What is Brex?
Brex is a San Francisco-based company that began as a virtual reality startup in 2017 and is now offering an AI-powered spend management platform to challenge incumbents like American Express, SAP Concur, and Bill.com.
How does Brex compare to Rho and Ramp? Read our latest post comparing all three modern finance solutions to learn more.
Brex use cases and offerings
Following an initial launch as a virtual reality company, Brex pivoted to become a corporate card provider (powered by Mastercard), challenging American Express. Since then, Brex has added more capabilities like cash management, travel booking, and AP, which we will now cover.
1. Corporate credit cards
Brex offers corporate charge cards, called the Brex Card, to VC-backed startups on daily and monthly terms. Like Rho, Brex offers the ability to generate virtual cards or a physical card with spend controls - although the latter feature requires a Brex Premium subscription.
Brex customers can earn points and other perks by paying for qualifying purchases like Apple purchases using Brex Cards. For example, it offers a 7x points multiplier on rideshares, which you can redeem for perks like billboard ads.
One primary benefit of Brex Cards is the company’s underwriting model, which adjusts credit limits based on the real-time and average 30-day cash balances in your linked bank accounts, offering flexibility and potentially higher credit limits to businesses with strong cash flows.
However, as we’ve covered in a previous post, you may experience an unexpected limit cut from a newer fintech company heavily weighting current cash balance like Brex or Ramp, compared to Rho's more holistic underwriting approach.
2. Expense management
Brex’s expense management automation capability is called Brex Empower, designed to give startup finance teams controls and automation to help reduce the administrative load associated with processing expense receipts and reduce non-compliant spending.
With Brex Empower, admins can set up automated spending controls and block or approve spending based on specific categories or merchants. Via the Brex mobile app, Brex also makes it easy for employees to upload supporting expense documentation like receipts.
Recently, Brex made the decision to paywall some expense management features, including live budget reporting, advanced spend limit controls, and some alerts.
PSA: Rho does not charge SaaS fees, including for expense management capabilities!
3. Travel reimbursement management
In early 2023, Brex relaunched integrated travel capabilities called Brex Travel within its spend management platform, Empower.
This venture, powered by technology startup Spotnana, replaced a former partnership with TravelBank after its recent acquisition by U.S. Bancorp, thus directly challenging legacy travel providers like SAP Concur and best-in-class travel solutions like Navan.
With Brex Travel, admins can manage global expense policies, track budgets in real time, and automate compliance. Employee users can book travel accommodations with preferred airlines and hotels within preset policies, make unlimited itinerary changes, and manage their expenses.
Like Rho, Brex also offers a mileage reimbursements feature.
4. AP automation
Brex automates invoice entry, approval, payments, and account reconciliations. OCR technology captures all invoice data, and users can set up multi-level approval workflows. Users can automate one-time or recurring cash account payments using ACH, check, or wire transfers.
Transaction data can be synced using ERP integrations with QuickBooks, NetSuite, and Xero. Brex has other third-party integrations, including with Gusto. Note, however, that far fewer clients use Brex AP automation than the other Brex services discussed above.
5. Business bank accounts
The Brex business account, formerly known as the Brex Cash account, is a business banking service that offers ACH payments, checks, and domestic wires with zero transaction fees.
While the Brex business account is represented as a unified service, it is a composite of various banking and treasury facilities provided through different entities.
Some of Brex’s business banking services are backed by Emigrant Bank, and Fifth Third Bank, NA, both FDIC members. Meanwhile, Brex's affiliate, Brex Treasury LLC, backs the additional treasury functionality of the account – namely, investing client cash in money market funds.
Unlike standard business checking accounts, Brex business accounts allow users to choose between investing in yield-generating money market funds and spreading up to $6 million across a network of established FDIC-insured partner banks for enhanced capital protection.
Did you know? Rho Treasury Management Accounts are built on a network of over 400 FDIC-insured banks, allowing you to access up to $75M in FDIC deposit insurance per entity.
As you are evaluating business banking service providers, we recommend you also check out these resources to help you:
6. Brex AI
Finally, Brex AI, the company’s new AI-powered assistant, is embedded in each product and designed to provide a chat function that Brex claims helps employees with their expenses.
Who is Brex for?
