Starling Bank review

This easy-to-use app and current account is the perfect way to track your spending habits, and it travels well, too.

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Starling

Starling Bank


24/7 customer support

Award winning

No monthly fees
Starling Bank offers a full UK current account that can be opened and managed directly from the app. It aims to make banking easier and more customer-centric and make your finances accessible to you wherever you are. When you sign up, you get a current account, a debit card and an app that’s all about helping you understand where your money goes, budget and save.
  • Full free UK current account, up and running in 20 minutes. Card delivered within a week.
  • Slick mobile app packed with budgeting and saving features, including spending categorisation and saving goals.
  • Nice interest rate paid on current account balances.
  • Easily split the bill with the Starling Bank ‘settle up’ feature.
  • Fee-free spending abroad, including ATM withdrawals.
  • Starling’s “Marketplace” offers competitive pensions, mortgages and insurance from other growing fintech companies.
  • Overdraft fees are competitive and easy to understand.
  • Safe and secure, fully licensed by the FCA and PRA.
  • While Starling offers a wide range of services, it’s still a fairly new bank, so does not yet offer more complex services such as mortgages, but some products are available through the Starling Bank Marketplace.
  • There aren’t any bank branches, but you can use the Post Office to deposit and withdraw cash. You won’t get face-to-face communication with a Starling Bank staff member, though.

What is Starling Bank?

Starling Bank offers a full UK current account that can be opened and managed directly from the app. It aims to make banking easier and more customer-centric and make your finances accessible to you wherever you are. Starling also offers a business bank account.

When you sign up, you get a current account, a debit card and an app that’s all about helping you understand where your money goes, budget and save.

Starling Bank is one of a growing group of “challenger banks” looking to simplify how we manage our finances, using modern technology to bring banking into the present.

Starling Bank was “highly commended” in Finder’s Banking Customer Satisfaction Awards. It scored second in our chart, very close to the winner, which means that the vast majority of its customers said they’re happy with its current account and would recommend it to a friend.

Starling card on desk

How does Starling Bank work?

The app focuses on the necessities, with a minimalist design covering key information. Tabs allow you to access other features including:

  • Payments. Just as with any payment system, there’s a feature for transferring your current standing orders from your old bank.
  • Add money. For anyone who joined after August 2018, there is no limit to how much you can pay in. You can add as much as you like using “Faster Payments” and online banking.
  • Spending. Get a record of your transactions, categorised to let you know what you’re spending your money on, which gives you an idea on where you can save.

Other key features include:

  • Goals. This is basically a digital piggy bank. You set your goal and then squirrel cash away either manually or automatically, encouraging you to save more.
  • Card. Starling sends you a physical bank card when you sign up. From the app, you can activate the card, let Starling know if you’re travelling abroad and manually deactivate it if it gets lost or stolen. The debit card itself does all you would expect, from making payments to allowing you to withdraw cash from ATMs.
  • Overdraft/loan facility. Eligible account holders can be given an overdraft facility, or a fixed-rate Starling loan.
  • Marketplace. Starling’s partnerships with third-party financial technology companies offer ways to compare insurance, pensions and mortgages.
  • Physical cash loads. Although there are no Starling bank branches, you can load cash into your account at every Post Office in the UK.

Also worth noting is that as of October 2020, Starling’s personal account customers can manage their accounts through online banking, in addition to their Starling mobile app. This capability was previously limited to the bank’s business accounts, but Starling says that in response to customer demand, personal account holders can now also access their finances through a desktop as well as a smartphone.

We spoke to the Starling CEO Anne Boden to find out why it’s different

Is Starling any good compared to other challenger banks?

Starling is definitely one of the best challenger banks out there. The app is quite elegant and streamlined, the lack of fees makes it great for travelling and it’s a fully licensed bank, so your money is as safe as with a traditional high-street bank.

However, the most popular challengers – Starling, Revolut, Monzo – are quite similar to each other and all offer a solid service. Compared to Starling, the Monzo app is a bit more fun, while Revolut is more about using different currencies at the same time. Learn more about alternatives to Starling.

