Home A Guide to Challenger Banks Starling Bank

Starling Bank

Headquartered in London’s financial district, Starling Bank gives customers access to various personal and business banking products including joint bank accounts, multi-currency accounts and financial services for children under 16. Despite its reputation as a relatively new challenger bank, Starling offers fully-regulated bank accounts and services covered by the UK’s Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Updated: 30/06/2021
Read time: 8 minutes
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About Starling Bank

Due to its business model – the bank functions solely as a digital entity – the company’s overheads are substantially lower than traditional brick and mortar banks such as HSBC and Barclays. This means Starling is in a better position to offer better deals on financial services including no ATM or transaction fees overseas and no monthly fees.

Further advantages of banking with Starling include quick and easy onboarding for new customers, 24/7 customer support, digital spending reports and instant payment notifications.

Can I use Starling Bank for international bank transfers? 

Yes, customers can use the app to set up international bank transfers to 38 countries, choosing from a range of 20 different currencies. It is worth noting that although multi-currency accounts are available, Starling international bank transfers must originate in Pound Sterling (GBP).

Starling Bank Exchange rates and fees

“Send money abroad with no hidden fees” is how Starling Bank pitches their international transfer services; but just how much are the fees? We want to take a closer look at the cost of Starling cross-border payments by identifying the different fees and rate of exchange.

Exchange rate

As a challenger bank, Starling is keen to appeal to customers of long-standing financial institutions who are looking elsewhere for more competitive international banking services. One way to entice these customers is by offering highly desirable, bank-beating exchange rates. 

According to their website, the most common international remittances are Euro, US Dollar, South African Rand, Polish Zloty and Thai Baht transfers. To better understand the bank’s rate of exchange, we utilised Starling’s Foreign Exchange Rates function to research each of these top international transfers. 

We discovered the bank’s profit margins range from as low as 0.003% (GBP/USD) to 0.13% (GBP/THB). Only a fraction above than the mid-market rate, Starling Bank’s slim profit margins are far more favourable than other UK banks who tend to apply profit margins between 2 – 4%.

Transfer fees

Starling Bank applies a flat-fee to each international transfer and these fees are determined by the type of payment chosen. There are two options to choose from:

  • Low Cost Payment: for customers prioritising price over speed – this option cannot be recalled or cancelled – transfer fees for this service cost 0.4% of the total amount (minimum £0.30 per transfer)
  • SWIFT Payment: this type of transfer is sent via the SWIFT network which makes it far easier to track the status of these payments. Transfers sent using this option will be deposited directly in the recipient’s bank and costs the sender the same 0.4% in transfer fees, but with an additional delivery fee of £5.50

Additional costs

In addition to the 0.4% transfer fee, local network fees apply to the following countries: 

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Estonia
  • Euro zone
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands 
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • United States

How do Starling Bank transfer fees compare to using a money transfer provider?

Finding a reliable and secure free money transfer service is incredibly rare (and not always a good idea) especially when it comes to international transfers to more remote regions. Starling Bank’s transfer fees are pretty competitive when compared to the services offered by leading money transfer providers like Azimo and OFX, and remain a great deal lower than most major banking institutions.

Starling Bank pros and cons

In this section we will present the main advantages and disadvantages of Starling Bank international transfers, making it easier for customers to compare their services to their competitors.

Pros
Multi-currency functionality: although standard Starling Bank accounts are held in GBP, customers have the option to hold money in Euros and to send and receive this currency with no fee
Slick and easy to use: the app has a near-perfect rating on both the App Store and Google Play Store
Transparent fee structure: two type of flat-fee rates applied to international transfers, with all costs displayed clearly throughout the payment process
Cons
No physical bank branches: a potential deal-breaker for customers who prefer in-person services
Accessible via smartphone only: another deal-breaker for any infrequent smartphone users or those reliant on browser-based internet banking
Limited global reach: international transfers can only be converted from GBP to 20 currencies and 38 countries

Answers to key questions about Starling Bank

Here we will provide insight into common areas of interest from prospective and existing Starling Bank customers, with specific focus on international transfers.

Can I open a Starling Bank account in any country?

Customers with a UK home address will be able to open a Starling Bank account. During the sign-up process customers will be asked to provide a UK phone number and proof of address. This being said, customers do not have to be a UK tax resident and phone numbers from the following countries can also be used when registering for an account: Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, USA.

Does Starling Bank have an app?

Yes, Starling Bank accounts are entirely managed via the mobile app which can be downloaded for free on iOS and Android. The application has been awarded 4.8/5 stars by Google Play Store customers and 4.9/5 on App Store: these high scores are higher than many competitors in the financial services sector.

Are there transfer limits?

£10,000 is the daily transfer limit applied to both Personal and Business Starling Bank accounts.

