Lili Review: Mobile Banking For Freelancers
More workers than ever are opting for the freelance life. Lili provides checking accounts for your business needs including automatic savings and expense tracking. There are no hidden fees, and the experience is completely online, so you don’t even need to visit a bank to set up an account.
- Small businesses
Freelancers have unique financial needs. You’re running a business, but you don’t have the same needs a full-fledged business owner would. You likely don’t really have many business expenses, but you still need to save for taxes. You don’t have employees to manage, but you still need to track your own spending.
If this describes you, you’ve probably also had a difficult time finding a bank that fully meets your needs.
Lili is an online banking solution built for the freelancer. You’ll get all the tools you need to manage your money and file taxes, as well as the debit card and ATM access you’d get with a personal bank account.
With no hidden fees or minimum balance requirements, it’s the perfect platform for the busy independent contractor.
What is Lili?
Lilac Bar David founded Lili in 2019 as a banking solution for a growing but underserved sector of the working population: freelancers. Her background in banking made Bar David the ideal person to found a banking startup. Prior to starting Lili, Bar David was the founder and CEO of Pepper, an innovator in the mobile banking space.
Today, Lili boasts more than 100,000 users across the U.S. As we see more and more people shifting to freelancing, a mobile app geared toward independent workers stands to only continue to grow in the coming years.
How does Lili work?
Lili works quickly; in under 3 minutes, you sign up for an account and wait for approval. Then simply transfer the money from your old account when you’re ready. There’s no minimum account balance, so you can transfer as much or as little as you want.
To set up an account with Lili, go to the website and click “Get Started.”
Input an email address to start the application process.
Next, you’ll need to provide your name, phone number, and a secure password.
You’ll have to provide your Social Security number and date of birth for identity verification purposes, as well. Your credit score won’t be impacted by this preliminary application.
Your Lili checking account will include a Visa® business debit card, so you’ll provide a street address so that Lili can mail it to you once your account application has been approved.
Lili needs to know the type of freelance work you do. This list includes everything from housecleaning to translating and writing.
As the last step, you’ll verify the details you’ve entered, check that you’ve read the terms and conditions, then hit “Apply.” This will finalize your application and approve your checking account.
Overall, the whole application only takes about three minutes.
Pricing for Lili
There are no fees to use Lili’s standard account, whether you have $10,000 in your account or $10. However, if a check you deposit turns out to be invalid, you’ll pay a $25 per item fee. There’s also a $5 fee to replace your debit card – but only the second time you lose your card.
There is a pro account that offers premium features for a fixed fee of $4.99 per month. This account gives you access to more advanced banking, tax and expense management, and business solutions. You’ll also get a Lili Pro business debit card that offers cash back.
Where things get a little sticky is with ATMs. While you can use your debit card to get cash out at 38,000 MoneyPass ATMs across the country, the MoneyPass owner may charge you a small surcharge. If you use a non-MoneyPass ATM, Lili will charge you $2.50 per transaction in addition to what the ATM owner charges. Outside the U.S., that fee goes up to $5 per transaction. So just be aware of where you’re taking money out in order to avoid getting hit with fees.
Freelancers have plenty of mobile banking options at their disposal, so here’s what sets Lili apart from others in the industry.
No hidden fees
While Lili isn’t the only online bank with transparent pricing, it’s hard to find a no-hidden-fee option that competes with Lili’s vast array of features.
Visa® business debit card
Your Lili checking account includes a Visa® business debit card. You’ll be able to use it for business or personal expenses, with all money coming directly from your Lili account.
As you spend, you can categorize each expenditure so that you don’t miss anything at tax time. This will help you maximize your expenses to reduce your taxable income as much as possible.
Mobile check deposit
With Lili, you can easily deposit checks from the comfort of your home or office. Simply sign the check and write “For Lili mobile deposit only” on the back of it, enter the amount into the Lili app, and snap a photo of the front and the back. If you ever need to make a cash deposit, you can do so at one of more than 90,000 partner locations, including Walgreens and Walmart.
