Starling vs Monzo – which is the better app-only bank?

9 min Read Published: 25 Apr 2024

STarling vs Monzo which is best

App-only banks are becoming increasingly popular with consumers and have shaken up the banking world with their brightly coloured debit cards and handy budgeting features. In this article, we compare two of the leading digital banks - Monzo and Starling Bank*. If you would also like to see how Monzo and Starling compare to Revolut you can read our comparisons here: Revolut vs Starling bank and Revolut vs Monzo.

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Starling vs Monzo - Which is best?

Starling*  Monzo
UK registered bank account  tick tick
FSCS protection  tick tick
Personal Account tick tick
Business Account tick tick
Direct debit/Standing order tick tick
Overdraft tick tick
Personal loan cross tick
Money management features tick tick
Round-up spending  tick tick
Fee-free spending abroad Free Free
Fee-free cash withdrawals abroad and in the UK Free Free up to £200/month outside EEA. Free up to £400/month in UK/EEA
Cash/cheque deposits  tick tick
Access to an interest-earning savings account  tick tick
Interest on current account balance  tick tick
Connect other bank accounts to the app  tick Paid accounts only
Apple Pay/Google Pay tick tick
Samsung Pay  tick cross
Insurance policies  cross Monzo Max/Premium feature

Starling* and Monzo are very similar and there are few differences between the two. Both digital banks offer FSCS protection and features that come with a UK-registered bank account such as direct debits and the ability to apply for an overdraft. Monzo account holders can also apply for a personal loan, which is something that is not currently offered by Starling Bank.

Both Monzo and Starling offer budgeting features within the app and the ability to track and categorise your payments however, Monzo does take it one step further by offering the ability to set budgets, and spending targets as well as track trends within your spending.

Both banks offer fee-free spending abroad although Monzo does enforce limits on cash withdrawals depending on where you are travelling. If you want to benefit from packaged account features such as insurance and rewards you may wish to look into Monzo's monthly subscription accounts which include Monzo Perks and Monzo Max (priced at £7 and £17). Monzo Extra, which costs £3 a month, offers lots of additional budgeting features but none of the rewards on offer with the more expensive options.

If you want to deposit cash or cheques you can do so with both Monzo and Starling. Cash deposits cost 0.7% for balances over the £1,000 annual limit with Starling Bank compared to the cost of £1 per deposit with Monzo. If you regularly deposit cheques, Starling may be the better option as you can deposit cheques up to £1,000 in-app whereas you can only send these by post when you bank with Monzo.

For a more detailed breakdown of each bank read our reviews:

Starling vs Monzo - Accounts

Starling* Monzo
Personal account tick tick
Subscription accounts  cross Monzo Extra/Perks/Max
Joint account tick tick
Business account tick tick
Teen Account tick tick (16 & 17 year-olds)
Kids Account tick (6 - 15 year olds) cross
Multi-currency Account tick(Business only) cross

Both Monzo and Starling have a range of accounts including joint accounts and separate accounts for teens. Starling takes it one step further with a free children's account, which is integrated within the parent's personal account. Starling also has a multi-currency account* for business use and this is available in US Dollars or Euros.

Monzo also offers three paid accounts - Extra, Perks, and Max - which come with a range of budgeting features and rewards that aren't available to customers on the free plan. Monzo's paid plans used to be called Plus and Premium and some existing customers still have these. However, the bank revamped its packaged bank accounts in April 2024, so the old accounts are no longer available to new customers.

