Starling Bank Review: Fees, Functionalities, Credibility, and Monito's Recommendation

Feb 8, 2022
Affiliate disclosure

Starling Bank is an excellent digital bank and current account (9.1/10) roundly recommended by Monito's experts, particularly for its fee-free offering in the UK and abroad (10/10). A licensed bank, Starling is also a highly reputable company with a solid record of service (9.3/10) and exceptional customer satisfaction ratings among its clients (9.3/10). Where Starling falls short is in some aspects of its account functionality (7.8/10) where — despite offering a capable and flexible current account, card, and mobile app — the bank can be difficult to contact for some users and offers rather limited multi-currency account features.

What We Like About Starling Bank

  • Innovative features and services that can be managed in-app;
  • Categorised spending insights that make it easier to budget;
  • Interest paid on account balances;
  • No monthly account fees;
  • Fee-free ATM withdrawals and transactions abroad;
  • Compatible with Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, Fitbit Pay and Garmin Pay.

What We Dislike About Starling Bank

  • Overdrafts are charged at 15% EAR;
  • Additional accounts cost £2 per month;
  • Replacing a card lost overseas could cost £60;
  • Interest of -0.5% on Euro balances of over €50,000
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Monito's Recommendation

Our experts recommend Starling Bank as a versatile and trustworthy all-round banking alternative or as a second account next to a main bank account. Furthermore, because of its innovative multi-currency offering, we also particularly recommend Starling Bank for expats and those with property or business suppliers overseas.

Watch Monito's Video Review of Starling Bank:

Who Is Starling Bank For?

Starling Bank is only available for residents of the UK (which doesn't include Gibraltar and the UK Crown Dependencies of Guernsey, Isle of Man, and Jersey). You won't be required to show proof of tax residency in the UK to open an account, but you must be 16 years or older.

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How Monito Reviewed Starling's Services

As with all services reviewed by Monito, Starling underwent a rigorous evaluation to assess the quality of its service. To begin with, our experts analysed several key criteria, including customer reviews, the percentage cost of various transaction types, top-up options, access to customer service, as well as business and legal metrics such as revenue, appropriate authorisation, and company size. As with all Monito Scores, Starling's score was peer-reviewed by at least one Monito expert.

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Trust & Credibility

9.3

Background check

Licensed as a bank by the PRA and FCA in the UK, and deposits are FSCS protected.

Security & reliability

Accounts are fully secured using segregated user accounts and HTTPS and cards are 3-D Secure.

Company size

Over 2 million customers and nearly $135 million in annual revenue.

Transparent pricing

A full overview of pricing is easily accessible and provides all fees as per the regulator-standard fee schedule.

Is Starling Bank Safe?

Yes, Starling Bank is as safe and secure as any bank. Registered in England and Wales as Starling Bank Limited, the bank is fully licensed and authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) alongside the PRA.

Starling is an independent, privately-owned company with a head office in London and offices in Southampton, Cardiff and Dublin. It has opened more than two million customer accounts.

Service & Quality

7.8

Using the mobile app

Well-rated and slick user interface with many interesting features, including 'saving spaces', pension schemes, and digital receipts.

Managing the account

Overdraft, interest, and joint accounts are supported, but limited in terms of multi-currency use and number of top-up methods.

Contacting support

FAQ and live chat are available on the current account, but phone support is only available in emergencies.

Making card payments

Contactless, online payments, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and social payments are all supported.

Starling Bank's Product & Service Quality

UK-based digital-only Starling Bank was founded by Anne Boden in 2014 and has gone from strength to strength in its bid to shake up the banking sector. Determined to embrace the sector’s technological changes, the neobank received its UK banking licence in 2016 and launched the UK’s first mobile-only current account in 2017.

Having expanded its range, Starling now offers personal, business and children’s accounts. These can all be managed by a modern, intuitive app, allowing customers to gain a greater understanding of their spending patterns and set aside pots of money in different ‘savings spaces’.

What Type of Bank Accounts Does Starling Offer?

When it comes to the accounts on offer, Starling Bank is a bit of an all-rounder. As well as offering personal and joint accounts for adults, customers can also choose from a debit card for younger children and an account for teens. Businesses are also catered for, with the neobank offering a business account for limited companies and other registered businesses, as well as sole traders.