Bookkeeping software is an essential expense for freelancers. But with Lili, business management is built into your account. Your spending will be tracked in the background, making it easy to see where your money is going each month. Charts and graphs also give you around-the-clock insights into how you’re spending.
You can also use Lili’s accounting tools to quickly calculate your business’s net earnings and gauge what income taxes you’ll be expected to pay.
Advanced features with Lili Pro
The Lili Pro accounts offers all the features of the standard plan, plus plenty of extras.
You’ll get a debit card that issues cash back with more than 14,000 merchants, no fees on overdrafts of up to $200, and 1.50% interest on savings. You’ll also get business features like the ability to create and send unlimited invoices and advanced expense tracking that helps you maximize your tax deductions.
The pro plan costs $4.99 a month, but with the advanced business features, you may find you can ditch your current bookkeeping software and rely solely on your Lili account.
Hybrid account capabilities
If you’d prefer to use your Lili account for both personal and business, they have you covered there, as well. You can easily swipe left or right on any expense to mark it as either “personal” or “business.” This will help you keep everything separate if you’d prefer to keep all your money in the same account.
If you set up direct deposit with Lili, you can get paid earlier and get access to your funds up to two days in advance. Any funds that are deposited via ACH or wire transfer are available within two business days of the money landing in your account.
Tax expense reporting
For freelancers, tax time can be stressful, but not with the right business management tools in place. Lili’s quarterly and annual reports list your expenses by category. You’ll simply move the totals over to Schedule C as you’re filling out your tax forms.
You’ll still need to retain your receipts (which you can conveniently upload with Lili’s app), but you’ll also have a detailed log of your expenses if you need to provide it.
Business management tools
Even startup founders can benefit from Lili’s tools. If you’ve started a new venture that you plan to scale up to a small business someday, Lili’s free checking account can give you the tools you need.
Automatically save for taxes
Once you start making good money as a freelancer, you’ll need to be able to estimate your taxes and make quarterly payments to the IRS. Lili lets you set up something called a “tax bucket,” where you move a percentage of your money for safekeeping. When it’s time to pay your estimated taxes in April, June, September, and January, the funds will be there.
You can create another savings bucket to hold your emergency fund. Set a little aside each month, even if it’s just a few dollars, and have that money waiting for you. Instead of relying on your credit card or personal savings, this will give you a cushion you can rely on during those inevitable lean months.
With Lili, you can set up alerts so that you’re notified every time money moves in or out of your account. You can adjust the frequency of alerts in settings if you want only urgent notifications.
The money in your Lili account will be FDIC insured for up to $250,000 per account holder. That means that even as your business grows, your funds will be protected.
My experience researching Lili
As a freelancer, I can see the benefits of having a separate checking account just for work. What really stands out about Lili, though, is its expense-tracking features. I know that tracking expenses can be one of the most complicated aspects of running a freelance operation. Since everything is automatically categorized, it’s easy to both see where my money’s going and pull reports at tax time.
But for freelancers, one of the best things about Lili is that there are no hidden fees and no minimum balance requirement. That means I can start separating my business and personal finances without having to move a bunch of money out of my personal account. That’s been a big obstacle to setting up a business account during my years as a freelancer.
The only thing that made me hesitate was the ATM limitation. I wasn’t sure if there would be enough MoneyPass locations nearby to make it easy enough for me to get money out. But I rarely use an ATM, and I definitely don’t use one for business. Besides, one quick look at the MoneyPass ATM locator and it was clear I’d never have trouble finding an ATM nearby if I needed one.
One feature I really like is the early-pay option. Several of my clients pay me via direct deposit, so being able to have access to those funds within two business days of the deposit is a huge bonus. With my current bank, those pending transactions can linger out there for several days at times.
All in all, Lili has plenty of features that make it perfect for freelancers and small business freelancers at all levels. With no hidden fees and such an easy signup process, it’s a great way to split my business and personal finances to make taxes and accounting far easier.
