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Novo Review – Small-Business Bank With Free Checking Accounts

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One of the first things you should do after formally incorporating your business is open a business bank account. But the prospect can be overwhelming because there’s so much choice and not much transparency in the space. When I ran my own micro-business back in the day, I evaluated more than a dozen financial services providers for freelancers and very small businesses before settling on a solution — which, to this day, I’m still not sure was the right call.

I wish Novo had been around back then. Novo offers a free business bank account through Middlesex Federal Savings F.A., member FDIC, and it’s one of the few business financial services providers that actually seems to care about the entrepreneurs it serves. (Harsh, sure, but fair — take it from a former entrepreneur.)

Novo offers just one business bank account, but it’s a very good one. It has loads of features you’ll actually use and no recurring or hidden fees, ever. See how it compares to traditional business bank accounts and decide whether it’s a good fit for your enterprise.

What Is Novo?

Novo is a fintech that offers a small-business bank account through Middlesex Federal Savings F.A., member FDIC. It’s not itself a bank — that’s why it partners with Middlesex, an actual bank.

But Novo does offer one of only a handful of free checking accounts for business users. Unlike most business financial services providers, it doesn’t charge a monthly maintenance fee or fees for everyday actions like ATM withdrawals. Novo also doesn’t impose limits on deposits, so it’s appropriate both for small businesses that plan to stay small and small businesses that plan to grow quickly.

Novo serves about 175,000 businesses and counting. However, it’s not a full-service business fintech — yet — because it doesn’t offer any loans, credit cards, savings accounts, or treasury management services. 

How Novo Stacks Up

Novo (through Middlesex Federal Savings F.A.) isn’t the only business bank account provider around. BankProv is another business bank that focuses on smaller enterprises, though its features and services seem like a better fit for larger, more established enterprises.

Novo BankProv Small Business
Monthly Fee Always $0 $0 to $50, depending on balance
Minimum Balance Requirements None Depends
Numeric Deposit Limits No No
ATM Fee Reimbursement Yes, always Sometimes
External Integrations More than a dozen, including QuickBooks, Shopify, Stripe, Square, and Amazon QuickBooks

What Sets Novo Apart?

Novo is not your typical business fintech. It’s better. Which means there’s a lot to set it apart from more ordinary competitors.

Three points of distinction really stand out though. See how each improves the money management experience with Novo.

  • Unlimited Check Deposits and No U.S. Transaction Limits. Novo is rare among its peers for imposing no numeric limits on check deposits or U.S. transactions. You don’t have to worry about sticking to a certain number of deposits or debit card swipes each month, which is good if you make lots of sales or small purchases for your business.
  • Unlimited ATM Reimbursements. Novo doesn’t charge ATM withdrawal fees. Even better, it doesn’t allow other banks and third-party ATM operators to charge them either. If you do get hit with an ATM withdrawal on your Novo debit card, Novo reimburses it, no questions asked.
  • No Monthly Fees or Hidden Fees. Novo doesn’t charge monthly maintenance fees or annual fees. It also doesn’t have any hidden fees. If you use Novo as intended, you shouldn’t incur any out of pocket expenses — which is nearly unheard of in this industry.

Key Features of Novo

Novo has a lot of features that make it attractive to small, growing businesses. The common theme here — which, in my experience, is unusual in a business-facing fintech — is a focus on affordability, ease of use, and empowerment. Many competitors seem more interested in finding ways to limit their users.

Free Mastercard Debit Card & Virtual Card

Novo comes with a free Mastercard debit card accepted by millions of online and in-person merchants. That in and of itself isn’t notable — most business bank accounts come with a free debit card.

What is notable is the fact that you get a Novo virtual card number as soon as your account is approved and your opening deposit hits. That means you have immediate access to your deposited funds and can immediately start making business purchases. You don’t have to wait days for your card to arrive in the mail, like most traditional business banks require.

