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Monzo vs Revolut vs Starling: Head-To-Head Comparison (2020)

Let’s face it — mobile banking as a trend has exploded. Mobile bank apps are on a rampage to outdo each other with better features, driving the competitive landscape forward at a rapid pace.

As a result, many of these apps have become super attractive for consumers, and are now packed with features like money management, retirement pots, low-cost currency exchanges, loans, and much more. They’ve flipped the traditional banking experience on its head and done wonders to appease our primal desires for freedom and convenience via mobile technology.

Monzo, Revolut, and Starling are 3 popular mobile banking apps in the UK. In this article, we compare the 3 platforms and talk about their pros, cons, and who they are best suited for. Then we will give our verdict of which is the best mobile banking app.

Monzo vs Revolut vs Starling Bank: An Overview

Monzo

Read our full review of Monzo here.

Monzo is a UK-based “challenger” bank founded in 2015 and currently serves 2 million customers. Monzo has been very popular with the younger crowd due to its intuitive interface and convenience for money managing. Monzo’s mission is to “fix the problems across the industry, like the general lack of transparency, confusing terms and pricing, and business models seemingly designed to catch customers out.

Here is a basic overview of some of Monzo’s key features:

  1. Organise your money
  2. Earn interest on savings
  3. Early payday advances
  4. Keep track of costs
  5. Split bills and pay others easily
  6. Free foreign currency withdrawals (up to £200 every 30 days)

After downloading the Monzo app, you can set up an account. You only have to submit to an identity check to open an account but if you want to apply for loans then they will check your credit. Your bank card will arrive in the mail after a few days and you can add money to your account via cash deposit or check.  

Monzo is registered with the FCA and all deposits have a maximum £85,000 FSCS protection limit. Monzo also does not use a password interface. Instead, Monzo sends “magic links” to your email which lets you access your account. They also include a PIN lock when you want to make financial transactions.  

Monzo earns its revenue through fees and commission. You get charged a fee if you overdraft your account or withdraw cash above the fee-free limit. Commission is charged when you buy products like savings accounts, and they earn money through interest on loans.

Along with the basic features, customers can pay extra for things like travel insurance of a higher withdrawal limit.

Pros

  • Convenience and simplicity
  • “Pots” options lets you set aside money for specific purposes
  • Full FSCS protection
  • Secure login process
  • Easy to share and split payments
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Cons

  • Savings rates are not great
  • £1 fee for cash deposits
  • 3% charge on cash withdrawals about £200

Who Is Monzo Best For?

Monzo is best-suited for younger customers who want an easy and convenient way to save, manage their money, budget, and make purchases. Monzo has a lot of useful features for managing money from its foreign currency services to splitting payments with friends. The “pots” function is a great way to get into saving and work towards specific financial goals.

Revolut

Read our full review of Revolut here.

Revolut is another app-based bank service. Like Monzo, Revolut was founded in 2015 and currently serves about 2 million customers. Revolut’s main draws are its prepaid debit cards and cheap travel money benefits. Revolut has recently expanded operations to include cryptocurrency, insurance products, and common stock trades. Revolut is oriented towards those who live a global lifestyle and don’t want to be tied down by geographical barriers.

Here is a quick rundown of some features Revolut offers customers:

  • No charges on international transactions
  • Send money wherever with no fees
  • Built-in budgeting
  • Spare change saving
  • Free turbo transfers
  • Cryptocurrency access
  • Virtual cards
  • Premium cards

As you can see, Revolut is geared towards people who travel a lot and need access to money regardless of where they are. Their whole model is based on making accessing your money easy no matter where you are.

For example, Revolut allows you to shop abroad without fees and transfer money between international accounts. Revolut also has other features such as unlimited FX volumes, flight insurance, medical insurance, and free card delivery to over 180 countries.

Revolut charges subscription fees based on which services you buy. The basic European IBAN account is free and gives you access to 25 types of currency exchange. The premium account costs £6.99/mo and nets you access to the free turbo transfers, premium cards, and more. Metal account costs £12.99/mo and adds in free concierge services and 1% cashback on cryptocurrency payments.

Aside from subscription costs, Revolut does not charge any other fees, except for exchange rates on currencies. Lastly, Revolut has it’s “Vaults” feature which is similar to Monzo’s “pots” and lets you set aside money for specific financial goals.

