Making money as a freelancer can be 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 narrow down all the financial institutions and determine 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’.
To help, the Penny Hoarder team has put together this post to compare some of the best bank accounts for freelancers. That way, you can make an informed decision with minimal fine-print reading.
What Is a Freelancer?
Before diving into the top banks for freelancers, it might be helpful to explain just what’s meant by “freelancer.” In short, a freelancer is someone who does work on a per-task or per-project basis and is paid by the task. Freelancers are self-employed and they don’t receive medical benefits or other perks such as vacation or sick time like company employees do.
Freelancers typically work for several companies, called clients, as independent contractors. The term often has a creative connotation — fields like writing, editing, web design, or photography — but there are exceptions.
What Makes a Business Bank Account Ideal for Freelancers?
Since freelancers are self-employed, they have some additional needs and responsibilities that the average full-time employee might not. For example, freelancers need to pay taxes themselves — nothing is withheld from their paychecks automatically.
Additionally, since freelancers are self-employed, they can count a number of purchases as business expenses, and keeping track of these is important for tax purposes.
Here are the major features to consider when choosing bank accounts as a freelancer:
- Fees: Nobody wants to pay money just to keep their money, especially when you have a variable income. Ideally that means no monthly fee and unlimited transactions.
- Customer Service: Knowing you’ve got a reliable team on your side when you have questions or concerns is vital.
- Accessibility: Since freelancers often work out of their own homes and remotely, accounts that are tech optimized, with intuitive online banking options and high ATM or branch availability, are generally best. ATM access is especially important for cash deposits.
- Business Account Offerings: Don’t forget to look at business account offerings for each bank, which can be helpful if you decide to incorporate your business or start an LLC.
- Mobile-friendliness: A usable mobile app is extremely important, especially for banks that don’t have brick-and-mortar locations.
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. However, these are nice-to-have features, rather than necessities.
Taking into account these features, we have rounded up the best banks — and in once case a well-known online payment system — for freelancers.
The 4 Best Banks for Freelancers
Best for Online-First Banking
- Lots of experience in online banking
- Generous support hours
- Wide selection of accounts
Axos was one of the original online-only banks from way back in 2000. As such, it has a unique understanding of what it means to be online-first — ideal for freelancers who consider themselves digital nomads. Axos offers a number of solid personal bank account and business bank account options, as well as fee-free IRAs and other useful services for freelancers.
Axos offers relatively high-yield checking 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. That makes it one of the best business checking accounts available for freelancers (or anyone else, for that matter) that want their money to earn interest.
However, if you’re used to in-person banking, Axos might not be for you. Although they offer ATM fee reimbursement at specified locations, you won’t be able to walk into a branch and speak face to face with a teller.
Best for a Traditional Business Checking Account
- Physical locations nationwide
- Useful support options
- Variety of business accounts
If you want brick-and-mortar access to your business checking account, Chase might offer the best bank accounts for freelancers among the big national players with the Chase Business Complete Banking. 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. You can open personal checking accounts
As a major financial institution, Chase also offers a host of business bank 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.
Chase 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). All together, the Chase business checking account is an excellent option.
To learn more, read our Chase Bank review.
Best for Accepting Payments
- Business banking with no monthly fees
- Built-in invoicing and payment features
- Fast transfers to other accounts
Okay, this one isn’t really a bank and you know it as a digital payment system. But PayPal’s business account upgrade has a lot of useful features for freelancers, including built-in invoicing and an easy-to-use app with mobile check processing. Even if you have a standard bank account, it’s worth having a PayPal account as a freelancer, since many clients will want to use it to process payments.
There’s no monthly fee with a PayPal business account, though you may pay fees for certain types of transfers. (It’s free to transfer funds to your personal bank accounts as long as it’s not a rush, however.) There’s also a cost to the business owner when invoices are paid — PayPal’s fee is 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction. This is fairly standard for the payment processing industry, though.
Best All-In-One Solution
- Built-in expense and tax tracking
- Handy referral program
- Unlimited transactions with no monthly fee
Lili is a tailored checking account that aims to help tackle the unique challenges that come with freelancing. As a freelancer, there are a number of financial tasks that are entirely up to you to handle, like setting aside money for taxes. Lili promises to help with a dedicated business checking account. The app, available for iOS or Android, is laser-focused on specific freelancer needs.
The Lili business checking account comes with its own Visa debit card. Whenever you spend any money, you’ll get a push notification asking you to swipe left or right to instantly categorize the expense as either “personal” or “business.” At tax time, this will allow you to easily maximize your expenses and reduce your taxable income, lowering your tax bill.
Even better: You can earn cash by referring up to 10 friends to join Lili. Once they sign up and spend $250 on their Lili card in the first 45 days, you’ll each get $100. You can also earn a $50 bonus when you open a Lili Pro account and spend at least $1,000 with your debit card within 60 days.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Bank Accounts for Freelancers
Which Bank Account is Best for Freelancers?
While it really depends on your needs, the best bet for most freelancers is combination of Chase or Axos (Chase if you want physical branch access for cash deposits, Axos if not) and PayPal, the payment system fintech that’s built for business. This gives you a feature-rich business checking account and the additional payment options of a PayPal account.
Which Bank is Best for the Self-Employed?
Chase (specifically Chase Business Complete Banking) tends to be the best option overall for self employed bank accounts due to the presence of thousands of physical locations, as well as a solid online experience. This gives the most options to the widest possible group of self-employed individuals.
Do I Need a Separate Bank Account as a Freelancer?
Technically, no. However, it’s a good idea to separate your business and personal accounts using a separate business checking account. You may also want to look at business savings accounts. This makes it easier to track income and expenses. Additionally, depending on how you structure your business, you may be required to maintain a business banking account to show that your business is a separate entity apart from you.
How Do I Open a Bank Account as a Freelancer?
This is the easy part! Simply head to a physical location or the website of your chosen bank and let them know you want to open a business checking account (and possibly a business savings account). The bank will take care of the rest.
Penny Hoarder contributors Dave Schafer and Jamie Cattanach did the reporting and writing for this story.