Can this new digital current account compete with Starling and Monzo?
I’ve been using the new account from Chase Bank for a few weeks now which means I can take you through my initial thoughts.
My video review
Watch this review from my YouTube channel to hear my thoughts on the account as well as a chance to see the card and the app in action.
What is Chase Bank UK?
Chase Bank is the retail banking arm of global finance giants JP Morgan Chase. It’s one of the biggest banks in the USA, and in September 2021 it finally launched a UK current account (it was meant to arrive in the Spring!).
What does Chase Bank offer?
As I’ll detail below, the big selling points for the Chase Bank UK current account are:
- 1% cashback on spending
- 5% interest on limited savings
- Fee-free spending abroad
- Advanced app functionality
1% cashback on spending
The big draw for this account is the 1% cashback you earn on most of your everyday spending. This rate is much better than most on the market, though some specialist cards can beat it in specific circumstances (e.g. 1.25% at John Lewis or 1.5% at Amazon with their own cards – more details here).
Sadly the cashback is only for 12 months – starting when you activate the offer in the app. You’ve got to assume it’s just a welcome offer that won’t be extended – though you never know!
It takes a few days for the cashback to come through but when it does you can instantly transfer it to your account – there’s no waiting as you do with some Amex cards or payout thresholds like with some store specific reward cards.
You won’t be able to earn cashback on everything. In fact there’s a long list of exclusions. The key ones include tax payments, debt repayments, cash withdrawals, funding accounts and prepaid cards (eg Revolut), money transfers and savings bonds.
There are also some large purchases ruled out, such as car purchases (and even servicing or repairs), student fees and estate agent fees.
5% interest on savings
This sounds exciting, but you won’t be able to put a huge amount of cash into this separate pot. The money can only be added via round-ups on your purchases (details on this below).
Effectively this means the most you can ‘deposit’ is 99p each time you use your debit card. In reality it’ll be much less. Potentially just a few pence.
Let’s say you use your debit card 30 times a month, the most you’ll add to the account will be £29.70. Over a year this would earn you less than a tenner.
To open this account you need to select “add” on the home page and choose “Save your spare change” account.
After 12 months the money will be moved out of the separate account (though you can withdraw it earlier if you wish).
The money is fully protected (up to £85,000) by the FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme).
As with most digital banks, you can also use your debit card abroad for purchases or ATM withdrawals without any charges. Factor in the cashback and this now becomes the number one card to use overseas.
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The Chase debit card
Once your account is approved you can request your physical debit card and set your PIN in the app (though you’ll need to go to an ATM if you want to change it again). You can also choose how you want your name to appear on the card.
Looks-wise it’s actually pretty slick. A deep navy blue and quite minimalist. But it’s still just a card so it’s not a reason to chose this account. You can see what it looks like in my video above. The card is also made from recyclable material.
The card itself is a Mastercard which means it should be accepted pretty much anywhere.
When it does arrive you’ll notice there are no other details on there. No sort code. No account number. No long card number. Not those three CVV digits you use to verify purchases. There’s not even a space to sign the card.
Instead all those details are on the app (apart from the signature, obviously). Chase says this is a security measure, but I find it a little annoying. I’d much rather they just put these on the back of the card (something Starling does) as well as in the app.
Though if it was an either / or I much prefer being able to copy the details from the app to paste – though that only works if I’m shopping on my phone rather than my desktop.
Using Apple Pay, Google Pay and Curve
You can quickly add the card to Apple Pay from within the app.
I was also able to add the card to my Curve account even before I had received the physical version. I simply grabbed the details from the Chase app.
It’s not yet available on Google or Samsung Pay, though you could sign up to Curve and then add your Curve card to your phone as a way around this.
I’ve used both Apple and Curve to make purchases and it’s been fine. This includes filling up on petrol where the payment is pre-authorised before you’ve actually started using it. Though I only put £30 into the tank, the payment initially tracked at £50, but a few days later corrected itself.
The Chase App
Despite its long history in America, the Chase UK app is much closer to what you’d see from Starling and Monzo than the traditional UK high street banks.
It’s all quite clear and simple. It doesn’t take too many clicks to find what you want (an issue I sometimes have with Starling).