Starling vs Monzo - Fees

Starling* Monzo
Monthly account fee £0 £0
Subscription accounts cross £3/£7/£17
Fee-free spending abroad No charge No charge
ATM withdrawals abroad No charge Free up to £200/month outside EEA (3% thereafter)

Free up to £400/month inside EEA (3% thereafter)

ATM withdrawals in the UK No charge Free up to £400/month (3% thereafter)
International Transfers 0.4% plus local transfer fees. £5.50 for SWIFT payments. More information can be found here. Send an international money transfer via Wise*, fee information can be found here
Overdraft interest rate 15%, 25% or 35% AER 19%, 29% or 39% AER
Depositing cash  0.7% fee for deposits over the £1,000 annual limit.  £1 per deposit (limited free cash deposits for paid Monzo accounts)
Replacement debit cards  1 free replacement then £5 if lost in the UK, £10 if lost abroad 2 free replacements then £5 thereafter in the UK

£30 fee if lost abroad

There is little difference between the fees with a Starling* and Monzo account as both banks are free to open and maintain a personal account. Monzo offers some subscription accounts that increase some of the spending limits and come with additional perks such as travel insurance but this does come at a monthly cost. Monzo charges for ATM withdrawals abroad and in the UK once you've reached a set limit whereas Starling Bank has fee-free ATM withdrawals worldwide. As with all banks, there may be a fee charged by the ATM provider.

If you want to send money abroad, Starling Bank has a 0.4% fee in addition to any local transfer fees and it costs £5.50 for a SWIFT payment. If you are sending money abroad with Monzo, this is done via Wise* which charges a low-cost transfer fee that varies depending on the amount you are transferring and the currency you are using.

Starling vs Monzo - Spending abroad

Starling* Monzo
Fee-free spending abroad No charge No charge
ATM withdrawals abroad No charge Free up to £200/month outside EEA (3% thereafter)

Free up to £400/month inside EEA (3% thereafter)

Exchange rate  Mastercard Mastercard

Neither Monzo nor Starling charges for spending abroad and they both use the Mastercard exchange rate with no additional mark-up fees often charged by high street banks. The biggest difference between the two banks is that Starling Bank does not charge for ATM withdrawals when you are away. Monzo provides fee-free ATM withdrawals up to a certain limit before it starts charging a 3% fee and this varies depending on whether you are travelling within the European Economic Area (EEA).

Starling vs Monzo - FSCS protection

Starling* Monzo
UK registered bank account  tick tick
FSCS protection  tick tick

Both Starling and Monzo are UK-registered banks which means that your deposits are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) up to the value of £85,000 or £170,000 for a joint account.

Starling vs Monzo - Rewards

Starling* Monzo
Cashback  Earn cashback if you integrate with apps such as Tail located within the Starling Bank Marketplace Earn cashback by activating the cashback feature within the Monzo app. 
Rewards  cross Access to rewards and offers with a Monzo Perks or Max account (Plus or Premium for existing customers)
Insurance   Access to home and life insurance providers via the Starling Bank marketplace* Phone insurance, UK and Europe breakdown cover, and worldwide travel insurance with Monzo Max (can extend to family for an additional £5 a month).

*The insurance is not included with Starling Bank and would need to be purchased separately

If you're interested in cashback deals then you may wish to look at Chase Bank as it offers cashback for everyday debit card spending for customers for their first year.

Starling vs Monzo - Saving

  Starling* Monzo
Savings pots  tick tick
Round up spending  tick tick
Saving account  tick tick
Interest rate 3.25% on current account balance (up to £5,000)

4.48% with 1-Year Fixed Rate Saver

Between 3.70% - 4.81% with savings providers partnered with Monzo

If you wish to earn interest on your money then Monzo may be more appealing as it has connections with providers that offer interest-earning savings accounts. You can choose to save your money in an easy-access or fixed savings account and earn up to 4.81% interest depending on the account that you choose.

With Starling Bank*, you can save money into separate savings pots and Starling personal current account holders can save into a 1-year Fixed Rate saver and earn 4.48% interest on balances over £2,000. You can also earn 3.25% interest on the balance in your Starling Bank personal account (up to £5,000).

Starling vs Monzo - Lending

  Starling* Monzo
Overdraft tick tick
Personal loans cross tick
Business loans  tick cross
Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) cross tick

Both Monzo and Starling offer overdrafts on personal bank accounts but neither offer overdrafts on joint accounts. Account holders can apply for an overdraft up to the value of £2,000 with Monzo and up to £5,000 with Starling Bank.

