Starling Bank review
This easy-to-use banking app is the ideal match for your spending habits.
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.
Starling Bank: award-winning banking on your mobile
- No monthly fees or fees overseas from Starling Bank
- Apply in minutes, direct from the app
- Best British Bank 2019 award winner
- Get instant notifications & insights on your spending habits
- Earn interest on your real-time balance
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 and advising you on where you can save.
Other key features include:
The card does all you can expect, from making payments to allowing you to withdraw cash from ATMs. Although there are no physical Starling branches, you can load cash into your account at every Post Office in the UK.
We spoke to the Starling CEO Anne Boden to find out why it’s different
Can I travel with the card?
Yes, you can, and the experience should be much less painful 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.
Starling Bank overdraft, fees and limits
Starling offers a non-negotiable overdraft option. Once you are offered an overdraft, you can choose whether to accept it and you can adjust the amount of overdraft you want to have, within your upper limit. Interest is calculated daily and charged at 15% AER (annual equivalent rate).
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 cash on your account at the Post Office costs £3 up to £1,000, and 0.3% of the amount loaded if you need to deposit more.
Starling Bank’s interest rate
Starling Bank pays a 0.5% AER to account balances below £2,000, and 0.25% to those under £85,000.
This is relatively uncommon among challengers – N26 and Revolut, for example, don’t pay any 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.
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 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.
Pros and cons of Starling Bank
- 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 they offer a wide range of services they’re still a fairly new bank, so do not yet offer more complex services such as mortgages however, some more 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.
If you can look past the remote aspects of Starling, then a personal account might be right for you. The minimalist app lives up to the bank’s promises of convenience and efficiency, while the easiness and simplicity is refreshing if you struggle to save but want to improve.
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.
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