It’s fair to say Starling Bank has been a front runner in what I call the ‘new school’ style of banking for a little while.
The sheer number of awards alone has promoted me to create this comprehensive Starling bank review.
For 3 years in a row, Starling has won best bank overall and just recently picked up the best current account award in 2020.
This begs the question, is it really the best bank in the Uk?
Let’s not waste any more time and find out!
- 1 What Is Starling Bank?
- 2 Starling Bank Features
- 3 Is Starling Bank Safe?
- 4 Starling Bank Reviews
- 5 Final Thoughts On This Starling Bank Review
What Is Starling Bank?
Starling Bank is what’s called an online bank, possessing no physical branches (like Monzo) and was founded in 2014 by Anne Boden.
Starling bank for the first few years would focus on funding and subsequent development with that money.
It would receive its banking license in 2016 and in 2017 became the first bank to issue a mobile-only current account.
This style of banking would help pave the way for new companies to take advantage of the changing market.
The thought process behind this is why stick to the traditional and psychical banking ‘model’ when you can essentially have a bank in your pocket.
And in theory, not owning any physical branches reduces Starling Bank’s overheads so they can fund new innovative features for users.
Besides innovation, Starling bank has managed to secure some important collaborations over the years, including the Post Office.
It looks quite promising so far, right?
Now you have some background information on Starling Bank, let’s take a look at how it all works.
How Does Starling Bank Work?
Since Starling bank is completely online, the majority of actions you want to make can be done at the touch of a button.
As a result, all processes are simpler or at least more accessible, particularly when it comes to setting up an account.
Just like any traditional bank, you can set up a joint, business or personal account with Starling.
When you complete the sign-up process (explained later) you’ll receive your card through the post.
From then on you can set up direct debits and standing orders via the app.
All Starling Bank cards have contactless functionality and can be paired with Apple pay.
Besides fulfilling the standard properties of a bank, Starling’s app has many money management features to take advantage of.
By providing such features, Starling Bank hopes to give you more control and therefore encourage better management of your finances.
We’ll touch upon this in more detail later on in this Starling bank review, but for now, we’ll take a quick look at the sign-up process.
Starling Bank Sign Up Process
(Note: If you have already signed up, skip this portion of the Starling Bank review)
First off your going to need to download the Starling Bank app.
It’s available on both Andriod and IOS devices.
(Note: This example uses the Appstore)
Head over to the AppStore and search for ‘Starling Bank’.
Simply download the app and wait for it to finish uploading onto your device.
Press the icon and you’ll be taken to this screen.
From here you’ll have a brief introduction to Starling bank and how they operate.
Progress through the slides and you’ll have the option to choose what sort of account you want.
Next, you’ll be asked to provide your phone number so they can send you a verification code.
After choosing whether or not you would like to allow push notifications (recommended), you can choose how you would like to unlock Starling.
From here you can progress through a few slides of personal information such as your title and first name.
As with all banks, you’ll need to provide some proof of identity.
Starling Bank accepts any of these forms of ID:
- Provisional driving license
- Full driving license
- Uk residency permit
- EU identity card
You’ll then need to fill out some information regarding your income.
Finally, you can have a read through the terms and conditions after which you can then submit your application.
I had to wait a couple of days to have my application approved, this may vary from user to user.
When you log back into the app you can fill out the final details to obtain your card and open you account.
Simply choose a strong password.
Enter a pin, order your card and you’re good to go!
In most cases, your card will be with you within a week.
Starling Bank Features
Perhaps the most interest portion of this Starling bank review is the features the app provides.
After all, it’s these additions that separate it from the more traditional style of the bank.
Let’s take a look at each one in more detail.
Starling allows you to integrate your card with a marketplace feature that includes financial products.
Such products include investments, mortgages and pensions.
To integrate this marketplace, click the icon on the top right-hand side of the home screen.
Scroll down to ‘marketplace’ and click ‘get started’.
Accept the conditions and from then on you can browse through what it has to offer.
Freeze Your Card
If you ever lose or misplace your card, you can simply freeze it via the app.
This feature saves potentially long calls with banks.
So that’s a big positive!
I have to give it to challenger banks, they excel when it comes to overseas fees.
They have some of the fairest costs in the whole of the banking industry, contrary to popular opinion.
Starling is perhaps the best of all, having no additional transactional fees for overseas allowing you to spend freely.
