Freelancer and Self-Employed Bank Accounts: 5 Top Options
- Azlo Business Checking: Best for no-fee, online-based banking
- NBKC Business Account: Best online-based account that accommodates cash deposits and links with a free savings account
- Lili Bank Account: Best account designed specifically for freelancers
- Radius Bank Tailored Checking: Best online-based account that accrues interest
- Chase Total Business Checking: Best account for brick-and-mortar-based banking
Working for yourself can be one of the most rewarding challenges you decide to take on as a professional. You’ll rely on your self-motivation skills, multitasking ability, and prowess at selling your services to find success as a freelancer or solopreneur. This being said, as you’re getting started—whether as a freelance consultant, ecommerce business owner, event photographer, etc.—one of the most important things you’ll need to do is figure out how to manage your finances.
As a freelancer or self-employed professional, you may not always have a steady paycheck, you’ll have particular tax obligations to meet, and you’ll need to ensure that you have enough funds stored away to cover your costs—which means financial management will be all the more essential. With this in mind, the first and best action you can take to start managing your finances is opening a business bank account. Although freelancers and solopreneurs are typically considered the only types of business owners that don’t need a business bank account, finding and opening one is a step that will ultimately be better for you and your business in the long run.
So, if you’re wondering what the best bank accounts for freelancers and self-employed professionals are, we’re here to help. In this guide, we’ll review some of the top freelancer bank accounts on the market, discussing everything they can offer you as a self-employed business owner. Plus, we’ll also explain what to look for in a business bank account so that you have all the information you need to decide what’s right for you.
Do Freelancers Need a Business Bank Account?
When you’re just starting out as a freelancer or transitioning to self-employment, many professionals ask this question, or some variation of it: Do you need a business bank account if you are self-employed?
Technically, the answer is no—you don’t necessarily have to get a business bank account as a freelancer or self-employed professional. In reality, it is possible to manage your business finances through your personal checking account. This being said, however, there are a number of reasons why you should get a freelancer bank account. Erica Gellerman, a CPA and Fundera contributor, summed up these reasons succinctly—she said:
“Why separate? Ease of bookkeeping. Things get complicated quickly when running a business and you don’t want an added complication of trying to sort out your business and personal expenses. Also, you also don’t want to give the IRS any reason to question whether you have a hobby or a business.
One of their criteria for determining whether you have a business or a hobby is ‘whether you carry on the activity in a businesslike manner and maintain complete and accurate books and records.’ Keeping your business and personal expenses together in one bank account feels more like a hobby and less like you’re conducting the activity in a businesslike manner.”
When it comes down to it, not only is a business bank account essential for separating your business and personal finances, but, as Gellerman mentioned, it’s important for tax purposes and organization. Plus, a dedicated freelancer bank account can actually provide you with tools that will make managing your finances easier.
As we’ve suggested thus far, the best business bank account for you will depend on your specific business, your financial needs, your budget, and more. Along these lines, as you’re exploring different freelancer bank accounts, it’s important to remember that an account that’s right for one business owner might not necessarily be right for another. Nevertheless, there are certainly a handful of business bank accounts that, based on the features we explored above, are probably best suited for freelancers and self-employed workers.
Therefore, you might decide to start your search with the five best business bank accounts for freelancers we’ve listed below:
1. Azlo Business Checking
If you’re looking for an easily accessible, fee-free business checking account, Azlo business checking will definitely be worth considering. As one of the first online-only banks, Azlo remains a top solution for freelancers, self-employed professionals, and general business owners alike.
You can open an Azlo account quickly and easily online, with no minimum deposit required. You can manage your freelancer bank account entirely online or by using the Azlo mobile app. Azlo has no monthly fees, no international transaction fees, and allows you to withdraw cash fee-free at over 55,000 in-network ATMs. Additionally, Azlo includes unlimited transactions, free ACH transfers, free incoming wire deposits, free bill pay, and unlimited in-app invoicing.
With an Azlo business checking account, you also have access to mobile check deposit and payment processing integrations with Stripe, Square, and more. All of this being said, however, Azlo is lacking in two notable features. First, Azlo cannot accommodate cash deposits—so if you’re paid frequently in cash, you’ll want to consider one of the other options on our list. Next, Azlo can receive incoming wires, but they can’t send wires (you can, however, send free bank-to-bank payments anywhere in the U.S.).
2. NBKC Business Account
On the other hand, if you’d prefer a bank account for self-employed professionals that can accommodate both cash deposits and outgoing wires, you might look into the NBKC business account. Like Azlo, the NBKC business account is online-based and can be opened quickly and easily, without the need to visit a bank branch. Additionally, NBKC has almost no fees and includes an NBKC debit card, unlimited transactions, business online and mobile banking, bill pay, check deposit, incoming domestic wires, and more—all for free.
