Starling bank review: 4.5/5

We’ve rated and tested Starling Bank to find out if it’s any good

Starling was the first digital bank to get a banking licence, potentially altering our expectations of bank accounts for good with its budgeting features, handy app and generous spend abroad allowances. Here’s what we think of Starling. 

Starling Current Account

App rating4.5/5
Current account rating4.5/5
Rewards rating2/5

Be Clever With Your Cash rating: 4.5/5

We’ve taken a look at the features and fees of Starling to find out whether it’s any good. Here are our overall scores, you can read more in detail below.

Starling is one of our favourite banks at Be Clever With Your Cash. It’s got no fees, a great app and it’s an excellent choice for spending abroad.

It’s not an account to choose for rewards, so don’t expect to be blown away with cashback or exceptional savings rates.

There’s a free connected children’s card too.

Smart Money People rating: 4.95/5

Find out what users like you think from the reviews they leave on Smart Money People:

Positive reviewers feel that the customer service is exceptional, even though it has no branches. They rave about all of the features available and love that the child account is free.

Negative reviewers don’t like that Starling blocks certain transactions – a specific type mentioned is the purchase of cryptocurrencies. Some took issue with the lack of branches.

What is Starling?

Starling is a digital bank meaning it’s all managed within the app – there aren’t any branches. It’s pretty similar to Monzo and Revolut in that respect, though other than that it works the same as traditional bank accounts.  

Types of Starling account

Starling has four accounts: a personal, joint, teen and business account.

Unlike some of its competitors, Starling doesn’t have additional tiers of accounts that offer extra features for a cost. This is quite refreshing – you know that what you see is what you get, and there aren’t better savings rates, features or card types hidden behind a paywall.

This does mean that you can’t pay for additional rewards such as insurance, lounge access or investing.

This review is focused on the standard and joint current account, although many of the features are the same on the teen and business versions.

The Starling app: 4.5/5 

The app is the main reason you’d sign up for a Starling account – this is where you can see how digital banks have an edge against traditional banks and their banking apps. 

Design and customisation

From the moment you download the Starling app, you can see that it’s definitely a new take on the way bank accounts typically look. It’s got a modern and sleek design, with a broad overview of your account as soon as you log in.

However you might have to tap a little more than you’d like to find some of the less used features.

You can’t customise Starling as much as with other apps – the best you can do is have all the Spaces that work for you, which we get to later. But you can’t get the homepage to show you specific analysis that you care about. 

Desktop banking

One thing you can do with Starling, and something not offered by its closest digital-only competitors, is that you can also access your account online, not just within the app. There aren’t as many features available, but you can see your spending insights, set up payments and manage your card.

Categorisation and notifications

When you spend money or money leaves your account, you’ll get an instant notification. Starling will automatically categorise the money you’ve spent, which allows you to get a better understanding of where your money is going. There are at least 40 categories, including eating out, bills, groceries, pets and shopping. 

Within the app, you can see a pie chart of your spending, giving you a good insight into how you spend proportionately. 

You can easily change the category for a transaction. This can be handy in circumstances where your spending doesn’t quite match the category it is assumed to be — for example, if you spend a fortune at John Lewis on a new bed for your dog, you can categorise it as “pets” rather than “shopping”. 

Budgeting features

Within the app, you can set a budget for each category. Starling keeps track of how you’re doing against your budget as you go, telling you how far over or below your budget for each category that you are. You can adjust this whenever you want, so you can set really strict never-gonna-happen goals on day one and make them a bit more realistic down the line.

In addition, you can set up “Spaces”, which allow you to set aside money from your main account – really handy if you want to ring fence cash for certain expenditure or savings goals.

Best of all though you can use this for your bills, whether a space for all bills or create spaces for individual categories. Starling lets you pay your bills straight from these Spaces. You do this by tapping “Manage Space” and “Pay bills from this Space”. Here, you’ll get to choose the direct debits and standing orders that you want to go from this space. You can also set an automatic top-up from your main balance to make sure the payment doesn’t bounce. Starling will top the Space up with the required amount to pay your bills. 

You can also activate a round-up feature to help passively move money to one of your Spaces to boost how much goes to your savings.

And though it’s not actually related to the app itself, Starling can help you with your budgeting even if you don’t open an account – you can access a budgeting calculator on its website. This is simply a calculator – you could easily do it yourself with a piece of paper and the calculator app on your phone – but it does help you think more logically about your money. 

