5 Best Online-Only UK Business Bank Accounts in 2021

14th May 2021

Online-only bank accounts such as Revolut, Wise (previously TransferWise), and QuickBooks Cash are not traditional banks—they lack some of the brick-and-mortar traits such as an FSCS deposit guarantee, or even a phone service.

But the staggering growth of these companies proves unequivocally that their benefits far outweigh any perceived cons.

Still, there are also online-only banks that do provide these guarantees, as well as cash deposits.

We compared 5 top online-only business financial service providers to see how they competed against each other.

We looked at (in alphabetical order)t:

  • Cashplus
  • Monzo
  • Revolut
  • Starling Bank
  • Wise (previously TransferWise)

(We did not look at N26 because it is no longer available in the UK.)

Day-to-day business banking fees

  cashplus logo
Cashplus
monzo new logo
Monzo
revolut
Revolut
starling logo
Starling Bank
wise logo
Wise
Free TierNoYesYesYesYes
Min Paid Tier£69 per year£5 per month£39.99 per month (Freelancers pay £9.99)No paid tierNo paid tier
Is a “real” bankYesYesNoYesNo
Free ATM withdrawalsNoUp to £250 per monthNoYesUp to £200 every 30 days
Link to fees breakdownlinklinklinklinklink
Forex Fees / ServicesComparatively complicatedDoes not offer service.Interbank rates. No fee up to £10K on lowest non-free tier. Forex is main selling point. Hold 28+ currencies instantly.No fees for purchases in foreign currency using card. But Mastercard rate will apply.Main business model. Hold 50 currencies. Fees vary. Uses mid-market forex rate.
Our Rating4 stars gold5 star2 stars gold5 star3 stars gold

Cashplus offers no free tier which we didn’t like. Although their yearly price is reasonable, that price offers no great benefits compared to the other banks.

Still, they are rather on the cheap side and, depending on your transaction volume, it might all come out the same.

For example, Cashplus offers only three free electronic payments a month, then charges you £0.99 for each one. Revolut, however, offers you up to 100 free payments. At a heavy £25 a month for Revolut, compared to Cashplus’s meagre £5.75, the pendulum swings strongly in Cashplus’s favour if you don’t do a lot of transfers.

Monzo fares even better, with absolutely no transfer fees for UK-to-UK transfers, even on its free plan. The same goes for Starling bank, which allows up to £25,000 Faster Payments within the UK at no cost at all.

Wise also charges for every outgoing transaction but does not charge for incoming transactions (which Revolut does). Their per-transaction fee is slightly higher than Revolut’s, but this is offset by the fact that they come out cheaper because they don’t enforce a paid tier for higher limits. They do, however, charge one-off fees to set up an account for a currency you don’t currently hold.

Really, if you’re not doing any major Forex transactions, skip Revolut and Wise for your day-to-day banking. (And, conversely, if you do deal with plenty of forex—for example, e-commerce businesses—then skip the other banks and choose either Revolut or Wise.)

Integration with accountancy apps

  cashplus logo
Cashplus
monzo new logo
Monzo
revolut
Revolut
starling logo
Starling Bank
wise logo
Wise
QuickBooksYesYesYesYes (“Savings Pots” are not included)Yes (for the following currencies: GBP, EUR, USD, AUD, NZD and PLZ)
XeroYesYesYesYesYes
FreeAgentPartly (Business and Personal Credit Card doesn’t connect)Yes (use special setup instructions here)Yes (use special setup instructions here)Yes (use special setup instructions here)Yes
SageYesNoYesUncertain (See comments below)No
Our Rating4 stars gold4 stars gold5 star4 stars gold4 stars gold

The only service that connects to all the above accounting tools is Revolut, even though it requires a slightly special setup to connect to FreeAgent. (Basically, just visiting a different page and then clicking “Connect”.)

Connecting to accounting software is imperative for a business account. Maybe we’re biased, us being accountants and all. But the amount of time this saves on your daily bookkeeping simply cannot be understated! Cost-wise, a bank that connects directly to your banking service is worth hundreds if not thousands of pounds in saved time.

