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6 min read

8 Mercury Banking Alternatives for Your Small Business

By Corrina Allen

Technology and Finance Writer

Earlier in 2022 Mercury launched a corporate card they dubbed IO. It’s a tool similar to that offered by several other neobanks that operate in the fintech space and market themselves to small businesses and startups — think Relay, Brex, Ramp, or Rho. If you're trying to figure out how these Mercury alternatives stack up, this article is for you.

Having an additional tool 🛠️ in your corporate financial toolbox can be a bonus, but with the limits attached to Mercury’s new card, the question remains: Is it a strong enough reason to choose Mercury? Below, we tally up the offerings of other neobank platforms serving SMBs to see how they compare with a Mercury account — and to help guide you toward the best bank for your business needs. 

These are the best Mercury alternatives for small businesses: 

And some traditional business banking options to look at:

Relay is on the side of every entrepreneur in search of a banking solution that will support the needs of their small business. Here, we’ve laid out the upsides and downsides to some of the most popular business-oriented neobanks as well as what’s offered by traditional brick-and-mortar 🏦 banks that cater to small businesses. But before you make a decision, let’s go over what Mercury is all about and where its strengths and weaknesses lie as an online banking platform. 

What you need to know about Mercury

Mercury partnered with Evolve Bank & Trust to offer a business banking account back in 2019. Their customers are small businesses, typically with a valuation of less than $1 million, who operate in the digital or tech sector. On paper, some of their perks look really great — they have access to an investor network that can facilitate funding for their customers, they offer a QuickBooks Online discount, and they offer upgraded services to customers with a minimum balance of $250,000. 📈

Where they might fall short for some small businesses is in providing the cash management features required to keep on top of your day-to-day financial transactions or accounts payable features that streamline your bill and vendor payments. 💰

The ability to set up automated transfers or organize expenses into separate checking accounts are features that reduce the workload of a small business owner. 

For some, Mercury’s perks are nice-to-haves, but may not be the financial tools that make life as a small business owner any easier. 

Beyond Mercury: Digital banking alternatives for SMBs

Digital banks or neobanks are increasingly appealing to small business owners and startup founders because of their tech-forward, ever-expanding suite of digital services. The good ones make a big difference in the way a small business operates — and they do it every day. How? By offering financial tools that make running a business more straightforward. They lessen the workload by eliminating trips to the bank to, for example, cancel a card, deposit a cheque, lock an account, or request a new card.

The really good ones also help shoulder the burden 💪 associated with accounting procedures by providing clear and detailed information about where a business’ cash is flowing to — from investment in property or equipment all the way down to parking garage charges. 

Here’s how Mercury stacks up against a list of some of the other big names in SMB digital banking:

Relay

Relay Logo - Banking Alternatives

At Relay, we’re acutely aware of the headaches small business owners suffer from and make it our priority to alleviate that pain. The banking tools offered by Relay are built-in. Here’s an example: for Mercury customers, a third-party service would have to be used to get the same centralized accounts payable system that Relay has as part of its platform. 

The fact that we also offer clients the use of up to 20 checking accounts means that growing businesses can operate an envelope budgeting strategy that simplifies expense accounting and business income. 

We’ve designed our banking platform specifically for small businesses — from bookkeepers to Airbnb operators to e-commerce entrepreneurs — and we cater specifically to their needs in order to be their best banking option. Small businesses need to keep an eye 👀 on their bottom line, and Relay’s built-in cash management tools are created to do exactly that. 

Here’s how Relay supports small businesses: 

What Relay offers: 
  • A business banking platform specifically designed for SMBs with 2 to 100 employees

  • As many as 20 free checking accounts to organize expenses

  • QuickBooks Online and Xero integrations to simplify accounting procedures

  • Accounts payable automation with Relay Pro

  • Gusto payroll integration for payroll shortfall alerts and thorough payroll cycle data

  • Compatibility with PayPal, Square, Stripe and other payment processors 

The Relay upside: 

  • No account fees, overdraft fees or minimum balance requirements

  • Access to up to 50 Mastercard debit cards (physical or virtual)

  • Integrations with accounting software

  • Withdrawals are free from more than 50,000 Allpoint ATMs across the U.S. 

  • Relay accounts are backed by FDIC-insured Thread Bank

  • Relay Pro offers free international and domestic wires with built-in currency conversion

  • Payments and deposits can be made through wire, check, or ACH

  • Same-day ACH is available for Relay Pro subscribers

The Relay downside:

  • Relay does not offer savings accounts

  • No venture funding 

Have ten minutes and a wifi connection? Then you can apply online for your Relay account right here, right now and start being on the money, all the time, ASAP. 🥳 

Brex

Brex Logo - Banking Alternatives

These two neobanks have similar origin stories and, until the summer of 2022, tried to serve similar customers. Founded in Silicon Valley in 2017, Brex makes it their mission to serve tech startups. In June of 2022, the banking platform made an announcement that they would be suspending service to their small business customers in order to concentrate on larger clients with venture backing. The result was tens of thousands of SMB clients were left without a banking platform or an expense management system, both of which Brex had previously supplied. 🤨

Tip: You can compare Brex vs. Relay here.