Card controls

Once you’ve made an account with Starling and it’s all set up, you can order yourself a physical card in the app, but you can also set it up as a virtual card with Apple Pay and Google Pay. If you want to set it up with your Fitbit, Garmin Watch or on Samsung Pay, you’ll need the physical card. 

As seems to be standard with digital banks, you can grab all of your card details from the app when making payments online. You can also view your PIN, freeze (and unfreeze) your card and order a new card. 

If you’d like to, you can reduce your contactless limit down to as little as £10. You can have individual contactless limits for all of your cards, too. The magstripe is disabled by default, but you can turn this on in your settings. 

Virtual cards

With Starling, you can have up to five virtual cards, each with their own card number, expiry date and CVV. You can set these up with Apple and Google Pay and have them take money from specific “Spaces”, which we mentioned in the budgeting features section above. 

For someone who’s dedicated to budgeting, this could be a great tool as it allows you to make payments straight from your dedicated budget. However, you might just find yourself a little confused about which card to use when you’re standing at the checkout. 

These virtual cards can be used multiple times, unlike Revolut’s single-use cards, which you might opt for if you’re concerned about your card details being shared. 

Sending and receiving money in the Starling app

Starling makes it easy to send and receive money, as well as view how much you owe friends — or they owe you. 

If you head out to dinner with friends, you can use Starling’s Settle Up feature to split the bill, even if your friends don’t use Starling. You can drop them a link and they can make a payment to you without your bank details. 

You can receive up to £250 per day with this method, so it’s not ideal if you’re splitting a holiday, certainly if your friends all pay you back immediately (though how realistic is that?). 

When sending the link, you can request a specific amount, avoiding those awkward back-and-forths of “how much is my part again?”. 

If anyone wants to send you money via a bank transfer, then you can share your account details and copy your account details with them and pop them a text with a message about how old fashioned they are – just kidding.

When sending money via a bank transfer, you can set up payees directly from the app, as well as set up and amend standing orders. If you’re texted the details, you can even copy and paste the details straight in. 


Like most banking apps, the Starling app is secured with biometrics or a passcode. 

You’re able to make payments with Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Garmin Pay and Fitbit Pay. Plus, if you want to connect external apps, such as Emma, Cheddar or Airtime Rewards then you can do so with Open Banking.

Starling rewards and extras: 2/5

Rewards aren’t really something Starling does, though the option to earn interest on in-account balances is better than most other banks. 

Saving rates with Starling

Unlike most banks, you can earn interest in the main Starling account at 3.25% AER variable on up to £5,000. 

This is actually pretty decent for in-account interest, so at least you’re earning on money that needs to sit in your account for things like bills and daily spending.

Though this rate also applies to money held in separate Spaces, you’d be better off moving that cash to a higher paying account elsewhere.

There’s also a separate fixed-rate savings Space you can open, where you can lock away your money for a year. At the time of writing it offers 4.48% AER fixed. This can be beaten elsewhere, so it’s not necessarily worthwhile.

Cashback with Starling

While you can’t get cashback directly from Starling, you can access it using the Tail app, which has regularly changing retailer specific offers. Tail can be connected up to a Starling (or a Monzo) account and will track the spending you do with the card.

The retailers available are pretty much the same as you get with most other cashback sites, and in some cases, you can only get cashback on the first tracked purchase.

You have to set this up separately to your Starling account, and you need to let it access your Starling transaction history using Open Banking.   

Starling welcome offer 

Starling doesn’t have a switch offer or welcome offer, but you can get a free National Trust day pass and a tree planted in your name if you refer a friend, and the friend you refer gets a day pass, too. This is obviously not a benefit to sign up for, but could be a nice-to-have if you want a Starling account anyway. 

If you’re looking for banks with good switching, referral or welcome offers available, there are a few available at the moment that you could choose to go with. 

Starling is a fully licensed bank and is signed up to the Current Account Switching Service (CASS), which means that you can switch in and out of it and it could be used as a “burner account” for switching from.

However, be careful with this as you’ll have to wait a year before you’re able to reapply for a new account. We’ve heard of people that have been successful in getting in touch to bypass this.

Latest bank switch offers (A-Z)

As of 17/4/24

Click the links for further details and analysis

Starling current account: 4.5/5 

As a current account, Starling is really good. It scores well all round, with all the basics you’d expect from a current account and great for use abroad. 

