Best app-based banks for saving money: Monzo, Starling, Revolut and Atom

monzo, starling, revolut, atom banking apps

Here at Savoo, we’re always looking for handy new ways to save you money. Voucher codes are just one of the great ways you can save while going about your day-to-day routine, allowing you to buy the products you love while keeping more money in your pocket. But now, modern technology has given us loads more great ways to keep an eye on your money, manage it better and save more for a rainy day.

App-based challenger banks such as Monzo, Starling, Revolut and Atom have made massive changes to what we expect from digital banking in the last few years. Now, not only can you have full access to your money on your phone, but these apps also help you stick to a budget, save and spend wisely. But which app-based bank is the right one for you?

What is app-based banking?

girl holding mobile phone

If you’re not already wised up on what app-based banking is, they’re essentially banks which exist wholly online and in app form. That means no physical branches on the high street like traditional banks.

All app-based banks are free to join and fast to set up. Simply download the app, enter your details, record a quick security video and get going. You’ll be sent a debit card in the post which you can use as you would any other debit card.

Do everything you can with a traditional bank, including paying bills, setting up direct debits and transferring money at the tap of a button. With over-spending alerts, saving pots and real-time notifications about your spending, it’s easier than ever to keep track of your money and curb bad spending habits.

According to This is Money, more than 1.2 million app-based bank accounts have been opened in the UK alone, and more than one million people are using these challenger app-based banks to build up their savings, as well as get mortgages and credit cards.

Far from a niche option for only the most tech savvy bankers out there, app-based banks have become a real alternative to traditional banking, offering simple budgeting tools and 24 hour access – not to mention snazzy bright debit and credit cards to welcome you to the gang.

More and more app-based banks are popping up everyday, all with handy features to help you manage your finances in a way that suits you. Take a look at our list of top app-based banks to see the pros and cons of each and work out which one is the right one for you.

The Easy Saver: Monzo

monzo phone banking app

Following their motto of “built for the way you live today”, Monzo’s goal is to create a new kind of bank based on transparency and innovation. Founded back in 2015, Monzo was one of the first app-based banks to become a major player in digital banking.

Using mobile app technology to create a simple, streamlined and user-friendly experience, Monzo make personal finance more accessible and manageable. Monzo is perfect for those who want a simple, easy platform to manage their finances and stick to a budget, with handy tools like saving pots, round ups to help you save without even noticing and split the bill features.  

They’ve also recently added a cash ISA (Individual Savings Account) option, so you can save money without paying tax on the interest you earn over time. All you need is a deposit of £500 to open one, and you’ll get the benefits of a 1.14% interest rate, provided through OakNorth. They also say that more fixed saving options and ISAs are coming soon, so the saving options could get even better in the future.

A few great features are:

  • Saving pots
  • Saving ‘round ups’ which add small deposits to your pots by rounding up your purchases
  • ISA savings accounts
  • Joint accounts
  • Flexible budgeting tools to set monthly budgets
  • Instant, real-time spending notifications
  • Spending insights to show you where your money’s going
  • Flexible overdrafts

Monzo is easy to use and just being aware of where your money’s going makes it a whole lot easier to save.

Jon Ostler from Finder.com says the main benefits of Monzo are:

“Monzo is probably best loved for its design, allowing users to view spending in real-time, categorised, and in one place – though it’s not the only app doing this. With Monzo you put savings into pots for specific purposes without this money appearing in your overall balance (so it’s not accidentally spent!)”

monzo banking features

 

The All-Arounder: Starling Bank

starling app banking

Starling Bank was the winner of the British Bank Awards 2019 and 2018 for the best bank, best current account provider and best business banking provider. They cite their vision as “to give everyone in the world the opportunity to enjoy a healthy financial life.”

Many of their features are similar to Monzo in terms of being very straightforward, simple and easy to use with similar budgeting features. However, Starling is slightly more of a well-rounded current account, with added features such as in-credit interest, personal loans and business overdrafts.

This makes it a great choice for someone who wants an app bank which has all the features of a traditional bank, but all conveniently online with modern saving features and spending insights. As Anne Boden, Starling’s CEO says, Starling is a bank “in sync with you.”

