Starling Bank

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.

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, N26, Monzo and Revolut, this article looks at them all together, to help you figure out which is best for what.

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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).
  • N26. It only launched in the UK in late 2018, but it already offers a fully developed bank account and can adequately compete with Monzo and Starling. It offers most of the basic features you may need for free, but it doesn’t do overdrafts yet, and you can only load cash on your account if you live in Germany.
  • 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.

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 N26 a chance – having launched recently, it will probably add new features in the coming months. It could also be a good shout if you’re interested in a premium option with more benefits (see our review of N26 You and N26 Metal for more on this).

N26

N26

  • Take control of your finances with one app
  • Manage everything directly in the N26 app
  • Set payment limits; change your PIN; lock and unlock your card
  • Make no-fee transactions anywhere in the world
Promoted

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.

Revolut (Standard)

Revolut

  • Spend abroad with no fees
  • Great for international students
  • Simple to set up
  • Visualise your spending in real time
  • Trusted by 2 million users
Promoted

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 (0.5% up to £2,000, 0.25% between £2,000 and £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, N26 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, Atom bank and N26 (whose licence is registered in Germany, and so is the deposit protection).
  • 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

Updated July 16th, 2019
Name Product Fees and charges Delivery speed
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)
Free with finder.com, otherwise card delivery is £4.99
Up to 9 working days
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)
N26
Free
5-7 working days
App-based bank account that can be used on the go in any EU country. All about the ease of sending and saving money.
None
Between 3-5 business days
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

Compare up to 4 providers

Updated July 16th, 2019
Name Product Foreign ATM withdrawals Foreign transactions fee Card cost Delivery speed
N26
ATM fees differ depending on country
No fees
Free
5-7 working days
App-based bank account that can be used on the go in any EU country. All about the ease of sending and saving money.
No ATM fees
No fees
Free with finder.com, otherwise card delivery is £4.99
Up to 9 working days
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)
No ATM fees up to £300 a day.
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)
€1 per withdrawal
2% on card spend and ATM usage
Card delivery is free
Between 3-5 business days
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

Compare up to 4 providers

Updated July 16th, 2019
Name Product Fees and charges Interest Savings goals
N26
Free
None
n26 'Spaces' feature lets the user open sub-accounts to stash your money away
Free with finder.com, otherwise card delivery is £4.99
No interest
Set budgets in the app
Free
0.5% AER up to £2,000, 0.25% over £2,000 to £85,000
Create different spending goals and protect money from daily spending
None
No interest
Not a feature

Compare up to 4 providers

Updated July 16th, 2019
Name Product Direct debits UK ATMs Payments Freeze your card
N26
Yes
Free
Use MoneyBeam to transfer money instantly. Is partnered with Transferwise so can send money to 16 countries.
Yes: touch of a button in app
App-based bank account that can be used on the go in any EU country. All about the ease of sending and saving money.
Revolut currently only supports direct debits with the Euro IBAN account
Free up to £200 a month
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)
Yes - future Direct Debits shown as alerts
Free, limited to £300 a day
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)
Yes - can cancel with touch of a button too
£1 per withdrawal
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

Compare up to 4 providers

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