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Ask HN: What are the best banking offers for startups today?
71 points by abbadadda on Dec 31, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 31 comments
Are there any banks that offer great checking accounts and credit cards for start ups?

I'm based in NYC for reference. Thanks.

I'd NOT recommend Bridge Bank for checking or credit cards. They pitch it as a startup friendly bank - they are currently billboarding San Francisco with an "Entrepreneur not Wantrepreneur" campaign right now - and I've had good rep experience, but it really isn't a seamless process, I've had to contact them on so many occasions about something that isn't set up, or is set up incorrectly. Their connection to Xero doesn't work often, you can't set up Apple Pay, their credit card system is something called EZ Business Card Management (third party?) and has no accounting integrations. It's a Western Alliance subsidiary and their infrastructure is extremely dated.

We've now got Brex (YC W17) credit cards, which is a great service - eg, after you use your card you get a text, take a photo of the receipt (or email it in) and it adds it to the expense - something so simple yet is incredible vs trying to use Xero / QB / Expensify. My one bother with them is they aren't able to help those that haven't raised >$500k in capital / have a large bank account - the only thing they use to approve the account is your checking bank account (shock - trying to link Bridge Bank results in an error!) that they then comb for income/expense history. They offer some good startup-focused rewards, like 2X points on recurring software [1]

[1] https://brex.com/rewards

Having a nice experience with Silicon Valley Bank (SVB); they are able to address many startup-specific needs better than most other banking providers. I used them for a new Delaware corporation, and everything was done completely online. Despite SVB's namesake, I believe you don't have to be based in California.

The big advantage of SVB is that they are familiar with the capital structures used by start ups and are willing/able to structure the credit line in a way that is compatible with the covenants held by VC investors.

SVB is at least semi national. They have branches in major cities throughout the USA.

We (Mercury) are working on a bank for startups. This is my 4th startup and we have $6m in funding based in SF.

We are working on a bunch of product features that are startup specific (APIs, integrations etc) as well as a normal checking account + debit card.

Still early but we are in alpha with a few customers, send me an email immad AT Mercury DOT co and I can share more details and give you early access if possible.

hey, ive done this a few times. as a general rule, if you're at an early stage, it really doesn't matter, so go for something convenient. if you're pre-funding or even sub $1m, i'd honestly say go with whatever bank you're already using personally. Just make sure to take the proper corporate formalities and never co-mingle funds.

The most important thing at this stage (and the next stages as well) is to not waste time on things that are irrelevant, so don't make banking more complex than it needs to be. as you grow, your CFO or maybe even COO might have their own processes and preferences, so just keep it as simple as possible till then.

If you are really at the stage that you need a more robust system, brex and stripe are pitching themselves as tech startup friendly for credit card issuance and control, but truly any major bank will do. I've worked closely with Bank of America and Wells Fargo before and my local regional credit union with great success. I was not impressed with US Bank, Keybank, or Chase Bank. I've been really happy with my local credit union though. they have everything and I can speak to high enough ranking people to make sure things keep running smooth. And of course they love nice piles of cash sitting in the accounts.

"Just make sure to take the proper corporate formalities and never co-mingle funds. The most important thing at this stage (and the next stages as well) is to not waste time on things that are irrelevant, so don't make banking more complex than it needs to be. as you grow, your CFO or maybe even COO might have their own processes and preferences, so just keep it as simple as possible till then." - Could you elaborate on this please? I'm currently bootstrapping this myself and pre-revenue. I have a Stripe account and I'd like to set up subscriptions to deposit into a dedicated checking account. But how do I cease co-mingling funds? I'm the only investor, paying for expenses with my credit card, that I'm paying off with my checking account and savings. I'm trying to learn as much as I can now to (A) avoid doing anything stupid, like co-mingling funds, and (B) do things "right" as quickly and as easily as possible. I should have definitely specified that I'm not funded (at all) and pre-revenue.

