Alternatives to Starling

Starling is certainly not the only digital bank out there, so we've compared it against the competition to see what the best option is.

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Fact checked

Starling is a challenger bank with around 500,000 customers in the UK, offering digital-only current accounts (and a bunch of related services) to its 500,000 UK customers. If you’ve checked it out but for some reason was unimpressed, fear not, there are others you can consider.

While you can also read Finder’s individual reviews of Atom bank, Monese, Monzo and Revolut, this article looks at them all together, to help you figure out which is best for what.

Banks like Starling for day-to-day banking

Challenger banks don’t offer a broad range of services yet, but they all provide fee-free digital-only current accounts that can be opened in a few minutes, and that can easily function as main current accounts as long as you have fairly essential banking needs. With all of them you can expect a free current account, card and app, and free bank transfers and card payments within the UK.

If you rule Starling out, your main options are:

  • Monzo. The most popular challenger bank in the UK with its two-million-strong user base, Monzo is probably the most similar to Starling, and ticks most of the boxes (you can set up direct debits, use Google Pay and Apple Pay, and ATM withdrawals are free). You can also deposit cash on your account at PayPoints for £1 a transaction, and is the only one apart from Starling that’s offering overdrafts (you can go overdrawn up to £20 for free, and it’s 50p a day after that).
  • Revolut. Revolut was born as a multi-currency card more than as a bank account, and it shows when it comes to some basic day-to-day banking: in the UK, you can’t set up direct debits yet and free cash withdrawals are limited to £200 a month.
  • Monese. Monese is another option that’s been providing basic banking on smartphones since 2015. The unique thing about Monese is the ability to open an account anywhere in the UK or Europe without an address, without credit history and without a fixed income.

Day-to-day banking: The verdict

As we said, Monzo is the most similar to Starling and the one with the broadest range of features for day-to-day banking. However, you could also give Revolut a shot. Revolut has a tonne of features and is constantly adding. Recently it’s opened up a trading option to buy and sell shares. It could also be a good shout if you’re interested in a premium option with more benefits (see our review of Revolut Premium).

Promoted
HSBC Advance Bank Account

Switch and receive a £125 reward

  • £125 reward when you switch your main current account (from non HSBC-Group products)
  • Minimum arranged overdraft of £1,000 on account opening
  • Earn 2.75% AER / gross interest with the linked HSBC Regular Saver
  • Fee free international transfers and no monthly fee

Cards like Starling for travelling

Generally speaking, challengers will treat you better than traditional banks when it comes to doing all things money out of the country. Depending on whether you’re a serial travel, only have the occasional trip or mostly stay in the UK but need to send money to someone who doesn’t, some will be more suitable than others:

  • Card payments. Apart from Monese (which charges a 2% currency exchange fee unless you upgrade your account to a Plus or Premium option), you can use your card abroad for free with all the others. At weekends, Revolut charges a 0.5% markup fee.
  • ATM withdrawals. Both Monzo and Revolut allow them for free but they’re limited to £200 a month (after that, Monzo charges a 3% fee, Revolut a 2%).
  • Euro accounts. Together with Starling, Monese is the only challenger offering a free euro account together with your regular sterling one.
  • Money transfers. Revolut is in for an easy win here – the others all charge a fee, while with Revolut you can transfer money in 29 currencies at the interbank rate for no fees, up to £5,000 a month.

Travelling: The verdict

Let’s face it, if you’re looking for a card that will give you great freedom abroad without charging any fees, you should probably reconsider your reluctance over Starling – it’s the only one that offers free ATM withdrawals in another currency with a limit of £300 a day.

However, Revolut makes for a good alternative that has reasonable fees and if you also need money transfers, it definitely stands above the competition.

Promoted
HSBC Advance Bank Account

Switch and receive a £125 reward

  • £125 reward when you switch your main current account (from non HSBC-Group products)
  • Minimum arranged overdraft of £1,000 on account opening
  • Earn 2.75% AER / gross interest with the linked HSBC Regular Saver
  • Fee free international transfers and no monthly fee

Alternatives to Starling for saving

Challengers are still at the beginning of the journey when it comes to savings accounts, so if putting money aside and earning interest on it is your main goal, you may also want to have a look at what traditional banks have to offer.

Starling is the only challenger that pays an interest on current account balances (0.05% on up to £85,000), but you can’t open a separate savings account. Among the others, Atom is the only one that offers savings accounts, with a good range of fixed-term options that pay decent rates. However, it offers no easy-access savings accounts.

Monzo is currently working on a savings market place, and currently has three different partners that offer both easy-access and fixed-term accounts. The rates aren’t half bad, but you can still get better ones if you go to the source and open an account directly with the provider.

Finally, Monzo and Revolut all categorise your spending in the app and allow you to put money aside in separate sub-accounts (respectively known as Pots, Spaces and Vaults) to save towards a goal. Monzo and Revolut also have a feature that automatically rounds up and saves your spare change, functioning as a digital piggybank.

Savings: The verdict

If you’re only looking at how much money your savings can earn you, Atom is competitive for fixed-term accounts, while the others still have quite a long way to go.

On the other hand, if you find organising your budget and saving money challenging, both Revolut and Monzo have slick apps with loads of useful features that can help you organise your money and save.