How long do transfers take with Starling Bank?

Domestic transfers are instant but international transfers generally take 1 – 3 working days to arrive with the recipient. SEPA transfers are only processed during working hours and national holidays may interfere with processing times.

Can I use a Starling Bank debit card when travelling abroad? 

Yes, the Starling Bank debit card is designed for overseas use and  can be used in nearly 200 countries. Most banks charge excessive foreign ATM or transaction fees but customers can enjoy fee-free payments when outside the UK: although some ATMs may charge their own provider fee.

How to open an account and transfer money with Starling Bank

Customers will need a government-issued photo ID such as a driving license, passport or UK residence card as well as proof of address, such as a utility bill, council tax letter or a statement from another UK bank.

Opening a multi-currency account

Customers looking to open a Starling account in EUR must first apply for a UK current account. Once your account has been approved you will be able to add a Euro account through the app.

Opening an account

Registering for a Starling Bank account is easy and the entire process can be completed online by following these 5 steps:

Step 1. Download the Starling Bank app by clicking Get the App on the company’s website. Once downloaded you will need to select I’m New to Starling to begin the sign-up process. 

Step 2. You will be able to choose from a Personal or Business account and, after selecting from these options, you will be asked to enter a mobile number. Once you have entered your phone number, you will receive a 6-digit verification code via SMS and be asked to set up further security authentication in the form of a passcode and fingerprint ID. 

Step 3. Next you will need to enter your personal details such as full name, home address (you will need to confirm whether you have resided at this address for more than 6 months) date of birth and email address. Once you have completed this section, the Starling app will verify your identity by checking it against a government-issued photo ID and selfie video. At this point you will be asked to upload a copy of your photo ID before following the video guidelines using your smartphone camera.

Step 4. After verifying your identity, Starling will ask a few questions regarding your total income and where your income comes from. When you have entered this information you will be asked to review the bank’s terms and conditions, rates, fees and charges, as well as the privacy notice. If you are happy with the terms outlined in this section, click Submit Application.

Step 5. On average Starling Bank takes 3 – 5 working days to verify your information and approve your application for a Personal or Business account. Once you receive approval via email you will be able to make an international money transfer.

Transferring money

Step 1. Open the Starling Bank app and click on the Payments tab: on this page you will see the Send Money button. Once you click this there will be two options: Nearby Payments and Foreign Exchange Rates. You will need to select the latter option to initiate an international bank transfer.

Step 2. On the Foreign Exchange Rates page the total amount You Send in GBP will be displayed, followed by the amount They Receive in the chosen currency. Underneath this information the exchange rate and transfer fees will be presented, alongside the Available Delivery Options. Enter the amount you wish to send in the You Send – GBP section, and this amount will be converted in the They Receive section. 

Step 3. Select from SWIFT Payment or Low Cost Payment and select Pay New at the bottom of the page. This will bring you to the New Payee page where you will be asked for the full name, address and bank details (including SWIFT/BIC and IBAN/Account number) of your recipient. Once these details have been entered, click Next and Starling Bank will confirm the recipient’s bank account information which you can choose to Save for future use.

Step 4. Enter the amount you wish to transfer from funds available from your bank account balance along with a payment reference, the date you want to send the money, the frequency (one-off payment or every day/week/month) and Reason for Payment. Once you have completed each section and are happy with the transfer details, tap Pay. 

Step 5. After the payment has been submitted you will be able to view the transfer details by tapping the Home tab. Delivery speed will be determined by the destination country and currency, as outlined in the above section

What customer support options are available with Starling Bank?

Designed to function solely as a smartphone application, there is no browser-based interface or physical branch locations, which may be problematic for anyone who prefers in-person or desktop banking. However, the following customer services are available:

  • 24/7 in-app live chat: also available through the website
  • Designated customer service email address: help@starlingbank.com 
  • UK-based emergency helpline for lost or stolen cards: 0207 930 4450 
  • FAQ Help Centre: with transparent and detailed information categorised for Personal, Business and Joint Account holders
  • Social media channels: Starling Bank is active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and Flipboard

Summary

It is safe to say Starling Bank exceeds expectations laid out by its banking predecessors, and it is certainly an excellent bank account for anyone who frequently travels. The secondary Euro account is likely to prove helpful for an array of customers such as international students, expats or anyone making regular international transfers

Starling Bank goes above and beyond to provide affordable and accessible international banking services and this extends to the exchange rates and transfer fees they offer. Find out more about leading competitors and learn about the different types of international transfer services by searching for the best deal using our comparison tool.

Keith Hodges
Written by
Keith Hodges

Keith is a digital specialist with a background in the financial industry, both as a marketeer and a journalist. Keith joined MoneyTransfers.com in order to take the business to the next level and expand our offering in multiple international money transfer markets.