Starling Bank is a fully licensed bank built on a platform for the modern era. There are no branches around the UK, and their main focus is to bring the tech world into the stale world of banking. Their vision of banking is to have everything you could possibly need at your fingertips on your mobile phone. Whether that is being approved for an overdraft or setting up new bank accounts. There is no need to go into a branch to have a meeting with the bank manager for approval.
However, there is some argument to be made about how essential a challenger bank such as Starling is required. In 2021, most large UK banks have a fully operational app where the vast majority of issues can be solved through your mobile phone. So, what makes Starling Bank unique in this respect, and might you want to consider opening an account with them?
In this Starling Bank Review, we will look at all of the features of Starling, so that by the end of this, you will be in an informed position to decide whether or not they are the bank for you!
How Starling Bank Works
Starling focuses on the basics, and does them very well. The app itself is very intuitive to use, offering a simplistic design that even the most tech-averse could get to grips with quickly.
One query you may have is if Starling has no bank branches, then how do you deposit cash? Well, they have a setup with The Post Office where you can deposit cash at any one of the their 11,500 branches throughout the UK.
Starling Personal Banking
Starling’s bread and butter is the Personal Current Account. For this,it was awarded ‘Best Current Account Provider’ in 2019 and 2020 at the British Bank Awards. From this account, you will get a rate of 0.05% AER (Annual Equivalent Rate) on balances up to £85,000 within your account.
The Personal Current Account has the ability to apply for an arranged overdraft facility. This works in the traditional manner of an overdraft. Starling offers interest rates from 15% APR (variable) depending on various factors such as your credit score. You are able to set strict limits upon your overdraft. For example, you can set an option within the app to limit the overdraft facility to cap itself at £250. This capping ability within the app gives you absolute control over your overdraft facility, and makes sure you cannot accidentally overspend. This feature is a real shining benefit for Starling Bank at this current difficult time. Many of us are facing potential financial challenges, with many of us being on furlough. The little extra support of Starling’s overdraft can really go a long way.
One of the best features of the Starling Overdraft is that there are no extra fees beyond the interest you pay, and that’s even the case if you go over your overdraft limit.
On top of the overdraft function, you can also apply for small personal loans. Starling won’t provide large loans to the extent of mortgages. However, if you’re in need of a smaller loan that is less expensive than a conventional “pay day” loan, then this is likely to be quite helpful for you. Depending on your eligibility, Starling may allow you to borrow anywhere from £500 to £5,000 at a representative APR of 11.5%.
You could also set up a joint account with your significant other easily through the app. This allows for joint management of your personal finances. In order to gain access to this feature, you will both need to have your own individual personal banking account with Starling, and then you can set the joint account up by keeping your phones close to one another.
Features of Starling Bank
It was stated before that Starling isn’t too different in terms of the banking functions compared to the big dogs in the banking world. You can pay money in and out of your account, there is a debit card that works in a conventional manner, and you can handle most functions through a mobile app. So, what sets Starling apart from the Lloyds’ HSBC’s and RBS’ of the UK? Well, it all comes down to the functionality within the Starling app, which brings in a far more user involved experience. While your conventional banking app provides the bare minimum requirements, there are loads of features in the Starling app which can really assist your personal finance management:
You can log into the app and see some in-depth personal data about your spending habits. This for me is the real outstanding feature of Starling, as I really enjoy being able to drill down into where my money goes. This feature includes details on where you have been spending your money and sorts everything into unique categories. For example, at the end of the month, I like to see what ‘bucket’ I have spent most of my money on. I generally try to limit my spending in certain categories, such as ‘Eating Out’.
This feature is only useful if you know other people who also use Starling Bank, but is an incredibly useful feature if you do. This will allow you to send money to other Starling Bank account holders without needing to get all of their account details. Simply open up the app on your mobile, go to Payments > Nearby Payments and locate the person via Bluetooth and send the required cash. This is powered by Google Nearby.
Something which I quite like the functionality of is the ability to freeze/unfreeze your card. Have you ever lost your card, and frantically spent hours on hold phoning your bank to freeze your card and request a new one? Only to then find your card the following day? This is a potential headache saver for you. On top of this function, you are also able to add certain blockers to your account, for things such as gambling.
As someone who needs a reminder for everything, this feature allowed me to stay on the ball for the landmarks I needed to pay attention to. For example, as soon as you go into your overdraft, your mobile will ‘ping!’ and let you know, or if a certain transaction occurs, you can tell the app to let you know. You also receive direct debit reminders. This means that Starling provides far more user involvement regarding the activity within your account, and something that is drastically missing on many conventional Bank’s app offerings.
Starling is surprisingly budget friendly compared to your traditional bank in the UK, especially if you’re not borrowing any money from them (overdrafts or personal loans). Any domestic money transfers are free, and there are no fees to deposit or withdraw cash within the UK (although you do need to visit a Post Office to deposit). All in all, the general basic banking services and transactions are completely free. There are some small fees for international payments, and this is dependent on how much cash you are sending, as well as the country you are sending it to.
Is Starling Bank Safe?
This, to me, is the most important factor when choosing what bank, you wish to use. Is your money going to be safe? Starling is covered under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), which means that your eligible deposits are covered for up to £85,000 if Starling were to close its doors.
In terms of avoidance of Fraud, they are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as well as adhering to the Contingent Reimbursement Model (CRM). In short, this means that you will be refunded for any unauthorised transactions that are made from your account. This also covers you in the event of bring scammed by someone into sending money voluntarily, so long as you have not acted negligently.
In terms of general security, you need to provide video and photo ID to even set up the account. This limits the ability for fraudsters to set up accounts in your name and likeness. There’s the account/card freeze function previously discussed (and this can be done within seconds on the app). You will also be automatically notified on your mobile if there are any suspicions of fraudulent activity on your account. Unlike conventional banks, where you may not find out until you look at the individual transactions, by which time, a lot of damage could have occurred.
Starling Bank – Pros and Cons
- No ATM or transaction fees from Starling (even when abroad, there may be local ATM charges)
- Competitive interest rates (when compared to other UK bank accounts)
- Easy to use features (even anti-tech users can get to grips with it)
- Quick and easy setup
- Great security features
- Fully licenced by the PRA & FCA
- No physical branches – Not essential, but sometimes can be missed, and may put some people off
- May not suit those who regularly have to deposit cash into their account, unless you live close to a post office
- Larger financial products are limited (no mortgages or large loans)
Should you setup a Starling Bank account?
Many users give Starling very high praise indeed. The app is incredibly simple to use, and offers features which the more traditional banks just haven’t even thought of, despite how simplistic and useful they are.
Starling’s features are growing each year, and I can only imagine the further benefits that will be given to Starling Bank customers.
This is an essential account in my mind if you travel a lot. The ability to have everything in the palm of your hand via your phone, and also the ability to withdraw cash for free when abroad makes this the #1 account for travellers in my view.