Starling Bank does not currently offer any personal loans but business account holders can apply for a business overdraft or loan. Monzo does not offer any business loans but you can get a personal loan up to £25,000 with Monzo. Additionally, Monzo recently introduced its own Buy Now Pay Later option, Monzo Flex. Users can choose to spread the cost of a payment over 3, 6 and 12 months. For more information on Monzo Flex and how it works read our 'Monzo Flex review'.

Starling vs Monzo - Investing

Starling* Monzo
Investment options  Available via third-party partners (Wealthify) Available via Monzo Investments (investment pots)
Fees  0.76% to 1.3% per year 0.59% charged monthly

Starling Bank* doesn't currently offer investing options via the platform. However, you can find investment options through the Starling marketplace. Wealthify, for example, integrates with the Starling app and supports general investment accounts, pensions, and ISAs. Investment costs vary. You can expect to pay between 0.76% and 1.3% per year, depending on whether you opt for Original or Ethical investments.

Monzo offers three investment options through its Investments feature. The three funds on offer are based on the level of risk you wish to take. These include:

  • The "Careful" fund: Approximately 80% of your money will be invested in bonds, while 20% will be invested in shares.
  • The "Balanced" fund: Approximately 34% of your money will be allocated to bonds, while 66% will end up in shares.
  • The "Adventurous" fund: All of your money will be invested in shares.

The funds are managed by BlackRock and all come with the same fees. Investors pay 0.59% of their investment value in fees, which are made up of a 0.14% fund fee and a 0.45% platform fee. If you're a Perks or Max member (or Plus/Premium existing member), you'll qualify for a lower platform fee of 0.35% instead. You can choose to open a Stocks and Shares ISA or a general investment account, depending on your preferences.

Starling vs Monzo - Customer reviews

  Starling* Monzo
Trustpilot rating  4.3/5 3.9/5

Starling Bank* has a Trustpilot rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars from over 39,000 reviews. 76% of customers have rated Starling as 'Excellent' citing it as an easy-to-use bank and great when spending abroad. 11% have rated it as 'Bad' with some customers commenting on problems sending payments overseas and problems opening accounts.

Monzo has a Trustpilot rating of 3.9 out of 5 stars from over 31,000 reviews. 77% of customers have rated Monzo as 'Excellent' and have commented on a great app design, good customer service and ease of use abroad. 14% rated it as 'Bad' with customers commenting on problems with approving payments and account reviews.

Starling vs Monzo - Summary

Overall, there is little difference between these two digital bank accounts. Both apps are easy to use and provide a number of useful money management features. Monzo's budgeting features are slightly better than Starling's as you can set budgets for spending categories and there is also the option to get your salary paid a day early. Both accounts have separate pots where you can save your money and these help you save towards goals, especially with round-ups, a feature that rounds up any spare change, meaning you can save money as you spend.

If you are choosing the best app-only bank for spending abroad, both Monzo and Starling* offer fee-free spending abroad, however, Monzo has limits on ATM withdrawals which may end up costing you more if you regularly require access to cash. Both Monzo and Starling use the Mastercard exchange rate which means there is no difference in the exchange rate when you are spending abroad. You can find out the Mastercard exchange rate here.

If you are looking for greater saving and borrowing options then Monzo may be better as it has a greater choice between savings accounts that allow you to earn interest with partner banks and the option to borrow up to £25,000 with a personal loan. Starling Bank currently only has the option to borrow via an overdraft and it has only recently introduced its 1-Year Fixed rate saver but this is limited to personal current account holders only. Starling does however pay an interest rate of 3.25% per month on your current account balance.

If you are looking for ways to invest then both Starling and Monzo have options to help you get started. Monzo's new Investment Pots feature lets you choose from three different Black Rock-managed funds. Starling doesn't have its own investment feature, but it offers third-party investment options via its marketplace.

To summarise, both Starling Bank* and Monzo are great options for everyday banking and travelling abroad. If you are still unsure which is best for you, you can download both and compare the usability features to see which is a better match for your lifestyle. Read our reviews for a more in-depth analysis of each of the challenger banks. You can also compare them to their rivals Revolut and Chase Bank in the below articles:

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