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Starling Bank vs Monzo – Best UK Challenger Bank?

As the UK’s biggest challenger neobanks, Starling Bank and Monzo having gained millions of customers over the last few years. But which one has the best features, lowest costs, and biggest benefits? And which one is right for you?

Contents

Starling Bank vs Monzo – Plans, Costs & Fees:

Starling Bank

In keeping with their ‘keep it simple’ ethos, Starling Bank only have one account tier, and that is free. They do not have any paid monthly plans, and all of the account features are available to all customers.

Cash withdrawals at ATMs are free with Starling Bank.

Starling Bank has no branches so cash must be paid in via the Post Office. There is no cost for this.

Monzo

Monzo have 3 different plans. Monzo Free, which has no cost, Monzo Plus, which is £5 per month and Monzo Premium, which is £15 per month. The basic banking features are mostly available on the free tier, and the paid plans include various extras that you may or may not want, but are not crucial to running your bank account.

Cash withdrawals at ATMs are free up to £250 per month, but above that, Monzo charge 3% of the amount taken out for customers not on the monthly paid plans.

As Monzo is an app based bank, they do not have branches, so cash has to be paid into your account via PayPoint. It costs £1 per transaction.

/ Verdict /

If we compare the Free plans, then Starling Bank offers slightly more than the equivalent Monzo Free plan, plus there is no limit on free UK ATM withdrawals and cash deposits are free. However, if you do want to get some of the extras on offer such as metal cards and insurances, then you can pay a little extra with Monzo to get these, whereas you don’t have that option with Starling Bank. So, we are calling this one a tie.

Monzo vs Starling Bank – Features:

Starling Bank

Mobile App: The Starling Bank app is highly praised by customers for how easy it is to use.

Instant Notifications – Starling alert you instantly about any activity on your account.

Spaces – these allow you to divide up the funds in your account to allow you to save i.e. keep a separate space for your bills or savings.

Categorised Spending Insights – Starling automatically categorise your spending into categories for easy spending analysis.

Desktop Access – You can use your full Starling Bank functions via computer/desktop via their website, as well as via the mobile app.

Monzo

Mobile App: In 2020, Monzo won ‘Best Banking App’ in the British Bank Awards. And for good reason – customers seem very happy with how easy to use and intuitive their app is.

Instant Notifications – Monzo inform you instantly about any activity on your account.

Pots – these allow you to create spaces within your main account to separate your money for things like savings.

Spending Categories – Monzo will automatically categorise any spending in your account so you can easily see your spending profile.

Desktop Access – you can only access the full Monzo banking experience via your mobile app. Whilst they do have a computer/desktop version, it is cut down and only for basic features.

/ Verdict /

The features of Starling Bank and Monzo are pretty close in relation to core banking functions. They also have money management tools that help to save and keep track of your money that are broadly similar. Each has a few features the other does not, but really this one is too close to call.

Starling Bank vs Monzo – Debit Card:

Starling Bank

Starling Bank offer a Mastercard debit card (made from recycled plastic), that every account holder gets. Paying with the card is free in the UK, and you get unlimited ATM withdrawals within the UK.

Monzo

Monzo offer a Mastercard debit card with every account. Paying with the card is free within the UK, and you can withdraw up to £250 every 30 days. Above that amount you will be charged a 3% fee.

On the Monzo Premium monthly paid plan you get a premium Metal card, which has the same functionality as the normal card.

/ Verdict /

The card offerings from both banks are very similar, therefore for this category we are calling this one a tie.

Monzo vs Starling Bank – Safety / Security:

Starling Bank

Starling is a fully licensed UK bank, and therefore all customer deposits are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) up to £85,000 per customer.

Starling is an app based bank and as such security can be made secure by utilising various functions such as SMS confirmations.

You can freeze or unfreeze your debit card easily and instantly via the app.

As of 2021, Starling Bank have announced that they are profitable, so customers can be confident that they will be around for the time being.

Monzo

Monzo is a fully licensed UK bank, and therefore all customer deposits are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) up to £85,000 per customer.

As an app based bank, Monzo have ways to make their account highly secure, as the account is tied to the customers’ mobile phone.

Customers can freeze or unfreeze their Monzo card easily and instantly via the app.

Monzo are a fairly recent start-up, having launched initially in 2017. As such they are not yet a profitable business, and the amount of money they have been losing each year has increased, and they reported losses of £113 million in 2020. Whilst this does not mean that Monzo will go out of business, it is possible. And whilst customer deposits are protected, it would still mean significant disruption for customers.

/ Verdict /

It’s a close call, as both Monzo and Starling have highly secure banking products. However, Starling have now achieved profitability, whilst Monzo continue to lose money within a highly competitive marketplace. Therefore, due to this, we give Starling the edge.

Starling Bank vs Monzo – Travelling / Other Currencies:

Starling Bank

Paying with your debit card whilst you are abroad is free.

Starling Bank offer free ATM withdrawals with no maximum limit whilst you are abroad.

Starling Bank offer transfers to different currencies at the interbank rate, with a charge of 0.4% of the amount converted.

Monzo

Paying with your debit card whilst outside the UK is always free.

You can withdraw up to £250 every 30 days within the European Economic Area (EEA), and up to £200 every 30 days in other countries. When you take cash out above these limits you will be charged a fee of 3%

Monzo partner with Wise, a popular currency conversion provider, to make their currency transfers. The currency transfer is made at interbank rate, with a small fee added to each transfer, which depends on which currencies you are transferring between.

/ Verdict /

Once again the offerings are very similar. It is likely that with Monzo you may get a better deal on currency transfers as they partner with Wise. However, with Starling, the fees are more transparent. Also, Starling offer unlimited free international ATM withdrawals. Therefore, in this category, Starling Bank are the travellers friend.

Starling Bank vs Monzo – Extras:

Starling Bank

Starling Bank pride themselves on their simplicity, and as such, they don’t have much in the way of extras. They do have the Starling Marketplace, where customers can find third party products from various financial providers. However, these are not Starling Bank products, but rather recommendations, so cannot be counted as part of the Starling product.

Monzo

Monzo have various monthly paid plans, and as such they have added many extras into their offering. Things such as a nice metal debit card, phone insurance, travel insurance and access to airport lounges all come with your account. However, bear in mind that these will only be available via the paid plans.

/ Verdict /

Monzo takes this one, as they have a wide variety of extras available. However, be prepared to pay a monthly fee if you want to be able to use them!

Monzo vs Starling Bank – Our Verdict

It’s a very close run contest! Both offer a great banking experience but there are differences. Starling Bank is the more traditional, safer choice with fewer frills. Monzo has more options and potentially attractive extras. Overall however, we would say, based on our analysis, that Starling Bank is the narrow winner.