If you own a company, you probably know how hard it can be to keep track of employee expenses. Each company has different handling methods for these expenditures, but they usually involve some combination of petty cash, paperwork, expense reports, and receipts. In other words, it can be a mess to keep track of, keep sorted, and include on your taxes. Fortunately, there are startups in this space who are aiming to make this process much simpler. Two of the most promising companies, Soldo and Pleo, boast potent tools to help businesses keep track of expenses. Between Soldo vs Pleo, who wins? Let's find out in this review!
Soldo vs Pleo: A Background on the Companies
Before diving into the features that each of these companies offers, let's first look at each company's background.
Carlo Gualandri founded Soldo with a vision to “bridge the gap between banks and businesses.” Soldo's philosophy is that banks are excellent at individual transactions and one set of payments, but they're not good at tracking all the multiple methods in which money flows in and out of a company. A business might have anywhere between one and hundreds of thousands of employees. Tracking who spends what can be a nightmare unless there's some centralised system, which Soldo offers! They have four offices, and their headquarters is right here in London.
Pleo's history is different but ultimately winds up with the same objective. Its headquarters is in Copenhagen, and the cofounders, Jeppe Rindom and Niccolo Perra, were early members of a successful startup, Tradeshift. During their time at this startup, they saw the pain of expense management first-hand. So, they eventually left Tradeshift to found Pleo. Now, they have 15,000 companies and have over 200 employees!
Part of what makes these two companies fascinating is that they each solve the same problem but from slightly different perspectives. One is solving it from a “banks are bad at this, so we'll fill the void” school of thought. The other is solving it from experience – what they witnessed first-hand as being problems for early-stage companies. We'll see if those different backgrounds result in different offerings!
Soldo Review: The Good, Bad, and Ugly
With that brief primer on each company's background and location, now we can look at Soldo.
Soldo works by offering prepaid debit cards to companies. Companies can order as many of these debit cards as they want. Each debit card is on the MasterCard network, so businesses should have no problem using them in-person or online. One of the better features of Soldo is that you can issue either a physical card or a virtual card. If you only expect your employee to need to make online purchases, you can get a virtual card number to give to them.
While Soldo is not technically a bank (they are a financial services institution), you can perform many of the same functions with a Soldo account as you can with a bank. You can deposit money, transfer money, and spend money via debit cards. Furthermore, with the Premium membership, you can create cards in pounds, Euros, or U.S. dollars. If your company deals with international transactions, that can be useful!
The Soldo app makes everything pretty easy. You can use the app on iOS and Android so it will work with your phone. Furthermore, it features notifications so you can know when an expense comes through. And, the mobile app lets you change your employee's limits on the road. If you travel quite a bit, this comes in remarkably handy. Let's say your employee spent a little bit more on dinner to close a deal – you could increase the limit instantaneously to save embarrassment.
Finally, Soldo has multiple integrations with accounting software packages, making it easy to export all your transactions to Xero, QuickBooks, and NetSuite. Since Soldo can export to CSV, you can use that to import transactions to SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, and more. That means you won't have to import any of the transactions manually!
It should be clear by now that Soldo is a solid offering. However, like any financial product, there are some drawbacks.
First, Soldo costs £5 per physical card and £1 per virtual card. On top of that, you'll pay £5 per month per card you have out. So, if you have five employees that need Soldo cards, you'll be looking at £25 per month. If you have 50, that number jumps to £250.
That all assumes you have the most basic plan. If you want multiple currencies, you'll need to pay £9. So five employees would be £45 and 50 employees would be £450.
£5 per card sounds fair initially until you have quite a few employees that need one. Very quickly, you'll be paying tens or hundreds of pounds per month to give your employees a debit card – something that comes for free with every bank account. On top of that, you'll need to fund these accounts so that way people can expense with them. Oh, and did we mention that you'll need to pay ATM withdrawal fees, currency exchange fees, and all those fun fees on top of your monthly recurring payments?
It seems like some cap might be nice – like £5 per card up to a maximum of £50 per month. Or maybe cap the number of ATM fees you can receive. Depending on how your employees use these cards, it can get pricey quickly if you have many of them.
While it is understandable that Soldo is not a bank, that fact means you still need a business banking account. It's not that big of a deal, but for smaller companies that maybe only have a few people, it would be nice if this product also acted as the corporate bank account.
Pleo Review: What You Need To Know About This Platform
Soldo is a strong offering in this space. However, Pleo is even more popular, so here's how it compares in the showdown between Soldo vs Pleo!
Foundationally, Pleo works very similarly to Soldo. You can issue cards to your employees on the MasterCard network, meaning your employees can use them at millions of merchants worldwide. You'll also get a web interface and app that let you track expenses and set limits.
Pleo's app is exceptionally well-designed. Your employees will see a notification on their phone whenever they buy something, so they will remember right then to upload the receipt. The app is also really intuitive and has a beautiful interface that makes it a joy to use!
The other neat feature that Pleo has is the “Pleo Pocket.” This feature enables your business to track any money owed to employees. As a quick example, suppose your employee needs to spend £20 of their money to buy some coffees for a meeting. They can put that expense into the Pleo Pocket and track it for payment. Plus, Pleo Pocket also calculates the distance and fuel costs for work trips. That makes reimbursing these expeditions very straightforward.
Pleo has quite a few substantial benefits that make it a worthy contender for your company's expense tracking. However, like Soldo, there are some downsides.
To use Pleo, you'll need to wire money to a “segregated account” (as they call it) at either JP Morgan or Danske Bank. While it's excellent that Pleo keeps your cash in a separate account that the company cannot access, wiring money to this account is not altogether straightforward. Depending on your financial institution, it may also cost a fee to wire this money.
That fact that all your money is sitting in one account also reveals another limitation: all debit cards draw from this pool! Unlike Soldo, where you can control each employee's wallet, with Pleo, if you have five employees with unrestricted limits on their cards, one party could wipe out the money and leave nothing for everyone else. While, hopefully, your employees would never do this maliciously, it's not hard to envision a scenario where employees are spending and don't realise they've nearly depleted this central account.
Finally, there's a little matter of cost again! Pleo is technically pricier at £6 per month and £10 per month for the essential and pro plans, respectively. While the £1 per month difference might not seem like a lot, it could add up if you have quite a few users! And, it's not clear if you get many benefits over Soldo for that extra cost.
Soldo vs Pleo: Which Is Better?
Despite each company's founders having a very different background, these two companies have arrived at very similar offerings. Both Soldo and Pleo do a fantastic job of making tracking, sorting, and digitising expenses very easy.
In the Soldo vs Pleo battle, is one better? Not really. Both are very well-done. The cost advantage goes to Soldo since it is slightly less. The feature advantage leans slightly to Pleo as the Pleo Pocket concept is exceptionally well-done. But neither offering is terrible by any means.
If you're really on the fence, you may wish to consider trying Soldo first. Soldo has an intro where you can get your first 12 months free, so all you need to pay is £5 to issue the card. Given that it's also the cheaper option, this is probably your best starting place, but that does not mean Soldo is a higher quality product than Pleo. Both are about the same!