Here are some of the key features:
You can add as many extra current accounts to your app as you wish. This is effectively a similar device to Monzo’s Pots or Starling’s Spaces.
You can rename them, useful if you want to use this feature for specific saving goals or budgeting. It’s easy to transfer money between these accounts in the app.
These come with their own account number and sort code. So you could potentially use these to have an account for your salary to be paid into, and a different one set aside for paying your rent or bills (I’ll talk more about Direct Debits in a moment).
Each account can be linked to your debit card as and when you wish. This is a great feature for anyone putting specific cash into a different sub-account, though it has to be done in advance (I’d love a “back in time” feature as you get with Chip). And you’ll need to remember to switch back to your main pot after.
A feature more and more banks are offering now. Every time you spend money, Chase can round-up to the nearest pound and move that excess amount to a separate savings pot. For the first year you’ll earn 5% AER on the amount saved this way.
So if you spend £1.80, that would mean 20p would be moved over. It’s actually an effective way of moving more money into savings each month, though I much prefer the auto-savings AI you find with Plum.
As mentioned you need to open up a separate “Spare change” account from the app’s landing page.
Managing your card
It’s very easy to access your debit card from the app – it’s at the top of the home screen. You can quickly see the card details and PIN. You are able to freeze the card temporarily or order a replacement.
You can also set up new details for your physical card if you’re worried they’ve been compromised online – though there’s a limit to how often you can do this.
It’s possible to turn on and off things like contactless, chip & PIN, cash withdrawals, gambling transactions and overseas payments in the card controls.
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Copy and paste account details
As I mentioned it’s easy to select your card details to input into a website for payment to add your card to Curve.
You can also do this with the account details of all the current accounts you have. However this option isn’t as slick as with Starling as you can only share all the details (via messages, email, WhatsApp etc) rather than copy just the account number or just the sort code. The way around this is to copy them once you’ve added them to a text.
Track your spending
Within each current account you’ll see a chart showing your total spending and money in and out for each month.
On the app home page you’ll find a more detailed analysis with your spending broken down by category, again month by month. However this will be across all your current accounts.
You can change the category if you think the automatically selected one isn’t right. I had to move a few things around, but the options are pretty decent:
- Going out
- 24/7 in-app support
- The Chase app supports Face ID
There are a handful of ‘normal’ banking services which Chase doesn’t offer.
No Direct Debits
The major drawback to Chase is there is, as yet, no function to set up Direct Debits. This means you can’t use those extra accounts to pay your bills! It’ll come, but who knows when.
No cash or cheque deposits
There’s no way to pay in cash or a cheque direct to your Chase account. In reality this is only going to be a minor frustration as I’d always recommend you have more than one current account, and that one of those lets you do those things!
Is Chase any good?
I quite like the app. It’s simple enough to find everything and has enough going on to make it better than most banks. But I’d still say Monzo and Starling have much better interfaces and features.
However, the main reason everyone should be getting this account is the 1% cashback for a year. It’s easy passive income on your everyday spending that could well add up to £100 or more.
I wouldn’t use it as your main account though. The lack of Direct Debits obviously is a big reason for this, but I also think it’s better to use this just for spending.
Rather than have your salary sent here, only transfer across your ‘spare money’. This is really just any cash you have that isn’t already earmarked for paying bills (put this in a Santander 123 Lite account) or going into savings (find the best rates here).
Not only will you earn the cashback on that spending, you’ll have the added benefit of the spending analysis feature – helping you see where you might actually be overspending.
How to sign up to Chase
The new account is digital-only, meaning you need a phone and the Chase app to open and manage your account. There are no branches, and I doubt there will be.
You must be 18 years old or over and a UK resident only. You also need to pay your tax in the UK.
At launch there’s a waitlist to get access to the account. You can join this by downloading the app. There’s no set time for how long you’ll have to wait. I was one of the first to apply and it took three days. I know others have been waiting a lot longer.
When you finally reach the front of the queue you’ll get a text message and an email with a unique code letting you know you can start the full application.
You need to enter the usual personal details and there’s a digital ID verification. The latter involves taking a selfie and uploading a photo of your driving licence or passport. Once you’ve done this Chase will perform a soft credit check (this means the search won’t appear on your credit report).
It took a few hours for my account to be verified, though I know for some it was almost instant.