Account basics

If you want to set up or amend standing orders or direct debits, you can do this directly from the app or using online banking. 

To pay in cash, you’ll have to head to the Post Office (there’s a branch locator within the app), but that’s better than the other digital-only banks.

If you’re given a cheque, you can pay it in directly from the app as long as it’s under £1,000. Cheques over this amount need to be posted to Starling. 

You can withdraw up to £300 in cash per day, which is in line with most traditional bank accounts. 

There’s a huge £1m daily transfer limit to UK bank accounts. Most banks allow around £25,000 while Monzo and Nationwide are capped at £10,000, so this is decent if you are likely to send large amounts.

However, really large payments can take a while to be manually approved (they’re looked at from 9 to 5 on weekdays, so avoid doing this after Friday afternoon as nothing will happen until Monday!).

Debit card

This account comes with a Mastercrd debit card that you can order as soon as your account is set up. You don’t have to pay for delivery. It’s teal green and has the important card details on the back rather than the front.

You can use the virtual cards straight away, so it can be added to your Google Pay or Apple Pay from the get-go. 

Going abroad with Starling

Starling is one of the best options for going abroad. You can spend as much as you like without incurring any fees  — the spending limit and ATM withdrawal limits are exactly the same as when you’re at home, just be careful of ATMs that charge, and make sure you pay in the local currency.

You get the Mastercard exchange rate when you spend abroad. If you want an account that uses the interbank rate, Revolut does, but it’s more restricted for use abroad.  

However there are better options than this, as detailed in our best debit and credit cards for travelling article.

Starling account fees

Starling is a free bank account – there aren’t any paid upgrades except for if you have a connected card.

You don’t have to pay for the card to be delivered, though you have to pay £5 for a replacement if you lose your card.  

Starling overdraft

Starling offers an overdraft facility for short-term borrowing. You might be offered 15%, 25% or 35% once you’ve had a credit check. Since most other bank’s overdrafts are at 40% these are all lower cost, but it’s still better to avoid using one if you can avoid it and there are better options.

Joint accounts

In addition to its personal account, you can have a joint account to help simplify shared payments, whether you’re sharing the cost for bills, fuel, dog food or meals out. It works the same as above but you can both access it.

To get a Starling joint account, you need to both register for a personal account, then once it’s set up and you’re in the same room, you can do it from the account switcher above your balance and select “open a new account”. 

Starling Kite children’s card

Starling account holders can get a free children’s debit card called Starling Kite that’s linked to a Space in your own account. It’s for 6-15 year olds and comes with its own version of the app to help children learn about money and budgeting.

You’ll be able to set limits and goals and keep an eye on things from your own app. They’ll also get the 3.25% interest here – though that £5,000 limit is across all of your different Spaces.

Connected cards

In addition, you can have a “Connected Card”. This is a card that’s connected to a specific Space within your app that you can give to trusted friends and family. They’ll be able to spend with the card but won’t be able to access your account or spend over the amount that’s in the dedicated Space. 

This could be good if there’s someone who shops on your behalf, like a nanny or carer.  If you subscribed to this on or after 3 September 2020, it costs £2 per month.

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Starling Smart Money People rating: 4.95/5

Over at Smart Money People, customers have scored the Starling Current account 4.95 out of 5. 

When we look at just the customer service scores, customers gave a rating of 4.93 out of 5.

Positive reviewers feel that the customer service is exceptional, even though it has no branches, although some of the negative reviews mentioned that they felt that the lack of branches was a let down. Customers rave about all of the analysis features available and love that the child debit card is free. 

The fact that you can use the account fee-free abroad is a favourite among customers. 

Negative reviewers don’t like that Starling blocks the purchase of cryptocurrencies and feel that they should be allowed to spend their money how they wish. They also feel that the savings rates could be better. 

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Is Starling safe?

Your deposits into Starling are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). This means that if Starling were to go bust, up to £85,000 is protected and can be reimbursed to you.  

Is Starling a bank?

Yes, Starling is a fully licensed UK bank. This means that it’s got a banking licence for every region that it operates in.