If you’re undecided between two of them, applying for an account is really quick and easy, so you could even try both out for a while and then pick the one that works best for you.

In a boost to its green credentials, in October 2020 Starling also announced that it would be planting a tree for every successful new personal or business customer referral.

Can I travel with the card?

Yes, you can, and using your Starling debit card should be a much less painful experience than with a traditional bank.

Thanks to Starling’s mobile nature, it is much easier to keep track of your budget while on the road. Also, charges for spending abroad or withdrawing cash at an ATM aren’t an issue since using your Starling Bank card overseas doesn’t incur extra fees.

When you pay in a foreign currency, money will be converted at the Mastercard exchange rate.

How does the app look?

Starling Bank overdraft, fees and limits

Starling offers an arranged overdraft option. Interest is calculated daily and charged at 15%, 25% or 35% EAR (variable) based on the customer’s credit score. There are no additional charges for unarranged overdrafts.

Starling’s fees are competitive:

  • Free current account and transactions. Starling doesn’t charge you for basic transactions and banking services. There’s no monthly fee and card payments and ATM withdrawals come for free both in the UK and abroad.
  • International money transfers. Starling charges a fee for sending money abroad, which depends on the receiver’s country and the amount of money transferred.
  • Cash loads. Depositing and withdrawing cash for personal current account holders is free at your local post office.

Starling Bank’s interest rate

Starling Bank pays 0.05% on up to £85,000.

This is relatively uncommon among challengers – Revolut, for example, pays no interest at all; with Monzo, you only get interest if you open a savings account with one of Monzo’s partners.

However, if a considerable interest rate on your balance is what you’re looking for, you may be better off with a traditional bank – some traditional current accounts offer up to 3% AER.

Starling Bank’s euro accounts
If you have a Starling personal account, you can also open a euro account alongside it for free. But a change to the interest rate on some high-value euro accounts will be coming into effect in November 2020. A negative interest rate of -0.5% will apply to any amount over €50,000, which means account holders with a balance over that threshold will essentially be charged 0.5% for keeping that portion of their money on deposit.

What is the Starling Kite debit card for kids?

Starling Kite is a new prepaid debit card for kids that launched in September 2020, and is designed for children aged 6-16. It costs £2 per month and is linked to the parent’s personal (or joint) Starling account.

The card has the child’s name printed on it, and they can use it to spend online, in-store and to withdraw cash from ATMs (up to a maximum of £100). If the Kite debit card is lost or stolen, it can be locked from the adult’s Starling account.

Parents can also use their Starling banking app to allocate funds (such as pocket money) to their kid’s account and then monitor their spending. Parents receive notifications whenever their child spends money, and parental controls within the app mean that they can limit specific functions such as online payments and ATM withdrawals, or set a daily transaction limit.

There are no fees for using the card abroad, which is a big plus. The main downside with this prepaid kids’ card vs others is that there’s no app for the child.

Learn more about this new kids’ debit card in our Starling Kite review.

Is Starling safe to use?

With a new bank like Starling, it’s natural to worry if your money will be safe. One major question is: what if the bank goes bust? Would you be covered?

As Starling is covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), you would be covered for up to £85,000.

If you fall victim to fraud, Starling is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and has adhered to a new voluntary industry code called Contingent Reimbursement Model (CRM) code. This not only means that in most cases it has to refund any unauthorised payments made from your account, but that it will also refund you if you’re tricked into to sending money to a scammer voluntarily (for example because they pretend to be part of your bank’s security team). The exception is if you’re negligent.

Starling’s app and card have several security features to protect your account:

  • Your finances are secured behind a passcode and password and completing your registration requires video and photo ID.
  • If you ever lose your bank card, you can immediately deactivate it with a push of a button, and customer service is there whenever you need it.
  • A live record of your transactions and home screen notifications means you are alerted to any strange payments immediately.
Live chat support 24/7 live chat support available in the app and on the website
Telephone support In the UK dial: 0800 0234 617 and from abroad dial: +44 20 7930 4450
Email support Email: help@starlingbank.com
Touch login
Face ID
Voice ID
Closing your account Go through the app to contact the customer service team to close your account
Order replacement card Order in the app, card can be re-added to Apple Pay or Google Pay as soon as order is confirmed
Freeze/unfreeze card Yes, through the app
Report card lost or stolen Yes, through the app
Cancel direct debits Cancel direct debits in the app

Starling customer reviews

In our independent 2019 customer satisfaction awards, Starling was highly commended, coming second overall. The bank received 5 out of 5 stars from customers in our survey, and 87% of users said they would recommend the service (right behind Monzo’s winning 88%). Customers particularly appreciated the zero fees for spending abroad.

