Starling vs Monzo: The Best Bank Account Ever?

Starling vs Monzo: which is better?

If you’ve followed me for any length of time you will probably know that I am a huge fan of Starling vs Monzo. Starling Bank are what’s known as a ‘challenger’ bank, and challenger banks are changing what banking looks and feels like. What I love about challenger banks is that through the use of their intuitive, easy to use apps, they are more like personal finance assistants than high street banks.

As our lives become increasingly dynamic, fast paced, and mobile-ready, challenger banks like Starling Bank or Monzo are giving us exactly what we need; banking at our fingertips (literally, via apps on your phone!), real time, very clever, easy to understand reporting, and clear habit and spending insights.

We all place different meaning and value towards money because we all have a different relationship with money. More than 90% of the decisions we make about money come from our subconscious mind (ooh, interesting!) We are driven to make decisions about money based on both logic and emotion and interestingly this is why some women prefer managing money by looking at facts and figures and others on intuition and imagination. 

Starling Bank and Monzo’s money pots directly enable their users to do both! The visual money pots allow you to get creative about money goals and the categorisation of your spending habits enables you to see the facts. This is particularly useful right now in 2021 as we are beginning to take steps to recovering financially from lockdown (click the link for our top tips on recovering).

Hi I’m Catherine! My mission is to reduce financial anxiety and increase financial empowerment & resilience for 1 million women all around the world.

I am a self-confessed emotional spender turned savvy saver! From a young age, my relationship with money has always been fraught with difficulties.

Read my story here: Catherine’s Story

Starling Bank V Monzo: They have many similarities

At a glance

Account FeeFreeFree
PaymentsPay out via bank transfer, Contactless, Chip and Pin, Paypal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Fitbit Pay, or Garmin PayPay out via bank transfer, Contactless, Chip and Pin, Apple Pay, Google Pay, or send immediately to another Monzo account
UK ATM WithdrawalsFreeFree
Direct DebitsYesYes
Topping UpVia bank transfer, standing order, have salary paid in, or pay in at any Post OfficeVia bank transfer, standing order, or have salary paid in
Freeze CardYes, in appYes, in app
Interest0.05% AER up to £85,000Access to marketplace, up to 1.31% with minimum £500 deposit (fixed term). Rates from 0.10%-0.93% available on instant access savings
Goals and PotsCreate different spending goals and protect money from daily spendingMonzo pots let you put money aside, protected from your daily spending. Pick a Pot to pay bills from, so you can’t accidentally spend the rent. When a bill is due, they pay it from the Pot for you.
TravelNo fees or chargesForeign ATM withdrawals free up to £200pm, 3% thereafter. Free to use your card abroad to pay for goods and services.
BorrowingOverdrafts and loans up to £5000.Overdrafts up to £3,000. Loans up to £15,000. Both with a soft credit check.
SafetyFSCS protected up to £85,000FSCS protected up to £85,000
Business Account AvailableYes: Free – Voted Best Business Banking Provider 2020Yes. Business Lite: Free
Business Pro: £5pm
Joint Account AvailableYes – as long as you both have a Starling accountYes – as long as you both have a Monzo account
Support24/7 human customer support team via app, email, and phone.Existing customers can get help via the app.
Special MentionWon Best British Bank and Best Current Account 2020Put your salary into Monzo and we can advance you the cash one day early. No cost, no hassle. Just more time with your money.
Child AccountsKITE: Age 6-16
Starling Teen: 16-17 account
16+: 16-17 teen account


Are challenger banks safe?

While no bank is completely secure from criminals, challenger banks are normally as well protected as high street banks and building societies.

Because Monzo and Starling are regulated banks in the UK, the money you put in your Monzo or Starling account is protected up to £85,000 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). The FSCS is an independent fund set up by the government to help protect people’s money.

Starling say: “In the app, Starling has a few key features to keep your card secure. Under ‘Card Controls’, you can allow or ban ATM withdrawals, online or mobile payments, magstripe payments, or gambling transactions.”

