What's in this review?
- What is Starling Bank?
- How to start using Starling
- How does Starling Bank work?
- Is Starling any good compared to other challenger banks?
- Can I travel with the card?
- How does the app look?
- Starling Bank overdraft, fees and limits
- Starling Bank's interest rate
- What is the Starling Kite debit card for kids?
- Is Starling safe to use?
- Starling customer reviews
- Pros and cons of Starling Bank
- Our verdict
- Frequently asked questions
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
- Download the app
- Create an account by providing your name, date of birth, email address and home address
- Verify your identity through the app using a selfie video and photo of your ID
- Wait to be approved (this usually only takes a few minutes)
- Once approved you can link the account to Apple Pay or your Google Wallet, to start spending immediately
- Receive your physical Mastercard debit card in the post within 3-5 days
- 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:
Other key features include:
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 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: email@example.com|
|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 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
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Frequently asked questions
More guides on Finder
Debit card fraud: What it is and how to get a refund on a fraudulent transaction
If you’ve fallen victim to debit card fraud, you may be eligible to receive a refund.
The 7 best stock trading apps and platforms in the UK
We’ve taken a look at some of the best trading apps in the UK and explained who they’re best suited to. Our table compares fees and services too.
Current accounts with cashback
Learn how current accounts with cashback work, whether they’re right for you and how to find the best current account.
List of countries using Western Union money transfers
Which countries does Western Union let you send money to? See the list of 200+ countries with Western Union money transfers.
Loans for small businesses affected by coronavirus
Learn about government support and alternative options for businesses needing finance to help deal with the impact of coronavirus.
Interactive Brokers review
Find out what we thought of Interactive Brokers, some key features, information about its platforms and how much Interactive Brokers costs.
How to buy Deliveroo shares when it goes public
How to buy Deliveroo shares
thimbl. credit card review 2021
thimbl. offers a straightforward credit builder card for those with good and bad credit.
Ask an Expert