Corp. Green Dot has provided Wal-Mart's MoneyCard, a prepaid debit card, since 2007.
Shares rose $1.12, or 2.3 percent, to $49.12 during morning trading. The stock has traded between $47.35 and $56.27 over the past year.
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