While it has attempted to move upmarket to enterprise-size businesses, Brex largely caters to venture-backed startups. A Brex account also generally requires its customers to maintain a cash balance of at least $25,000 to maintain any credit limit.
If you are not a venture-backed business, consider evaluating Rho for your corporate card, business banking, expense management, or AP needs.
Our Brex review
This section goes into detail on each of the Brex solutions and how well they serve customers. The discussion is based on G2 reviews and other third-party review sites.
Brex credit card review
Let’s look at common themes that surface on third-party review sites.
Access to credit lines
The Brex Card can help you start building a credit history by making timely payments because, according to their website, they report to Experian, Dun & Bradstreet, and Equifax every month.
While some Brex cardholders appreciate the cash-based underwriting model, others experience issues with it based on the nature of their business.
Brex analyzes corporate card applications based on company financial performance, including funding, revenue, and expenses. A Brex customer points out that fast credit line approvals allow her business to “seize timely business opportunities.”
Brex does not require personal credit scores. As one user noted: “What was most enticing is that we didn't have to get personal credit checks to get started. We were issued a large limit based on our revenue. This was such an important factor for us starting out.”
However, a Brex card is a charge card, and businesses must pay the entire card balance due each month. Brex may decrease credit limits when the business bank account balance decreases.
Read how Brex’s underwriting model compares to Rho to evaluate the right option for your business.
Posting credit card transactions
Brex cardholders can add a memo to get an expense posted into the accounting system quickly. Brex uses the memo data to post corporate card transactions to the correct expense category. “A few steps after purchase, your receipt is linked to the transaction, and the record is saved.”
Cardholders also appreciate the alerts for memos: “I love that it will text you immediately after a transaction asking for a memo so that I can just enter it right there on the spot without having to go back and try to remember what all of my transactions were.”
However, several important features – like advanced ERP integrations that automate transaction reconciliation – are now under a paywall with Brex Essentials and Brex Premier.
So, while you may not experience an annual fee for cards like you would with American Express or Expensify, you will likely need to pay fees to offer advanced features in your Brex account.
Frustration with a rewards program
Some Brex cardholders like the points-based rewards system and point-based card offers, but Brex implemented a no-notice devaluation earlier this year, slashing airline transfer rates and redemption rates for cash and cryptocurrency redemptions.
Business credit cards offer cashback rewards, and the Exclusive Rewards program pays higher rewards for more card use.
Our recommendation: Stick with a corporate card with tech-enabled features and straightforward cashback vs points.
Brex for expense management
Several Brex reviewers commented on the ability to tailor expense management workflows to fit their company’s specific needs. Users can easily take photos of receipts and upload them for expense coding with the mobile app.
Customers feel that the alerts to enter receipts and to log expenses speed up the expense management process.
In addition: “Brex simplifies expense management by offering real-time tracking and categorization of expenses.” Real-time tracking provides “valuable insights into my spending patterns.”
The Brex solution “oftentimes will auto-categorize expenses making it easy for our business operations team to keep up with my spending.”
Brex for business travel spend and reimbursement
The Brex travel booking system is integrated into the platform, and users can redeem rewards for flights and hotel bookings through Brex Travel. Users who travel frequently can earn attractive rewards for flights, rideshare, and dining expenses.
Brex customers like the automated process for managing receipts. A reviewer mentioned the
“ease of uploading my receipts and the ability to see if they are uploaded correctly.” Cardholders can share receipts and notes about expenses easily.
Here are some additional reviewer comments:
- “Brex calculates my mileage as I travel weekly to several offices. So easy, Brex does all the work!”
- “Brex is exceptionally useful when traveling; users have per diem expenses auto-approved with just a simple memo to explain what it is.”
- “With Brex I log memos as I go & haven't had to do any logging post my trips.”
Brex makes employee reimbursements easier to process. However, some reviewers feel that they need better reporting on Brex card available balances.
Brex AP automation software
The platform is user-friendly and offers an easy tool for receipt capture. Here are several reviewer comments regarding Brex AP automation:
- “Brex stands out with its user-friendly interface, seamless integration, and lightning-fast approval process.”
- “Brex allows me to easily pay for vendors, items, hard costs, etc without the hassle of relying on someone else.”
- “Perhaps there are some challenges in accessing timely and responsive customer service when encountering issues or have questions.”
Brex needs to process bank transfers faster, according to some reviewers, and reviewers point out limitations with the platform’s mobile app. Many of Brex’s advanced spend management features – like custom budgets and reporting – are being housed in a paid platform.
Brex recently updated its pricing plan to require customers to sign up for a Brex Premium or Brex Enterprise account to access important features like dedicated customer support, custom roles and permissions, ERP integrations, live budgeting, and travel planning.
The company offers three pricing levels: Essentials, Premium, and Enterprise.
As of this article’s publishing date, Brex Premium is $12 per user per month (when billed yearly; $15 per month otherwise), but larger enterprise organizations must contact Brex Sales for a more specific quote if they would like to access more features and dedicated onboarding.
Brex pros and cons
Brex supports the VC and startup communities with better underwriting terms, continual product innovations, and investments in events.
1. Better underwriting for startups than Amex
As mentioned earlier, Brex Card credit limits are based on the real-time and average 30-day cash balances in your linked bank accounts, offering flexibility and potentially higher credit limits to businesses with strong cash flows.
The Brex underwriting policy is preferable to legacy corporate card providers like Amex or Capital One, which will require years of business financials that startups likely don't have. Founders are not required to provide personal guarantees.
2. Strong history of product innovation
Brex continually innovates to provide a more seamless automation experience for customers. In recent months, Brex product announcements include centralized billing for Brex Travel, and the ability to automatically add Uber receipts to Brex transactions.
3. Investment in VC and startup ecosystem
Brex is committed to supporting the VC and startup communities. The company has invested in curating Bay Area, New York events and other startup hubs. In early 2024, Brex events include the Fintech Meetup event in Las Vegas, and the Startup Grind Global Conference in Silicon Valley.
Brex has some drawbacks that make it difficult to use the platform, and to earn rewards on Brex Card usage.
1. Customer support
Brex Essential customers experience delays and slow response times due to limited customer support.
Customers must sign up for a Brex Premium or Brex Enterprise account to access more responsive, dedicated customer support.
2. Paying for key features
Many of Brex’s advanced spend management features – like custom budgets and reporting – are being housed in a paid platform.
Users needing these key features must pay additional fees to get the full benefits of using Brex.
3. Underwriting risks to cardholders
Founders closely monitor cash management and available credit to operate the business. Unexpected changes in credit limits can disrupt the business.
Brex may decrease credit limits when the business bank account balance decreases. Some reviewers experienced unexpected credit limit reductions without clear explanations from Brex.
Rho, on the other hand offers a holistic underwriting approach to business owners. Rho evaluates financial, banking, and business credit bureau data. Rho monitors all of these criteria in order to provide a high, stable credit limit.
4. Points less valuable than cashback
Several reviewers stated that tracking and redeeming reward points is complex and time-consuming. In addition, some customers are upset that Brex recently devalued their cashback points without prior notice to cardholders.
A simple cashback reward structure maximizes your ability to earn rewards. Rho offers up to 1.25% cashback through statement credits. Rho cardholders can earn rewards with less effort and without confusion.
4. Leaving customer markets
Brex is not a good choice for bootstrapped startups because spending limits and benefits are designed for VC-backed startup companies. In June of 2022, Brex announced it was leaving the small and medium-sized (SMB) market.
What should you look for when picking corporate credit card management software?
The biggest consideration is how your choice of corporate credit card will not just impact your bottom line (via cashback) but how it helps create efficiencies.
For businesses focused on growth, we recommend selecting a corporate credit card like the Rho Card with tech-enabled capabilities like spend controls and automatic transaction reconciliation.
Higher cash back from a traditional bank is not worth the opportunity cost lost by being unable to maintain laser-like control over spending and process efficiencies in your accounting.
We recognize that a lot goes into picking a corporate credit card provider that will also help you streamline your financial operations, so we wrote a guide to help you.
Brex competitors and alternatives
If you’re considering the Brex automation platform, fully review the solution with other software providers, as explained below.
Based in New York, Rho is a comprehensive finance automation platform that empowers startups with tools to boost their bottom line and operate more efficiently.
Rho offers corporate cards, expense management, AP automation, business banking, and treasury management with zero platform fees compared to Brex and Ramp’s paid plans.
