No matter your business’s size, age, or legal structure, it’s critical that you open a business checking account. Your business bank account is the financial foundation of your small business: It keeps your business’s working capital secure yet accessible so that you can add to or dip into those funds whenever you want or need. And, as the country’s sixth-largest bank, it’s pretty likely that you might look into a PNC business checking account.
Operating across 19 states throughout the East Coast and Midwest, the Delaware-based bank has 2,600 branches and 9,000 ATMs. Plus, PNC provides a range of small business services, like small business loans, business credit cards, merchant services, and even industry-specific financing solutions.
Right now, though, you probably care most about PNC’s small business checking products. And you’re in luck! PNC offers a range of business checking accounts, including specialized checking services like interest-bearing accounts and accounts for nonprofit organizations.
But for today’s purposes, the best place to start in our PNC small business checking account investigation is with their standard suite of business checking accounts. These three account tiers increase in cash-management volume, transaction activity, and special features.
Whether you’re a brand-new freelancer, hundred-plus employee S-corp, or somewhere in between, many small businesses are likely to find a PNC business checking solution to suit your size and needs. We’ll go over PNC’s three checking account tiers in greater detail, and give you some more business checking account options—since more is almost always better (especially when it comes to small business financing).
Ask Yourself These 4 Questions When Choosing a Business Checking Account
Before you open a PNC business checking account—or a checking account at any bank, for that matter—you need to carefully consider your small business’s size, requirements, and preferences. Then, be sure to find the checking account that’ll serve your business’s finances, not hurt them. Because if you sign up for the wrong type of checking account, at the wrong type of financial institution, you might end up paying extra fees, not getting the advantages you need, or not fostering the relationship with your bank that you may need for a loan down the line.
So, as you set out on your quest for the right business checking account, start by considering these four questions.
1. Are you separating your personal and business finances?
If you’re not, you’re reading the right article! It’s essential that you establish a checking account specifically for your small business, rather than just using your personal checking account for everything.
First off, it’s crucial that your business’s financial history is clearly delineated from your personal expenses so that, come tax season, you’re not spending your precious waking hours picking through your bank and business credit card statements to calculate your taxable income. Those two discrete financial plans will make tracking and managing your spending, both for your business and your personal life, about a million times easier year-round.
Besides that, maintaining separate checking accounts is absolutely necessary if your business entity is structured as an LLC, an S-corp, or a C-corp. In that case, if you commingle your business and personal finances, you might end up becoming legally responsible for your business’s debt.
Regardless of your business’s legal structure, not having a business bank account damages your loan approval odds. Without hard evidence (i.e., bank statements) of your business’s financial health, lenders are left without a crucial benchmark of your reliability as a borrower. And since lenders are seriously scrupulous about vetting potential borrowers, they’re not as likely to work with a small business without a dedicated bank account.
2. What does your average monthly balance look like, and how many transactions do you need to process in each billing cycle?
Once you’ve decided that you need to open a business checking account, the next step is to take an overall look of your monthly banking activities.
Most banks charge you a monthly fee for maintaining your checking account, but they’ll likely waive that fee if you sustain a certain monthly or daily minimum balance. Attached fees, and the minimum balances to get out of those fees, usually vary on a sliding scale according to account tier.
To avoid an additional maintenance fee, calculate (or estimate) how much cash you’ll carry in your checking account from month to month. Find the account tier that requires you to carry that amount, or less, in order to waive that fee.
Most banks also ascribe a maximum cash deposit amount allowed per month, which varies according to account tier, too. Deposit any more than the maximum amount in a billing cycle, and you’ll be hit with additional fees. Same thing goes with the maximum amount of transactions (such as deposits, withdrawals, written checks, and wire transfers) permitted before incurring fees.
So, make sure you’re signing on for the type of checking account that aligns with your business’s cash-management volume and how much you really use your bank on a monthly basis—lest you’re subject to these leaks in your cash flow.
