Entrepreneurs require an average of $15,000 to start a business, and a bank account to conduct business from. Fortunately, there are many banks that offer accounts for startups and small businesses that come with perks such as low-fees, convenient mobile banking, and other perks for startups.

Some of the most popular, new entrants, and overall best banks for startups include Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), Mercury, Brex Cash, First Republic Bank, and Wells Fargo -- but this is by no means an exhaustive list. Most big banks, local banks, and credit unions also provide business banking products and services, including American Express, Bank of America, Capital One and Chase. For the sake of this article, we’re focusing our attention on the banking partners venture capital-backed startups are actively working with when they come to Zeni.

Every startup has different needs. Which bank is best for your business? Continue reading for a comprehensive overview of the best banks for startups, followed by a head-to-head feature comparison.


See also: Brex vs Divvy vs Ramp vs Stripe: Head-to-Head Comparison of the Top 4 Corporate Credit Cards for Startups


Overview: Pro’s and Con’s of the Best Banks for Startups

Silicon Valley Bank

Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) specializes in tech startup banking; in fact, 50% of venture-backed tech and life science companies in the US bank with SVB. This is ideal for tech companies since SVB has a team that specializes in tech banking and financing.

The deep institutional startup knowledge, proactive support, and community of SVB makes it an ideal banking partner for all entrepreneurs. They hold regular networking events to connect business owners, network with potential customers, and meet potential investors, and offer a suite of global banking services for startups with global ambitions.

SVB has a product and service for startups of all sizes; from early-stage startups to later, growth-stage startups, so businesses get the banking tools and services they need every step of the way.

Pros

There are many benefits when you choose SVB business banking. These include:

  • Specializing in startups. Some of the startup-specific benefits SVB offers include free checking, 2x unlimited credit card points, 1% interest on savings, and access to a marketplace of discounted services. 
  • No or low fees for up to three years. 29% of startups fail because of cash flow issues. Cutting expenses is essential during the early-stage startup phase. SVB offers a free checking business account and low-interest rates for business credit cards and loans.
  • Unlimited transactions. Startups incur significant operating expenses, putting a lot of money into equipment, bills, supplies, and more. SVB offers unlimited transactions with no extra fees. They also offer accounts specifically for businesses with higher transaction volumes.
  • Online mobile banking. Everything should be online these days, including banking. SVB offers powerful mobile apps for iOS and Android devices. The app offers a variety of tasks and services to manage your business banking from anywhere.
  • Online bill pay. You can pay all business bills online on SVB’s convenient and secure platform. They offer a single workflow for all payments, no matter how varied they are. (Keep in mind, this feature is only available for larger accounts.)
  • Access to the SVB network. SVB understands the benefits of leveraging its vast and strong network for its startup banking customers, regularly hosting virtual and IRL events, webinars and other activities to bring its banking customers together with its network of investors, business leaders, and community of customers.
  • Fraud control services. Fraud and financial safety are key concerns for businesses. This is why SVB offers powerful fraud control services to mitigate your risk and keep your business finances safe. You can choose between per item, monthly, or per transaction fraud protection.

Cons

SVB offers many benefits for startups and other businesses. But there are some drawbacks to this bank.

  • Opening an account is not very straight-forward. While SVB offers many perks, opening a bank account is not self-serve or straightforward. You need to personally speak with someone at SVB and the process can take several days to complete.
  • The online interface can feel a bit out-of-date. While SVB offers a broad range of online capabilities and tools for its customers, the UI can sometimes feel clunky and slow.


Mercury

Mercury is a tech-focused bank that was built for startups. While they specialize in working with tech companies, all businesses can access a Mercury banking account.

 

One of the biggest benefits of Mercury is it's incredibly straight-forward offering and easy-to-use platform. Startups can sign up and gain access to a business checking and savings account, as well as a debit card, in as little as 15 minutes. Their FDIC-insured bank accounts come with API access, virtual cards, team management, and more.

Pros

Startups will enjoy Mercury’s convenient and growth-optimized platform. But Mercury offers even more benefits.

  • Internet-based. Businesses no longer want to commute to a bank’s physical location, preferring digital banks. This is exactly what Mercury can offer you - everything you need without the requirement to visit a physical bank branch.
  • Security and privacy. Mercury offers some of the most robust banking security for businesses. Your funds are FDIC-insured, which means you can recover up to $250,000 worth in stolen funds. Each web page is also heavily encrypted and they conduct regular penetration testing to keep your money safe.
  • Send and receive funds for free. Through Mercury, you can send money electronically to another account for free. Their wire transfers are also affordable; $5 for domestic transfers and $20 for international transfers.
  • Host multiple users. Mercury understands that business owners aren’t the only ones who access their bank account. This is why they have options for admins as well as bookkeepers and other financial staff. There’s no limit to how many members you can have on your bank account.
  • US and International Businesses. Mercury was made for US-based startups but international businesses who work in the US can also form a Mercury bank account.
  • Unlock perks as you grow. Businesses with bank balances of $250,000 or greater automatically join the “Tea Room” where they receive access to free domestic wires and various partner rewards (and some tea, too).

