Starling Bank Review

Verdict

Starling Bank has been one of the success stories of the UK’s so-called ‘Challenger Banks’. While one challenger bank may use cookies to lure you into their fancy branches, Starling has successfully looked at what retail and small business customers really wanted from their day to day banking, started with a blank sheet of paper, and built a modern banking service from the ground up with the latest technology built to handle millions of transactions per day. Starling’s accounts work seamlessly on your mobile, are easy to open, easy to operate, and come with a host of genuinely nifty useful features that appear popular with Starling customers. To learn more, read more of this Starling Bank review below.

Brief Overview

Starling Bank began in 2014. Since then, Starling Bank has grown rapidly and now has over 1.25 million accounts, holds over £1.25 billion in deposits and has 800 employees across offices in London, Southampton, Cardiff and Dublin.

The key point to be aware of is that Starling Bank is an online only bank or a ‘mobile bank’. You will receive a debit card (which has a unique ‘portrait’ style design) from which you can make cash withdrawals, both in the UK and overseas. However, Starling has no physical bank branches and is operated via the Starling Bank app (in Android or IOS) and the Starling card. You can, however, make physical cash or cheque deposits at any branch of the Post Office, and you can also withdraw money from the Post Office. Cheques can also be posted to a Freepost address for processing.

Starling Bank Products

Starling Bank can provide you with a choice of:

  1. personal accounts
  2. business accounts
  3. loans, and 
  4. foreign exchange transfers. 

Account Opening 

Opening an account with a major High Street bank can be a major ordeal. If you walk into a branch to open a current account you are told to call customer service. After going home and navigating complex phone menu options and waiting on hold for ages, you are eventually given an appointment for 3 weeks time and told to bring a lengthy list of documents. And of course, for so long as the coronavirus crisis continues the branches are all closed down!

In comparison, opening a current account with Starling Bank is an absolute breeze and can be opened in just a few minutes using the Starling app. To do so, you simply:

  1. Download the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store on to your device
  2. Get started by entering your phone number into the app followed by the verification code that Starling will send you
  3. Create an account by telling Starling your name, date of birth, email address and current home address
  4. Verify who you are by recording a short selfie video and taking a photo of your photo ID (UK Drivers licence or passport).

Once your Starling Bank account is open, you can then also easily switch your bank account from another bank to Starling Bank, just by using the Starling Bank app. Simply open the app and go to ‘Account Management’ and select ‘Switch to Starling’, provide a few details and Starling does the rest. All your payees, direct debits, standing orders and other details will be automatically switched from your old bank to the new Starling personal account. 

CUSTOMER SERVICE

No-one cares too much about bank customer service until they have a problem, at which point it suddenly becomes existential! Whilst there are no branches, a Starling account comes with customer support in the United Kingdom 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can contact Starling via phone, email or chat. As this is Starling’s only means of communicating with their customers they obviously put a lot of effort into it and Starling staff appear to be well trained and very helpful. We have heard the occasional reports of calls dropping out, and slow response times, but this is probably to be expected when a bank is having to keep up with a rapidly growing customer base.

Key Account Features

A Starling Bank account comes with a package of innovative features, which are being added to or improved all the time. These include:

Instant Notification: Receive a message every time money leaves or enters your account. 

Card Controls: Use the Starling Bank app to lock your Starling debit card if you lose it. If you find your card, the app can be used to instantly unlock the card for you to immediately use the card again.

Spending pattern data: The Starling Bank app allows you to review all your transactions, including where, when and how you’re spending your money or withdrawing money using your card. 

Round-ups: Within the Starling app, you can round up transactions to the nearest pound and put the change into your savings, a bit like having your own online ‘change jar’.

Savings ‘Goals’: You can also create ‘Goals’ in the Starling Bank app. This feature of the app lets you save money for the things you want by setting money aside for your Goal. Its not quite a separate savings account but the app acts in a similar kind of way.

Settle-Up: The Starling Bank app lets you review and manage your IOUs from your mobile. It’s just a matter of a few taps in the app and a single link – useful for things like splitting a restaurant bill.