Plus, your Novo debit card integrates with Google Pay and Apple Pay. No need to swipe your card at the point of sale where these options are accepted or enter your card number every time you need to use it online.

Novo Reserves

Reserves are basically working capital budgets that bring order (and speed) to your business budgeting processes. 

You can create up to 10 Reserves: one for estimated taxes, another for insurance, another for equipment financing payments, and so on. Allocate a portion of future revenues and set specific expenses to be paid out from each, automating your overhead and freeing up your accounting team’s time for more important work. 

If your business has just a few basic expense categories, Reserves can replace a traditional bookkeeping setup and could even eliminate the need for a traditional budget. And it’s totally free, meaning it costs infinitely less than a paid accounting system.

External App Integrations

Novo integrates seamlessly with more than a dozen external apps. The lineup is always changing but currently includes some of the biggest names in digital sales, payment processing, and accounting:

  • Amazon
  • Etsy
  • Shopify
  • Stripe
  • Square
  • QuickBooks
  • WooCommerce
  • PayPal
  • Xero

The Stripe integration is particularly useful for businesses that use Stripe to make and process payments. Novo is a Stripe Verified Partner, so the integration is totally seamless from the user’s perspective — you can see your Stripe balances right in your Novo account and process payments up to 95% faster. 

Plus, you get $20,000 in fee-free payment processing when you sign up for Stripe through Novo.

Novo Boost

Currently in open beta mode, Novo Boost gives you access to your money much faster than expected — in hours rather than days. That’s super useful when your business is in growth mode and you’re using today’s revenues to pay bills coming due tomorrow.

Boost is currently only available for payments processed through Stripe, but that could change in the future.

Mobile Check Deposit

Good news for businesses that prefer (or have no choice but) to do things the old-fashioned way: Novo allows unlimited mobile check deposits through the mobile app. Just sign and endorse the back of the check (see below) and complete the deposit with just a few taps in the app. 

External Transfers

Novo allows seamless inbound and outbound transfers with no minimums and no numeric transaction limits within the U.S. (This applies to debit card transactions as well.) There are no transfer fees for ACH transfers and paper check bill payments, and you make international transfers that clear within minutes using Wise (fees may apply).

Invoicing

Novo has a built-in invoice generator that can almost certainly eliminate the need for a standalone invoicing tool. Use it to build and send professional-looking, customized invoices to clients and customers. 

If you want — and it’s not clear why you wouldn’t — you can integrate PayPal, Stripe, and/or Square into your Novo invoices so that your clients can pay you with a few clicks on their end. 

Third-Party Partnerships and Deals

In addition to the third parties already mentioned, Novo partners with some notable external vendors to deliver exclusive perks and discounted services to its users. Take full advantage of these partnerships and you can unlock several thousand dollars in value:

  • 50% discount on your first six months with Constant Contact (email marketing and customer relationship management)
  • 30% off your first year’s subscription with HubSpot, then 10% subsequent years (digital marketing and analytics tools)
  • Six months free on any Zendesk license, up to 100 seats (customer service tools)
  • $500 in Google Ads credits when you spend $500
  • $300 in Google Cloud credits
  • 30% discount on the first six months of any QuickBooks online subscription

There are more where these came from. My advice: Take advantage of any opportunities that even remotely apply to your business. If you’re not seeing the value, you can always cancel.

Advantages of Novo

If it’s not clear by now, Novo has a lot of upsides. These are particularly valuable for growing small businesses.