Employee Cards and Expense Management

 cashplus logo
Cashplus
monzo new logo
Monzo
revolut
Revolut
starling logo
Starling Bank
wise logo
Wise
Expense Cards or Company CardsYesSort of (Team Members function)YesSort of (“Connected Cards”, max £200 limit)No
Cards Controllable via AppYesNo, but promises to add feature for team membersYesSort of (see details below)N/A
Our Rating5 star1 star gold5 star1 star gold1 star gold

No other feature we looked at was as clearly divided down the middle as this one. Either the company has a company/expense card function with real-time reports of card activity. Or it has nothing.

Both Monzo and Wise offer a “Team Member” function, but team members can’t get cards. In the case of Wise, it also gives the Team member access to all the company’s financials, which is not the point of employee cards.

The “Connected Cards” feature of Starling Bank looked like a personal account feature, not business. It also has a limit of £200 per card. Not very useful for business.

None of these come even close to the stellar offering of both Revolut and Cashplus. Both offer employee cards with real-time reports and data via their app and website. You can control employee spending from a distance, and enable or disable cards with just a few clicks.

Cashplus and Revolut win this battle hands-down.

Forex

  cashplus logo
Cashplus
monzo new logo
Monzo
revolut
Revolut
starling logo
Starling Bank
wise logo
Wise
Hold Foreign CurrenciesEUR and USD card available, but no account details.No28+ CurrenciesEUR and USD50 Currencies
USD Bank Account DetailsNoNoNo. (Can hold USD and pay via card, but not receive payments into account.)Yes, Limited Companies Only. £5 monthly fee. Partnered with British Bank to provide foreign currency account.Yes. One-time setup fee of £16. Partnered with US bank to provide local USD account.
Forex Fees / ServicesComparatively complicatedDoes not offer service.Interbank rates. No fee up to £10K on lowest non-free tier. Forex is main selling point. Hold 28+ currencies instantly.No fees for purchases in foreign currency using card. But Mastercard rate will apply.Main business model. Hold numerous currencies. Fees vary. Uses midmarket forex rate.
Our Rating2 stars gold1 star gold5 star3 stars gold5 star

In all fairness to the one-and-two-stars on the list above, Forex is not part of their main business model.

Starling does a decent job of offering EUR and USD foreign currency accounts held with a local British Bank. The USD account comes with ACH routing details which can be used for transfers from US-based banks, and also to receive payments from Amazon, Stripe, and other US companies, directly into a USD account.

The Starling feature is, unfortunately, only available to Limited Companies. And it costs £5 a month. Wise offers their USD account for a once-off setup fee of £16, with no monthly costs. And it is available to everyone—sole traders, freelancers, and limited companies.

Cashplus gives you a EUR and USD “Travel Card”, but no account to receive money into. You can transfer funds into those EUR and USD cards yourself, from your own account. They say they offer “competitive rates” but we could not find any further information on this, so can’t comment.

Perhaps you feel more comfortable with a “regulated bank” and have no major need for foreign currencies other than EUR and USD. In that case, Starling might be your best option.

But if you do heavy amounts of forex transactions, we would recommend going with Wise or Revolut, for sure.

As far as Monzo goes, they don’t offer forex services. Period. So, if you do need EUR, USD or other foreign currencies, Monzo is not for you.

“Traditional” Bank Services

 cashplus logo
Cashplus
monzo new logo
Monzo
revolut
Revolut
starling logo
Starling Bank
wise logo
Wise
Cash depositsYesYesNoYes, via Post OfficeNo
OverdraftsYes, up to £2,000Sort of (personal accounts offer overdraft of up to £1,000, not business accounts)NoYes, up to £150,000No
FSCS Deposit GuaranteeYes, up to £85,000Yes, upt to £85,000NoYes, up to £85,000No
Our Rating4 stars gold3 stars gold1 star gold5 star1 star gold

The three regulated banks in our list all provide the FSCS deposit guarantee. That means that, if the bank goes bust, your cash is guaranteed up to £85K.

That isn’t the case with Revolut and Wise.

In our experience, our clients are not concerned about this. And financial services companies like Revolut and Wise are still watched closely by applicable financial regulatory bodies.

