Tide vs Countingup: comparing business bank accounts

Tide vs Countingup: comparing business bank accounts

Trying to decide between Tide and Countingup business bank accounts? 

In this article, we compare the features, benefits, fees, and additional banking and accounting services offered by Tide and Countingup. These two services have many similarities, but also a few key differences, which should make it easier for you to choose your banking provider.

Before we dive into the details, let’s explore why the UK is seeing new banks emerge, and what it means for you.

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The rise of challenger banks

Before 2008, the banking scene was dominated by the Big Four banks. Creating a new bank was incredibly difficult, so it rarely happened. The 2008 financial crisis nudged the government to rethink banking regulations, and actively encourage new companies to create banks. This was partly motivated by a need to diversify the sector, and also by a desire to encourage competition and innovation in the banking sector.

These new banks are known as challenger banks because they are considered to be challenging the established players. Considering the diverse changes that the banking sector has undergone since 2008, challenger banks can be given credit for modernising banking with things like online registration, mobile banking, and smarter ways to view and manage your finances.

With this in mind, let’s compare two services that are designed to simplify the management of your money for small and medium-sized companies.

Table of contents

Tide vs Countingup: key differences

Tide offers a business bank account, which works in harmony with a smart app and a bundle of accounting features. Tide’s business bank account, provided by ClearBank, is covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), so your money is guaranteed by the UK government (up to £85,000). This protection is the same as you get from any high street bank, and it means you can trust Tide to provide a safe place for your business income.

Countingup, on the surface, offers a very similar service, with a business payment card and a companion accounting app, which are neatly synchronised to give you fast access to financial information. However, Countingup’s account is slightly different, because it is not a conventional bank account, but an e-money account, provided by PPS (Prepay Technologies Ltd).

E-money accounts, similar to services like PayPal, work in the same way as bank accounts and can hold and pay out money, but because they are not technically banks, they are not regulated in the same way as banks, and cannot be covered by the FSCS. Countingup’s e-money account uses a method called safeguarding to protect your deposits. This means that your money is ring-fenced, and is not available to use for investing or any other purpose. In the event of bankruptcy, your money would be recovered, although it may take longer because an administrator will need time to organise the distribution of funds. It’s worth noting that you may receive less than your full account balance because the administrator or insolvency practitioner has the right to deduct their costs from the available funds.

Of course, the collapse of a bank (or e-money provider) is a relatively rare thing, so these concerns may be seen as irrelevant by some. However, it’s always good to understand your options and their implications.

Tide Countingup
Cash deposits ✔️ ✔️
Freeze/unfreeze card in the app ✔️ ✔️
Extra cards for employees ✔️
Accountancy software integration ✔️
FSCS protection ✔️
for accounts provided by ClearBank
information correct as of September 2021

The Tide business account offers a few features not included with Countingup, specifically the ability to give your colleagues their own expense cards, and the option to integrate an external accounting service.

Currently, Countingup is a mobile-only app for phones and tablets. While Tide is primarily a mobile app, we also offer online access for times when you need a larger screen or the support of a keyboard and mouse.

Tide vs Countingup: how much do accounts cost

Tide offers a free business bank account with integrated accounting and invoicing features. There is a 20p fee for transfers in or out of your account.

Countingup offers all of their accounts on a free 3-month trial basis. After the 3-month trial, you can remain on their Free account, although this has an incoming funds limit of £500. If you earn between £500 and £4,000 per month, you will need Countingup’s Standard plan, which costs £4.95 per month.

Tide Countingup
Monthly account charge Free Free
Incoming funds limit Unlimited £500
Fee for cash deposits £2.50 for deposits up to £500
0.5% of cash amount for deposits over £500
(at Post Offices)
3% (at PayPoints)
£1 at Post Office or
3% at PayPoints
Fee for payments in or out 20p each Free
Fee for Direct Debits 20p each Free

Tide vs Counting up: banking features

Tide’s business bank account includes the option to create standing orders and to schedule payments for dates in the future. With Tide, you can also create Direct Debit agreements with your clients, so that you can get your invoices paid automatically.

Countingup does not currently offer standing orders, scheduled payments, or Direct Debit options.

Tide vs Countingup: add-ons and paid plans

Countingup plans

Countingup offers three different plans: Starter, Standard and Premium, which all offer the same features and benefits. Your plan depends entirely on usage; the more you use, the more you pay. Whichever plan you choose, you get a free 3-month trial.

The free Starter plan has a monthly limit of £500 incoming funds. If you exceed this you will move to the Standard plan (£4.95), which has a limit of £4,000 incoming funds. Pay in more than £4,000 per month and you will need the Premium plan which costs £9.95 per month.

All Countingup plans include their integrated banking and accounting service, as well as advanced features like automated payment categorisation, invoicing and billing, tax calculations, receipt capture, and profit and loss calculations.

Tide plans

Tide Invoice Assistant

Tide offers an Invoice Assistant bundle for £10 plus VAT per month. This package for limited companies and sole traders is designed to simplify the management of your invoices by automatically matching money received to outstanding invoices. The Invoice Assistant also sends reminders when payments are overdue. This can help improve your cash flow, while also reducing the time you spend on credit control. As well as automatic invoice matching and chasing, the Invoice Assistant bundle also includes 2 free Direct Debits per month, powered by GoCardless, which can simplify and accelerate the process of getting paid.

Invoicing remains free for all Tide customers, but the Invoice Assistant may be a useful upgrade if you send lots of invoices, struggle to get paid, or simply want to spend less time managing your money.

