Nearly all banks in the United States offer online banking for businesses, and the variety of services is plentiful. If you haven’t made the switch, now is a good time to look at the features available. If your business already uses your bank’s online services, investigate all the services offered to ensure you’re not missing out on financial- and time-saving features.
The time saved in bookkeeping expenses alone can often make it worth learning about your bank’s online offerings. Most banks offer the following basic online services:
- Online access to your business checking account in real time to search, sort, and view transactions by amount, date, or other search method
- Online transfers that allow you to move money from one business account to another, for example, from your primary demand deposit account to your payroll or sales tax account
- The ability to download monthly bank statements and images of checks and deposit batches in PDF or other archival format for paperless safekeeping
- The ability to download checking and savings account information into QuickBooks Pro or similar bookkeeping programs
- Online bill payment, generally either free or for a nominal cost
Advanced features offered by many banks include the following:
- Business loan services: View loan balances and make online payments to your loan accounts.
- ACH debit/credit service: Many banks allow you to make credit Automated Clearinghouse transactions where you send either a one-day, a three-day, or a five-day ACH payment to someone else’s account in another bank. Debit ACH transactions let you debit the account of a customer who has given you written authorization to do so and are usually for recurring monthly financial transactions.
- Online wire transfer services: Many larger banks offer an online interface in their Web-based systems for sending wire transfers.
- Treasury sweep account access: Often called repurchase agreements, or REPOS, your bank creates an agreement with another financial institution to move large sums out of your account every night and into an investment account where the third party has use of your funds. Every morning the funds are moved back to your account. This pays higher than average interest. Not only does this give business accounts a return on excess cash not being used, it helps protect your assets above the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation limits.
- Remitting taxes online: You can remit your company’s Internal Revenue Service withholding taxes to the U.S. Treasury online. Nearly all banks are authorized to accept your payroll withholding taxes, but not all are set up for you to easily remit online through their banking portals.
- Remote capture: With this service, your bank provides you a special check scanner/magnetic ink character recognition reader that allows you to make deposits from your office. This is especially valuable for businesses that receive many checks but don’t handle much cash. You are essentially your own teller. As you scan checks for deposit, the machine prepares the optically scanned and magnetically read check for deposit. Once you have a deposit batch, you simply hit Send and your deposit is sent to your bank. Most remote capture systems download deposit detail to your accounting system. You never take a physical check to the bank. Banks offering this service will often provide the check capture machine free of charge because it saves them and you processing time.
Sam Thacker is a partner in Austin, Texas–based Business Finance Solutions.