- Voted Best Current Account Provider by the British Bank Awards
- Free online signup
- No monthly fees
- Joint and Euro accounts
- Personal and business loans
- Cheque deposits
- 0.05% AER on balances up to £85,000
- An all-human, UK-based support team
- Kids and teen accounts
Although it’s seriously lagging behind Monzo and Revolut in the number of downloads and users, Starling Bank is arguably the strongest digital banking app on the UK market right now. In our comprehensive Starling Bank review, we’re covering all about their inception, all the pros and cons, how to open an account, and all the types of accounts on offer. But first, here’s our short verdict:
We have nothing but words of praise for this challenger bank and would really like to see even more people around the UK using it. Starling Bank really is that great of an alternative to your high street bank and the new kids on the block – neobanks. With their core banking services staying free, we can wholeheartedly recommend them.
About Starling Bank
Starling Bank is a digital challenger bank that is headquartered in London, UK. It’s the brainchild of Anne Boden, a Welsh tech entrepreneur, who founded the neobank in 2014 under the name Possible Financial Services. It rebranded as Starling in January 2016 and received its UK banking license the same year.
It has won the Best British Bank award in the British Bank Awards three years in a row (2018, 2019 and 2020). With so much competition from the old guard and the new challenger banks, the awards really speak volumes.
The tale of Starling Bank is a tale of two banks really because, in 2015, the company’s first CTO Tom Blomfield and the majority of Starling’s founding team left Starling and went on to launch Monzo – a direct competitor.
Pros & Cons
- Free accounts
- Free recycled-plastic debit card
- Ease of use
- Deposits insured up to £85,000 per account
- No fees for spending in other countries
- Great security features
- Full banking licence
- No bank branches
- Recently lowered the interest rate to 0.05% AER
- Up to six ATM withdrawals per day, with a daily limit of £300
As you can see for yourself, there aren’t that many cons and I really wrote these three down so that the con list wouldn’t be empty. We have reviewed many mobile banks on our website and it’s really rare to find a challenger bank that has almost nothing going against it. There are always some red flags raised that make it hard to recommend their service or product.
Usually, you’ll see a slew of customers having complaints that their account was hacked or that a company blocked their account and left them without money. It, unfortunately, happens all too often as these neobanks focus too much on expansion and not enough on making sure that their customers are happy.
This is not the case with Starling Bank as they are not expanding rapidly outside of the UK and they have stellar 24/7 support. You won’t find pages and pages of customer support horror stories on the internet. They are also already a profitable company while keeping their main banking services free for personal and business accounts.
How to open a Personal Starling Bank account?
You can open a Starling Bank account via their website or by using your phone. You’ll need a smartphone and a valid photo ID. Here are the steps:
- Enter your phone number on their website or download the app on Apple App Store or Google Play Store
- Get the verification code and enter it
- Create an account with your name, date of birth, email address, and current home address
- Verify yourself by recording a short selfie video and taking a photo of your ID
How to open a Business Starling Bank Account?
Opening a business account takes a few more steps than opening a personal account, obviously. You’ll still do it over the smartphone by downloading their app. If you don’t have a personal account yet, you’ll also need a photo ID. Both companies and sole traders can open a Starling Business Account.
Prepare some documents which confirm the nature of your business such as an invoice, trade registration, or letter from your accountant. There are extensive terms and conditions that you have to meet in order to open an account. Here are just a few examples:
- All directors with access to the account must be UK residents
- You’ll have to meet AML/KYC, fraud, and credit checks and processes
- Limited Companies and LLPs need all Persons of Significant Control (PSCs) to be a UK resident and natural persons
- The option to apply for a sole trader account will only be shown to customers that match their criteria
Starling bank accounts
Starling Bank really offers an account option for everyone. You have your personal current account, your joint account, Euro account, kids account, and teen account, as well as a business account for companies and sole traders. You can apply for each of them inside the app in the account menu.
