Our Review of Azlo: A New Online Business Banking Service for Freelancers & Small Businesses

Our review of Azlo: A new online business banking service for freelancers and small business owners.

Azlo — a new U.S.-based online business banking service launched in February 2018 — targets freelancers, entrepreneurs and small businesses that are in need of alternative banking solutions. This demographic will now have access to online dedicated business banking services without worrying about fees, minimum balances or confusing conditions.

Azlo distinguishes itself by focusing on the new economy, including millennials and small business entrepreneurs. These customers are often overlooked by traditional banking institutions, which is a big miss. According to NASDAQ projections, 43% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers by 2020, and companies like Azlo will most likely see some major growth from this.

Traditional banks have struggled to serve this market for a variety of reasons. Specifically, these traditional banks haven’t figured out how to tailor solutions to freelancers, entrepreneurs, and start-ups in a way that is both profitable and sustainable. Azlo found a solution for this niche by providing them the traditional banking features they need without all the hoops to jump through, complicated processes and confusing conditions.

BBVA-Backed Funding

Founded in early 2017, Azlo’s first funding round was provided by Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria’s (BBVA) New Digital Businesses group, which is also incubating similar businesses in BBVA’s Silicon Valley-based financial tech lab. Since BBVA already owns Holvi (a Finnish neobank focused on small- and medium-sized businesses), they have experience leveraging financial tech to cater to this underserved market.

BBVA’s involvement is part of the bank’s focus on creating disruption in the banking sector and ensuring it learns from innovations that originate outside the business. While Azlo works independently from BBVA, it does make use of the bank’s business license and payments structure. Having the financial and regulatory support from such a big player will likely increase user confidence in Azlo’s services.

Personal vs. Business Bank Account

Before we dive into Azlo’s features and benefits, it’s important to understand why freelancers and small business owners are looking for a service like the one Azlo offers. Some people may wonder why a freelancer can’t just use their own personal bank account, rather than opening one specifically set up for a business. It’s a good idea to keep personal and business finances separate for many reasons:

  • Clean and accurate financial management: You will have a clearer indication of money going in and out of your business without mixing personal transactions.
  • Your business transactions are more professional and credible: Your customers, vendors, and suppliers can see that your bank account has your business’ information on it, not your personal information.
  • Limits personal liability: Having a separate bank account will help keep your personal assets protected from things that might happen to your business (like if your business is sued or can’t pay its debts).
  • It makes filing your taxes easier: All of your business expenses can be easily tracked through one bank account to allow for easier record-keeping of deductions when it comes time to file your business taxes.

Regardless, it can still be a challenge for freelancers and entrepreneurs to get the support they need from traditional financial institutions. And if they get that far, the features and solutions offered may not be right for their small business.

Azlo Features and Benefits

Azlo accounts come standard with several tools that will be helpful when establishing and growing your business. They offer many of the same features as traditional banks, but without all the complicated processes and confusing conditions. Some of Alzo’s top features include:

  • Easy online account opening without minimum deposits or balances
  • No international transaction fees with Visa Business debit card
  • Real-time card blocking and controls
  • U.S.-based live support and online chat
  • No foreign ATM fees
  • No-fee cash access at over 55,000 Allpoint ATMs
  • Industry-leading security and encryption

Invoicing and Payment Acceptance

Azlo’s software allows you to create digital invoices and request payments in seconds, and then send unlimited customizable digital invoices via email. Connect your Stripe account to accept credit cards and pay bills electronically, or mail checks to anyone for no added cost.

No Fees

Azlo also makes it easy to send and receive payments to and from suppliers, partners and customers free of charge. This is a huge benefit to small businesses, as those fees can add up quickly. There are also a host of other fee-free features that are simple to use:

  • Domestic bank-to-bank (ACH) payments
  • Transfers to/from your other bank accounts
  • Transaction categorization
  • Tagging and scheduling invoices
  • Instant real-time payments between Azlo members

Mobile App and Tools

You’ll also have the flexibility to access Azlo on your phone at any time using their app. You can submit check deposits, manage a digital debit card block and PIN, get real-time debit card transaction notifications and find ATMs near you.

Additionally, Azlo integrates with digital business tools including marketplace and point-of-sale applications such as Stripe, Square, and Etsy. Soon, you’ll also be able to integrate with Intuit and Xero accounting software. Integrating with these tools will allow even more robust management of your secure day-to-day transactions.

Given that Azlo is still a relatively new tool, we anticipate there will be a few bugs to work out within the software. It also looks like there are many additional features in the works, such as a personalized “Pay Me” URL, line item invoicing, real-time international payments and Android Pay support.

With the “gig economy” growing year after year, we’re excited to see disruption in the banking industry that will allow small businesses to grow and thrive. Technology is changing what it means to be a small business owner, and Azlo is a tool that will continue the forward momentum while taking advantage of the market’s demographic shift.

As a small business owner, are you looking to utilize Azlo? Let us know why or why not on Twitter @Revenued_com.

Chris Keller is a veteran in business finance. Prior to starting and managing his own business, he managed product lines at two Fortune 500 companies focusing on their Profit & Loss statements.
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