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If you’re running a small business—as a freelancer, a solo practitioner, or even an upstart—and you’re looking for a user-friendly bank that specializes in small businesses, you might want to look into Novo. It can be difficult for a very small business to deal with a large bank since large banks tend to prefer large businesses. But if that doesn’t describe your operation, Novo is a fintech company that wants your small business. And best of all, it’s a bank with very few fees to cut into your profits.
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- Small businesses and startups
- No minimum balance
- Almost no fees
Novo is a limited-service fintech company, designed specifically for small businesses and freelancers. Novo’s motto is “All your business banking in one platform.” The company was founded in 2016 and is based in New York City, with a simple, user-friendly product menu. The company now boasts over 200,000 users
Novo is an independent tech company partnering with Middlesex Federal Savings, a full-service bank based in Massachusetts. The bank first opened back in 1890. It provides the core banking services available on the Novo app.
Because of its simple, targeted business model, Novo’s services are very easy to use. They even rely on third-party partners to provide certain business services. The basic concept is to streamline the banking process to make it as comfortable as possible for small, independent businesses.
And because of the simple business model, Novo is extremely light on banking fees. If you’re a freelancer or a small business, the last thing you need is a bunch of fees cutting into your bottom line.
Novo operates primarily as a mobile banking app. It gets 4.8 stars out of 5 among 13,500 iOS users on The App Store and 4.6 stars out of 5 among nearly 4,700 users on Google Play.
Related: 6 Best Mobile Banking Apps
Novo Checking Account
At the core of Novo is a free business checking account. The account requires a small minimum balance to open, then no minimum monthly balance requirement and no monthly fees. That also means no hidden fees.
The business checking account can be used to transfer funds, mail checks, and accept incoming wires. And even though Novo doesn’t have its ATM network, all ATM fees charged by other banks will be refunded.
Some of the features that come with the Novo free business checking account include:
- Minimum initial deposit. There is a $50 minimum requirement to open an account, after which there is no minimum account balance required.
- Make mobile deposits. You can make deposits into your account by taking a photo of the check and uploading it to your account.
- Send unlimited checks and payments. You can send free ACH transfers and paper checks directly from your account.
- Automatic categorization. All your business finances are automatically categorized to give you a comprehensive overview.
- Send and receive international money transfers with Wise. Transfer Australian, Japanese, Mexican, Swedish, Swiss, Indian, British, and Canadian currencies, as well as Euros using the TransferWise digital transfer service without having to pay large transaction fees. Accommodates 40 currencies in 160 countries.
- Accept foreign checks. If you have international clients who pay you by check, those checks can be deposited using mobile check deposit through your mobile banking app.
- Free invoices. Create and send unlimited customizable invoices from your account. Invoices can be one-time or recurring. You can also send invoice reminders with a single click.
- Connect your account to digital wallets. You can connect PayPal, Venmo, Google Pay, and Apple Pay to your checking account.
- Novo Boost. This is a free feature that speeds up access to your Stripe payments by 95%.
- Novo integrates with Xero. Connect your bank account to your Xero account and your transactions will be automatically saved every hour and reconciled to your Xero account. Xero is a global accounting software serving more than 1.8 million subscribers in over 180 countries
Novo also integrates with QuickBooks Online, Stripe, Amazon, Gusto, Slack, Zapier, eBay, Etsy, and Square.
Related: The Best Business Checking Accounts
Novo Mastercard Business Debit Card
Your business checking account comes with the Novo Mastercard Business Debit Card. The card can be used anywhere Mastercard is accepted, which is just about everywhere in the world.
You can also use the card at ATMs. Novo doesn’t charge any ATM fees for the use of the card. And even though the bank does not participate in an ATM network, you’ll have unlimited reimbursement of fees charged by other banks for the use of their machines.
The maximum ATM daily withdrawal limit is $1,000.
You can also add a virtual debit card to your account. This option is available to all Novo account holders and can be activated directly from the mobile app. You simply need to tap Accounts > Debit Cards > Virtual Card > Activate Virtual Card.
Novo Reserves are a set aside where you can set aside funds from your checking account for future expenses. For example, the account can be used to withhold future tax payments.
Funds can be instantly moved into Novo Reserves from your Novo Checking account, and you can also make outgoing payments from the reserve. You can even set an automatic savings feature, automatically transferring a certain percentage of your income into the reserve account.
