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Starling Bank review

This easy-to-use app is the perfect way to track and manage spending habits. But is Starling available in Canada?

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What is Starling Bank?

UK-based Starling Bank is one of a growing group of “challenger banks” looking to simplify how people manage their finances. Starling is a digital-only bank that offers a personal account (similar to a chequing account), joint account, business account and a prepaid card for kids.

In our Starling Bank review, we focus on the personal account. Customers who sign up for this account get a debit card and access to the Starling app, which helps users budget, save and understand where their money goes.

Is Starling Bank available in Canada?

No. To sign up for a Starling Bank account, you must have a UK address, although you don’t have to be a UK resident for tax purposes. The app is designed for users with a UK phone number, although it also supports numbers from a several other countries including Canada and the US.

Starling Bank review

How does Starling Bank work?

The Starling app focuses on the necessities, with a minimalist design that covers key information. Access different features by switching between tabs. These features include:

  • Payments. Just as with any payment system, there’s a feature for transferring recurring transactions from customers’ old banks.
  • Add money. For anyone who joined after August 2018, there’s no limit to how much they can deposit. Customers can add as much as they want using Faster Payments and online banking.
  • Spending. Get a categorized record of transactions. Breaking spending up into categories helps customers understand where they can save.

Other key features include:

  • Spaces. This is basically a digital piggy bank. Set goals and squirrel away cash manually or automatically.
  • Bill Manager. This is a dedicated space to preserve funds for paying bills. Pay direct debits, manage recurring transactions and set up automatic transfers to stash away money.
  • Card. Starling sends customers a physical Mastercard debit card for spending and withdrawing from ATMs. This is the first Mastercard in the UK to be made from recycled plastic (rPVC). In the app, users can activate cards, deactivate lost or stolen cards and notify Starling if they’re travelling abroad.
  • Overdraft. Eligible account holders can set up an overdraft.
  • Marketplace. Starling’s partnerships with third-party financial technology companies offer ways to compare insurance, pensions and mortgages.
  • Access to physical cash. There are no Starling bank branches, but customers can load cash into their accounts for free up to £1,000 at UK post offices.

In addition to the Starling mobile app, personal account customers can manage their accounts through online banking.

Is Starling any good compared to other challenger banks?

Starling is definitely one of the best UK challenger banks out there. The app is quite elegant and streamlined, and the lack of fees is great for travellers. Starling is a fully licensed bank in the UK, so customers’ money is as safe as it would be with a traditional bank.

That being said, Starling’s features are comparable to other digital spending apps like Revolut and Neo Financial. Revolut also isn’t available in Canada, but we’ve rounded up a list of alternative apps you should check out.

Starling Bank goes green

In an effort to become more sustainable, Starling announced in October 2020 that it would be planting a tree for every successful new personal or business customer referral.

This was followed by the introduction of the UK’s first recycled Mastercard debit card in March 2021. Made from 75% recycled plastic (rPVC), the material is sourced from EU industrial waste from the printing and packaging industries. Only 25% of the card, including its chip and magstripe, is made up of non-recycled elements.

Starling is a founding member of TechZero, a group of UK tech companies focused on climate action. It plans to become a net zero company, aiming to reduce carbon emissions from its operations and supply chain by one third by 2030. The bank has been commended for having exceptionally low operational emissions and a clear policy of not investing in the fossil fuel sector.

Can customers travel with the Starling card?

Yes, the Starling debit card can be used while travelling outside the UK. Starling’s mobile focus makes it a great app for budget tracking while on the road. Plus, Starling Bank cardholders won’t pay fees for international spending or ATM withdrawals. Foreign currency payments are converted at the Mastercard exchange rate.

Quick look at the Starling mobile app

Starling Bank review: mobile app screenshot 1
Starling Bank review: mobile app screenshot 2
Starling Bank review: mobile app screenshot 3

Can you get cashback with Starling?

Starling doesn’t offer cashback as standard. Instead, it’s partned with the cashback app Tail. Part of its Starling Marketplace, Tail gives customers access to cashback offers at retailers like FatFace, Ocado and Homebase.

Tail can be activated within the Starling app, which links both accounts. When Starling customers pay with their cards, cashback is paid directly into their bank accounts.

