Banking on Change

Many moons ago, I wrote about challenger banks. You know, those banks that like to shake it up.

The banks without branches - which, let’s face it, since all the legacy banks are closing theirs, then the challenger banks are actually ahead of the game!

In 1994, I opened an account with First Direct - a telephone bank. No branches (unless you count HSBC) and no internet, yet. At the time it felt fresh and exciting. My account is still open with them, but I don’t use it anymore.

In October 2018 I was ready for a change. No specific reason. I had nothing bad to say about First Direct, it's just they seem to have stagnated - compared to the new competition.

I had considered Monzo (in fact , I did open an account but never deposited any money).

I only opened it to have a better look and I wasn’t keen. Their app was clunky and quite confusing.

I had read plenty about Starling Bank, so I opened an account. They've also been voted Best Current Account Provider for the last three years.

Opening the Account

Opening the account was relatively quick and straight-forward.

Enter some information, upload some ID and record a short video confirming that it’s me.

I don’t recall how long it took to process, but it was within a matter of a couple of hours before I received confirmation that my account was up and running.

Within 3 days I had received my debit card - lightening fast, and meant I was able to start using it almost immediately. Starling don’t offer a credit card.

The App

Remember, everything is done on your phone (although there is an online banking facility too).

Whenever payments leave or enter your account you will receive an instant notification.

You need to download the app to open your account. Once up and running, the app is quite intuitive to use.

There are five tabs:

Spaces - I love this. Starling describe this as a virtual piggy bank. It’s somewhere to hold any money away from your main account. You can also set targets for each of your spaces.

Within Spaces you can set up a feature called Round-up - This is one of my favourite features. When you spend money on your card (or through your mobile wallet), you can have the change moved into a Space; and you can decide how much it rounds up by (x1, x2, x5, x10)

The higher the number, the more is added. Mine is set to x2.

For example; when I spend £9.99 on my card, then 2p is added to my Personal Round Up space. It might not seem like a lot, but it soon adds up.

When you view individual transactions, it will show how much was added.

Card control - You have full control over the use of your debit card; whether it can be used for online shopping, withdrawing cash and you can also lock it from being used for gambling transactions.

If your card is lost or stolen, you can lock it within the app, to prevent it being used.

The Home Screen defaults to show you today; with your balance, and how much you’ve spent today.

Click on the amount and it’s broken down to the various merchants.

Scroll to the left and you’ll see a full breakdown of the month - again, click on the amount and the monetary values are presented.

Swipe up from the Home Screen to see all your transactions. Future direct debits, due within the next day will be shown at the top too.

You can add notes to individual transactions or add a photo of a receipt.

Within the Spending tab, you’ll see all your spending for the current month broken down by categories. Click on one to view the individual transactions.

Finally, the Payments section show all the people you’ve paid in the past, and if you select ‘Scheduled’ then you can see regular card payments, direct debits and standing orders.


At the top of the Home Screen you can access the settings menu.

From here you can see your account information, generate statements, view the Marketplace (that’s a whole other benefit) and get help; either through a live chat, messaging or reading the frequently asked questions. There is lots of help available.

Starling do offer Overdrafts, but not to everyone. It’s very hit and miss as to whether you will be offered one, and they won’t give a reason if you are not eligible.

Starling also participates in the Current Account Switch Service, which means they will take the pain out of you moving your account from another bank to them.

Depositing Money

As for depositing money into your account, there are three main ways:

  1. Transfer the money directly from another account.

  2. Deposit cheques up to £500, by scanning them in the app. If it’s over £500 you’ll need to post it - but that’s free.

  3. Deposit cash at the Post Office (you’ll need your Starling card to do this)

Starling also listen to their customers, and within the last year released their online banking - so you can also manage your Starling account from your laptop or computer.

As I mentioned earlier, opening an account is easy.

  1. Download the app from the Apple App store or Google Play store.

  2. Enter your phone number - you'll be sent a code to enter.

  3. Complete your personal details and verify your ID.

If you're looking for a new home for your money, then I can heartily recommend Starling Bank.

This article includes affiliate links. If you purchase from one of these links, I may be paid a small commission. This doesn't affect the price you will pay. Thank you.

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