Moreover, NBKC has no opening deposit, no minimum balance requirement, and no monthly service fees. The only two instances where you’ll incur fees with NBKC are for sending domestic wires ($5) and sending or receiving international wires ($45). Plus, with your NBKC business checking account, you have access to over 32,000 MoneyPass ATMs around the U.S. As long as the MoneyPass ATM accepts cash deposits, NBKC places no limits on the amount of cash you can deposit on a monthly basis.
In addition to being able to withdraw cash from any of these ATMs for free, NBKC also offers $12 per month in refunds for any out-of-network ATM fees. Finally, if you decide you would also like to open a savings account, you can open an NBKC Business Money Market Savings account for free. This account has no minimum opening deposit, no monthly fees, and accrues interest as long as you have $0.01 in the account.
3. Lili Bank Account
For a bank account designed exclusively for freelancers, you might consider the Lili bank account. A relatively new player in the digital banking space, Lili currently offers a wholly mobile experience for freelancers to manage their finances. With the Lili bank account, there are no account fees, no minimum opening deposit required, no minimum balance requirements, no ACH transfer fees, and no withdrawal fees from ATMs across the U.S. (although the owner of the ATM may charge fees).
In addition, the Lili bank account includes a free business debit card with Lili Visa SavingsEdge rewards, expense categorization tools, and tax planning capabilities.
Unlike the other accounts on our list, Lili can accommodate freelancers who haven’t completely separated their personal and business finances and is, therefore, a worthwhile option for self-employed professionals who are just starting out. Along these lines, it’s also important to note that Lili requires that you sign up with a social security number and not an EIN. This being said then, if your operations grow, you may find that you need to switch to an account that extends past what Lili can offer.
4. Radius Tailored Business Checking
Radius is one of the best bank accounts for freelancers and self-employed professionals who want an online-based account that allows you to manage your day-to-day finances while also earning interest. Additionally, Radius business checking is a particularly worthwhile option for business owners who invoice their clients, as you can send and receive digital invoices within their online banking platform.
Like the other online-based business bank accounts we’ve discussed, Radius allows you to open their Tailored Checking account quickly and easily online, offering unlimited, fee-free transactions. It does, however, require a $100 minimum opening deposit, as well as a minimum balance of $5,000 in order to waive the $10 monthly service fee.
This being said, the Radius Tailored Checking account includes the ability to pay bills, transfer funds, and send wires, make mobile check deposits, accept cards, ACH, and lockbox payments, as well as utilize 24/7 mobile and online banking. The Radius account also includes a free business debit card, free ATM access at any ATM in the MoneyPass network, as well as unlimited ATM rebates when you’re charged for using an ATM out-of-network.
Moreover, unlike other business checking accounts, the Radius Tailored Checking account allows you to earn 0.10% APY on your funds, as long as you maintain a balance of $5,000 or more. Plus, if you can maintain an account balance of $10,000 or more, you’ll be able to earn an unlimited 1.00% cash back on all purchases made with your Radius business debit card.
Therefore, if you’re looking for a bank account that gives you the ability to manage all of your banking and accounting processes digitally, as well as earn interest (and possibly cash back) on your account, Radius might be the best self-employed bank account option for you.
5. Chase Total Business Checking
Finally, the last option on our list of the best freelance bank accounts—Chase Total Business Checking—is a worthwhile solution for self-employed professionals who want branch access and personal support with their business checking account.
Although the Chase Total account cannot be wholly opened online and doesn’t include the same level of flexibility of the online-based accounts we’ve discussed, it’s well-suited for freelancers who don’t make a large number of monthly transactions and who would prefer to work with a traditional brick-and-mortar bank. With Chase Total Checking, there is no minimum opening deposit requirement—however, there is a monthly fee, $15, ($12 if you opt for e-statements) unless you maintain a $1,500 minimum daily balance in your account.
Additionally, the Chase Total account includes unlimited free electronic deposits, 100 free monthly transactions, $5,000 in free monthly cash deposits, and free access to any ATM within the Chase network. With this freelancer bank account, you can send and receive domestic and international wires; however, you’ll always incur a wiring fee.
This being said, on top of the branch access you receive with this Chase business checking account, you’ll also have access to 24/7 digital and mobile banking. Plus, in comparison to most online-only banks, Chase almost always offers a business checking account promotion for new account holders.
What to Look for in a Freelancer Bank Account
To a certain extent, comparing the best bank accounts for self-employed professionals will be no different than doing so for any other business owner. If you’re a digital marketing consultant, you may only need a basic bank account that offers unlimited transfers, whereas a one-person tailoring shop may need a bank account with the ability to make several cash deposits throughout any given month.
Ultimately, you’ll want to find the bank account that meets your needs in terms of features, fees, and any other factors that are particularly important to your operations—in this way, the right freelancer bank account for the marketing consultant may not be the same as the one for the tailor shop owner.
This being said, there are also particular bank account features that may be more important to freelancers and self-employed workers than they would be to other business owners, like fees or accessibility, for example. With this in mind, let’s explore some of the business checking account components that you’ll want to consider when trying to find the right account for you.
