I’ll keep this simple.
If like me you were an early enthusiast for first-generation financial innovators such as First Direct, Egg and Hargreaves Lansdown, I have two simple recommendations for you.
Download the Starling Bank app and the Curve card app immediately.
I’ve been using both now for a month or two and think that both are superb. Crucially you can be over 50, have some grey hair and be moderately tech aware and still use these fintech apps. These are most definitely NOT just the exclusive preserve of trendy millennials.
Let’s start with the Starling banking app. Many aeons ago a fantastic US online bank opened called Simple. Its promise was simple. Turn banking into a simple to use app. It took off and was soon acquired by BBVA. But we’ve had to wait many years here in the UK for a local version, but Starling is as good as Simple if not better.
I use the Starling app alongside my existing (Handelsbanken) personal account as a monthly spending tool. I load it up with money and then start using the card. Transferring money is a doddle and you can also very easily use the app to transfer money to others, notably my spendthrift teenagers. One or two taps and they’ve got the dosh. Remember this is a full bank account with a proper sort code and account number – you can also set up regular payments via the app.
Once you spend on the car, you are immediately notified of the spending and can easily track via the app. Crucially one can easily switch money into a reserve by setting up a goal, which is just a fancy way of setting up an instant access account. A few swipes and the spare money is in your goal. A few more swipes and its back in your main account.
Starling also offers a small but growing army of marketplace suppliers, ranging from affinity accounts to robos. I’ve set up two digital investment platforms to date through the app – with Wealthfront and WealthSimple. Both took a little more than a few clicks but the integration is excellent. Let’s hope that the range of marketplace partners expands in the future.
Last but by no means least Starling can also now do international transfers with rates competitive with Revolut and Transferwise. There’s still a 0.40% spread plus a small initial charge but its damned competitive. That said I still use my Revolut card whilst travelling abroad.
One last comment. Customer service – at the moment at least – is excellent. There is a telephone service but the in app chat service is quick and effective. One small quibble is that if you lose your phone you have to reset the service which can be a real drag if you’ve forgotten your password! But that’s a minor problem compared to the ease of the service and low cost (it’s free!!!).
As for Curve, this is a different proposition. It effectively allows you to store a large number of other cards on your account. You are then issued with your own Mastercard debit card which you use for transactions. At first, I struggled to understand the real USP but then it hit me.
I, like many, have multiple cards – credit and debit. I tend to use one main day to day spending card (Starling) but have separate cards for business, credit and more (FX). Having to carry these all around me is a real drag. Now I don’t. I use Curve alongside Starling. All my other cards are loaded on to Curve and when I want to transfer between providers I simply go into the app and press the card issuer I want to charge against. Genius.
Curve also offers a few other features which I have found of less value.
The first is that you can get money back if you use your card with some businesses. It’s a nice feature but frankly, the offers so far haven’t been enormously attractive. That could change though if Curve really got its affinity shopping system working.
The other feature is that you can go back in time and change the card used for a transaction. This is a neat feature which could prove very useful if you charge the wrong card.
So, overall I’d say that both Starling Curve is worth their weight in gold. I’d recommend both and think that the potential future applications for these cards are enormous. Get both now.
And no I am not being paid by either!!! I’m just humongously impressed by both. And they are free!