Rho’s sleek and modern platform makes it easy for busy founders to run lean teams and manage all the finances that go into running a company – bill payments, banking services, card and invoice payments, and treasury – in a single solution.
Founders control spend, streamline cash management, and save hours of time and money using a single platform. Plus, Rho’s award-winning customer support team is available to help 24H Mon-Fri, 10-7pm ET on weekends.
- Rho Corporate Cards with built in spend controls, expense management capabilities as needed, and the ability to earn up to 1.25% cashback on spending.
- Rho AP that automates the end-to-end accounts payable process in just a few clicks and without payment delays that some experience with point solutions like Bill.com thanks to Rho’s integrated business banking.
- Rho Prime Treasury, a bespoke treasury management solution that helps customers invest their excess cash in short-dated government securities held directly in their company’s name.
- Rho Treasury Management Account, built on a network of over 400 FDIC-insured banks, that offers access up to $75M in FDIC deposit insurance per entity.
- Dedicated customer support that is available 24H Mon-Fri, 10-7pm ET on weekends to assist from implementation and expense policy set-up to AP automation configuration and troubleshooting.
- Straight cashback vs. points: Some companies prefer legacy corporate card solutions like American Express, Chase, or Capital One for the point rewards they offer, even if that impacts process speed.
Just like middle-market companies, Rho is a great fit for startups. Founders use Rho as a single solution for corporate cards, expense management, payments, banking, and treasury. Startup founders can effectively manage finances with a lean team, saving time and money.
Did you know? Rho is also a popular finance platform among private equity-backed companies and CFOs thanks to our comprehensive spend management capabilities and multi-entity support.
Rho vs. Brex
While Brex is a popular option among startups, particularly for VC-backed startups, thanks to its appealing perks and benefits, its usefulness tends to taper off as businesses grow. The spending limits, mainly calculated based on funding and financial performance, make it a better fit for smaller, less complex teams.
However, as startups start to scale, more streamlined approvals, robust expense management, and structured workflows become necessary.
This is where Rho shines - providing a comprehensive stack of financial tools that allow for unimpeded growth without the necessity of platform changes.
Additionally, Rho simplifies rewards with a clear policy of providing up to 1.25% cashback, which may be easier for startups to manage than Brex's more intricate card rewards structure.
Plus, unlike Brex, Rho does not charge any platform fees, leading to cost savings. Therefore, all considered, Rho emerges as an overall more advantageous solution for startups than Brex.
Based in New York, Ramp is a fintech company initially launched in 2019 as a corporate card and expense management platform combo and has since expanded its product capabilities to include bill payments, procurement, and accounting integrations.
Ramp’s mission is to help build healthier businesses and does so through its platform that helps businesses control spend, save time, and automate busywork.
Ramp’s products include corporate cards that offer up to 1.5% cashback, expense management, procurement, accounts payable, vendor management, working capital, a mobile app, and other core features built into their platform.
Key features include:
- Expense management users can upload a snapshot of receipts using the mobile app.
- The platform auto-collects and matches receipts in minutes with integrations for Gmail, Uber, Amazon Business, and Lyft.
- Ramp’s automation handles approvals, global reimbursements, and AI-powered reconciliations.
- Ramp Flex, a financing solution embedded in Ramp Bill Pay that adds additional float for your vendor payments.
- Ramp will pay vendors when requested and can choose to repay Ramp over 30, 60, or 90 days. Ramp Flex fees for financing are based on the customer’s current cash balances, revenue and commerce data, and credit bureau information. Fees may change from one invoice to the next.
- Receipt matching: Users can easily match receipts sent by text or email
- Reporting: Ramp provides a useful set of real-time reports
- UX intuitive: The platform is intuitive and easy to navigate
- Xero integration: Some users report problems with the Xero payment integration
- Customer support: Ramp does not provide live phone support to Ramp and Ramp Plus customers
- Expense categories: The platform needs to provide more customization for expense categories, according to some reviews
Some of Ramp’s basic features are free to use. It’s important to note that Ramp customers must sign up for Ramp Plus to access many of the platform’s marquee features, including ERP integrations, purchase order management, and premium customer support.
As of this article’s publishing date, Ramp Plus is $12 per user per month (when billed yearly; $15 per month otherwise), but larger enterprise organizations must contact Ramp Sales for a more specific quote if they want important features like multi-entity support.
