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:
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
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. 🥳
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’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
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)
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 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
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
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:
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
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
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
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. ⬅️⬅️⬅️