Tide vs NatWest: comparing free business bank accounts

Did you know that using a business bank account can help you keep track of your expenses, improve your cash flow, and even prepare your tax return?

Opening a business account with your personal account provider may seem like the best and easiest option, but we recommend you shop around. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the best financial providers in the industry – comparing Tide’s free business bank account with NatWest’s start-up bank account.

Table of contents

Tide vs NatWest: business bank account options

Tide and NatWest both provide a free business bank account, which we’ll be comparing in this post. But first, let’s start by taking a look at the other business accounts each provider offers.

Tide account plans

Tide provides a number of paid plans that give you access to enhanced features to support your growing business.

You can upgrade your account at any time to one of three paid plans:

To benefit from free transfers, company expense cards, and phone support, these plans are worth considering.

Note: Members, on any plan, can call the Fraud Rapid Response team by calling 159. Use +44 20 4587 0366 if you’re calling from abroad. Lines are open 24/7.

NatWest business accounts 

NatWest offers a Business account for larger and more established businesses that have:

  • a turnover above £1m and have been trading for under or over a year, or
  • a turnover below £1m and have been trading over a year

This account has no monthly fee but there are charges for certain transactions and services, similar to Tide’s paid plans. 

For the self-employed and those operating a ‘side hustle’, Mettle offers free banking. This is also a part of the NatWest group.

You can check out our Tide vs. Mettle comparison blog post for more details. 

Comparing the free business accounts

There are two main differences between Tide’s free business bank account and NatWest’s start-up business account:

  1. Neither provider charges a monthly fee. With Tide you’ll pay for transactions and ATM withdrawals from day one whereas NatWest gives you 18 months of free banking with no charges. But after this period, you’ll start to pay for automatic and manual payments, cheque and cash deposits, and ATM withdrawals.
  2. With Tide, there is no trading limit on applying for a free business bank account. Whereas at NatWest, you must be in your first 12 months of trading and your turnover needs to be less than £1m to be eligible for free banking with the start-up account.

So, let’s compare the basics:

Feature Tide NatWest
Monthly cost Free Free
ATM withdrawal fee £1 Free for 18 months (then £0.35)
Fee for electronic payments in/out 20p Free for 18 months (then £0.35)
Cash deposits fee – £2.50 for deposits up to £500
– 0.5% of cash amount for deposits over £500 (at Post Offices)
– 3% (at PayPoints)
Free for 18 months (then £0.70 per £100)
Cheque deposits fee Not accepted Free for 18 months (then £0.70 per cheque)
FSCS protection up to £85k
information correct as of March 2023

Tide’s free business bank account is open to sole traders, freelancers and limited company owners. There are no monthly fees, and your business is eligible irrespective of how long it has been trading – provided you meet our member criteria. 

FSCS protection

Tide is not a bank, however our business bank accounts are provided by ClearBank, which is FCA-regulated. Up to £85,000 of your deposits are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

NatWest’s start-up business account is only available to customers over the age of 18, who have the right to be self-employed in the UK. While there’s no monthly fee, you will be moved onto the standard tariff after the initial free 18-month period. 

NatWest is a large retail and commercial bank. It’s also FCA-regulated, and up to £85,000 of your deposits are protected by the FSCS.

Opening a free business account

Opening a Tide business account

Applying for your free business account with Tide is a breeze after you’ve downloaded the Tide app. All you need to provide is:

  • a valid form of photo ID
  • a selfie to verify your identity

If your account takes an hour to open, it may be because we require more information from you. For example, proof that your business is trading. You’ll receive your debit card within 2-4 business days.

Applying for a NatWest start-up business account

You can apply for a NatWest start-up business account in as little as 10 minutes, however, it can take up to 10 days for your account to be open.

Feature Tide NatWest
Cost to open Free Free
Monthly account fee Free Free
Time to open 1 hour – Up to 10 days for new customers
– Within 24 hours for existing customers
Card delivery time 2-4 business days 3-5 working days (once your account is open)
information correct as of March 2023

Making and receiving electronic payments

Electronic transfers between Tide accounts are free. It costs £0.20 each time you send or receive money from another bank account.