As for overdrafts and cash deposits, only the “real” banks on our list offer this. Starling requires you to deposit cash at a Post Office. So, if you needed to go to a bank to do anything else, you’d have to make an extra trip to the Post Office. But, really, why would you go to the bank if you’re so accustomed to doing everything online! 🙂

Monzo has no business overdraft, which kind of sucks. And Cashplus’s overdraft is nothing to write home about.

Starling is the clear winner here, offering stunning overdraft capabilities for both personal and business accounts, and it is the only five-star for Traditional Bank Services on our list.

Bonus: Merchant Services

 
cashplus logo
Cashplus
monzo new logo
Monzo
revolut
Revolut
starling logo
Starling Bank
wise logo
Wise
Accepts Credit Card Payments (Merchant Account)NoNoYesNoNo
Our RatingN/AN/A5 starN/AN/A

Special mention must be given to Revolut for also providing a merchant account which is extremely easy to apply for.

Having a merchant account is a bit of a legacy procedure to accepting credit card payments online. These days, most people just go with third-party providers such as PayPal or Stripe.

But Revolut does offer a merchant services account out of the box, allowing you to accept payments directly via their interface at a slightly better rate than Stripe does. They also offer the option to integrate payments directly onto your preferred ecommerce platform.

If you do a lot of credit card transactions, this might be something that tilts Revolut in your favour.

Overall ranking

Important: We did not use the Merchant Account bonus option in working out the overall rating.

  cashplus logo
Cashplus
monzo new logo
Monzo
revolut
Revolut
starling logo
Starling Bank
wise logo
Wise
Overall Rating3.8
4 stars gold
2.8
3 stars gold
3.6
4 stars gold
3.6
4 stars gold
2.8
3 stars gold
Weighted by Forex Features3.2
3 stars gold
2.3
2 stars gold
4
4 stars gold
3.4
3 stars gold
3.4
3 stars gold
Weighted by Price3.8
4 stars gold
3.4
3 stars gold
3.1
3 stars gold
4
4 stars gold
2.8
3 stars gold
Weighted by Price and Forex3.4
3 stars gold
2.9
3 stars gold
3.3
3 stars gold
3.8
4 stars gold
3.3
3 stars gold

It’s impossible to look at a table of ratings on a website and know for certain if the rankings are according to your needs.

For example, although Starling Bank comes up tops when weighted by Price and Forex, the Forex offerings of Revolut and Wise are both miles ahead of Starling Bank in some respects. But, if you’re just looking for a EUR and USD account and no other major Forex features such as interbank rates and low transfer fees then, sure, Starling takes the cake.

You have to look into the fine-print, and this article is meant to be used only as a guide.

Indeed, the simple five-star rating we used could be broken down further into more complex ratings or into ratings weighted differently.

Some things we didn’t pay much attention to might be a dealbreaker for you.

So, again, this is a guide. We hoped to provide a general idea of what each of the services offer.

Using more than one service

The lines between traditional banks and challenger banks are blurring. Whereas overdrafts and in-person service were considered immutable offerings of a bank in the past, many businesses simply don’t care about these services anymore.

Ease-of-use and overall savings has become a priority.

We serve many clients who use Revolut as their primary business bank account, and they don’t care much about the comfort-food of having an £85,000 deposits guarantee.

We also serve a large proportion of clients who use either Revolut or Wise for all their forex needs, while using a brick-and-mortar (or online) bank for their day-to-day business needs.

The area of Forex really is where Revolut and Wise stand out above the rest.

So, feel free to pick and choose between the above services, signing up for more than one as needed. The beauty of these services is that they don’t cost an arm and a leg, so you can sign up for more than one without too much financial burden.

Errata

We’ve done our best to provide a thorough and accurate breakdown of each of the major offerings of the above banks and financial services institutions. There was a lot of info to go through and we did our best, but sometimes mistakes can occur. If you find any errors above, please do let us know and we’ll be more than happy to correct them.

Logos used in this article are courtesy of the LinkedIn profile of each of the respective companies and are trademark and copyright of their respective owners.

Accountants London
Company Registration No. 07078392