The company has effectively opted out of doing business with grassroots, boot-strapped SMBs. However, if your business is high-revenue or backed by substantial funding, here’s what you can expect from Brex:

What Brex offers: 

  • An all-in-one spend management platform

  • Cashback or rewards on all charge card purchases 

  • Free outgoing wire transactions

  • Email and text optimized receipt capture and invoice import  

  • A comprehensive expense management system that can highlight spending trends and inefficiencies according to multiple categories

The Brex upside: 

  • No monthly account fees, overdraft fees, deposit fees, or minimum required balance

  • QuickBooks Online and Xero integration

  • Free ACH and check payments

  • Free domestic wire transfers

The Brex downside:

  • They don’t work with sole proprietor businesses

  • No savings accounts 

  • No debit cards (credit only)

  • No cash withdrawals at ATMs

  • No currency exchange services for international wires

  • Limited AP features, no AR features

NorthOne

NorthOne Logo - Banking Alternatives

NorthOne’s strength as a neobank lies in its ability to support businesses that deal heavily in cash through online banking. They offer more than 90,000 locations across the US where cash-dependent businesses like small restaurants, arcades, laundromats, or home cleaning services are able to easily make cash deposits. They also make it simple to accept deposits from payment platforms like Stripe, Shopify, and Amazon. 💵

Compare Relay vs. NorthOne here.

As far as cash management features go, NorthOne falls short of other neobanks in that they don’t offer the kind of accounts payable automation features that make more complex financial transactions transparent and comprehensible. For example, here’s how Relay stacks up vs NorthOne.

What NorthOne offers: 

  • Automated deposit organization to simplify budgeting and saving

  • 90,000 locations across the US where clients can make cash deposits

  • A separate mobile app for creating invoices

The NorthOne upside: 

  • Solid receipt capture capabilities for bookkeeping 

  • The integrated ability for freelancers and SMBs to create invoices 

  • QuickBooks, Shopify, Stripe, Square, and Expensify are all supported 

  • Live in-app customer support chat access

The NorthOne downside:

  • $10 monthly monthly fees on accounts

  • $15 fee for sending domestic wire transfers

  • $50 deposit requirement

  • Debit only (no credit cards)

  • Limit of one physical debit card per account owner, no virtual cards

  • No support for international wire transfers or check payments

Novo

Novo Logo - Banking Alternatives

For entrepreneurs looking to expand their side hustle or online business, Novo offers business checking accounts that can be a good option for the sole operator SMB. As a neobank, Novo’s traditional banking partner is Middlesex Federal Savings. Their strengths lie in the platform’s integration with seller services like Etsy and Shopify as well as payment platforms like Stripe. In addition to that, Novo allows for no-fee access to ATMs worldwide, though only for withdrawals. 

See how Relay vs. Novo compare here.

What Novo offers: 

  • Free access to cash at any ATM worldwide

  • More than 15 ecommerce integrations including QuickBooks Online, Xero, and Zendesk

  • The ability for freelancers to create and send invoices from the Novo platform

  • Perks, inducing a discount on QuickBooks Online, Hubspot, and Zendesk

The Novo upside: 

  • Refunds on all ATM fees, including abroad

  • No minimum balance requirements (though a $50 deposit is required to open an account)

  • Integrated invoicing

The Novo downside:

  • Limit of one virtual and one physical debit card per user makes it difficult to scale up

  • No support for cash deposits at ATMs

  • Fees for insufficient funds and uncollected funds returned

  • Small daily deposit limit

  • No savings accounts or credit cards

Bluevine

Bluevine Logo - Banking Alternatives

Bluevine markets itself as an online bank offering financial services to employer businesses with medium to high revenues, offering lines of credit with limits as high as a quarter of a million dollars. Their unique, attention-getting feature: checking accounts that pay interest as high as 2.0%.

Compare Relay vs. Bluevine.

However, despite courting medium to large employer businesses, Bluevine offers just one physical debit card, meaning that it isn’t possible to issue employee expense cards or organize spending by individual cards. 

