Looking for the best UK travel card? Starling Bank offers a great way to bank on a day to day basis but it’s an incredible card for travelling too!
UK based and looking for the best travel card for your next adventure?
Managing money whilst travelling – especially long term travel – can be a bit of a nightmare and even small fees can quickly eat into your hard earned savings.
After 10 years on the road I’ve finally found an awesome solution – in the form of Starling Bank.
Although not marketed as a travel card, it has everything you need to manage your money on the road without hidden fees, rubbish exchange rates or bad customer service.
After testing it out everywhere from Bali and Australia to Mozambique here’s my experience with Starling Bank and why it’s an epic travel card for Brits…
REVIEW: Starling Bank – The Best Travel Card For Brits?
5 Minute Setup
Getting setup with a Starling account is ridiculously quick and easy – as their whole system is app only.
No physical banks at all (although if you’re worried about that you can still deposit money at your local post office!).
And because of this getting yourself setup is quick, easy and convenient.
In fact the whole process will only take about 5 minutes to complete (as long as you have a couple of documents/ID to hand) so you’ve really got nothing to loose by getting an account setup.
I know what you’re probably thinking though – is it safe?
Well you’ll be happy to discover that Starling Bank is all fully regulated in the UK and is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) so your deposits are protected up to £85,000 – which is the same as most ‘traditional’ UK banks. Happy days!
They’ve also recently won the title of “Best British Current Account” in 2019 too.
Easy and Informative App
By far the best thing about Starling v other banking apps I’ve used (here’s looking at you HSBC, probably the worst UI I’ve seen in a looooong time!) is the ease of using the app and how simple it makes managing your finances – both home and abroad.
The home screen gives an instant overview of your account balance, as well as a quick breakdown of your spending for the day – allowing you to easily track your money.
A quick swipe up then shows you a scrolling screen of all your recent transactions – including amount and who it was with – again another great way to be able to track your money.
The real tracking though comes when you hit “spending” which then gives you a monthly overview of where your spending all your cash – with a screen for both individual companies and also categories. So now you can quickly see how those after work pints mount up and how much money you’re wasting on those Starbucks coffees!
Hitting “Card” will take you to your account information, allowing you to manage your spending limits as well as a whole heap of security measures to keep your money safe too – such as temporarily locking your card if you loose/misplace it, ordering a replacement or simply getting a reminder for your PIN.
You can also access your card details here, so if you’re making a payment online you dont need to go and find your wallet to enter everything in!
Saving With Spaces
Another awesome feature of the Starling app for both day to day users and as a travel card is “Spaces” – which effectively create mini savings pots within your same account.
You can setup as many of these as you wish (they take literally a minute to create) and easily move money in or out as needed.
Create targets and labels to manage what you’re saving for an they’ll also give you a percentage breakdown of how close to your target amount you are.
So if you want to start putting money aside for your flights, a surf camp, travel insurance or anything you can think of you can keep them safe from your day to day spending, but also quickly access them if needed.
Alongside this is the “Round Up” saving option too – which allows you to round up you daily spending to the nearest £1 – putting this loose change into a savings pot automatically. You can even increase the amount put into the pot by x 2, x5 or even x 10 if you want to utilise it even more.
I’ve had it set to x 2 for a while now and it’s amazing to see how quickly it can add up!
Travel Card Features – Using It Abroad
Ok so we’ve run through some of the main reason I love banking with Starling from a day to day side of things – but how about what makes it an epic travel card?
Well these are the 5 key features that I would say make it the perfect choice for travellers;
- No fees abroad when using chip and pin or tap to pay
- No ATM withdrawal fees
- Awesome (and transparent) exchange rates
- Push notifications to your phone (making it easy to spot fraudulent transactions)
- Ability to lock and unlock your card instantly
Obviously the lack of fees are the key feature here and in comparison to other travel cards available in the UK this is where you’ll save heaps of money – especially on a longer term trip.
I did originally use the STA Cashcard for years and although it was reliable and did the job I dread to think how much I lost on ATM withdrawal fees, loading fees and the exchange rate it used.
Starling strips these out and it’s super easy to see how much you’ve spent on a transaction in both £GBP and local currency.
It’s also super easy and most importantly pretty must instant to transfer money between Starling account users – so if you’re travelling with friends or a partner also banking with Starling you can quickly pay them back or be paid back if you’re splitting bills or anything.
If you are travelling with a partner its also worth looking into setting up a joint account too (it only takes a few minutes if you’re both already with Starling) to cover shared expenses on the road like accommodation, flights or meals.
Unlike some travel cards Starling works across all currencies too – and I’ve used it for the last 2 years on the road, including trips to places like Thailand, Bali, Australia and New Zealand as well as more off the beaten track destinations like Mozambique and the Solomon Islands.
So it’s safe to say I’ve put it through its paces pretty well!
If you want to look into the travel sides of things in more detail check out this page of their website.
Customer Service – Right In The App
If you’re anything like me, getting a card blocked or having any issue with it whilst you’re travelling is one of those nightmare situations.
Legacy banks will have you on hold for hours and lets face it are pretty freaking useless.
Starling Bank have live chat customer service built right into the app, available 247 and they’re really on the ball with fixing anything that goes wrong. As you’re accessing it through the secure app there’s also no need to answer a million questions and security codes to remember before you can get help!
I’ve dipped into it a few times during the last few years and everything has been easily and quickly resolved.
Can You Get A Spare Card?
One of the very few annoyance I have with Starling Bank is the fact you can’t order 2 cards – which I think is an essential for any travel card, so you can keep one safe incase of loss/theft.
However I’ve found a cheeky way around it which I suggest you also do if you are intending on travelling with it!
Simply give their customer service a shout (easily done via live chat in the app) and tell them you’ve lost you need a replacement card. Now this wont block your original card (this is done via the app manually yourself) and you can simply just not activate the new one until you need it!
When you do activate the replacement you will loose access to the old card – so wait until you do.
If you do need a further card be aware they can only post to the UK at the moment – so if you’re elsewhere in the world you will be a bit up sh*t creek – so also keep another backup credit card to, something I’d advise anyway.
Starling v Monzo
When the the app only banks got started in the UK (and even now) the big question has been Starling or Monzo.
And to begin with things were pretty close (they still are if you’re only going looking into day to day banking) but Monzo – despite originally promoting itself as an awesome travel card – has now limited ATM withdrawals abroad to just £200 every 30 days.
For a short trip that might be fine but for those travelling more long term the 3% charge on anything above that means that Starlings no monthly limit makes it a much better travel card.
Admittedly there is a £300 daily ATM limitation and maximum of 6 ATM transactions per day. However this isn’t a huge deal, but do keep in mind.
Am I Being Paid To Say This?
So am I being paid to say this and promote Starling Bank?
Well simply put – NO!
I’m just a big fan of their product and it has been my primary travel card for the last 2 years – saving me heaps on fees and made managing my money on the road a breeze, I’m simply passing on some info which will hopefully make your life on the road easier too!
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