Having a business bank account is a crucial part of running a business. Aside from adding another official element to your business, a business checking account keeps your records organized and separates your business and personal finances.
"It is just good accounting practice to keep your business [finances] separate … and setting up a business checking account is the first step to making this possible," said Kevin Ravenscroft, president and CEO of Timberwood Bank in Tomah, Wisconsin.
If you're opening your first business bank account, here's what you should bring to your account setup appointment. [Ready to open an account? Here's what you need to consider when choosing your bank.]
Personal identification and professional licenses
As with a consumer account, the first thing you need to open your business account is a form of personal identification. As dictated by the Patriot Act, Dodd Frank Act and Consumer Protection Bureau, consumer and business owner/operators must provide certain details and data to corroborate their identities and their business models, said Jim Angleton, president of financial services firm AEGIS Finserv Corp. He said to provide photocopies of driver's licenses for the account holder and signers of the accounts, as well as any professional licenses you might need for your business.
"Business owners should keep in mind that any individuals associated with the company, like authorized signers and beneficial owners who control 10 percent of more of the business, will also need to present personal identification," added Steve Connors, senior vice president, small business corporate products and services at TD Bank.
If you intend to do business under a different name other than your own legal name, or if you are incorporated under one name and want to operate under another name, you'll also need to bring the proper documentation of your Doing Business As (DBA) name.
Employment Identification Number (EIN)
The next item you'll need is a tax identification number, and, depending on how your business is set up, possibly a name registration.
"If you're a sole proprietor, all you need is an Employment Identification Number (EIN), your Social Security number, as well as a driver's license or passport," said Levi King, CEO of credit solutions and monitoring firm, Nav (formerly Creditera).
King said that while some banks allow sole proprietors to open accounts without an EIN, it's a good idea to create one because it reduces the chance of identity theft. To determine your eligibility for an EIN or for more information about registering for one, visit the IRS website.
Articles of incorporation and banking resolutions
To open your account, you'll need to bring the documentation used to form and register your business with the state and other entities, said Connors. These are often called Articles of Incorporation.
"If you form a business as an LLC, limited partnership, corporation or other separate legal entity, to open a bank account you will need the articles of incorporation that you filed with the state, if you are the sole owner," said Tiffany Wright, president of The Resourceful CEO, a financing advisory firm for small to medium-sized businesses.
If you are one of multiple owners, you will also need to bring a resolution from the other owners or board granting you the right to transact financial business for the company and/or open and control the account, Wright said. If you don't have these documents yet, many banks keep sample resolutions on hand for small businesses to use.
Expected cash-flow figures
To get your business banking relationship off to a good start, experts suggest providing as much information as possible about expected financial transactions. Think about your anticipated cash flow and possible credit needs before your initial meeting.
Angleton suggested including this information in an executive memo outlining your expectations for monthly bank balances including a low, moderate and high dollar amount.
"The more data you supply up front the better," Angleton said, adding that small business owners should understand that the bank will use the requested information to conduct required due diligence in verifying the applicant's identity and activity, in accordance with the Bank Secrecy Act.
In person or online?
When it comes to opening an account, it can be done either in store or online, and there are benefits to both.
"Opening an account in a store provides in-person banking expertise to find the best products to help your business run smoothly and adds another layer of comfort that the account opening is secure," said Connors. "Online openings, meanwhile, can save time for busy entrepreneurs."
It's important to note that opening your business bank account online may limit your banking activities. In addition, members of certain industries must open business bank accounts in person. For more information on opening business bank accounts online, visit the U.S. Small Business Administration website.
Additional reporting by Sarita Harbour. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.