Starling in-depth review, useful information and user opinions
Reader Rating170 Votes
Winning Britain’s Best Bank 2019, Starling is arguably amongst the biggest and most well-known challenger banks.
Starling’s vision is to ‘create a better bank for everyone’. Is this a bank to consider for your new current account?
It’s clear that Starling are proud of what they’ve achieved. They have, in their own words, ‘built a new bank from scratch’. That kind of start, with today’s technology, has given them the chance to design exactly what customers need.
Have they seized their opportunity, or does Starling’s offering fall flat?
Here’s a guide, at a glance, to banking with Starling. Read on for a more detailed review.
App-based banking with a variety of money management features
Interest on your current account balance
Overdrafts and loans to apply for in-app
Suitable for overseas spending and international transfers
Joint and euro accounts available
24/7 live chat support
No branches or browser-based banking
Cheques can take over a week to be added to your bank account balance
Cash deposits can only be made at branches of the Post Office
What is Starling?
Starling is a challenger bank, founded in 2014. 2016 saw the first Starling bank accounts in action, with the official launch (and Starling’s app) in early 2017.
Since its launch, Starling has been aiming to innovate. It was, for example, the first UK bank to enable Apple Pay from within its mobile app. This means that customers can use their account, even making payments, before their card arrives through the mail. Android mobile wallet support followed in late 2017.
Starling was also the first digital bank account to join the Current Account Switching Service.
Banking. But Better.
Starling bank accounts are entirely managed through the app. Customers receive a contactless Mastercard debit card. You must use a smartphone to manage your money, with no alternative way to access online banking facilities.
With access to the banking app, users can make use of a range of features including savings goals, real-time banking notifications and personalised spending reports.
Who is Starling for?
With Starling aiming to ‘create a better bank for everyone’, how do their offerings measure up?
For a start, Starling customers receive a full UK current account. But, with the option to hold money in Euros and to send and receive them with no fee, a Starling account may also be useful for European students and frequent travellers.
Starling is certainly a feature-packed bank with a lot to appeal to those that carry a smartphone everywhere. But, with no branches and no alternative to using Starling’s app, anyone that isn’t a heavy smartphone user may not find this bank to be suitable.
Unlike some other challenger banks, Starling does provide options for paying in cash and cheques. But, your options are limited. You’ll need to visit your local Post Office to make your cash deposit, whilst cheques will need to be mailed to a Freepost address. Neither cost anything as a personal current account holder, but you may find the process inconvenient. Cheques take five working days to clear, once they’ve been received by Starling.
There are no monthly fees for banking with Starling and no charges for everyday banking. Starling is also one of the few challenger banks to offer interest as standard on its current accounts.
For those that like a lot of financial control, along with spending insights and budgeting tools, Starling may be a strong contender. If you expect to regularly receive cash and cheques, or if you are someone that likes banking online from a computer rather than a smartphone, then this mobile bank may not suit your needs.
How does Starling work?
You can open a Starling account by downloading the app to your Android or iOS device. You’ll need ID in the form of a driving license, passport, UK Residence Card or EU ID Card. You may also be asked for proof of address, such as a utility bill, council tax letter or a statement from another UK bank.
Opening your Starling account also requires you to provide a video selfie, and to go through a soft credit check.
Your Starling account is a full UK current account complete with interest payments, an account number and a sort code. You can receive incoming payments as soon as your account is set up, and make outgoing payments once your Mastercard arrives in the mail. You can also choose to connect immediately to Apple Pay or Google Pay, for online and contactless payments even before your card arrives.
If you’d like a Starling euro account, you will still need to apply for a UK current account initially. Once this is up and running, use your Starling app to add a euro account to your collection.
What features do you get with a Starling account?
Starling bank accounts the following features:
Starling pays interest of 0.5% AER on balances up to £2,000, with a lower interest rate on further funds up to £85,000.
Real-Time Banking Notifications
When you send, spend or receive money, Starling will alert you with an instant smartphone notification.
Set money aside, attaching funds to Goals that can help you to save for the things that you want to buy.
Control Your Card
If you’ve misplaced your card temporarily, you can use in-app controls to lock it. This stops your card from being used by other people until you’re sure that it’s still in your possession. You also have the option to stop certain types of transactions, for more control of your money.
Spending and Budgeting Tools
With Starling, spending insights show you how and where you’re spending your money. Use categories and budgeting tools to see how your money is used, and potentially where you can cut back.
Whenever you spend on your card, Starling can round your transaction to the nearest £1. The additional money can be moved to one of your savings Goals.
Split any transaction with your contacts. Select the people that owe you money for their portion of the payment, and monitor their repayments in-app. Incoming payments can be matched against their debts so that you’re notified when friends have settled up.
Receive, store and send money in Euro currency. Euro accounts are an optional extra available to existing holders of Starling current accounts.
You can withdraw funds from your Starling account with no additional fees at international ATMs. You can also use your debit card to make fee-free payments wherever Mastercard is accepted.
