This article is aimed at reducing the odds of rejection when applying for a business bank account, and offering alternatives to for those that can’t open a traditional business account
Too long, didn’t read? Don’t worry, we’ve listed our top business bank accounts for would-be business owners with bad or poor credit histories below:
Best business bank accounts – no credit checks:
The top digital business bank accounts for those with bad credit or who need an account opened ASAP. 10 minutes or less. These are the quickest and easiest business bank accounts to get you up and running.
- Cashplus Business Account – 1% cashback on expenditure and of course no credit checks, great for newly formed limited companies
- Tide – Best instant basic business bank account for sole traders
- Card One Money Account – Guaranteed business bank account no credit check
- Acorn – Easy to use online business current account. Even with bad credit
Top traditional business bank accounts:
The top three traditional business bank accounts for those with poor credit histories.
- Starling business account – UK Digital bank with full FSCA protection and a great app
- Santander start-up business account – Good value account, but terrible app and annoying 2FA
- NatWest foundation business account – See below of more details
- Barclays – Still one of the quickest and easiest to open
Millions of people in the UK suffer from a poor or bad credit history. Whether that’s from defaults, County Court orders, or bankruptcies. In some instances they might not even be to blame for the initial debt. Think couples with joint finances, or students renting a shared house.
The affects of a poor credit history on your personal life are well known. Difficulty in obtaining loans, credit cards, or mortgages at a decent rate, or even being accepted for credit at all. But at least there are a number of ‘Basic Personal Bank Accounts‘ that will allow you to make deposits and withdraws and even use a debt card.
What if you are self-employed and need a bank account for your business? If you’re a sole trader with extremely limited activity, you might be able to use your personal bank account for very basic transactions, but its not ideal, and if you expect to do a decent trade, or you’re setting up a limited liability company (LTD) or partnership (LLP), you will likely need a dedicated business bank account.
Despite limited liability companies, and partnerships being separate legal entities to that of their owners or directors, banks still require the director(s) to pass a personal check before an account for the business can be opened. For those with a bad credit history, that can often lead to rejection, as many have found out.
Unfortunately there’s no such thing as a universal basic business bank account, but there is action you can take to help tip the odds of acceptance in your favour.
With that in mind, we’ve created this guide to help you open a business bank account even with a bad credit history.
1. Create a solid business plan
Many of the traditional high street banks are stuck in the past, and opening a business account means setting an appointment with a ‘business advisor’. Creating a solid business plan is a sure way to show these advisors that you are serious about your new venture and have a good understanding of the financials. You don’t have to be a Cambridge MBA to create a decent business plan nor does it have to be a mammoth document; you can get advice and support from Business Link (now part of gov.uk), as well sample business plans. The most important aspect here is to base your plan around solid financial forecasts and projects giving both you and your new bank an idea of the business’ potential.
If applying for one of the (no credit checking) accounts listed at the top of this article you can usually forego this step. They are all digital accounts and a business plan isn’t part of their ‘onboarding’ process. That being said, a business plan is there to help you, so it is still a good idea to create one.
2. Check your credit report history
You’d be surprised by the amount of people who apply for big-ticket financial products, such as a loan or mortgage, without first checking their reported credit history. If you are one of these people, stop now.
You need to get hold of your credit report. It will flag up any potential issues in your credit history and allow you to get them sorted out before applying for your business bank account. It could literally be the difference between acceptance and rejection. Not only that, but checking your report is free with Credit Karma (formerly Noddle), and Clear Score.
In the case of Experian’s Credit Expert, and Equifax you can even get paid to check your report by taking advantage of special offers through cashback websites like Quidco (you’ll get £2 for signup via his link) or Top Cashback where you’ll get £5 for signing up.
What should you be looking for?
Check your file for any County Court Judgements (CCJs), Bankruptcies, and defaults. Make sure all the basics are correct, i.e. your current and previous addresses, name, date of birth, and financial accounts. If you notice anything that seems wrong or out of place such as outstanding debts that you’ve long since cleared, or misspellings in you name or addresses, contact the agency to have the information corrected.
It is also worth find out exactly how your address is listed on the report and ensure you copy that format when you apply for an account, as even slight discrepancies can trip up your application.
If you are currently in a dispute with a company over a debt, you can place a notice of correction on your file. This will force new lenders to personally look over your file to see what you have written, rather than the process being an automatic “computer says no” affair. It will make the application process take a little longer but at least you get to explain yourself.
3. Get on the electoral role
Next check to make sure that you are listed on the Electoral Roll at your current address. This is extremely important, as not being registered will make it nearly impossible to open a business bank account. If you are not registered, make sure you register here. Do this as early as possible as the register is only up dated twice yearly (Spring/Autumn) and it can take credit referencing agencies up to two months to update their records once the register is published.
