Tide vs Starling: Rates, features, overseas banking and more
In this guide, you'll learn the key differences between the Tide and Starling business bank accounts and which one is most likely to suit you.
Updated . What changed?
Tide and Starling both offer free business accounts that you can access and use through a mobile banking app. They both come with payment cards, they both integrate with various accounting software and they are both set up and managed digitally. So which might be best for you? We examine their different features to find out.
What's in this guide?
- Best business bank account for online banking
- Best business bank account for small businesses, sole traders and freelancers
- Tide or Starling – side by side comparison
- Best for paying in cash and cheques
- Best for overseas spending
- Best for multiple cards
- Best for accountancy software integration
- Best for customer support
- Best for switching
- Best for setup
- Best value for money
Best business bank account for online banking
Best business bank account for small businesses, sole traders and freelancers
Tide or Starling – side by side comparison
Best for paying in cash and cheques
If you have a Tide account, you can deposit cash (between £10 and £500 a day) at branches of the Post Office, for a fee of £1. You can also deposit the same amount at PayPoints, although the fee here is 3% of the total value. Unfortunately Tide doesn’t accept cheque deposits.
You can also deposit cash into your Starling business account at any Post Office branch. There’s a 0.3% charge (with a minimum cost of £3) for which amounts of up to £20,000 can be deposited at larger Post Office branches. For cheques, you can deposit 10 per week, valued up to £500 each, using the cheque imaging function in the Starling banking app. For anything over this you can send the cheques directly to Starling by Freepost.
Our verdict: Starling. It’s cheaper to deposit smaller cash amounts at the Post Office with Tide, but then it gets more expensive if you use a PayPoint. Tide also has a smaller cash deposit limit, plus you can’t deposit cheques with Tide at all.
Best for overseas spending
With Tide, when you use your card to spend abroad or online in other currencies, you get the Mastercard exchange rate with no additional mark-up or fees. The standard fee of £1 to withdraw cash at an ATM still applies if you’re overseas.
With Starling, when you make purchases abroad, you also get the Mastercard exchange rate with no extra fees. But there is no cost for drawing money out of foreign ATMs either.
Our verdict: Starling. While Tide’s offering is still very competitive compared to most other bank cards, it’s hard to beat totally free.
Best for multiple cards
With Tide, the business account itself can only be accessed by the named account holder, who also gets an accompanying bank card. However, up to 35 “Team Cards” can be ordered per account, which allows named employees to make purchases related to business expenses (which you can then track in the account). Each Team Card costs £5+VAT per month to operate (although they are free if you have one of Tide’s paid-for accounts).
At Starling, cards are only available to each person who has access to the business account, which at the moment is limited to company directors or sole traders themselves.
Our verdict: Tide. Although be mindful of the monthly fee if you order multiple Team Cards from the free business account.
Best for accountancy software integration
The Tide account offers integrations with six accounting software packages: Xero, QuickBooks, FreeAgent, ReckonOne, Kashflow and Sage.
Business account holders at Starling can connect to accountancy software packages QuickBooks, Xero and FreeAgent through the Starling “Marketplace”.
Our verdict: Tide. It wins this one with six integrations versus Starling’s three.
Best for customer support
Account holders can message Tide through their app, or send Tide an email with their contact number to request a call back from the customer support team during working hours. There is also an automated telephone service to report a lost or stolen card.
Over at Starling, there is 24/7 support available from customer service advisers, through the in-app chat, over email and via telephone.
Our verdict. Starling. For its 24/7 customer support; although in terms of communication channels, both providers can be contacted in the app or by email, both can be reached by phone (although not directly in Tide’s case), and both have a number where you can report lost or stolen cards.
Best for switching
If you have a business account with another bank, you can use the Current Account Switch Service (CASS) to move it to Starling. You will have to get approved for a Starling business account first, then go to the “Switch to Starling” section in the banking app.
Tide isn’t one of the financial providers taking part in the CASS scheme, so you won’t be able to use this process to switch your business account.
Our verdict: Starling. The only one out of the two that is signed up to the CASS scheme.
Best for setup
To set up a Tide business account you’ll need to download the app from the App Store or Google Play Store, and provide a form of ID: a driving licence, passport or European National ID card. Tide may also ask you to provide evidence that your business is established, such as: your business’ website or social media profiles, invoices, bank statements, signed contracts, qualifications or an HMRC registration. Tide says 53% of new business customers open their accounts in under 10 minutes, 70% in under 60 minutes and 81% within 48 hours.
To set up a Starling business account, you’ll need to download the Starling app and provide at least one of the following documents to verify your identity: a passport, EU/EEA ID card, UK residence card or UK photo driving licence (full or provisional). To confirm the nature of your business you may also be asked for: invoices, bank statements, accountant’s letters, signed contracts, qualifications or payslips. If you have all your documentation to hand, Starling says the application itself can take as little as 10 minutes, and 93% of its new business banking customers will get their account number on the same day.
Our verdict: A draw. Both providers ask for similar information in the application process, and both business accounts can be up and running quickly once that application process is complete.
Best value for money
Tide doesn’t charge a monthly fee for its basic business account. Transfers between Tide accounts are free, as is card spending at home or abroad. ATM withdrawals cost £1 each (whether in the UK or overseas), and there is a fee of £1 (at a Post Office) or 3% (at a PayPoint) to deposit cash. It costs 20p to receive or send UK payments from your account, and at the moment you can’t make international transfers directly from your Tide account. It’s free to receive your accompanying bank card and it’s also free to order a replacement.
With the Starling business account there is no monthly fee, and Starling won’t make charges on electronic payments (such as direct debits and standing orders), domestic transfers, cheques deposits, and card spending or ATM withdrawals in the UK or abroad. There is a 0.3% fee (with a minimum charge of £3) for depositing cash at a Post Office, and a 0.4% fee to make an international payment direct from your account. The accompany bank card is free to receive and costs £5 to replace in the UK.
Our verdict: It’s close, but Starling edges it. Neither providers charge a monthly account fee and both have small fees for cash deposits. But although Tide doesn’t charge for a card replacement, the 20p fee for each transfer in and out of your Tide account could soon add up.
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