You can get real-time information regarding your spending as soon as you make the payment.
That means you’ll be notified instantly.
This is especially handy when you have a joint and/or business account.
It’s a simple feature but a useful one that even traditional bank haven’t adopted.
You can find information regarding your standing order, direct debits and subscriptions all in one very useful place.
This means you’ll know in advance when money is coming out so you can manage your finances accordingly.
All you need to do is press ‘payments’ and move over to ‘scheduled’.
Simple as that.
Mobile Cheque Deposits
At the time of writing, I’m yet to see a feature of this kind by any other bank (at least that I have reviewed).
As you can imagine this is an extremely easy and practical way of cashing in cheques.
It should be noted that currently, only cheques up to £500 can be done via your phone.
However, this is still a sizable amount that will cover most cases.
This is a handy little feature that you can activate.
You can have all of your transactions rounded up to the nearest pound.
This excess money can then be moved to any of your saving goals.
With Starling, you can split payments with any contacts on your card.
Simply select who else needs to put there share into the bill and from then on you can monitor their payments through the app.
You’ll be notified when the payment is settled up.
Savings are an essential part of every healthy bank account.
Challenger banks have done a good job of adding further personalisation options.
This gives users more control over there money, particularly when it comes to savings.
To setup savings goal, simply go to ‘spaces’ and click ‘new space’
Set up a savings goal and label it.
From here you can manage, withdraw and add money.
Whenever you would like to access it in the future, it will appear under ‘spaces’.
Starling Bank has its dedicated section to spending reports.
Here you can find a list of all your transactions across the month.
No to mention, your spending habits for prior months.
To access your spending reports, simply click ‘spending’.
Is Starling Bank Safe?
Starling Bank is fully regulated by the FCA, meaning it has the same security levels as many other banks.
They must adhere to strict regulations under the FCA to ensure great care is taken with our personal and financial details.
The goals of the FCA are:
- To safeguard customers
- Enhance the integrity of the UK financial system
- To promote healthy competition to improve services for the public
If Starling Bank was for any reason to go bankrupt, your personal account is protected by the FSCS up to deposits of £85,000.
When it comes to joint accounts, you are protected up to £170,000.
In addition to this, within the Starling Bank app, you have a whole host of security settings you can adjust.
Within your card control settings, you can do things such as:
- Ban withdrawals with your card
- Prevent online and mobile payments
- Ban gambling transactions
It’s safe to say that Starling bank is protected with a list of options to further increase your account’s security.
Fees And Interest Rates
You’ll be glad to hear opening an account with Starling Bank is 100% free.
Starling Bank does not charge your card for withdrawals abroad at all.
Separating itself from competitors like Monzo that charge after your first withdrawal.
MoneySavingExpert featured Starling as one of the best banks to travel abroad with.
Having said that, you will have to pay the exchange rate on transactions and withdrawals dictated by Mastercard.
Like all banks, however, you will need to pay interest on your overdraft.
The rate will depend on your credit score amongst other factors, but Starling claims to be one of the fairest banks when it comes to fees.
Interest rates will range from 15%, 25% and 35% from arranged overdrafts.
Starling Bank promise they will not add any little extra charges on top of the interest rate too.
This is a nice reassurance as some banks can catch you out will the small print.
Your overdraft can be fully accessed and monitored through the app once approved.
In terms of international payments, Starling Bank charges 0.4% and have the option to send the payment faster (at a higher price)
Considering most banks charge upwards of 6%, this is a great deal.
Starling Bank Reviews
As with all of my reviews, I like to include other users experiences as well as my personal opinions to arrive at a more well-rounded conclusion.
This Starling Bank review will be no exception.
It may be rated the best bank 3 years on the trot, but what do individual users think of Starling?
(All Starling Bank reviews are courtesy of Trustpilot)
Here’s a quick overview of over 12,000 reviews.
First impressions suggest an overwhelming majority have left a positive review.
Nevertheless, we’ll take a look at a few in more detail because it doesn’t always paint an accurate picture.
Let’s first take a look at what the public think Starling Bank do well.
This is a prime example of what the ‘new school’ banks aim to bring to the market.
Easy, transparent and fast were common remarks made about Starling Bank.
It’s always promising to see a customer use the company for every type of account they provide.
In regards to the last comment, it’s an interesting point and would defiantly be a helpful feature for individuals who have a business account.