Top features include:

  • Personal and joint account options, teen accounts for 16-17 year olds, joint accounts, business accounts.
  • Euro accounts for people who frequently send money abroad. Lets you quickly and easily convert pounds into euros, as well as allowing you to send and receive fee-free euro payments.
  • Great interest rates – for an account balance up to £2,000 you’ll receive 0.5% AER, which decreases to 0.25% AER on accounts holding up to £85,000.
  • Saving ‘goals’ and spending ‘round ups’
  • Spending insights
  • Real-time spending notifications

Starling does offer a more multifaceted banking experience along with these saving tools, allowing you to do more and set up an account which suits you with the convenience and personal control of an app-based bank.

starling bank app features

For Globetrotters: Revolut

revolut banking app features

If you’re an international spender, Revolut may be the best option for you. Like Monzo and Starling, Revolut has a clean, simple and streamlined app which makes day-to-day banking easy.

It offers fee-free global spending and free international money transfers, allowing fee-free spending in 150 currencies worldwide using the interbank exchange rate. This freedom makes travelling and sending money overseas as easy as can be.

Another feature which sets Revolut apart is it’s easy access to the cryptocurrency exchange. Cryptocurrency may sound scary and complicated, but Revolut makes currency like Bitcoin and Litecoin more accessible for everyone.

Learn more about cryptocurrencies by exploring Finder’s cryptocurrency guide and find out how easy it could be to start exchanging cryptocurrency via Revolut. Cryptocurrencies can also help you add to your savings as Revolut offers you the chance to turn your spare change into cryptocurrency, which will be stored in your vault. For example, if you buy a coffee for £2.50, £0.50 worth of Bitcoin will automatically be added to your vault.

In terms of saving, Revolut matches Monzo and Starling with many features, including:

  • Instant spending notifications
  • Transaction round ups
  • Easy monthly budgets
  • Spending insights
  • Start saving with their ‘vaults’ to put aside regular amounts come payday as well as small roundups to achieve your saving goals

Negatives of Revolut

However, some of the big drawbacks of Revolut are the subscription packages. Although standard membership is free, premium accounts cost £6.99 a month while metal accounts cost £12.99 a month. If you’re happy with the basic benefits of Revolut then the free account is great, but to unlock additional benefits you’ll have to pay for a monthly subscription.

That said, with benefits including overseas medical insurance, access to five cryptocurrencies, exclusive concierge services and 0.1% cashback within Europe or 1% outside of Europe on all card payments, it may be well worth the money.

It’s also worth noting that Revolut does not offer overdrafts, which could be seen as both a positive and a negative. On the one hand, it means you can’t spend beyond your means and incur additional charges, but it does mean you have less flexible spending.

Another difference from Monzo and Starling is that Revolut is not protected by the FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme). Instead, it is covered by the FCA as an FCA registered company. Transactions are processed by Mastercard, Maestro or Visa networks and are protected by their rules, so your money is still safe.

Jon Ostler on Revolut:

“Revolut is a Swiss-army knife when it comes to features. You can exchange currencies in the app with a few taps, buy day-to-day travel insurance if you’re going on holiday, and even buy cryptocurrencies. Revolut also allows you to spend fee-free in over 150 currencies at the interbank exchange rate – though watch out for its weekend rates, as a mark-up is applied to major currencies.”

revolut bank features benefits negatives

For Serious Savers: Atom Bank

atom savings account app

Atom was the first app-only bank, founded back in 2014. Atom Bank’s focus is on savings accounts and mortgages, and emphasises giving you control of your finances in a personalised way. Unlike the other app-based banks we’ve discussed, Atom bank doesn’t send you a debit card as absolutely everything is done online and via bank transfers.

Open a fixer saver account with just £50 and watch it grow. Choose between monthly or annual interest from their fantastic interest rates of 0.9% to 2.5% AER. Choose how long you want to invest your money to earn more interest and get greater rewards in the long term.