3. Do you need a brick-and-mortar bank, or do you do a lot of banking online?
If your small business handles large amounts of cash, then you’ll need to make mostly in-person transactions—which means, of course, that you’ll need to open your checking account at a bank with a branch close to your home or office.
Then, consider the level of customer service you’d like to experience from your bank. Generally, community banks value fostering in-person relationships with their clients, and may offer fewer digital resources. But if you don’t need or want to speak with your bank face-to-face all the time, you may want to sign on with a larger bank, which’ll offer online or over-the-phone customer-service portals.
On the other hand, if your business generates most of its revenue through digital transactions, then you might only need to visit your bank’s physical branch rarely, if at all. And if that’s the case, then take a look at your bank’s online banking capabilities: How much do they charge for electronic transactions, like ACH and wire transfers? Do they have an easy-to-use online dashboard or mobile app? (And, ideally, your answers should be: nothing, standard rates, and yes, respectively.)
4. Do you anticipate needing a small business loan from your bank in the future?
Whether you’re looking at a term loan, a business line of credit, or a bank-issued SBA loan, the business loans available at your bank are among the best you’ll find. For the most eligible borrowers, these highly coveted loans carry single-digit interest rates, years-long repayment periods, and capital amounts into the hundreds of thousands—or millions—of dollars.
But every time a bank issues one of these loans, they’re taking a leap of faith that the borrower will repay those huge amounts, in full and on time.
Before they take that leap, banks want to know as much as possible about a potential borrower, and they’re only willing to work with the most financially stable businesses that show a proven track record of repaying their debts on time. And they’ll offer the best terms (i.e., the lowest interest rates and longest repayment periods) to the top of that heap.
You’ll have the best shot at securing a business bank loan from the institution with whom you have a pre-existing relationship, since they have firsthand knowledge of your ability to responsibly manage your financial obligations.
Bottom line: Banks reward loyalty. When you’re deciding which bank you want to manage your checking account, make sure it’s the institution you want to turn to for most of your small business financing products, like your business savings account, a business credit card, your retirement fund, and more.
→TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read): To make sure you’re signing up for the right business checking account at the right institution, estimate your business’s average cash volume and transaction activity, and find the account that suits your needs. Also, think about whether you’d prefer developing a relationship with a brick-and-mortar bank or if you anticipate performing most of your transactions online—and choose your bank accordingly.
How the PNC Business Checking Accounts Stack Up Against Each Other (and Other Accounts)
So, you’ve considered those four key questions—and your answer led you somewhere in the vicinity of a PNC business checking account.
Now, we’ll show you the fundamental details of all three PNC business checking account tiers, which range from just the essentials to feature-laden, high-cash-volume accounts. We’ll also compare each tier that PNC bank offers with a similar Chase checking account type, so you can get a clearer sense of what you’re signing up for with a PNC business checking account.
Type 1: Entry-Level Checking for the Smallest of Small Businesses
PNC Business Checking
First up is PNC Business Checking account, the bank’s introductory-level checking account. It’s a solid choice for the smallest of small businesses, such as sole proprietorships or freelancers, who just need the essentials for now: a low required minimum deposit to start out, relatively few monthly transactions, and the least-stringent criteria for waiving the monthly account fee.
Here’s what to expect:
- $100 minimum required balance to open your account
- 150 free transactions allowed per month, with a $0.50 additional charge for every transaction thereafter
- $5,000 monthly cash deposit allowed with no additional charge, and a $0.25 fee for each $100 in additional monthly deposits
- $12 monthly account maintenance fee, waived for the first three months after you open your account
- Monthly account maintenance fee waived if you meet at least one of the following criteria:
- Maintain a monthly balance of at least $1,500
- Deposit proceeds from your PNC merchant services card payment into your business checking account
- Make at least $1,000 monthly in purchases with a linked PNC business credit card
Also, for a limited time, you’ll get a $100 sign-up bonus with this PNC checking account. But be sure to check online or in person to make sure that the offer is still valid by the time you actually sign up for this account.