Child Accounts

In 2020, Starling launched their Kite account for 6-16 year-olds. It’s like a child bank account, but with more visibility and control for parents and guardians. Set it up in minutes, transfer money onto their Kite card in seconds, keep an eye on their spending and help them build great habits for the future.

As a parent, you will need to hold a Personal Starling account to open a Kite account, and it really couldn’t be easier. Plus Starling have made switching between apps a thing of the past. With Starling Kite, you’ll get the full picture and be able to see what they’re spending, directly from your app.

At just £2 per month, Kite is priced extremely competitively in comparison to other child accounts on the market.

Starling also offer a teen account for those aged 16-17.

Whilst Monzo do not currently offer a child account, their teen account for 16-17 year-olds isn’t a minimalist version of an adult account – it’s the same account they offer over 18’s. The only major difference is they’ve blocked spending for some things which are illegal if you’re under 18, like gambling.

Opening an account

Whether you choose Starling or Monzo, Both Starling Bank and Monzo are completely free to open. They are also both powered by their own apps, and it’s really simple to open an account. All you need to do is open your app store (I’m an Apple girl, but the apps are also available for android devices), download the app and then follow the account opening prompts. Click here for Starling (affiliate link) or here for Monzo.

You will need to take a photo of your ID which will be sent for verification as the final step of opening an account with either Starling Bank or Monzo. You’ll also need to record a short video selfie as part of the process, and the reason for this is that both banks use a type of technology which matches the video footage to your ID. Starling Bank says they aim to complete this process for personal accounts within 10 minutes, and Monzo say they try to verify all accounts within 2 hours but it will often be quicker than that.

Fees

Starling V Monzo: Both Starling and Monzo are completely free to open and use with no ATM withdrawal fees or charges.

Paying in and out

Both accounts offer a free current account switching service and are just like high street banks in that you can have your salary paid into your account. You can also pay in via bank transfer or standing order with both Starling or Monzo. Starling go one step further and allow you to pay in cash at any Post Office.

Remember, both Starling and Monzo are just like high street banks – you can set up Direct Debits, Standing Orders, and complete bank transfers from both apps. Both accounts provide contactless chip and pin cards and allow you to add your card to Apple or Google pay. Starling also supports Fitbit Pay and Garmin Pay.

What’s great about the challenger banks is the level of reporting and insights they offer, which are easy to understand and easily accessible within the apps. Monzo will remind you via notifications on your phone when a Direct Debit is due, allows you to set budgets for spending areas, and will also has the capability to send you warning notifications if it thinks you’re spending too fast.

Both apps split your spending into categories like ‘bills and services’ or ‘groceries’. This is an amazing feature because it allows you to really understand your spending habits, easily identify areas of overspend, and take steps to plug those leaks.

The round-up feature that both apps offer is a fantastic way to add to your financial resilience pot – when you switch the feature on both apps simply round up all of your spends to the nearest £1 and add the difference to a pot of your choice. You would be amazed at how quickly this adds up!

Interest

One of the advantages of Starling Bank over Monzo is that Starling Bank pays you interest on any balance up to £85,000. This is paid on your entire balance including any money in your main cash pot area and any money stored safely in your pots.

You can access varying interest rates via the Marketplace with Monzo, but these are paid on savings only, not on any of the money in your main Monzo account or pots. This might be a deal breaker for you if you keep large amounts of money in cash, but in reality even if you only have a small amount of money in your account, Starling Bank will pay you interest on it (free money!) and Monzo will not.

Goals and Pots

Both accounts offer pots or spaces to move money away from your everyday spending area, but keeping it in the same account. For me, this is revolutionary because it allows you to bring things like the envelope budgeting system and mental accounting into the modern digital age.

Before the likes of Starling Bank and Monzo, if you wanted to keep money in a  separate area it would usually need to be in an entirely different account like a savings account. Or literally cash in envelopes! When you move money into pots in either Starling Bank or Monzo that money still physically exists in your account, but it is essentially ringfenced. When you use your card to pay, any money that is in a pot – not in your everyday spending area – will not be touched.