Although this is great for saving, you aren’t able to withdraw your money until your saving period is over, as with most traditional fixed-rate savings accounts. You can set up the account to last between one and five years, and the longer period you choose the better your interest rates will be, meaning you’re rewarded in the long run.

In some ways, this is the best way to save as it forces you to be strict with yourself and not dip into savings, but it does mean there’s less flexibility. Only put your money away in a fixed account like this if it’s for a specific goal, such as saving for a house deposit. It’s no good using a fixed-rate saver for a rainy day fund as you won’t be able to access it until it’s reached maturity.

You can also gain access to the invaluable advice from the expert brokers who can advise you about the best mortgage options for you. Set up in-app and manage it as you would your savings account.

This makes setting up a mortgage incredibly fast and simple compared to traditional routes, though you still get all the expertise you require to find the right deal for you. There is also a similar process for business loans, where you submit your application online and their expert brokers access your application and find you the best loan for you.

atom bank pros and cons

What do the experts say?

Which app-based bank you choose will naturally depend on what your goals are. Is your main goal to save money, or do you just want to manage your money better or learn where you’re overspending? All of the platforms we’ve looked at have their pros and cons, but what do the experts say? Here are a few words from top money-saving experts and personal finance advisors:

Emma Maslin, aka @MoneyWhisper_ on why she loves Starling:

emma maslin twitter “I have both personal and business accounts with Starling. These days I do everything on my mobile phone so to use app-based banking is not an issue for me – actually, it’s my preference. I hate the faff of traditional banking: standing in line to speak to someone at the front desk to then be sent to speak to someone different in a little side room when the next appointment is available, which isn’t always that day…

Setting up both of my accounts with Starling took me less than a minute each while I was at home, and that included recording a short video. It’s so easy. On the business side, I love that I receive real-time notifications when my invoices are paid and there is the option to integrate with accounting software. On the pension side, I like the pots feature for saving for different goals and the marketplace means I can access my pension balance information with my pension provider without having to leave the Starling app.”

Mrs. Mummypenny is also a big fan of Starling:mrs mummypenny twitter website link

“I use Starling bank for my Mrs Mummypenny business banking and love it. Yes, I love my bank and recommend it all of the time to friends! I access my account via an app and it has so many features that make life easier. Easier to plan and budget and its saves me time. I love the notifications you receive when a payment is received or when you spend some money.

My favourite feature is the pots feature. You can move money from your main balance into different pots. This means that you money is set aside and cant be spent. I have pots for monthly bills, holiday, investments, pension, emergency fund, tax and credit card repayments. I put money into these pots throughout the month as payments are received and then transfer the money out to the appropriate places at the end of every month. It’s so simple and I feel totally in control of my money.”

Follow Mrs. Mummypenny on Twitter to find more fab saving tips!

cat plummer monzo starling quoteCat Plummer, UK Financial Empowerment Coach on her favs:

I personally love both Monzo and Starling. My favourite features of both are the ability to set up different ‘pots’ for different parts of your budget and the rounding up features.

The pots assist with planning your spending and saving and I love that you can add images to these pots to help you visualise your savings goals.

The rounding up features are super because they enable easy saving, and who doesn’t want that?! Starling also offers the option of multiplying the round up so that your savings grow even quicker.”

Follow Cat on Twitter for uplifting ways to take control of your finances.  

Jon Ostler, CEO of comparison site finder.com uses Monzo and Revolut:jon ostler revolut monzo quote

“The main reason I use Revolut is because you can use the interbank exchange rate for multiple currencies and it is easy to switch between currencies. However, I also started using Monzo during their latest crowdfunding round of investment, but also largely because they have a good spending summary and savings buckets feature.”

 

Which app-based bank is best?

So it looks like Starling and Monzo come out on top, largely due to their handy money-saving tools which makes everyday saving a doddle.

Which one sounds like the right fit for you? Are you a serious saver or just looking to manage your money better? Find the right app-based bank for your spending habits, goals and lifestyle to boost your savings and manage your money better.   

Which app-based bank are you thinking of giving a try? Let us know your thoughts or any questions you have in the comments.

monzo starling revolut atom comparison infographic

 

 

 

 

 

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