Online Small Business Banking

In the digital age every bank has an online presence, from my little credit union to the big national players. However, not all banks are geared toward serving small business via the internet and, while they all offer you a lot of promises and maybe a flashy new toaster oven, not all of them offer you the services that you need at a competitive price. Here’s what to look for and how to spot those that offer online small business banking from the poseurs.

Customer Service and Big vs. Small Banks

One thing that you may read is how important it is to “cultivate relationships” with your banker and how important your banker is in expediting and even deciding whether or not you get a loan. While this may still be true in the smaller banks, in larger regional or national banks you will never, ever meets the person who approves your loan. A buddy of mine who was a big shot at a major bank before ditching it all to go into the Peace Corps said that the big banks create a strong separation from the banker that you meet, who is basically a sales person, and the person who decides, who is basically an accountant. So skip bribing your banker with chocolate truffles or bottles of bourbon. In fact, if you already bought the “gifts,” just send them here and I’ll gladly dispose of them for you for free!

Similarly, once the recommendation for business people was to keep all their banking with one bank, in order to build up a relationship of trust with that bank. Now, however, the idea of relationship is breaking down and, thanks to the internet and the relative ease of online banking, small businesses can cherry pick the best services off a smorgasbord of banks just like the Bigs do. In fact, the biggest reason that I can see of deliberately keeping all services with a single bank is not having to remember more than one sign-on, password, and pin!

What Your Bank Should Be Able to Do for You

Business Checking Account

One of the essential elements of running your own business is treating it as a separate entity distinct from your own personal affairs or the affairs of your other businesses or investments. Failing to treat your business as a separate entity opens up numerous potential legal and tax consequences that could end up being very costly or even financially disastrous to you. Opening up a business banking account is one essential act that helps establish your business as a separate entity. For most business the key to the checking account is functionality, forget interest rates and a few dollars difference in cost. The key questions are:

Can you use the web site to pay pre-pay bills, transfer money, accept online payments and whatever other essential services that your business might need?
Are you able to easily download information from the online site to QuickBooks Online or whatever other accounting software that you might be using?
Do they have the highest level of online security that is convenient for you?
Are they relatively light on “hidden fees” that $5 and $10 you to death just to be able to perform regular, essential operations of your business?
Security

Small businesses run by new entrepreneurs often have lower standards of security and this is especially true when it comes to banking and banking online. The smalls just don’t have the expertise nor the payrolls stuffed with I.T. professionals to keep up with the Trojans and frauds that cyber-criminals use to prey upon the unfortunate, and the unwary. You want the highest level of security possible but without making it so inconvenient on yourself that you aren’t fully able to take advantage of the online services. For example, while I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala I often had to do my banking from internet cafes, and not always with my laptop that was impractical to lug around. When Chase, my original bank, changed the security so that I had to go through a complicated and time-consuming process every time I tried to access my account from a different computer I had to change banks (rather, I added a new bank) because that just wasn’t doable for me.

Loans and Lines of Credit

Loans are a prime area of shopping around and using the power of the internet to shave a fraction of a point off the interest rate. However, if you can’t pay the loan through an electronic transaction between the bank of your checking account and the bank that services the loan and make that payment for free then who cares about a little reduction of the interest rate. I like to look around for the best deal and then ask my primary bank if they can match it, just to keep my life as simple as possible.

Credit Cards

One of the easiest ways to make payments these days is by credit card and you will want at least one that is exclusively used for business purposes. There is no “best” credit card for small business and usually your bank will be able to provide you one. Keep in mind that you want one that is easy to set up and maintain electronically, that is widely accepted (especially if you travel for business), and has a high enough limit for what you need. Remember that building up credit for your business is just like building up credit personally, the better your history the higher your limit will be.

In Conclusion

Starting up a small business can be intimidating and the days when you could have a banker hold your hand and guide you through the process are long gone. The flip side of that is the incredible amount of information available to you at your fingertips. Another advantage is that you are no longer geographically limited, a world of banks is waiting to serve you! Just remember to keep in mind the services that you need, those that you don’t need, and those that you need but could be found at another bank for a better price. Happy banking!

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Best Business Bank Account

Most people that have a business need a business bank account. You may be wondering with all the choices between banks which account is best for you. Some offer services that you need while other services are only “nice to have”, you may be looking for a free business checking account or a full service operating line of credit.

Regardless of what type of account you are looking for we know fore sure that banks love small businesses. Just look at the kinds of offers they have

Free for the first year
0 rate APR on credit transfers
Free checking account
The reason many of these offers are only introductory offers is because banks are aware that if a small business owner begins working with 1 bank then they are unlikely to switch when they begin to grow. Even IBM had to open a business bank account when it was very small!

what bank account will be best for you, consider…

Are you always carrying a positive balance. If you are always going to be carrying a positive balance than look for banks where you will be able to get a high interest rate on your deposit
Are you often requiring a line of credit to make payroll? If this is the case look into accounts which have the lowest interest rate and no overdraft penalty.
If you make a lot of cash withdrawals be sure to drive around your area and identify where the bank machines are for that bank.
Online banking is becoming a default free option on most business banks but make sure that the bank you are going with offers a free online banking option as this is the best way to keep your costs down.
Business advice – Some banks pride themselves on being partners in your business and will offer free business consultation. Depending on you and your business this may be useful. However, if you run a high tech niche business don’t expect your banker to be able to help forecast cash flow demand through product development. Don’t forget they work for the bank!
Most likely you will want a credit card for your business and it makes sense to attach it to your business bank account. Make sure to understand the terms of the credit card and take that into consideration when selecting a bank. Some banks will give credit cards terrible terms and conditions because they know the entrepreneur will be putting more emphasis on the bank account compared to the credit card.

