List of UK challenger banks, digital banks and banking apps

Compare challenger banks, digital banks and banking apps in our table, or scroll down for an A-to-Z list.

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Digital banking deals

Santander Santander
Current account

Up to 15% cashback at a range of major retailers

Starling Starling
Award winner

Starling voted best British bank and current account

Plum Plum
Save and invest

Save more with Plum

Yolt Yolt
Free download

Spend smart and reach your goals with Yolt

Click on an app name below to read our review and find out more.

Compare banking apps

Data indicated here is updated daily
Name Product Ratings Interest (AER) Arranged overdraft Key benefits Link Representative example
We say
★★★★★
You say
★★★★★
0.05%
15% EAR variable
Seamless easy switching within 7 days
Current account switch service guarantee badge
No fees for spending or withdrawing cash overseas - currencies are converted at Mastercard’s standard exchange rate
Representative example: If you use an arranged overdraft of £1,200 you'll be charged interest at 15% EAR variable.
We say
★★★★★
0%
N/A
Guaranteed acceptance plus a credit building feature
Account fee of £5.95 per month.
We say
★★★★★
0%
N/A
Guaranteed acceptance
Current account switch service guarantee badge
Earn cashback on your purchases when you shop through the ThinkMoney rewards portal
Account fee of £10 per month or £15 per month.
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Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Foreign ATM withdrawals Foreign transactions fee Card cost Delivery speed
Starling Bank
Free
No fees
Free
Between 3-5 working days
Everything you get from a current account, but with new features for mobile living. (E.g. Goals for saving, spending catgorisation, interest on your balances)
WeSwap
Withdrawals of £200/$200/€200 or more – free
smaller withdrawals – a charge of £1.50 per withdrawal

No transaction fees (if you spend in one of the 18 wallet currencies)
Free
Between 3-5 working days in the UK, or within 10 days if you live outside the UK
Tandem (Credit Card)
No ATM fees. However you'll be charged interest from the day you withdraw cash.
No fees
Free
-
Tandem's credit card doesn't charge fees on purchases abroad, leaving you with more money for your travels.
Loot
Two free cash withdrawals per month, £1 thereafter
No fees
Free
-
App-based current account that keeps you on top of your spending. You can set goals and Loot will help you get there.
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Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Fees and charges Interest Savings goals
Revolut (Standard)
Card delivery is £4.99
No interest
Set budgets in the app
Starling Bank
Free
0.05% on up to £85,000
Create different spending goals and protect money from daily spending
Monese (Starter)
None
No interest
Not a feature
Monzo
Free
Marketplace with 8 savings accounts both fixed rate and easy access, £500 minimum deposit.
Monzo pots let you put money aside, protected from your daily spending
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Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Direct debits UK ATM withdrawals Payments Freeze your card
Revolut (Standard)
Supported with both the UK account and the Euro IBAN account
£200 free monthly
Easy UK payments and can transfer money between 23 countries
Yes: touch of a button in app
App-based current account with loads of extra features. (e.g. Real time transactions, payment categorisation, save spare change, free international money transfers, buy cryptocurrency)
Starling Bank
Yes - future Direct Debits shown as alerts
Free
Pay via bank transfer or using PayPal or Google Nearby
Yes: touch of a button in app
Everything you get from a current account, but with new features for mobile living. (E.g. Goals for saving, spending catgorisation, interest on your balances)
Monese (Starter)
Yes - can cancel with touch of a button too
£200 free monthly
Pay via bank transfer, easier to send to another Monese account.
Report lost/stolen in app to be sent replacement
A multi-currency mobile banking app that aims to be ‘built around you’. Use it to open a fully functional current account instantly, straight from your phone, all supported by a feature-rich mobile app
Monzo
Yes - future payments shown in homefeed
Free
Pay via bank transfer or send instantly to other Monzo account
Yes: touch of a button in app
Monzo is free to spend anywhere in the world and in any currency, with no fees. All money is exchanged using the MasterCard rate.
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In the last few years, the British banking landscape has changed dramatically, to the point where it can be confusing to navigate. There are not only many more banks to choose from but also many different types of bank.

What is a challenger bank?

A challenger bank is one that’s smaller and newer than a traditional bank. By newer, we mean that most challenger banks were founded after 2009 – so after the 2008 global financial crisis – and the vast majority began after 2014.

Their plan is to compete with big banks such as HSBC, Lloyds, Barclays and RBS. By offering cheaper deals, more flexibility, better service or all of the above, challenger banks hope to win over customers.

In a nutshell, challenger banks are trying to squeeze into the market and take opportunities that mainstream banks have been neglecting because of their size, relative market dominance and older technology systems.

Challenger bank advantages

It’s important to understand that just because a bank calls itself a “challenger” it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily better for the consumer. It is true, however, that challenger banks usually bring some advantages.

  • Challenger banks are hungry for customers. A challenger bank doesn’t have a long list of established customers that have had an account for years, if not generations. So, it has to get creative. This usually translates to lower fees, a quicker set-up and more transparency.
  • They’re techy. One of the biggest complaints levelled at traditional banks is that they struggle to keep up with technology. For example, the big banks have been slow in coming up with efficient and user-friendly banking apps. Challengers usually excel when it comes to user experience since they’ve built their systems with newer tech, from scratch.
  • They’re smart. Traditional banks often mean loads of letters, queues and bureaucracy. Simply opening an account can be a time-consuming process. Challengers usually cut down on that process, typically allowing you to register online or on your phone in just a few minutes, sometimes without proof of address.

