There are so many choices when it comes to choosing a small business bank. Among many small business owners, Relay and Mercury have both become popular choices in recent years.
To help you pick the best banking option for your business, here are some reasons why you should choose Relay over Mercury.
IN THIS GUIDE
First things first, let’s start with a quick overview of each banking platform.
🏦 What is Relay?
Relay is an online banking and money management platform for America’s main street businesses that want to grow and gain visibility into their finances. We at Relay know that small businesses continue to be underserved by the banking industry — that’s why we’ve built banking that truly helps small businesses get unparalleled clarity into their income and expenses so they can take complete control of cash flow.
Relay helps small business owners solve some of the most painful parts of business banking: high account fees, messy banking data, a lack of visibility into cash flow and unhelpful customer service.
With Relay, you don't have to worry about tying up cash flow in account fees or minimum balances. You can also take the guesswork out of expense tracking and bookkeeping with reliable, ultra-detailed transaction data.
Business owners can create up to 20 checking accounts to organize and allocate income for things like day-to-day expenses, payroll, taxes and savings. Money can be automatically transferred into each account using dollar amounts or percentages. Plus, business owners can issue up to 50 physical or virtual debit cards to keep spending organized. Cards — with daily spending limits — can be assigned to specific team members, departments or spending categories such as marketing or travel.
And last, but not least, you get responsive, personalized support from a real human via phone or email anytime you need it.
🏦 What is Mercury?
Mercury is an online banking solution for “hockey sticks” or high-growth, digital-first technology startups. In addition to a suite of basic banking features, they also give founders access to a venture debt product that facilitates fundraising for seed, series A and DTC rounds through their investor network.
As a banking platform for startups, Mercury also offers resources such as a curated investor list, a networking program that connects founders with investors and tech perks like Amazon Web Service, Hubspot and QuickBooks Online discounts.
⚖️ Relay vs. Mercury: What’s the difference?
The main difference between Relay and Mercury is that Relay serves main street employer businesses — small, mid-sized, bootstrapped, venture-backed, or anything in between — that want to get crystal clear on their cash flow, whereas Mercury mostly aims to serve high-growth, funded startups.
📊 Relay vs. Mercury comparison
Here are the main differences and similarities between Relay and Mercury:
Type of businesses served*
SMBs with 1 - 100 employees
No monthly account fees
No minimum balance requirements
No overdraft fees
Ultra-detailed transaction data
Free ACH payments
Free check payments
No fees on deposits
Currency exchange for international wires
$5 (Free with Relay Pro)
$10 (Free with Relay Pro)
Free USD international wires
✅ (Relay Pro)
Transfers between checking accounts
Recurring, one-to-many dollar- and percentage-based transfers
One-to-one account transfers and automated minimum- and zero-balance rules
Free checking accounts
✅ Automated savings that earn you 1% to 3% APY*
1 saving account per business with 0.001% interest
✅ (Up to 50)
1 physical card per user
Venture debt program
Accounts payable automation
✅ (Relay Pro)
Request payee information
Request W9 forms from payees
QuickBooks Online integration
*For the purposes of this chart, we define small, medium businesses (SMBs) as businesses with anywhere from 1 to 100 employees and startups as recently established businesses.
Banking and cash flow management
Relay’s powerful money management features help businesses stay on top of their cash flow. Relay has the edge when it comes to the amount of checking accounts — 20 vs Mercury’s 15 — and offers more Visa® debit cards, which makes it easier to organize your income. With multiple checking accounts, you can set up cash reserves for expenses — like operations and marketing — or set aside money for critical needs like taxes and payroll.
With Relay, you can set up one-time or recurring dollar or percentage transfers to one or more accounts at the same time — ultimately saving you time and clicks. In particular, percentage-based transfers allow you to send a certain percentage of money from one account into another. For example, if you utilize the envelope budgeting system, you may have the following checking accounts:
At the end of the month, you’ll likely need to move money from your income account to the other checking accounts in order to pay the bills. With percentage-based transfers, you can easily send 20% of your income to Payroll, 40% to Operations, 25% to Owner’s Pay and 15% to Taxes in one single transfer.
With Mercury, you can only move money between accounts with one-to-one account transfers. Mercury also has zero-balance rules to help you automatically transfer money from a holding account into team checking accounts or other operating accounts.
💳 Debit cards
While neither Relay nor Mercury currently offers a credit or charge card product, they both allow users to create physical and virtual debit cards. With Relay, you can create up to 50 physical and virtual Visa® debit cards per business to organize spending and track expenses. If your business has a lot of software subscriptions, you can create a virtual card just to manage monthly subscriptions, and set up recurring payments so you never forget to pay off the expense. Or if it makes more sense to organize spending by team member, simply create a card for each member of your team.
Mercury only allows one physical card per user, but you can create additional virtual cards.
🌱 Startup banking and venture debt
Mercury has positioned themselves as a bank for startups with a lot of additional perks and resources available for startup founders. This includes a venture debt program to help start-ups fundraise and a cash management program called Mercury Treasury for high-growth start-ups.
On the other hand, Relay also serves startups with powerful money management features to help them gain visibility into their cash flow.
📩 Accounts payable centralization
Without accounts payable automation, business owners have to pay and approve bills manually and deal with a lot of administrative work.
With Relay Pro, you can automate your accounts payable (AP) and:
Auto-import bills from QuickBooks Online or Xero into Relay
Review, approve and pay all bills in one Relay dashboard
Create single- or multi-step approval rules for bill payments
Consolidate payments to the same vendor into a single transaction
Auto-sync paid bills as “paid” back to your general ledger for one-click reconciliation
Unlock faster, same-day ACH payments and free outgoing domestic and international wires
If you use Mercury, you will need to use additional accounts payable software such as Melio or Bill.com for your AP.
🤝 Collaborative banking with accountants and bookkeepers
A common pain point of business owners is that they are often unable to give team members or financial advisors secure, role-based banking access. Relay and Mercury both address this, but Relay gives business owners more control over what their financial advisors can see and do.
Mercury offers four user roles:
Card Only Users
In Relay, business owners have even more flexibility, with seven different user roles, including:
Bill Payer (imported bills only)
See here for a full list of permissions in Relay.
🥁 Verdict: What's better Relay or Mercury bank?
The decision between Mercury and Relay will depend on whether your business is looking for access to a startup community, or a money management platform that helps you more deeply understand your cash flow so you can make more informed decisions for your business.
Mercury offers all the essential banking features you’d need, but many of their bells and whistles are geared toward building a startup.
Relay is a stronger fit for a wider range of industries and the smaller, grassroots and bootstrapped businesses that are super serious about cash flow. In fact, Relay offers the most amount of free checking accounts out of all the neobanks — making them the ideal choice for businesses that practice envelope budgeting or want to organize income, expenses and reserves into dedicated accounts.