It’s a banking revolution, it’s happening right now, it’s banking straight out your pocket.
Neobanks, challenger banks, digital banks call them what you will, they have arrived and are most certainly here to stay.
These 21st-century banks are focusing on slick apps, personalisation, real-time payment notifications, low fees and a quick push-of-a-finger customer service to lure people in, and it’s working.
Without further ado here a list of the current top 10 UK digital banks.
Monzo is one of the most popular challenger banks with over 3 million customers. It began operating in 2015 as a prepaid card that you had to top with money before becoming a fully licensed bank. Monzo got it’s banking licence in 2017 and is regulated by the FCA and the Prudential Regulation Authority.
Best features: Saving pots, bill splitting, free exchange rates when travelling abroad, free cash withdraws on your first £200 when abroad, spare change saver, salary sorter and personalised data.
Reviews: Monzo has been rated Excellent on Trustpilot.
Starling Bank formed in 2014 and announced has over 1 million customers in the UK. Starling Bank was granted a banking license by the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA) and the Financial Conduct Authority in January 2017.
Best features: Instant payment notifications, spare change saver, personalised data, bill splitting.
Reviews: Starling has been rated Excellent on Trustpilot.
N26 is a German neobank, headquartered in Berlin, Germany. It formed in 2013 and operated in the UK up to early 2020. Although N26 held a European banking licence the bank did not have a British banking licence, and quit the UK, blaming Brexit.
Best features: Cashback from subscriptions (Netflix, Sky etc), discounts on travel deals, early wage payments, free cash withdrawals worldwide.
Reviews: N26 was rated great on Trustpilot by its customers.
Atom, founded in 2014, is another challenger bank that only operates on mobile handsets. However, unlike its counterparts, Atom does not provide you with a bank card and you have to use your traditional bank account for full money management. Atom was granted a banking license by the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA) and the Financial Conduct Authority in June 2016.
Best features: Competitive rates of AER and tax-free interest up to £1000.
Reviews: Atom bank is rated Excellent on Trustpilot.
Tandem was founded in 2015. Tandem originates from Tandem Money, a UK challenger bank that obtained its banking licence in 2015 and subsequently lost it. In 2018, Tandem Money acquired Harrods Bank and renamed it as Tandem Bank, to operate under its existing licence. This allowed the business to continue trading
Revolut was founded in 2015 and started as a prepaid travel card offering low-cost exchange rates. Currently, Revolut has over 5 million customers worldwide and has yet to obtain a banking license here in the UK. Revolut is not protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
Monese was founded in 2015 and provides banking services on mobile only. Monese is registered with the FCA but does not have a banking license.
nimbl is a prepaid card that comes with an intuitive app and a series of useful features for parents and children. It isn’t a bank and doesn’t offer a regular current account.
It allows parents to put money on the children’s card, either occasionally or by setting up regular payments. Children can then use it as they wish, be it buying ice creams every week or saving for an expensive video game console.
The idea is to promote good money habits for 8- to 18-year-olds, training children to save, budget and be organised with their money.
NatWest has launched an app-only bank account named Bó, offering built-in budgeting features and an eye-catching yellow card – but how does it compare with more-established digital rivals Monzo and Starling?
Bó is a free account which can provide instant transaction alerts, a ‘piggybank’ for setting cash aside from your main balance and detailed spending reports.
However, while these features may not measure up to Monzo and Starling’s, Bó will appeal to travellers, as it has no fees for overseas spending and cash withdrawals.
Cashplus offers a digital-only personal current account, with all the services available through an app on your smartphone or directly online.
With Cashplus, you get all the standard features of a current account: a card, bank payments, ATM withdrawals, direct debits, an overdraft option and so on.
However, Cashplus’ main focus is helping people to improve their credit score, so it offers a “credit builder” feature that’s what really distinguishes it from other providers.
If you activate it, Cashplus “lends” you your monthly current account fee, and then treats your monthly payments as loan repayments, which are then reported to the credit reference agencies. If you keep up with the payments, your credit score will improve.