Going Solo? These are the 4 Best Banks for Freelancers
Making money as a freelancer is hard enough — but then you have to figure out how to manage it.
With a slew of bank account options out there, it can be difficult to figure out the best place to stash that hard-earned cash, especially if your financial lifestyle is a little less regular than most 9-to-5 workers’.
So we put together this post to compare some of the best bank accounts for freelancers specifically. That way, you can make an informed decision with minimal fine-print reading. (Save the effort for that hustle!)
What Makes a Bank Account Ideal for Freelancers?
Although I certainly can’t speak for all solopreneurs, I’ve earned my living as a full-time freelance writer for the past two years. As such, my ideal banking scenario has been informed by the experiences I’ve had along the way. Before we dive into the comparison, let’s talk about what we’ll compare.
- Fees: Nobody wants to pay money just to keep their money, especially when you have a variable income.
- Customer Service: Knowing you’ve got a reliable team on your side when you have questions or concerns is vital.
- Accessibility: Since freelancers are — at least if my life is any indication — always on the go, I’ll seek out accounts that are tech optimized, with intuitive online banking options and workable mobile apps.
- Business Account Offerings: On a more freelancer-specific note, we’ll look at business account offerings for each bank, which can be helpful if you decide to incorporate your business or start an LLC.
Help with budgeting and money management will also earn bonus points since everything’s a bit more complicated when you aren’t relying on a regular paycheck.
Now let’s dive in.
1. Axos Bank (Formerly Bank of Internet USA)
Although they’re relatively common today, online-only financial firms were practically unheard of back in 2000, when Axos — formerly Bank of Internet USA — got its start. That makes this bank a great choice for freelancers looking for both tech savviness and security and who want to put their money to work for them.
Axos offers relatively high-yield accounts on both the personal and business sides. Their personal savings account offers up to 1.3% APY, and their business interest checking account earns 0.8% APY. (Compare that to Bank of America’s suite of savings accounts, which start at a measly 0.03% APY and only go up to 0.06% APY for its wealthiest customers.)
Axos also manages fee-free IRAs with low minimum-deposit and account-balance requirements. Both traditional and Roth options are available.
But if you’re married to doing in-person banking, Axos might not be right for you. Although they offer ATM fee reimbursement at specified locations, you won’t be walking into a branch and speaking face to face with a teller.
- Fees: Several fee-free accounts are available, and most carry low or no minimum balance requirements.
- Customer service: Phone lines are open for personal-account-related questions 24/7, with the exceptions of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Business customers can reach a rep between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. PST Monday through Friday.
- Accessibility: A little tricky. There are no branches, and ATM fees are only reimbursable for certain partner institutions. (Eligible ATMs vary by account type.)
- Business account options: Plenty, with high interest rates.
- Mobile-friendliness: Everything’s done online. Mobile apps are available for both iPhone and Android.
A new(er)-fangled online-only bank account, Simple’s mission is to make your money matters more… well, simple. It offers totally fee-free banking, even replacing lost debit cards free of cost. And the checking account earns a patently insane 2.02% APY, which is more than 30 times higher than the national average.
But where Simple really shines is in its host of budgeting tools. You can set savings goals, track (and automatically save for) expenses and know exactly how much is “safe to spend,” all from within the account’s mobile app. All of this is extra juicy when you’ve got to weather the infamous ups and downs of freelancing.
However, like Axos, Simple doesn’t have branches, so in-person banking is out. And if you’re incorporated, sorry: There are no Simple business bank accounts to speak of.
- Fees: Pretty much as low as you can go. As Simple itself states, “You shouldn’t pay to use your own money.”
- Customer service: Along with a wide variety of support articles, the customer service phone number is listed prominently on the website.
- Accessibility: 40,000 ATMs. You can find one near you by clicking here.
- Business account options: None.
- Mobile-friendliness: This bank was literally built to be mobile; everything is done through its intuitive app.
If you just can’t stand the thought of stashing your cash in a bank that doesn’t have a physical location, Chase might be the best of the big national players. It regularly offers new subscribers large opening bonuses, carries low minimum deposits and offers a number of ways to waive its already-low maintenance fees.
As a major financial institution, Chase also offers a host of business accounts and tools, including merchant services that make taking credit card payments easy — even if your brand of freelancing has you out in the world and not constantly behind a computer screen, like me. It also offers a discount for those who sign up to use ADP payroll, which could be useful if you go the S-corp route (or have an employee or two).
- Fees: Personal checking starts at $12 per month and business accounts start at $15 per month, but both can be waived by meeting account minimums or taking regular direct deposits — which, we know, is not always how the freelance life do.
- Customer service: You’ve got all the options: email, phone and walking into a branch.
- Accessibility: If you want physical banking, you’ve got it; Chase has more than 5,100 branches nationwide.
- Business account options: Lots of different options are available, though eligibility depends on where you live. (When I entered my Santa Fe ZIP code, I was told these products weren’t carried in my location.)
- Mobile-friendliness: Online banking and a mobile app dovetail real-world and on-the-go banking.
All right, you caught us; this one isn’t really a bank account per se. But PayPal’s business account upgrade does have a lot of useful features for freelancers, including built-in invoicing and an easy-to-use app with mobile check processing — for those two or three clients we all have who still insist on mailing a paper check, even in 2019.
There’s no monthly fee, though you may pay fees for certain types of transfers. (It’s free to transfer funds to your personal bank account as long as it’s not a rush, however.) There’s also a cost to the business owner when invoices are paid; PayPal’s invoice fee is 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction.
And I can tell you from experience that their customer service team is ace. When I accidentally transferred more than $200 to an account that didn’t exist anymore (?), my panic attack was instantly calmed by a short, navigable phone tree and an uber-friendly service rep. And yes, I’ll admit the accent was part of the experience. (They apparently have a call center in Dublin.)
- Fees: Minor and mostly possible to get around, except in the case of invoicing.
- Customer service: Excellent and readily available, both online and via phone.
- Accessibility: While there’s no such thing as a PayPal branch, it’s easy to move PayPal funds to your personal (physical) bank account of choice.
- Business account options: PayPal offers a free upgrade from personal to business accounts and offers a host of tools to make your professional life easier.
- Mobile-friendliness: Intuitive and user-friendly, both in an online browser and via the mobile app.
Psst — If any of you hardworking freelancers out there have your own favorite bank account, let us know. We’d love to learn about the options we’ve overlooked.
Jamie Cattanach’s work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, Self, The Huffington Post, The Motley Fool, Roads & Kingdoms and other outlets. Learn more at www.jamiecattanach.com.