With NatWest, it’s free to make electronic payments for the first 18 months. Online banking transfers between two of your business accounts are free (internet, mobile and telephone banking). 

After this period, you’ll be charged £0.35 per item for any other online banking payments.

Depositing cash and cheques

Tide accepts cash deposits at Post Office branches and PayPoints.

We charge £2.50 for cash deposits of up to £500 at Post Offices, and 0.5% for deposits over £500. But if you’re using a PayPoint, Tide charges 3% of the deposit amount.

It’s not possible to deposit cheques into a Tide account.

With NatWest you can deposit cash and cheques at any of its branches, Royal Bank of Scotland branches, or Post Offices. However, after the first 18 months, there’s a charge of £0.70 per item.

Using your card in the UK

Tide and NatWest both offer free card transactions in the UK, and both debit cards have a £100 contactless spending limit.

There’s a £1 fee to withdraw cash at an ATM with Tide, whereas with NatWest they charge a £0.35 withdrawal fee after 18 months.

Feature Tide NatWest
Card transaction fee Free Free
Debit card provided free
Contactless limit £100 £100
ATM withdrawal fee £1 Free for 18 months (then £0.35)
information correct as of March 2023

Using your card abroad

If you want to use your Tide card abroad, you will only be charged the Mastercard exchange rate. However, cash withdrawals from an ATM remain the same as in the UK (£1). 

When using your NatWest card, you’ll be charged a Non-Sterling Transaction Fee of 2.75% of the transaction’s value. 

Therefore, any NatWest card payment made in a foreign currency is converted into Sterling using the Payment Scheme Exchange Rate.

Tools for managing your money

Tide’s free business bank account comes with a variety of tools to help you keep your finances in order:

  • Accounting integration ‒ connect to Xero, Sage, Quickbooks and others to manage your finances seamlessly
  • Automatic categorisation of your transactions ‒ learn more about your cash flow and financial habits
  • Create, track and send customised invoices ‒ get paid on time hassle free 
  • View-only access for team members ‒ share information safely and securely to get your finance jobs done
  • Multi business ‒ hold up to five business accounts

NatWest’s start-up business account helps you manage your money through:

  • Business Builder ‒ a digital learning and events platform designed to move your business forward 
  • FreeAgent ‒ free accounting software to manage cash flow, invoices and expenses
  • Mentor Digital ‒ a digital hub that offers you free guidance and resources
  • 24/7 messaging support
  • Multi-director access
  • Instant payment notifications and business spending categories

Independent service quality survey: February 2023

As part of a regulatory requirement, an independent survey was conducted to ask approximately 1,200 customers of each of the 15 largest business current account providers if they would recommend their provider to other small and medium-sized enterprises.

Here’s how Tide and NatWest compared in February 2023.

Overall service quality

Customers were asked how likely they would be to recommend their business current account provider to other SMEs:

Online and mobile banking services

Customers were asked how likely they would be to recommend their provider’s online and mobile banking services to other SMEs:

Relationship and account management

Customers were asked how likely they would be to recommend their provider’s relationship/account management to other SMEs:

Find out more about the Business banking service quality survey at the BVA BDRC website.

Summary: businesses are everything to Tide

As you’ve seen, Tide and NatWest both provide business bank accounts with similar features, for no monthly fee. Although NatWest’s account has no charges for the first 18 months, provided you’re in your first year of trading, you will be expected to pay the standard tariff after this period.

Overall, we think our free business account has the edge for now. Here’s why:

  1. You can open an account in minutes with Tide

    You can download the app and get your account up and running in just a few minutes. New business customers at NatWest can apply for an account in 10 minutes but can wait between 5-10 days for it to be opened.

  2. We’re 100% focused on founders

    We don’t offer personal current accounts like at NatWest. We’re here solely to help you work for yourself – whether you’re a sole trader, freelancer or a limited company owner. Saving business owners time and money is our core mission.

Sources used for this article:

All sources checked March 2023. The beforehand information is provided for reference purposes only.  We give no warranty of any kind nor accept any liability whatsoever in connection with the sources, nor any third party’s products or services.

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