This post comes from Christine C. Renee, who is a professional blogger and money writer. She’s also a fellow freelancer who is in the process of quitting her day job to start her online business.
As a freelance business owner, one of the biggest hurdles you’ll have to face is how to properly manage your freelance finances. If you haven’t already separated your personal money from the money your business makes, now’s the time to do it.
Traditional business bank accounts come with service fees, minimums and deadlines. The fees for having a regular business account can drain your freelance finances faster than you can get money into it.
That’s why most freelancers, myself included, use personal online accounts that offer free checking and savings. Nothing wrong with that!
But now there’s a bank that offers free business banking accounts. Spark Business by Capital One, offers free checking and savings and a whole bunch of business resources. Perfect for the budding business owner or freelancer looking for an online bank.
Whether you’re a sole proprietor with one employee (yourself), an LLC, or mid-sized corporation, Spark Business from Capital One is there to offer you a banking experience that won’t charge you unnecessary fees.
What is Spark Business by Capital One?
Spark Business by Capital One is an online business banking platform specifically designed for small business owners like you.
Here’s what you get:
- Business checking account with no minimums or deposit requirements
- Business savings account with no minimum balance or deposit deadlines
- Business credit cards that allow you to earn cash back
- Free merchant services, including Invoicing and Spark Pay
- Cash flow projection tools and financial reports
- An extensive business resource library (that puts my business college library to shame)
- And a 401k plan for small business owners
- A mobile app to access all of your accounts on the go
And it all comes backed by the Capital One platform. Spark Business stands out from the competition (TD Bank, Bank of America, and Chase just to name a few) by offering all of this for FREE to business owners.
Free checking and savings, free transfers, free unlimited transactions, no minimum to open and no deadline to deposit funds. And this is what sold me on Spark Business — the free online checking and savings accounts, specifically.
The online platform makes it easy for me to access anywhere, at any time. And I like the fact that when I finally go full-time as a freelancer, I can start my own pre-tax investment account to save for retirement through their Spark401k plans.
How to get started with Spark Business
For the most part, setting up a new Spark Business account is easy. But there are a few extra steps you need to make. You’ll need all your business information handy.
- Social Security Number or, Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Doing Business As (DBA) paperwork
- LLC documentation
- Other important business-related documents
I’ve been using Spark Business for quite a few months now, but I’ve had my eye on it for over a last year. It took a long time for me to sign up because I didn’t have my DBA name registered and the system would not take my EIN for some reason.
This caused problems when I tried to sign up online the first time. But once I got off my butt to call customer service for help, they had me signed up within 15 minutes.
If you ever run into problems signing up just give a Spark customer service rep a call. They’ll walk you through the signup process. Set aside about 20 minutes and have access to a computer and reliable internet connection.
Make sure you’re on the correct Spark Business website. (It should be https://www.capitalone.com/small-business-bank/) and you should see this home screen below.
If you don’t see this exact homepage, the site probably detected that your location (as found through your IP address) is located near a physical Capital One branch. If you get to a home screen that looks like the new image below, it means you’re on the local retail Spark Business sign up page.
If you explore the links on that page, it will take you to a table that explains the fee schedule. The Spark you’re looking for does not have fees. If that happens, just scroll down a little bit to the middle of the screen until you see where it says “change location.”
Input the zip code 19809 and hit “find.” This is a zip code where there are no brick-and-mortar Capital One banks so you should be redirected to a home screen that looks like the first image: the one with the laptop.
Now that you’re on the right screen (the one with the laptop), the next thing to do is scroll down to the “sign up now” button.
Next, you click what you want. Checking, savings, or both. I love how you can sign up for both at the same time.
Then you’re greeted with a screen that asks if you already have a Capital One account. If you DO have an existing Capital One account, don’t worry, it won’t mix your business and personal banking transactions.
Just sign in with your regular account credentials, so you can merge your two accounts. Capital One does this so there’s only one login.
Now that you’re in, you’ll be asked to fill out your personal and business information. If you’re already a Capital One customer, most of your personal info will be pre-filled. Just verify it’s still correct.
If you have a DBA or LLC, you will be required to submit official paperwork before you get full access to your account. A phone call to customer service will help you figure out exactly what you need. They are happy to walk you through anything you may have problems with.
If you manage to sign up with no problems, you’ll have instant access to your account and will be ready for deposits. If you need to email in your official business paperwork, it could take up to a week to get full access to your account.
Once you’re finished setting up your account, your dashboard will look like this.