- An all-human, UK-based support team
- No monthly fees
- Instant payment notifications
- Easy to apply online
- Categorized spending insights
- Cheque deposits
- Get 0.05% AER on balances up to £85,000
- Mastercard debit card is made from recycled plastic
Voted the best current account in 2019 and 2020, the personal account leaves little to be desired. What we like the most about Starling personal accounts is that there are no monthly fees and no fees for using your card abroad or withdrawing money from ATMs.
If you think that your card is lost or stolen, you can lock and unlock it instantly from the app. You can also disable contactless payments, chip, PIN or online payments. All from a touch on the screen.
How do I put money in a current account?
You can easily add money to your Starling account from another bank account by using your Starling account number and sort code or by going to any UK Post Office and depositing money over the counter.
How do I switch current accounts?
Starling Bank is offering a free Current Account Switch Service (CASS). Once you download the app and make an account, you’ll have to select “Switch to Starling” from the menu. Enter the account details you’re switching from, choose your switch date and agree to terms and conditions.
Starling will do the rest, including sending the request to your old bank, keeping you updated with the progress, and ultimately, closing the account on your behalf and moving your balance, payees, salary, Direct Debits and standing orders to your new Starling Bank account.
- Instant payment notifications
- Lock a card temporarily if either partner loses their card
- Monthly spending insights
- Pool your rent and bills
- Side-by-side saving
- Easy to apply
Couples or even roommates can make a joint account with Starling to simplify shared spending. You’ll both have to have a Starling personal account already set up to be able to request a joint account from within the app.
You’ll then be able to send and spend money from the joint account and track the expenses. You’ll get instant payment notifications, pools for rent or bills for example, and side-by-side saving with the Goals feature.
- Hold, send and receive euros for free
- Transfer money between your GBP and EUR accounts 24/7
- 0.4% conversion fee added on top of the current exchange fee
- App and a Mastercard debit card
Starling’s Euro Account does exactly what it says on the tin – it manages your Euro currency for free. It’s great for expats living in the UK, immigrants or travellers going to the EU often. Great for sending and receiving money from your friends or family abroad.
You’ll incur no fees if you’re not exchanging money between the two currencies and you can spend your EUR card transactions from your EUR account. Starling’s Euro Account is a full current account that has its own unique IBAN and its deposits are covered up to £85,000 or equivalent by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
- Ages 6-16
- £2 per month per debit card issued
- Instant payment notifications
- Instant card locking
- Top up the card with or set up regular transfers from your own account
- Monthly spending breakdowns and saving goals
- Set daily, weekly, or monthly spending limits
- Set where it can be used; in shops, online, or at ATMs
We always love to see junior accounts in digital banking apps as we find it important to teach kids from a young age about healthy spending habits and savings goals. This is like a children’s bank account but with more features than your high street bank has to offer.
Your child will get a debit card that you can lock instantly if it’s lost or stolen. There are also no fees for transfers or ATM withdrawals and you can send them money wherever they are. If there ever was a benefit over cash; this is it.
If you and your partner have a joint account, you’ll both get instant notifications regarding spending. With regards to spending and using money, you can set where the money can be used – shops, ATMs, or online.
For kids that already have their own smartphones, Starling is preparing an app that should be released “soon”.
Apply for Starling Kite within the app under Spaces > Child Card Space.
- Ages 16 and 17
- You can apply in minutes, on your own
- Earn 0.05% AER on balances up to £85,000
- Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay compatible
- Instant payment notifications
- Spending insights
- Instant card locking
Teenagers aged 16 and 17 can apply in minutes for their Starling Teen Account with their passport. They’ll get both the app and the recycled-plastic Mastercard. Kids younger than 16 can apply for the Starling Kite Account.
Teen accounts have almost all the features of adult accounts like the 0.05% interest rate, instant notifications, and all the security features.
Once the Teen Account holder reaches 18, he or she can apply for an adult Personal Account and all the info and money will get transferred.