Tip: Unless you want to be inundated with junk mail make sure you don’t sign up for the ‘edited, or open’ register. This is the one is open to companies for marketing purposes.
4. Register with HMRC
Current tax rules mean that you must register with HMRC within three months of trading. There can be reasons for delaying this registration but we recommend registering before you apply for your business bank account.
It seems that even some accounts using automated acceptance procedures now check for this and will reject your application if you are not registered.
The actual registration process is straightforward, and can be done online via the gov.uk website. Register with HMRC.
Applying for a business bank account
If you have any outstanding balances on credit cards, store cards, or overdraft, it’s best to clear or lower these (if you can) at least three months before making your application. This helps because traditional banks are wary about ‘lending’ to those who might be overexposed financially.
You may just want a simple business account, and have no intention of obtaining credit, but banks will be assessing your business’ potential to make them money, and means loans, overdrafts, and credit cards. An alternative is to apply for an account that doesn’t run a credit check. See our round up of ‘no credit check’ business bank accounts below these offer near guaranteed acceptance.
Once you are satisfied that your credit report is order, and you’ve got at least a basic business plan prepared complete with financial projections, you’re ready to apply for a business a bank account.
Where to apply
Do you have defaults but no CCJs or Bankruptcies?
In this case it might be worth talking with your current personal bank about a new business account. If you have a basic current account with one of the main high-street banks, and you’ve run your account well then they should be your first port of call. Half of the work is already done. They have already verified your ID and address and will have a good idea of the risk you might pose. Barclays is known to be particularly accommodating, especially if you are a current account customer, and a new account can usually be opened within 10 days.
To avoid an unnecessary credit check, arrange an appointment with one of their business advisors, explain your situation and ask for their opinion on the chances of you successfully opening an account. You might be asked some tough questions about your business, so make sure you know your stuff inside out.
Can’t open an account with your existing bank or you have some CCJs?
The Natwest Foundation Current Account used to be the go account you had previous CCJs, and couldn’t open a business bank account with your existing bank, however these days, unless you need to pay in cash and cheques over the count the current crop of digital accounts (see below) are probably a better bet as none of these have credit checks.
In order to be considered for a Natwest Foundation account you must have already taken and failed a credit check for a regular Natwest Business account. Thus leaving a hard search on your credit history and potentially making your situation worse.
For those that need a high street account with in branch services though, the Foundation account is one of the few available options. The account is specifically designed for those with poor or bad credit histories looking to set up in business. Here’s what they say:
If you’re starting your first business and have no trading history, or if you have a poor credit history, our Foundation Account could be just what your business needs.
It provides straightforward, transaction-based business banking, giving you and your business time to establish a credit and trading record.
Natwest regularly change their website. Information about the foundation account has been removed, but their business account page previously stated:
If you don’t qualify for our startup Business Current Account package, for example if you have a poor credit history, we will talk to you about our Foundation Account when we receive your application.
Update Apr 2021: Natwest Business confirm via Twitter that the Foundation Business Account is still available. For an application pack contact the New Accounts Team on 0800 206 1962
Can’t use the Natwest Foundation account?
Despite specifically being aimed at those with a bad credit history, the Natwest/RBS Foundation account is only offered to those who fail a credit check for their main business accounts. Even then, it’s not unknown to be turned down for this account, particularly if your adverse history is with any of the banks in the RBS group.
In this case your options in terms of the main high street banks are more limited, and we’d suggest you try one of the digital alternatives. That being said, if really need a high street account, it has been known for people to be turned down by Natwest only to be readily accepted for the Santander Start-up Business Current Account. The Santander Business Account is actually a good all round account, but its online banking portal is poor and its mobile app is abysmal, so be prepared for that.
Digital challengers and app-based business bank accounts with no credit checks
If you need to set up a business account with minimal hassle, fuss, or are short on time then digital challengers offer the best solution.
Before the explosion of mobile banking these type of accounts were popular with those looking for a basic business bank accounts, or a business bank account for bad credit. That has completely changed now as these accounts offer most, if not all of the features of a traditional high street bank at a lower or similar cost, often with greater convenience.
Perfect for small businesses, contractors, freelancers, etc… These are the easiest business bank accounts to open, everyone should be accepted for these accounts as there are no credit check involved, you just need to verify your identity.
Even if you don’t intend to use the account in the long term, in the short term, these accounts can be a life-saver, enabling you to get your business up and running with minimum delay. Once your business is earning money consistently you can then re-apply for a traditional bank account if needed, and back up your application with proven financials to help your case.
The beauty of these accounts is that if you are rejected for one of them (and we can’t think why you would be), then you can apply for the other without it affecting your credit record.
The top digital business accounts are summarised below:
Cashplus Business Account
Cashplus has been a top pick for a number years. Founded in 2005 Cashplus is the UK’s newest business bank (obtaining its licence in 2020) and is one of the longest serving challengers on the market. The CashPlus Business Account allows you to send and receive cash in your business name, as well as use online banking and Mastercard debit facilities. There is a near 100% acceptance rate and no credit checks are required.
