The best bank mobile apps

How do Starling and Monzo compare to the apps from the high street banks?

App banking is getting bigger and bigger. I very rarely log in to online banking on a computer, hardly ever visit a branch and only phone up when there’s a problem.

So it’s vital that I can do everything I need to do on my app. And sadly my main bank for years – Nationwide – is really limited, requiring a card reader to add new payees and missing many of the features that started on new digital banks but increasingly copied by established banks.

I’d go as far as to say that how good a bank’s app is the number reasons to choose a bank for your everyday banking.

Watch my full analysis in this video, or keep reading to see the features broken down app by app.

Bank features compared

I’ve compared the features on 13 different banking apps, from digital challengers Monzo, Starling and Revolut through to high street titans Barclays, Halifax and HSBC.

My top app banking features

So, what do I look for in a banking app? There are all sorts of things you can do – from adding photos of your receipts to individual transactions through to paying in a cheque. Lots of nice to haves.

But there are some basics which are essential – and surprisingly not all banks offer them. Here’s what I’ll check if I am going to use an app.

How easy is it to use?

Ease of use and being able to find everything are really important. Of course the more you use an app, the more familiar it’ll be, but there are some apps which are better than others

Can I set up new payees and amend existing ones?

I hate it when an app won’t let me do everyday things such as set up a new payee or amend a standing order. These are essentials that mean I’ll be able to do the basics whenever I want.

Sometimes there are payment limits on large transactions, largely to combat fraud, and I’m ok with these. It’s rare I transfer big sums so it’s only an occassional inconvenience.

Does it offer instant notifications?

More banks now offer this on their apps, and it’s a handy budgeting feature. You’ll get a notification on your phone as soon as the payment processes allowing you do check the amount is correct and also get aheads up of any fraud.

Can I search old transactions?

I want an app that’ll go back for at least 18 months and also offer filer options such as payments in or out.

Can I copy my account details?

This innovation is simple but so useful. With a couple of taps I can copy by account number and sortcode to share with people, or to enter into direct debit forms.

Does it let me control the card

Finally, it’s essential that my banking app lets me freeze my card. This is a security measure where you can stop anyone using your card if you lose it.

Extra app features I love

I’m a happy camper if the app contains all of the above, but there are extras offered by some banks which you might not be aware exist.

Look out for:

  • Able to pay in a cheque (read more on this here)
  • Able to see PIN
  • Able to see debit card number etc
  • Savings pots & features
  • Virtual debit cards

App features you don’t really need

Of course, just because a bank app does something all shiny and new, it doesn’t mean you need it.

The biggest one here is being able to add other bank accounts to your app dashboard via Open Banking. This is a great idea, but the banks that do offer it only allow you to connect to a small range of banks.

You’re better off going for an app that is designed for and allows you to connect credit cards such as Yolt or Money Dashboard.

Similarly the auto-savings feature you’ll see with most banks (except Monzo) is a variation of the “Save the change” or “top-up” method where small amounts are transferred from your main account to a savings pot when you spend. There are better options out there, such as those from Plum and Chip.

My top bank apps

So taking the above into account, which apps get my vote?

Monzo & Starling

As you’d expect, the banks which have been created from scratch to work primarily via apps are the best. You can do pretty much everything and more.

I really like the savings and budgeting features in Monzo, especially the way you can connect to IFTT to gamify savings.

If you want to have an easy life banking, then Starling does everything really well.

Revolut is worth a shout too, particularly for its virtual and disposable debit card feature. But as a bank I prefer the other two.

Barclays, Halifax & Lloyds

If you want to stick with an established bank then I was surprised to see how far along Barclays, Halifax and Lloyds have come.

Bank-by-bank app feature lists

Here’s where you can see what each bank offers.

Barclays app

SavingsSavings potsNo
Auto savingsNo
BankingEasy transferyes
New payee in appNeed debit card
New SOYes
change SOYes
pay in chequeYes
share account detailsYes
BudgetingAnalyse spendingYes
Set BudgetNo
Add other banksYes

Bank of Scotland
Halifax
Lloyds
Nationwide
NatWest
RBS
Santander
Instant notificationsYes
See upcoming regular paymentsYes
See pending paymentsYes
Go back more than one year3 years +
Filter in/outYes
Download statementsPDF
Add receipts/notesNo
ManagementFreeze cardYes
See PinYes
See card numberNo
Order new cardYes
Gambling blocksYes
Spending controls (eg block contactless)Yes
Update personal infoYes
Biometric log inYes

First Direct app

SavingsSavings potsNo
Auto savingsNo
BankingEasy transferYes
New payee in appYes
New SONo
change SONo
pay in chequeYes
share account detailsNo
BudgetingAnalyse spendingNo
Set BudgetNo
Add other banksNo
Instant notificationsNo
See upcoming regular paymentsYes
See pending paymentsYes
Go back more than one year6 months
Filter in/outYes
Download statementsPDF
Add receipts/notesNo
ManagementFreeze cardYes
See PinNo
See card numberNo
Order new cardYes
Gambling blocksYes
Spending controls (eg block contactless)No
Update personal infoYes
Biometric log inYes

Andy’s podcast

Listen to Cash Chats, Andy’s twice-weekly podcast. Episodes every Tuesday and Friday.