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Choosing the Best Business Banking Partner

Establishing a business banking account is one of the first things company owners need to do. These accounts are vital for obtaining accurate accounting data and keeping track of allowed tax deductions.

When business owners mix business banking along with individual accounts they will likely end up undergoing an IRS audit. The time spent clarifying expenses and providing adequate documentation can be grueling and may lead to late fees and penalties, so it’s best to start things off on the right foot.

There are quite a few ways to setup a business bank account. Owners can apply online or visit banks in-person. They can select a basic checking account or apply for accounts that include merchant services, direct deposit payroll, or an open line of credit.

Many banks offer accounts that can be connected to accounting software programs such as Peachtree or QuickBooks. Interconnecting accounting software with business accounts help managers conserve time while providing adequate documentation for tax records. Additionally, this method lets business owners access their account from various locations such as work, home, and even while traveling.

Fees associated with corporate checking accounts are usually quite a bit more expensive than personal bank accounts. The majority of banks charge companies a monthly service fee. Some charge fees for every transaction, while others charge if transactions exceed a set number. Fees are also assessed for overdrafts and electronic transfers.

Although it’s never a good idea to bounce a check, companies can avoid expensive fees by setting up overdraft protection. This involves connecting business checking accounts to a savings account or credit card. If overdraft occurs, banks automatically transfer a preset amount of money into the checking account.

It can be very helpful to comparison shop banks to find ones that offer the most benefits and assess the lowest fees. A trusted source for comparing banks is BankRate.com, which offers information about national and local banks.

Small business owners may find it advantageous to open accounts with local banks or credit unions. Local banks tend to be more flexible and willing to work with owners that don’t have pristine credit. This can be very helpful to owners that require working capital or want to apply for business credit cards.

On the other hand, national banks usually offer a broader range of services than local banks. National banks engage in lending practices for small business to Fortune 500 companies, along with providing a variety of credit card options. Additionally, national banks offer integrated accounting services such as invoicing systems and direct deposit payroll.

The best approach for locating the right bank is to create a list of anticipated financial needs for the short and long term. While it can be challenging to determine what services will be required in the next 5 years, most owners can figure out if they will need business loans or credit cards. Spending time assessing overall needs can help owners avoid having to switch banks at a later time.

When comparing banks it’s important to read the fine print and calculate the true costs of conducting business. Make certain to fully understand the fee structure and checking account requirements.

Some banks charge service fees if balances fall below a certain limit. Others set limits on the number of transactions that can be conducted each month and charge hefty fees if limits are exceeded. Over the course of a year, banking fees can cost owners hundreds of dollars.

Researching available options lets owners find cost-effective business banking and can help determine which bank would be the best partnership. One consideration is that local banks frequently participate in community events where local companies are promoted. Acquiring bank endorsement can be very beneficial, so when talking to banks be certain to inquire about the types of promotional activities they participate in.

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How to Get the Best Small Business Bank Account for Your Company

There are several factors to consider before choosing a business bank account. Company size, location, and business plan are all important elements that affect the type of business account an owner should choose; these factors should be taken under serious advisement while making such an important business decision. There are several things that a business account should entail and the best business bank accounts encompass all of the following attributes.

Define and Explore Your Needs

Before choosing a financial institution, consider the reasons you need a business bank account in the first place. If you are interested in specialized services, research banks in your region that offers these services. Be prepared to perform online and in-person investigations; often times, online information only covers surface information and cannot answer pertinent questions you may have. Never assume something that isn’t clearly stated; don’t be afraid to ask for concrete answers to your business banking questions. Credible financial institutions won’t have any problems calming your nerves and satisfying your financial inquiries.

If you hadn’t considered this before, search for a bank with a financial adviser. Many financial institutions offer these services as an added perk; benefits can include aide and guidance in future investments and professional help to manage cash flow.

Compare Features to Find the Best Small Business Bank Account

Once you have firmly established what you are searching for in a bank, comparing and contrasting the financial institutions in your area is a relatively simple task. Don’t forget that once you’ve narrowed down your options, you can always call to request more specific information or to schedule a meeting to review information and address particular concerns you may still have.

Keep in mind the importance of availability and account services. A bank that offers great incentives but lacks a local branch doesn’t do much good if you prefer a face-to-face interaction. On the other hand, nationwide banks that offer online banking but lack your required account services will likewise do you no good. Determine the type of banking system you will prefer and find one that suits your small business account needs.

As you draw closer to choosing a financial institution, remember to focus on fees and service charges. In most banks, fees for business accounts are significantly higher than those for private accounts, even going so far as to charge businesses for online banking services but not charging individuals. Beware that universal truths pertaining to personal bank accounts do not hold true in the business account realm.

Bank Size Does Matter

At some point in the life of a small business, it is highly probable that the company will need to borrow money. Since the decline in the market, many banks are making it more and more difficult to get credit. Surprisingly, many small business owners have turned to community and small banks to get the loans they require. Small banks are more likely than world institutions to issue loans to indigenous businesses because it strengthens the local economy and supports the community. These minor institutions tend to meet a small business’s financial needs on a more personal field and provide a level of support that “outside” banks cannot.

Once you have evaluated each of these steps and determined what services and values best fit your financial needs, it is as simple as a visit or the click of a mouse to get the best small business bank account for your company.

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