Tide vs Starling: comparing business bank accounts


A bit of background

After spending £500 billion on stabilising the UK banking system following the 2008 financial crisis, the UK government and banking industry regulators were keen to prevent such a crisis from ever occurring again.

A key part of their strategy was to encourage more competition in the banking sector and reduce the dominance of the ‘big four’ high street banks (HSBC, Barclays, NatWest, and Lloyds).

Entrepreneurs took this as their cue to start a digital revolution in banking. Bringing new technology into the sector and leading a move away from the traditional high street banking model, they gave rise to the ‘challenger banks’.

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What are the challenger banks?

The challenger banks are new, smaller banks that compete with the main high-street banks by using digital financial practices. Many of them have turned away from the traditional branch approach and operate through a mobile app or online-only banking.

Although we’re not a bank, Tide is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and our ClearBank-provided bank accounts have FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme) protection. We’re also one of the leading providers of digital business banking services in the UK.

In this article, we’ll compare the products and services on offer from two of the leading challengers: Tide and Starling Bank.

Table of contents

Tide vs Starling: the similarities

Feature Tide Starling
Cash deposits ✔️ ✔️
Mobile and online banking ✔️ ✔️
Freeze/unfreeze card in the app ✔️ ✔️
Additional cards for employees ✔️ ✔️
Accountancy software integration ✔️ ✔️
Scheduled payments ✔️ ✔️
Apple Pay ✔️ ✔️
information correct as of November 2022

Tide and Starling both offer free business bank accounts that can be accessed and used via a mobile app.

All their accounts offer payment cards and they both easily integrate with a host of popular accounting software, such as Xero, Sage, and QuickBooks. Accounts are also opened online and managed digitally, as neither Tide nor Starling has a branch network.

But there are differences too and we will explore the features that set them apart from each other.

Tide vs Starling: how much do accounts cost?

Feature Tide Starling
Monthly account charge Free Free
Transfers costs Free between Tide accounts Free
Fee for cash deposits £2.50 for deposits up to £500
or 0.5% of cash amount for deposits over £500 (at Post Offices)
3% (at PayPoints)
0.7% or £3 minimum (at Post Offices)
Fee for payments in or out 20p each Free
Fee for Direct Debits 20p each Free
Fee for replacement cards Free 1 free per year (then £5)
information correct as of November 2022

It’s free to open a Tide account and there’s no monthly fee for our entry-level business account. There are also no transaction fees to transfer money between Tide accounts. Transfers in or out of your Tide account cost 20p.

There is also no monthly fee for a Starling business account. Starling won’t charge for electronic payments (such as direct debits and standing orders), or for domestic transfers and cheque deposits.

Tide vs Starling: add-ons and paid plans

Both Tide and Starling offer paid add-ons or bundles that provide extra features to complement your account.

Starling Business Toolkit

Starling’s Business Toolkit costs £7 per month, including VAT. This provides additional functionality, including the ability to create, send and match invoices electronically – as well as a facility to upload receipts to the app.

The Business Toolkit will also automatically categorise your expenses, and calculate an estimate of your self-employed tax return using cash accounting. You can also record VAT on your transactions and connect to HMRC to submit your returns.

Tide Invoice Assistant

Tide accounts have a great free feature that lets you categorise and tag your expenses so you can see at a glance what you’ve spent. It’s free to create and send invoices electronically.

For £10 + VAT per month, you can upgrade to Tide’s Invoice Assistant bundle and get automated matching, payment and chasing of invoices – plus 2 free Direct Debits per month.

Tide Plus and Cashback Plans

Tide also lets you upgrade your account as your business grows. For £9.99 per month + VAT, the Tide Plus account provides telephone support, a 24/7 legal helpline and up to 20 free transfers in and out. You also get a free company expense card, which you can use to manage your company expenditure.

At £49.99 per month + VAT, Tide Cashback is ideal for established businesses. You’ll get 150 free transfers per month, 0.5% cashback on your Tide card spending, and 3 company expense cards.

Tide vs Starling: how easy is it to pay in cash and cheques?

You can deposit cash at a Post Office with both Tide and Starling. With Tide, the charge is £2.50 for deposits up to £500 or 0.5% of the cash amount for deposits over £500. You can also use PayPoints with a Tide account for a fee of 3%. Tide does not accept cheque deposits.

