Tide vs Starling: Which is best for a small business?

In this guide, you'll learn the key differences between the Tide and Starling business bank accounts and which one is most likely to suit you.

Tide and Starling each offer free business accounts that you can access and use through a mobile banking app. They both come with payment cards, they both integrate with various accounting software, and they are both set up and managed digitally. Both have also been featured on our guide about the best business accounts on the market right now. So which might be best for you? We examine their different features to find out.

Tide vs Starling: Vital statistics

TideStarling Business Account
Finder score4.0
Customer satisfaction survey4.2
Not yet rated
Free spending abroad
Interest when you're in credit0%0%
Branch access
FSCS protected
Product imageTideStarling Business Account
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The free Tide and Starling business accounts are both managed digitally, as neither provider has a branch network. These accounts both come with a contactless card – Starling’s one and only business card is black, while Tide’s free business account plan comes with a blue card. You can use these cards for free to spend money in the UK and abroad. Neither provider offers interest on your account balance when you’re in credit, and while you can apply for an overdraft with Starling, overdrafts are not available with Tide.

Starling has a UK banking licence, so it’s covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), which protects individual customer funds up to the value of £85,000. Tide is not a bank – it doesn’t have a banking licence – so it’s not part of the FSCS. But the firm is registered with the FCA as an electronic money institution, which means customer funds must be kept in a separate account at a licensed UK bank, so the money is ring-fenced should the company go under. It’s also worth pointing out that Tide has plans to offer FSCS protection for its business accounts in the future, through a partnership with ClearBank (which does have a UK banking licence).

Round 1: Account features

TideStarling Business Account
Cash deposits
Cheque deposits by post
Cheque scanning in the app
Freeze/unfreeze card in the app
Extra cards for employees
Accountancy software integrations
Send money abroad
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If you need to deposit cash into your Tide account, you can pay in up to £500 a day via a Post Office or a PayPoint, although Tide doesn’t accept cheques at all, either physically or digitally. You also can’t make international transfers.

With Tide, the business account itself can only be accessed by the named account holder, who also gets an accompanying bank card. However, up to 35 “Team Cards” can be ordered per account, which allows named employees to make purchases related to business expenses (which you can then track in the account). Each Team Card costs £5+VAT per month to operate with the free account. The Tide account also offers integrations with six accounting software packages: Xero, QuickBooks, FreeAgent, ReckonOne, Kashflow and Sage.

Over at Starling, you can also deposit cash into your business account at any Post Office branch. Larger branches are able to take in up to £20,000, though it’s best to check ahead if you need to deposit such an amount. For cheques, you can deposit 10 per week, valued up to £500 each, using the cheque imaging function in the Starling banking app. For anything over this you can send the cheques directly to Starling by Freepost. International transfers are also possible from this account.

At Starling, payment cards are only available to each person who has access to the business account, which at the moment is limited to company directors or sole traders themselves. So you can’t get any additional cards for employees. Business account holders at Starling can connect to accountancy software packages QuickBooks, Xero and FreeAgent through the Starling “Marketplace”. The Marketplace also offers link-ups with other Starling partners, who offer services such as insurance or pensions.

Winner: Tide wins out here for its Team Cards feature and six accountancy software integrations to Starling’s three. Although this victory comes with the notable caveat that if you do need to make international transfers or deposit cheques, then the Tide account probably won’t be suitable for your business.

Round 2: Account costs

TideStarling Business Account
Monthly account chargeFreeFree
Fee for cash deposits0.5% fee (at Post Offices), 3% (at PayPoints)0.7% or £3 minimum (at Post Offices)
Fee for cheque depositsDoesn't accept chequesFree
Fee for payments in or out20p eachFree
Fee for direct debits20p eachFree
Fee for sending money abroadCan't make international paymentsLocal network fee + 0.4% Starling fee
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Tide doesn’t charge a monthly fee for its basic business account. Transfers between Tide accounts are free, and there is a charge of £1 at a Post Office, or 3% at a PayPoint, to deposit cash. It costs 20p to receive or send UK payments from your account, and at the moment you can’t make international transfers directly from your Tide account.

With the Starling business account there is no monthly fee, and Starling won’t make charges for electronic payments (such as direct debits and standing orders), or for domestic transfers and cheque deposits. There is a 0.3% fee (with a minimum charge of £3) for depositing cash at a Post Office, and a 0.4% fee to make an international payment direct from your account.

Winner: It’s close, but Starling edges it. Neither providers charge a monthly account fee and both have small fees for cash deposits. But Tide’s 20p fee for each transfer in and out of your account could soon add up.

Round 3: Spending in the UK

TideStarling Business Account
Free card transactions
Contactless card limit£45£100
Free ATM withdrawals
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With Tide, it’s free to spend on your card in the UK, although ATM withdrawals cost £1 each.