Cons

Mercury is a good option for many startups, but there are some drawbacks.

  • New bank. Mercury is still a relatively new bank. This bank may not have big perks and additional features as the more established best banks for startups.
  • No cash deposits. If your startup relies on cash deposits, Mercury will not be able to meet your needs.
  • Not the best customer support. Some customers reported issues with their customer support, specifically about their live chat.


See also: 8 Best Accounting Tools for Startups


Brex Cash

Keep in mind, Brex Cash technically isn’t a bank. Rather, they offer something called a “cash management account.” A cash management account (CMA) offers all of the features of a business bank account with fewer fees. They’ve raised a whopping $732.1 million from venture capital firms to reimagine the landscape of financial services for startups.

With a CMA, you can manage all transactions on one portal. You can make deposits, trade securities, and even write checks.

Pros

Brex Cash offers one of the most comprehensive CMAs for businesses. Here’s why.

  • Easily access your funds. Brex Cash not only offers all services that a traditional bank account offers but also offers a very user-friendly online platform to access your finances. Since they’re an online-only business, you can easily access your money online and from the Brex app.
  • Strong APY. Compared to other startup financial management options, Brex Cash offers one of the best APYs helping your cash earn a yield of 1.6% or more. 
  • No fees. Brex Cash is an affordable banking option for startups because they don’t charge any fees; they offer free transactions, no ACH or wire transfer fees. There’s also no minimum balance requirement, so you can store maximum funds at no cost.

Cons

Brex Cash is an effective banking solution for many startups, but comes with one main downside:

  • Limited cash deposits. Brex Cash is ideal as an online solution or for a business credit card. However, this isn’t a good solution if your startup relies on cash deposits. Brex Cash has no physical location and finding a compatible ATM is difficult.

First Republic


With its Banking for Innovators banking services, First Republic is a popular banking option for startups. Its services include access to the basic business banking needs, plus startup-specific offerings such as complimentary 409a valuation, robust online and mobile banking tools, and access to strategic advice from a dedicated banking partner.

First Republic puts an emphasis on building personal relationships with its customers, offering direct phone and email support, and going the extra mile to meet the needs of its customers. Their emphasis on providing “extraordinary customer service” truly sets them apart.

Pros


First Republic offers a competitive startup banking package, with features that resonate with founders.

  • Exceptional customer service. First Republic prides itself on establishing good relationships and going the extra mile to meet the needs of its customers; they understand that their customers’ success is their success. From dedicated personal bankers and to actual humans picking up the phone when you call, the customer experience is considered every step of the way.
  • Startup experience. First Republic has built a suite of financial products and services that cater specifically to the needs of startups. They understand the nuances of startups, and how they differ from traditional small businesses.
  • Monthly cash ‘earnings credit’. Users of its Business Analyzed Checking account can receive a monthly $250 credit when they maintain an average balance of $15,000. This ‘earnings credit’ can help offset most of the bank’s (many) service fees.
  • Robust mobile and online banking services. First Republic’s online and mobile cash management services are designed so that you can securely access your accounts from your smartphone, tablet or desktop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Well-established. Founded in San Francisco in 1985, First Republic has been operating for over 35 years with a solid track record and reputation. It is currently part of the S&P 500 Index and KBW Nasdaq Bank Index.
  • Multiple physical bank branches across the United States. First Republic has over 70 brick-and-mortar locations across the US, with high concentrations of branches on the East and West Coasts.


Cons

For First Republic, it comes down to the costs of doing business together.

  • Fees. Unlike other startup-centric banks, First Republic charges higher fees for ACH transactions, outgoing wire transfers, and credits/debits from the account. Depending on the volume of your monthly transactions, these fees could exceed the monthly ‘earnings credit’ offered to Business Analyzed Checking customers to help offset the account transaction fees.


Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo is one of the most well-known banking solutions for individuals and businesses, and has a reputation as a leading small business bank. Even as a well-established financial institution, they offer many perks for startups, including an amazing small business credit card and small business loans.

They also offer different business checking accounts; for startups, the Business Choice Checking Account includes up to 200 transactions and $7,500 in cash deposits processed per fee period at no charge, created to support new and growing businesses with a steady volume of banking activity.