What’s great about this is it gives you a super easy way to give every pound coming into your account a purpose, one of the key lessons I teach my Money Circle members.

Monzo just tips the scale on this feature over Starling, as it has an extra feature level which lets you pick a pot to pay bills from. When a bill is due, they pay it from that pot for you. Within Starling, if you have a bill due you need to remember to go into the app and move money from the pot into the main everyday spending area.

Monzo also added a scheduled pay to pots feature in 2018, which Starling refer to as PiggyBanking. Within Monzo, simply start a new scheduled payment, choose a start date and pot, set a repeat frequency (and end date if you choose). Monzo say “You can change or cancel the scheduled payment whenever you want. And you can always withdraw the money if you decide you want it back in your main balance.” (Source)

To utilise PiggyBanking within Starling, open the pot you wish to add regular automated funds to. Choose ‘Add Money’, and enter an amount. Click on ‘When’ to change the first payment date (great for planning your income and pots in advance) and choose a frequency. Starling allows you to choose from daily, weekly, monthly, and annually which makes this a super flexible feature!

Travel

If you travel often, then Starling really is a clear winner for you. With Starling bank there are no fees whatsoever for using your card abroad or to withdraw from overseas ATM machines. Monzo do offer fee free spending, but you can only withdraw £200 per month from foreign ATM’s before it starts to charge you.

If you’ve followed me for any length of time you will probably know that I am a huge fan of Starling vs Monzo. Starling Bank are what’s known as a ‘challenger’ bank, and challenger banks are changing what banking looks and feels like.

Borrowing

Starling bank offer overdrafts and loans up to £5000, dependant on your eligibility. They have a great overdraft eligibility tool which tells you the likelihood of being eligible for an overdraft without having to perform a credit check which will leave a ‘footprint’ on your credit score. If you are eligible for a loan you will receive a notification in your app to let you know, and if you choose to take out a loan with Starling, once the application is completed the money is available instantly.

Monzo have a similar eligibility check for overdrafts up to £3000, and offer loans up to £15,000 available on the same day you successfully apply.

Are Starling and Monzo safe?

Both Starling and Monzo are fully regulated banks and protected up to £85,000 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). The FSCS is an independent fund set up by the government to help protect people’s money. If Monzo or Starling (or any other bank or building society) goes bust, it means you won’t be left out of pocket. The FSCS aims to pay compensation within 7 days of an organisation failing, so your money really is just as safe as it would be with any other high street bank or lender.

Other accounts

If you run a business, Starling bank once again comes out on top for its business account. A business account with Starling is completely free and offers all the awesome features of the personal account with the addition of some brilliant features such as connecting to accounting software like Xero, Quickbooks, or FreeAgent.

Monzo business accounts do offer these features but only on their paid for account. Monzo has two levels of business account available: Lite and Pro. If you want to use the accounting features you will need to hold a Business Pro account which will cost £5 per month. To balance it out, however, the Monzo Business Pro account is offering 6 months free Xero use until 17th June 2020 (for new Xero customers only) which could save you up to £180. If you are planning to use Xero anyway, this offer is essentially worth 3 years of the fee attached to the Monzo Business Pro account.

Starling bank also offers joint accounts as long as you both have personal accounts, something which Monzo have recently added to their features.

Worth a mention


Starling Bank won Best British Bank and Best Current Account 2020, which really is testament to the amazing work they are doing. Starling bank also give you access to their Marketplace on both personal and business accounts where you can integrate several third party financial products. From mortgage and insurance providers to smart pension tools, the marketplace includes a hand picked a selection of third-party products that work with your Starling app. The reason this is so fantastic is because it gives you the ability to see a full overview of many of your financial products, accounts, and services all within the one Starling app.

Monzo do have some third party features such as energy switching and savings accounts, but their marketplace is certainly not as diverse as Starling bank’s. Monzo’s ‘get paid a day early’ feature is worth a mention: if you have your salary paid into your Monzo account Monzo say that they “can advance you the cash one day early. No cost, no hassle. Just more time with your money”

Monzo Vs Starling: the best bank ever?