It’s free to make purchases using your Starling card in the UK as well, plus it’s also free to make any ATM withdrawals.

Winner: Starling, for it’s free ATM withdrawals in the UK.

Round 4: Using the card abroad

TideStarling Business Account
Free foreign transactionsUnlimitedUnlimited
Free foreign ATM withdrawals£1Unlimited
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You can use your Tide card aboard to spend at places like retailers and restaurants, without any charges. You’ll get the Mastercard exchange rate with no additional mark-up or fees, and unlike many digital or mainstream banks, there is no free spending limit. Withdrawing cash at a foreign ATM does still incur a £1 fee though (the same as for using your Tide card at a UK ATM).

You can also enjoy limitless free international spending on your Starling card, at the Mastercard exchange rate with no extra fees. Unusually, taking money out of foreign ATMs is also free from Starling’s end – it doesn’t make any charges or impose any free allowance limits, wherever you are in the world.

Winner: Starling. While Tide’s offering is still very competitive compared to most other bank cards, it’s hard to beat totally free.

Round 5: Signing up

TideStarling Business Account
Apply through the app
Quick application
Credit check
Card delivery feeFreeFree
Card delivery timescale2-5 working days5-7 working days
Replacement card feeFree1 free, then £5 each
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To set up a Tide business account you’ll need to download the app from the App Store or Google Play Store, and provide a form of ID: a driving licence, passport or European National ID card. Tide may also ask you to provide evidence that your business is established, such as: your business website or social media profiles, invoices, bank statements, signed contracts, qualifications or an HMRC registration. Tide says 53% of new business customers open their accounts in under 10 minutes, 70% in under 60 minutes and 81% within 48 hours. Tide doesn’t conduct a hard credit check and it’s free to receive your accompanying bank card, as well as free to order a replacement.

To set up a Starling business account, you’ll need to download the Starling app and provide at least one of the following documents to verify your identity: a passport, EU/EEA ID card, UK residence card or UK photo driving licence (full or provisional). To confirm the nature of your business you may also be asked for: invoices, bank statements, accountant letters, signed contracts, qualifications or payslips. If you have all your documentation to hand, Starling says the application itself can take as little as 10 minutes, and 93% of its new business banking customers will get their account number on the same day. Starling doesn’t conduct a hard credit check, and the account’s accompanying bank card is free to receive and costs £5 to replace in the UK.

Winner: A draw. Both providers ask for similar information in the application process, and both business accounts can be up and running quickly once that application process is complete.

Round 6: Customer support and account switching

TideStarling Business Account
Customer service via the app
Customer service via a telephone line
CASS switch guarantee
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Account holders can message Tide through their app, or send Tide an email with their contact number to request a call back from the customer support team during working hours. There is also an automated telephone service to report a lost or stolen card.

Over at Starling, there is 24/7 support available from customer service advisers, through the in-app chat, over email and via telephone.

Also, if you already have a business account with another bank, you can use the Current Account Switch Service (CASS) to move it to Starling. You will have to download the app and get approved for a Starling business account first, then you can go to the “Switch to Starling” section in the app.

Tide isn’t one of the financial providers taking part in the CASS scheme, so you won’t be able to use this process to switch your business account.

Winner: Starling, for being the only one out of the two signed up to the CASS scheme, as well as for having 24/7 customer support. Although in terms of communication channels, both providers can be contacted in the app or by email, both can be reached by phone (although not directly in Tide’s case) and both have a number where you can report lost or stolen cards.

Overall winner: Is Tide better than Starling?

Both the Starling and Tide business accounts have a lot to offer, but if we had to pick just one it would probably be Starling, as it wins out in a higher number of our rounds than Tide does. Starling’s fee-free account and free overseas card use are very competitive aspects of its offering, and overall, it’s a comprehensive digital-only business account which you can still pay cash and cheques into. But it’s worth noting that Tide does integrate with a larger number of software packages than Starling at present, plus if additional cards for your employees is what you’re after, then Tide might be the better option for you.

We show offers we can track - that's not every product on the market...yet. Unless we've said otherwise, products are in no particular order. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations of these) aren't ratings, though we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it. This is subject to our terms of use. When you make major financial decisions, consider getting independent financial advice. Always consider your own circumstances when you compare products so you get what's right for you. Most of the data in Finder's comparison tables has the source: Moneyfacts Group PLC. In other cases, Finder has sourced data directly from providers.
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Deputy editor

Michelle Stevens is a deputy editor at Finder, specialising in banking, finance, credit and mortgages. She has a journalism degree from the University of Sheffield and has been a journalist for 15 years, writing on topics including fintech, payment systems and retail. In her spare time, Michelle likes to travel, explore new foodie experiences and attempt to improve her own culinary skills. See full bio

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