The recent banking internet disasters at TSB, Visa and Tesco, plus this interesting post from The FIRE Shrink got me pondering the other week.

My emergency funds are predominantly split across TSB and Tesco Bank (with a bit in Nationwide) and my debit card is Visa.

So what would happen if I did have an emergency and I couldn’t get to my money because of various banking meltdowns?

Ok, unlikely that they would all go down the pan at the same time but it could happen? I do still carry a bit of cash these days but it’s very rarely more than £20. I decided I needed a back up plan but that I needed to look beyond the ‘old banks’.

New Bank

Again, I have The FIRE Shrink to thank for pointing me in the right direction.

He had as one of his monthly goals: “Set up a Starling / Monzo / Atom / Revolut account”.  I’d heard of Monzo and Atom before but thought I’d do some research on all of them. Revolut didn’t appear to have a UK banking licence so they were out of the running. Atom looked ok but for fixed term savings.

So it was a toss up between Monzo and Starling, both having similar features as a current/day to day bank account app.

I suddenly recalled that I’d read something about Starling and it was this inspiring BBC article about the challenger bank’s founder and CEO, Anne Boden. Well, that was my decision sorted – I’ve got to do my bit to support women in finance and tech!

Obviously this wasn’t the only reason why I chose Starling – the debit card is linked to Mastercard (would Visa and Mastercard ever have a meltdown at the same time??), no charges for overseas withdrawals, interest paid on balances, (although nothing to really shout about at 0.5%, it’s better than Monzo’s zero) and it was voted ‘Best British Bank and Best Current Account Provider in 2018’.

There are also some other nifty features on the app which I won’t go into as I haven’t tried them out yet but I’ve heard a new feature just developed will be the ability to attach notes and images of receipts against transactions which sounds intriguing.

Also, there was something about Starling that didn’t look gimmicky, perhaps seemed a bit more ‘traditional’ (in a good way),  plus there are Boden’s banking credentials too.

As I was drafting this post, coincidentally, this popped up on my Twitter feed:

Just as well I got my application in last week and avoided the stampede!


The whole onboarding process took about 10 mins. It probably would have taken less but in order to verify my account, I had to send a video selfie and since I’d just got in from the gym when I applied (hair still wet and uncombed, make up half on, half off), I spent a few minutes making myself a bit less scary more presentable before I sent it, haha!

The following day, I received a text confirming my account had been set up and I was able to start playing around the app, transferring in money, setting up payments etc. My card arrived 3 days later.

All very quick and easy, with minimum fuss.


I’ve opened up this account initially to be a back up emergency account. What’s interesting is that I’ve got a free pre-approved overdraft of up to £5000 – well that is an emergency back up and a half! Obviously interest is paid on what you borrow but great for peace of mind.  I also plan on taking the card away with me, just in case I need some cash overseas.

I already find that I feel comfortable with this app (the first banking one on my phone) and I see the possibility of it being used for small purchases in the future.

My main current account would continue to do the major heavy lifting, ie direct debits, all bills, groceries, petrol, etc but we’ll see, anyway.

Anyone else got any experience with any of the challenger banks or banking apps in general?

*A ‘murmuration‘ is a flock of starlings.

[Disclaimer – I have no affiliation whatsoever with Starling Bank and this is not a recommendation to download the app, just an account of my experience with the Android version. There are no referral/affiliate links in this post – EDIT: here is my referral link which lights up a heart on my app!]

25 thoughts on “Murmuration*

  1. Funnily enough i was considering keeping a part of my short term cash plans (, I’m going to be carrying more than usual as I want tl do my kitchen snd replace two decent second hand cars so will have a chunk on top of my 10k emergency fund which I will spend next year in atom Bank for the 1 year fix. I’m torn between the pain of having to fill in a tax return this year as I’ll be earning more than the 500 quid a year in interest and going for max profits. Do let the tax tail wag the savings dog i know i know

  2. I have been following your post for the last 5 months, great content and I’m hooked keep up the great work and down to earth attitude. This 36 male loves you stuff .

    • Hey Jo

      Actually, that was going to be my next step – a back up for my back up plan, which would be cash, so perhaps not that paranoid! Knowing me though, I’d forget where I’ve stashed it!

    • Hi FMC

      Who’d have ever thought a bank account would be described as ‘simply wonderful’! 🙂 Thanks for confirming that I’ve made the right decision!

    • Can you expand on why you would recommend Starling over Monzo?
      I have had Monzo account for about a year or so which I use for my small day-to-day ‘cash’ transactions. It was a bit flaky at the start but now appears to be stable and has some great features (include adding images of receipts to transactions).
      I have heard comments that the user interface is a bit better on Starling but was wondering if there were other things to note?

  3. I had a crack at Revolut when I got into crypto as it was the one you could transfer Euros into coinbase the cheapest with (to then buy Bitcoin)

    It seemed pretty decent TBH! Didn’t know it didn’t have a banking licence though. That is a bit worrying, and odd?! Surely they shouldn’t be allowed to run without one?

    Will give starling a go next time we go abroad to take advantage of the free withdrawals. Cheers!

    • Hi TFS

      Revolut are regulated by FCA but all I could see when I was researching them was that they were applying for a UK/European banking licence – I couldn’t see that they had actually got it. The banking licence means they would be covered under the FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme) that all UK banks have, ie covered up to £85k. I guess at the moment, Revolut are like the P2P companies, able to operate in the UK but not covered by FSCS.

  4. I’ve used revolut for payments overseas. It worked well and saved me from getting hit up for various charges.

  5. That FIRE Shrink post was very interesting. As I mentioned over there, led me to setting up a Starling account. It was really easy to set up. Waiting for the debit card to come through the post.

    p. s. Fatbritabroad, once your friend has test out the lotion let me know it if works!

    • Hi YFG

      Yes, it was very interesting – I doubt anyone (well not me!) has really considered old bank IT aspects where it’s just patches and ‘improvements’ on top of old systems which are no longer fit for purpose. And the FIRE Shrink would have got at least two referrals (had he a link) through me and you signing up to Starling!

      • Thank you both!
        Shame Starling don’t seem to do referral links or affiliates, but then I’m not in this to make money, just to amuse/ divert myself and hopefully others.
        Looking forward to your next posts!
        The Shrink

  6. I think it is a valid consideration to think about risk reduction via diversification when it comes to your emergency fund. Still, I wonder whether the split across various banks will not lead to increased complexity which outweighs the risk of not having access (for a couple of days). Also, a simple alternative could be to hold parts of the emergency fund in cash.

    • Hallo 🙂

      My spreadsheets keep track of where my money is so I don’t think it’s too complex at the moment. Of course, the final alternative is to hold some of it in emergency cash but where to put this cash? I won’t share here!

      Thanks for stopping by – I checked out your blog (with Google translate) – interesting read!

  7. Pingback: The Full English Accompaniment – Question Time Chapter I – The FIRE Shrink

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