Managing expenses as a small business owner is a top priority and a constant challenge, especially if you have employees making purchases on behalf of your business. An effective way to keep track of these types of expenses is via a prepaid business debit card, which allows you to preload a card with however much money you want to spend.
One such option when it comes to prepaid debit cards for business is the PEX Visa® card. PEX was founded in 2006 to help small businesses better manage employee spending using technology. Today PEX works with over 10,000 businesses and has issued over 1 million prepaid debit cards.
Behind PEX’s success is a robust set of functionalities and features that can satisfy the needs of many different types of businesses. Let’s take a look at what you can get when you sign up for a PEX card. We’ll also look at price, pros and cons, and some alternative prepaid card options to help you make the best business decision possible. But first, let’s take a look at the benefits of a prepaid business card.
Many small business owners handle expenses via a business credit card. This makes sense if only a handful of people are making purchases on behalf of the business. For businesses that work with a distributed workforce, contractors, or volunteers, a prepaid card offers a variety of benefits you cannot find in a business credit card, including:
We’re not saying you don’t trust your workforce, but with a credit card it is possible to spend more than you have budgeted for. If you do overspend, you have to pay interest on your outstanding balance. These debts can quickly pile up, and if your employees are spending on your business’s behalf, you can’t really control it. A prepaid card must be preloaded with cash, making it impossible for anyone to spend more money than what has been provided for.
A good reason to get any type of business card is so you can separate personal expenses from business expenses. This will save you a lot of time come tax season. With certain prepaid cards, including the PEX card, you can configure cards to only work for specific purchases, allowing you even greater control over where your money is going.
Many small business owners start with no credit, which can make it hard to acquire a business credit card. Prepaid cards are usually issued without a credit check, meaning that even if you have bad credit, you should be able to acquire a prepaid card. However, note that a prepaid card won’t help you build credit. If that is your goal, consider obtaining a secured business credit card and upgrading to an unsecured card down the line.
Running an all-cash business makes it very hard to keep track of your money. With a prepaid card you can allocate your funds in an organized way. Most prepaid cards also come with a credit card network logo like Visa® or MasterCard®, allowing you to use your card wherever these methods of payment are accepted. This can come in handy for business expenses that can’t be paid for in cash.
PEX offers not only prepaid cards, but also a software platform where you can manage your cards, oversee spending, allocate funds, and collect data. To get started you must create an account on the PEX website. PEX requires a few pieces of information for business verification purposes but does not perform a credit check. The entire sign-up process takes about five minutes.
Once you complete your enrollment, PEX will set up your account within one-three business days. You’ll be able to request PEX cards for your employees once your account is open. With free shipping, the cards should arrive in 8-10 business days.
Once your account is open, you can transfer funds to it from your business bank account via ACH transfer or wire transfer. Funds should appear in your PEX account within one-two business days. From there you can distribute the funds to your PEX cards directly from the PEX administrator website, which you gain access to when you open your account. The money is available immediately.
There is no maximum allowed balance on your PEX account, but there is a $25,000 limit on individual PEX cards. Your PEX account also has a minimum balance of $50.
Once your account is funded, you can set up spending permissions via the administrator website for each individual card. PEX allows account holders to define spending privileges by individual cardholder, department, merchant category, and time.
Any changes you make to spending privileges will be updated in real time. If you have no spending rules in place, your employee will be able to use the card anywhere Visa® debit cards are accepted.
Anytime a transaction is made using a PEX card, the account holder will receive a notification via the administrator website or the PEX app. The account holder or employee also has the option to add a note providing additional information on any transaction. Employees can also upload a picture of the receipt using the PEX app.
PEX does a good job of keeping track of where your money is going via the PEX administrator website. From there, account holders can reallocate funds from one card to another, see spending reports, organize and approve receipts, and view expenses by employee, department, or merchant category.
PEX also integrates with a variety of different accounting software, including QuickBooks and Xero.
The PEX API allows you to further customize your payment solution. You can use the PEX API to automate tasks like activating or deactivating credit cards, further define spending rules, and synchronize with other business systems. Note that configuring the PEX API requires some technical knowledge.
PEX offers three tiers of pricing: Core, Pro, and Infinite. There are also different pricing structures based on whether your business is a for-profit or nonprofit enterprise.
The Core plan does not include access to the PEX API or the ability to manage multiple programs through a single account. For example, the Core plan does not allow for the creation of sub-accounts tied to specific budgets or priorities.
The Pro plan allows you to manage multiple programs through a single account and set up spending per diems. The Pro plan also does not offer access to the PEX API.
To inquire about pricing for the Infinite plan, you must contact a PEX sales representative and receive a quote. With the Infinite plan, PEX engineers will work with your business to configure the API to satisfy your payment needs. Infinite plan subscribers also receive an unlimited number of prepaid cards featuring custom designs to match their business’s branding. Other features include custom accounting integrations and 1:1 training.
Note that account holders are also eligible for additional bonuses and discounts from PEX if they sign up for the Ambassador program. You can try PEX’s services free for 60 days.
There are several features that make the PEX card an exceptional option:
The PEX card is designed to grow with your business. Both the Core and Pro plans can accommodate businesses at different stages of growth. Once you become large enough, PEX will create a custom payment solution for your business using the PEX API.
The PEX administrator platform and PEX app offer account holders and users a high level of functionality when it comes to allocating funds and tracking expenses. This makes the PEX card one of the most user-friendly prepaid business card solutions.
Not all businesses are a good fit for the PEX card. Here are some things to be wary of:
Compared to some of the other prepaid options on the market, the PEX card has fairly high monthly fees. However, if you know you are going to be spending enough each month to waive those fees, they become a bit more palatable. The nonprofit rates are also more affordable than the business rates.
The PEX card does not provide cash access at ATMs or point of sale devices. This is important to consider if your employees need access to cash during the workday.
You can only reload your PEX account via ACH or wire transfer, neither of which will give you immediate access to your funds. Wire transfers usually take about 24 hours to complete, whereas ACH transfer can take 1-2 business days. In addition, your bank may charge you an additional fee for a wire or ACH transfer.
If the PEX card isn’t a good fit for your business, here are some alternatives to consider:
|Welcome offerfree trial||Rewards rate||Annual feeif using less than 2 cards. $29-149 monthly for more||Minimum credit|
The Bento for Business Visa® debit card offers much of the same functionality as the PEX card but at a different price. You’ll be charged varying fixed rates, depending on the amount of cards in use. The rates are as follows:
Bento can waive these monthly fees if you spend more than $40,000 per month using their prepaid cards. There is a $25,000 daily spending limit per card.
Although Bento’s rates are lower than PEX’s, you have to pay extra to use more than two cards at a time. Bento also sets daily spending limits, whereas PEX allows you to spend however much you want.
Another option to consider is the Netspend Small Business Prepaid MasterCard®. This prepaid card has a maximum balance of $25,000 on the account and a maximum daily spend limit of $5,000. The service costs $9.95 per month plus an additional $1.95 for every card you have on the account after the initial card. You can have 10 cards in total.
The benefits of the Netspend Small Business Prepaid MasterCard® include access to a network of 130,000 ATMs nationwide, the ability to reload your account via direct deposit, and the opportunity to sign up for ProPay, which allows you to accept credit and debit card payments via a mobile card reader and deposit the funds directly into your Netspend account.
The answer depends on the size of your business. For new businesses just starting out, Netspend is a good option because of their low monthly fees. For midsize businesses, Bento can handle most of your payment needs without breaking the bank. For larger businesses or businesses experiencing a period of growth, the PEX card is a good option because it supports a larger organization without charging additional fees.
Regardless of which prepaid card you go with, you get peace of mind knowing you have complete control over employee spending.
Matthew Speiser is a former staff writer at Fundera.
He has written extensively about ecommerce, marketing and sales, and payroll and HR solutions, but is particularly knowledgeable about merchant services. Prior to Fundera, Matthew was an editorial lead at Google and an intern reporter at Business Insider. Matthew was also a co-author for Startup Guide—a series of guidebooks designed to assist entrepreneurs in different cities around the world.