Who is Lili best for?
Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been freelancing for years, Lili can help. You won’t need a separate business management solution. All your expense tracking and reporting are built into your account. You can also set money aside for taxes and emergencies to ensure your business is covered from all angles.
Lili may be built for freelancers, but business owners can benefit from its features, as well. The business management tools are best for those early days of building and growing a business. Once you start hiring employees or managing an inventory, you’ll likely need a more robust bookkeeping tool.
Lili has no brick-and-mortar locations, so it’s ideal for the many consumers who are fine with doing all their banking online. You’ll still have access to ATMs if you need cash, but otherwise, everything will be done through your online checking account.
With Lili, you’re issued a Visa® business debit card with your account, and you’ll use this to do most of your spending. If you prefer to use a credit card, you’ll need to source that separately.
Who shouldn’t use Lili?
If you prefer to walk into a bank, Lili won’t be the service for you. All your transactions will be conducted online. You can use your Visa® business debit card at MoneyPass locations for free, but there may be a surcharge by the MoneyPass owner. You also can’t use your Lili debit card to make deposits at ATMs, so any paper checks will need to be deposited electronically.
If you leave the U.S., you may face international transaction fees. You also will be charged a $5 fee per transaction at ATMs outside the U.S., along with any fees the other bank’s ATM charges you.
Pros & cons
- No hidden fees — Lili's transparency means you won't be hit with any surprise fees, which will help protect your budget.
- Free bookkeeping features — Tax time is easier with expense tracking, which lets you pull the reports you need.
- Automatic savings — Automatically move small amounts of money into “buckets” with each payment you receive to save for emergencies or taxes.
- Beautifully designed mobile app — The mobile app lets you freeze and unfreeze your card in seconds, plus you'll have face recognition to sign in to your account, plus much more.
- Extremely easy application — Lili timed it, and it'll only take three minutes to complete your application.
- Get paid early — Get your paycheck up to two days early when you have direct deposit.
- Limited ATM usability — Although you can use your card at 38,000+ MoneyPass ATMs, those are limited to the U.S., and you can’t deposit funds using your Lili Visa® business debit card.
- For freelancers only — Even as a freelancer, you may eventually hire an employee or two, but Lili is built for solopreneurs.
- No rewards — You’ll need the pro account to get cash back for the money you spend on your Lili Visa® business debit card.
Lili vs. their competitors
Lili Chase Business Complete Banking℠ Novo
Monthly fees $0 for Lili Standard; $4.99 monthly for Lili Pro $15; Free for qualifying accounts $0
ATM access Fee-free access at 38,000+ U.S. locations Fee-free access at 16,000 Chase ATM locations Refunds all ATM fees
Business features Expense tracking and automatic saving Built-in credit card acceptance with same-day access to funds Pay vendors by ACH or check
Chase Business Complete Banking℠
Chase’s small business banking offering, Chase Business Complete BankingSM, is geared toward businesses that accept credit cards. With QuickAccept, you’ll get a mobile card reader for in-person swipes, as well as the ability to accept credit card payments through the Chase Mobile app.
A Chase Business Complete Banking℠ account comes with a $15 monthly service fee, but Chase will waive that fee if you keep a balance of $2,000 or more or have $2,000 in qualifying monthly transactions. One of the biggest benefits of a Chase online account is you’ll have access to fee-free transactions at Chase ATMs across the country.
Like Lili, Novo offers fee-free checking options. You will need a $50 deposit to open your account, but there’s no minimum balance requirement after that. One benefit of Novo is that you can send paper checks to vendors using the app, if you have vendors who prefer to be paid that way.
Another benefit of Novo is that it integrates with some of the most popular business apps. You can link your checking account to solutions like Xero, Stripe, and QuickBooks for one-step bookkeeping.
Lili is a great banking option for freelancers who have been searching for a place to keep their money. You’ll save on fees while also getting features that can help you with the taxes you’ll owe each year. Lili’s automatic savings can even help you set a little extra money aside for a rainy day.