Online banks for businesses have been popping up all over Europe. From Germany to the UK, digital banking has become a mega industry. And for a good reason: online banks often offer several advantages over traditional, brick-and-mortar institutions. But a few disadvantages too. More on that below.
For small businesses and online entrepreneurs, online banks typically have lower fees, offer multiple currencies, and are better integrated with accounting tools like Xero, payment processors such as Stripe, and online marketplaces. If you’re based in Europe and have clients, customers, or partners from other parts of the world, chances are you want a bank account that:
- is easy to open and cheap to maintain
- supports multiple currencies
- syncs automatically with accounting software
- integrates with Stripe, PayPal, and other payment gateways
- works from anywhere with an internet connection
Today, many online-only financial institutions in Europe have been designed specifically for SMEs with international clients and customers. Below, we’ll discuss some of the best online banks available for businesses registered in the EEA and UK. Some of these are not banks by definition but electronic money institutions. In practice, this doesn’t make much of a difference, but you might want to look under the hood to see how your money is really protected in case things turn sour.
The best online business banks in Europe
You’re here to learn which online banks are the best in Europe for your business. Here they are, with additional information about each one further below, so you get an idea of what they’re like. But here at the best ones at a glance:
- Wise – Best overall online business bank in Europe
- Revolut – Best for digitally-based businesses
- InterGiro – Best low-cost multi-currency account & merchant services (PSP)
- Payoneer – Best for freelancers, online sellers
- Airwallex – Best Wise alternative
- Juni – Best for rewards, cashback
- Clear Junction – Best for crypto businesses
- Payset – Multi-currency IBANs, pre-paid cards
Comparison of the best European online business banks
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the best online business banks and EMIs in Europe, based on the lowest tiers offered by each bank. Do note that fees and charges can change at any time, so make sure to visit each provider to get the latest rates.
#1 Wise (TransferWise)
Wise, formerly TransferWise, is the golden standard for online business banking. It’s more or less the first account everyone applies for online and has a long list of features that just work. Wise is a digital bank that allows you to hold, exchange, and send money in multiple currencies. You can also get a debit card with built-in currency exchange at mid-market rates. It’s the best online bank that allows you to send money internationally with meager fees.
Wise gives your business unique local bank account numbers receiving, holding, and sending EUR, GBP, USD as well as a bunch of other currencies. With unique account numbers, incoming and outgoing transfers will appear with your company’s name as the recipient or sender. You can link your Wise accounts to receive funds from payment processors like PayPal and Stripe in different currencies. E-commerce integrations are also available with Amazon and others.
- Fees: Account opening: €0/€23 (varies slightly by country); monthly/yearly: €0; receive money: €0; send money: €0.65; receive debit card: €0; same-currency card spending: €0
- Currencies: 50+; Unique local bank details in EUR, GBP, USD, AUD, NZD, SGD, CAD, HUF, LEI to receive and send money in your company’s name.
- Availability: Limited companies, partnerships, sole traders, and other company types registered in the EU/EEA, UK, Switzerland, Andorra, or Ukraine; waiting list in some of these countries
- Integrations: Xero, Quickbooks; PDF and CSV export of transactions; Stripe, PayPal, Amazon compatible
As of January 2022, Wise is available for businesses in the EU/EEA, UK, Switzerland, Andorra, and Ukraine. There’s a waiting list for companies registered in Cyprus, Malta, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Monaco. It’s unclear when Wise will help onboard new customers from these countries. It’s possible to apply for an account as a non-resident director of a company registered in a supported country.
Accounting and integrations
There is a detailed breakdown of all expenses and incoming transfers, with complete transaction details: amounts, time stamps, card number, vendor, exchange rates, and running balances, among other things. This makes it easy to keep track of your finances for accounting purposes. Wise is compatible with QuickBooks and Xero, allowing you to automatically sync business operations. If you’re using different accounting software, it’s also easy to reconcile transactions as the data for each balance can be exported.
#2 Revolut Business
Availability: EEA, UK, Switzerland, Isle of Man, Jersey
Everyone and their grandpa have a Revolut account these days. I’m not going to go too in-depth about the company, but it’s worth mentioning because they are one of the most innovative online banks in Europe. Revolut is a mobile app that allows you to hold, exchange, and spend 28+ currencies with almost no fees. If you don’t already have a free personal account, I recommend you start there and see if it’s a good fit for you.