Great advice all around. Much appreciated.

hey, not sure you if you will see this but just in case:

first, i am not a lawyer, and this isn't legal advice, just stories from experience.

Maintaining proper corporate formalities and handling finances is a big part of actually _operating_ a business. The main idea is that if you want to operate as a business, what you are actually doing is operating a separate legal entity to separate the legal and financial risk from you personally as the owner. This often includes setting up a proper corporate entity such as an LLC or inc, and maintaining the proper financial records, among other things. At later stages, this means working with your board and corporate counsel to maintain minutes and have regular board meetings too.

As a founder, if you are pre-revenue but are starting to get customers/users who want to pay, its a good time to speak with an attorney to talk about getting some kind of liability protection setup (in today's environment, that also means ToS and Privacy Policies too). But if you are before that, it might still be early.

The good news is that most lawyers do a quick consult for free, and its a GREAT time to start to develop your skills in working with counsel.

If you keep more than $100k in BofA, you qualify for Platinum Honors status which gets you an extra 75% on your credit card rewards. We have a Premium Travel BofA card, that comes with 1.5% back on everything, and together with 75% bonus, you get 2.625% cash back on everything. And if you book travel through BofA portal, you get an additional 1.5% (for total of 4.125% back on travel).

Also wanted to add that at Platinum Honors, you get 3 free outgoing international wire transfers and unlimited incoming wire transfers.

Brex (YC W17) is probably the most frequently recommended one recently: https://brex.com

Otherwise the cards / accounts from most major banks (Bank of America, Chase, etc.) do fine as well.

We spoke with Square 1 a while back, and it seems that if you're not VC funded that they aren't really interested. They kinda gave us the run-around and I was not impressed.

Maybe if you are in fact VC funded, or have millions in revenue, it would be a fine experience. All in all, the whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth.

Anyway, we wound up going with Wells Fargo. There's nothing startup specific about their offerings, but that's fine. For us, all we really need is a checking account for Stripe to push payments into, with a debit card for paying bills. You can get that from Wells Fargo for $10/month fee, which is waived if you have a daily average balance of something like $500.00 (or something in that range).

While OP said he is based in NYC, if there are any Canadians on here looking for a bunisess account I’ve used the RBC Small Business eAccount for a couple years. No minimum balance, no monthly fee. It has worked well for me.


Compared to the US , in Canada, you have a LOT fewer options for serious banks. Anything that's not one of the 'big 5' will have limited range of services and technology integration:


It's both good and bad, in my opinion. Canada's much stricter regulation of the banking industry meant that in the 2008-2009 financial crisis, when small to medium sized US banks (all the way up to Washington Mutual sized, which was huge) were failing and being absorbed into other banks, FDIC insurance paid out, etc, there were no significant bank failures in Canada.

Agreed - it's awesome. More tips - if you have to do payroll (T4s) then try out Payment Evolution. The interface is rubbish but it's cheap, easy, and fairly automatic.

Also - we moved to Plooto for paying contractors - they email folks as the money moves between stages. It's cut down on the background admin side of 'when will this land'.

I'd actually like to share a cautionary tale for you. I used PaymentEvolution for a few years at my last company. Got lured in with the free deductions calculator while I was still paying employees by cheque, then upgraded to their managed payroll. Ultimately the service didn't scale well - lots of issues, not just UI - and I ended up switching services. It was at that point that I found out that switching payroll providers is incredibly inconvenient. You need to coordinate quite a difficult switchover, usually in the middle of a tax year, with a lot of data to re-enter. I went through this process twice before finally switching to ADP, one of the institutional options, which to my surprise was actually cheaper than the startup options.

Annoyingly, ADP actually does provide pricing that's as low as any payroll startup in Canada (wagepoint, collage, etc), they're just not transparent about their pricing. You can get really good pricing, but you have to negotiate it with them. But after dealing with several buggy startup payroll providers, ADP's service is absolutely flawless, handles every edge case without issue. For my second company, I went straight to ADP.

I'd love it if Gusto would come to Canada (actually have a friend who's an early employee), but it's unfortunately not a priority for them.