The slight drawback is that there is an annual charge of £69, though this is actually cheaper than traditional business banking. Santander for example charges £7.50 per month (£90 for the year), and has one of the worst business banking apps around. Barclays’ cheapest business account plan is £8 a month or £96 a year. Another potential drawback is that you won’t be able to pay in cheques to your account, so you’ll need to insist on electronic payments. Cash can however be deposited.
Here’s what they say:
- 1% cashback on business expenditure (earn up to £1000 a month)
- Send and receive bank transfers and pay in cash for free
- Set up Direct Debits and Standing Orders for free
- The account will be in your business’ name
- Register the account for Merchant Services & with HMRC
Cashplus account holders (and there’s more than a million of them) can also use the Post Office to carry out ‘in branch’ style transactions. The company’s clients include government departments, and councils, as well as business of all kinds. Additionally as Cashplus is now a bank, you benefit from the government backed FSCS, meaning your deposits up to £85,000 are protected.
>> Apply directly for the CashPlus Business Account and get your account number and sort code immediately
The Card One Money alternative business account
The Card One Money account (formerly CardOneBanking) is similar to the Cashplus option, but it does allow you to deposit cheques, unlike the Cashplus account, and utilises Barclays branches as well the Post Office for other deposits and withdrawals giving it a broader high-street presence.
Transaction fees are similar, though the Card One Money service fee is higher at £12.50 per month, but this can be off-set against tax as a business expense.
Crucially, this alternative business account allows you to easily accept international payments either electronically or as cheques, and of course there are no credit checks involved.
There is a £65 application fee, but this is refunded if you don’t pass the identification process. Card One Money tells us that the majority of accounts are opened within 24 hours.
>> Apply for a Card One Money account now
Tide – a new fintech start-up
Tide is ideal for small business prepared to carry out transactions electronically. We have a full overview of the account here. account is aimed at small to medium businesses, and is especially suited to micro-business and side hustles.
It’s probably the easiest business bank account to open, as there are no credit checks, and the whole process takes about 2 minutes. The only caveat is that some users have mentioned that Tide checks to see if your business is registered with HMRC. This is something you need to anyway within 3 months of trading so it makes sense to do it before opening a business bank account.
The account launched in 2015 and has gone from strength to strength, and added a number of features such as FreeAgent and Xero integration to invoicing, expenses, and even allowing your customers to pay you via direct debits.
The main selling point though is that there’s no annual or monthly fee, a 20p charge for electronic transactions, and a £1 charge if you use your card at an ATM makes this one of the cheapest business bank accounts out there. Additionally although Tide has a partnership with ClearBank, and as such deposits up to £85,000 are protected by the FSCS.
The only real drawbacks being that you can’t pay in cheques or accept international payments, but not everyone needs those features (at first). If you can live without those, then at 20p per transaction the Tide account is almost a no-brainer.
Like the Card One Money account, Acorn is a card based account that allows customers to pay in cheques via Post Office, and Barclays branches. Giving it a distinct advantage over some of the other accounts listed in this section. There’s a £65 activation fee, that combined with £12.50 a month service charge, gets you a working business current account, that not only accept cheques, but also international payments too.
In terms of trying to open an Acorn account with a poor credit history, their websites reads:
You can get a Acorn Account For Small Business Account, regardless of credit history. We don’t carry out any credit checks.
That makes it the closest thing to a guaranteed business account as you’re likely to find.
There are some caveats around that, such as businesses or persons currently in or about to enter an insolvency event, but otherwise it looks good for those who’ve previously experienced financial troubles.
Fair Everywhere – Mutli-currency and international banking
Businesses needing regular access to international payments and multicurrency accounts may find their options are more limited. Yes, you can receive money from abroad via the options above, but it’s not all plain sailing.
In this instance the Fair Everywhere account from Fair FX is worth a look. It gives customers access to all the usual day-to-do day business banking, plus international money transfers in one current account with balances in Sterling, Euro and US Dollar. Exchange and transfer costs are claimed to be up to 60 per cent cheaper than the top 5 high street banks. Though it’s worth doing your own comparisons.
Application takes 5 minutes, and while there are the usual identity and anti-money laundering precautions, there shouldn’t be any hard credit checks. If all goes well, the account could be up and running in as little as 4 hours. The catch comes in the cover charge, which at the time of writing is hefty £50 per month.
Compared to the other options on our list, it’s certainly not the cheapest alternative, but it’s specialist nature could save business thousands in foreign exchange and transfer fees.
Also take a look at our guide to the top business bank accounts for more banking solutions.
We want to hear your success stories. Share your thoughts and experiences on business bank accounts by leaving a comment below.