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.

Starling
We say
★★★★★
Finder expert rating
You say
★★★★★
Customer satisfaction
Zero fees on spending abroad
Lose your card abroad and it might cost £60
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 is a digital-only bank that offers one type of personal current account, which we review here. It also has a business account and a kid’s prepaid card.
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

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.

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.

How to start using Starling

  1. Download the app
  2. Create an account by providing your name, date of birth, email address and home address
  3. Verify your identity through the app using a selfie video and photo of your ID
  4. Wait to be approved (this usually only takes a few minutes)
  5. Once approved you can link the account to Apple Pay or your Google Wallet, to start spending immediately
  6. Receive your physical Mastercard debit card in the post within 3-5 days
  7. Link this card to the app and start spending with it

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 (a Mastercard debit 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. The Starling debit card is also the first Mastercard in the UK to be made from recycled plastic (rPVC).
  • 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 for free at Post Office branches 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.

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 banking 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 announced that it would be planting a tree for every successful new personal or business customer referral. The bank followed this up in March 2021 with the introduction of the UK’s first recycled Mastercard debit card. Made from 75% recycled plastic (rPVC), the material is sourced from EU industrial waste from the printing and packaging industries. Only 25% of the card is made up of unavoidable non-recycled elements, including the card’s chip and magstripe. Existing customers will receive the recycled debit card when their current one expires and new customers will be issued the card upon joining the bank.

Can I travel with the card?

Yes, you can, and using your Starling debit card abroad 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 with your Starling, money will be converted at the Mastercard exchange rate. And when you withdraw money from an ATM abroad, Starling won’t charge you for doing so.

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:

  • Current account and transactions. Starling doesn’t charge you for basic transactions and banking services. There’s no monthly account 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 banking challengers. Revolut, for example, pays no interest at all; and 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 2% on balances up to a set amount.

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 came into effect in November 2020. A negative interest rate of -0.5% applies 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 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 relatively 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 protected 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 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 also 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 in the app, and Starling’s customer service team 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 support24/7 live chat support available in the app and on the website
Telephone supportIn the UK dial: 0800 0234 617 and from abroad dial: +44 20 7930 4450
Email supportEmail: help@starlingbank.com
Touch login
Face ID
Voice ID
Closing your accountGo through the app to contact the customer service team to close your account
Order replacement cardOrder in the app, card can be re-added to Apple Pay or Google Pay as soon as order is confirmed
Freeze/unfreeze cardYes, through the app
Report card lost or stolenYes, through the app
Cancel direct debitsCancel direct debits in the app

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.”

Starling customer reviews

In our 2021 Banking Customer Satisfaction Awards, Starling received 4.5 out of 5 stars from customers in our survey, and 79% of its users said they would recommend the brand. Its current account holders particularly praised the app’s tools and ease of use. Here’s what some of those Starling customers had to say in our survey:

“Excellent app and great customer service”

“They are innovative and I’ve never had any problems with them”

“Great app, great service and free”

“Very quick and easy set-up”

Starling Bank also has an average score of 4.9 out of 5 stars in the App Store, from almost 200,000 reviews. Over on the Google Play Store, it has a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars, based on reviews from 49,000 Android app users (March 2021).

Pros and cons of Starling Bank

Pros

  • Free UK current account, usually up and running in a matter of minutes. Card delivered within a week.
  • Slick mobile app packed with budgeting and saving features, including spending categorisation and saving goals.
  • Interest rate paid on current account balances.
  • Easily split the bill with the Starling Bank ‘settle up’ feature.
  • Fee-free spending abroad, plus fee ATM withdrawals overseas.
  • Starling’s “Marketplace” offers pensions, mortgages and insurance from other financial companies.
  • Overdraft are available and fees are 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.

Our 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 – as well as not charging any fees for foreign card payments, there are also no charges for taking money out of ATMs. And you can withdraw up to £300 worth of foreign currency a day.

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

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 ratings

★★★★★ — Excellent
★★★★★ — Good
★★★★★ — Average
★★★★★ — Subpar
★★★★★ — Poor

The customer satisfaction score (“You say”) is based on a survey of 1,941 customers carried out in December 2020.

Learn the details of our methodology and scoring.

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.

  1. Financial Services Compensation Scheme
  2. Contingent Reimbursement Model Code
  3. Finder Banking Customer Satisfaction Awards 2021

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39 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    MarkAugust 2, 2019

    Hi if abroad on holiday and you lose your starling card can you still get money from a bank or atm and how ?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      nikkiangcoAugust 3, 2019Staff

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for leaving a question on our page! First of all, let Starling know if you’re travelling abroad. Starling sends you a physical card when you lose your card to almost anywhere in the world (within reason!). You’ll need to be available at the delivery address to sign for the card, and bear in mind that it’s not always possible to guarantee a delivery date since customs procedures vary from country to country. Starling charges a £60 fee for this service.

      Also, when you lose your card, don’t forget to to manually deactivate it from the app.

      Hope this helps and feel free to reach out again if you have other questions.

      Best,
      Nikki

    Default Gravatar
    GeoffMay 17, 2019

    Can I switch to Starling Bank? Thanks!

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoshuaMay 19, 2019Staff

      Hi Geoff,

      Thanks for getting in touch with Finder. I hope all is well with you. 😃

      The answer is yes, you can switch to Starling Bank as long as you meet the eligibility requirements. For example, you would need to be a UK resident and should be 16 years old and older. You would also need a smartphone since this is an online bank. You would need a valid photo ID such as a UK passport or driving licence to verify your verification.

      If you are planning to open their business bank account, you would need to be self employed or owner of a limited company. If you are planning to open a joint bank account, both of you need to have Starling personal current account and be physically near the person you want to open the account with.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

    Default Gravatar
    GemmaMay 9, 2019

    I am traveling to Croatia and just received my Starling bank card. Do I get charged fees from ATMS or transactions in restaurants, etc?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JhezMay 10, 2019Staff

      Hello Gemma,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Per checking, the ATM withdrawals for the Starling bank card come for free both in the UK and abroad. Hence, you’ll not incur fees on ATM’s and card payments in Croatia. You can make international payments from the app for a small fee which would show before making the payment. When making payments abroad, conversion is done automatically and you are not charged.

      But please note also, that while Starling does not impose any withdrawal charges on customers, ATM providers in your country of destination may charge their own fee. The cost of withdrawing from ATMs differs in different countries and locations.

      Regards,
      Jhezelyn

    Default Gravatar
    alexanderMarch 20, 2019

    do you offer business accounts to sole traders

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      BellaMarch 21, 2019Staff

      Hi Alexander,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      Yes, Starling bank has business account for sole traders. You would need to download the app and follow the steps from there.

      I hope this helps.

      Kind regards,
      Bella

    Default Gravatar
    MarianMarch 14, 2019

    Can I withdraw money from an atm using starling card?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      johnbasanesMarch 15, 2019Staff

      Hi Marian,

      Thank you for reaching out to Finder.

      Yes, you may be able to withdraw funds using the Starling bank card. Please look for the MasterCard logo on the ATM for you to be able to make a withdrawal. Hope this helps!

      Cheers,
      Reggie

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