Pros and cons of Starling


  • Attractive and easy-to-use app
  • Fee-free spending when using abroad
  • Great budgeting and money management tools
  • Virtual cards connected to Spaces
  • In-account interest is better than most other banks
  • Free connected children’s debit card
  • Free cash deposits at Post Office and online cheque uploads
  • Potential 15% APR overdraft available if you really need one


  • No branches
  • Poor rewards and cashback offering
  • Pretty naff referral freebie and no bank switch offers

Is Starling any good?

Starling is one of the best banks on the market at the moment. It can be a fantastic tool for helping you manage your money and budget more effectively, especially with the virtual cards linked to the “Spaces” within the app. 

Though there’s no branch access, it does offer free cash deposits at the Post Office, and the support is pretty good.

If you’re a frequent holiday goer, it’s a really good choice for use abroad, with no additional spending or withdrawal limits when you go abroad, though we favour Chase Bank here as you’ll also get 1% cashback. 

The savings rates can be beaten, but it’s a decent enough rate for money that you haven’t moved elsewhere. We love that the additional children’s card is completely free, too. 

The lack of other rewards is disappointing, but you can always open additional accounts with those banks if you want to take advantage of those, and use Starling for your everyday banking.

Starling current account

BenefitsFee-free spending abroad
Budgeting tools and spending analysis
Connected children’s debit card
Up to five virtual cards
Account interest3.25% AER up to £5.000
Exclusive savings rate4.48% AER fixed for 1-year
FSCS protection?Yes

How to apply for a Starling account

Starling is one of the easiest bank accounts to apply for — you don’t even have to get up from your seat. To apply, you just need to download the app and follow the instructions. The whole process takes less than 15 minutes. 

Do you need ID for Starling?

Yes, you’ll need to submit photos of your ID and take a video selfie to create a Starling account.

How to add money to Starling

There are a couple of ways to add money to your Starling account. You can do so with a bank transfer using your Starling account number and sort code — these can be found by pressing the + next to your balance in the app.

If you’ve got cold hard cash, you can deposit it into your account at a Post Office branch.

Alternatively, you can pay in a cheque — cheques under £1,000 can be deposited in the app and ones over £1,000 need to be posted to Starling to process. 

If you want your income paid straight into Starling then you just give your employer your account details and they’ll be able to do this. 

How to get help with Starling

There aren’t any Starling branches, but you can contact its help centre over the phone. It offers 24/7 help, which means you can deal with stressful scenarios at any time. In addition, you can get help over email or using the in-app chat. 

In Smart Money People reviews, people rated Starling’s customer service at 4.93/5, with lots of reviews saying that the staff were extremely helpful and professional, though some did miss having a branch. 

11 thoughts on “Starling bank review: 4.5/5

  1. If I had a Starling business account, I understand that my business customers could pay me by doing a bank transfer using my account name, number and sort code. But is this the only method by which customers can pay me? Would Starling also allow my customer to pay me using a visa or MasterCard?

  2. The biggest benefit for me was the option to hold a separate connected Euro account, it has been absolutely invaluable for receiving and paying out in Euro’s.

  3. Does Starling offer a credit card?

    1. No they don’t

  4. Christine Snowball January 19, 2023 at 6:54 pm

    Your Starling blog didn’t mention the wonderful VIRTUAL CARD. You can have up to five and cancel AND delete and create as needed. They work from dedicated spaces and have their own 16 diget number, expire dates and CCV. I use one purely for online transactions, especially if the vendor is possibly suspicious ( streaming services) spring to mind. If the worst happens only the small amount in the space is compromised and you can cancel it and get another.

    1. Yes, they’re great aren’t they – but only just released. I’ll be updating the review soon

  5. I applied for a Starling current account but I was refused. My credit score is over 930 and dont have any debt or pending loan. I wonder what reasons they consider to offer you an account?

  6. I have a first direct account. I want to switch but not all of it. With first direct no interest as you discuss about dummy accounts . I am not so savvy in technology, still learning. Can you help me with a dummy bank as I only have 1 current account.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Barbara, you can open up an extra account with any bank as an additional account. If you want to partially switch to that account (not all allow this) you can select which Direct Debits etc you want to move over. This will keep the old account open. However you won’t be able to get any of the switching offers which require a full switch and the closure of the old account.

      The only way around this is to open up an intermediate “dummy” account that you open with the express purpose of then using it for the full switch.

  7. I want to switch my starling account will I qualify for switching cash offers from other banks?

    A Atkinson


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