A lot of us digital nomads, serial expats, and others in the location-independent crowd can live and work from anywhere because we run our own independent businesses.
But no matter if you’re an indie maker, consultant, web developer, or mindfulness coach you’re likely to have run into the nightmare which is business banking for small and/or location-independent businesses.
You’ve probably already learned that most business banks accounts:
- Are ridiculously hard (if even possible) to open
- Charge you an arm and a leg in fees
- Screw you over on the exchange rate when converting currencies
While I’ve covered most of the cheap and easy to open personal bank accounts in major countries worldwide, I have yet to do the same for business bank accounts that can be opened online—from anywhere. Until now.
I want to be a bit more liberal with the “banking” term this time around. Most business accounts that are low cost and easy to open remotely for most people are offered by fintech companies (a.k.a. neo or challenger banks), often without full banking licenses.
In practice, this distinction isn’t always that important, since these companies are still regulated and your funds are typically held in segregated accounts with solid partner banks.
In this article, I have listed all the banks and bank-like services relevant for anyone running a small, international business. Since many of us run companies registered in a country where we’re not (full time) resident, I’ve focused on those that are easy to open and manage remotely, even if you’re not a legal resident in the country of the bank.
While some of these business bank accounts are available no matter where your company is registered, some require that you have a company in their jurisdiction. For the latter, I’ve focused on popular location-independent business jurisdictions, such as the US, UK, Hong Kong, and the EU (including Estonia).
Let’s start with the international category, which I define as companies offering banking services with local bank details in several important jurisdictions.
These allow you to receive payments from customers across the world, as if you had a real bank account in their country. Some (like Wise) also help you save loads of money on currency conversion costs.
Wise Business (formerly TransferWise)
I think Wise’s “borderless” business account product is one of the best things that happened to us digital nomads and location-independent entrepreneurs—at least when it comes to simplifying our business finances and saving on fees. I’ve been using it for every single one of my companies in recent years.
In case you haven’t already heard about it, let me briefly explain what it is:
Wise now lets you open business (and personal) bank-like accounts in the United States (with full ACH and wire details), United Kingdom (with local account number and sort code), the Eurozone (Germany or Beligium) (with a full IBAN), Hungary (with local account number), Australia (with local account number and BSB code), New Zealand (also with a local account number), and most recently Singapore (local account number with DBS Bank). Additionally, Romanian IBAN is available for residents of Romania and the UK.
All of these accounts are in the name of your company—and unlike Payoneer you can accept any type of (legal or non-restricted) payments and outgoing transfers also come from your company name.
You can also open currency wallets in more than 50 other currencies, although you don’t get unique bank details for these (yet).
Not only that—but you also get a free debit card linked to your account. There are no fees for spending in the currencies you hold in your account, and for any other currencies you get Wise’s low exchange fees (often around 0.5% markup) on top of the true interbank/mid-market rate!
If you use Stripe to sell products or services online in different currencies (e.g. EUR, USD, GBP, AUD, and NZD) you can link those accounts to Stripe and save the 2% currency exchange fee they normally charge. The same goes if you have income from e.g. Amazon or other sources in different countries and currencies.
Wise Business at a glance
- Open for both freelancers and businesses registered in most of the world . Exceptions listed here.
- Supports 50+ currencies, with unique bank details in the Eurozone (Belgium ), Hungary , UK , USA , Australia , New Zealand , and Singapore . Romanian IBANs are available for UK and Romanian residents.
- Comes with free debit card for business expenses (available in the UK, EU/EEA, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore at the moment, US and others coming soon).
- Low fees for currency exchange and outbound money transfers. No fees for sending to other Wise users.
- £200 of free cash withdraws per month. (But who withdraws cash from their business account anyway?)
- Great for e-residents using Xolo to manage their business—or anyone else using Xero for accounting—thanks to direct integrations.
- Available both on web , iOS , and Android .
- USD, EUR, GBP, and AUD accounts supports direct debit, other currencies will follow.
- Regulated by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) in the UK as an e-money provider.
Things to note
- The online card spending limit of £10,000/day and £30,000/mo may not be enough for everyone. Bank transfers are not limited, though.
