Relay 2023 Review
Founded in 2018, Relay is a Toronto-based fintech company that offers digital business banking services. Because the company is not a bank, banking services are provided by its partner, Thread Bank, Member FDIC. Users get 20 checking accounts and 50 physical or virtual Visa® debit cards. The platform also enables users to assign role-based access and collect payment using Stripe, Square, and Shopify.
Relay Pros and Cons
|No monthly fees or balance requirements||No cash deposits|
|Mobile check deposit||Customer support is limited|
|Multiple accounts and role-based permissions||Places 6- to 7-day hold on check deposits|
Relay Business Banking Plans Overview
- Minimum opening deposit: $0
- Minimum balance requirement: None
- Monthly fees: None
- APY: None
- Transactions: Unlimited
- Cash deposit limits: No cash deposits
- Mobile check deposit limits: Depends on account type and user
- Card limits: N/A
- Savings account available?: No
How Does Relay Work?
Relay is a Toronto-based fintech company that provides online checking accounts to U.S. corporations, LLCs, general partnerships, and sole proprietors. Banking services are provided by Relay’s partner, Thread Bank, Member FDIC. There are no account fees, overdraft fees, or minimum balances. Payments can be made via ACH and wire, with functionality for check payments coming soon. Users also get free cash deposits and withdrawals at Allpoint ATMs.
Users can have up to 20 individual checking accounts and 50 virtual or physical debit cards. This means Relay’s banking services are also tailored to accountants and bookkeepers who need to manage their clients. The platform also offers direct integrations with QuickBooks Online and Xero.
Relay Business Banking Features
Relay offers free business checking accounts without monthly fees or minimum balance requirements. Likewise, there are no transaction limits, and incoming wire transfers are free. Here’s what comes with a Relay business banking account:
- Fee-free checking account: Relay business checking now allows customers to deposit cash without any fees through compatible AllPoint ATMs. Each transaction is limited to $1,000, with a daily cap of $2,000. This feature is accessible to customers who opened a Relay account in 2023 and existing clients who have transitioned to Relay 2.0.
- Checkbooks: Checkbooks are not yet available through Relay, but customers will soon be able to order checkbooks through a third-party check printing service.
- Supports multiple accounts, cards: Business owners have the option to establish as many as 20 checking accounts and allocate up to 50 virtual or physical debit cards. Additionally, you can extend invitations to team members, designate roles and permissions, and impose spending limits. These features render Relay suitable for medium-sized businesses or swiftly expanding startups.
- Team Member Account Permissions: RYou can grant team members entry to certain subaccounts and debit cards. As the primary user, you hold the capability to oversee card activities and establish daily expenditure and ATM withdrawal limits. Holding total control over all account permissions lets team members with debit cards assist in financial duties like bill payments or managing bookkeeping, ensuring they don’t have excessive control over business funds.
- Monthly account reconciliation: Relay can reconcile a user’s transactions at the end of each month. This functionality also makes it easy to organize necessary W-9 forms and save for tax bills throughout the year.
- Built-in bookkeeping functions: Relay functions as both a bank account and cash management service, providing direct integration with QuickBooks Online and Xero for effortless transaction data synchronization with your accounting software. With Relay Pro, enjoy enhanced bookkeeping features such as setting approval workflows for bill payments and automatic importation of unpaid bills from QuickBooks or Xero. Moreover, you can link your Relay account with PayPal, Stripe, Square, and Venmo.
- Automatic transfers to Relay business savings accounts: Relay simplifies the process of saving for significant business expenses or establishing an emergency fund. You can establish rules within your business checking accounts to automatically shift a fixed dollar amount or percentage to your Relay business savings account. This account earns an Annual Percentage Yield (APY) ranging from 1.00% to 3.00%, based on your account balance.
Where Relay Business Checking Lacks
- Limited Customer Support: Relay offers phone support only from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET. For issues outside these hours, email support is available, but responses may not be immediate.
- Extended Check Hold Time: Checks deposited through Relay’s app take six to seven business days to clear. This long delay can disrupt a business's cash flow. Other business accounts, like Bluevine, make funds available within one to four business days.
In addition to free banking services, customers can choose Relay’s paid offering—Relay Pro. Available for $30 per business, per month, Relay Pro comes with advanced features, including same-day ACH and free outgoing wires. Users can also automatically import bills from QuickBooks Online or Xero, and review, approve, and pay bills through a single online dashboard. This paid plan also comes with single- or multi-step approval rules for bill payments and consolidated payments for the same vendors.
How To Apply for a Relay Business Banking Account
You can apply for a Relay account online by navigating to “Sign Up” on the homepage and then providing your name, contact information, position/title, and other relevant information.
After registering, you may need to upload missing documents to complete the verification process. To do so, navigate to the Settings tab in your user dashboard and click on “User verified” under your name. Here, you can view missing documentation ad upload necessary documents.
These are some of the things you’ll need to register for a Relay business bank account:
- Email address
- Government-issued photo ID
- Social Security number or passport
- Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Personal contact information, including address and phone number
- Business contact information, including address and phone number
You also need to upload certain business documents with your application:
- Sole proprietorship: Employer identification number or Social Security number, and DBA certificate, if applicable.
- General partnership: EIN and EIN verification letter, partnership registration form, and company bylaws
- Corporation: EIN and EIN verification letter, company bylaws (depending on state filed in), and articles of incorporation.
- Limited Liability Corporation: EIN and EIN verification letter, articles of organizations or certificate of formation, and operating agreement (for multi-member LLCs filed in California, Delaware, Maine, Missouri and New York).
Is It Safe And Secure?
Relay prioritizes security for both your funds and personal data.
Offering its banking services alongside Thread Bank, a member of FDIC, Relay ensures your accounts are FDIC-insured up to $2,500,000 through a cash sweep program managed by Thread Bank. With a long-standing history since 1906, and FDIC insurance since 1934, Thread Bank provides robust security.
In collaboration with Visa®, Relay guarantees a zero-liability policy for the Relay Visa® Debit Card, ensuring you're not accountable for any unauthorized transactions. If your debit card is compromised, the ability to immediately freeze it with a single click from your Relay account adds an extra layer of security.
Additionally, Relay enhances account safety by implementing two-factor authentication using widely recognized authenticator apps, further barring unauthorized access to your accounts.
Relay Business Banking Fees
As a free digital banking service, Relay provides checking accounts with no monthly fees, minimum balances, or overdraft fees. Though the account itself is free, the platform charges outgoing domestic and international wire fees of $5 and $10, respectively. International wire conversions also come with an exchange rate fee starting at 1%. Relay also offers a paid option—Relay Pro—for $30 per business, per month.
Who Is Relay Best For?
If you aim to budget efficiently: Relay allows the creation of multiple sub-accounts under one checking account for organizing various expenses like taxes, payroll, and operational costs, ensuring easy tracking and management of funds. Fee-free fund transfers between sub-accounts make Relay a top-recommended online bank and a leading alternative to Brex business accounts.
If you want to assign financial duties to employees and advisors: Relay’s feature of account permissions lets you provide employees access to designated checking accounts and debit cards. Customizable access levels and spending limits help avoid fund misappropriation, marking Relay as one of the best checking accounts for LLCs.
If regular wire transfers are a part of your business: Relay offers affordable wire transfer fees. Incoming wire transfers, both domestic and international, are free. Outgoing wire transfers have minimal charges, but with a Relay Pro upgrade, all wire transfers are free, adding to the reasons for its position among the top small business checking accounts.
Who Is Relay Not Best For?
If earning interest on your deposits is your priority: Relay’s checking accounts do not offer interest. For higher yields, consider Bluevine, which provides a 2.00% APY on balances up to $250,000 for qualified accounts. See our Bluevine business checking review for more details on eligibility.
If you are a freelancer or a solo entrepreneur: Relay is crafted for team-based businesses, and may not be the most suitable for individuals managing their enterprises. A platform like Found, offering numerous features such as built-in invoicing and bookkeeping tools, might be a better fit for freelancers, aiding in saving time and resources on business paperwork. Check out our comparison of Found vs Relay for further insights.
If digital tax preparation support is essential for you: Relay, although equipped with various business tools, does not offer tax preparation aid.
Relay customers can contact the company via phone or email. Customer Experience team members are available seven days a week, from 9 am to 5 pm Eastern time. Relay also offers an online chat function Monday to Friday from 9 am to 6 pm ET and Saturday and Sunday from 12 pm to 3 pm ET. The online Help Center also provides step-by-step how-to guides for relevant banking issues.
Relay has a 4.4-star rating on Trustpilot based on 664 reviews, but does not appear to have a Better Business Bureau (BBB) page. Positive reviews focus primarily on the company’s helpful customer service team, low cost, and easy ACH payments. Still, some users complain about the lack of instant payments through Zelle, slow verification of user bank accounts, and a delay in customer support response times.
Who Is Relay Best For?
Relay stands out for small business owners who need access to multiple bank accounts and debit cards for their businesses and employees. Customers who want to integrate their banking with tools like QuickBooks Online or Xero may also be satisfied with Relay. That said, the platform does not allow users to deposit cash, so it’s best reserved for e-commerce businesses and other operations that do not accept cash payments.
Relay vs. Mercury
While both Relay and Mercury are business banking fintechs, Relay is meant for use by small businesses, and Mercury is tailored to venture-backed and bootstrapped startups. Neither platform charges monthly fees, but Mercury has a more robust offering that includes both checking and savings accounts, plus credit cards, lending, and bookkeeping tools and integrations.
What to Look Out for When Choosing a Bank
Choosing the right banking service for your business, whether large or small, is a crucial decision that should be made with careful consideration.
In the best scenario, your bank acts as a partner, understanding and catering to your needs, providing essential tools to ensure the smooth operation of your business.
On the flip side, the worst scenario finds you tied to a bank that remains indifferent to your needs, viewing you as just another entry in their books, making financial management a cumbersome task and hindering the growth potential of your business.
However, this is only the worst-case scenario. With due diligence, research, and critical analysis, making a beneficial choice is undoubtedly within your reach.
How Relay Stacks Up
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Relay Financial a real bank?
Relay is not a bank. Instead, Relay is a fintech company that provides business banking services through its partner Thread Bank, Member FDIC. This means that clients have access to the same features of a traditional bank account—like debit cards and ACH payments—but with added benefits like budgeting tools and customer support.
Who owns Relay Financial?
Relay Financial is owned by Yoseph West, the company’s co-founder and CEO. Yoseph previously worked with tech companies, including Hubdoc Wave (now H&R Block) and co-founded the financial analysis tool Vuru, which was ultimately acquired by Wave Accounting.
How does Relay make money?
Relay makes money by collecting a percentage of the merchant fee that Visa charges on every customer’s debit card transactions. Like other financial companies, Relay also earns interest in customer account balances. This is paid by the Federal Reserve via Thread Bank, not consumers.
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