- No monthly fees or UK payment charges
- Get a breakdown of your company’s spending
- Deposit cheques of £500 or less from the app
- Instant notifications for money entering or leaving your account
- Connect to Xero, QuickBooks, insurance services, and Slack
- Create and send invoices directly from your desktop,
- Send money to other nearby Starling customers
According to the company, more than 300,000 UK businesses have a Starling Business account. Both companies and sole traders can avail of this offer. We already covered how you can apply for a Business Account so we won’t repeat it here. If you have your papers at hand and in order, there shouldn’t be much trouble opening one.
You’ll get a fully regulated UK bank account that gets your deposit FSCS-insured up to £85,000. You can also avail of Starling’s Business Account Switch Service that will help you move all your banking over to them.
There are quite a few handy add-ons to the account.
- A euro bank account for UK businesses (£2/m)
- A US dollar business account in the UK (£5/m)
- The Business Toolkit (£7/m)
Business Toolkit (£7/m)
- HMRC Tax estimation for sole traders
- Record VAT on transactions
- Smart tax savings
- MTD VAT submission
- Bookkeeping to-do list
- Manage bills and invoices with auto-matching
- Integration with accounting software
The Business Toolkit is a great “part-time bookkeeper” for only £7 per month. It will help you save time and keep track of all your receipts, invoices, VATs, taxes, etc.
You can connect to HMRC and submit your returns through Making Tax Digital by using the Cash Accounting Scheme or the Flat Rate Scheme (cash basis).
Another great thing is that apart from the app, you can manage your account and bookkeeping on the big screen, ie. your desktop computer or laptop.
If making a joint account is too much of a leap at the moment, a Connected card will be capped at £200 and can be used by someone spending on your behalf. It can be a friend, a family member, a nanny, or anyone you trust that can avail of an additional debit card connected to your designated Space, rather than the main account.
Once you’ve ordered and activated the connected card, your trustee will be able to spend the money (up to £200) but won’t be able to withdraw cash, see or check your main balance or any other information.
How do you apply for a Connected card?
Simply go to Goals > New Space > Connected card Space and choose a purpose (childcare, carer, shopping) and a PIN. Once the Connected card arrives in 5-7 working days, activate it by adding the CVV on the back of the card to the connected Space using the app.
Starling Bank offers personal and business overdrafts to support you when you’re in a tight squeeze. The interest rates for personal loans are 15%, 25% and 35% EAR (variable) and are accrued daily and charged on the 15th of the following month.
Sole traders can avail of 15% EAR (variable) while limited companies and limited liability partnerships get 5%, 10% and 15% EAR (variable) interest rates based on Starling’s assessment of your business.
Apart from overdrafts, Starling also offers loans for its business customers. From our understanding, they’re not taking applications for any non-government issued loans. Luckily, the UK Government is offering plenty of pandemic-relief related schemes:
- Deferring VAT and income tax payments
- A 12 months business rates holiday for certain businesses
- Small business grant funding
- A Statutory Sick Pay relief package for SMEs
- A Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS)
Before the pandemic, a business account holder could borrow between £5k and £250k and repay it back over a one to five-year term.
You can currently send international transfers to 38 countries with more on the way. The complete and updated list can be found here. You’ll have to pay a 0.4% transfer fee and a £5.50 delivery fee for more reliable SWIFT payments, while the no reference and no recall payments incur a £0.30 delivery fee.
There’s also an option of having no fees when dealing with euros. Take a look at their Euro Account take makes it free to hold, receive, and send euros.
Starling Goals or Saving Spaces make it easy to save up money for what’s important to you. It can be a holiday, car, house, or something else that you want to save money for. They’re like a savings account that you have access to at all times and can cash out with a tap of a button.
You can have multiple Saving Spaces that you can personalise with a name and a photo. To start saving tap Space > New Space > Saving Space and add a name and a target amount. You are ready to add money or start saving on autopilot by enabling the “Round up your spending” feature that will round up all your spending to the nearest pound and send the spare change to your chosen Saving Space.
You can even multiply the amount up to x10 to maximize your efforts.