Both Monzo and Starling bank are great options if you’re looking to open an account with a challenger bank. But is Starling better than Monzo? For me, there’s a few reasons that Starling Bank has the upper hand: if you travel often then it’s clear that Starling is your better option, and for those of you in business or self employed their business account offers some excellent features without having to pay the fee that Monzo charges. Their customer support, should you need it, is available 24/7, and Starling’s offering of investing tools like Wealthify and Wealthsimple through the Marketplace make it easier than ever to get started investing without overwhelm, and from as little as just £1.

Starling pays interest on your whole balance, rather than just on your savings as Monzo offers, and integrates with more payment features than Monzo such as Fitbit Pay and offering pay-in at Post Offices anywhere in the UK.

My preference, for all those reasons, is unwaveringly towards Starling Bank. But with that being said, the ability to utilise pots within one account is absolutely game changing for both personal and business finance, and opening an account with either challenger bank will undoubtedly revolutionise your life! Deciding is Starling better than Monzo absolutely has to come down to personal preference and what you need from your bank.

This post was updated January 2021 to reflect updates to both Starling and Monzo.

Hi I’m Catherine! My mission is to reduce financial anxiety and increase financial empowerment & resilience for 1 million women all around the world.

I am a self-confessed emotional spender turned savvy saver! Having worked in banks since the age of 18, I became very disillusioned with the focus on complicated financial products. I discovered Financial Coaching and by incorporating this into my work as a Financial Planner I have been able to launch a hugely successful standalone financial coaching business in the UK.

Read my story here: Catherine’s Story

Resources:

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Book in a complimentary call to discuss how financial coaching can help you move from financial overwhelm to confidence and control. 

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More Info: Recovering Financially from Lockdown

Open a Starling Personal Account

Open a Starling Business Account

Monzo Personal Account

19 Comments

  1. Tom Hayden on June 6, 2020 at 10:29 am

    Good roundup, thanks Catherine.
    Few points / questions:
    1) Monzo do offer joint accounts- my wife and I have one.
    2) Does Starling allow you to create rules on pots so incoming money is automatically split into pots? (Such as saving 25% of all income for income tax?
    3) Are you in a position to get some info from Monzo or Starling over exactly what kinds of limited liability (ltd) companies they are ‘accepting’ – for some reason neither seem to want to give my business one and I’m not clear why.
    4) Do you have any idea if ‘pots’ show up as different accounts when connected to Xero? I use the Profit First accounting premise which is much like the envelope budgeting system but for businesses.

    If you can update with some of these questions answered this article will be super useful!

    All the best,
    -Tom

    • Aleena Brown on June 13, 2020 at 8:38 pm

      Hi Tom,

      Thank you so much for your comments here – we have updated this to include some changes recently, including Monzo joint accounts, as well as some clarification on pots and rules. In terms of the 3rd and 4th points you have raised, we will do what we can to investigate this for you.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Olly on June 10, 2020 at 1:54 pm

    I found that the inability to set direct debits up in a “space” or allocate a set budget each month ONLY to be used for direct debits, really let Starling down. If it had that it would be perfect.

  3. Sarah on June 11, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. I’ve opened an account with both banks and this has helped me decide what to do and when. Starling aren’t accepting new sole trader business accounts at the moment, just so you know.

  4. Robert Jenkins on August 8, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    Just take care with the Monzo Plus upgrade from the standard account,
    it immediately deletes all payments set up on the original card and it is an almighty job to change them all. They do offer a virtual card facility but it is not apparent what it is and seems interesting to set up on a winters afternoon.
    The customer service is only by typing away and it takes ages for an agency to appear: lots of irritating phrases, clapping hands and rockets, but very time consuming.
    The basic card if nothing goes wrong is great, but if it does sensible to have another bank account too, you will probably need it.

    • Aleena Brown on August 9, 2020 at 6:43 pm

      Great tips Robert, thank you so much for sharing!

  5. Pete Clasby on November 9, 2020 at 8:17 am

    It looks like Starling does provide a scheduled payment option on their pots, it is mentioned briefly on their webpage about setting up ‘goals’.

