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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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