Although many people go straight to Revolut to open an online account for their business, I would say be cautious and don’t rely on them too much. It’s true that Revolut is probably the best multi-currency business account on the market and the one with the most apps and integrations. However, Revolut likes locking people out, and you can find plenty of horror stories online. That said, I’ve had an account with them for almost three years now and have never encountered any issues.
- Fees: Account opening: €0; monthly: €25 (personal Standard account is free); international incoming/outgoing transfers: 10 free transfers/mo.: local transfers: 100 free transfers/mo.; foreign currency exchange: Free up to €10,000/mo.;
- Currencies: 28+
- Availability: Limited companies, partnerships, and sole traders registered in the EEA, UK, Switzerland, Isle of Man, Jersey.
- Integrations. You can connect your Airwallex Business Account to Xero and sync transactions, allowing you to keep all of your financial data up to date.
Revolut Business is available throughout most of Europe, with a few exceptions. They support businesses registered in the EEA through their Estonian entity and companies in the UK, Switzerland, Isle of Man, and Jersey through their British entity. The applicant must reside in a supported country, and at least one of the owners/directors must live there as well.
Accounting and integrations
Revolut is the best online bank for businesses regarding integrations with third-party applications. You can connect your account with Xero, QuickBooks, Zoho, WooCommerce, and many others. Revolut’s API allows you to build custom integrations between your Revolut business account and your own software.
Availability: EU/EEA, UK
Airwallex launched in 2015 in Asia but has grown into a global digital bank for business customers. Airwallex offers more or less the same banking features as Wise. Some parts are actually better. Like Wise, you can use Airwallex to receive, send, hold, and convert multiple currencies, including EUR, GBP, and USD. There are no monthly or yearly account fees, and there is no minimum balance requirement.
Airwallex offers Global Accounts, which are similar to Wise’s multi-currency account. Each is in different currencies with different banks around the world. They are free to open and include balances in GBP, EUR, USD, AUD, and HKD.
Each balance comes with unique receiving details, so you can accept money under your company’s name. When sending international SWIFT payments, the recipient will see your company name as the sender. For local payments, the recipient will see Airwallex as the sender.
- Fees: Account opening: €0; monthly/yearly: €0; local transfers: €0; international SWIFT transfer: £10 SHA; foreign currency exchange: 0.5% or 1% above interbank rate; same-currency card spending: unknown
- Currencies: 11+; Receiving accounts in EUR, GBP, USD, AUD, NZD, SGD, CAD, CHF, JPY, and others
- Availability: Limited companies, partnerships, and sole traders registered in the EEA and UK.
- Integrations. Xero; PDF and CSV export of transactions; API
Airwallex is available throughout most of Europe, with a few exceptions. They support businesses registered in the EU/EEA through their Dutch entity, while UK clients onboard with its UK sister company. Countries outside the EEA are not supported. It’s unclear if an overseas director can open an account for a business registered in a supported country.
Accounting and integrations
Airwallex integrates with popular accounting software Xero. This allows you to automatically sync your business operations between the two platforms. This makes it easy to keep track of your finances and reconcile transactions. Airwallex also offers a detailed breakdown of all expenses and incoming transfers, with complete transaction details that can be exported. So it’s easy to keep track of your finances for accounting purposes.
Availability: EEA (except Malta and Germany), UK
Juni is a Swedish “e-commerce” bank and financial aggregator platform for online merchants and affiliate marketers. It’s designed as a dashboard that lets you view and sync all of your bank accounts, payments, and networks in a single location. If you’re like me and spend too much time keeping track of different transactions across different platforms, Juni is definitely something worth looking into.
Juni also offers unique account details for EUR, GBP, and USD (soon) integrated into its platform, so if you transfer money the recipient will see your company as the sender. There are also VISA Cards with 1% cashback on all business spending which is a stand-out feature among the banks listed here.
I don’t have any personal experience with Juni since it’s still pretty new. But from what I can tell, it seems like a good option for those who want to keep all of their financial data in one place and minimize the time spent on bookkeeping. My concern is that they appear to share this aggregated finance data with advertising agencies like Google and Facebook. If you don’t care too much about privacy, this shouldn’t be an issue.
- Currencies: GBP (sort code and account number) and EUR (IBAN) accounts. You can create new and have multiple accounts, e.g., for segregating funds or managing projects.
- Fees: Account opening: €0; monthly/yearly: €0; incoming/outgoing transfers: €0.49; foreign currency exchange: 1.25%, minimum €1.25; additional accounts €100; debit card: €40 per card, €0.40 POS fee, €2.50 ATM withdrawal fee; non-EUR/GBP spending: 2% fee.