Using the Starling app, you can transfer funds to almost 40 countries. Payments are made using SWIFT facilities, going bank-to-bank almost instantly, and can be made in 20 different currencies with low fees and competitive exchange rates.
What packages does Starling offer?
Starling accounts are free of charge to set up and use. There is only one personal UK current account available, with all of Starling’s features included.
Once you’ve set up a Starling account, you will also have the option to add a secondary euro account. This allows you to store money in Euro currency, as well as receiving and making payments in Euros.
Are there any additional charges?
There are no charges for using a UK Starling account. If you use the euro account, you will need to pay a 0.4% fee for conversions between the two accounts.
How safe is Starling?
Starling is a regulated bank. It received its banking license in 2016 and is regulated and monitored by both the Prudential Regulation Authority and Financial Conduct Authority.
Up to £85,000 is protected, per customer, as part of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).
Within the app, you can also reduce your risk with security features including transaction limitations and card freezing.
What about customer service?
There are no Starling bank branches. But, their customer support teams are available 24/7.
You can use the in-app live chat for queries and questions, or the Live Chat feature on their website.
Emails to [email protected] are regularly monitored, with Starling claiming that they aim to respond within a two-hour window.
A Starling phone number (0800 0234 617) is only available for lost and stolen card emergencies.
Could Starling replace your existing bank account?
As a full UK bank account with a Mastercard debit card, account number and sort code, Starling is fully functional. You can deposit funds, make ATM withdrawals and set up Direct Debits and Standing Orders. You can also receive incoming payments, including your regular salary.
For an easy transition from an existing account to Starling, you are able to use the Current Account Switch Service (CASS).
You will need a relatively modern Android or iOS smartphone in order to use your Starling account. Also, bear in mind that there are no Starling branches. You’ll need to visit your local Post Office if you want to make any cash deposits.
Starling: The Verdict
It’s easy to see how Starling has become an award-winning challenger bank. In fact, its founder, Anne Boden, has been awarded an MBE for services to fintech. The Starling current account is a strong feature-packed offering, with money management tools and even interest on your balance, though the amount is nothing to write home about.
Starling have shown themselves to be innovative, without coming up with too many novelties that exist for fun rather than function. And, for people that want a smartphone bank, this is probably a very good option.
Despite this, Starling’s lack of branches may alienate certain sections of society. Cheques can take far more than a week to process, including the time spent travelling through Royal Mail’s system and an estimated five days to clear. Meanwhile, cash deposits (whilst free) involve a visit to the Post Office.
If you’re a regular traveller, a secondary euro account may be a very handy thing to have. You can take advantage of exchange rates, transferring money and receiving it in EUR instead of GBP. Starling also supports international payments in 20 different currencies.
If you plan to make Starling your everyday bank account, then it’s worth bearing in mind that they offer no online banking option. You’ll be unable to manage your money without your smartphone to hand.
If you’re ever the type of person to let your phone battery run out, then a Starling bank account may not be the right one for you. That said, with fee-free cash deposits and a range of useful budgeting tools, Starling could be considered more accessible than some other modern challenger banks.
More about Starling
Starling is an online-only bank that aims to challenge the way people see banking and make it easier for everyone. Founded in 2014 by Anne Boden, the pioneer of the Same Day Bank Transfer Service that revolutionised the way people handled their finances, the bank is based in London.
Starling Bank focuses on one product only – a mobile-only bank account that the management team are aiming to make the best in the world.
Founded in 2014, Starling Bank is a mobile-only digital bank based in London. Founder and CEO Ann Boden had a three-decade career in finance before deciding banking was ‘fundamentally broken’ and built Starling entirely from scratch. Starling received its banking licence from the Financial Conduct Authority in July 2016.
Starling is what is known as a ‘challenger bank’, a relatively small enterprise set up with the intention of competing with long-established, larger national banks. There are no physical branches, and no web portal; all banking is done via the Starling mobile app, available for devices running both Android and iOS. It was recently announced (August 2018) that Starling are to provide payment services for a new RBS/Natwest digital venture.
Starling Bank Products and Services
Currently, Starling offers personal, joint and business accounts with eligible deposits of up to £85,000 protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). Customers looking to open a joint account must first open a personal account, although this is not required for business customers.
Starling customers can pay for products and services using Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Garmin Pay and Fitbit Pay. Indeed, Starling claims to be the first bank in the country to offer in-app provisioning for Apple Pay customers, who are able to add cards to their Apple Wallet using the in-app Card Management screen.
The Starling banking app allows customers to instantly set up and make payments and set up and manage standing orders or direct debits. Accounts have their own sort codes and customers are able to earn interest on their balance. Account balances are updated in real-time.
Starling customers receive a contactless Mastercard debit card, which can be used both online and in-person to purchase products and services.
Starling has several security features designed to guard against fraudulent activity. On signup, customers are asked to provide both an identity document and a short video confirming their intention to open an account – these measures are aimed at preventing identity fraud. The app also supports fingerprint or facial recognition security, if the device used has this functionality.
Starling Bank is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). In the event that the bank was to become insolvent, eligible deposits made by Starling customers are protected by the FSCS up to the value of £85,000.