Every PNC bank account also comes with the ability to send and receive wire transfers, subject to standard rates. The bank doesn’t list its wire fees online, as is the case with most banks, so to get the most up-to-date information you’ll have to inquire with your bank directly. But, according to TransferWise, PNC wire rates look like this:
- Domestic wire transfer fees: $15 for each incoming transfer, $30 for each outgoing transfer
- International wire transfer fees: $15 for each incoming transfer, $45 for each outgoing transfer
PNC might waive these fees for upgraded accounts, but, again, the best way to find out for sure is to visit the bank in person.
Chase Business Complete Checking
Chase’s introductory business checking account option is fairly similar to the PNC Business Checking account—although, right off the bat, you’ll also see some major differences between these competitors. The Chase Business Complete Checking offers a low monthly maintenance fee that can be waived multiple ways. There is also unlimited electronic deposits and $5,000 in monthly no-fee cash deposits.
You can also send and receive wires, according to standard rates. TransferWise has Chase wire rates as such:
- Domestic: $15 per incoming wire, $40 per outgoing wire (online), $45 per outgoing wire (at a Chase branch)
- International: $15 per incoming wire, $25 per outgoing wire (online), $30 per outgoing wire (at a Chase branch)
In a side-by-side comparison, you can see that these introductory business checking accounts follow a similar model: same monthly account fee and a relatively low cap on monthly no-fee deposits, making them both among the best free business checking accounts (or as close to free as you’re likely to find). Plus, both Chase and PNC give you access to 24/7, free online or mobile banking.
Type 2: Mid-Level Small Business Checking
PNC Business Checking Plus
The next step up in PNC’s suite of small business checking accounts is their Business Checking Plus account. This is ideal for growing or midsize small businesses that need more wiggle room to carry out their monthly transactions. With this account, you’re allowed many more fee-free monthly transactions and a higher no-fee monthly cash deposit allowance. You’ll also get free access to PNC’s cash flow management tool at this level.
This PNC small business checking account also comes with:
- A limited-time $200 sign-up bonus
- $250 minimum required balance to open
- 500 free transactions allowed per month, with a $0.50 additional charge for every transaction thereafter
- $10,000 monthly cash deposit allowed with no additional charge, and a $0.25 fee for each $100 in additional monthly deposits
- $20 monthly account maintenance fee, waived for the first three months after you open your account
If you open a PNC Business Checking Plus banking account, you have a few more opportunities to offset that monthly account maintenance fee. As you would imagine, though, that requires handling more money, such as maintaining at least a $5,000 monthly balance or using additional PNC business services. But keep in mind that you only need to meet one of the bank’s criteria to bypass the monthly fee, not all of them.
Chase Performance Business Checking
Like PNC Business Checking Plus, Chase Performance Business Checking is a great option for growing or midsize small businesses. Its highlights include:
- $25 minimum first deposit
- 250 free transactions every month
- $20,000 in fee-free monthly cash deposits
- Interest option available
- $30 monthly service fee, waived if you maintain a combined average daily balance of $35,000+ in qualifying business deposit accounts
From here on out, a side-by-side comparison between PNC and Chase gets a little sticky. To waive their monthly account fee, Chase requires that you maintain a certain average balance daily, rather than monthly, like PNC does.
That required amount is much higher at Chase, too, because they consider the combined amount among all your qualifying business deposit accounts at Chase—including linked business savings accounts, business CDs, certain investment accounts, and other Chase Platinum Business Checking accounts. (And here’s where you’ll see that banks really value loyalty.)
At Chase, you’re allowed many fewer fee-free monthly transactions than you are at PNC, but you’ll have a much higher threshold for fee-free monthly cash deposits.
If you anticipate receiving many wire transfers, Chase Performance Business Checking could be the better option: At this account tier, Chase waives fees on all incoming wire transfers and affords you two free outgoing domestic wires per month.