- Due to negative interest rates in Europe you pay a 0.4% interest rate penalty on EUR balances above €70,000. Other currencies are unaffected.
Airwallex is an Australian origin fintech offering business banking services for companies since 2015. Although not quite as capable (yet) as Wise, they definitely have a good competitive product.
You can open several currency accounts (EUR, AUD, GBP, USD, and HKD) for free to make and receive payments. The FX markup fees are 0.5% for main currencies and 1% for less common ones (0.3% and 0.6% for Australian customers). They use their own interbank rate, which is more favorable than in most banks.
You can receive payments directly from Amazon, eBay, Shopify, and PayPal. They even have WeChat pay that allows businesses to receive money from Chinese consumers easily.
Just like Wise, they offer an integration with Xero for a better accounting experience. They will sync your records hourly, and batch payments are also supported for more convenience.
Every employee can have their own virtual card and logins to keep better track of spendings. Card spending limits default to US$ 10,000, but can be increased on request.
Special offer: Airwallex will waive the FX mark-up for the first AU$20,000 worth of transfers in any currency if you sign up through this link.
New customers from Australia will get an additional AU$50 cash-back on every AU$5,000 of eligible card purchases before the 31st March 2021 (up to a total of $500).
Airwallex at a glance
- Payments possible in 23 currencies to 130 countries and more added 5 global accounts (EUR, AUD, GBP, USD, and HKD)
- Direct payments from Amazon, eBay, Shopify, PayPal, and WeChat
- No deposit limits to receive money in your account
- Integrated with Xero
- Separate cards and logins for employees
Things to note
- No mobile app, but the webpage is mobile friendly
- There may be an extra FX markup on the weekend or other days when FX markets are closed
- Physical cards are not ready yet (currently virtual cards only)
- Not yet available to US residents
Payoneer has been a pioneer in the international payments industry since they launched their USD receiving accounts back in 2011. For many people (e.g. if you don’t qualify for a Wise account) it’s still the only option for getting US account details or to get paid from many online marketplaces.
Note that you can only receive funds from companies (e.g. marketplaces such as Amazon or UpWork), not from private individuals—so you can’t use Payoneer to get paid from non-corporate clients.
While Payoneer has proved super useful to the otherwise unbanked—they also charge extremely high fees, so it’s best to avoid them if you have other options available to you.
Receiving USD costs 1% of the transaction, other currencies free. Spending money with the Payoneer debit card (which costs $30/year) costs 3.5% if used outside the country of issue (typically US or UK) or if used in a different currency. ATM fees are high, exchange rates unfavorable (typically 2-3% markup), and even withdrawing money to a normal bank account costs 2%.
Payoneer at a glance
- One of the first bank-like products providing access to receiving-accounts in the world’s largest economies to people resident anywhere.
- Nearly anyone can open an account.
Things to note
- Fees are a bit high for certain transactions.
- Not meant to replace your bank account, but to supplement it. E.g. outbound transfers do not come from your business name, and not all inbound transfers are accepted.
- The online card spending limit of £5,000/day may not be enough for every business. Bank transfers are not limited, though.
Let’s move on to the land of the free. While you can still open a business account as a non-resident in several large US banks—especially if you show up in person and agree to a large initial deposit—that’s impractical for most of us.
Options such as Wise above is still good enough for most foreign companies, but if you have a US entity (even as a non-resident foreigner) read on to learn how you easily can open a US business account remotely, for free.
Tip: If you need a proper US account for a primarily non-US business, it’s cheap and pretty straightforward to register a non-resident LLC in many US states, and it shouldn’t have any tax consequences. I’d recommend New Mexico and Wyoming for most purposes (especially if you value privacy), or Delaware in the case you have ambitions of raising money or selling the business down the line.
I’m a bit surprised that Mercury hasn’t received more attention in the location-independent business community since their launched in April 2019.
I have been talking about them on the forums for a while, but still I think this is one of the first articles targeted at digital nomads, PTs and other location-independent people featuring them.
Anyway, my surprise at their lack of received attention aside, if you are a non-US resident with a US business (e.g. LLC or corporation) who needs to an easy-to-use business account, with low fees, that you can open remotely—this is the one to get.