Accounts can be opened by downloading the app to your Android or iOS device. You’ll need to create an account and fill in personal details such as your name, date of birth and address, before verifying who you are by recording a short selfie video and taking a photo of your ID (such as a driving licence or passport).

For those opening a business account, evidence of your trading activities will also be required to confirm that your business does what you say it does. Companies House documents can’t be accepted.

Starling is part of the UK’s Current Account Switch Service. This means if you’re switching from another bank, Starling will take care of the switching process for you. The switch should be completed within seven working days and if anything goes wrong, it’s up to Starling Bank to rectify it.

Starling Bank Personal Accounts

Managing Starling’s personal and joint accounts can be done via the app, your laptop or computer. There are no monthly fees on the account, but should you wish to manage money across multiple accounts you can open an additional account for £2 a month (this includes the Euro account which is covered later).

Keen travellers will also be pleased to note that there are no fees for adding money to your card, withdrawing cash from an ATM or spending transactions when you travel.

  • A round-up of the top features of Starling’s personal accounts can be found below:
  • A Mastercard debit card;
  • No monthly fees;
  • No fees for overseas ATM withdrawals or transactions;
  • Guaranteed Mastercard exchange rate;
  • Withdraw money from ATMs and deposit cash at any one of the Post Office’s 11,500 branches;
  • In-app features such as categorised spending insights and overdraft management;
  • Option to give someone a Connected card if they are spending your behalf – this is capped at £200 but money is held in a designated ‘space’ in your app.

The challenger bank has also branched out into children’s accounts, having launched its teen account in 2018 and the Starling Kite debit card in 2020. The teen account is for those aged 16 and 17 and operates in a similar way to adult accounts, while the Kite card is for children aged between six and 16. A £2 monthly fee applies to the Kite card.

Starling Bank Business Accounts

Limited companies and other registered businesses can apply for Starling Bank’s Business Current Account, while sole traders can apply for the Sole Trader business account. There are no monthly fees for the accounts, but should you wish to make use of the bank’s Business Toolkit feature, this will set you back £7 a month. The Toolkit aims to help streamline your bookkeeping, create invoices quickly and manage bills.  

That aside, many of the business bank account features are similar to those for personal accounts. As such, there are no fees for ATM withdrawals or card transactions abroad and your spending will automatically be categorised. UK bank transfers are also free of charge, and you’ll have the function to connect to QuickBooks, Xero or FreeAgent.

Cash deposits can only be made at the Post Office, which may be an issue if there is no branch near you, and there is a 0.3% fee (minimum £3) to pay. Cheques can be made in-app for free. 

There is also an overdraft of up to £150,000 in-app, but interest will be charged. If you have a Sole Trader account, the interest rate will be the same as for personal account overdrafts at 15% EAR.

For other business accounts, the interest will be confirmed in-app when you apply, and an annual fee will also apply – this is either 1.5% of your limit or £50, whichever is greater.

Euro and Dollar Accounts

In an effort to challenge fintech rival Revolut, Starling also offers a Euro account for both personal and business users, and a Dollar account for business account holders. The business Euro account costs £2 a month and the Dollar account will set you back £5 a month.

Through the accounts, customers can hold, send and receive euros or dollars for free, as well as transfer money between GBP, EUR and USD accounts 24/7. This includes weekends, but as you’ll always see the exchange rate before the conversion is made, you’ll have the option to wait until Monday morning if you prefer.

The fly in the ointment is the negative interest rate of -0.5% AER that applies to balances above €50,000 in the Euro account (for both personal and business users).

On the positive side, international transfers can be carried out relatively cheaply. Money can be sent to 38 countries in 20 currencies worldwide, including Euro, US dollar, South African rand and Thai baht. A competitively priced 0.4% transfer fee will apply, while delivery fees start at 30p per transfer. Payments over the SWIFT network attract a flat fee of £5.50.

Starling Bank is looking to launch a further 21 foreign currency bank accounts in the near future.

What Does the Starling Bank App Have To Offer?

Although customers can manage their Starling accounts on a laptop or computer, most of the account features are operated through the app. Its ease of use and no-nonsense layout has resulted in 4.7 out of 5 stars on the Google Play Store from around 53 thousand reviews. Some of the key features include:

  • Instant notifications whenever payments leave or enter your account;
  • Categorised spending insights so you can see exactly where you’re spending your money, making budgeting easier;
  • Ability to send money to nearby Starling customers or split bills through a payment link;
  • Transactions automatically rounded up to save the change;
  • Ability to lock your card if it goes missing.

