Starling vs Wise

Wise is a money transfer service that's branched out with an international account and debit card, while Starling offers one of the most competitive current accounts with overseas card use. So, which should you pick?

After revolutionising the world of international money transfers, Wise (formerly known as Transferwise) launched its own multi-currency digital account and debit card, officially competing with the likes of Monzo and Starling on some fronts.

So, how do Starling and Wise compare? Well, for some services, Starling is still way ahead of the game. For others, Wise is really competitive and you shouldn’t rule it out. We examine the pair’s key differences and compare their fee structures.

Starling vs Wise: Key differences

Although they will both let you open a digital-only account that comes with an app and a debit card, there are many differences between Starling and Wise.

  • Starling is a fully licensed bank. Unlike with Wise, deposits in your Starling account are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) up to £85,000. Starling’s current account also offers more options, such as overdrafts.
  • More features available in the Starling app. Starling’s app has all the budgeting features that make banking with a challenger bank a great experience, including spending categorisation, saving goals and budgeting tools. The Wise app focuses more on money transfers instead.
  • Wise lets you hold money in 40+ different currencies. It also provides you with sharable bank details for 10 “local” country accounts – including for the UK, EU, US and Australia – so you can receive money from people living there who are paying you in their local currency. With Starling, personal users can only open UK and EU accounts.
  • Starling pays a small interest rate on current account balances. 0.05% on up to £85,000, whereas the Wise account doesn’t pay any interest.
  • The Starling Marketplace offers direct access to many more financial products. This includes services and products from Starling’s partner providers, such as insurance, ISAs and mortgages.
  • Wise supports more currencies for money transfers. Starling supports 20 currencies, while the currencies that Wise supports means you can send money to over 70 countries.
  • You don’t need to apply for a current account to send money with Wise. The company started out offering international money transfers, and you can still simply log in to the Wise website as a standalone user and make a money transfer from the current account you have with your existing banking provider.

Starling vs Wise: Fees comparison

Monthly account feeNo monthly feeNo monthly fee
Cost to receive cardFree£7
Card paymentsFree in the UK and abroad, converted at the Mastercard exchange rate when overseasFree in the UK and abroad, but Wise currency conversion fees apply if you don’t already hold a balance in the local currency
Currency conversion feesNoneFee of 0.24% to 3.69% for card payments and ATM withdrawals, depending on the currency involved
ATM withdrawalsFree in the UK and abroad2 free withdrawals in the UK or abroad up to a total of £200 per month, then a 1.75% fee and a 50p withdrawal charge, plus Wise currency conversion fees apply if you don’t already hold a balance in the local currency
Money transfer feesFree transfers to UK accounts, for international transfers there is a SWIFT/local network fee plus a 0.4% Starling fee, and money is converted at the interbank exchange rateEvery transfer involves a fixed fee plus a variable fee that both depend on the currencies involved, and money is converted at the interbank exchange rate
Read our reviewVisit Wise

So, which is cheaper for money transfers?

This isn’t easy to answer because it depends on the currency involved. Starling and Wise normally use the same interbank exchange rate but they have different fee structures, so the best approach is to head to their respective websites and use the calculators provided to compare transfer fees for the country you want to send money to. Just keep in mind that Starling will only process international payments between 02:00 Monday to 22:00 Friday.

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Name Product Fastest transfer Fee Key benefits Amount received
24 hours
Wise (TransferWise)
Within minutes
From £0.20
Refer 3 friends to receive up to £50 referral bonus

Please note: You should always refer to quotes you receive from transfer services themselves directly for exact amounts as they may vary from our estimates.

Our verdict: Is Starling better than Wise?

As we said, it’s hard to compete with Starling when it comes to banking. Its app and current account are both great and you get pretty much all the banking features you could possibly think of, including FSCS deposit protection. Since using the card and withdrawing cash abroad is also free, Starling is cheaper than Wise for travelling overseas.

For these reasons, if you’re looking for a current account for everyday banking, budgeting, going travelling and doing the occasional money transfer, this decision is a no-brainer and Starling is your guy.

However, as a multi-currency specialist, and with many currencies on its roster, Wise offers some niche features that can also be useful. It’s a better match for you if:

  • You need a “local” account that is not in GBP or Euros.
  • You need to send money in a currency that Starling doesn’t cover or charges higher fees for.
  • You just want a money transfer service, not another current account.
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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