Starling’s personal marketplace has 11 third-party financial products at the time of writing that you can connect your app to. They include mortgage and insurance providers, smart pension tools, life, home, and mobile insurance, a mortgage broker, a credit booster app, and investments and pension schemes. They are:
Their business marketplace offers up to 22 services to help run your business. They include communications, accounting, insurance, security, utility, HR, and others. For a complete list, visit here.
The company promises no hidden markups, so you’ll pay the same as you would by going directly to the provider.
Starling bank for business?
We already covered the business account a little bit but it’s important to emphasise that their account really is good for small businesses and sole traders as it has many useful functionalities. Conducting business is made easy with the £7 Business Toolkit add-on and your accountant will have an easy life from now on.
It’s no wonder that it won the “Best Business Banking Provider” for 2020. They really made an effort to make it easy to switch from another business account provider. Sole traders have enough expenses as it is and this no-fees account is one less thing to pay for.
For people dealing with foreign currencies, a few quids a month will get you a Euro and a US dollar business account.
How is Starling Bank regulated?
Starling Bank is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Unlike digital payments apps, Starling is a bank with a full banking licence and your deposits are insured and repaid up to the amount of £85,000 for personal accounts and up to £170,000 for joint accounts under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).
Is Starling Bank safe?
As we just explained, up to £85,000 of your money is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in each account. Apart from that, they have some top-notch security in place. These include in-app security such as fingerprint or facial recognition, the option to disable contactless and chip and pin payments, to freeze or cancel your card.
Starling also uses the 3D Secure layer of security when you use your card online. When this is required, you’ll need to approve a push notification for the transaction to go ahead.
It’s worth knowing that Starling will never ask you to share your PIN, password or ask you to authorise a payment from your account to a new safe account’.
Could Starling Bank replace your existing bank account?
We really see no reason why this shouldn’t be your main banking account. Although it has no brick and mortar branches, the ease of use and reliability of the app doesn’t call for one either. You can track your spending and apply for financial services from the app itself.
The only things that are missing are mortgages and more serious loans or credit lines. But we are already seeing some headway in this field as well. Their marketplace has a partner called Molo Finance that is offering buy-to-let mortgages. It is in fact the UK’s first fully digital mortgage lender.
They make it easy to get a decision in Principle in minutes, without impacting your credit score. It doesn’t get easier than this.
Once we see these challenger banks offer a full banking experience, there will be an exodus happening from old high street banks to app stores, all from a touch of your finger.
Who owns Starling Bank?
Starling Bank is a privately owned company that was founded in 2014 by Anne Boden. She is still the CEO and holds a 24% stake in the company.
Boden lost her position as majority shareholder in July 2019 after a large investment from the mysterious billionaire investor Harald McPike. He has to date invested £133m and has between 50% and 75% of the shares. He is represented on the board by the former CEO of Swift, Lazaro Campos, and by Marcus Traill, a New Zealand-based accountant.
The other significant shareholder is the Merian Global Investors, a leading public investor in the UK, with more than £50m invested.
Alternatives to consider
Starling Bank vs Monzo
These two fierce competitors had explosive growth in the UK, and while Starling has profited during the turbulent 2020/2021, Monzo had suffered all sorts of difficulties. Nevertheless, both Monzo and Starling offer similar services and tools and are a great choice for anyone switching from a high street bank.
Starling Bank vs Revolut
Revolut is really a unicorn on the neobanking market that has had a meteoric rise. With more than 15 million global users, there’s no holding it back now. Revolut is more focused on global expansion than Starling, but Starling is already profitable with seven times fewer users. Go with Revolut if you want to invest in stocks or crypto, while Starling offers you a no-frills, no fees account.
See our table with a comparison of the 5 popular digital banking platforms.
The bottom line
Starling Bank really walks the walk and offers great tools and services in its easy to use app. It might not be so popular among the kids, but it does seem to bridge the gap between high street and digital banking for the mature crowd. It also has the least amount of complaints of all the other new banking platforms that we have seen.