Starling Bank - inclusive or exclusive?


With the recent introduction of a fee when you’re mugged abroad and need a replacement card, and now the straw-poll that has apparently consigned funding your Starling bank account using another debit card to the bin, I am intrigued what type of customer the bank is actually looking to attract.

  • I’ve notice some here on the community look down their noses at those of us who do not have 3 to 6 months worth of ready-cash in the bank in case we fall on hard times. In a country where food banks are often needed by hard working families, this is neither helpful or needed. Most of us know we need to save more, but life pressures often prevent that.

  • It’s been ordained few require the ability to fund their Starling bank account using a debit card because faster payments are prevalent, and that most customers don’t use the feature. Clearly there are some who would continue to find this feature very helpful to them and have unique personal cases. There are costs for the bank - sure, but if it’s not used very much why withdraw it.

  • The newly designed debit cards, whilst attractive, don’t seem to consider those with accessibility issues. Of course the good news is that @anne has state she’s seen some designs that address this, but I remain intrigued why these considerations were not designed in to the product from the get-go.

  • Recently a charge that’s been introduced if you need a replacement debit card whilst abroad. Previously, these would have been reviewed on a case-by-case basis. But those of us who are regularly (or constantly) travelling the world want certainty of a replacement card - obviously so because it saves them a small fortune in FX and ATM fees while they globe-trot. But for most of us, being mugged during our 2 weeks in the sun will now costs us £60 to get a new card.

  • There‘s also been consternation about eligibility requirements for opening the Starling current account. Were being told that the account is available without a credit check, but there appear to be a number of applicants being knocked back due to past issues. Clearly applications may fail due to ID checks and that’s absolutely fine, but I wonder whether there some secret-squirrel credit-scoring going on behind the scenes to decline certain applications (other than due to fraud and ID verification issues).

So my question really is how accessible is the Starling Bank account supposed to be?

From recent events it could be interpreted that Starling’s target demographics would be individuals with no disabilities, with an excellent credit history, who are already well-served by the UK banking industry, are affluent (above average income with considerable savings), and who travel the world for extended periods of the year.

This post isn’t about the individual issues I’ve raised here - there are separate community threads addressing all these subjects. This is more a question for Starling to answer:

Is Starling Bank an inclusive or exclusive bank?


Great questions Rob.

I’ll try and answer from my perspective.

Yes. Yes I believe Starling to be inclusive, not exclusive.

I’m none of the people you mention in your post (bucket load of savings, constantly travelling etc).

I also know other people using Starling who don’t even have a stable income, zero savings and they still managed to get an account.

Obviously with the internet being what it is, you will always hear about those who can’t get an account (and want to let the world know) - But I personally won’t knock Starling for that side of things.

As for the cards - You (and others), are working on the assumption that “accessibility” cards were only brought about due to the discussion on this forum (implying they had been given no thought).

Now, I have no idea whether that is true or not - But there is always the possibility that the cards for the disabled were already in the works.

Maybe I’m alone here, but it seems people are forgetting just how new Starling is - Expecting everything to be as polished and seamless as your high street bank.

Quite simply, that just isn’t going to work - Starling is incredibly new, releasing new features at an alarming rate, and will undoubtedly have teething problems with certain things.

As for the debit card top up thing - I’m going to sound like a broken record, but I’m still yet to see a genuine case of someone using it with no other options. The fact it’s going around in circles feels more like people wanting to moan, for moanings sake.

Regarding the £60 replacement card fee - Starling have never encouraged extended use abroad - It’s not like they are capitalising on their success of people using it in a foreign country and trying to charge them over the odds to replace the card.

They even say “wait if you can wait” - I mean… Yes, it’s more expensive than “free” - But until last week, there wasn’t even a policy for it (the case by case basis could have easily turned around a “no, we won’t do it”).

People asked for a policy, they now have a policy, and that’s how these things work.

Lastly - As for your very first question of what type of customer are they looking to attract? Obviously only Starling can answer that.

But I would have thought it was one who used it as their main bank account (salary/DD paid in), and used it as their spending account where necessary.

I’ve seen a whole range of people on this forum, from young to old, rich to poor, and I can safely say the diversity is what makes the discussions so valuable.

Sorry for the lengthy post :smiley:


Well said @NickH :slight_smile:

At Starling, we want to support a whole range of people and don’t want to be exclusive. We’re working hard to make sure we are a bank that’s easy to use, has fair and transparent pricing, and takes away the stress of everyday banking whilst simultaneously helping people make better financial decisions.

To hit on a few of your points:

  • We’ve always looked to make the Community a warm and welcoming environment to everyone, but if you feel some posts are derogatory towards you then feel free to reach out to us or flag the posts and we’ll take a look!
  • For topping up via debit card, we’re part of the discussion in the thread on this in the Community (Adding money via debit card) and it’s something we’re actively considering. Starling Bank’s current account is designed to help our customers manage their entire financial lives. Whilst topping up your Starling account using another debit card (or Apple Pay or Google Pay) can be extremely convenient, at a year old we’re now seeing more and more of our customers are paying using bank transfers and setting up payments directly to their account. As well as this, every time you top up from another debit card, we have to pay processing fees, calculated as a percentage of the amount you top up or deposit. Over time and with a growing customer base these costs add up. Like all sensible businesses, we want to be able to control our costs and make a profit so we can continue offering the best current account possible and still pay interest on balances. We hope you’ll agree that this is the right business move and the right customer move - everyone (customers and Starling) benefits from us building a stronger bank. We’re stopping debit card top ups for anyone who created their account on or after 1st August 2018.
  • As Anne mentioned, we are working on the new cards to ensure they work for the visually impaired.
  • If you go abroad and lose your card, we highly recommend bringing a backup card to use in this instance or using your digital wallet (e.g. Apple Pay) if you can. We implemented this emergency card abroad feature based on customer feedback but would urge customers to prepare such that they don’t need to use it!
  • We are constantly working to improve here and want to offer as many people accounts as we can!