The Ramp Card is a great corporate card program for startups, with lots of resources specifically geared toward the VC-backed community. If your company is a Series A to Series C-funded business, Ramp can support your operation as you add more cardholders and approvers.
Larger growth companies that need streamlined approvals, expense management, and structured workflows should consider Ramp.
Rho vs. Ramp
While Ramp has positioned itself as a strong credit card and spend management solution for VC-backed startups, it is most effective for businesses with a narrower set of financial needs.
Ramp's offerings – a corporate card solution and some expense management and AP capabilities – provide effective support for startups in the early stages while also aiding in time-saving for processes like month-end close.
However, where Ramp falls short is in customer support and comprehensive financial management. With customer support confined to email for Ramp and Ramp Plus customers, response times may be slower than desired.
Furthermore, the absence of built-in business banking or treasury management capabilities means businesses will need to pair Ramp with a separate banking solution, leading to potential inefficiencies.
This is where Rho strikes a difference. With its scalable platform, Rho offers an end-to-end solution encompassing corporate cards, expense management, AP automation, business banking, and treasury management under one roof.
This means startups do not have to juggle multiple services as they grow, saving time and streamlining operations. Therefore, if consolidation, scalability, and comprehensive financial management are priorities, Rho is a more versatile alternative.
There are several drawbacks for Ramp users:
- The platform only provides customer support by email to Ramp and Ramp Plus customers.
- Ramp does not currently offer built-in business banking or treasury management capabilities in its platform. This means you will need to pair Ramp with a business bank account to unify your finance stack vs. consolidating everything in one platform with Rho.
Expensify provides corporate credit card expense management software allowing employees to track and submit expenses for processing. The platform automates expense approval and processes employee reimbursements. Expensify Card manages credit card transactions within the platform.
Expensify Card imports and accounts for company expenses. The software generates an eReceipt for most card transactions, eliminating the need to scan receipts. Expensify performs real-time reviews of transactions and spending policies to detect fraudulent transactions.
Users earn up to 1% cashback on each transaction, and Expensify offers perks and discounts through 20+ partners. The platform integrates with several accounting software packages.
- Reimbursement process: Straightforward process with the ability to reimburse using direct deposit
- Mobile app: Using the app is intuitive and easy to navigate
- Reports tool: Reports can be created and easily shared with other people
- Receipt processing: Users need help scanning and uploading receipts on mobile and desktop. OCR does not always work well, and incorrect details are often picked up from receipts
- Product promotions: Several reviewers received too many inquiries promoting additional products. Too many pop-ups and notifications
- Billing practices: Several reviewers noted that the billing process could be clearer. Some believed that they were charged incorrectly after canceling Expensify
- Customer support: Many reviewers pointed out a lack of support and that issues were left unresolved for weeks or months
Smaller businesses with less complex needs may find Expensify to be a helpful solution. Larger companies that process transactions and need more functionality will be frustrated with the platform. Expensify has more software performance issues than Brex, Ramp, or Rho.
Expensify vs. Brex
Reviewers voice concerns with the user experience of Expensify as several noted frustrations and lack of sufficient follow-up on customer support issues.
The pricing structure of Expensify has been considered confusing and potentially too costly by some users, and grumblings about excessive promotions of additional products abound.
In contrast, Rho stands out as a user-friendly and comprehensive platform, garnering fewer negative reviews than Expensify.
With Rho, startups maintain streamlined financial operations regardless of cash flow variations, and the need to constantly monitor credit card rewards dissipates, thanks to clear cashback policies.
Rho offers a worthwhile alternative for businesses seeking a more intuitive, cost-effective, and integrated finance solution.
Conclusion: How Brex stacks up
Brex has become a go-to provider for VC-backed startups, offering travel-related rewards and a convenient integrated platform.
However, startups seeking a more comprehensive and scalable solution are turning towards Rho due to the need for consistently high cash balances and meticulous rewards tracking.
With its robust finance automation capabilities, competitive pricing, and live customer support available 24H Mon-Fri, 10-7pm ET on weekends, Rho is a great alternative for startup businesses focused on scaling profitability and growing the bottom line.
Competitive data was collected as of January 26, 2024, and is subject to change or update.