On customer review forum Trustpilot, Starling has 4.5 out of 5 stars and a rating of Excellent, based on more than 10,000 reviews (updated March 2020).

Starling announced that it had turned a profit for the first time in October 2020 – also making it the first UK challenger bank to do so. Its monthly operating profit was £0.8 million, putting the company on track to make a £10 million profit over the next year. Confirming that customer accounts had doubled during the last 12 months, Starling CEO Anne Boden added: “We’ve never ‘bought’ customers with cash incentives, or promotions. We don’t have jazzy metal cards and we don’t offer ‘perks’ such as access to premium airport lounges. Customers join us for the features that help them manage their money and their businesses in a more effective way.”

Compare Starling against its competitors

Data indicated here is updated daily
Name Product Ratings Interest (AER) Arranged overdraft Key benefits Link Representative example
We say
★★★★★
You say
★★★★★
0%
15% EAR variable
Award-winning current account, apply in minutes
Go to site
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
★★★★★
You say
★★★★★
0%
39.94% EAR variable
Interest and fee free overdraft
for first four months when you switch
Go to site
Current account switch service guarantee badge
Up to 15% cashback at a range of major retailers
Representative example: If you use an arranged overdraft of £1,200 you'll be charged interest at 39.94% EAR variable.
We say
★★★★★
0%
N/A
Guaranteed acceptance plus a credit building feature
Go to site
Account fee of £5.95 per month.
We say
★★★★★
0%
N/A
Guaranteed acceptance
Go to site
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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Pros and cons of Starling Bank

Pros

  • Full free UK current account, up and running in 20 minutes. Card delivered within a week.
  • Slick mobile app packed with budgeting and saving features, including spending categorisation and saving goals.
  • Nice interest rate paid on current account balances.
  • Easily split the bill with the Starling Bank ‘settle up’ feature.
  • Fee-free spending abroad, including ATM withdrawals.
  • Starling’s “Marketplace” offers competitive pensions, mortgages and insurance from other growing fintech companies.
  • Overdraft fees are competitive and easy to understand.
  • Safe and secure, fully licensed by the FCA and PRA.

Cons

  • While Starling offers a wide range of services, it’s still a fairly new bank, so does not yet offer more complex services such as mortgages, but some products are available through the Starling Bank Marketplace.
  • There aren’t any bank branches, but you can use the Post Office to deposit and withdraw cash. You won’t get face-to-face communication with a Starling Bank staff member, though.

The verdict

Some of us at Finder have had Starling for a while and we’re all quite impressed. The app looks a bit more serious than Revolut’s or Monzo’s, but is user-friendly and efficient. Starling is also constantly expanding its range of features.

Starling is especially competitive for travelling abroad and, besides not charging any fees for foreign card payments, also has the highest fee-free foreign ATM withdrawal limit (£300 a day) available on the market.

All in all, it’s a great bank for people who want a solid current account with practically no fees and an excellent mobile experience.

Starling Bank

Starling Bank: award-winning banking on your mobile

  • No monthly fees or fees overseas
  • Apply in minutes, direct from the app
  • Winner 2020 - Best Current Account, British Bank Awards
Promoted
Promoted
Starling Bank

Starling Bank: award-winning banking on your mobile

  • No monthly fees or fees overseas
  • Apply in minutes, direct from the app
  • Winner 2020 - Best Current Account, British Bank Awards

Frequently asked questions

Banking app ratings

★★★★★ — Excellent

★★★★★ — Good

★★★★★ — Average

★★★★★ — Subpar

★★★★★ — Poor

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