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The 6 Best Banks for New York City Freelancers and Artists

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If you’re a self-employed contractor, artist or freelancer working in New York, finding the right bank isn’t an easy task. Chances are that the big banks on every corner aren’t exactly designed for the financial realities of self-employed life (also known as “the dream”). With a fluctuating monthly income, inconsistent access to direct deposit, and requirements that differ from the typical nine-to-fiver, freelancers and artists often find themselves scratching their heads when trying to figure out where they might fit in at a large national bank.

Traditional fee structures at large national bank chains, with their minimum balance and direct deposit requirements, usually mean that self-employed folks are paying more in monthly account fees, or missing out on potential interest they could be earning. And it isn’t just bank accounts that these individuals have to worry about—they also have to figure out retirement benefits and financial planning tools that their desk-jockey counterparts usually get through their employers.

But the fact is, across the five boroughs you are nearly a quarter-million strong—and you’ve got some really fantastic options available to you. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best banks for freelancers and artists with their nose to the grindstone here in New York.

Amalgamated Bank

What we love: 

If core values are important to you, this might be your next bank. Founded in 1923, Amalgamated was New York’s first labor bank, and is currently the largest certified B Corp Bank in the United States (and we’re in rare company, because New York has two!). As a mission-oriented community bank, they’re committed to transparency, corporate responsibility, economic justice and empowerment for its clients and community. They were also the “bank of the movement” for Occupy Wall Street.

Did we mention that they offer free online and mobile banking, with 13 branch locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx?

What they offer:

Affordable Checking: A basic checking account that includes online and mobile banking, with no minimum deposit to open and no monthly fees.

Give-Back Savings: A no-fee savings account that earns competitive interest, with no monthly minimums required to earn interest. This savings account lets you support charitable causes while you grow your savings. To do this, Amalgamated matches half the interest you earn and donates it to the participating organization of your choice.

Money Market Account: Requires no monthly fees, with no minimums to open and start earning competitive interest. This is a great option toward diversifying your savings.

Ridgewood Savings Bank

What we love:

Ridgewood is a member-owned community bank and the largest mutual savings bank in New York State. If you are looking to get away from the corporate feel of big banks, Ridgewood’s community-centric approach to banking might be a good fit. Founded in 1921 by 14 entrepreneurs living in Ridgewood, Queens, the bank offers several no- to low-fee account options with 24/7 access via online and mobile banking. They also boast 22 branch locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Long Island.

What they offer:

Basic Banking: A straightforward checking account with no monthly direct deposit requirements and a low $3 monthly fee that’s easily waived by enrolling in electronic/paperless statements.

Smart Move Online Savings: A bit of a unicorn, this online savings account has no monthly fees and offers 1.50% APY interest.

90 Day to Three Year IRA CDs: A hybrid offering between a certificate of deposit and an individual retirement account, IRA CDs are a great option for freelancers and artists to start building up their retirement savings.

Dime Bank

What we love:  

If community is what matters to you (and you maybe own one of these t-shirts),  then Brooklyn-based Dime Community Bank hits all the right marks. Founded in 1864, Dime has deep roots in Brooklyn extending over 150 years. You’ve probably walked past their iconic building. With four locations in Williamsburg and 24 more across Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Long Island, Dime offers a variety of no-fee checking and savings accounts, including a student savings account and a fabulously named “Fabulous 50+ Checking.”

What they offer:

Perfectly Free Checking: This one really lives up to its name and then goes a little extra. With no monthly fees, no minimum balances, and no purchase requirements, it also offers 50 free personalized checks and a "thank you" gift for opening.

Direct Interest Checking Account: Brings all the benefits of Perfectly Free Checking, but with the added perk of competitive interest. Already have a checking account elsewhere? No worries—they’ll buy back your unused checks and debit cards from that other financial institution.

Spring Bank

What we love:

Headquartered in the Bronx, Spring Bank was the first B Corp bank in New York. Spring Bank is committed to financial inclusion, supporting underserved consumers and supporting local businesses in here in the city. This community bank offers equal access to transparent and affordable banking products and services from its branches in Harlem and the South Bronx. (Full disclosure: Lifesaver banks with Spring Bank. We really like them.)

What they offer:

Community Chest Savings: Lets you grow your savings while supporting nonprofit organizations in from around the community. Spring Bank will match interest earnings from your savings account and donate it to the participating organization of your choice.

Credit Builder Loan: Well-thought-out offerings like this one are no doubt contributing factors in Spring Bank’s B Corp designation as an ethical financial institution. This loan was designed to help build or restore your credit and credit score, all while saving money. Once qualified, the loaned amount is placed in a savings account to secure the loan, and payments are reported monthly to credit bureaus to quickly improve your credit score. Once the final payment on the loan has been made, your funds are made available. In this way, you can continue to build your savings, or just use the funds without the worry of monthly payments—all after building up your creditworthiness.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs

What we love: 

Haven't you heard? Goldman Sachs has lowered their minimum deposit to open from $20,000,000 to...$1. And they offer all the security of a nearly 150 year-old bank, with the flexible convenience of a robust and elegant online presence. Marcus by Goldman Sachs is an online-only bank that offers some of the highest interest rates around. And of course, they’re probably the best-known bank in the world.

What they offer: 

Online Savings Account: Requires no monthly fees, no minimum balance to open, and a low $1 minimum to start earning 1.60% APY interest. Provides easy access to your money via electronic transfers and live (read: real person!) telephone banking five days a week, as well as 24/7 automated telephone banking and a robust online dashboard.

High Yield CDs: Ranging from six months to six years, and with APYs starting at 0.60% and ranging all the way up to 2.80%, Marcus’s CDs can be a great place for you to place savings or emergency funds while earning competitive interest.

Ally Bank

What we love:

While they’re not a real New Yorker, Ally is one of the largest and oldest pioneers of online banking in the U.S. They offer a wide range of products from checking and savings accounts, to auto and home loans and everything in between.

What they offer:

Interest Checking: Offers variable but competitive interest rates, with no monthly fees or minimum daily balance requirements, and up to $10 reimbursement for ATM fees per statement cycle.

Online Savings: This online savings account requires no monthly service fees and earns a competitive 1.45% APY interest to grow your savings.

Are you a freelancer or artist and don’t see your favorite bank? Drop us a line and let us know. Lifesaver intelligently matches users with the best financial offerings from around their communities, so give us a shout if there’s someone we’re missing!