Starling Bank overdraft, fees and limits

Starling offers optional arranged overdraft protection. Interest is calculated daily and charged at 15%, 25% or 35% EAR (variable) based on the customer’s credit score. There are no additional charges for unarranged overdrafts.

Starling’s fees are competitive:

  • Current (personal) account and transactions. Starling doesn’t charge for basic transactions and banking services. There’s no monthly account fee, and card payments and ATM withdrawals are free in the UK and abroad.
  • International money transfers. Starling charges a fee for sending money abroad, which depends on the receiver’s country and the amount of money transferred.
  • Loading cash. Personal account holders can deposit and withdraw cash for free at UK post offices.

Starling Bank’s interest rate

As of the time of writing, Starling Bank pays 3.25% AER interest on balances of up to £5,000. This is relatively uncommon among banking challengers. Revolut, for example, does not pay any interest. However, if earning considerable interest on your balance is what you’re looking for, you may be better off with a traditional bank.

What is the Starling Kite debit card for kids?

Starling Kite is a kids’ debit card and account. It has no monthly fee and is linked to the parent’s personal (or joint) Starling account. As with the personal account, the Starling kids card is not available in Canada.

The card has the child’s name printed on it, and they can use it to spend online, in-store and to withdraw cash from ATMs (up to a maximum of £100). If the Kite debit card is lost or stolen, it can be locked through the adult’s Starling account.

Parents can also use their Starling banking app to allocate funds (such as pocket money) to their kid’s accounts and monitor their spending. Parents receive notifications when child spends money, and there are parental app controls for limiting specific functions, like online payments and ATM withdrawals, and setting daily transaction limits.

There are no fees for using the card abroad. Plus, there’s a dedicated app for children to use.

Is Starling safe to use?

With a new bank like Starling, it’s natural to worry if funds will be safe. Starling deposits are covered in the UK up to £85,000 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

Starling is regulated by the UK Financial Conduct Authority and voluntarily adheres to the Contingent Reimbursement Model (CRM) code. This means that, in most cases, it has to refund any unauthorized payments made from your account. Additionally, Starling will also refund customers if they’re tricked into voluntarily sending money to a scammer. Refunds aren’t issued for negligence.

Starling’s app and card have several security features to protect your account:

  • Finances are secured behind a passcode and password. Registration requires video and photo ID.
  • Lost bank cards can immediately be deactivate at the push of a button, and customer service is accessible within the app.
  • Live transaction records and home screen notifications immediately alerts customers to any strange payments.

Compare other digital banking products

Since Starling is only available to residents of the UK, check out these alternative digital financial accounts that are available in Canada.

Pros and cons of Starling Bank

Here’s a snapshot of the benefits and drawbacks of using Starling Bank.

Pros

  • No monthly-fees
  • 100% digital sign-up
  • 24/7 UK customer support
  • Settle up feature for bill splitting
  • Pays interest on current account balance
  • Overdrafts available for personal accounts

Cons

  • Requires a UK address
  • £300 daily ATM withdrawal limit
  • No group savings feature
  • No direct budgeting tool (but some features can help users budget on their own)
  • No rewards program

Starling Bank review FAQs

Stacie Hurst's headshot
Rebecca Goodman's headshot
To make sure you get accurate and helpful information, this guide has been edited by Stacie Hurst and reviewed by Rebecca Goodman, a member of Finder's Editorial Review Board.
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Written by

Editor

Kate Steere is an editor at Finder, specialising in fintech, banking and cryptocurrency. She has previously written for The Motley Fool UK and Fitch Solutions, where she covered a wide range of personal finance topics and kept a close eye on market trends. Kate has a Bachelor of Arts in Modern History from the University of East Anglia. When not working, she can usually be found curled up with a good book or heading out for a run. See full bio

Kate's expertise
Kate has written 12 Finder guides across topics including:
  • Fintech
  • Banking
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Mortgages
  • Payments
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Co-written by

Associate Publisher, Investments

Jaclyn Hurst was an associate publisher at Finder. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Redeemer University and a University Certificate in Management Foundations from Athabasca University. She’s as passionate about business and finance as she is about the great Canadian outdoors, organic Sumatra coffee and music. See full bio

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