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How to find the best business bank accounts for startups

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While the number of business banking options has ballooned over the years, not all of them are startup-friendly. Some large banks still have rigid eligibility standards and fee structures that don’t work for startups. Other financial institutions are behind the times on mobile banking and software integrations.

To help you find the right match, we created a checklist of what the best business bank accounts for startups offer. Note that this article focuses on checking accounts. If you need other recommendations, read our guides to business savings accounts and cash management accounts.

Bank for the stage you’re in

Whether you’re bootstrapping or have venture-capital funding locked in, a business bank account is a must-have tool. Most business entities are legally required to separate their business and personal finances. But each growth stage will give rise to unique banking needs.

A rule of thumb for pre-funding startups is to stick to the basics. That includes low or no fees, free transactions, and online banking services. A bank with a large volume of services and cutting-edge features may be attractive, but it’s likely not necessary at this stage. This changes when a startup begins distributing equity and accepting large capital investments.

It’s easy for a new business to end up with an account that’s more than they need and incurs expensive fees. You can speed up your bank account search with the list below. 

9 features and services that startup owners look for in a bank account

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When comparing bank accounts, startup owners tend to look for the following features and services:

Fast account setup

Speed and simplicity are top priorities for fast-moving startups, but some banks have different ideas. It’s a good idea to ask up front if in-person visits are required to submit documentation, as this could be mandatory for future account openings or for any major account changes. 

The best banks allow you to upload application documents online at any time. And some online-only financial institutions can review, approve, and open your startup account in a few hours. 

Deposit requirements are another barrier for some cash-strapped entrepreneurs. Generally, accounts with fewer fees require larger amounts to open. Look for banks that tend to ask for less than $100 to open an account. 

No monthly fees

Fees are the scourge of entrepreneurs. These incidental or ongoing service charges can take the form of monthly service fees and transaction fees like cash deposit fees, ACH fees, and ATM fees. 

The best bank accounts for startups either won’t have service fees or will waive them if you meet their minimum requirements. For instance, if you keep at least $500 in your account, the bank may dismiss its monthly maintenance fee. Some small business checking accounts include free ATM usage to offset fees. 

If a fee-free experience is a high priority, explore these four types of free business checking accounts.

Realistic minimum balance requirement

With many business accounts, the main "startup" feature is the lack of a minimum daily balance requirement. This is the average amount you need to keep in your account throughout each statement cycle.

Accounts with traditional banks usually mandate a monthly balance between $500 and $5,000. They may offer benefits for meeting this requirement, like waiving account fees or unlocking premium features. That said, many startup owners prefer the freedom of moving their money around as needed. 

Free transactions

Startups, especially those with a high volume of deposits, withdrawals, and transfers, prefer accounts with free, unlimited monthly transactions. Basic startup accounts may offer a minimum of 100 to 200 free transactions. After that, a small fee kicks in, typically between 25 cents and 50 cents per transaction. 

Some accounts go as high as 1,500 transactions each month or allow unlimited electronic deposits. It’s a good idea to assess your current banking activity and cash flow before you decide on an account. 

Online portal and mobile app

Consumers and business owners alike understand the value of fast, clean, and secure virtual banking. Online banking enables busy founders to manage their business finances without making unnecessary stops at a physical branch. 

An intuitive mobile app is also essential for remote startup workforces. It should be easy for these companies to complete operations like issuing virtual cards and managing account holder permissions. The best startup bank accounts also include integrated bill pay and mobile check deposit. Digital wallets are increasingly available too. As a result, account holders can get more done with one tool.

Business credit card or debit card

Business debit cards are standard with checking accounts. But opening a bank account can also give you access to some of the best credit cards for startups. 

Look for rewards available in the top startup spending categories, like rideshare and recurring software. Cashback options and dynamic spending limits grow your funds as you spend and scale. You can also protect your personal assets with a credit card that has no founder liability, like the Brex corporate card. 

Will you have employees spending on behalf of your business? If so, see if your bank offers virtual cards. That way, you can easily control spending limits from your online account wherever your employees are. Don’t forget to create a clear corporate credit card policy.