Literally the only thing they charge for (and only because they are passing on high fees from their partner bank) is wire transfers. Domestic are $5 (free for tea room customers) and international are $20. Still cheaper than almost any bank.
Everything else, including outgoing ACH transfers, ATM withdrawals, and foreign transactions are completely free of charge.
Mercury at a glance
- Very close to zero fees (only charge for wire transfers)
- Open for companies registered in the US, including LLCs and corporations with foreign resident managers/owners
- Real US bank account with associated debit card
- Relatively high interest rates
- Can be used with US PayPal and Stripe accounts
- Powerful API so if you're technical you can automate a lot of your banking
Things to note
- Outgoing transfers are not made in the name of the business, but rather Mercury (business name can still be added to message)
- If asked it's better to state that you'll do business with US companies (not necessarily exclusively), as they may otherwise not approve your account
Holvi is a Finnish challenger bank (technically an payment institution as they don’t have a full banking license) that is now owned by the Spanish banking giant BBVA.
Their offering is a solid combination of business banking features, simple bookkeeping and invoicing features (from the €9/mo Grower plan and up).
You get a bright yellow Mastercard debit card and unlimited free SEPA transfers (if you’re based in the Eurozone). Transfers outside the SEPA region is only possible with a third party (I suggest Wise for this—see above) and you can also not receive non-SEPA transfers directly.
If you’re based in the UK, you can only send and receive national transfers in pounds.
Holvi at a glance
- Provides Finnish or German IBAN
- Open for freelancers and businesses registered in several EU countries
- Very popular for German, Finnish, Austrian businesses; Unlimited free domestic transfers
- Real debit card, not prepaid, meaning better acceptance
- Pricing from €0/month, up to €98/month
- Accounts include simple invoicing and accounting tools
- Regulated by the Finnish Financial Supervisory Authority (FIN-FSA) as a payment institution
Things to note
- No international (non-SEPA/UK) transfers
- Use in foreign currencies could be cheaper (2% markup over the Mastercard rate)
- ATM withdrawals have another 2.5% surcharge (regardless of currency)
- The card has a spending limit of €7,500/day, €40,000/mo, and €300,000/year.
N26 is a German neobank who’s main claim-to-fame is one of the best personal bank accounts for travelers. Their business product is almost identical—which is both good and bad.
On the plus side you get a fantastic mobile and web app, some of the lowest fees available in Europe, and some pretty handy budgeting features.
You also get unlimited free SEPA transfers. For non-SEPA transfers, you can use Wise (see above).
One added bonus for the business account (compared to the personal one) is the addition of 0.1% cashback on all your purchases (or 0.5% for their metal card).
You can also get included travel insurance and zero ATM withdrawal fees in foreign currencies by opting for the Business You (€9.90/mo) and Business Metal account (€16.90/mo). You’ll also get car-sharing insurance, covering damage and theft to cars, and even scooters and bikes rented through a shared mobility program. Business Metal plan also adds car rental insurance and phone insurance (up to €1,000 covered for theft and damage). Now there is also COVID-19 coverage for trips that started on or after January 22, 2021. It covers you and your travel companion if you have to cancel or shorten your trip due to becoming ill, having to quarantine, or up to €1,000,000 emergency medical bills. So you can have extra peace of mind.
The drawback of the N26 account is that it’s only available for freelancers and self-employed. You can’t use it for an incorporated business. It’s also pretty weak when it comes to bookkeeping and invoicing features (they are pretty much absent).
N26 Business at a glance
- Provides fully insured bank account with German IBAN
- Open to freelancers (not corporations) across all the EEA countries where N26 operates
- You earn 0.1% (or 0.5%) cashback on all card transactions
- No/very low fees
- Good travel insurance with COVID-19 coverage for premium plans
- Often special deals and discounts with partners (former and current examples include Hotels.com, GetYourGuide, Booking.com, Lime, YOOX, Taxfix, etc.)
Things to note
- You can't have two N26 accounts in the EU, so you have to choose between either a personal or freelancer account. My recommendation would be to use N26 for your personal banking, and use Wise or Holvi for your business activity.
- Lack of useful accounting and invoicing features
- Monthly card spending limits of €20,000. Outgoing SEPA transfers are limited to €50,000 per day.