Traditional banks are now starting to catch up on all of this, which is living proof that more competition means better service for consumers across the whole market.

Challenger bank disadvantages

So, is it all roses with challenger banks? Well, not necessarily. It really depends on your banking needs and preferences. While challenger banks bring many advantages, there are also some notable disadvantages.

  • They typically lack a physical presence. Don’t forget that if you pick an online only bank, you won’t be able to just pop into a branch and speak to a member of staff. You’ll have to figure out many things by yourself.
  • They tend to specialise. If you bank with one of the big banks, you can get current accounts, credit cards, mortgages, loans and savings accounts all with the same bank. This is generally not the case with challenger banks. Most of them only offer a limited number of specific services, although they’re gradually expanding their product ranges.
  • They aren’t great for cash. If you mostly rely on cash, using a bank that doesn’t have physical branches is likely to be a headache.

Are challenger banks online only?

Many challenger banks don’t have physical branches, which allows them to save money and offer better deals. This is true for some of the best challenger banks, such as Monzo and Starling Bank. If you bank with either of these, you can do everything through a mobile app.

However, there are exceptions. Metro Bank, for example, launched in 2010 as a high-street challenger dedicated to better customer service, and now has 66 branches across England that stay open up to 12 hours a day.

Finally, digital challengers are coming up with new ways of establishing their physical presence across the UK. Starling, for example, allows you to deposit cash into your digital account at Post Office branches.

How to compare challenger banks

The trick to comparing challenger banks – or any personal finance service – is to know your needs and habits. There is no one bank that’s the best fit for everyone. Set your priorities, think about what you want to get out of your bank account and only then compare your options. We’ve put together a list of questions you can ask yourself to kick-start your research.

  • Which product are you looking for? Are you looking for a current account for day-to-day banking, a savings account or a loan? Challengers tend to specialise, so first, you may have to figure out which one offers the services you need.
  • Do you use a lot of cash? Some challengers have limits on ATM withdrawals, and not all of them allow cash loading.
  • Do you travel abroad much? This is a strong point for many challengers. Some allow you to use your card abroad without any foreign currency exchange fees at all.
  • Do you need immediate access to your money? If saving money is your main goal, you’ll want to compare interest rates, but also access. Does that juicy annual rate mean that you can’t get your money back before the product expires? (Spoiler alert: usually, yes.)

Once you know all this, you can then compare fees, rates and products knowing exactly what your priorities are to help find the best challenger bank for you. Don’t forget to look at what traditional banks offer as well – they may surprise you.

Are challenger banks safe?

It obviously depends on the bank. The first thing to do is to check that the provider you’re looking at is actually a bank. That is to say, whether it has a full banking licence or not. If it does, your deposits will be protected up to £85,000, just as they are in a high-street bank, thanks to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

If the provider isn’t a bank, it doesn’t mean your money isn’t safe, but it does mean that the level of protection isn’t the same. Always make sure that the provider is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Many challengers hold an FCA licence to issue electronic money.

Challenger banks know that security is a big concern for their customers, so they usually take great care to ensure that customer data is safe and that apps and cards are well protected. However, if you are going for a digital-only account, it’s good practice to be aware in advance of what happens if you lose your card (can you block it or cancel it directly from the app?) or, more importantly, your phone (would someone be able to access your banking app and your money?).

Who are the main challenger banks? A summary

  • Starling Bank – Great for overseas spending and day-to-day banking
  • Revolut – Good for overseas spending, day-to-day banking and range of features
  • Monzo – Good for overseas spending and day-to-day banking
  • Monese – Good for quick account set up (no proof of address needed)
  • Cashplus – Good for day-to-day banking and can help build credit
  • Transferwise – Great for sending money overseas
  • Curve – Connects your accounts through one card and app
  • Dozens – Digital current account, savings and investment products
  • Pockit – Digital current account and card
  • Bunq – Fixed monthly fee for digital current account
  • Thinkmoney – Automatically keeps your money for bills to one side, for a monthly fee

List of challenger banks

BankEstablished
Aldermore2009
Atom Bank2016
Metro Bank2010
Monzo2015
N262016
OakNorth2015
Shawbrook Bank2011
Starling Bank2014
Tandem2015
Tesco Bank1997
Virgin Money1995

Digital banking companies by customer satisfaction score

Table ordered by percentage of customers who said they’d recommend the brand to a friend (recommendation score).

Digital banking providerCustomer satisfaction score
Monzo88%
Starling87%
Revolut87%
Nationwide84%
Lloyds Bank83%
N2683%
Santander81%
First Direct79%
Barclays78%
HSBC78%
Metro Bank77%
TSB73%
Monese73%
NatWest71%
Halifax69%
Bank of Scotland63%
RBS60%

Santander Santander
Current account

Up to 15% cashback at a range of major retailers

Starling Starling
Award winner

Starling voted best British bank and current account

Plum Plum
Save and invest

Save more with Plum

Yolt Yolt
Free download

Spend smart and reach your goals with Yolt

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.

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