Challenger banking brands Revolut, Monzo and Starling all launched in the UK within a few years of one another, they all operate digital-only current currents and they all have a free version of the account on offer. To help you decide which one of this trio best meets your banking needs, we compare their apps, features, and suitability for things like travelling and saving.
Paid-for current accountsThis guide focuses on the free standard current accounts offered by these three banking rivals – Revolut, Monzo and Starling.
But Revolut and Monzo also have paid-for account tiers available. Depending on which one you sign up for, these come with differing monthly subscription costs and a variety of extra features, such as travel insurance, airport lounge access and retail discounts.
Round 1: Travelling
Best for travelling
Revolut: It costs £4.99 to receive your Revolut card. It’s free to spend up to £1,000 a month abroad using the card, after which a 0.5% fee applies. At ATMs, the first £200 withdrawn per month is free, then there’s a 2% charge after that.
Monzo: It’s free to receive your Monzo card, and it’s always free to pay using your Monzo card abroad. For ATM withdrawals, you get a combined UK and EU allowance of £250 every 30 days, and after that there’s a 3% charge. For the rest of the world, you can withdraw up to £200 every 30 days, then the 3% fee kicks in.
Starling: Starling’s bank card is sent to you for free. There are no charges from Starling for spending on your card or withdrawing cash with it at an ATM, anywhere in the world.
Verdict: Starling, as the card is free and Starling has no charges at all for using your card abroad.
Round 2: Saving
Best for saving
Revolut: You get spending categorisation and analysis, a daily spending limit option and spare change “round-ups”. Revolut also operates a “Vaults” system where you can allocate different funds into different pots to save up for certain things. Vaults that pay interest (these are provided by partner banks through the Revolut app) are not currently available to standard account holders. You don’t get any interest offered on your main account balance either.
Monzo: There are spending categorisation tools and monthly summaries, plus spare change “round-ups”. You can also create “Pots” in which you put money aside to save up for a specific goal. There is no interest offered on these regular Pots, or on your main account balance. But there is the option to open an interest-paying savings account or Pot through one of Monzo’s financial provider partners, and you can then manage that savings account through your Monzo app.
Starling: You get spending categorisation and insights, as well as spare change “round-ups”. Starling is also the the only one of the three to pay interest on you main account balance (up to £85,000), although the interest rate it is pretty low, at 0.05%. You can also create “Goals” where you set money to save up for something. But there is no option to set up any linked interest-paying savings accounts.
Verdict: All three have budgeting tools and allow you to siphon off money into separate buckets to help you save up for something, although none of those pay interest. Only Starling offers interest on your main account balance, and only Monzo has the option for customers on a free current account plan to open an interest-paying savings account from another provider.
Round 3: Current account
Best for current account features
Revolut: With Revolut, you can set up direct debits and make bank transfers for free in the UK. You can’t pay cash or cheques into the account, and UK ATM withdrawals are only free up to the first £200 each month (after which there is a 2% fee, and a minimum charge of £1). You can freeze and unfreeze your card via the app.
Monzo: You can set up all your usual direct debits and make bank transfers for free in the UK. You’re able to pay in cash at PayPoints (£1 charge) and send cheques to Monzo by Freepost. Cash withdrawals in the UK are free up to the first £250 every 30 days (then a 3% fee applies). You’re able to freeze and unfreeze your card via the app.
Starling: With a Starling account, you can set up all direct debits and make bank transfers for free in the UK. You can also pay in cash at Post Office branches for free and deposit cheques into your account by taking a picture of them on your app. You can freeze and unfreeze your card via the app too.
Verdict: Starling. All three have similar features but Starling’s free ATM withdrawals, as well as free cash and cheque deposits, win out here.
Round 4: Additional features
Revolut: Free international money transfers to accounts in the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA); hold multiple currencies in your account; pay-per-day medical travel insurance; one Revolut Junior child account; “Group Bills” feature to split joint purchases; “Essentials” comparison service for utilities and home services; option to buy gold, silver, cryptocurrencies or shares through its trading platform.
Monzo: Savings accounts and energy switching (through partners in its “Marketplace”); international money transfers (through TransferWise); bill splitting feature; joint accounts and overdrafts.
Starling: Insurance, pension, mortgage and investing products (through partners in its “Marketplace”); international money transfers; bill splitting feature; “Connected” card for someone to make purchases on your behalf; joint accounts, overdrafts and personal loans; option to open a Starling Kite child account.
Verdict: This will depend on which individual features you value the most. Revolut and Starling both have linked children’s accounts, Monzo and Starling both offer overdrafts, while Revolut has the option of buying cryptocurrencies or shares.
Round 5: Deposit protection
Revolut: Revolut doesn’t have a full UK banking licence yet, which means that money in its accounts is not specifically protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). But in order to operate in the UK, Revolut must safeguard customer money in a separate account at a licensed UK bank, which means these funds are ring-fenced should Revolut go bankrupt.
Monzo: Monzo is a fully licensed UK bank, which means that individual customer funds of up to £85,000 are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
Starling: Starling is also a fully licensed UK bank, which means that individual customer funds of up to £85,000 are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
Verdict: Monzo and Starling for their FSCS protection. Although customer money in Revolut accounts will be subject to safeguarding rules, so it does also have a legal level of protection.
Our overall verdict: Revolut vs Monzo vs Starling
With their comprehensive apps and money management features, Revolut, Monzo and Starling are all solid day-to-day banking solutions, particularly if you’re looking to make the move to digital-only banking. Depending on what features you need or how often you go abroad, you may be better off with one or another of the three.
Revolut doesn’t offer FSCS protection, overdrafts, or cash and cheque deposits, but it has a plethora of extra features on offer, such as the Revolut Junior child account, free SEPA money transfers and the “Essentials” hub for tie-ups with different service providers. The ability to buy and sell various commodities, cryptocurrencies and shares is also a unique touch.
Monzo does have FSCS protection, and it offers a bit of everything. There’s all the usual digital banking stuff, including spending categorisations and summaries, spare change “round-ups” and the option to apply for an overdraft. It doesn’t come with a linked kid’s account but it does come with ability to deposit cash and cheques, as well as the use of its “Marketplace” to check out energy deals.
And Starling is a great all rounder, being the only one to offer totally fee-free spending and cash withdrawals both at home and abroad, as well as cash and cheque deposits, on top of FSCS protection. There’s also the spending insight tools, linked Starling Kite child account, overdraft option, and the potential to sign up to products from other financial providers in its “Marketplace”.
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