Top app-based bank providers

  • Our app-based bank comparison table helps you compare banks based on product quality and customer service

  • Take a look at each banks’ reviews to ensure you open an account that is recommended by past and existing customers

woman on mobile phone
5 App-Based Bank providers found

A complete guide to app-based banks

A new wave of banking has arrived to challenge traditional high street banks. With more and more people using their phones to manage their bank accounts, these mobile-only banks are here to revolutionise the way we spend, save, budget and manage our money. And whilst many traditional banks give you the option to control your money online or on a mobile app, digital-only banks offer so much more.

What are app-based banks?

Unlike traditional banks, app-based banks provide all of their services digitally only meaning you can’t physically visit a branch. However, if you have any questions or issues, you’ll still be able to contact the bank for support either by phone, email or an in-app live chat.

Pros and cons of app-based banks

  • Real-time spending notifications
  • Budgeting tools to help you manage your spending
  • Easy savings features
  • Free transactions and withdrawals abroad
  • Ability to freeze & unfreeze an account
  • Can’t visit a branch
  • No face-to-face support
  • Don’t offer as many products 
  • Daily or monthly cash withdrawal limits
  • Not all banks are covered by the FSCS

Comparing app-based banks

Unlike the big names in the banking world, most app-based banks aren’t yet household names so it can be confusing deciding who to trust and which bank you should open an account with. And with app-based banks, there are so many different factors to consider. Our mobile banking comparison table takes into consideration reviews from customers who have had first-hand experience with these apps. We compare banks exclusively on customer experience and product quality. Take a look at our comparison table at the top of this page to find out what is the best app-based bank.

How do app-based banks work?

App-based banks work like traditional banks just without the high street presence. It’s normally free to open an app-based bank account, however, the best app-based bank providers will also offer premium current accounts with extra benefits that you have to pay for.

The apps are available for both Android and iOS phones and can be downloaded for free. Opening a current account in the app can normally be done in a matter of minutes. In most cases, you have to enter a few personal details and normally verify your identity with a photo of your passport or driving licence. Like mainstream banks, you’ll be sent a debit card in the post with a sort code and account number.

Are app-based banks safe?

Yes. App-based banks have security systems in place to ensure that hackers won’t be able to access your account. Make sure you download the official app from the app store and update it regularly so you have the latest security features. You still need to be mindful and make sure you never share your information with anyone else.

Is my money safe in an app-based bank?

Many people are hesitant to open app-based banks because they’re concerned about what would happen to their money if the company were to go bust. All fully licensed banks are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). The FSCS protects your savings (up to £85,000 per individual) when financial services firms go bust. There are a number of app-based banks that are covered by the FSCS including Starling Bank and Monzo, however, not all app-based banks have this level of protection.

Revolut, Monese and Cashplus aren’t currently FSCS protected as they don’t hold banking licenses, however, they are covered by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). This means that your funds are stored separately in a licensed bank that the app company has partnered with. If the app was to go bust, you’ll get 100% of your money back. However, if the bigger bank that stores your money goes bust, your money may not be protected.

What do app-based banks offer?

In most cases, app-based banking offers more features than traditional banking and will revolutionise the way you spend and save money. The best app-only banks come with the following features:

Insights into spending habits

Most app-based banks offer you monthly and yearly insights into your spending habits. You’ll be able to see a breakdown of how much you spend on entertainment, food and travel amongst other things.

Real-time notifications

Many app-based banks send real-time notifications to your phone or tablet when you spend, so if you’ve spent £3 in Costa Coffee, you’ll get an instant notification to let you know.

Spending abroad

Unlike traditional banks, many app-based banks offer free transactions and withdrawals when using your card overseas. In most cases, when using your app-based bank abroad, you’ll benefit from Mastercard’s globally accepted exchange rate with no additional fees added on top.

Help with budgeting

Some also give the option to set monthly spending limits on different categories, for example, £50 on restaurants, £60 on entertainment etc. You can, of course, exceed these budgets and your transaction won’t get declined if you go over but it’s a great way to manage your monthly spendings.

Help with saving

App-based banks have made it easier than ever before to save money. Many offer the option to round-up every purchase to the pound and put the remaining money into savings, for example, you spend £2.20 on a drink and the remaining 80 pence automatically goes into a savings pot. It’s a great way to save without even thinking about it, but if you’re strapped for cash one month, you can easily access your savings and transfer money back into your account as you please. Some providers also give you the option of opening an app-based savings account.

Ability to freeze the card in the app

Lost your card? Can’t remember your PIN? Thankfully you can manage your entire account via the app and don’t have the hassle of calling the bank to cancel your card or wait days for a new PIN to be posted. At the touch of a button, you can freeze and unfreeze your card and also get PIN reminders. But don’t worry, only you will be able to access the app to do this as you’ll need to enter your passcode or use fingerprint or face recognition to get into the app.

Can I switch to an app-based bank?

It’s not currently possible to make the switch to all app-based banks as some providers don’t allow you to have your salary paid into them or give you the option to pay direct debits. However, some allow you to switch using the Current Account Switching Service (CASS). This service automatically closes your old account and switches all of your direct debits, standing orders and full account balance within 7 working days of making the request.

Can I still deposit cash and cheques?

It’s possible to deposit cash and cheques into some app-based banks but not all banks currently offer this. Starling Bank and Cashplus allow you to pay in cash at any Post Office, cash can be paid into Monese at any PayPoint or Post Office and Monzo accept cash at any shop with a Pay Point. Cash deposits via the Post Office are usually available in your account the next day whereas cash deposits paid in via a PayPoint are available immediately.

Monzo accepts cheques via Freepost. They’ll let you know via their in-app chat once they’ve received the cheque and you should see the money in your account five days after this. Starling Bank allows you to pay in cheques via the app by taking a clear photo of the cheque. The cheque normally clears within two working days and you’ll get a notification when the money’s available.