Money Transfer: Within the banks app app you can also make foreign money transfers. This allows you to send money from your Starling account to a range of  38 countries in 20 currencies worldwide including euro, US dollar, rand, baht and zloty by simple bank transfer via the app. Starling also offer a Euro account.

The Starling Business account also comes with some additional features, including the ability to link your account to certain accounting software, like QuickBooks, Xero and FreeAgent for example, and never manually upload a statement again. The Starling Bank app also allows you to stay organised by capturing your receipts in-app as you go, and can automatically put your expenses into business categories to simplify your reporting process.

Fees, Charges and Interest

What is FREE

Starling offers its current account or business account free of monthly charges. Starling also won’t charge you any money for making electronic payments from the app, domestic transfers or ATM withdrawals. Starling won’t charge you for card payments or ATM withdrawals whilst you are on holiday, whether in Europe or elsewhere. Also, with Starling you get Mastercard’s globally accepted exchange rate, with no added fees on top.

What is NOT FREE?

Business account deposit fees: Like much of the rest of the banking industry, while a Starling personal current accounts is free, a business account is a giant rip-off for many small businesses. On a Starling business account, you will be charged £3.00 PER DEPOSIT up to £1,000 made into your account, and 0.3% on any deposit of more than £1,000. If you’re a small business with high turnover, that can mean a lot of money being eaten up by bank fees! While the Starling Business account comes with a range of additional features which you might find helpful (discussed above), consider carefully whether those features are worth the money you pay the bank and whether you might be better served by running your business through a personal account instead. 

Overdrafts: Starling Bank offers a flexible overdraft on your bank current account. You will pay interest only on the amount of money you borrow from the bank, charged at 15% EAR with no hidden fees. From 1 April 2020, Starling will be applying rates of 15%, 25% and 35% EAR (variable) for arranged overdrafts based on your credit score. 

Earn Interest

You can earn interest from Starling Bank at competitive interest rates on personal current account balances. Starling pays an interest rate of 0.5% AER on balances up to £2,000 and 0.25% on balances up to £85,000. From 18th May 2020, Starling will be paying a rate of 0.05% on balances up to £85,000.

No interest is payable on business accounts.

Security 

Starling Bank has a banking license and is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK. Like other Challenger Banks regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, your money is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, up to an aggregate amount of £85,000. Regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority also means that you are protected by strong UK rules against things like misselling and have other important consumer rights. 

Mobile App Review

Starling Bank is an app only ‘mobile bank’. As the Starling mobile app is the heart of the bank service, this review will focus on the functionality of the Starling app itself, something which has come under close scrutiny in other Starling Bank reviews. It reviews the app in relation to the Starling Bank personal current account, rather than the Starling Bank business account. However, the app for the business account operates in a very similar manner in most respect.

Download and launch

The Starling bank app can be downloaded from the Apple Store or from Google Play and is available in Android or IOS.
Once downloaded, the app is launched with touch ID, requiring your fingerprint. There are then four main sections of the Starling mobile app.

Home screen

Whenever you open the Starling Bank app it will display your Home screen.

The Home screen automatically displays your ‘Live Balance’. Money can be added to your balance by tapping on the ‘+’ icon and making a debit card transaction or you can pay moeny in using Apple Pay. Alternatively, you can tap on the Switch button, which is a quick way to get your current account with our old bank switched across to Starling Bank.

The Home screen also gives options to display your live transactions for the day (labelled ‘The Pulse’ by Starling), or you can view transactions in date order, search transactions and view individual details of each transaction, or attach receipts (by photographing them) and notes to transactions for your later reference. The individual transaction detail is far greater than available from a standard high street bank, with the time of transaction and a map location showing where the transaction took place automatically displayed for easy viewing. That applies for both purchases and also ATM cash withdrawals.

