Alternatives to Starling: A list of alternative banks and apps
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.
Top alternative banks and apps to Starling
The main alternatives to Starling Bank are Monzo and Revolut. Cashplus and Monese are a bit smaller, but should fill that gap in the market.
- Monzo: Good for travelling
- Revolut: Good for banking
- Cashplus: Good for improving your credit score
- Monese: Good for opening an account
- Yolt: Good for budgeting
- Curve: Good for connecting apps
Starling is a challenger bank offering digital-only current accounts (and a bunch of related services) to its 2 million UK customers. If you’ve checked it out but for some reason were unimpressed, fear not, there are other digital banking brands for you to consider.
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).
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.
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.
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