Lili Review | Banking for Freelancers and Independent Contractors
Freelancers and independent contractors need to be smart about which bank they use. Freelancing is tough enough without having to worry about minimum balance requirements or monthly banking fees.
Lili is an online financial institution that provides nearly free banking services for freelancers. But is it a bank you should get involved with, or is it better to stick with a brick-and-mortar branch?
Lili Banking is an online financial institution that provides nearly free banking services for freelancers and independent contractors.
- Flexible Mobile Banking
- Free ATM Access
- Tax Tools
- Referral Program
- No Account Fees
- $500 Daily Withdrawal Limit
- Limit of $6,000/month for Mobile Check Deposit (higher for Lili Pro users)
- Daily Spending Limit of $3,000 (higher for Lili Pro users)
- Must use Social Security number
Let’s take a closer look at Lili banking!
What is Lili?
Lili is a fintech company that provides online banking accounts to entrepreneurs and freelancers. The company recently raised $80 million in funding, making it an up-and-comer in the finance world.
Lili has a mission to empower freelancers by giving them the tools and services to improve their work and life balance at a low cost.
Lili offers bank accounts and business debit cards for independent contractors (e.g., home improvement specialists, social influencers, freelance chefs, bloggers, or anyone who operates as a sole proprietor).
How does Lili Banking work?
Lili is a bit different from traditional business banks in that it’s online-only. There are no in-person kiosks or locations to visit if you need assistance or want to meet with someone face-to-face.
It’s also important to note that Lili doesn’t actually store funds for customers. The bank partners with Choice Financial Group, which also administers their debit cards (more on that below).
Other than that, Lili is a standard fintech provider offering a mobile app interface that’s easy for the tech-savvy to use.
Top Lili Banking features
Lili’s accounts are online-only, and its app is loaded with different tools to try out and explore.
Granted, you’re not going to find the same level of options you might expect to find in a more established bank, but Lili Bank holds its own against competitors in terms of functionality.
Here’s a breakdown of what customers can expect to receive when banking with Lili.
Lili’s mobile banking platform is available on both Android and iOS devices.
The mobile app enables users to perform a variety of tasks like paying bills, reviewing recent transactions, accessing account information, generating expense reports, and even depositing checks.
While customers may open an account using the website on their web browser, everything else is done strictly through the mobile app.
Lili Debit Card
Lili Bank offers a Visa Business debit card that can be used to make purchases wherever a Visa debit card is accepted. You can also take out cash, fee-free, at over 32,000 MoneyPass ATMs across the United States.
This is a step up from many online banks, which often don’t come with debit card access and require users to transfer money to third-party accounts. Due to Lili’s partnership with the MoneyPass ATM Network, customers can more easily take out cash.
You can now also receive cashback rewards when you sign up for Lili Pro, Lili’s premier banking service.
That said, you can’t make cash deposits via an ATM using Lili Bank. You can take money out via ATM, but you can’t put money in.
To make a cash deposit into Lili, visit a participating retailer like Walmart or CVS. Head to the register and ask to make a cash deposit to your debit card. Simply swipe the card, give the clerk the cash, pay a retailer’s fee if applicable (maximum is $4.95), and wait for the money to appear in your account.
According to Lili Bank, the money should arrive in minutes. You can add up to $1,000 per day and $9,000 per month in total.
Lili Bank’s goal is to make life easier for freelancers at tax time.
The app provides tools for tracking expenses and claiming deductions. What’s more, it has a tax bucket, which automatically sets aside a percentage of income to ensure that you save enough to pay the government when tax time rolls around.
Even better, the app offers expense reports, something that differentiates it from competitors. This not only eliminates the need to fill out spreadsheets, which can reduce preparation costs and streamline reporting, but it saves actual money on tax deductions.
Get paid early
Freelancers often have to wait weeks or months to get paid, making it difficult to make ends meet. It’s not like working a regular job and getting paid at set intervals (but maybe it should be).
Lili Bank eases the burden by offering freelancers access to their direct deposits up to two business days earlier than traditional banks. It’s a way to get money into your account faster than you could with a conventional bank.
Lili is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) at the standard rate of up to $250,000. So if something happens to the bank, account holders won’t have to worry about losing money.
Lili is designed to make small business owners’ lives easier. In that light, there are numerous integrations with popular business products including Cash App, Venmo, PayPal, Apple Pay, and more.
The standard Lili account is free. Lili Pro requires a $4.99 monthly subscription fee. The bank also doesn’t have any minimum balance requirements. So you can have a Lili Bank account whether you have $5 in your bank account or $50,000. It doesn’t matter—you won’t face any penalties!
This means no overdraft fees, returned item fees, deposit item returned fees, fund transfer fees, or inactive account fees. So if you’re looking for a bank without excessive costs, then Lili could be for you.
They do charge fees for deposited check returns ($25), card replacements ($5), and express mail ($20), however.
While customers get free ATM access in the MoneyPass network, there are international ATM withdrawal fees and domestic out-of-network ATM fees ($5) to watch out for. Lastly, there are fees for domestic wire transfers ($10) and international wire transfers ($25).
Overall, Lili is pretty consumer-friendly in terms of fees and it’s much more affordable than working with larger national banks.
Signing up and getting started
It’s very easy to sign up and get started with Lili. To apply, all you have to do is fill out your basic info online, including your name, address, and Social Security number. You won’t be able to apply using your business’s employer identification number (EIN), however.