Pay screen

The ‘Pay’ screen first of the Starling current account displays any new or existing contacts to whom you have paid or wish to pay money. Tapping on a contact within the app displays their bank account number and sort code. Also shown is how much money you’ve sent to that account in the last year, as well as details of your last payment. Each contact can be assigned a photo, making them easy to identify.

Scheduled payments and direct debits can also be viewed along with details of the last payment made to the bank account of payees. Tapping the bottom of the payee’s details reveals your transaction history with that payee. This provides a really clear look at all your direct debits and how much money you’ve paid out.

The Starling Bank app also gives the option to ‘Complete a Foreign Payment’. Rates and fees are clearly displayed and any transaction can then be easily paid from your current account to the bank account of any payee you have set up within the app.

The final function available on the ‘Pay’ screen is the ‘Settle UP’. Settle Up is a new function to Starling, where you get your own unique link to your Starling current account. You can share that link via email, text, WhatsApp, etc, along with a short message requesting payment of some amount. The shared link takes the recipient of your message to the Starling Bank website, where the recipient can then make the payment via card or other means (e.g. ApplePay), as well as leave a short message back to you. This is a great way you can receive payments into your current account from friends without having to go through the hassle of providing them with your bank account details, which can make your current account less secure.

Spending screen

One of the key features of the Starling Bank mobile app is its way of displaying your spending. The Spending screen allows you to :
See your spending in different months;

  1. See spending by categories;
  2. See spending by Merchants;
  3. See location of payment via Map;
  4. Edit Merchants if incorrect.

Looking at spending month by month will show your spending by category, e.g. Groceries, Bills, Eating Out, Entertainment. Tapping on a category will show you each transaction falling within that category. If Starling doesn’t have full details of a merchant you have paid, the Starling app allows you to suggest information to Starling, who may update their data based on your sugestion. As mentioned above, the Starling app also allows you to identify a transaction and then add a note or a photo (e.g. of a receipt) to help with your record keeping.

Account Control Screen

The Account Control screen is the screen which enables the following:

  1. Personal details, including contact phone number, email address, and home address, can be viewed and amended;
  2. Account Management, displays your sort code and account number and allows you to easily share them with other;
  3. Log-in and security settings, enables you to change your passcode and password, or turn ‘Touch ID’ on or off. The Starling App also allows you to add different devices, giving them access to the bank account, by scanning a QR code;
  4. Notification settings for mobile transactions, allowing you to receive instant notifications of every transaction as it happens;
  5. Legal Documents can be viewed;
  6. Statements (partial and full month) can be produced and easily shared;
  7. Customer Service, enables you to contact and view your interactions with Starling Bank’s customer service team. Contacting Starling from within the Starling app means that the security measures are automatically passed so you can get straight into dealing with whatever your issue is. A helpful FAQ is also easily accessible;
  8. Marketplace, allows you to connect your Starling Bank account to approved third party service providers, such as loyalty schemes, investments, insurance, etc;
  9. Card, enables you to see your debit card details, including the security number. This is visible as soon as your account is set up so you can immediately use your card details for any online transactions without having to wait for your physical card to arrive by snail mail. Use of your physical card can also be locked from within the Starling app, preventing its use if you think the card is lost or stolen. Using your password, you can also use your Starling app to retrieve your card PIN, in case you forget it. The Starling app also provides additional security options, such as sharing your location data with Starling Bank for fraud prevention, and restricting card usage for contactless, ATM withdrawals. online usage, mobile wallet, or gambling.

Financial Goals screen

The Financial Goals screen is another innovative feature of the Starling personal account. You can set up goals that you are saving your money for, to help you save that money. You can set up target money amounts, set regular contributions, and add images from your camera roll to give a little extra inspiration. Its not a separate account and your money is available if you need it but it is a nifty motivational tool to help you maybe adjust your spending habits and save the money you want.

Starling Bank – Legal

Starling Bank is registered in England and Wales as Starling Bank Limited (Company registration number 09092149). It is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority under registration number 730166. It is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to provide financial services. Starling Bank is a member of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme under which your money is protected from the insolvency of Starling Bank up to the amount of £85,000.

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