- Debit Card: The Fire Card is a Mastercard debit card. Cards are linked to the Sterling and Euro accounts and can be used to draw from the relevant accounts. No cashback or rewards.
- FX: 1.25% foreign exchange fee with a minimum of 1.25 EUR/GBP, 2% on FX card transactions
- Availability: Limited companies registered in the UK or Ireland with directors/owners living in the EU.
- Integrations: API to exchange data with internal systems
Juni partners with PayrNet/Railsbank in the UK and LHV Pank in Estonia to provide IBANs in GBP and EUR. USD accounts are coming soon as well. The Juni Visa Card gives cashback on all eligible spending, and the cashback is credited to your account every month. Juni’s platform comes with software that tracks in-comings and outgoings for SME merchants and payment cards for business expenses.
Limited companies, public limited companies, and sole proprietorships registered in the EU, EEA, or the UK can qualify to join Juni. Companies registered in Germany and Malta are not accepted at this time. It’s unclear whether solo traders and partnerships can apply. In a chat with customer support, it was confirmed directors/shareholders don’t necessarily need to live where the company is registered.
Accounting and integrations
You can link accounts from other banks, financial institutions, and payment gateways to the Juni, which gives you a single summary of all your balances, transactions, and networks.
Juni integrates and syncs with Xero, a popular cloud-based accounting software, making it easy to manage your finances and keep track of your business’s financial performance.
Payoneer is an oldie but a goodie for international transfers and is popular with “unbanked” e-commerce businesses. It’s been around since 2005 and is probably the most well-known online bank. However, Payoneer has extremely high fees, so it’s more of a last resort option these days. If you’re unable to open or maintain an account with Wise or Airwallex, Payoneer is your next best option.
Payoneer gives you unique receiving accounts in EUR, GBP, USD, and other major currencies. These come with unique account numbers. When sending money, all outgoing transactions are in Payoneer’s name rather than your company’s, so keep that in mind.
- Fees: Account opening: €0; monthly: varies; annual: €0/29.95 for inactive accounts; incoming transfers via receiving accounts: €0 for EUR, USD, GBP (varies by country); outgoing transfers: varies
- Currencies: 8; Receiving accounts in EUR, GBP, USD, AUD, CAD, SGD, JPY, HKD
- Availability: Limited companies, partnerships, and sole traders registered in the EEA, UK, Switzerland, Isle of Man, Jersey.
- Integrations: Works with all major marketplaces, including Amazon, Google, eBay, Shopify, and more. You can also use Payoneer to pay contractors and employees around the world.
You can use Payoneer to receive funds from other companies, online marketplaces like Amazon, or freelance portals like Fiverr. There is a 0% to 1% fee for each payment received via local bank transfer in USD. There is no cost for payments made in EUR or GBP. Payoneer charges between 1.50 EUR to 2% of the transaction amount to withdraw funds to your bank account.
Payoneer accepts limited companies, sole proprietorships, partnerships, and other types of businesses. More or less, all jurisdictions are welcome, except for those blacklisted by the US government, such as Iran and North Korea.
Accounting and integrations
You can export a list of transactions for each balance into a CSV or PDF file. This list includes the transaction date, type, amount received, and paid. There’s no online accounting software integration (that I’m aware of) for Payoneer at this time.
Availability: France, Germany, Spain, Italy
Qonto is a French online-based payment institution (not technically an EMI or bank) founded in 2017. It’s a full-fledged, “all-in-one” online banking solution for small businesses, with SEPA transfers and IBAN accounts, debit cards, online payments, bookkeeping, and invoicing.
I can’t speak about my personal experience since I don’t live in an eligible country. But I know that Qonto offers a really slick online interface, SEPA and SWIFT transfers, virtual cards, debit cards, and integrations with popular accounting software.
- Currencies: EUR (IBAN) account (French, Italian, German, or Spanish)
- Fees: Account opening: €0; monthly: From €29; incoming/outgoing transfers: €0 for up to 100 SEPA transfers/mo.; SWIFT transfers 1%; debit card: from €5 per card per mo. plus €6 issuance fee; €0.40 POS fee, €2.50 ATM withdrawal fee; non-EUR/GBP spending: 2% fee.
- Debit Card: Qonto Mastercard debit card
- Availability: Limited companies, partnerships, sole traders, associations, and other company types registered in France, Italy, Spain, or Germany.
- Integrations: Quickbooks, Sage, Zoho, Acasi, and other accounting and payroll programs; Zettle POS terminal; connectable to Stripe and other online payment platforms.