Halifax app

The Halifax Rewards account can earn you £5 a month so it’s worth looking at. Here’s my review.

SavingsSavings potsNo
Auto savingsYes
BankingEasy transferyes
New payee in appYes
New SOYes
change SOYes
pay in chequeYes
share account detailsyes
BudgetingAnalyse spendinglimited
Set BudgetNo
Add other banksYes

Bank of Scotland
Barclays
Barclaycard
First Direct
Lloyds
M&S Bank
MBNA
Nationwide
NatWest
RBS
Santander
Instant notificationsYes
See upcoming regular paymentsyes
See pending paymentsYes
Go back more than one year3 years +
Filter in/outNo
Download statementsPDF
Add receipts/notesNo
ManagementFreeze cardYes
See PinYes
See card numberNo
Order new cardYes
Gambling blocksyes
Spending controls (eg block contactless)yes
Update personal infoYes
Biometric log inYes

HSBC app

As I don’t have the app for this bank there are a few TBCs here.

SavingsSavings potsNo
Auto savingsNo
BankingEasy transferYes
New payee in appYes
New SOYes
change SOYes
pay in chequeYes
share account detailsNo
BudgetingAnalyse spendingNo
Set BudgetNo
Add other banksNo
Instant notificationsRolling out
See upcoming regular paymentsBalance After Bills
See pending paymentsYes
Go back more than one yearTBC
Filter in/outTBC
Download statementsPDF
Add receipts/notesTBC
ManagementFreeze cardYes
See PinNo
See card numberNo
Order new cardYes
Gambling blocksYes
Spending controls (eg block contactless)TBC
Update personal infoYes
Biometric log inYes

Lloyds app

The Club Lloyds account is a decent bet for freebies and interest on savings. Here’s my review.

SavingsSavings potsNo
Auto savingsYes
BankingEasy transferyes
New payee in appYes
New SOYes
change SOYes
pay in chequeYes
share account detailsyes
BudgetingAnalyse spendinglimited
Set BudgetNo
Add other banksYes

Bank of Scotland
Barclays
Barclaycard
First Direct
Halifax
M&S Bank
MBNA
Nationwide
NatWest
RBS
Santander
Instant notificationsYes
See upcoming regular paymentsyes
See pending paymentsYes
Go back more than one year3 years +
Filter in/outNo
Download statementsPDF
Add receipts/notesNo
ManagementFreeze cardYes
See PinYes
See card numberNo
Order new cardYes
Gambling blocksyes
Spending controls (eg block contactless)yes
Update personal infoYes
Biometric log inYes

Andy’s YouTube

Watch new videos every week on the Andy Clever Cash channel, plus a regular live Q&A

Monzo

This looks at the free Monzo account. The paid options have some added features. Here’s more on Monzo Plus and Monzo Premium.

SavingsSavings potsYes
Auto savingsYes
BankingEasy transferYes
New payee in appYes
New SOYes
change SOYes
pay in chequeNo
share account detailsYes
BudgetingAnalyse spendingYes
Set BudgetYes
Add other banksNot on free
Instant notificationsYes
See upcoming regular paymentsYes
See pending paymentsYes
Go back more than one yearYes
Filter in/outYes
Download statementsPDF, CSV, QIF
Add receipts/notesYes
ManagementFreeze cardYes
See PinYes
See card numberYes
Order new cardYes
Gambling blocksYes
Spending controls (eg block contactless)No
Update personal infoYes
Biometric log inYes
ExtrasPay friends instantly
Split bill

Nationwide app

As much as I love Nationwide as building society, I really hate the app. Here’s my review of the Nationwide FlexDirect account.

SavingsSavings potsNo
Auto savingsYes
BankingEasy transferYes
New payee in appNo
New SONo
change SONo
pay in chequeNo
share account detailsNo
BudgetingAnalyse spendingNo
Set BudgetNo
Add other banksNo
Instant notificationsNo
See upcoming regular paymentsNo
See pending paymentsNo
Go back more than one year15 months
Filter in/outNo
Download statementsNo
Add receipts/notesNo
ManagementFreeze cardYes
See PinNo
See card numberNo
Order new cardYes
Gambling blocksNo
Spending controls (eg block contactless)No
Update personal infoNot address
Biometric log inYes

Natwest

SavingsSavings potsNo
Auto savingsNo
BankingEasy transferYes
New payee in appYes
New SOYes
change SOYes
pay in chequeNo
share account detailsYes
BudgetingAnalyse spendingYes
Set BudgetYes
Add other banksYes