Pros

Wells Fargo is one of the biggest names in banking. Their devoted customers trust them for many reasons, such as:

  • Nationwide banking solutions. Wells Fargo is a larger bank, with over 8,000 local branches throughout the nation and over 13,000 ATMs. You can easily find a Wells Fargo location and/or an ATM. You can easily deposit and withdraw cash, and more. This makes Wells Fargo one of the best options for a traditional small business owner who deals in cash transactions.
  • Checking account options. Wells Fargo has some of the most diverse checking account options for businesses. These include Simple Business Checking, Business Choice Checking, Platinum Business Checking, and Analyzed Business Checking.
  • Waiving monthly maintenance fees. While fees exist, Wells Fargo offers many opportunities to waive business checking monthly maintenance fees. For example, if you maintain a specific minimum daily balance, you don’t have to pay a monthly fee.
  • Great business credit card perks. Wells Fargo makes it easy for small businesses to qualify for a credit card. Their startup credit cards also offer great perks, including travel rewards and cashback on all purchases.

Cons

Wells Fargo is a trusted name but not all businesses will benefit from their banking options.

  • Low APY. Wells Fargo has some of the lowest APY rates: 0.03% - 0.06%. If you’re looking for high-yield savings, look at other options such as Brex Cash.
  • App performance is low. Wells Fargo isn’t a tech-first company, so their mobile app doesn't work as best as modern banking and finance brands. If this is important for your business, choose a tech-focused or online-only business bank that optimizes their service for digital use.
  • Not experts in startup banking. While many of the products Wells Fargo offers its small business banking customers are relevant and appealing to startups, the bank does not have a practice group dedicated to understand and helping venture backed startups (like most others on this list do).


See also: Startup Bookkeeping: Common Mistakes VC-Backed Startups Make and How We're Solving Them

5 Best Banks for Startups: Head-to-Head Feature Comparison

As with most vendor and partnership decisions, the devil is in the details. This head-to-head comparison of the key features each startup banking partner brings to the table will help founders make an informed decision on the best banking partner for their business.


For clarity’s sake, we’re comparing the best checking accounts for businesses in this section (or, in the case of Brex Cash, the cash management account). The accounts being compared are:

  • Silicon Valley Bank: SVB Edge checking account

Account Type

Options for startup banking accounts range from simple checking and savings accounts, to more complex money market accounts and cash management accounts.


Silicon Valley Bank Mercury Brex Cash First Republic Wells Fargo
Cash Management Account
Business Checking Account
Business Savings Account
Business Money Market Savings


Requirements to Open Account

Before you move forward with the application process, be sure you and your business meet the requirement qualifications to open an account.

Silicon Valley Bank Mercury Brex Cash First Republic Wells Fargo
Qualifications • Federal EIN
• Most companies will qualify unless associated with adult entertainment, marijuana, or gambling
• Business must be incorporated in US with a valid federal EIN, and in good standing
• Most US companies will qualify, aside from money services businesses or businesses involved with adult entertainment, marijuana or internet gambling
• Business must be incorporated in US with a valid federal EIN, and in good standing (sole proprietors do not qualify) • Business must be incorporated in US with a valid federal EIN
• Must not be associated with adult entertainment, marijuana, or gambling
• Business must be registered in the US, with a business tax ID # and state ID
Documentation • Federal EIN
• Account holder (founder/s) social security number and copy of government issued photo ID
• Traction & financing details to-date, including accelerator involvement
• Federal EIN
• Account holder (founder/s) social security number and copy of government issued photo ID
• Federal EIN
• Account holder (founder/s) social security number and copy of government issued photo ID
• Original articles of incorporation
• Federal EIN
• Account holder (founder/s) social security number and copy of government issued photo ID
• Original or certified copies of your articles of incorporation
• Federal EIN
• Account holder (founder/s) social security number, and two forms of personal identification, one of which must be issued by a government agency
Minimum opening deposit No minimum No minimum No minimum $5,000 $25
How to apply Initiate online or at branch Online only Online only Online or at branch Online or at branch
International availability • SVB has offices in the US, Ireland, UK, Germany, India, Israel, and China.
• It has an international banking network in Canada, Chile, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, NZ, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, and Europe (some exclusions apply)
Mercury was made for US-based startups but international businesses who work in the US can also form a Mercury bank account Available only to customers (C-corp, S-corp, or LLC) that are incorporated in the US Available in the US only Wells Fargo has locations around the world to help businesses succeed on an international scale, with locations across the Asia Pacific, Canada, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America regions


Fees

New entries into the startup banking industry offer the most competitive low and no fee banking products and services. 

