You’ve worked as an independent contractor and always used your personal banking accounts. The truth is, you haven’t had much need for banking other than cashing client checks, but now you’re growing. You’re ready to expand, hire employees, grow your business… and you need help.

To begin with, business banking is a different animal than personal banking. It’s not as simple as finding the most convenient branch and attractive fees. Business banking is regulated, as all banking is, but banks may vary widely on services offered and fees. Choosing the right bank for your small business could mean the difference between thriving or failing, yet many small business owners spend more time and research buying office furniture than vetting a bank.

What are Your Business Needs?

Begin your research by checklisting your businesses banking needs. Will you bank online or do you prefer face-to-face? How frequently will you make deposits? A five dollar difference in deposit fee can add up quickly. Do you need a corporate line of credit? If so what are the interest rates and limits? The following is a basic banking needs checklist.

Banking Needs

• What are the checking fees?

• How are deposits charged?

• What fees are attached to business savings accounts?

• What are credit card terms and limits?

• Do they offer online banking?

Credit Needs

• How is a line of credit determined and what are the banks guidelines for extending or reducing it?

• Does the bank offer assistance with SBA backed loans?

• Who has loan approval authority, is it local or corporate?

• What terms are available for loans?

• What are the interest rates and fees on loans?

• Do they offer equipment leasing programs?

Other Services to Consider

Does the bank offer payroll services, retirement accounts, and employee banking discounts? Are Insurances and discounts for outside industry services such as travel offered? Where else may you need assistance? If you’re not sure—reach out to other small businesses for recommendations and referrals.

The Next Step—Visit Banks

Armed with your checklist, visit banks and get a feel for their personnel and culture. How a bank fits your small business culture and your personal preferences may be as important as services offered. Ask yourself if your banking representative is someone you would feel comfortable confiding with about finances.

Choosing a bank shouldn’t be an afterthought. It should be a process of determining your banking needs, checking your needs against services offered and fees, and finding a banking team that fits your businesses personality. How did you choose your business bank?

If you’d like to read further I’d recommend these two posts:

Small Business Administration – Selecting the Right Bank for your Small Business

Wall Street Journal How to Shop for a Bank

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