This customer touches on a few features I mentioned earlier in the review.
Going the extra mile to help unique attributes to produce positive reviews such as this.
It’s certainly clear that many traditional banks have fallen behind, in this case, the process and time it takes to cash in cheques.
Next up are reviews that classed Starling Bank as average.
Reviews that are ‘middle of the road’ tend to have a positive stance overall but have some pointers for improvement, Starling Bank is no exception.
This is a valid point regarding being able to have multiple accounts and would be useful for many people (including me).
Having said that, I would not be surprised if Starling does not change this because I would consider this more of a preference than a fault.
I can understand where this user is coming from as I made a similar remark on another bank review.
Affiliated companies with banks aren’t always the best, they merely feature on the app due to partnerships.
This means that banks aren’t always pointing their users to the best features in each respected field.
Having said that, we can’t be too harsh as Starling needs to make back the money it loses with lenient fees etc.
Here’s an interesting comparison between Starling and it’s number 1 competitor Monzo.
Monzo indeed has further refinement options at least when it comes to categorising your money.
But on the other hand, Starling has many other features in its favour.
Banks can always better themselves and I very much agree that this is a vital feature Starling will need in their favour.
This would help push the company past its competitors and will do so in a decisive manner.
Last up, we have more critical/negative Starling bank reviews.
I must admit I have seen various poor reviews regarding live chat replies so this is no outliner.
Although companies try they aren’t able to fix everyone’s problems, therefore, a disparity between opinions on customer service is inevitable.
Nevertheless, if you simply can’t get a hold of a company then this is unacceptable.
I have seen a few statements from users that support psychical banks for this reason alone which is understandable.
I must admit, the majority of the bad reviews concern this issue.
Coronavirus has impacted the economy significantly and it’s always small businesses that take the brunt of it.
The bounce-back loan (BBL) is provided to help put businesses back on their feet.
It would seem as though some of the ‘new school’ banks have fallen behind the more established banks such as Lloyds and Santander.
Concerning the 3-year requirement, I could not find any information to support this claim.
The bank was willing to offer the BBL to new customers providing they had opened a business or sole trader account.
These customers were met with a wave of rejections with poor or unclear explanations.
According to Comparebanks, 16% of applicants were denied a BBL with Starling.
Moneysavingexpert has just recently produced an article delving into this issue and note in the post that they will be filling some complaints to the FCA.
When it’s established whether or not Starling has breached any rules, I’ll be sure to update this section within the Starling Bank review appropriately.
This lastly ties in with some of the prior issues mentioned by some users.
It seems as though Starling bank need to work on their communication and overall registry process, particularly when it comes to business accounts.
(Note: There are little to no bad reviews regarding normal account registry)
To summarise these Starling Bank reviews, the company is on the right path and should be praised for that.
Not to mention, it’s essentially paving the way and setting the example for other challenger banks.
As a result, the company is not going to be perfect.
In this case, it seems to be the support system, particularly for users who have business accounts being the main criticism.
- Great features
- Safe and secure
- Clean interface
- Excellent reviews overall
- Best bank winner 3 times
- Communication has been poor for some users
- Bounce back loan criticisms
- Better options than listed companies on the marketplace
Final Thoughts On This Starling Bank Review
It’s clear that Starling Bank can make some improvements, but then again what business is perfect?
Considering they were one of the first companies to venture into the world of solely being a mobile bank, they have done an excellent job.
Sure enough, they have paved the way for some interesting and innovative competitors.
Having reviewed the majority of these challenger banks, I believe Starling Bank is the best currently, in my humble opinion.
That doesn’t mean to say positions won’t change in the future, because it’s inevitable in such a competitive market.
But it does mean I think they provide enough features and have a good enough reputation to separate themselves from the rest.
I’ll certainly be keeping my Starling Bank account, although I’ll most likely use it as a holiday savings account to take advantage of their overseas perks.
I’d also not object to having Starling as your main bank account if that was something you were considering.
At this point in time, I would air on the side of caution when it comes to setting up a business account purely due to the feedback I’ve featured.
No doubt Starling will tackle these issues head-on and I’ll look forward to updating this post when they do so.
If you enjoyed this Starling Bank review, consider checking out my reviews on other banks/software such as:
As always be sure to leave a comment if you enjoyed this Starling bank review or equally if you think I left any important details out.