What Bluevine offers: 

  • FDIC insured credit lines up to a limit of $250,000 that feature longer payback terms that credit cards

  • The ability to make cash deposits using the Green Dot network

  • Unlimited fee-free transactions

The Bluevine upside: 

  • 2.0% interest earned on checking accounts

  • Availability of physical checks

  • No account fees or minimum account balances required

  • Free ACH transfers and no transaction fees (except on out of network ATMs)

  • Integrated use of QuickBooks Online

The Bluevine downside:

  • Outgoing domestic wires priced at $15

  • No AR features offered

  • Pricing for cash deposits can be as high as $4.95 per deposit 

  • Limit of one physical debit card per business

  • International wire transactions are not possible

  • Extremely limited integrations with other ecommerce platforms

  • Incompatible with cash flow or Profit First budgeting and expense strategies 

Rho

Rho Logo - Banking Alternatives

Offering business checking accounts and corporate credit cards, Rho is a neobank aimed at supporting larger businesses with free cash flow. The FDIC insured bank offers checking and treasury accounts and a corporate charge card that pays cash back at a rate of between 0.75% and 1.75% as well as accounts payable services. Their banking services are backed by partners like Sterling Bank and Evolve Bank & Trust. 

What Rho offers: 

  • An unlimited number of physical and virtual cards

  • The ability to change, lock, or cancel cards at any time

  • The ability to receive, approve, and pay invoices directly on Rho’s platform

The Rho upside: 

  • Cash back on corporate card purchases

  • Global payments with no-fee pricing

  • Fee-free with the exception of currency exchange fees and wire recall fees

The Rho downside:

  • No access to ATMs

  • A sizeable account minimum balance of $50,000 (or a spending minimum of $5,000/month on your Rho card)

  • International purchases do not earn cash back

  • No mobile app

Traditional Bank Alternatives to Mercury

While neobanks exist online only, offer businesses integrated financial services and tools, and are typically fee-free, traditional banks exist mainly in the bricks-and-mortar world with a small selection of online tools available to their customers. 🧮

In order to do a lot of your business banking, you have to visit a branch. And while they do offer a broad range of financial products, that comes at a cost: the fees at traditional banks tend to be much (much) higher. 

Chase Business Banking

Chase for Business - Banking Alternatives

As far as traditional banks go, Chase is among the most digital-friendly. They offer online business services and their own Chase Mobile app which together, allow clients to work with cash flow, accept wire transfers, deposit money, and manage payroll digitally. 

What Chase offers: 

  • FDIC member

  • Chase QuickAccept,  a mobile card reader that lets you accept credit card payments through the Chase Mobile app

  • 16,000 Chase ATMs and 4,700 branches throughout the country

The Chase upside: 

  • Unlimited fee-free electronic deposits

  • No minimum deposit required to open an account

  • A $300 bonus for signing up for a new account

  • Integrated credit card payment processing

The Chase downside:

  • High overdraft fees

  • A $15 per month account fee (waived for accounts with a daily balance of at least $2,000)

  • Cash deposits are limited to $5,000 per month (overages beyond that amount incur fees)

  • A limit of 20 in-person transactions per month 

Bank of America

Bank of America Logo - Business Banking Alternatives

In terms of their products designed for business clients, Bank of America offers two types of accounts: Business Advantage Fundamentals Banking and Business Advantage Relationship Banking. Each comes with a set of online banking tools designed to simplify day-to-day business operations, including mobile check deposit options, digital debit cards, and their Cash Flow Monitor tool. 💳

What Bank of America offers: 

  • Business savings accounts (at an additional cost)

  • Digital debit cards

  • 4,200 branches and 16,000 ATMs across the U.S. 

  • Mobile check deposit

  • Fraud protection

  • Payroll services cash back

The Bank of America upside: 

  • Generous cash deposit limits (up to $7,500 with Business Advantage Fundamentals Banking and up to $20,000 with Business Advantage Relationship Banking; a fee of 30 cents per each additional $100 is applied to both accounts)

  • Unlimited no-fee electronic transactions

  • Free domestic wire transactions

The Bank of America downside:

  • Low interest rates paid on savings accounts

  • $16 monthly fee for Business Advantage Fundamentals Banking (waived for accounts with an average balance of $5,000)

  • $29.95 monthly fee for Business Advantage Relationship Banking (waived for accounts with an average balance of $15,000)

  • Minimum deposit of $100 required to open an account

  • High fees for incidental transactions

The right choice for your business is right here

At Relay we want to make managing your finances as simple and seamless as possible. That’s why we’ve designed our suite of services with small businesses at top of mind, featuring integrated financial tools that save you both time and money. 🙌

With Relay, you get: 

  • Integrated accounting with QuickBooks Online and Xero

  • Up to 50 virtual or physical Mastercard debit cards

  • The ability to accept payment from PayPal, Stripe, Square and more

  • Payments and deposits via ACH, wire and check

  • No account fees, no overdraft fees, and no minimum balance required

Sign up for your account today, right here. ⬅️⬅️⬅️