Qonto accepts limited companies, partnerships, sole traders, associations, and other company types registered in France, Italy, Spain, or Germany. It’s unclear whether shareholders/directors must be EU residents or reside in said eligible countries.
Accounting and integrations
Quonto provides automated accounting for managing your income and expenses, in addition to integrations with popular European third-party accounting software and applications. You can also connect your Qonto account with online payment platforms like Stripe. There’s a long list of compatible accounting, billing, and management programs.
Banking strategies for small international businesses
We’ve all read stories of innocent people being kicked out of their banks because of overzealous AML algorithms and checks. If you’re a small company doing international transactions, you’ll need a strategy in place to keep your business going regardless of what happens.
Many people are unaware that it’s not a legal requirement to have a bank account in the same country where you live or have your business. However, it usually makes tax payments and other interactions with government agencies much easier.
I personally don’t think a serious business should rely solely on online banks but combine them a traditional bank in a way to makes sense. And when it comes to building a bank strategy, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. As a single-shareholder director or self-employed entrepreneur, you should adapt your plan to fit your unique requirements. A fundamental, catch-all strategy could consist of four elements:
- The primary account is the one you most frequently use to send, receive, and exchange money. It can be with a multi-currency online bank, EMI, or a traditional bank. The purpose of the account is to act as a central entry point for your company’s transactions.
- The savings account is with a fully licensed real bank with a deposit insurance guarantee. This is where you would aggregate company savings, profits, and other funds in a few different currencies that are not immediately required.
- A backup account is a fallback option if your primary account is unavailable. It should be with another bank, online or physically. You might be required to do transactions once in a while to keep it open.
- The investment account (optional) is with an online broker and is used to store foreign currencies and hold different assets. These are usually free to open. It could also be an account for interacting with more high-risk platforms.
My thoughts on online banks versus real banks
I don’t believe online banks or EMIs should be trusted too much. They’re excellent as a supplement to a real bank account but not a replacement. For example, receiving and sending payments in foreign currencies and exchanging money. They’re also cheap and can provide virtual account numbers in different countries, which can undoubtedly make it easier to do business abroad. However, online banks can be a little inflexible and less personal than a real bank.
My primary concern is that users regularly report having their business accounts with thousands of euros or more unexpectedly suspended. They are given no explanation, and customer support will not speak with them about it. Some of these reports undoubtedly have to do with some shady transactions. However, it seems most of them are fully legitimate businesses.
Now, if you set up a business account with a regular bank, you’re likely to have been asked numerous AML-related questions when you onboarded. You’re assigned a dedicated account manager who monitors your account and transactions. They’re in charge of ensuring all activity on the account is legal and legitimate. That’s fair enough because if financial institutions don’t keep regulators happy, they risk losing their licenses. If you receive a big transaction flagged as unregular, your account manager will probably call and want to know more about it.
Online banks rely on algorithms, automatization, and cheap customer support. That’s why they can sign up millions of customers and grow so quickly. That’s great as long as everything goes smoothly, but it can also cause problems when something unexpected comes up, and you need to speak to someone about it. No one will call you; they will just block the account.
With a real bank, you can explain your business activity in detail, talk with a real human being, and send them any documentation they need. With an online bank, no one really cares about your account. Your case is sent from one chat operator to another, and they can’t take any action or provide information. You’re simply a number in their ticketing system that was assigned to them at random when it was their turn.
Deposit insurance and money protection
When it comes to trusting an institution with your money, there seems to be a misconception that a real bank is the only reliable choice. However, this is not entirely true. To better understand the differences between EMIs and real banks, we need to understand what they are and how they protect funds.
Banks are among the most heavily regulated institutions in the world, if not the most. They are required to have high capital reserves and maintain an adequate supply of cash on hand at all times for withdrawals and payments. A fully licensed EU bank must hold around 4.5% to 10% or more of its deposits (the “reserve requirement”) in cash as a capital buffer. If they don’t, then that bank is considered illiquid, and a national authority or the EBA will have to step in and take over. If the bank goes bankrupt, the government will cover up to €100,000 in deposits per customer.
When you put money in a bank, you are increasing the bank’s liability side. The bank becomes your debtor and owes you the money by depositing money into the bank. A bank can do all sorts of things with your funds by turning them into an asset: issue loans, invest them in various things, trade them speculatively on various markets, and exchange them for other currencies. In short, a bank is in control of your money and can do as they please with it (to a certain degree).
Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) or E-Money Issuers are based on virtual money, as the name implies. An E-money institution is more or less a technology company with a nice-looking interface. Every EMI has a partnership with one or more real banks to keep funds in a collective account. Underneath the interface that you see as a customer is a bunch of code that connects and identifies each client’s relation to that pool of money. The EMI itself doesn’t hold the money; it simply books transactions and value in an internal account system.
E-money issuers can’t do much with your money. When you deposit money to an EMI, you deposit to whatever bank that EMI has an agreement with. The EMI pools your funds with other customers and creates a virtual balance in the customer’s account. An EMI is not allowed to loan out your deposited money or use it for any other purpose than what it is intended for. The EMI can issue cards, create IBANs, facilitate transfers, set their own fees, and do a bunch of basic bank-like activities, but it cannot turn your money/liability into an asset.
EMIs can’t issue loans or credit and are limited in what they can invest your money into. An EMI can invest funds in low-risk assets like government bonds, such as UK Government Gilts and US Government T-Bills, but not take on any significant risk. The EMI cannot lend out money or create debt as banks can.
If the EMI goes bankrupt, all the money should, in theory, still be in the pooled account at that bank and retrievable. However, if the bank holding the money goes under, the money is more or less lost. So, when choosing an EMI, it’s essential to go with one that stores your funds with a bank that is too big to fail.
Why EMI block accounts
EMIs frequently block accounts and keep users’ funds hostage, as I wrote above. I hope you figured out why: the EMI doesn’t want to risk its partnership with the bank. If it does, no other bank will ever work with it again, and the business is more or less ruined. Put differently, whenever an EMI blocks an account, it’s pre-emptively protecting itself over its customers.
What should I consider when comparing online business bank accounts?
Consider the following features when choosing a business account:
You want to make sure the bank account is available in the country where your business is registered. If you have a personal residence in a different jurisdiction than your company, you should bear in mind that some banks prohibit this arrangement.
Opening a bank account can be more difficult if you reside in a country other than the one where your company is incorporated. For example, if you are the director of a UK limited company but live in the EU. If that’s the case, you’ll want to double-check with your bank before starting the account opening process.
Does the account offer multi-currency support? How many currencies can you hold, send, and receive? Are there any limitations or fees for the different types of transactions? Are the account numbers unique to your company?
A debit card is a must-have for any business. You want a business debit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees or offers reasonable exchange rates. Furthermore, the ability to control online transactions is essential. It’s best if you can set online spending limits and turn off the card while traveling abroad to avoid abuse.
What are the account opening fees, monthly maintenance fees, and international transaction fees? How much do you need to deposit to open an account, and the minimum balance requirement? These are all critical factors to consider when comparing bank accounts.
What are the daily and monthly transaction limits for depositing and withdrawing cash? What about online transactions? Can you exceed these limits if you need to? Will you have to submit all kinds of papers if you receive or send a large transfer? What about regular small transactions?
ATM withdrawals are quickly becoming a thing of the past. More and more online-only banks limit your options when you need to withdraw cash from an ATM. If this is a feature that’s important to you, make sure it’s available at all times with online banking or, in some specific cases, even by phone.
Does the bank offer online tools to help you manage your business finances? Some banks have excellent budgeting and forecasting tools and features for tracking expenses and invoices. Others may not have robust services but could easily integrate with your accounting software.
Can you easily export your account data into a CSV or PDF file? This is important if you need to provide detailed financial statements to your accountant or tax consultant. Being able to generate and print out reports on the go can also come in handy.
Payment processor integration
Does the online bank offer an integration with your payment processor of choice? Suppose you use PayPal, Stripe, Payoneer, or another online gateway service to accept credit cards and online payments from customers all around the world. In that case, you’ll definitely want a compatible business account.
Lastly, you want to understand how deposited funds are protected. In Europe, all licensed bank deposits up to €100,000 per customer are automatically insured by the government. Electronic money institutions or EMI’s are not banks and are not regulated in the same way as banks, so they have no deposit insurance. Ensure you understand what’s covered before depositing any money into an online account.
Running a business is hard enough as it is. Some things have gotten easier over the years; others have become more difficult. Thankfully, online banking is one of the former. Never before has it been so easy to manage foreign currencies and trade across borders.
This article discussed the best online banks in Europe for businesses, freelancers, and online entrepreneurs. I also shared my thoughts on developing a banking strategy that keeps your revenue running no matter what happens and protects your finances.
Regardless of what online bank you go with, I recommend thinking ahead and having backup plans. Old-school banks may not be as cool, but they have flesh-and-blood people you can talk to and build a solid partnership with rather than a soulless algorithm.