Silicon Valley Bank Mercury Brex Cash First Republic Wells Fargo
ACH No fee No fee No fee • $0.10 each credit
• $0.02 each debit
• Various setup fees
$0.2 per ACH item received
Transaction No fee No fee No fee Fees apply for most transfers; detailed breakdown unavailable First 200 transactions included per fee period at no charge, $0.50 each thereafter
Wire transfer No fee, daily cap of $100K • $5 for domestic transfers
• $20 for international transfers
• Free for Tea Room customers
No fee • No fee for incoming domestic & int’l wires
• $35 outgoing domestic & int’l in USD
• $25 outgoing intl in foreign currency
• $12 outgoing wires via online banking
• $15 per transfer for incoming domestic
• $30 per transfer for outgoing domestic
Overdraft $30 per item No fee No fee $30 per item $35 per item
Maintenance No fee No fee No fee $30/month, can use earnings credit to cover costs $14/month, can avoid by meeting certain requirements
Check • $0.11 for checks deposited
• $15 for foreign check conversion
No fee No fee $0.10 per check deposit No fee


Details of each bank’s fees are available via their respective landing pages, where you can sift through the fine print:

Accessibility

How easy will it be to access your company’s bank account, or contact customer support about an urgent matter? Startup founders are on the go 24/7, and require a banking partner who can rise to the occasion to meet their needs.

Silicon Valley Bank Mercury Brex Cash First Republic Wells Fargo
Online banking
Mobile banking
Physical branches
Customer support • Phone & email, weekdays from 5am – 5:30pm PST • General help email
• Request account-specific support when logged into account
• Phone & email, weekdays from 5am - midnight PST, weekends from 5am - 10pm PST • Phone & email
• Dedicated banking partner assigned
• Phone & email, 24/7



See also: Accounting Software Comparison for Startups


Security & Insurance

It goes without saying account security is paramount when it comes to deciding where to store your startup’s cash.

Silicon Valley Bank Mercury Brex Cash First Republic Wells Fargo
FDIC Insured up to the FDIC limit of $250,000 Insured up to the FDIC limit of $250,000 Insured up to the FDIC limit of $250,000 Insured up to the FDIC limit of $250,000 Insured up to the FDIC limit of $250,000
SIPC Not applicable Not applicable Brex Treasury is a member of SIPC, which protects securities customers up to $500,000 Not applicable Not applicable
Fraud protection Choose between per item, monthly, or per transaction fraud protection. Zero liability for fraudulent transactions. Automatically credits account. Zero liability for fraudulent transactions. Automatically credits account. Clients of First Republic Bank have access to Trusteer Rapport, which is designed to protect users from financial malware and phishing attacks. 24/7 fraud monitoring with zero liability protection for free.
Password protection • Requires users to verify their identity via text message or a phone call at login when high-risk activities are being performed.
• Offers IBM Security Trusteer Rapport® online fraud protection software.
• Passwords are stored hashed with the bcrypt algorithm, and plaintext passwords are never stored or logged.
• Time-based One Time Passwords are used for two-factor authentication via Authy and Google Authenticator. Authentication codes are never sent via insecure channels like SMS.
• Brex Cash enforces strong password requirements and supports mobile biometric authentication (Face ID/Touch ID). • Provide clients with multiple Identification numbers, tokens and passwords.
• Forced password change every 120 days.
• Uses encryption keys for Direct Transmission Service.
• Option to sign up for 2-step sign-in verification.


Which Startup Bank Will You Choose?

Whether you're evaluating a banking partner for a new business, looking to change your current banking setup, this guide will help you compare the top startup banking options -- Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), Mercury, Brex Cash, First Republic Bank, and Wells Fargo -- to determine the banking partner best suited to meet the needs of your business.

While it’s important to find the bank with the best business banking features for your startup, your financial management efforts will benefit tremendously if you seek help from the experts.

See also: Startup Bookkeeping: Common Mistakes VC-Backed Startups Make and How We're Solving Them

For the rest of your startup's finance-related needs, take a closer look at Zeni. Zeni uses a combination of AI and human finance experts to maintain accurate books and manage all of the finance functions for your startup, including daily bookkeeping, ongoing accounting services, access to our finance concierge, bill pay and invoicing, budgeting and projections, and even annual taxes and CFO services.

Zeni customers also gain access to a single dashboard to see and manage their finances in real-time.


Zeni Dashboard

For a turn-key solution to help manage your startup's finances and access to a Zeni Dashboard for your business, schedule a demo to learn more and try Zeni today.


Editorial Disclosure: Zeni has business partnerships with SVB and Brex.