Everyone loves to get something for free. However, when it comes to small business banking, some free features are more valuable than others because they can save time and money — two valuable commodities for business owners.
Wondering which free features your small business banking should include? Finance experts shared their take on banking must-haves for busy small business owners.
No monthly fees
The first thing to look for in a small business bank account is simple: free banking.
"Don't make the mistake of opening a business bank account that has monthly fees," said David Bakke, small business specialist at personal finance website Money Crashers.
Bakke said that many financial institutions offer free business banking packages, and that many small businesses starting out likely won't be completing enough transactions to need a paid account with extra features.
But before you sign on the dotted line, do your research to find out exactly what the "free banking" offer includes. Is each transaction free no matter what the balance in your account may be, or is there a minimum balance requirement? Are printed checks for the account, cash deposits and cashing checks also free? In addition, ask about ATM fees, debit cards and bill payments. If these are services your business needs, look for an account that includes all of these for free.
What if the features your business needs, or the account you want, isn't free? Jennifer Martin, a small business coach and owner of Zest Business Consulting, said small business owners should come right out and ask the bank to waive the fees.
"Many banks interested in luring in new business banking customers will routinely offer waiving banking fees on everything from monthly account fees to check cashing," Martin said. [6 Mistakes to Avoid When Opening a Business Bank Account]
Convenient hours of operation
All the free banking in the world won't make up for not getting the bank services you need when you need them.
"The business owner should look at the branch footprint, how long the branches are open [each day], and if they are open on six or seven days a week," said Rohit Arora, CEO of Biz2Credit, an online credit resource for small businesses.
If your bank isn't open to accept cash deposits at the end of your business day, or to certify checks for same-day business transactions, the inconvenient schedule could cost you time, money and possibly even customers.
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Today's busy small business owners save time by using online banking for bill payments, bank transfers, checking balances, and even accepting payments. In fact, what was once considered a bonus has now become mainstream, and many banks offer online banking for free.
"Online banking is a basic feature that a business owner should look for," said Jim Salmon, vice president of business services for Navy Federal Credit Union.
Local branch authority to grant loans
As experienced small business owners know, there may be times when a business needs a little extra money to keep things flowing smoothly, Martin said. Plan for unexpected credit needs by finding a bank that allows branch personnel to make credit decisions in the local branch, instead of referring to a central head office. This free feature is a valuable convenience for business owners who may need money in a hurry.
"Before you decide who to bank with, find out how much authority they have at the local branch to grant you loans or lines of credit," Martin told Business News Daily. "In an emergency, waiting three weeks for approval can make a world of difference for a small business owner."
As society becomes more dependent on smartphones, free specialty banking apps have become must-haves for both personal and small business banking.
"If you'll be doing some of your banking through your smartphone, be sure the bank has a mobile app," Bakke said.
Salmon agreed, noting that most banking apps will help you accept checks and mobile deposits. These activities are increasingly used by small businesses and can help you keep operations rolling, even on the go.
Originally published on Business News Daily.