Revolut is also one of the few mobile banking services that put an emphasis on cryptocurrency. Revolut lets you use cryptocurrency basically like cash and has a section for following cryptocurrency rates.

Revolut has one major drawback. They don’t have a UK banking license (yet), so your funds do not have FSCS protection, which protects amounts of up to £85,000.

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Pros

  • Cheap international money transfers
  • Cryptocurrency integration
  • Lots of in-app features such as budgeting and saving
  • Automatically keeps track of spending
  • Ability to hold many currencies in the app
  • Optional security features

Cons

  • Does not offer some traditional banking products like savings accounts or overdrafts
  • Deposits are not FSCS protected
  • Very low cash withdrawal limits

Who Is Revolut Best For?

Revolut is best for spenders who are on the go and like to travel internationally. The whole point of Revolut is to make it easy to access money no matter where in the world you are, which is why they focus so much on international transfers and foreign currencies.

Customers can hold several distinct types of currency in their accounts so they always have some money no matter where they are. Revolut might not be as useful for someone who does not travel very much though. There is also the fact that they don’t have a UK banking license and accounts are not FSCS protected.

Starling Bank

Read our full review of Starling Bank here.

Last on our list of mobile banking apps is Starling. Starling was founded in 2014 but shifted focus to mobile banking in 2016. Starling is currently one of the most well-known mobile banking services in the UK.

Out of the three products we have covered, Starling is probably most like a traditional bank.

They offer common services including accounts, business accounts, loans, deposits, withdrawals, etc. You must be a UK citizen over the age of 16 to open an account, but other than that, there are no restrictions on joining.

Starling lets you manage your accounts in two currencies: GBP and EUR. The app keeps track of your purchases for budgeting issues and allows you to add money via debit/credit card, bank transfers, or cheques. Starling has received a lot of positive feedback from users and generally scores very well on customer review sites like Trustpilot.

One drawback to Starling is withdrawal limits. You are limited to 6 withdrawals a day and there is a max withdrawal limit of £300 per day. In contrast, you can deposit up to £20,000 in one go.

Starling offers business banking accounts, though the application process is a bit more difficult and there is no guarantee you will qualify.

Pros

  • No account fees or monthly fees
  • No transfer fees
  • Very good reputation
  • Traditional banking services
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Setting up a basic account is easy

Cons

  • Low withdrawal limits
  • High loan rates
  • Only accessible via the app
  • Local AtM fees are not reimbursed

Who Is Starling Best For?

Starling is best for those who want a mobile bank but with the experience of a more traditional bank. Starling offers basic types of bank accounts with no fees and also offers several bank services like loans.

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Starling is only open to UK residents, but they have great customer service. Starling has also won the 2020 British Banking Awards for “Best British Bank.”

Monzo vs Revolut vs Starling: Which Is the Best?

At the end of the day, the best platform depends on your needs. Monzo, Revolut, and Starling are all good services that people can find benefit in.

Monzo seems to be best suited to younger people who want to become in control of their finances. Monzo’s onboarding process is simple and they offer a bunch of useful features that younger customers can take advantage of like automatic savings and splitting payments. Monzo also has a deeper security structure which reduces the risks of your account being hacked if you lose a password. The best feature for younger savers is probably the “pots” option which lets you set aside money for specific things.

Revolut is best if you travel a lot and have money in a bunch of different currencies. Revolut seems specifically designed for the global traveler, so if you are not out and about a lot then they probably won’t be a good choice. However, if you like to travel a lot then the wide selection of currency exchanges, no international transfer fees, and integrated cryptocurrency functions are a solid choice. The main flaw with Revolut is that it is not FSCS protected.

Lastly, Starling is probably best for those who want a convenient mobile banking app that gives the experience of a traditional bank. Starling is limited to UK citizens but offers a selection of reliable bank service staples, such as personal/business accounts, loans, and good third-party services. The main drawbacks of Starling are the low withdrawal limits and the fact that you are limited to just 2 currencies: pounds and the euro.

Final Thoughts

Mobile banking seems to be here to stay, and many organizations are jumping on the train of offering mobile services. Mobile services offer some advantages over traditional banks in that they can be accessed from anywhere and offer at-a-distance services. Whether you need an app for saving, for travel, or for managing and budgeting finances, mobile banking apps can be the solution to your problems.

Tom
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About author

Fully qualified CISI Investment adviser for 5 year. Managed UK private client portfolios.
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