Entrepreneurs spend an average of $30-40K on first-year startup costs making it vital to have a dedicated and trustworthy financial institution housing your money. Fortunately, many banks offer accounts for tech startups that come with perks such as low fees, convenient mobile banking, and other rewards dedicated to small businesses.

Whether you’re just getting started or looking to optimize your funds, these are the best banks in Silicon Valley and beyond, that we see venture capital-backed startups working with most when they come to Zeni.

  • Silicon Valley Bank (SVB)
  • Mercury
  • Brex Cash
  • First Republic Bank
  • Wells Fargo

While no means an exhaustive list, and every startup has different needs, 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


Pros and Cons of the Best Banks for Startups

Silicon Valley Bank (SVB)

Silicon Valley Bank Home Page Screen Shot

Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) specializes in startup banking and has an entire team focused on tech financing. SVB’s reputation is so renowned that 50% of venture-backed tech and life science companies in the US bank with SVB. 

The deep institutional startup knowledge, proactive support, variety of banking tools and community of SVB make it an ideal banking partner for entrepreneurs responsible for early-stage tech startups to later, growth-stage startups. It even offers a suite of global banking services for startups with global ambitions.‍

Pros of SVB Business Banking

  • 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. 37% of startups fail because of cash flow issues, especially during the early phases when cutting expenses are essential. To help, SVB offers a free business checking account and low-interest rates for business credit cards and loans.
  • Unlimited transactions. Startups incur significant operating expenses, especially from the onset, and put a lot of money into equipment, bills and supplies. SVB has accounts specifically for businesses with higher transaction volumes that offer unlimited transactions with no extra fees.
  • Online mobile banking. SVB has powerful mobile apps for iOS and Android devices that offer access to various tasks and services to manage your business banking from anywhere.
  • Online bill pay. Manage all business bills online through SVB’s convenient and secure platform, no matter how varied the payments. (Keep in mind, this feature is only available for larger accounts).
  • Access to the SVB network. SVB regularly hosts virtual and IRL events, webinars and other activities to bring its banking customers together with its robust network of investors and business leaders.
  • Fraud control services. SVB provides 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 of SVB Business Banking

  • Opening an account is not very straight-forward. While SVB offers many perks, you must personally speak with someone at SVB to open your account, and the process can take several days to complete.
  • The online interface can feel a bit out-of-date. SVB offers a broad range of online capabilities and tools for its customers, but the UI can sometimes feel clunky and slow.


Mercury

Mercury Home Page Screen Shot

Mercury is a tech-focused bank built for startups. While it specializes in working with tech companies, any type of business can bank with Mercury.

One of the biggest benefits of Mercury is its incredibly straightforward offering and easy-to-use platform. For example, startups can sign up and gain access to a business checking and savings account and a debit card in as little as 15 minutes.

Pros of Mercury Business Banking

  • Internet-based. Mercury offers all of its services online — everything you need without visiting a physical bank branch.
  • Security and privacy. Mercury offers some of the most robust banking security for businesses. All funds are FDIC-insured, which means you can recover up to $250,000 worth of stolen money. Each web page is also heavily encrypted, and it conducts regular penetration testing to keep your money safe.
  • Send and receive funds for free. Electronically send money between accounts for free. Or leverage one of its affordable wire transfer options; $5 for domestic transfers and $20 for international transfers.
  • Host multiple users. Mercury understands that small business owners aren’t the only ones who need access to the business bank account. Mercury offers options for an unlimited number of admins, such as your bookkeepers or other financial staff.
  • US and International Businesses. While Mercury focuses heavily on US-based startups, international businesses who work in the U.S. can also open a Mercury business 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 of Mercury Business Banking

  • New bank. Mercury is still a relatively new bank, thus 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 as there are no physical locations or ATMs.
  • Not the best customer support. Some customers reported issues with their customer support, specifically about its live chat.


See also: 8 Best Accounting Tools for Startups


Brex Cash

Brex Home Page Screen Shot

While Brex Cash technically isn’t a bank, we decided to include it here for their “cash management account” offering. A cash management account (CMA) provides all that a business bank account does with fewer fees. You can manage all transactions on one portal, make deposits, trade securities, and even write checks with a CMA.

Brex Cash has raised a whopping $732.1 million from venture capital firms to reimagine the financial services landscape for startups and currently offers one of the most comprehensive CMAs for businesses. 

Pros of Brex Cash

  • Easily access your funds. Brex Cash offers all the services of a traditional or personal bank account in addition to a user-friendly online platform. Since it is 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 it does not charge any fees on transactions, ACH or wire transfers. There is also no minimum balance requirement, so you can store maximum funds at no cost.

Cons of Brex Cash

  • Limited cash deposits. Brex Cash is ideal as an online solution or a business credit card. However, it 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 — you may acquire ATM fees as a result.


First Republic

First Republic Home Page Screen Shot


First Republic is a popular banking option for startups with its ‘Banking for Innovators’ services. These services include access to 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 emphasizes building personal relationships with its customers, offering direct phone and email support, and going the extra mile to meet the needs of its customers. Its emphasis on providing “extraordinary customer service” truly sets it apart.

Pros of First Republic Banking

  • Exceptional customer service. First Republic prides itself on establishing deep relationships with its customers. From dedicated personal bankers to actual humans behind every call, the customer comes first 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 let you 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 of First Republic Banking

  • 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 Business Checking Online Screenshot

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

They also offer different business checking accounts; for startups, the Navigate Business Checking Account includes up to 250 transactions and $20,000 in cash deposits processed per fee period at no charge. This type of account supports new and growing businesses with a steady volume of banking activity.

Pros of Wells Fargo Startup Banking

  • Nationwide banking solutions. Wells Fargo is a larger bank, with over 4,900 U.S. branches and over 12,000 ATMs. Its widespread access makes it easy to deposit or withdraw funds from anywhere, especially for those small businesses that frequently deal with cash transactions.
  • Checking account options. Wells Fargo has some of the most diverse checking account options based on the stage of your business and average account balance. These include Initiate Business Checking, Navigate Business Checking, and Optimize 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.
  • Excellent 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

  • Low APY. Wells Fargo has some of the lowest APY rates, even as low as 0.01%. 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 its 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 its service for digital use.
  • Not experts in startup banking. While many of Wells Fargo's small business banking products are relevant and appealing, it does not have an internal group dedicated to helping venture-backed startups (like most others on this list).


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

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

The devil is in the details, as with most vendor and partnership decisions. This head-to-head comparison of the key features of each startup banking partner will help founders make an informed decision 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). We will compare:

  • Silicon Valley Bank: SVB Edge checking account

Account Type

Other 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 moving forward with the application process, be sure you and your business meet the 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 250 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
• $0 per wire for incoming domestic and international U.S. or foreign currency
• $30 per transfer for outgoing domestic over two per fee period
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 Varies, 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:

  • SVB Edge fee schedule: not available via a direct link; information found across the SVB website 

Accessibility

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

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

Account security is paramount when 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.


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

Which Startup Bank Will You Choose?

Whether you're evaluating a banking partner for a new business or looking to change your current banking setup, use this guide to help you compare the top startup banking options for your business needs.

And while it’s important to find the bank with the best business banking features for your startup, your financial management efforts will tremendously benefit from additional help from the experts.

‍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. Services include 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.



GIF of Zeni's online bookkeeping dashboard
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, Mercury and Brex.

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