Bank Account Fees vs. Perks
Although fees will always be a top consideration when choosing a business bank account, this is a factor that will likely be even more influential for freelancers and self-employed professionals. After all, you may not always have a steady, stable income, which means you probably don’t want to have to invest money every month to pay for your bank account. Luckily, many business checking accounts from online banks are totally fee-free and provide significant flexibility.
Of course, these types of freelancer bank accounts will have their drawbacks—namely that they won’t offer branch access. With brick-and-mortar banks, however, you’re more likely to find business bank accounts that require a monthly service fee—although many also give you ways to waive that fee.
Along these lines, Gellerman cautioned: “For anyone looking at banks, pay attention to the fees. I looked at one bank and they wanted to charge you a fee every time you deposited a check.”
Ultimately, many free business checking accounts will offer enough features for self-employed solopreneurs to conduct their business banking without paying for items they don’t need. If you plan on growing your business quickly, however, or are looking for greater perks and features, you’ll likely find that you’ll need to pay to access these kinds of benefits.
Ease of Use and Accessibility
Due to the on-the-go nature of many self-employed professionals, it’s more than likely that you’ll want a business bank account that is both user-friendly and easy to access. Once again, online-based banks, in particular, will offer the best features in these areas as their accounts can be opened quickly and easily online and usually include a robust mobile app along with traditional online access.
However, while some online banks will provide online or phone-based customer support, if you’re looking for personal support at a local branch, you’ll want to turn to freelancer bank accounts from traditional brick-and-mortar banks.
Moreover, online or brick-and-mortar banks aside, not all banks offer the same features, products, and levels of service. Therefore, you’ll want to look for a bank account and small business bank that can provide the usability, accessibility, and overall support you need.
Making Deposits and Transfers
Every business owner has different needs when depositing and transferring money—and most bank accounts offer different options for how many free transactions their clients can make every month. Even more importantly, some of the best bank accounts for self-employed workers don’t offer cash deposits, which (depending on your business) might not be an issue, but could very well be a dealbreaker for other solopreneurs.
Therefore, when choosing a business bank account as a freelancer, you’ll want to consider how most of your clients pay you. If you find that you’re getting more cash payments than checks or bank transfers, you’re going to want to look for business checking accounts that don’t set a low cap on the number of cash deposits you can make every month. Alternatively, if you’re getting paid primarily through ACH transfers or other online payments, you should make sure that you find an account that won’t charge you significant fees to receive those payments.
You’ll also want to think about how, when, and where you’re going to access your money when determining which freelancer bank account is right for you. If you tend to get paid in cash, you’re likely going to want to choose a business checking account that will let you deposit physical money at an ATM or local branch. If you get paid via checks or wire transfers, you may be less concerned with having ATM access near you.
Generally, the best bank accounts for self-employed professionals will all include ATM access, although online-only banks tend to rely on a third-party network of cash machines. In this vein, you’ll not only want to evaluate your access to ATMs, but also the fees that are associated with withdrawing cash. Brick-and-mortar banks typically won’t charge fees as long as you use one of their ATMs. With online-only banks, on the other hand, the free ATMs you can use (or get reimbursed for) will largely depend on the specific bank and terms of your account.
Therefore, it’s important to consider how often you’ll need to deposit money into your business bank account, as well as the drawbacks and benefits of banks that do not have their own dedicated ATMs.
In the digital age, most banks include online and mobile banking with all of their business accounts. However, depending on the bank and specific account you choose, you might be able to access other useful tools such as accounting software integration, invoicing services, and financial reporting. Although these features may not be as significant to your decisions as some of the others we’ve discussed, it’s worth considering what any bank offers and what tools will be most useful to your business.
Particularly, freelancers and self-employed professionals looking for a business bank account may focus on accounts that provide tax and expense management tools that can help them stay organized.
Moreover, you might also look into other services the bank provides—business savings accounts, merchant services, credit cards, and more. Some business owners prefer to bundle all of their tools with one bank or provider—and some financial institutions even offer incentives for you to purchase multiple services from them. This being said, however, not all banks will offer auxiliary products—many online-only banks work exclusively with bank accounts and don’t offer additional services.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, any of the best bank accounts for freelancers and self-employed professionals on our list might be the right fit for you. As we’ve discussed, however, it’s up to you to decide what’s best for your business—based on qualifications like fees, usability, ATM access, deposit allowances, tools, and more.
Nevertheless, based on the nature of the work of many freelancers and newly self-employed workers, it seems you’ll want to start your search with online-based business bank accounts. After all, the flexibility, accessibility, online tools, and lack of fees associated with these accounts make them ideal for business owners who have a limited budget, as well as for those who are always on the go.
On the other hand, if branch access and the experience of a traditional brick-and-mortar bank are particularly important to you, there are still a number of options to consider—from the Chase Total account to Bank of America business checking accounts and beyond.
Ultimately, whichever specific account you decide is right for you, by opening a business bank account, you’ve taken one of the crucial first steps to efficiently managing your finances and finding success in your self-employed endeavor.