Flexible lines of credit

The best banks for startups are familiar with the capital structure these businesses rely on. As a result, they can structure credit lines in a way that works with a startup’s mixed revenue and funding agreements. Business lines of credit function similarly to those of credit cards but have lower interest rates and a shorter lifetime. 

Furthermore, these banks are more likely to offer favorable interest rates. When loan approval rates vary widely, small business owners and startups depend on this financial relationship. 

Clean and simple app integrations

With regards to banking, app integrations take some of the work off of startup founders’ hands. Accounts for startups now include plenty of handy integrations. This means you can connect your payment processing, payroll, accounting software, and more to your bank account.

As we mentioned, some bank accounts already incorporate commonly used financial features. Look for options regarding online invoicing, vendor pay, and bill pay. These are must-haves for founders who want to pay these accounts without using debit or credit cards.

Rather than connect your expense management tool, you can choose a card with a built-in expense tracker. For example, the Brex mobile app captures receipts and matches them to transactions. This task automation helps startups save time and avoid tax mistakes and data errors. 

Additional banking services

Some financial institutions make it easy for startups to handle their sales and finances in-house. Large banks and credit unions may also offer merchant services, small business loans, and more. 

These services may not come standard with an account. But as a customer, you may be eligible for better rates and perks. For instance, it’s common for banks to offer a free personal account when they open a business bank account.

The most startup-friendly option

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The best business bank account for startups may not be a bank account. If sorting through all your options feels like looking for a needle in a haystack, there’s another option. Cash management accounts (CMAs) offer advantages for startups that the average business checking account can’t match. 

CMAs aren’t bank accounts — they’re a new standard of business account. CMAs combine the best aspects of checking, savings, and investment accounts. Brex Cash is a CMA that empowers you to run your entire business from one account. 

There are no account fees, transaction fees, or minimum account balance requirements. We offer unlimited free wire transfers along with a variety of convenient integrations. And your funds earn an industry-leading annual percentage yield (APY) just by sitting in your account. That’s something startup owners can get behind.

Brex Cash is offered by Brex Treasury LLC, a registered broker-dealer and member FINRA and SIPC. Brex Cash is a program that allows you to elect to automatically place your cash balances into certain money market mutual funds. Brex Treasury LLC is not a bank, your Brex Cash account is not a bank account, and it may not offer all of the services and protections that banks may offer. The cash you deposit into your Brex Cash account will not be stored at a bank. 

You could lose money by investing in a money market mutual fund. Although the fund seeks to preserve the value of your investment at $1 per share, it cannot guarantee it will do so. An investment in the fund is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or any other government agency. The fund's sponsor has no legal obligation to provide financial support to the fund and you should not expect that the sponsor will provide financial support to the fund at any time. 

Brex Treasury LLC is not an investment adviser, and therefore investors should consider the investment objectives, risks, and charges and expenses carefully before investing. See program disclosures and the applicable fund prospectus for details and other information. Contact us for a copy of the fund prospectus and recent performance data. You should read the prospectus carefully before investing.

Brex Treasury LLC does not charge transaction or account fees. However, money market funds bear expenses and fees. Fees are subject to change. Yield is variable and may fluctuate as market conditions change.

Brex Treasury is a member of SIPC, which protects securities customers of its members up to $500,000 (including $250,000 for claims for cash). Explanatory brochure available upon request or at www.sipc.org. Securities in your account are protected up to $500,000. For details, please see www.sipc.org

This is not an offer, solicitation of an offer, or advice to buy or sell securities, or to open a brokerage account in any jurisdiction where Brex Treasury LLC is not registered.

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©2020 Brex Inc. “Brex” and the Brex logo are registered trademarks.The Brex Mastercard® Corporate Credit Card is issued by Emigrant Bank, Member FDIC. Terms and conditions apply. See the Brex Platform Agreement for details.Brex Inc. provides a corporate card. Brex Treasury LLC is an affiliated SEC-registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA and SIPC that provides Brex Cash, a program that allows customers to sweep uninvested cash balances into certain money market mutual funds. Investing in securities products involves risk, including possible loss of principal. Neither Brex Inc. nor any of its affiliates is a bank. Please see brex.com/cash for important legal disclosures.