In our quest to find the best business bank account alternative we’ve looked at Cashplus, CardOneBanking, and Acorn, but now there’s a new account on the scene courtesy of fintech startup, Tide. This article isn’t intended to be a complete review of Tide (although we have tested it), but more of an overview highlighting the features of the account.
What is tide?
Tide is an alternative ‘bank’ account aimed at small businesses, freelancers, and independents. Think sole traders and small limited companies.
We usually refer to these accounts as being card-based due to the way they work, but in the case of Tide, mobile first, or app-based might be more correct.
In true digital challenger style, the Tide account is based around a smartphone app. And while other popular alternative business accounts also enjoy banking apps they aren’t necessarily as central their proposition.
In Tide’s case, the app is everything. It is the account. You won’t find any traditional online banking, costly customer service numbers, or frustrating login procedures. The account is run and managed solely within the app. Customer service also comes via the app, though you can of course email too if needed.
How does it work
The beauty of the Tide account is in it’s simplicity. Basically just sign up to Tide here and follow the on screen prompts. The application process takes less than 5 minutes, and all being well you’ll have your sort code and account number sent to you a few minutes later.
In our tests there was a slight issue verifying the ID we used, but we still had our account details within a couple of hours, while the Mastercard came within three working days.
Payments to and from the account can be made immediately, but direct debits can take a few days to setup. Unlike some other card-based business accounts, there are no split pools. The money in your account, is in your account. There’s no need to split funds between the account and the card, they are one and the same.
Note: It seems that Tide has rejected some applications from sole traders that have not pre-resgistered with HMRC. Tax rules state that you only need to register within 3 months of starting to trade, but Tide may require this registration before you apply for an account.
How much does it cost?
Here’s the real boon. The Tide account costs just 20p per transaction. That’s it. Well almost it. There’s a £1 ATM fee, but that’s all. No monthly cover charges, no hidden fees, just 20p per transaction, and not even on all transactions. If you can receive payments via BACS rather than Faster Payments, then there’s no fee at all.
How long that remains sustainable is going to depend on the type of businesses that Tide attracts, and how they use the account. However, should anything ever happen to the company, your money/your business’ money is safely ring-fenced at Barclays.
What can you do?
You can use the account like you would any standard bank account to make and receive electronic payments, to setup direct debits, and standing orders, to make card payments, and to transfer money.
Additionally, you can also send and manage invoices directly from the app, and use the card abroad at point of sale, or online, without incurring any foreign exchange fees. For the ultra tech savvy, Tide also has an API for hooking up your account data to external services. Integration with accounting favourite Xero is available right out for the box, FreeAgent integration was implemented in March 2018 which is a great for micro businesses and sole traders that use it send in their tax returns.
One real boon for Tide compared to some other digital challengers is that although Tide offers full FCSA protection for deposits up to £85,000 via it’s partnership with Clearbank.
What can’t you do?
Here’s the crux. You can’t pay in cash over the counter (at the Post Office or anywhere else), you can’t receive cheques, nor can you make or receive international payments (yet). And while we loved the app, it is the sole means of accessing and administering the account. That won’t suit everyone, particularly those used to more comprehensive online banking platforms. There is a web-based portal that features the same functionality as the app, but you need the app to access it.
Unfortunately, if you lose your phone, you are stuck. You can email Tide, to get your account frozen and your card cancelled, but you’re locked out of the app and thus your business fiancees until you get a another smartphone. Compare that with other accounts, that offer full online and telephone banking services that can be used in lieu of the app.
- Cost effective
- Instant sign-up (roughly 3 minutes)
- No credit checks
- No foreign exchange fees, commission, or loading
- Fast customer support (this has slowed recently)
- Integration with Xero and FreeAgent
- Full FCSA deposit protection
- No international payments (yet)
- Totally app based (great for those who live on their mobile, but perhaps not so good for others)
- No cash payments
- Cannot accept cheques (yes, some companies still use them)
- No account access if you lose your phone
- Faster Payments seem slow to show up in the account
- Max balance of £100,000 after which receipts will be rejected.
Our verdict – It’s a no-brainer (well, almost)
The Tide account is a welcome alternative to traditional business bank accounts, and even to the usual card based alternatives. It’s the closet to basic business bank account we’ve found, but it’s not for everyone.
It’s simplicity and ease of use, makes it perfect for micro businesses that need a basic account and need it quickly, while the lack of credit checks, and ease of application make it a great proposition for those with a poor credit history. Typically, such users would struggle open a traditional business bank account, and instead turn to the likes of CashPlus or CardOneMoney (formerly CardOneBanking).
That being said, the account does have some limitations. The inability to pay in cash over the counter means it’s a complete non-starter for any cash-handling businesses (although cash is becoming rarer these days).
Similarly, not being able to accept international payments, or cheques (despite the partnership with ClearBank), could also present a problem. Cheques especially, seem to have comeback from the dead since rule changes in 2018 mean that they should clear within a day.
Managing the account solely via an app might put off some, but could be seen as a plus for others. It means quick customer service, and removes the pain of dealing with call centres when replacing cards, or dealing with account issues.
This area of the fintech industry is beginning to get crowded as more challenger banks open up for business, and traditional banks start lifting their game. But, with it’s unique approach, and simple payment structure Tide is step in the right direction. It will be interesting to see how it develops as the competition heats up.
If your business fit’s within the accounts limitations, then it’s a no-brainer. At 20p per transaction, it is possibly the most cost effective business bank account around, and depending on your business could work well as a main or even back-up account. In our opinion it makes great sole trader bank account given that there’s no credit check and the barrier to entry is low.
Update: Since this article was publish the Tide account has improved. For more up to date information see our latest Tide account overview.