    The pots are a key reason I am thinking of opening one of these types of account, and wanted to go with Starling but thinking this feature wasn’t available was a real minus.

    I am hoping Starling will also match the ability to pay bills from a pot as that is the only Monzo feature that is making me hesitate in my choice.

    • Aleena Brown on November 18, 2020 at 9:52 am

      Hi Pete,

      You’re absolutely right – we have just confirmed this with Starling who say they added the scheduled pay to pot feature this year. It’s great, isn’t it? I also understand that Starling are building out the pay from pots feature, but at the moment don’t yet have a release date on the feature. I hope this helps with your decision!

      We’ve updated the article now to reflect this.

  6. Jamie on November 21, 2020 at 11:18 am

    Starling customers will gain interest on their money no matter what pot it is in on the app.

    Monzo customers will only gain interest on money in savings pot but it’s a at a higher interest rate than starling?

    • Aleena Brown on February 2, 2021 at 9:05 am

      Hi Jamie,

      Monzo don’t pay interest on money held in pots. You can only earn interest if you take out a savings products from the Monzo marketplace, such as an instant access savings account or fixed term savings account.

      I hope that helps!

  7. Jim joeysonti on December 30, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    Hi

    Thank you for your very informative post. Reading from the comments above, are starling accepting sole trader accounts now?

    Thanks

    • Aleena Brown on February 2, 2021 at 9:01 am

      Hi Jim,

      Yes Starling accept sole trader accounts 🙂

      Starling say “Please note, to open an account as a sole trader, customers must first open a personal current account and meet certain eligibility checks, which include looking at credit data and understanding the nature of the business. If eligible, you will see the option in your app to apply in minutes for a sole trader account.”

  8. Henry on January 31, 2021 at 7:32 am

    I am in the UK on a study visa. After reading your brilliant article, I tried to open a Starling account by first downloading the app but… “this app is not available in your country” was all I got.

    Meanwhile, I didn’t have any restrictions to download Monzo. Perhaps you should add that to your next review.

    • Aleena Brown on February 2, 2021 at 9:00 am

      Hi, thanks for reaching out.

      It seems perhaps this may be to do with your phone or network settings as you mentioned that you are in the UK on a study Visa. If your phone was not purchased in the UK this could be the reason why. I would recommend speaking to your network provider to ask them to change this for you 🙂

  9. Joy on February 6, 2021 at 11:35 pm

    Thanks for a really helpful article I’m puzzled by 1 question though- how can we pay cash into a Monzo account? My boys are given cash for presents and I usually accept that as payment for an online purchase they make. Any ideas welcome here

    And it’s only Starling’s personal accounts that’s compatible with Quick Books, Xero etc – right?

    Thanks again, super helpful and inspiring – I’m planning to open an account tomorrow

    • Aleena Brown on February 19, 2021 at 8:06 am

      Hi Joy,

      You can pay cash into your Monzo account at any store which displays the PayPoint logo, and pay cash into a Starling account at any Post Office branch. I hope this helps and you enjoy your new account!

  10. Phil S. on April 6, 2021 at 9:45 am

    It may be a good idea to update the comments about Startling paying Interest…
    “One of the advantages of Starling Bank over Monzo is that Starling Bank pays you interest on any balance up to £85,000. This is paid on your entire balance including any money in your main cash pot area and any money stored safely in your pots.”
    This is no longer true – in fact you pay them interest on balances over €50,000…
    “No credit interest on positive balances up to or equal to €50,000.
    -0.5% AER on positive balances above €50,000 (i.e. interest is charged on the account).”
    https://www.starlingbank.com/our-fees-rates-and-charges/personal-banking-fees-rates-and-charges/#accounts
    So, the article is now a little misleading

    • Aleena Brown on April 8, 2021 at 12:29 pm

      Hi Phil. Thanks for your comments here. You are absolutely right, however the rate you have quoted applies only to EUR accounts. For UK accounts the interest rate of 0.05% AER on positive balances up to £85,000 is correct.

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