Business bank account holders can also benefit from the following:

  • Instant payment notifications, whenever you pay someone or get paid;
  • Spending analytics to break down your monthly spending and sort it by category;
  • Ability to add digital receipts to payments;
  • Separate spaces to keep tax and overheads to one side.

Fees & Exchange Rates

10

Everyday use

No everyday costs such as monthly fees, transfer fees, and local ATM withdrawal fees.

ATM withdrawals

Withdrawals are free at home and abroad, incurring only a Mastercard exchange rate margin for foreign currency withdrawals.

Online spending

Online spending comes at no cost, neither in British pounds nor in a foreign currency.

International spending

No fees for spending abroad, although Mastercard's exchange rate applies to foreign currency transactions.

Starling Bank's Fees & Exchange Rates

Starling Bank is a good choice for spending at home and abroad, offering extremely low fees for most types of transactions. As mentioned above, there are no fees for using the Starling Bank card for foreign transactions or withdrawing cash at an ATM. Considering how high fees can be on standard debit cards, this is definitely something to shout about.

Starling uses Mastercard’s exchange rate, but, unlike many traditional banks, no fees are added on top. Many debit cards from traditional banks will incur Mastercard’s exchange rate plus the bank’s own exchange rate margin.

Interest on Account Deposits

Similar to BunqStarling Bank is one of the few neobanks to offer interest on deposits. Both the personal and teen accounts offer 0.05% per annum on balances up to £85,000. While this might not seem worthy of celebration (the rate is even lower than the 0.27% offered by Bunq), it is still noteworthy when you consider that many other financial service providers offer no interest at all.

What’s more, because Starling has a UK banking licence, deposits up to £85,000 will be protected under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme – it is no coincidence that the £85,000 limit is the maximum amount on which interest is paid.

Fees and Exchange Rates for Online Transfers

To get a better idea of how Starling Bank's pricing compares to those of other providers for sending an international money transfer, take a look at the table below:

Starling Bank

Wise

PayPal

Barclays

Sent (GBP)

£1,000.00

£1,000.00

£1,000.00

£1,000.00

Exchange Rate Margin (GBP)

£00.00

£00.00

£30.41

£28.28

Fees (GBP)

£4.30

£3.69

£2.99

£18.00

Received (EUR)

€1,159.26

€1,160.00

€1,126.00

€1,111.00

Try StarlingTry WiseGo to PayPalGo to Barclays

Quoted: 25/06/2021 09:30 GMT +01:00

Customer Satisfaction

9.3

Customer review score

Average Trustpilot rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars.

Number of positive reviews

Over 20,000 four- and five-star reviews.

Starling Bank Customer Reviews

On the whole, Starling Bank scores highly on the Trustpilot review platform, earning a respectable 4.4 stars out of 5 from around 22 thousand reviews. Customers praise the fuss-free banking, easy application process and the intuitive app. Most of the negative feedback, on the other hand, centres around the bank’s poor customer service and slow response times.

Additionally, as part of a regulatory requirement, Ipsos MORI carried out an independent survey in 2020 to ask approximately 1 thousand customers of Starling Bank (and others) whether they would recommend the provider to family and friends. In terms of overall service quality, 82% said they would recommend Starling Bank, and 87% said they would recommend Starling’s online and mobile banking services.

However, only 65% of Starling’s customers said they would recommend the bank’s overdraft services.

Is Starling Bank Right for You?

In our opinion, if you’re looking for fuss-free banking that can be carried out online or in-app, Starling Bank is well worth considering. Catering for individuals and businesses alike, Starling Bank offers a number of innovative banking features, helping to make budgeting and savings goals easier, as well as keep on top of your business invoices and general bookkeeping.

It also wins points for its Euro and Dollar accounts that may appeal to expats or those who have property or business suppliers overseas. International transfers are competitive, both for fees and exchange rates.

That being said, if you’re looking to make cross-border payments on a more frequent basis, it’s also worth considering banking services such as the Wise Multi-Currency Account and Revolut. Compare your options carefully to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

Frequently Asked Questions About Starling Bank

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