If you’re beginning your journey as an entrepreneur, you’re keenly aware of how important it is to set up a business bank account for your enterprise. Or, if your business is already off the ground and you’re looking into switching your business bank account that better fits your needs, you’re all too aware of how important it is to pick the right banking partner. Finding the best banks in California for a small business can feel like a big undertaking, given the number of options within the state (and across the country too).
Luckily, the best banks in California for small business can be found from Crescent City to Calexico—each providing different small business banking features and perks to fit your company’s needs. Picking the right bank for your small business largely depends on your specific needs and finances. Some of the best banks in California for small business offer free business checking accounts for people with straightforward needs, while others offer a comprehensive banking experience for businesses requiring intricate money management.
Here are some of the best banks in California for small business, each providing a different kind of support for entrepreneurs.
It’s tough for business owners to suss out what exactly they need out of their small business banking partner. In fact, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that all banks are basically the same. That couldn’t be any further from the truth. Although the differences between banks might seem minuscule, each can charge different fees and provide free services that differ from one another. Even a little bit of research can go a long way in terms of helping you avoid fees and charges.
Most business banks in California, as well as the rest of the United States, provide different account tiers that require a variety of balance minimums in exchange for features. These features typically take the form of free deposits, transfers, and ACH payments. Depending on how high your balance is, you’ll either get a few free items in exchange for low balance requirements, or a plethora of perks if you keep a sizable balance in your account. This is only one of many things to consider before opening a business checking account (or business savings account, if that’s your goal). After you’ve looked into how to open a business bank account in California, here are a few other factors to bear in mind.
The best business banks in California that work for your business needs should be close to where you work or live. You will likely need to stop at a branch often, particularly if you make a ton of cash deposits. Having a branch that’s close to your office, or on a common commuting route will make more convenient for you to get to the bank. Plus, if you pick a bank with a good footprint in the places where you travel often, you’ll make it much easier to drop by an ATM even when you’re not close to your home branch.
Every business has a different relationship with money. This might sound self-evident, but there are subtle and obvious differences between companies and the ways in which they bank. Some small businesses conduct most of their transactions with checks and electronic deposits. Others might operate primarily in cash, and rarely make use of wire transfers. It’s crucial to understand exactly how your business functions, and how often you find yourself making physical or electronic deposits.
The best banks in California for small businesses will offer more than one kind of business checking account. Most financial institutions offer two or three business checking accounts that are tailored toward different kinds of companies.
On the lower end are accounts designed to help new businesses (or those with minimal banking needs) get small business funding. These accounts are usually free, or come with a small balance minimum to avoid maintenance charges. They won’t come with a ton of bells and whistles, however. This means you might have to pay if you exceed a certain amount of deposits or transfers per month.
Other accounts, however, offer a set number of free features every month, but may come with a maintenance fee if the account dips below a higher monthly balance threshold. And, at the top of the range, are feature-packed accounts. These options tend to offer things like dedicated treasury support, money market accounts (checking accounts that bear interest), and much more generosity with the number of free transactions every month.
Chances are good that you might outgrow a basic business checking account as your business expands. This may take the shape of increased transactions, more wire transfers, or the need to deposit cash more often. You won’t want to find yourself in a situation where you’re paying for these features while easily surpassing your minimum balance to have maintenance fees waived.
If so, you’ll likely be missing out on an account designed for businesses with more sophisticated needs, and are paying for transactions when you otherwise wouldn’t have to. It’s vital to pick a bank that offers more than one kind of business checking account so you can upgrade over time. If you don’t, you may find yourself needing to switch business bank accounts later on down the line, and that can feel like a monumental undertaking when your business is in high gear.
Since you now recognize the key things to look for in a business bank account, let’s get into which banks are best for California small businesses. The banks included are a mix of regional banks and national institutions, since some of the best banks for small business can be found both in and out of the state. Bear in mind that your business needs are likely to be unique, so some of these options may work for you.
If you want a regional bank that offers tons of support for you and your small business, then California Bank & Trust might be the right option for you. This bank has locations throughout California; particularly in large metropolises such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fresno, and elsewhere. They offer four different accounts for small businesses.
Their entry-level account, Business Inspire Checking, provides $3,000 in monthly cash deposits as well as 50 monthly transactions. So long as you maintain a $1,000 minimum balance every month, you can keep your account free of monthly maintenance charges. Even if you can’t hit this balance consistently, the fee is a meager $7 per month. You can open your account with only $50 as well, which is true for every tier of California Bank & Trust’s banking accounts.
The next account, Business Growth Checking, includes a monthly deposit limit of $15,000 as well as 250 free transactions. The account requires a $2,500 minimum daily balance, or a company-wide $10,000 credit balance, in order to have the $12,00 monthly maintenance fee waived. This can be a great option for businesses that need a bit more flexibility with regard to transactions and cash deposits.
The Business Connect account parallels the Business Growth account, as it provides a larger number of monthly transactions, as well as a higher limit on cash deposits. Business Connect Checking has a maximum deposit limit of $15,000 a month, and includes 400 free transactions monthly, so it’s a great choice for a larger business.
