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Starling vs Monese

Starling and Monese are two of the big names in the fresh crop of digital banking providers, but which one is the right choice for you?

Challenger banking brands have lured in customers with their hassle-free apps, real-time spending information and fee-free spending abroad. Here we take a look at two of the major digital-only providers making waves in the UK, to help you decide if the free current account with Starling or with Monese could be the best option for you.

Starling vs Monese: Vital statistics

Starling BankMonese
Finder score4.9
Free spending abroad
Overdraft rate15%, 25% or 35% EARNo overdrafts
Interest when you're in credit3.25%0%
Branch access
FSCS protected
Sign-up bonus
Product image
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Starling’s free (and only) current account comes with a vertical teal-coloured card, while Monese’s free current account comes with a vertical white card featuring a blue logo.

Neither bank has branches, but you can withdraw or deposit money into your Starling account at Post Office counters, for free. You can also deposit money into your Monese account at Post Office branches or PayPoints, although there is a 3.5% fee (with a minimum charge of £3) for doing this.

Starling pays interest, (3.24% AER interest on balances up to £5,000), and you can also apply for an overdraft with this account. Monese doesn’t pay any interest on current account balances and doesn’t offer overdrafts either.

Starling has a UK banking licence, which means individual customer funds up to the value of £85,000 are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) if the bank were to cease to operate. Monese is not a bank, so is not covered by the FSCS. It is however 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.

In Finder’s 2021 Banking Customer Satisfaction Awards, Starling scored 4.5 out of 5 stars in our customer survey, with 79% of its current account customers saying they would recommend the brand to a friend. Meanwhile, Monese scored 3.5 out of 5 stars, with 73% of its customers saying they would recommend one of its current accounts.

Round 1: App features

Starling BankMonese
Visual breakdown of spending
Spending categories5315
Set spending budgets
Set up direct debits in the app
Top up via bank transfer
Have salary paid in
Savings goals or pots
Customer service via the app
Customer service via a telephone line
Cheque scanning
Freeze/unfreeze card in app
Send money abroad
Fee for sending money abroadLocal network fee + 0.4% Starling fee2% fee, additional 1% fee on weekends (Subject to currency exchange fee)
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There’s a wide range of near-identical money management and banking features in the Starling and Monese mobile apps. Both have spending categories, where your transactions are automatically placed into pre-set categories like transport or groceries (Starling has 10 of these categories, while Monese has 15). This in turn generates weekly or monthly spending insights, which helps you set budgets, plus the apps alert you when payments leave your account.

Starling has “Goals” and Monese has “Pots” where you can set funds aside for specific treats or savings targets, like a dream holiday or a deposit for a car. Both also offer “round-ups”, where spare change from your transactions can be “rounded up” and put into your savings bucket.

You can pay your salary into either your Starling or Monese account, manage direct debits and make international payments. You can freeze or unfreeze your card in the apps, as well as contact both customer service teams through the in-app chats. With Starling you can also speak to a customer service agent over the phone, although the same is not true for Monese.

You can also use Starling’s cheque scanning tool to pay cheques into your account should you need to, whereas Monese doesn’t accept cheques at all.

Winner: Draw. This is too tight to call, as the apps offer a broad range of very similar features. In terms of differences here between the two, you can’t reach Monese on the phone or deposit cheques into its account, but it does have more spending categories than Starling.

Round 2: Spending in the UK

Starling BankMonese
Free card transactions in the UK
Contactless card limit£100£100
Apple Pay
Google Pay
Samsung Pay
Free ATM withdrawalsUnlimited2% per withdrawal
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You can use either your Starling or Monese card to spend for free in the UK, plus both cards can be used for contactless transactions up to the standard limit.

Both cards are also compatible with Apple Pay and Google Pay, should you want to use either of those to make a payment with your mobile phone. Starling also supports the Samsung Pay mobile wallet, but Monese doesn’t.

There’s no limit to how much of your money you can withdraw for free at UK ATMs with a Starling card. With a Monese card the free limit is £200 per month, then a 2% charge applies.

Winner: Starling, for its unlimited free ATM withdrawals (and its compatibility with Samsung Pay, if that’s the mobile payment service you use).

Round 3: Using the card abroad

Starling BankMonese
Free foreign transactionsUnlimited2% fee
Free foreign ATM withdrawalsUnlimited£1.50 fee
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There’s no charge to make a purchase or take money out of an ATM abroad – wherever you are in the world – if you have a Starling card.

There is a limit on free overseas spending with the Monese card, which is a relatively competitive £2,000 a month (then a 2% fee kicks in).

Monese’s free foreign ATM withdrawal allowance is £200 each month, after which a 2% fee applies. But it’s worth pointing out that this £200 is a worldwide allowance, so would include any money you take out that month in the UK and overseas combined.

Winner: Starling, for its unlimited free spending and ATM withdrawals abroad.

Round 4: Account types

Starling BankMonese
Free account
Premium account
Joint account
Teen account (for 16 and 17 year olds)
Kids' account or card
Business account
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Starling and Monese both offer free current accounts. For Starling, it’s the only personal current account it operates, but Monese has expanded its current account range with two paid-for tiers – Classic and Premium.

Starling offers joint accounts and business accounts, as well as a kids’ card called Starling Kite, and a teen account for 16 and 17 years olds.

Monese also offers joint accounts and business accounts, but it doesn’t operate teen or child accounts.

Winner: Draw. Out of the two, only Starling offers a kids’ card and teen account, but only Monese offers premium account options.

Round 5: Signing up

Starling BankMonese
Apply through the app
Quick application
Credit check
Card delivery feeFree£4.95
Card delivery timescale3-5 working days3-5 business days
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You can apply for either a Starling or Monese account through their respective mobile apps in a matter of minutes. There are no credit checks, although a photo of your ID and a short selfie video is required.

The accounts are then usually opened on the same day and both the cards are sent through the post, taking the same amount of time to arrive. However, while the Starling card is sent out to you for free, Monese charges £4.95 for card delivery.

Winner: Starling, for its free card delivery – although both accounts are quick and easy to set up.

Overall verdict: Is Starling better than Monese?

Starling and Monese are both very solid choices if you’re looking for a free digital current account. They’re both managed via a mobile app and are easy to open, plus they come full of features to help you manage your money, track payments, analyse your spending, set budgets and put some money to one side to save.

They have quite similar offerings, but our pick would likely be Starling, particularly for its fee-free spending and ATM withdrawals at home and abroad. Of course, the areas where Monese slightly trailed in our comparison may not have an impact on your own particular banking needs; for example, not taking cheques, having a limit on free UK ATM withdrawals and not having a teen account or kids’ card. If you don’t use cash or cheques much, have no need for a child account and aren’t bothered about paying a fiver for card delivery, then it could be the 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 is provided by Moneyfacts.

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