Novo Reserves are not a separate account. Instead, it simply represents funds held in reserve within your Novo Checking account. You can have as many as 20 active reserves at any one time, which can be created directly from the Novo app.
Novo Mobile App
This is the primary operating platform for the bank. The app can be downloaded on Google Play for Android devices 5.0 and up, and in the App Store for iOS devices, 13.0 and later. It’s compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
As a Novo customer, you’ll enjoy discounts and credits offered by third-party providers. The list of providers includes Google Cloud, Zendesk, HubSpot, Stripe, Salesforce, Penji, and Winstar Payments.
For example, you can have up to $5,000 in waived processing fees with Stripe, or three months free service with Gusto.
Novo provides live customer support. They can be contacted directly through the app or by email during regular business hours. When you make contact, you’ll receive a response in under 60 minutes.
All Novo accounts are FDIC insured for up to $250,000 per depositor, through the company’s partner bank, Middlesex Federal Savings.
Novo also employs a dedicated security team and bank-grade encryption to ensure your personal information is protected around the clock. Meanwhile, your debit Mastercard is protected by EMV technology, making it impossible for the card to be counterfeited.
Novo offers merchant cash advances for short-term working capital. They provide up to $75,000, with monthly factor rates as low as 1.5%. The factor is determined by your industry, years in operation, financial position, transactions, and credit score.
You can make an application online and get a response within 24 hours. Once your funds are approved, they can be instantly transferred into your Novo Checking account. Once established, your available funding limit does not expire. Repayment must occur on a six-month schedule. Since it is a credit line, your balance will be restored as you make your monthly payments.
Learn More: Best Small Business Loans
One of the most compelling features of Novo is that they have only one fee, and that’s for non-sufficient funds or returned deposited items. And even that fee is below what is typically charged by other banks. Otherwise, there are no monthly service fees, no transaction fees, and no wire fees, whether foreign or domestic.
There is a fee that applies to optional Express ACH transfers. These are transfers that take place on the same day they are initiated. Novo charges a fee of 1.5% of the transaction amount, with a minimum fee of $0.50, up to a maximum of $20. However, you can avoid this fee by doing a standard ACH transfer.
How to Open an Account with Novo
To open an account, you must be a business owner. You’ll be required to have one of the following types of business organizations:
- Sole Proprietorship
- Limited Liability Company (LLC)
- General Partnership
- Non-profit Organization
You can open an account with Novo entirely online. One of the major advantages of applying through the bank is that your credit history will not be checked in the process. To be eligible, you must either be a U.S. citizen or legally reside within the U.S. and operate a U.S.-based business. However, one exception is that if you have a business partner who lives outside the U.S., they will be considered with a copy of their passport.
Other information required for an application include:
- A valid Social Security number. You can also apply for an account with an employer identification number (EIN).
- U.S. address
- U.S. cell phone number
- Business email address
Business documentation will be required as well, but the specific requirements will depend on your state of residence, as well as the legal entity status. For example, requirements will be different for a sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership, nonprofit organization, or LLC. In each case, specific documentation relating to your business type and state regulations will be requested directly by the Bank.
Be aware that Novo will not accept a business checking relationship if your business involves cryptocurrencies, privately owned ATMs, marijuana or cannabis, gambling, crowdfunding, or money services.
Once you make an application for a checking account, you can expect approval within two or three business days. You’ll be notified of your status by email.
You can fund your Novo account by linking an external bank account If you would like to fund your account using a check, you can either deposit it using the Novo app or by mailing a paper check to the bank. You can also fund your account through a transfer from an external bank account, Venmo or PayPal, but not with a debit card.
Required business documentation can be uploaded with your application. Novo supports PDF, JPG, JPEG, and PNG file formats.
Novo Pros and Cons
- No credit check when opening an account — Novo does not check your credit history when you open an account.
- Open an account with just $50, then no minimum balance required — The minimum initial deposit is just $50 to open an account, and then there is no ongoing minimum balance requirement.
- Only fees are for NSFs and returned deposited items — The bank has only one fee, which is $27 for non-sufficient funds and returned deposited items.
- ATM fee reimbursement — Novo does not have an ATM network, but they will reimburse ATM fees charged by other banks for the use of their ATMs.