Tide paid account plans

As your business grows, you can upgrade to one of Tide’s paid plans for additional benefits. Upgrade to Tide Plus (£9.99/month + VAT) to get 20 free transfers per month, a legal helpline, and support by phone. You are also eligible for one free company expense card, which is handy for managing ad-hoc expenses for things like travel, events and meetings.

The Tide Cashback plan (£49.99/month) is ideal for established businesses that will benefit from the 0.5% cashback on all card purchases. This plan also gives you a dedicated account manager, 150 free transfers per month, and 3 Company Expense cards for your team to use. You earn cashback on all spending, including on Company Expense cards.

Company formation

One of Tide’s additional features is the option to register a company. If you register your company with Tide, you’ll automatically register for your Tide account at the same time. You can use the Tide website to check that your preferred company name is available and then complete the limited company registration process. Tide covers the £12 company registration fee on your behalf.

Tide vs Counting up: how easy is it to pay in cash or cheques?

Both Tide and Countingup accept cash deposits through the Post Office and at PayPoints. Post Office deposits are charged at £1 for Countingup, while Tide charges are £2.50 for deposits up to £500 or 0.5% of cash amount for deposits over £500. PayPoints charge 3% of the amount deposited. Neither Tide, nor Countingup accepts cheques.

Tide vs Countingup: how easy is it to open a business bank account?

Tide Countingup
Apply through the app ✔️ ✔️
Quick application ✔️ ✔️
Credit check
Card delivery fee Free Free
Card delivery timescale 2-5 working days 2-5 working days
Replacement card fee Free Free
information correct as of September 2021

Tide account sign-up

Creating your Tide account takes just a few minutes. Start by downloading the Tide app from either the App Store or the Google Play Store. You will need to provide a form of identification, such as a driving licence, passport, or European National ID card. You may also need to provide evidence that your business is up and running, such as HMRC registration, signed contracts. The Tide pledge is that 53% of new business customers open their accounts in under 10 minutes, 70% in under 60 minutes, and 81% within 48 hours. You won’t be subjected to a hard credit check and your accompanying bank card will be supplied for free. If you lose your card, there’s no fee to order a replacement.

You can also create and use your Tide account completely online, if you prefer the online interface to a mobile app.

Countingup account sign-up

Similarly to Tide, you create your Countingup account by installing the mobile app – either from the App Store or the Google Play Store. Creating the account takes a few minutes, and the Countingup Mastercard is usually posted the following day. You can then activate your card using the Countingup app.

You may also need to provide additional evidence of your identity, address, and business.

Unlike Tide, Countingup is operated and managed entirely within the app. There is no desktop version available, although you can use Countingup with a tablet device if you prefer a larger screen.

Tide vs Countingup: using your card in the UK and abroad

Tide Countingup
Foreign transactions Free 3% fee
Foreign ATM withdrawals £1 each 3% fee
information correct as of September 2021

Tide and Countingup both offer free card transactions in the UK, with a contactless limit of £45. Both also charge £1 for UK cash withdrawals from ATMs.

You can use your Tide card abroad, with any retailer or business that accepts Mastercard. All charges are processed at the Mastercard exchange rate, without any additional charges or fees for spending abroad. Unlike many high street banks, there is no limit on the amount you can spend before you incur charges. However, you will pay £1 to withdraw cash from an ATM abroad.

You can also use your Countingup card to make purchases and withdraw cash abroad. Countingup charge a 3% fee for all foreign transactions and cash withdrawals.

Tide vs Counting up: the all-important customer support

Tide Countingup
Customer service via the app ✔️ Email early
Customer support via telephone ✔️
Online knowledge base ✔️ ✔️
information correct as of September 2021

Tide offers a range of customer support options. Free Tide account holders can contact Tide Member Support through the app, or send us an email to request a call back during working hours. Lost or stolen cards can be reported using a dedicated automated phone line. For Tide members on paid plans (Tide Plus or Cashback), there is access to telephone support, as well as a 24/7 legal helpline to assist with your tax or contractual questions.

Countingup offers an online support portal. A help option within the app opens your email account. 

Tide vs Countingup: conclusion – similar yet different

Tide and Countingup both offer bank accounts with integrated invoicing and accounting features. They are both quick to set up and easy to manage from a mobile device, and are designed to simplify the business of running your business.

The two services have a number of key differences, which may help you choose. For example, Countingup is purely a mobile app without a desktop application. And while Countingup is intended to be a complete accounting solution, the app does not give you the option to connect to other accounting apps (like Xero, Sage and Quickbooks). Countingup does not yet offer multiple cards for additional colleagues to manage their own expenses, so may be best suited to small businesses.

While Tide is designed to be managed through the mobile app, you can also log in using their web portal if you prefer to use a larger screen or a keyboard to manage your finances. Tide also offers expense cards for up to 50 employees (£5 per card per month) so you can simplify the management of expenses.

Hopefully, this information has helped to clarify some of the options. If you’re still in doubt, consider how you hope your business will develop in the future. Are you planning to stay small, or do you want to grow? Will you be using an external accounting app? Will you have lots of expenses to pay? Are you a solo entrepreneur, or will you be hiring a team? And if you have an accountant, do they have particular requirements? 

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350,000 fellow business owners, just like you, already love our features:

✔️ Register your business for free

✔️ Open a business bank account with no monthly fees

✔️ Create and send free customised invoices

✔️ Predict your cash flow and improve your credit score

✔️ Unlock exclusive member perks and discounts

✔️ Get 24/7 legal support with Tide Plus and Cashback

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Sources used for this article

  1. Counting up website – https://support.countingup.com/
  2. Counting up pricing structure – https://support.countingup.com/
  3. Wikipedia – Challenger banks

Caroline Wire

Caroline Wire

Senior Small Business Copywriter

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