It’s on like Donkey Kong: Starling vs Monzo

Let’s be real, these are the digital banks most people go for initially. But which of these challengers can offer you more?

Digital challenger banks Monzo and Starling have been fierce rivals since they launched about 9 years ago. Both offer a free current account with a slick, intuitive app that tells you all about your spending habits.

Not only that but they offer free transactions abroad, and many people opened accounts for that benefit alone. Each bank now has millions of customers and both have consistently scored highly in Finder’s customer satisfaction surveys.

So is there anything to choose between these rivals? There is – and we’ve set it out below.

Starling vs Monzo: Vital statistics

Starling BankMonzo
Finder score4.7
Customer satisfaction survey4.9
Free spending abroad
Overdraft rate15%, 25% or 35% EAR19%, 29% or 39% EAR
Interest when you're in credit3.25%0%
Branch access
FSCS protected
Sign-up bonus
Product image

With the free Monzo current account you get its renowned coral-coloured card, while Starling’s only (and also free) current account comes with a teal-coloured vertical card.

Neither bank has branches, but you can withdraw or deposit money into your Starling account at Post Office counters. Unlike Monzo, Starling pays interest on current account balances up to £5,000.

Both Starling and Monzo have 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 goes bust.

You can apply for overdrafts with both Starling and Monzo – the interest rate you’re offered will depend on your personal circumstances and credit score, although Starling’s overdraft interest rate scale starts at 15% EAR, compared to Monzo’s starting point of 19% EAR.

In Finder’s 2024 Banking Customer Satisfaction Awards, Starling won. It came joint first in our customer satisfaction survey, where it scored 4.9 out of 5 stars, and 100% of its current account customers said they would recommend the brand to a friend. Monzo also scored 4.9 out of 5 stars in the same survey, with 98% of its current customers saying they would recommend the current account.

Round 1: App features

Starling BankMonzo
Visual breakdown of spending
Spending categories5317
Set spending budgets
Set up direct debits in the app
Top up via bank transfer
Have salary paid in
Separate savings accounts
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 feeFee set by Wise
(Monzo's money transfer partner)

There’s a huge range of very similar features in the Starling and Monzo mobile banking apps. Both have spending categories, where your transactions are automatically placed into pre-set categories like groceries or eating out. This in turn generates daily, weekly or monthly spending insights, which helps you set budgets. The apps alert you when payments go in and out of your account, and remind you if you’re close to overspending

Monzo’s “Pots” and Starling’s “Spaces” let you stash money away for particular things, like a holiday or a savings target. Both 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 Monzo account, set up direct debits and make international payments. You can freeze or unfreeze your card in the apps, and contact both customer service teams through the in-app chats.

  • Winner: Monzo. It’s close, as the apps offer similar features, but Monzo’s app visuals are slightly more engaging.

Round 2: Spending in the UK

Starling BankMonzo
Free card transactions in the UK
Contactless card limit£100£100
Apple Pay
Google Pay
Samsung Pay
Free ATM withdrawalsUnlimitedUp to £400 per month

Spending on your Starling or Monzo card is free in the UK, and both cards currently have the standard contactless limit of £100.

You can also add your Starling card or Monzo card to Apply Pay and Google Pay, but only Starling supports Samsung Pay.

Starling offers unlimited free ATM withdrawals in the UK. But with Monzo you can withdraw up to £400 for free every 30 days in either the UK or European Economic Area (it’s a combined limit). Monzo charges a 3% fee on withdrawals that exceed the £400 limit.

  • Winner: Starling, with its unlimited free ATM withdrawals (and the ability to use Samsung Pay, if that’s your thing!).

Round 3: Using the card abroad

Starling BankMonzo
Free foreign transactionsUnlimitedUnlimited
Free foreign ATM withdrawalsUnlimitedUp to £400 in EEA and £200
elsewhere every 30 days

When making purchases abroad, neither Starling nor Monzo charges foreign transaction fees and both use the Mastercard exchange rate.

The key difference is that Monzo has a £400 limit on free cash withdrawals every 30 days when travelling around the UK and European Economic Area (EEA) – after which there’s a 3% charge (though if you use Monzo as your main account, you can enjoy unlimited fee-free withdrawals). If you’re travelling outside of the UK and EEA, the fee-free withdrawal limit is £200 every 30 days.

By comparison, Starling doesn’t have fees for making ATM withdrawals anywhere overseas. The ATM withdrawal limit is an industry-norm of £300 a day, and that applies both at home and abroad.

  • Winner: Starling. Although neither Starling nor Monzo charges for using a card in shops or restaurants abroad, it’s hard to beat Starling’s totally free cash withdrawals overseas.

Round 4: Account types

Starling BankMonzo
Free account
Premium account
Joint account
Teen account (for 16- and 17-year olds)
Kids' account or card
Business account

Starling and Monzo both offer free current accounts (which is presumably why you’re reading this comparison). For Starling, that is the only personal current account it operates, but Monzo has expanded its current account range with additional accounts.

Joint accounts, business accounts and teen accounts (for 16 and 17 year olds) are all on the rosters of both Starling and Monzo. But Starling also offers a kids’ card called Starling Kite (managed through the parent’s Starling account).

  • Winner: Tie. They offer the same types of account, except that if you want a kids’ card then Starling has one, but if you’re after a premium current account then there’s a range from Monzo.

There are so many similarities between these two banks that choosing between them is like splitting hairs, but both score very highly for customer satisfaction so you’re unlikely to go wrong with either ”

Katherine Denham, award-winning personal finance expert

Round 5: Signing up

Starling BankMonzo
Apply through the app
Quick application
Credit check
Card delivery feeFreeFree
Card delivery timescale3-5 working days2-7 working days

You can apply for either a Starling or Monzo 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 for free, taking about the same time to arrive.

  • Winner: Tie. The account opening process is similarly quick and easy for both Starling and Monzo.

Overall winner: Which is better, Starling or Monzo?

Starling. It’s incredibly close, as both Starling and Monzo are great options if you want to open an account with a digital challenger bank. They offer streamlined apps with loads of cool features, can be set up quickly, let you spend fee-free overseas and can help you budget or save.

If we had to choose just one, it would probably be Starling, for its free Post Office cash deposits and fee-free ATM withdrawals wherever you are in the world. But if you’re not a heavy cash user, either at home or abroad, then that might not be the most important factor to you.

All in all, it’s a really close call, and based on our customer satisfaction survey you’re likely to have an excellent banking experience with either of them – plus you could always try both for free, if you’re still undecided.

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.

Written by

Michelle Stevens

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 profile

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2 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    FaheemApril 4, 2019

    Overall which bank is better Starling or Monzo?

      JeniApril 5, 2019Finder

      Hi Faheem,

      Thank you for getting in touch with Finder.

      I’m afraid that we’re unable to provide feedback on your query as being better between the two of them depends on what you’re looking for a digital bank. I suggest that you go through the comparison table on this page and check some forums or reviews on these products to help you choose which to go with and which suits you most.

      I hope this helps.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!


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