- Discounts and credits for third-party business services — The bank provides valuable discounts and credits for third-party services for small business customers.
- You can have multiple accounts – You can open a Novo Checking account for each business you own.
- Has a Trustpilot rating of 4.3 out of five stars (“Excellent”) based on nearly 3,000 reviews.
- Available only to business owners — Novo accounts are available only to business owners. They do not offer personal accounts.
- No paper checks — Novo free checking does not come with paper checks, however, that’s becoming more common with online banks as paper checks seem to be fast becoming history. You can however have checks mailed directly from your Novo account.
- No interest is paid on any deposit balances.
- No overdraft protection — The bank does not offer overdraft protection.
- Does not offer deposit accounts — Novo is not a full-service bank and therefore does not offer interest-bearing deposit accounts or any types of loan products other than the merchant cash advance.
- No integration with payroll services — The app does not integrate directly with any payroll providers, which won’t matter if you don’t have any employees.
- Has a Better Business Bureau rating of F.
Bluevine is another provider of business financial services, similar to Novo. They offer a business checking account with no fees, that currently pays 2.00% APY in interest, and provides $3 million in FDIC insurance. You can also set up a Bluevine Line of Credit for $250,000.
Bluevine also enables you to set up automated Accounts Payable. However, Bluevine’s checking account has a more limited international reach, offering payments in 15 currencies and 32 countries. This is substantially less than what Novo offers.
Relay also offers business banking. You can open up to 20 individual checking accounts, with no account fees, overdraft fees, or minimum balance requirements. With your account, you can get up to 15 virtual or physical Visa debit cards, as well as integration with QuickBooks Online and Xero.
Relay also offers two savings accounts with interest ranging from 1% to 3% APY. The standard Relay account is free to use. But the premium Relay Pro version, which offers enhanced services, starts at $30 per month.
Lili not only offers business banking, but also smart bookkeeping, unlimited invoices and payments, and tax planning tools. The business checking account comes with no maintenance or overdraft fees and no minimum balance requirements.
Lili also offers a savings account currently paying 4.15% APY. There is no fee for Lili Basic, but they do offer three premium services, with fees ranging from $9 to $35 per month, after a 30-day free trial. You should be aware that most of the features described above require a Lili Pro subscription, which is $9 per month.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is Novo trustworthy?
Yes. Novo has a Trustpilot rating of “Excellent” and enjoys high ratings from mobile app users on Google Play and The App Store. In addition, all deposits held with Novo are FDIC-insured for up to $250,000
Can I withdraw money from Novo?
You can withdraw up to $1,000 per day from your Novo account using your Debit MasterCard. Novo charges no fee for this privilege and provides unlimited reimbursement for ATM fees charged by ATM owners.
Does Novo run your credit?
No. One of the benefits of opening an account with Novo is that they do not check your credit as part of the application process. However, your credit may be checked if you are applying for a merchant credit advance through Novo Funding.
Can I transfer money from Novo to a bank account?
You can transfer funds to a linked bank account or an external bank account via ACH. However, Novo does not use Zelle for personal transfers
Should You Open an Account with Novo?
As you can probably tell from reading this review, Novo is not a fintech company for everyone. First, they don’t allow personal accounts. The program is set up specifically for businesses, and small businesses at that. Second, they don’t offer common banking services, like interest-bearing deposit accounts or loan products, such as auto loans, personal loans, or credit cards.
But if you’re a small, independent business, like a freelancer, sole proprietor, or business upstart, Novo’s simplified no-fee business checking account may be exactly the type of banking relationship you’re looking for. It doesn’t come with many of the services offered by commercial banks, but it will provide you with a banking service that will enable you to receive income from your business, as well as make business-related payments. And because they charge no fee—other than for overdrafts or returned deposited items—it’s an account that won’t cut into your business profits.
It must also be remembered that the absence of many of the traditional banking services, including business services offered by commercial banks, will simplify your banking relationship. As a small business owner, you probably don’t need all that complication anyway. Novo can give you a simplified banking relationship at no cost.
And since it’s a new and growing nontraditional banking service, they promise to add additional services and features going forward. It’s the kind of banking organization that will grow with your business and it’s why Novo is also on our list of the best banks for small business.