Sam's Club  logo. (July 2010)

Sam's Club logo. (July 2010) Credit: Handout

Sam's Club said Tuesday it is offering online 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 the online product nationwide with Superior Financial Group, one of 13 federally licensed nonbank lenders, and will offer $5,000 to $25,000 loans to small business 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 financially underserved enterprises, including minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses.

Sam's Club members who apply for a small business loan starting Tuesday will be eligible for $100 off the application fee, and a discount on interest rates.

Sam's Club members with business checking accounts can pay $35 for a membership that includes three annual membership cards that allow them to shop at 600 Sam's Clubs in the United States.

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 Sam's club membership vice president Catherine Corley.

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.

This story is supplemented with reporting by Newsday.com

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