Depositing cash at a Post Office with Starling will cost you 0.7% of the total amount being deposited (with a £3 minimum fee). With Starling, you can deposit a cheque up to £1,000 by uploading a photo of it to the app. Cheques over £1,000 must be deposited by post.

Tide vs Starling: how easy is it to open a business bank account?

When it comes to deciding to open a bank account for your business, both Tide and Starling have got it covered.

Feature Tide Starling
Apply through the app ✔️ ✔️
Speedy sign-up process ✔️ ✔️
Credit check
Card delivery fee Free Free
Card delivery time 2-5- working days 3-5 working days
information correct as of November 2022

Tide account sign-up

To set up a Tide business account, you’ll first need to download the Tide app from either the App Store or Google Play Store. You then need to provide a form of ID: either a driving licence, passport, or European National ID card. You may also be asked to provide evidence that your business is already up and running, such as HMRC registration, signed contracts, or qualifications.

You won’t be subjected to a hard credit check and your accompanying bank card will be supplied for free.

Starling account sign-up

The process to set up a Starling business account is very similar to opening a bank account with Tide. You’ll first need to download the Starling app and provide at least one of the following documents to verify your identity: your passport, EU/EEA ID card, UK residence card, or UK photo driving licence (full or provisional).

As with Tide, you may also be asked to provide evidence to confirm the nature of your business. These may include:

  • invoices
  • bank statements
  • letters from accountants
  • signed contracts, or
  • payslips.

Starling says the account application process can take as little as 10 minutes. Like Tide, Starling doesn’t conduct a hard credit check and the account’s accompanying bank card is free to receive.

Tide vs Starling: using your card in the UK and abroad

Feature Tide Starling
Free transactions abroad Unlimited Unlimited
Free ATM withdrawals abroad No, £1 each Unlimited
information correct as of November 2022

Both Tide and Starling offer free card transactions when spending in the UK, and they both offer a contactless card limit of £100. You can also withdraw cash at ATMs with Starling and Tide: Tide charges £1 per withdrawal, and Starling has no charge.

If you travel abroad, you can use your Tide card at any retailer or outlet where Mastercard is accepted. You’ll also receive the Mastercard exchange rate with no additional fees.

Unlike many other digital or high street banks, there is no charge if you withdraw over a certain limit. However, you will still be charged £1 to withdraw cash at an ATM (the same charge as applies in the UK).

You can also enjoy free international spending with no limits with your Starling card. Like Tide, the Mastercard exchange rate will also apply with no extra fees. If you use a foreign ATM to take out cash, then there is also no withdrawal fee.

If you lose your card, Tide will replace it for free. Starling provides 1 free replacement card per year, and charges £5 for every card after that.

Tide vs Starling: the all-important customer support

Feature Tide Starling
Customer service via the app ✔️ ✔️
Telephone customer service ✔️ ✔️
information correct as of November 2022

With a free Tide account, you can contact Tide Member Support through the app. You can also send Tide an email with your contact number and request a call back from the Member Support team during working hours. There is also an automated telephone service to report a lost or stolen card.

If you’re on the Tide Plus or Cashback plans, you also have access to telephone support and a 24/7 legal helpline for help with tax or contractual issues.

At Starling, 24/7 support is available from customer service advisers via the in-app chat, email, and telephone.

Tide vs Starling in conclusion: similar but different

There are many similarities with the business bank accounts on offer from both Tide and Starling. They are both digital accounts that you can manage from the convenience of an app – with a host of smart features available for free and others via upgrade.

But while Starling’s Business Toolkit offers similar features to Tide’s account add-ons, only Tide is focused solely on the needs of start-ups – guided by its mission to save small businesses time and money.

From company formation, VAT registration and setting up a virtual office address, to invoicing, expense management and managing your cash flow, Tide is there to support you every step of the way.

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✔️ Register your business with Companies House for free

✔️ Open a free business bank account with no monthly fees

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Sources used for this article

  1. Wikipedia – Starling Bank
  2. Wikipedia – Challenger Banks
  3. Wikipedia – Financial Crash 2008
  4. Tide blog: e-money vs bank accounts: How Tide keeps your money safe
  5. Starling website: https://www.starlingbank.com/business-account/
  6. Starling customer service: https://help.starlingbank.com/business/

All sources checked November 2022

Caroline Wire

Caroline Wire

Senior Small Business Copywriter

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