There is no deadline to set up a deposit, and there are no minimum balances. So whenever you’re ready, link your external accounts or open multiple checking and savings accounts by clicking on the + icon sitting just above your list of accounts.
How to use Spark Business checking as a freelancer
There’s something about having a bank with the word “business” in the name that just makes things feel more legit. I’m proud to finally have a bank for my tiny business.
Spark makes it easy to add or open additional accounts whenever you need them. You can have up to 2 savings and 2 checking accounts and link to external bank accounts like PayPal Business, Chase, USAA, and others.
Your Spark Business account is also able to link to other freelance tools like QuickBooks Self Employed, 17hats, Wave, Mint, FreshBooks and other financial apps. This makes it easy to manage all of your freelance financial tools in one place.
Plus, you get access to their Invoicing and Cash Flow management tools so you can bill clients for hours worked and project what your future earnings will be. Here’s what a sample invoice looks like when using Spark Business by Capital One.
Capital One has this ingenious way to securely connect your account to these other tools. The only thing you have to do to link Spark to your favorite money tools is generate an access code.
It’s easy, go to your settings by clicking on the human icon and scroll down to “Access Code” and click “generate access code.” Spark will give you a special username and password that you can use to link to all your financial, bookkeeping, and accounting tools
Don’t try to use your regular login credentials when connecting, it won’t work.
And if your financial tool does not have Capital One Spark on their list of banks, just go ahead and choose Capital One 360 or Capital One Bank. Your unique username and password access code will get your Spark information linked to your favorite financial tool.
The Capital One Spark Business mobile app
I don’t know about you, but when I’m away from my computer my business and finances travel with me — on a smartphone. With the Capital One Spark Business mobile app, which is available on Android and iPhone/iTunes, you can do just that.
The mobile app allows you to manage and pay all of your business-related bills, create and send client invoices and transfer funds between bank accounts.
You can also check your daily account balances, find an ATM and deposit checks from clients, no matter where you are in the world.
One drawback to the mobile app is that it cannot send notifications to your phone whenever a transaction occurs (which is the biggest reason for me to have it on the phone, duh!). So in order to stay updated on your freelance finances you have to log into the app everyday.
How much does Spark Business checking cost?
How does FREE business banking sound to you? Here’s what you get for free from Spark:
- Checking (no minimum limits)
- Savings (no minimum limits)
- Free bill pay
- Free transfers (except for wire transfers)
- Unlimited transactions
- Overdraft protection and overdraft grace period (must sign up from the “options” menu)
Capital One Spark Business fees
Okay, not everything is free. There are some limitations with Capital One Spark Business checking, but you’ll see these in personal accounts too.
- Wire transfers – $25
- Savings withdrawals are limited to 6 per month without penalty (a federal mandate for all banks)
- Overdraft fee – $35 (but you get free overdraft if you sign up and there’s a small grace period)
Remember, Spark Business online has no fees. If you ever get to a Capital One page for Spark that talks about service fees and minimum balances, you’re on the brick-and-mortar website. Go back and try changing your location.
What would make Spark Business better?
Spark’s mobile app would be so much better if it had automatic notifications on payments and deposits. I carry my business on my smartphone and an automatic reminder would save me the time of remembering to log into my account to review transactions. Or maybe that’s just me being lazy.
The client invoicing setup could also be better. Spark invoicing doesn’t let you customize a header logo to match your branding, so invoices will look a little plain. However, I like the idea of having my invoicing and banking in one place.
As mentioned, the sign-up process could also be improved. It’s often confusing to new customers who have to distinguish between Capital One and the Spark Business by Capital One services.
There are a few extra steps you may need to do to get to the right Spark website. And if you are doing business under another name or have an LLC, you’ll have to submit proper documentation before you can get full access to your account. But that’s the same process if you were to sign up with another business bank.
Should freelancers use Spark Business?
As a freelancer and budding business owner myself, my overall recommendation for Spark Business is, yes!
Spark Business is an excellent online bank specially made for freelancers and small business owners. It has all the big bank resources and capabilities without the extra fees. And it’s flexible enough to be able to grow with your business.
Most online business banks (and brick-and-mortar business banks) often have service fees and minimums that a freelancer’s variable income can’t keep up with. Spark’s free platform gives your beautiful business a legitimate banking platform that won’t cost you a month’s income for fees.
Check out their FAQ page and business resources to get more information. Then try out Spark Business by Capital One for yourself.
And don’t forget to come back and leave a comment about what you think. I’d love to hear about your experiences with Spark Business from Capital One.