  • Open an Account in About 10 Minutes. Novo has a super-simple, all-online account application process. You can open an account in about 10 minutes here. Traditional banks can take weeks.
  • Built-in Budgeting With Reserves. Novo’s Reserves feature is a basic budgeting and expense management tool that could replace your external accounting software and maybe even your bookkeeper. Talk about savings.
  • Lots of Useful Third-Party Integrations. Novo integrates with a bunch of super-useful third-party apps, including payment powerhouses like Stripe and Square. No more time-consuming money movements or revenue management.
  • Partnerships and Discounts Worth Thousands. Novo’s third-party partnerships are worth thousands when fully exploited, and they’re actually useful. 
  • Invoice Clients and Collect Payment Right From the App. Novo’s built-in invoicing and payment tools make it easy to request and receive money from clients on your terms. And its professional-looking invoices help your business stand out from the competition.
  • Immediate Access to a Virtual Card. No need to wait for your Novo debit card to arrive in the mail to start spending out of your Novo account. You’ll get a virtual debit card number as soon as your account is approved.
  • Unlimited Mobile Check Deposits. If you’re drowning in checks, Novo has you covered. There’s no limit to the number of mobile check deposits you can make into your Novo account and no fees for executing them. 
  • No Numeric Limits on Deposits or U.S. Transactions. Novo also doesn’t impose numeric limits on deposits or U.S. transactions. You can make as many small or not-so-small deposits as you’d like into your account, and swipe your debit card as much as needed with U.S. merchants.
  • Virtually No Fees. Novo doesn’t charge monthly fees, transaction fees, statement fees, or any other hidden junk fees. As one of the few remaining business bank accounts that’s truly free, and that puts it head and shoulders about its competitors.

Disadvantages of Novo

Novo isn’t perfect. Though it doesn’t have many downsides, these are worth considering before applying for an account.

  • No Interest-Bearing Savings Account. Novo’s sole product (for now) is a checking account. If you’re looking for an interest-bearing savings account for capital you don’t need this year, you won’t find it here — though Reserves is a nice intermediate option for monthly and even annual budgeting.
  • No Small-Business Loans or Credit Lines. Novo doesn’t offer business credit cards or small business loans. It could in the future, but for now, you need to look elsewhere for financing.
  • No Account Opening Bonus at the Moment. Novo doesn’t currently have any business bank account promotions. These bonus offers tend to come and go, so that could change in the future too.

Is Novo Legit?

Yes, Novo is legitimate. It offers business banking services through Middlesex Federal Savings F.A., an FDIC-insured bank with a long track record of stability and good customer service.

More than 175,000 businesses trust Novo with their hard-earned money. It has hundreds of five-star reviews on Trustpilot, a popular and trusted consumer protection resource. The Novo app is rated 4.8 out of 5 stars in the Apple App Store and 4.4 out of 5 stars on Google Play, both as of early October 2022.

And you can rest assured that your money is secure with Novo. On top of Middlesex Federal Savings’ FDIC insurance, your funds are protected by bank-grade encryption, Novo’s in-house security team, virtual credit cards that keep your actual debit card number from falling into the wrong hands, and EMV/chip card security.

Alternatives to Consider

If you’re looking for a small-business checking account that doesn’t hold you back, Novo is arguably your best bet. If you’re looking for a juicy account opening bonus, business financing options, or interest on long-term savings, consider these alternatives instead.

Product Service Best for
Huntington Bank Account opening bonuses
Live Oak Bank Business savings accounts
Lendr Working capital loans
Capital One Bank Small-business credit cards

Final Word

Novo is one of the best bank accounts for small business owners and freelancers for several reasons. 

First and perhaps most important, Novo is truly free. This is rare among small-business financial services providers, and getting rarer. Novo doesn’t charge recurring maintenance fees and has no hidden fees, so you can use it without worrying about junk charges eating away at your capital.

Novo also has relatively few limits. Notably, it doesn’t limit deposits in any way, which is basically unheard-of in this category. This makes Novo great for growing businesses.

Finally, Novo is very user-friendly and boasts a ton of features your business can actually use. From over a dozen third-party app integrations, to virtual cards, to invoicing and mobile check deposits right in the app, Novo makes business banking easier.

Does that mean Novo is for sure the best choice for your business’s financial needs? Not necessarily — good alternatives exist. But Novo is better than your typical upstart business fintech.

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