I'm using Azlo, which is nice & includes native Stripe integration. But, it has no "startup" specific features that I can think of. I'm also using American Express for a business credit card.

I don't see any reason to not head over to Chase and open a business account there- They offer both Business Checking and Business Credit lines.

Another vote for Azlo. I have three accounts there, my main business account, which has a decent balance, and two low-balance side accounts.

I abandoned Chase because I got tired of the absurd fees, and the know-nothing perfectly-coiffed straight-out-of-college twits they have working there.

Azlo has zero fees and they're very responsive. Have been mostly happy.

One downside is that you can't hand-write a paper check. You have to use the online bill pay system to mail a check. That hasn't been a major problem. I went a year without touching my Chase checks.

The other problem is that they are a day or two slow when receiving funds via check or ACH. Their hold times are longer. That's a bigger problem. They say they're working on it.

I'm also using Azlo. Honestly, the main "startup" feature is the lack of a required minimum balance in the account.

I'm about to set up a C-Corp using Stripe Atlas, and they push for SVB (or Azlo, for LLCs). Being bootstrapped and not seeking funding for a while, is there any reason we shouldn't go with Azlo? Azlo appears to market their product to freelancers/etc

I'm bootstrapped as well (as an LLC). The main potential problems would be things like not having physical locations (but you can use your debit card at BVBA ATMs), but their FAQ seemed to cover most of the things like that. I used to be annoyed at their lack of Quickbooks Self-Employment integration, but that recently got added, so I've been pretty happy with everything so far.

True. That is a nice feature.

What are some banking features that start ups are looking for? So far replies to OP have asked for:

1. ability to structure the credit line in that's amenable to VC investments

2. low or no minimum account balance

3. Stripe Integration, Apple Pay Integration etc.

4. Xero integration

5. Minimal process corporate card issuance

To frame this another way, what are the pain points startups have when banking?

I'd checkout Square 1 Bank: https://www.square1bank.com/. Like Silicon Valley Bank, they are geared towards startups, and they have an office in NYC. Disclaimer: my brother works there.

> Like Silicon Valley Bank, they are geared towards startups

I used Silicon Valley Bank because I had heard this. What that really means is they are geared towards startups with millions in funding from top tier VCs trusted by the bank. Although in my experience, Silicon Valley Bank has great customer service for the stuff they could help me with.

When I looked into Square 1 for my start-up, they had fees for EVERYTHING. They may be geared towards start ups but I suggest you carefully look at their fee schedules.

AMEX has a new Amazon Business credit card.

Welcome bonus: Upon approval, eligible Prime members (including Business Prime) will receive a $125 Amazon.com gift card, and other customers will receive a $100 Amazon.com gift card. Terms apply.

Annual fee: $0.

Ongoing rewards:

For eligible Prime members: 5% back or 90-day interest-free payment terms on U.S. purchases at Amazon Business, Amazon Web Services, Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market.

For non-Prime customers: 3% back or 60-day interest-free payment terms on U.S. purchases at Amazon Business, Amazon Web Services, Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market.

For all cardholders: 2% back on purchases at U.S. restaurants and U.S. gas stations, and on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers. 1% back on all other eligible purchases.

Might be great if you use AWS a lot.

For those of us not in the know, what features offered by a bank would be considered "great" for startups, that isn't offered by a normal account at a large bank?

Just my own experience. I opened checking account with local credit union - very smooth experience, except I had to visit branch in person to submit all the documents. Credit card I got from Capital One (Busness Spark, comes in two flavors - with 1.5% cashback and no annual fees, and 2% cash back with annual fee (reasonable) and no fees for internatial purchases)

ater I got credit card from the same credit union with a bit more paperwork, but it was really straightforward.

So tl;dr; - check local credit unions and capital one business spark credit cards.

Define your needs. I'm using WellsFargo and it is quite good for what I'm using them for.

Revolut. Live support in 5min. Best bank I had.

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