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Starling Bank review

This easy-to-use app and account is the perfect way to track your spending habits. But is it available to Canadians?

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What is Starling Bank?

Starling Bank is a UK based challenger bank that can be opened and managed directly from their app. It aims to make banking easier and more customer-centric and make your finances accessible to you wherever you are. Starling also offers a business bank account and a Euro account.

Starling Bank is only available to UK residents

In order to sign up for an account you must have a UK address although you don’t need to be a UK tax resident. The app is also designed for users with a UK phone number however there is currently support for numbers from a several other countries including Canada.

When you sign up, you get a chequing account (known as a “current” account in the UK), a debit card and an app that’s all about helping you understand where your money goes, budget and save.

Starling Bank is one of a growing group of challenger banks looking to simplify how we manage our finances, using modern technology to bring banking into the present.

The vast majority of Starling customers say that they’re happy with its current account and would recommend it to a friend.

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How does Starling Bank work?

The app focuses on the necessities, with a minimalist design covering key information. Tabs allow you to access other features including:

  • Payments. Just as with any payment system, there’s a feature for transferring your current standing orders from your old bank.
  • Add money. For anyone who joined after August 2018, there is no limit to how much you can pay in. You can add as much as you like using “Faster Payments” and online banking.
  • Spending. Get a record of your transactions, categorized to let you know what you’re spending your money on, which gives you an idea on where you can save.

Other key features include:

  • Goals. This is basically a digital piggy bank. You set your goal and then squirrel cash away either manually or automatically, encouraging you to save more.
  • Card. Starling sends you a physical bank card when you sign up. From the app, you can activate the card, let Starling know if you’re travelling abroad and manually deactivate it if it gets lost or stolen.
  • Overdraft/loan. Eligible account holders can be given a overdraft protection, or a fixed-rate Starling loan.
  • Marketplace. Starling’s partnerships with third-party financial technology companies offer ways to compare insurance, pensions and mortgages.

The Starling debit card does all you can expect, from making payments to allowing you to withdraw cash from ATMs. Although there are no physical Starling branches, you can load cash into your account at every post office in the UK.

Is Starling any good compared to other challenger banks?

Yeah, Starling is definitely one of the best challenger banks out there. The app is quite elegant and streamlined, the lack of fees makes it great for travelling and it’s a fully licensed bank in the UK, so your money is as safe as with your favourite traditional bank.

However, if we are being completely honest, the most popular ones – Starling, Revolut, Monzo – are quite similar to each other and all offer a very solid service. Compared to Starling, the Monzo app is a bit more fun, while Revolut is more about using different currencies at the same time.

Can I travel with the card?

Yes, you can, and using your Starling debit card in more than 190 countries – anywhere that has a Mastercard logo. It should be a much less painful experience than with a traditional bank.

Thanks to Starling’s mobile nature, it is much easier to keep track of your budget while on the road. Also, charges for spending abroad or withdrawing cash at an ATM aren’t an issue since using your Starling Bank card overseas doesn’t incur extra fees.

When you pay in a foreign currency, money will be converted at the Mastercard exchange rate.

How does the app look?

Starling Bank overdraft, fees and limits

Starling offers an overdraft option. Interest is calculated daily and charged at 15%, 25% or 35% APR (variable) based on the customer’s credit score.

Starling’s fees are competitive:

  • Free account and transactions. Starling doesn’t charge you for basic transactions and banking services. There’s no monthly fee and card payments and ATM withdrawals come for free both 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.
  • Cash loads. Depositing and withdrawing cash for personal current account holders is free at UK post offices.

Starling Bank’s interest rate

Starling Bank pays a marginal interest rate on its everyday account.

This is relatively uncommon among challengers – Revolut, for example, pays no interest at all; with Monzo, you only get interest if you open a savings account with one of Monzo’s partners.

However, if a considerable interest rate on your balance is what you’re looking for, you may be better off with a traditional bank – some traditional current accounts offer up to 3% APR.

Is Starling safe to use?

With a new bank like Starling, it’s natural to worry if your money will be safe. One major question is: what if the bank goes bust? Would you be covered?

As Starling is covered in the UK by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), up to £85,000.

If you fall victim to fraud, Starling is regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority and has adhered to a new voluntary industry code called Contingent Reimbursement Model (CRM) code. This not only means that in most cases it has to refund any unauthorized payments made from your account, but that it will also refund you if you’re tricked into to sending money to a scammer voluntarily (for example because they pretend to be part of your bank’s security team). The exception is if you’re negligent.

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

  • Your finances are secured behind a passcode and password and completing your registration requires video and photo ID.
  • If you ever lose your bank card, you can immediately deactivate it with a push of a button, and customer service is there whenever you need it.
  • A live record of your transactions and home screen notifications means you are alerted to any strange payments immediately.

Compare other digital banking products

Since Starling is only available to residents of the UK, check out these other digital banking products from Canadian banking providers below.

Name Product Interest Rate Promotional Interest Rate Min. Bal / Min. Deposit Account Fee
EQ Bank Savings Plus Account
1.50%
N/A
$0 / $0
$0
Enjoy zero everyday banking fees, free transactions and no minimum balance with a Savings Plus Account from EQ Bank.
Tangerine Savings Account
0.10%
2.1%
$0 / $0
$0
Earn 2.10% interest for 5 months (up to a maximum of $1,000,000) as a new Tangerine client when you open your first savings or chequing account and use the promo code EARNMORE. Plus, get up to a $150 bonus when payroll requirements are met. Apply online by January 31, 2021.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Pros and cons of Starling Bank

Pros

  • Full free UK chequing account, up and running in 20 minutes. Card delivered within a week.
  • Slick mobile app packed with budgeting and saving features, including spending categorization and saving goals.
  • Interest rate paid on Chequing account balances.
  • Easily split the bill with the Starling Bank ‘settle up’ feature.
  • Fee-free spending abroad, including ATM withdrawals.
  • Starling’s “Marketplace” offers competitive pensions, mortgages and insurance from other growing fintech companies.
  • Overdraft fees are competitive and easy to understand.
  • Safe and secure, fully licensed in the UK by the FCA and PRA.

Cons

  • While they offer a wide range of services they’re still a fairly new bank, so do not yet offer more complex services such as mortgages however, some more products are available through the Starling Bank Marketplace.
  • There aren’t any bank branches, but you can use the post office to deposit and withdraw cash. You won’t get face-to-face communication with a Starling Bank staff member, though.

The verdict

The app looks a bit more serious than Revolut’s or Monzo’s, but is very user-friendly and efficient. Starling is also constantly expanding its range of features.

Starling is especially competitive for travelling abroad and, besides not charging any fees for foreign card payments, also has the highest fee-free foreign ATM withdrawal limit available on the market.

All in all, it’s a great bank for people with a UK address who want a solid chequing account with practically no fees and an excellent mobile experience.

Learn more about the digital banking landscape in Canada

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