Financial institutions and entrepreneurs have a historically complicated relationship. Entrepreneurs need ways to fund their companies and keep business moving, meaning they lean on banks for everything from business loans to checking accounts. And banks need entrepreneurs, too — without small businesses fueling the economy, there isn’t much banks can do.

This (sometimes reluctant) co-dependent relationship has led entrepreneurs, in recent years, to demand more. Despite more lending options, business owners have a harder time getting funded. This feels like a double whammy in an era when some entrepreneurs struggle to lower their operating costs or secure their cash flow against unexpected disruptions — how can they keep their businesses going with money flowing out and nothing coming in?

Others have grappled with high credit card interest rates, limp rewards programs, more complicated business banking accounts, and lacking business credit. This has left a sour taste in their mouth and a hesitant feeling toward financial institutions.

But there are many companies working to build platforms that help entrepreneurs rather than hurt them. Here are three banking-oriented apps aiming to make entrepreneurs’ lives easier — at no cost.

1. Chime  

Chime is a mobile banking app with the slogan “banking like it should be,” and it offers a two-pronged approach to ensuring entrepreneurs are successful: saving money and managing it. One of the fastest-growing bank accounts in the U.S., Chime provides a spending account, a Chime Visa debit card, and a savings account. The savings account can be set up for automatic savings by having 10 percent of a deposit set aside as savings or by rounding up purchases and shifting the difference to savings.

Entrepreneurs who have experienced the ups and downs of business will be comforted by the fact that Chime doesn’t extend fees for overdrafts, monthly service, transfers, or foreign transactions, and users aren’t required to keep a minimum balance. The award-winning app provides real-time alerts, as well as daily balance notifications, and it enables users to issue money transfers between accounts or with other people or businesses. It also integrates with other payment platforms to eliminate paper checks — and if a business owner has to issue one, he can submit a request via the Chime app and have Chime send it. Best of all for entrepreneurs worried about security breaches, Chime uses 128-bit AES encryption and secure processes.

2. Wave

Wave offers free financial software for businesses with nine employees or fewer. This easy-to-use software takes on accounting tasks for entrepreneurs by helping them track expenses and sales, manage invoices, accept payments and track accounts receivable, issue payroll, scan receipts, and create accounting reports. The company also offers free personal finance software so business owners can manage their personal and business finances through one platform while keeping them separate.

The app allows business owners to attach their bank accounts and credit cards and customize their dashboard instantaneously. Wave offers double-entry accounting and organized tracking to help entrepreneurs get ready for tax time; entrepreneurs can also invite those who help them manage their books — from CPAs to business partners — to collaborate via the app. For those who want to control the financial data themselves, the software helps them issue P&L, balance sheets, sales tax reports, and more. And for the security-conscious, Wave offers 256-bit encryption and read-only connections with bank data, and it’s PCI Level-1 certified for handling sensitive financial information.

3. Spending Tracker

For entrepreneurs who want to track their spending to develop accurate budgets, Spending Tracker is a free app that pinpoints where money is going. The intuitive app helps small business owners see how expenses have been allocated over a certain time span, enabling them to see whether they need to automate a simple, but time-consuming, process or hire another staff member. Users can attach their banking accounts and also set targets for each budgeting category so they can track their progress in a given month or year.

Many business expenses may feel driven by the cost of doing business with customers or by the financial landscape of the industry itself, but entrepreneurs also wield influence over their spending. The free app’s easy visualization and syncing abilities — business partners, for example, can sync their phones to the same account — make it clear when a certain category is eating up profits or actually financing others, helping entrepreneurs maximize their money.

While banking and financial institutions may have made some entrepreneurs uneasy, there are several apps working to help small business owners carry out their financial tasks, save money, and capitalize on the money they’ve made. These three free apps can help entrepreneurs move forward — and bring their companies along with them.

Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. You can reach me at brad at readwrite.com