Business Interest Checking, which charges you interest on your balance, can be a particularly appealing account at California Bank & Trust. With a daily balance of $3,500, you’ll get $15,000 per month in cash deposits and 250 transactions for free. Otherwise this account comes with a $15 monthly maintenance fee.
If you’re looking for a bank that has branches across most of the country, as well as plenty of ATMs and a robust online banking environment, then Chase might be the right fit for you. They have three options for you to choose from.
If you don’t need a ton of features, or are a new business that may not have a large daily balance, then Chase Business Complete Banking might be the right option (although there’s a Chase small business account for just about every kind of company out there). The Chase Business Complete Checking account offers a low monthly fee that can be waived multiple ways—including by maintaining the minimum daily balance. It also offers unlimited electronic deposits, as well as $5,000 in monthly cash deposits at no cost.
Alternatively, you could check out the Chase Performance Business Checking account, which works well for mid-sized small businesses that need more monthly transactions and deposits before having to pay per item. You’ll get 250 monthly transactions for free with Chase Performance Business Checking, as well as $20,000 in free cash deposits. Better yet, you’ll also get two outgoing domestic wire transfers for free every month as well. So long as you maintain a balance of $35,000, you’ll avoid the account’s $30 monthly maintenance fee.
At the upper tier of Chase’s business checking options is Chase Business Platinum Checking. This account is great for established small businesses, or those that need the flexibility to carry out several transfers for free every month. This account provides for 500 free transactions monthly, $25,000 in free cash deposits, and four complementary outgoing wire transfers. You can waive this account’s $95 maintenance fee with a $100,000 monthly balance as well.
Bank of the West is an ideal choice for small businesses across California, given how many locations and ATMs they have across the state. Whether you’re in San Francisco, Los Angeles, or anywhere in between, you’re not likely to be far from a Bank of the West branch. This is a crucial consideration for small business owners who are frequently on the move, or who have different business locations across the state.
Bank of the West provides two standard-tier checking accounts for small businesses. These offerings both provide entrepreneurs with a simple business checking option, making it easy to hit a monthly minimum balance threshold to have monthly fees waived.
Bank of the West Classic Business Checking provides 100 free transactions every month, in addition to as free deposits up to $2,500. In order to waive the $10 monthly fee that comes with the Bank of the West Classic Business Checking account, you’ll need to maintain a minimum daily balance of $3,000. You can also have this fee waived if you have a combined $6,000 by way of a money market, savings or CD account that’s linked to your business account.
The next rung up the account ladder at Bank of the West is Choice Business Checking. With Choice Business Checking, you’ll get unlimited withdrawals and deposits as well as up to $10,000 in free cash deposits every month. The account comes with a $20 monthly service fee, which is fairly modest for what the account provides. You can avoid this charge, however, by maintaining a $6,000 minimum daily balance, or if you a monthly balance of $15,000 across money market, savings, and CDs.
Wells Fargo can be found all over California, which makes it an appealing option for many small businesses. This bank is comparable to Chase in terms of branches, and offers a range of accounts to help you take your company to the next level.
Wells Fargo’s Simple Business Checking is designed for small and medium-sized businesses that have minimal needs from their bank account. This option is perfect for businesses with that only need basic checking account functionality, such as mobile deposits, cash deposits, and ATM access across many states in the country. With this Wells Fargo account, you’ll get 50 free transactions per month and $3,000 in cash deposits as well. The $10 monthly service fee gets waived with a $500 average balance, too, which is one of the lowest requirements within the roundup of the best banks in California for small business.
The next rung up the ladder of Wells Fargo accounts is the bank’s Business Choice Checking. This account helps growing businesses with more free withdrawals and deposits, as well as payroll services to help take some financial tasks off of your to-do list. The Wells Fargo Business Choice Checking account provides for 200 free transactions per month, $7,500 in free cash deposits, use of Wells Fargo’s National Business Banking and Small Business Customer Service centers, and discounts on business loans and lines of credit. You can open a Business Choice Checking account with a mere $25, and avoid the monthly $14 service fee as long as you hit one of the qualifying transactions per month.
The top option at Wells Fargo is Platinum Business Checking. This account is designed with larger-scale businesses in mind as it offers 500 free transactions per month, $20,000 in free transactions monthly, interest on your balance, and waived fees on common transactions (such as bounced checks, ATM fees, and more). You can open a Platinum Business Checking account with a mere $25, and have your $40 monthly maintenance fee waived when you open two or more accounts with the bank.
California is a large state with a ton of small business banking options. Some banks are local and regional, offering tailored support that understands the needs of small business owners in the state. Others are nationwide operations and tout their bevy of locations as a tantalizing point of differentiation. But no matter which account looks best to you, the best thing you can do to decide where to take your money is research all of your options. Once you know what’s out there, you can determine which small business bank fits your needs.
Sally Lauckner is the editor-in-chief of the Fundera Ledger and the editorial director at Fundera.
Sally has over a decade of experience in print and online journalism. Previously she was the senior editor at SmartAsset—a Y Combinator-backed fintech startup that provides personal finance advice. There she edited articles and data reports on topics including taxes, mortgages, banking, credit cards, investing, insurance, and retirement planning. She has also held various editorial roles at AOL.com, Huffington Post, and Glamour magazine. Her work has also appeared in Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, and Cosmopolitan magazines.