- Deposit fee of 0.5% for balances over €50,000 (only for accounts opened after 19.10.2020 and does not apply for Portugal).
Monese is (like N26) perhaps best known for their personal banking product, but their business account is also great!
Together with Tide (below) and Wise it’s one of the few banking options for non-UK residents with a UK registered company.
It does come with a small monthly fee (£9.95), but the included services are more than worth it.
You’ll get six free ATM withdrawals per month, only 0.5% currency markup on spending and international transfers, and free incoming and outgoing bank transfers, including direct debits.
Monese Business at a glance
- Unlike most UK banks, they accept UK companies with foreign directors/owners living in the EU/EEA
- For £9.95 you get a user-friendly business account, with no/very low transaction fees
- You will get local GBP account details (EUR accounts are launching soon)
- It also includes a personal Monese Plus account (in both EUR and GBP), which normally costs £4.95/mo
Things to note
- To open a business account, you'll have to open a personal Monese account first (meaning you'll need to be resident in the UK or EU/EEA)—then you set up the business account with a few taps inside the app
- Somewhat low limits (e.g. £50,000–£100,000 maximum balance and £4,000 max per card purchase and £7,000/day).
The UK is one of the most popular jurisdictions for location-independent businesses due to several factors such as a stellar reputation, good access to services such as merchant accounts, and a good business environment.
The only significant obstacle for location-independent UK businesses with non-resident owners/directors was to open a bank account. No UK banks wanted to work with non-residents (unless you were bringing loads of business to the bank).
That was the situation until 2016.
Finally, there was a banking solution available to non-residents with UK registered companies!
Not only that, Tide also comes with automatic transaction categorization, accounting integration, multiple accounts, easy invoicing, and fully featured mobile and web apps.
Tide at a glance
- Unlike most UK banks, they accept UK companies with foreign directors/owners living abroad
- You will get local GBP account details
- Reasonable prices, powerful business features and apps
- Create up to 35 debit cards for your whole team
- No currency exchange markup (you get the official Mastercard rate)
Things to note
- You'll need to be a sole trader based in the UK or have a company registered there to open an account.
- Tide does not currently support international bank transfers. However, you can use Wise for that.
- Initial alance limits of £25,000-£100,000 depending on account. Debit card limits of £10,000-£50,000/mo. You may be able to raise the limits on request.
Honorable mention: Starling Bank
I would like to quickly mention Starling Bank while discussing banks for UK companies . It’s a great option, if both you and the business are resident in the UK. It’s not open to non-UK residents, unfortunately.
If you qualify, definitely check it out. They have a completely free plan, including free spending abroad. If you want more advanced accounting features you can add the Business Toolkit onto your free business or sole trader account for £7 per month, the first month is free.
Bunq is another bank that’s probably more known for their excellent personal accounts. But if you run a business based in the Netherlands or Germany, then Bunq’s business account may be what you’re looking for.
It offers accounting integrations with many Dutch accounting systems (and some German). And in case there’s not direct accounting connection you can request automatic monthly CSV exports to send to your accountant or upload to your own accounting software.
Bunq Business comes with loads of other useful features, like multiple bank accounts, access for multiple users (to the whole account or just parts of it), and automatically setting aside VAT for your incoming payments so you’ll never come up short come tax day.
Bunq also strives to be an ethical bank, with responsible investment policies and you can even take control over where your money is invested.
Bunq Business at a glance
- IBAN from the Netherlands
- Popular bank in the Netherlands, which also offers corporate accounts in the Netherlands and Germany , as well as accounts for freelancers in a handful of other EU countries
- Business accounts are €9.90/month, plus transaction costs
- They come with useful features such as auto-VAT management, and automatic completion of payment details of scanned or PDF invoices
- Powerful API so if you're technical you can automate a lot of your banking
- Daily card spending limits of up to €50,000 which is among the highest limits I've seen when doing research for this article
Things to note
- You can only send and receive SEPA (EU) transfers—but if you need international transfers you can open a Wise (formerly TransferWise) account as well
- Bunq will charge you a fee for keeping more than €100,000 in your accounts
While it wouldn’t be my first option, Paysera is still a viable option if your business needs an EUR account and does not qualify for any of the options above.