We actively consider customer feedback and look to respond to our customers needs, and can promise we’re working hard to build a bank that works for a diverse range of people!


I’d like to see Starling offer a back up card, rather than assume we bank elsewhere in order to have an available backup. You’re encouraging
us to complete a full switch to Starling, yet asking us to take a backup card abroad at the same time. This makes little sense.

Revolut offers spare cards at a low cost, which is awesome:


My virgin money card is very similar to starling. No raised numbers on the front. All details in tiny writing on the back. I think it is the way all MasterCard’s are going. Not sure why?


I think that sounds nice in theory, but also sounds risky.

How likely are you to keep a close eye on both cards?

Presumably one card is regularly left out of sight, potential for it to be stolen?

Also, cost. These little things would soon add up, would we end up having the cost passed on to us? As others have said, I’d rather have fee free spending abroad than free card replacements if I lose mine, or spare cards.

I suppose part of my problem with this is that I can’t imagine travelling with just one card. I travel a lot and like to think I’m smart about it. Relying on one card, to me is very risky.

I’d add to that, so is travelling without an local currency, and travelling with only one card type.

Appreciate not everyone will agree though.


I didn’t say it was free. There is a small cost. The screenshot shows that Revolut charge customers £4.99 for an additional card which I think is fair.

I guess it’s something you would put in your safety deposit box abroad, along with your passport and valuables. If you’re a smart traveler, you would make sure you get a safety deposit box…

If Starling are happy for MSE to shout about them being the best fee-free foreign card, should they not push to also be a smart and fee-free foreign card by offering these extras to make traveling really chilled and financially stress-free?


Thanks @Megan_Caywood for the quick response on this.

Also on a side note: it’s brilliant that on this forum members of the Starling team interact with the community members and join the discussion and are open to feedback and changes. Starling is on a journey and there is a learning curve that will happen. But it’s totally refreshing regardless of viewpoints that conversations are happening. A more traditional bank would have multiple layers of management. It’s still great that we can talk to the actual people building the product. I hope that continues even as the bank grows.


As it should be! :+1:t2::heart:


Thought you might say that, should have been clearer. I know you didn’t say it would be free and didn’t say you did.

Not all hotels have safety deposit boxes, and not all that do have working ones. I’m sure the tone in that paragraph wasn’t intended to read as it did, but, again, I’ve travelled a lot and know better than to expect a safe in a room. Want? Yes. Expect. No.

That said, I wasn’t really talk about risk to the customer but risk to the bank. I also wasn’t only talking about risk when abroad but risk when at home with the card collecting dust somewhere.

Is this a nice idea? Yes. Does it make complete sense for a bank as a business? I’m not sure it does.


Yes, by ‘you’ I didn’t mean you personally. Just in general. Apologies! Can see how that sounded from your viewpoint. :thinking:


To be honest this heat has made me more grouchy than usual. Nothing wrong with what you said to most non grumpy type people I suspect :smile:

Seriously though, I get your points and agree. I’d be all for that feature. Just playing devil’s advocate a bit. I stand by what I said about travelling with one card being a bad idea and not something I’d ever feel comfortable doing, so I have to back Starling up there.


I believe ordering a second card is on our roadmap internally. Please bare with us on this one! :credit_card: :slightly_smiling_face:

High fees?

I do like the idea of a spare card. It could work given others have said elsewhere that banks can sort cards in branch, which obviously Starling haven’t got. If the spare is locked, and can be unlocked from the app or by CS (following security checks), that could work perhaps?

That said, I rarely travel, so it has little impact on me.


I still don’t understand why there’s just a ‘lost/stolen’ option, and no ‘damaged’, which would enable you to get a new card with the same number. In this day and age where people have card details stored all over the internet (perhaps unwisely :roll_eyes:) i don’t want to have to spend a morning updating the details in all manner of places just because the signature has worn off or the chip’s not working as well as it should. Loving the spare card idea though!


This is where Google Pay and Apple Pay will step in.

Once they become the norm on online retailers we a) stop storing our card details in numerous locations of varying levels of safety and b) don’t need to wait for new cards to be sent out.

Problem then is well need to carry spare £600 smartphones but, you know, one step at a time…


Of course, we’ve got to actually get there first. E-Commerce companies are frustratingly slow to implement these consistently.


Do we know that these were free before the fee?


This has piqued my interest somewhat; what other fees are there that aren’t really outlined upfront? I noticed another thread about a foreign transfer delivery fee and some percentage loading on those, which I was not aware of either. I would rather have these detailed upfront, perhaps in a fee schedule, than be hit by them out of the blue.

Likewise, though I doubt you can comment, are there any major changes to the offering upcoming that would significantly change the value proposition? For example, ending or limiting commission free foreign transactions.


Yes, as per this: