Starling Bank Review Logo on white background

Starling Bank is one of a new breed of challenger banks promising to digitally revolutionise the traditional banking experience. If you’re an aspiring avocado eating, hipster-millennial putting all your traditional banking friends to shame, then read on. We review Starling Bank, what all the fuss is about and why millions have signed up. 

What is Starling Bank?

Starling Bank aims to shake up the traditional banking system promising “banking built for mobile living with insightful money management tools”.

What does this really mean for you and me? Well, like promised, you control your account via your mobile and there are no branches – no, this is NOT the account for your gran! Mobile apps are not new, every bank has one, so let’s look at what’s different.

Sexy tools

Moving to Starling will give you the sexy tools to manage your money better. If you are using a traditional high street bank these money management tools may exist but are usually ugly, clunky and difficult to use, so not many people use them.

Starling greatly improves on the mobile app provided by traditional high street banks by a mile. It puts you in control of a new set of tools traditionally held by bank staff. The Starling Bank app feels modern and clean, it looks great and has been designed to be intuitive and easy to navigate.

Starling provides extremely cost competitive banking services. There are no day to day charges unless you use your overdraft and if you are travelling abroad you can withdraw cash and only incur the MasterCard exchange rate.

Starling Bank App

Sexy features

The slick app generates instant notifications when a transaction takes place. Direct debits, standing orders and transfers all activte alerts that allow you to see in real time what’s happening with your money.

You can instantly suspend your card directly from the app. If you have ever been the victim of fraud and had money taken out of your account only to be notified a few days later this is a significant win.

Spending Insights automatically track and catagorise your spending, making budgeting and financial planning much easier.

‘Goals’ allow you to create separate savings pots inside your current account. You can add images and deposit money into each Goal, segregated from your main spending money.

Using Starling Bank account

Portrait Starling Bank Card
ooohhh portrait

You can use your Starling account just like any other high street bank. Starling send you a MasterCard debit card for day to day spending.

Direct debits and standing orders can be set up and managed from the app. Your salary can be paid directly into the account or you can move money in from another account.

The Starling Bank card

With Starling, you get a cool looking ‘portrait’ card. It functions exactly the same as a normal card but you are now an avocado eating, hipster, millennial – or at least you look like one.

From the time your new starling card arrives you have complete control. You activate your new card via the app and if you ever lose your card you can deactivate it here too.

Using your Starling Bank card abroad

Starling bank cards have been designed to travel. When you spend money abroad Starling add no commission so you only pay the MasterCard exchange rate.

Starling doesn’t charge ATM fees for withdrawing your cash abroad making Starling one of the top-rated debit cards from travelling.

You can send money to accounts in over 37 countries and 19 currencies directly from the app. Starling offer one of the best exchange rates with no fees added on top.

Is Starling Bank Safe?

Starling received its official banking licences in July 2016 from the Financial Conduct Authority. It is protected, like all other financial institutions, by the FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme) which guarantees to protect £85,000 of your money deposited with an institution. The FSCS has a specific page on Starling if you would like to know more.

Starling has built its banking services from the ground up and so has not had to deal with historical systems to upgrade and modernise for the digital era. Traditional banks like TSB have struggled with these types of upgrades and lost swathes of customers as a result.

Real-time notifications when transactions take place mean you can quickly disable your card if you detect some suspicious activity. With most other accounts there are numbers to call and customer service teams to deal with. All of which can be frustrating when you think someone is spending your money!

How do you pay cash into Starling Bank?

Being a digital only bank, Starling has no physical branches.

This is no matter, however, as there are many Post Offices throughout the country (though we may wonder for how long) where you can deposit your cash.

It’s a free service and you even withdraw cash here too. Nice.

See your receipts with Starling & Flux

Thanks to a recent partnership with Flux you can now see your full receipts in your Starling app from selected retailers. At the moment there are only a few retailers using Flux. Simply activate Flux in your Starling app via the 30-second process. Once complete you will be able to see a full breakdown of what you spent. Paper receipts could be a thing of the past!

What are the downsides?

There is really one we can think of that some may not like – perks, or lack of them.

Starling does not entice you by free insurance or breakdown cover. It doesn’t need to.

This does mean you may have to source you’re own, and that may be a hassle for some. But remember, the cost of these are always bundled into the packages from traditional banks and you get blind to that monthly fee.

The reality is that most people rarely use these services, which is why traditional banks offer them. Do the sums and you may find your better off without them and that pesky account fee.

Another big drawback that you might not be used to is that there is a £60 charge if you were to ever lose your bank card and need a replacement. Most banks will provide this service free of charge.

Best of both worlds

If however, you really value the perks from your traditional bank package, you can always keep and simply move your spending money into Starling.

This is a great way of budgeting and making sure you don’t over spend your disposable allowance.

Plus, you get access to all the fancy tools. It could be a win win.

Starling alternatives

The most popular alternative to Starling is Monzo bank. Monzo is another digital challenger bank and offers a lot of the same features including push notifications and budgeting help. Monzo currently lacks business banking facilities so this may be a deciding factor when choosing between the two. Check out our Monzo review here and decide for yourself.

Another competitor is Revolut. However, they have had some issues with customers being locked out of their accounts in mid-2018 and they are the most recent to pick up an official European banking licence (via Lithuania). We have not seen any issues like that with Monzo & Starling. Remember though, Lloyds and TSB were plagued with system issues in 2018, so it’s not just the new kids that can have problems.

How to apply for a Starling account

Switching to Starling bank is easy. You can apply within a few minutes directly from the app. When completed, your flashy portrait card should arrive within a few days.

Should you switch to Starling Bank?

Here at East Sleep Money, we love embracing any technology that makes life better, simpler or quicker.

The slick app and sexy tools will make money management easier.

If you are worried about security, then Starling will give you the ability to see your transactions in real time. Further to this, the ability to suspend your card if lost or stolen gives you peace of mind.

Whilst Starling doesn’t offer “perks”, you can always keep your traditional high street account and simply move your spending money into Starling to get the best of both worlds.

And finally, there’s that sexy portrait avocado debit card, and what’s not to love about that?

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Starling Bank review: do you want a sexy bank?
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