Allied Irish Bank
Bank of Scotland
Barclays
Danske Bank
First Direct
First Trust
Halifax
HSBC
Lloyds
Monzo
Nationwide
NatWest
RBS
Santander
Ulster Bank
Instant notificationsYes
See upcoming regular paymentsNo
See pending paymentsYes
Go back more than one yearYes
Filter in/outYes
Download statementsPDF
Add receipts/notesNo
ManagementFreeze cardYes
See PinNo
See card numberNo
Order new cardYes
Gambling blocksYes
Spending controls (eg block contactless)Yes
Update personal infoNo
Biometric log inYes
ExtrasGet cash

Revolut

SavingsSavings potsYes
Auto savingsYes
BankingEasy transferYes
New payee in appYes
New SOYes
change SOYes
pay in chequeNo
share account detailsYes
BudgetingAnalyse spendingYes
Set BudgetYes
Add other banksYes

Amex
Bank of Scotland
Barclays
Danske
First Direct
HSBC
Halifax
Lloyds
M&S Bank
Monzo
Nationwide
Natwest
RBS
Santander
Starling
TSB
Ulster Bank
Instant notificationsYes
See upcoming regular paymentsYes
See pending paymentsYes
Go back more than one yearTBC
Filter in/outTBC
Download statementsPDF, XLS
Add receipts/notesYes
ManagementFreeze cardYes
See PinYes
See card numberYes
Order new cardYes
Gambling blocksYes
Spending controls (eg block contactless)No
Update personal infoYes
Biometric log inYes
ExtrasVirtual Card
Group bills

Santander

Another app I don’t currently have access to so there are a handful of gaps.

SavingsSavings potsNo
Auto savingsNo
BankingEasy transferYes
New payee in appYes
New SOYes
change SOYes
pay in chequeNo
share account detailsYes
BudgetingAnalyse spendingLimited
Set BudgetNo
Add other banksNo
Instant notificationsTBC
See upcoming regular paymentsTBC
See pending paymentsYes
Go back more than one yearTBC
Filter in/outYes
Download statementsTBC
Add receipts/notesTBC
ManagementFreeze cardYes
See PinYes
See card numberNo
Order new cardYes
Gambling blocksYes
Spending controls (eg block contactless)Yes
Update personal infoTBC
Biometric log inYes

Starling

Starling is a feature packed app. Here’s my full review of the account.

SavingsSavings potsYes
Auto savingsYes
BankingEasy transferYes
New payee in appYes
New SOYes
change SOYes
pay in chequeYes
share account detailsYes
BudgetingAnalyse spendingYes
Set BudgetYes
Add other banksNo
Instant notificationsYes
See upcoming regular paymentsYes
See pending paymentsYes
Go back more than one yearYes
Filter in/outNo
Download statementsPDF, CSV
Add receipts/notesYes
ManagementFreeze cardYes
See PinYes
See card numberYes
Order new cardYes
Gambling blocksYes
Spending controls (eg block contactless)Yes
Update personal infoYes
Biometric log inYes
ExtrasSplit bill

TSB

This is for the Spend & Save account. Older accounts don’t have the savings pots feature.

SavingsSavings potsYes
Auto savingsYes
BankingEasy transferYes
New payee in appYes
New SOYes
change SOYes
pay in chequeNo
share account detailsYes
BudgetingAnalyse spendingNo
Set BudgetNo
Add other banksNo
Instant notificationsNo
See upcoming regular paymentsNo
See pending paymentsYes
Go back more than one yearYes
Filter in/outNo
Download statementsNo
Add receipts/notesNo
ManagementFreeze cardNo
See PinNo
See card numberNo
Order new cardYes
Gambling blocksNo
Spending controls (eg block contactless)No
Update personal infoNot Address
Biometric log inYes

Virgin Money

Here’s my review of the Virgin Money M Plus account, including a video looking at the app in more detail.

SavingsSavings potsYes
Auto savingsNo
BankingEasy transferYes
New payee in appYes
New SOYes
change SOYes
pay in chequeYes
share account detailsYes
BudgetingAnalyse spendingYes
Set BudgetYes
Add other banksNo
Instant notificationsYes
See upcoming regular paymentsYes
See pending paymentsYes
Go back more than one yearTBC
Filter in/outYes
Download statementsPDF
Add receipts/notesNo
ManagementFreeze cardNo
See PinNo
See card numberNo
Order new cardYes
Gambling blocksNo
Spending controls (eg block contactless)No
Update personal infoNo
Biometric log inYes

4 thoughts on “The best bank mobile apps

  1. For Nationwide Flexdirect, you actually can see pending transactions and view upcoming regular payments

  2. For Nationwide Flexdirect, you actually can see pending transactions and view upcoming regular payments.

  3. “Add other bank” feature in Barclays app doesn’t seem to work for LBG. Truelayer say there are no service issues, Barclays says “successfully added”, and then nothing appears. They keep showing a card for an account closed long ago too.

    LBG apps seem to rejoice in adding as many “interstitial” pages of meaningless “help” that I get the “Jerry McGuire” catchphrase in my head.

    1. Good to know George, thanks. I think using something like Yolt or Money Dashboard is a better option to see multiple accounts

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