Opening a business bank account is a critical step in the birth of your small business, and can help improve cash flow and expense management. Choosing the right one can help you manage your finances with total control, taking advantage of all the perks with very little maintenance. 

Today we’re diving into the process of opening a business account with a bank or credit union, so you’re ready to make the best financial decisions for your growing company.

Why do you need a business bank account?

A 2017 study by TD Bank found that more than 27% of business owners use the same bank account for personal and business purposes. Oftentimes, founders who bootstrap their companies start by pulling from their own funds. However, as time goes on it becomes more and more critical to separate personal and business finances—to protect both.

Mixing personal and business finances complicates the cash flow, spend visibility, deductions, and tax preparation, not to mention leaving you vulnerable to theft, fraud, and improper use of funds. A business bank account helps you avoid some dangerous consequences, but there are also plenty of positive benefits that can boost your business.

Benefits of business bank accounts

  • Secure personal information for client transactions
  • Increased professionalism & trust
  • Easier business expense tracking
  • Allowing banking access to employees safely
  • Better interest on savings and checking accounts
  • Ability to access a line of credit or apply for a business loan if need arises
  • Strengthening credit history
  • Ability to take full advantage of tax deductions
  • Business-specific incentives like easier ACH payroll payments or higher interest yields

Opening a business bank account in 6 steps

1. Choose a type of bank account

When it comes to choosing a bank account for your business you’ll have a few options. Choose the type of business banking account that best meets the needs of your business, or try a combination of two or more. 

Types of business bank accounts

  • Free business checking: no fees, or fees waived if you meet a monthly minimum balance or transaction limits. 
  • Traditional business checking: may feature monthly or annual fees, but offers more favorable APY and services like wire transfers or bill pay. 
  • Online business checking: for businesses who don’t deal in cash and prioritize speed
  • Business savings account: best for money that won’t be touched for a while to earn interest but remain accessible.

2. Find the right bank

The quality of service can vary widely from one financial institution to another. Compare the offerings of many different banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions to determine which fits your goals.

See our detailed guide for choosing the right business bank account.

Combine services

As a business owner, you may find that it’s more convenient and affordable to center all of your banking in one place. Many banks or credit unions provide incentives for bundling a business checking account and a business savings account, or might offer merchant services at more competitive rates for their existing customers. Some banks may include access to a business credit card or faster loan processing alongside business bank accounts. 

Consider convenience

What convenience factors are essential for your business? Local branches or daily accounting might be critical to one business, while online banking and integrations is all that matters to another. Also consider mobile banking and the user-friendliness of their apps.

Traditional bank vs. Credit union

The main difference between a bank and a credit union is that banks are for-profit. Credit unions are non-profit. Banks and credit unions often offer the same products and features, though credit unions may be able to provide more favorable pricing and fees, as well as the local and personal concern you often miss in a corporate bank. Many business owners crave the accessibility and speed of technology, so a modern tech-savvy institution might be the right bank. 

You may be able to get the best of both worlds with a community bank or smaller bank that can still provide the personal touch you need in a financial institution. There are pros and cons to each choice, so consider the following to determine if a traditional bank or a credit union might be right for you.

Traditional bank
Pros Cons
Better mobile applications Higher interest rates for borrowing
Extra tools such as bill pay, ACH batching, etc. Higher transaction fees
More options for nationwide financing More eligibility requirements
Credit union
Pros Cons
Lower interest on loans Fewer options and branches
Higher interest on savings accounts Fewer tools available
More resources for financial education May not offer business-specific incentives
Typically better customer service

3. Assess account fees

In the era of online and free banking, many small business owners want to avoid fees at all costs. However, even “free” bank accounts might surprise you with fees for certain functions. When evaluating business bank accounts, be sure to research the following types of fees:

  • Monthly maintenance fee
  • ATM fees
  • Deposit fees
  • Overdraft fees
  • Minimum or maximum transaction penalties 
  • Fees for additional cards and checks
  • Wire transfer fees

Fees aren’t always bad, as you can easily live within the limits to avoid them, and some are paired with higher interest. Simulate the conditions with your latest month of expenses to see what the fees might actually look like for your company.

4. Prepare necessary documentation

To open a business bank account you’ll need to provide verification of your business. Whether you apply in person or online you’ll want to begin assembling the following documentation: 

  • Your legal business name
  • Employee identification number (EIN)
  • Business address
  • Business phone number, email address, website, etc. 
  • Drivers License (for ID number and photo)
  • Second photo identification, such as a passport
  • Business license, partnership documents, or articles of corporation or organization depending on your business structure
  • Account information for other accounts at the same or other financial institutions
  • Names of individuals being issued cards, if necessary

In most cases you will not need every single item on this list to open a business banking account—it will be some combination of documents based on your organization size and structure. For example, a sole proprietorship will need to provide a Social Security number and two forms of personal ID, but an LLC won’t.

5. Apply online or in person

Even before the pandemic, online application and approval was growing more commonplace. It allows a business owner to request banking services immediately, no matter time or place. Online applications are a safer choice in terms of COVID-19 precautions, and may feature faster applications and approvals. 

However, the tradeoff is that your customer service will be via phone or live chat, versus the personal touch of face-to-face communication if you choose to bank in person. It all comes down to what your chosen bank offers and your personal preference.

6. Deposit funds into your account

Once approved, you can deposit funds to your new business bank account. Cash deposits at a physical bank location, a check written from another bank account, or an online draft can supply your account and prepare you for spending. Be mindful of deposit limits and the availability of remote deposits of checks. 

It’s a good practice to evaluate all of your business needs and the various offerings of business bank accounts before you open a new account, but even if you have a business account you should remain open to finding a better finance solution—especially if it makes business expense management easier. Modern small businesses require modern banking solutions that can keep up with you.

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