Last year, I tried to break up with my bank. The crazy long lines, random fees, and horrible customer service drove me out the door. Turns out, I wasn’t alone in my frustration.
A 2013 Business Banking Gallup Poll found that 32% of businesses were “actively antagonistic” about their bank.
Your relationship with your bank can be a complete pain in the butt or an asset to your business. Here are some simple steps you can take to pick out the best bank for your small business:
Identify Your Needs
The most important part of selecting a bank is identifying exactly what you will need. Investigating the services you will need to rely on every day gives you a solid foundation for online research and in-person conversations. Take a look at these common considerations.
Basic Checkings and Savings
When discerning the optimal checkings and savings accounts for your business, think about the following:
The number of transactions you will make a month
The lowest balance you will keep in the account
Your budget for banking costs, fees, ect.
A lot of banks offer low cost accounts with high penalties for surpassing transaction limits or falling below minimum balances. We’ve all seen pesky, sneaky fees on bank statements. Make sure that you have full knowledge of any potential charges accompanying any action on your part.
If you’re looking for a completely free option, check out Nerd Wallet’s list of free business checking accounts by state.
If your business may need a loan in the future, limit your banking options to institutions with a history of lending to small businesses. Companies in the market for a business loans would benefit from choosing a bank that offers SBA (Small Business Administration) loans. With SBA loans, the government guarantees up to 75% of the loan, incentivizing banks to lend to small business owners who otherwise wouldn’t be considered.
The US Small Business Administration published a list of the best banks for small business lending by state from 2013. Start by perusing this list for your state, and go from there.
Is your business rooted in a local community? If so, chances are you will want a brick-and-mortar bank nearby. Retail businesses deposit cash and collect change every day. These kinds of transactions require a physical location. With a nearby brick-and-mortar bank, you also develop personal connections that can make a big impact on your decisions.
Digital, Mobile, and Remote Access
Most banks and credit unions offer remote banking from mobile devices and computers. The quality of these services ranges depending on your bank. If you’re tech-oriented or work from home, make sure to thoroughly dive into digital options.
Bankers are not just hired hands who process paperwork — they're skillful allies who help you to build your business. Especially if your services or products are targeted at a local customer base, knowledgeable, local bankers can point you in the direction of valuable resources.
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Check Out Your Options
If you live in a metropolitan area, you probably have more business banking options than you can count. Honing in on the ideal kind of financial institution can narrow down your options.
Big banks lead the way in technologies and new services — they went digital before the little guys, they are available everywhere and they offer important add-on services for small business owners. These large financial institutions charge more but offer a larger network of tools. Here are some add-ons you can find at big banks like Bank of America or Chase Bank:
Automatic Download to QuickBooks
Online Tax Payments
Enhanced Security on Retail Services
If you are looking for a sophisticated platform that allows you to manage your financials from one portal, go big.
Local options are the best banks for most small businesses. They offer personal interaction, strong accountability, and some of the best loan opportunities. The bankers you speak to on a daily basis are the same individuals making decisions about your viability as a borrower. Research suggests that small banks are most likely to approve small business loans and are more likely to offer loans during economic downturns.
Developing relationships with bankers at a local bank can be a positive business decision, too. In addition to gaining banking services, the right banker can act as an on-hand consultant.
Online-only banks are emerging in the business banking world. The simplicity of offering online services cuts down on overhead for banks, meaning decreased costs for you. If you’re tech-oriented, this approach to banking probably jives with your business model.
A lot of online banks like Capital One offer business savings but not business checking accounts, requiring that you open a personal checking account. This limitation is a huge detractor but may work for solopreneurs. Check out the Huffington Post’s list for best online checking accounts if you want to move in a digital-only direction!
Credit unions are the unicorn of the banking world. Unlike other financial institutions, they act as non-profits, serving the community with lower fees, lower loan rates and higher interest rates than commercial banks. The members of credit unions actually own the institution, which means it works for you.
Here’s the catch: like internet banks, many credit unions do not offer business accounts. To find one that offers business services, check out a credit union locator and explore individual options from there.
|The Big Four||Common Advantages||Common Disadvantages|
|Big Banks||Broad network of ATMS, Brick & mortar shops, Additional services, Digital and mobile banking||Red tape and hassle, Impersonal connection|
|Local Banks||Face-to-face relationships, Easier access to loans, Better customer service, Local knowledge||(Sometimes) limited digital access and tools|
|Credit Unions||Best customer service, Local knowledge, Lower fess, Higher interest rates||Not all offer business services|
|Internet Banks||Lower fees, Online convenience, Digital and mobile banking||Personal check and business savings, Lack of relationship|
Expert Tip: No matter what, your financial institution should be FDIC or NCUA approved (FDIC for banks and NCUA for credit unions.) These designations ensure that your assets are protected.
As a starting point, check out Advisory HQ’s Best Banks for Small Business.
The End Game
Talk to Your Peers
As you explore the best small business banking options, turn to trusted peers who are already knee-deep in business banking. See if you can get a specific name of someone to call your bank of choice. Banks know that they have higher margins of retention from referred customers. You can leverage that statistic to your advantage, and emphasize your need for high levels of service.
Only Accept the Best
Exploring a website or communicating with a banker should be a trial run for your commitment. It’s like a first date — if your experience is anything less than cheerful, transparent and educational, tell them to take a hike! There are too many options out there to settle for anything but the best fit for your small business.