Are challengers safe?

The short answer is yes – all the challengers we’ve mentioned are registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and fully authorised to do what they do. However, there is a slight difference when it comes to how your money is protected:

  • Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). It protects all deposits up to £85,000 and applies to institutions that have a full banking licence. That is: Monzo, Starling and Atom Bank.
  • Segregated accounts. Institutions that only have a licence for dealing in electronic money have to keep all clients’ money in segregated accounts, from where it can’t be used to pay the company’s debt and is thus safe in case of bankruptcy. That’s the case for Monese; Revolut recently got a European banking licence, but until it’s fully finalised, deposit protection doesn’t apply and client money will still be kept separate from company money.

Cards and apps like Revolut

Data indicated here is updated daily
Name Product Ratings Interest (AER) Arranged overdraft Key benefits Link Representative example
We say
★★★★★
You say
★★★★★
0%
39.9% EAR variable
£125 when you switch
Go to site
Current account switch service guarantee badge
Plus earn 2.75% AER / gross interest with the linked HSBC Regular Saver
To be eligible for HSBC Advance, customers will need to pay in a minimum of £1,750 per month or £10,500 over 6 months and must qualify for a minimum £1,000 arranged overdraft. To be eligible for the £125 switching offer, customers must switch from a non-HSBC Group current account product. Other T&Cs apply. Representative example: If you use an arranged overdraft of £1,200, you’ll be charged interest at 38.9% (0% EAR variable on first £25, 39.9% thereafter).
We say
★★★★★
You say
★★★★★
0%
15% EAR variable
Award-winning current account, apply in minutes
Go to site
Current account switch service guarantee badge
No fees for spending or withdrawing cash overseas - currencies are converted at Mastercard’s standard exchange rate
Representative example: If you use an arranged overdraft of £1,200 you'll be charged interest at 15% EAR variable.
We say
★★★★★
You say
★★★★★
0%
39.94% EAR variable
Interest and fee free overdraft
for first four months when you switch
Go to site
Current account switch service guarantee badge
Up to 15% cashback at a range of major retailers
Representative example: If you use an arranged overdraft of £1,200 you'll be charged interest at 39.94% EAR variable.
We say
★★★★★
0%
N/A
Guaranteed acceptance plus a credit building feature
Go to site
Account fee of £5.95 per month.
We say
★★★★★
0%
N/A
Guaranteed acceptance
Go to site
Current account switch service guarantee badge
Earn cashback on your purchases when you shop through the ThinkMoney rewards portal
Account fee of £10 per month or £15 per month.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Foreign ATM withdrawals Foreign transactions fee Card cost Delivery speed
Starling Bank
Free
No fees
Free
Between 3-5 working days
Everything you get from a current account, but with new features for mobile living. (E.g. Goals for saving, spending catgorisation, interest on your balances)
WeSwap
Withdrawals of £200/$200/€200 or more – free
smaller withdrawals – a charge of £1.50 per withdrawal

No transaction fees (if you spend in one of the 18 wallet currencies)
Free
Between 3-5 working days in the UK, or within 10 days if you live outside the UK
Tandem (Credit Card)
No ATM fees. However you'll be charged interest from the day you withdraw cash.
No fees
Free
-
Tandem's credit card doesn't charge fees on purchases abroad, leaving you with more money for your travels.
Loot
Two free cash withdrawals per month, £1 thereafter
No fees
Free
-
App-based current account that keeps you on top of your spending. You can set goals and Loot will help you get there.
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Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Fees and charges Interest Savings goals
Revolut (Standard)
Card delivery is £4.99
No interest
Set budgets in the app
Starling Bank
Free
0.05% on up to £85,000
Create different spending goals and protect money from daily spending
Monese (Starter)
None
No interest
Not a feature
Monzo
Free
Marketplace with 8 savings accounts both fixed rate and easy access, £500 minimum deposit.
Monzo pots let you put money aside, protected from your daily spending
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Compare up to 4 providers

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Direct debits UK ATM withdrawals Payments Freeze your card
Revolut (Standard)
Supported with both the UK account and the Euro IBAN account
£200 free monthly
Easy UK payments and can transfer money between 23 countries
Yes: touch of a button in app
App-based current account with loads of extra features. (e.g. Real time transactions, payment categorisation, save spare change, free international money transfers, buy cryptocurrency)
Starling Bank
Yes - future Direct Debits shown as alerts
Free
Pay via bank transfer or using PayPal or Google Nearby
Yes: touch of a button in app
Everything you get from a current account, but with new features for mobile living. (E.g. Goals for saving, spending catgorisation, interest on your balances)
Monese (Starter)
Yes - can cancel with touch of a button too
£200 free monthly
Pay via bank transfer, easier to send to another Monese account.
Report lost/stolen in app to be sent replacement
A multi-currency mobile banking app that aims to be ‘built around you’. Use it to open a fully functional current account instantly, straight from your phone, all supported by a feature-rich mobile app
Monzo
Yes - future payments shown in homefeed
Free
Pay via bank transfer or send instantly to other Monzo account
Yes: touch of a button in app
Monzo is free to spend anywhere in the world and in any currency, with no fees. All money is exchanged using the MasterCard rate.
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Compare up to 4 providers

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