Using Starling in Spain - 2


I’ve recently returned from a windy and warm week in Lanzarote, and I took the decision (much to the frustration of my wife), to travel there without any Euros.

I took my Starling card, FD credit card, and Revolut Visa card. The intention was to put everything through my Starling card, apart from the initial “hold” for the rental car (which I was told would be £1,500), and then the Revolut card was just for back up.

Quick note - After looking at the options, I decided to chose Starling over Revolut for my spending abroad.

The difference being, with Revolut, you change your GBP into EUR before you travel, and therefore “lock in” the exchange rate.

With Starling, the exchange rate is based on the MasterCard rate, so it can fluctuate during your holiday - I figured the ease of use of Starling, was more important to me than any minor fluctuations.

The first payment required was on the flight (BA) - Everything went through fine, but the notification came through about 2 days later (around midnight if I recall correctly) - Assume this is because the card machines on a plane are offline, and don’t get processed fully, until later on.

When we landed, and I’d queued for what seemed like forever, the rental company (Avis), informed me that I only needed to pay a fuel deposit (which was a £55 “hold”), and I’d get it returned when I bring the car back.

Despite checking with First Direct, and having confirmation that I didn’t need to tell them I was travelling, shock horror…… the card was declined (I also only received the phone call about an hour later, asking if I was abroad).

So, Starling to the rescue, and the £55 to Avis went through easily - This was my first experience of using the card in Euros, for it to tell me instantly how much it was in GBP - I’d love to see a feature on the App which would tell us the cost in GBP BEFORE we buy something in a foreign currency.

Note: I know this has been discussed in detail before, but I don’t like how the app deals with “holds” and “reversals” - I checked the app yesterday, and I was expecting to see a -£55 come back into the account from Avis - Instead, there was nothing - The initial outgoing payment had gone and there was no reversal - I just had to assume that everything was OK.

I’d like to see the app show where I initially paid the £55, and then subsequently when it was refunded.

When we arrived at the villa, the owner went through everything, and finally asked for the €200 deposit……. Er…… What now?

Clearly a bit of “mixed communication” had happened, as I thought I’d already paid for everything.

FinTechs…… Unite! I whipped out my……. Phone, and sent the equivalent of €200 from my Starling account to my Revolut account (sent in GBP).

I then converted it from GBP to EUR in Revolut, and sent the owner the bank transfer (I already had his details from paying for the villa). This all took less than 2 minutes, and we were both amazed at how smoothly it went.

All the local cafes, shops and restaurants took card, and it was genuinely liberating to not have any cash on me.

Everywhere we went, the Starling card worked perfectly, and I’d get a notification before I’d even taken the receipt, of how much it cost in GPB.

The only place which didn’t (and I still can’t work this out), was probably the number 1 tourist attraction on the entire island - Timanfaya (the Volcano).

Despite numerous attempts from my wife and kids to get me to get cash out, I boldly proclaimed “It’s the number 1 attraction on the island……. OF COURSE they will take card”.

Well, after a 30 minute drive through what looked like Mordor (Lord of the Rings reference), the non english speaking assistant in his little hut, told me “No card”, and to go to the nearest town - Yaiza.

What’s more annoying, is that the gift shop at the very top of the Volcano, DOES accept card!

Anyway, that’s all for my Lanzarote tale - It’s been an absolute pleasure to use abroad!

PS: I know it’s been said many times, but ALWAYS pay in EUR when the card machine asks you - I worked it out, and I saved £100 over the course of the week, just by doing this.

I ended up just telling the cashier to use EUR, because sometimes the language the card machines use, is either in a foreign language, or unnecessarily complicated.

PPS: Even on the ATM’s that charge you, still chose the option where your bank adds on a fee, and not the one where you pay the fee on the ATM.

Thanks for reading!


Great write-up! Glad everything worked well for you. The point you made above about seeing the MasterCard rate/GBP amount is a great shout - perhaps this could be added somewhere?


This is great. I can safely say that my experiences abroad have been largely the same as yours. And any glitches haven’t been the fault of Starling.

However, I’m supporting this! Starling really need to show reversals:


Nice to see it all worked well. Strange about the Volcano, but it’s Spain they don’t always do things logically.

For them to show the GBP rate before you buy something, would either mean you tell the app you are in a country or the app notices and tells you. The latter option is something other banks do so its possible.

As for holds and reversals being shown, I think the majority of us agree that’s important.