Lili Review 2021 — Free Online Business Banking For Freelancers
Lili is an app-based banking service designed for freelancers and independent contractors. There are no minimum balance requirements, no monthly service fees, no overdraft fees, and no transfer fees. Lili also has solid tax tools to help you get organized for tax time. However, if you have a more established business, Lili lacks all of the features you’ll need to fulfill your business banking needs.
At a Glance
What we like
- No fees
- Tax tools
- Mixed-use account
What Needs Work
- No desktop access
- Mobile check deposit limits
- Limited business features
- Side hustlers
- Food delivery and rideshare drivers
Fees and charges
Tools and resources
Products and services
Ease of use
Whether you’re a freelance writer, deliver food for DoorDash, or run a digital marketing side hustle, you need a bank that meets your needs. That’s where Lili comes in, with a list of features designed specifically for freelancers and independent contractors.
Lili is a fee-free bank that can help you organize your expenses for tax time, save money for estimated quarterly taxes, invoice, and more. But is opening a Lili account right for you and your business? That’s exactly what we’re going to explore in my Lili review.
Lili Review 2021 | Free Online Business Banking For Freelancers
What is Lili?
Lili is a digital banking app launched in 2019 by Lilac Bar David and Liran Zelkha. It’s designed specifically for freelancers and small business owners, and Bar David told Forbes that they want Lili to be “an accountant within your hands.”
The founders’ goal for Lili is to address issues freelancers face because their lack of traditional employment locks them out of some business banking practices. Lili addresses those issues with features like expense management and invoicing tools.
It’s important to know that Lili is not a bank. Lili is a mobile bank account whose banking services are provided by Choice Financial Group, Member FDIC. And all deposits and accounts are insured up to $250,000 by the FDIC.
Lili account features
Getting ready for tax time can be really frustrating for freelancers and small business owners — I’ve been there! Your Lili account comes with features to make it easier to organize yourself and business income to make tax time a little less painless.
The app’s expense tracker lets you swipe one way or the other on all transactions that hit your account so you can categorize them as personal or work related. You’ll be able to run an expense report at tax time to see work-related expenses so you can take the proper deduction. Ideally you would have a dedicated business bank account, but Lili feels like a transitional one for freelancers who aren’t ready to make the leap to a full-fledged business account, especially if you don’t have an EIN yet.
Lili’s Tax Bucket is an auto-withholding tool that lets you determine a certain percentage of your income to set aside for taxes. This money is kept in a separate “bucket” so it’s not touched until tax time. You can turn this feature on and off in the app and adjust the percentage as needed. This feature includes a tax estimation tool to help you determine an accurate estimate of how much money you should set aside.
Using all of the information that hits your Lili account — transactions, categorized expenses, payments, etc. — Lili generates quarterly and annual expense reports.
Get Paid Early
If you set up direct deposit for your Lili account, you can see money hit your account up to two days early. More and more online banks are offering a similar feature to this one, and the timing depends on the payer’s submission of payment.
Freelance income can be all over the place when you’re first getting started. Heck, it can be irregular no matter where you are in your freelance career. So one of the best things a freelancer can do is to set money aside for themselves for those slow weeks or months. That’s the point of the Emergency Bucket.
You can set up daily deposits for as little as $1/day, and Lili will move money into a dedicated emergency fund. You can transfer money between your emergency account and your primary account whenever you need to.
This isn’t so much a feature because it’s where everything happens with your lili account. All account management happens in the Lili app. The app is clean and intuitive, and you can set up push button notifications for payments received or reminders to classify transactions.
The Lili app runs expense reports to show you how much you’re spending in different areas using easy-to-read charts and graphs. You can also freeze and unfreeze your Lili Visa debit card in the app and scan checks for mobile deposit.
Mobile check deposit
While you can use the Lili app to scan and deposit checks into your account, the downside is that you need to have at least $200 coming into your account each month before you can access mobile check deposits. You’ll have to set up direct deposit or digital transfer first if you want to use this feature.
On top of that, you are limited to $2,000 per check maximum amount, and you can only use mobile deposit for a maximum of $6,000 per month, or six checks per month.
This won’t affect all freelancers who want to use Lili, but it’s worth considering if you have old-school clients who prefer to pay by check.
Lili Visa business debit card
Lili checking accounts come with a Visa business debit card that includes free cash withdrawals at over 38,000 ATM locations across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The Lili app includes an ATM locator so you can find a free ATM near you.
You can freeze your card in the app if you lose it and unfreeze when you find it again. You can link your card to your Apple Pay Wallet.
Lili Pro is a newer upgraded subscription banking service. It’s $4.99/month and is deducted from your Lili account balance. It comes with all of the features I’ve talked about, plus:
- Cashback rewards: Similar to rewards credit cards, you can earn cashback rewards at over 14,000 merchants when you use your Lili Visa debit card to make a purchase.
- Fee-free overdraft protection up to $200: Lili will cover overdrafts up to $200 without charging you any fees. Once money hits your account again, Lili automatically applies those funds to pay back the negative balance.
- Unlimited invoicing: You can use Lili’s invoicing tool to send unlimited invoices from the app. Invoices under $1,000 are eligible for Lili DirectPay which simplifies the payment process for your clients.
How the Lili app works
Lili works like many other online-only banks. There’s no web platform, so all of the account management happens in the app, including invoicing with Lili Pro and expense management.
You will need to download the Lili app to open an account. The account sign-up process takes less than 3 minutes and requires your email address, name, Social Security number, date of birth, and mailing address. Lili also asks questions about what kind of freelancer you are.
You will receive near-instant account approval, and you’ll be able to access your account immediately. Since there’s no opening deposit required and no minimum balance requirement, you don’t need to have money ready to transfer into your new account.
Lili will send your debit card soon after your account is set up, but it can take up to two weeks to receive it. You can still access your account through the app and use the card digitally.
The Lili account is not a dedicated business bank account that requires an EIN to set up — if you do have an EIN, you actually can’t use it to set up your Lili account. This is an important distinction to make because a dedicated business account may require documentation like ownership agreements, business formation documents, and business licenses.
Many freelancers operate as DBA (doing business as) and use their Social Security number to file business taxes instead of an EIN. Lili does let you add your DBA name Lili account, but you’ll need to provide them with your tax return, business license, or fictitious name agreement. You can start accepting payments or check deposits under your DBA name once Lili reviews your documentation and approves your request.
Lili account fees
Lili doesn't charge any fees for opening an account, there’s no minimum balance requirement, and no opening deposit requirement. We are seeing more and more fee-free online banks, and this is a really good thing for customers.
There are no ATM fees if you use one of Lili’s in-network ATMs, and they’ve partnered with the MoneyPass Network, which includes over 38,000 ATMs across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
There is no monthly fee for the regular Lili account, but there is $4.99/monthly fee for Lili Pro.
There are very few fees with the regular account, and it’s unlikely that most customers will ever encounter them. However, here’s what you will be charged for:
- Non MoneyPass Network ATM fee: $2.50
- International ATM withdrawal fee: $5.00
- Deposited check return: $25.00
- Express mail fee: $20.00
- Replacement card fee: $5.00 after one free card replacement
Lili Review - Pros and Cons
- No fees: Banks, overall, are eliminating many fees, and we’re happy to see Lili eliminating nearly all of the fees you’d see with a traditional bank account. Again, there are no monthly maintenance fees, unlimited fee-free transactions, no overdraft fees, free ACH transfers, and free in-network ATM access.
- Tax tools: The tax tools you get with your Lili account are clearly designed for independent contractors and freelancers. Being able to easily set aside money each month for taxes and automatic expense reports will make tax time easier.
- Mix-use account: Because Lili isn’t a dedicated business bank account, it’s a good fit for freelancers who aren’t quite ready to incorporate and open a dedicated business bank account. You’ll have an account to receive client payments and pay freelance expenses, but you can use it for everyday non-business expenses as well.
- No desktop access: Your Lili account is run entirely through the app, which is well-designed, but having desktop access would be nice for analyzing expense reports and invoicing.
- Deposit limits: Lili won't let you use mobile check deposit until you have $200 coming into your account from other sources first. They also limit you to a maximum amount per check of $2,000 and a maximum of $6,000 of mobile check deposits total each month.
- Limited business features: Because Lili isn’t a full-fledged business account, it’s lacking business features like checkbooks, you can’t send or receive wire transfers, and it doesn’t allow for multiple business debit cards. Lili also doesn’t integrate with POS systems, ecommerce platforms, or accounting software.
Lili Review final word: Who is Lili best for?
Lili is a unique fee-free, mix-used online bank that will best fit freelancers and independent contractors who are either recently started their business or are only side hustling. I say that because you only need your Social Security number to sign up — not an EIN.
I can see Lili being a good fit for food delivery drivers because you can receive payments, use your debit card to buy gas, and the app easily organizes driver-related expenses. At the same time, there’s no stress if you accidentally pull out your Lili card to buy groceries.
That’s just one example, and the reality is that there are plenty of other great business banks out there if Lili doesn't fit your needs.
Lili is partnered with Choice Financial Group, Member FDIC, meaning your account is insured up to $250,000. Lili also has strong security features to protect your account like bank-grade encryption and face ID or thumbprint recognition.
Lili bank makes money through bank processing fees. The founders have said that they only want to make money when you make money. Lili also charges $4.99/month for Lili Pro.
Lili is a banking service, and they use Choice Financial Group to administer and hold funds. Choice Financial group is FDIC-insured, and they also administer your Lili Visa debit card.
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About Millennial Money Man
Bobby Hoyt is a former band director who paid off $40,000 of student loan debt in 18 months on his teaching salary and then left his job to run Millennial Money Man full-time. He helps other Millennials earn more through side hustles, save more through budgeting tools and apps, and pay off debt. He is a personal finance expert who has been seen on Forbes, Reuters, MarketWatch, CNBC, International Business Times, Business Insider, US News, Yahoo Finance, and many other personal finance and entrepreneurship media outlets.