Type 3: Small Business Checking for High-Volume Cash Businesses and Larger Operations
PNC Business Checking Preferred
The PNC Business Checking Preferred is the best option at this bank for businesses handling large amounts of cash, processing lots of monthly transactions, and that need access to several different types of bank accounts. Here are the PNC Business Checking Preferred account’s major features:
- A limited-time $200 sign-up bonus
- $250 minimum required balance to open
- 1,500 free transactions allowed per month, with a $0.25 additional charge for every charge thereafter
- $30,000 monthly cash deposit allowed with no additional charge, and a $0.25 fee for each $100 in additional monthly deposits
- $50 monthly account maintenance fee, waived for the first three months after you open your account
PNC Business Checking Preferred account holders can waive that monthly account entirely by maintaining a balance of at least $25,000 or by meeting any of those additional criteria (but by hitting higher minimums on them).
And, as you’ve probably guessed, signing on for PNC’s highest-tier business checking account gives you access to more advantages, like the opportunity to maintain several additional PNC accounts with no extra maintenance fees. That includes any accounts in the business checking, money market, loan, business credit card, and merchant service categories.
So, this account level might be appealing to business owners who want to establish a strong relationship with PNC Bank—which can boost their chances of securing a small business loan from their bank down the line.
Chase Platinum Business Checking
Like the PNC Business Checking Preferred account, Chase’s Platinum Business Checking account is the best option at this bank for small businesses managing the most amount of cash and monthly transactions. Its major features include:
- $25 minimum first deposit
- 500 fee-free transactions allowed per month
- $25,000 monthly cash deposit allowed with no additional charge
- $95 monthly maintenance fee, waived if you maintain a combined average daily balance of $100,000+ in qualifying business deposit accounts
- All incoming wires and your four most expensive outgoing wires per month are free
Even at this account tier, Chase maintains their (quite) low minimum deposit required to open a checking account. On balance, though, PNC’s Business Checking Preferred might be a better fit for the biggest small businesses managing large volumes of cash, and certainly for businesses that make more monthly transactions, since Chase allows many fewer fee-free transactions per month than PNC.
Additional Features of a PNC Checking Account
If you decide to open a small business checking account with PNC Bank, you’ll have access to a few additional services, including:
- Free online banking and bill pay
- Free mobile banking
- Free online statements
- Free use of PNC ATM machines
- The ability to transfer funds among PNC bank accounts, and among PNC and non-PNC accounts, via PNC’s mobile app or online dashboard
Plus, each account type—other than the PNC Business Checking option—gets a free PNC Visa Business Debit Card along with their account. You can earn cash back on that card, too.
The top two account tiers also get free access to PNC’s Cash Flow Insight, a collection of online tools for tracking, managing, and planning cash flow that integrates with your business accounting software. The PNC Business Checking account can buy Cash Flow Insight for $10 per month, and receivables and payables capabilities come at an extra monthly charge for all account types.
Who Is a PNC Business Checking Account Best For?
PNC offers an appealing checking account program to suit businesses of almost every size, from new freelancers to rapidly growing startups to established businesses with many employees.
But, in reality, small business owners who want to open a business checking account with the bank are limited by their geographical locations.
For starters, you can’t actually open a PNC checking account if you can’t get yourself to a PNC Bank’s physical location. You can start your PNC business checking account application online, but you’ll always need to finish up your paperwork in person.
So, before you make any decisions, check PNC Locator and see if there’s a branch near you.
Other than the location factor, PNC business checking accounts make the most sense for businesses handling many transactions per month and carrying large monthly balances. Compared to similar small business checking accounts, PNC Business Checking Preferred offers manageable fees, and generous deposit and transaction caps, for businesses functioning at the highest cash-management volumes.
PNC checking accounts are also attractive options for business owners who perform a lot of their banking remotely (after signing up in person, of course), since PNC offers comprehensive, free online and mobile banking capabilities.
Overall, though, finding the right business checking account requires a little more thought than simply signing on the dotted line with the first bank you find. Whether you go for a PNC business checking account, a Chase checking account, or something else entirely, make sure your account aligns with your business’s financial capacity now, while still allowing room for growth.
Georgia McIntyre is the director of content marketing at Fundera.
Georgia has written extensively about small business finance, specializing in business lending, credit cards, and accounting solutions.