Note: your Social Security number is only necessary to verify your identity. Providing it will not impact your credit score.
Once you register, download the Lili app on your Android or Apple device. You’ll then be in with a banking account you can use to make purchases, pay credit card bills, or handle expense management.
After pairing your mobile device with your account, Lili Bank will send your debit card in the mail. Once your account is active and you have the card, you can start making transactions.
Lili promotions, bonuses, and coupons
Lili has a referral program for existing Lili account holders. You can get rewards for referring potential customers to Lili Bank. To be eligible, you have to be an active Lili account holder with an account in good standing. In other words, your account can’t be flagged or suspended.
If you refer someone to Lili, you and your friend both get a one-time payment of $50. They have to open a Lili account, and the account has to register at least $250 in debit purchase transactions with the Lili card.
Since Lili is FDIC insured, customers don’t have to worry about losing money if the company goes under, as long as they stay within the $250,000 limit.
In addition, the company offers strong data privacy protections with encryption and layered security, to protect against nefarious activity from cybercriminals.
The company offers strong login technologies like biometric authentication, allowing users to log in with their fingerprints or camera.
It’s always a good idea to investigate a bank’s security features before doing business with them—especially if the bank doesn’t have any branch locations. In this case, Lili is safe to use, and you shouldn’t be afraid to do business with the company.
Customer service and support
This bears repeating: Lili doesn’t have any brick-and-mortar locations. So if you’re looking for in-person service and you like maintaining relationships with local banking teams, you’re not going to find what you want at Lili.
That said, the bank does offer a help center where customers can go for assistance. A phone number is also available for customers who prefer to speak with a representative. This support is offered during standard banking hours throughout the week. In addition, the company can be reached via email.
The combination of phone support, email, a help center, and an in-app chatbot are enough to provide adequate, base-level support. You’re not going to get advanced banking insights or access to expert financial resources, but the company will at least provide enough support to resolve issues.
Interest and cashback rewards
Lili offers 1% APY on its Emergency Savings Account for its Pro users. Like most online banks, they use their lack of overhead to help customers by offering higher interest rates than you’ll see at a standard brick-and-mortar bank. For this reason, Lili Pro is a good choice for an emergency fund or emergency savings bucket.
Users of Lili Pro also get to enjoy cashback rewards as well when they use their Lili Visa Business Debit Card at certain merchants.
It’s important to note that these benefits are exclusive to Lili Pro members. With the free version of Lili, you won’t earn any interest on your balance or accumulate cashback rewards.
Pros and cons of Lili
- Mobile banking for flexible, on-the-go management
- Referral program
- Free ATM access
- Tax tools
- Mobile check deposits limited to $6,000 per month (higher for Lili Pro users)
- Spending limit of $3,000 per day (higher for Lili Pro users)
- Withdrawal limit of $500 in cash per day
- Must use Social Security number
Alternatives to Lili
Here are some of the top alternative banks to consider beyond Lili, if you’re looking for online banks.
Ally currently offers a 0.50% APY for their high yield savings account (HYSA), while also shielding customers from advisory fees and free automated investing. The company offers checking and savings, investing and retirement options, and home loans, auto loans, and personal loans.
Axos is an online bank offering an interest rate of up to 1.25% APY for rewards checking accounts and 0.61% APY for HYSAs. The company offers savings, checking, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit (CDs). They don’t charge any annual fees and come with access to more than 91,000 national ATMs.
American Express National Bank
American Express currently has a 0.40% APY for its online banking. They also offer CDs, allowing account holders to lock in interest rates for specific periods of time. American Express is easy to work with, secure, and known for providing great customer support.
Novo is a growing online bank for small businesses and entrepreneurs. It offers many of the same services as Lili, and also has withdrawal and transaction limits, which may be limiting to some.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Lili good for freelancers?
Lili can be useful for freelancers having trouble staying on track with their personal finances. Use Lili Bank more for the convenient mobile experience and account management features.
Is Lili FDIC-insured?
Lili is insured by the FDIC for up to $250,000. This means you won’t have to worry about losing your money as long as you stay under the $250,000 threshold. Granted, the likelihood of needing FDIC insurance is low, but it’s good to be protected.
Is Lili legit?
Lili is legit in the sense that it’s a popular bank that serves a niche purpose. It can be a useful app for freelancers with recurring business expenses who need to stay on top of their finances. Its expense tracking tools and tax tools also make the app useful.
There are certain limitations that may prevent established businesses from banking with Lili, but overall, Lili is legit for freelancers.
Can you use the bank if you’re not a freelancer?
Lili Banking is open to freelancers and small business owners. It does not accept applications from businesses that operate with an employer identification number (EIN). And an account opened for personal use can’t then be used for business purposes.
That said, Lili allows freelancers and small business owners to open DBA (“doing business as”) accounts using their Social Security Number (SSN) as their tax identifier along with proof of their DBA registration.
The Bottom Line
It’s critical to stay on top of your expenses and keep your fees to a minimum when you’re bringing in money on your own. And so, small business owners should look for a banking app with limited or no monthly fees.
Lili is an attractive option if you need a basic online business checking account. The company can enable you to bypass ATM fees, earn a little interest on your emergency savings, and Lili offers a comprehensive mobile app for easy account access.
With that said, there are some withdrawal and spending limits that are limiting to established businesses.
Here’s to finding the best business account for your entrepreneurial endeavors!