They claim to support over 180 countries, but that may no longer be the case. I’ve reached out to Paysera to get more information about where they now accept companies from, but haven’t yet heard back.
Paysera at a glance
- Reasonably priced e-money account, based in Lithuania
- Claims to support over 180 countries
Things to note
- Transaction costs are not the lowest I've seen
- Outgoing non-SEPA transfer show up as coming from Paysera, not the name of your business
- Daily debit card limit of €10,000
Singapore has one of the most favorable jurisdictions for businesses in Asia and very popular for location-independent entrepreneurs. While it’s usually possible to open business bank accounts with several Singaporean banks for non-resident owners, it typically requires in-person visits, a ton of paperwork, large minimum deposits, and often high charges for both account maintenance and transfers. So it’s no wonder that in 2019 Aspire was voted the number one hottest startup by Singapore Business Review.
Opening a business account with Aspire is as easy as it gets. The signup is done online in 5 minutes, your account and a virtual card will be ready in as quick as an hour. Oh, and I should probably mention that it’s free to open, there are no monthly fees, and no minimum deposit.
It offers cheap international transfers at the mid-market rate, easy accounting, and 1% cash-back for some business costs. Also, you can apply for a line of credit easily in your Aspire account. Their convenient expense management system allows you to have a separate bank card for each employee with their own name and specified spending limits.
Aspire at a glance
- Accepts Singaporean companies, open to both local and foreign directors
- Free to open, free FAST transfers until June 2021
- The Visa card has no limits but can be implemented if wanted
- 1% cash-back with the card (on online marketing and Saas spend)
- Integrates with Xero and Wise
- Offers incorporation options, if you also want to register a business with their help
- Can apply for a fast line of credit up to S$300k
- 5% cashback on qualified spend for 3 months if you open an account through Nomad Gate and pay once with your card before the end of March, 2021
Things to note
- Only available for Singapore entities with ACRA
- Not a multi-currency account (only SGD), but other currencies will be added soon
- Only a virtual card, so cash withdrawals are not possible
Hong Kong is one of the most popular jurisdictions for digital nomads to register their businesses. However, getting a multi-currency account for a Hong Kong business—particularly as a non-resident owner—has gotten increasingly difficult over the past few years.
Neat to the rescue!
They will let foreign owners of Hong Kong businesses open an account online in just minutes. No need for an in-person meeting.
The account comes with a local account number, but isn’t a true bank account and isn’t covered by the Hong Kong Deposit Protection Scheme. Still, it’s much better than no bank account at all.
The account also comes with a corporate Visa card which can be used worldwide.
Neat Business at a glance
- The only easy way of getting a multi-currency account in Hong Kong these days, making it popular with nomads running HK businesses
- You get a local Hong Kong account number
- No ongoing/monthly fees
- Neat will even open your Hong Kong company for just US$650
Things to note
- Transaction fees (including FX rates) are moderate, but beggars can't be choosers
- You must be incorporated in HK, SG, NZ, AUS, CYM, or BVI to qualify
Other banks and regions
Most of the banks listed so far in this article are so called fintechs or neo banks. They work great for many types of businesses, but sometimes you may have more specific needs, or require services not offered by this type of bank.
Maybe you require an account in a specific country, or your business is incorporated in a jurisdiction that most banks won’t open accounts for? Or perhaps your business is classified as “high risk” by most banks?
If this is the case, you may want to open an account with a more established bank, or one that’s willing to work with more “high risk” clients. While this isn’t always straightforward, it’s more than doable if you’re armed with the right information.
I’d recommend that you stay away from so-called “bank introducers” that often charge thousands of dollars to introduce you to banks that would have accepted you anyway if you had applied directly. They don’t add much, if any, value.
Instead, I’d recommend asking people in your network who have successfully opened the type of account you’re looking for. Or if you don’t know anyone you can ask, I’d recommend signing up for a service like GlobalBanks.
They maintain a database of hundreds of banks in 50+ countries, including information about account opening requirements, fee schedules, reviews, tips for applying, including contact persons at many of the banks, whether you can open remotely, and so on.
Let me know in the comments if you know any other good options, or if you have any feedback about any of the ones I listed above!
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