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My boyfriend and I had been living together for seven years before we opened a joint account. Our rented flat came with bills included, so it really didn’t make sense at the time. It was only when we were getting down to the final few months of our house purchase that we decided to go for it and open a joint account.
I suggest you think long and hard before opening a joint account with someone. If they go overdrawn you could end up paying for it. It will also link your credit reports, and if the other person stops paying their mobile bill – for example – it could also leave a mark on your file and mean you get rejected for future credit.
Starling is a “challenger bank”, a lot like Monzo. It’s only been around since 2016 (and only properly available to the public since 2017), but it was started by a woman with serious banking cred. It’s a real bank, not a prepaid card, and has all the features you’d need from your current account like direct debits, overdrafts and FSCS protection up to £85k.
It doesn’t have physical locations, and it runs entirely through the app. It’s not the best when it comes to paying in cheques, but the customer service is super fast. The accounts are free, and pay you a little bit of interest (0.5% at the moment).
The real selling points on it are below, though:
Set up process
If you already both have Starling accounts then set up actually takes less than 5 minutes. When you’re in the same room just go to Menu > Account Management > Get another Starling account and apply. It cleverly will find the other person you’re opening the account with automatically.
My boyfriend didn’t have a personal Starling account, but you can set up both at the same time, you don’t need to wait for the first card to be delivered. All you need to do is send in a picture of your ID and a video of you saying a verification phrase. You choose your own pin number and it doesn’t take long for the card to arrive.
If you like to keep an eye on your finances, the Starling app is great. You’ll get a notification any time you (or the person you share your joint account with) uses the card, or if a bill leaves your account, or if someone pays in money.
My boyfriend does like to annoyingly text me when I use our joint card to pick up ONIONS on my way HOME like I’ve been splurging in Harvey Nics… But being able to keep track of both of our spending on a shared account is really helpful.
On a traditional banking app your list of transactions are very text-heavy, and not easy to understand at a glance. However, with Starling you can split your monthly spending by retailer or category to see how much you’re really spending on Deliveroo each month.
The categories aren’t perfect, but you can recategorise anything it gets wrong.
Because Starling only has a measly 0.5% interest, it’s not the ideal place to save huge amounts of money, but its “Spaces” function is really impressive. I don’t really use this feature in the joint account, but there’s an example in the screenshot below. I’ve set up a sinking fund for our house insurance bill we pay annually.
It’s not actually a separate bank account, but you can move money into each goal, and it’ll take that money off your total balance in the main section of the app. Once you’ve got the amount you need, you can close it and it’ll move the money back into your current account ready to spend.
You can add your own photos to each goal to give you a bit of savings inspiration.
I told you in my new year’s resolutions post that when we were applying for our mortgage I found out that my boyfriend had been paying two phone bills for four years. I don’t think that would have been able to happen if he’d had Starling.
The list of upcoming bills is so clear. You can see exactly what you pay now, which is really helpful when it comes to switching providers. Once a direct debit is cancelled it disappears from the payments section, keeping the page clean.
We’ve not been abroad since I got my first Starling card (we had to save up for this deposit somehow haha), but the travel features are seriously impressive. It doesn’t charge any fees to use an ATM abroad, and the exchange rate is the Mastercard rate, which is significantly better than the sort of rate you might expect to get from a traditional bank.
Starling cards are contactless, work with Apple, Samsung and Android Pay, and they’re optimised for open banking. I know basically nobody uses open banking yet, but setting up the budgeting app Yolt to my Starling account was SO PAINLESS compared to my traditional bank accounts. Hopefully it’ll be more useful as more companies adopt open banking.
What I don’t like about it
In this picture you can see my original old style Starling card which is a blue-ish purple colour, and my newer aqua joint card. But my boyfriend’s current account card looks identical to his joint card. The only thing that differentiates them is a small bit of white writing that says joint on the back of one card – I had to put a giant J on the front of his using nail polish.
So Starling, if you’re reading this – make the current account and joint account cards a different colour, pleeeease. Your business account card is dark blue, so why not make the joint card a new snazzy shade… what about pink?
If you want a Starling current or joint account you can apply by downloading the app. If you use code BAXYXEKA when you sign up I literally get nothing but it gives me a lit up heart on my app.