Top app-based bank accounts

How good is your bank's app?

Digital challenger banks come without the large branch networks of the traditional banks, but typically offer slicker digital experiences. We run through the app-based accounts you've rated the best and our top picks. Though take a look at Best Bank Accounts as well, which includes the top accounts for upfront freebies, ongoing rewards and savings interest. 

Who's this guide for? Anyone wanting to try an app-based current account that can help you manage your cash.

Not what you want? Other related guides... 
Best Bank Accounts | Autosaving Apps | Top Savings Accounts | Prepaid Cards

What is digital banking?

If you 'do' digital banking, it means you use an app for all, or most, of your banking. Our focus in this guide is on app-based banks, which have great tech and features that help you know where you're spending, and help you save towards your goals, all within the same app and same account.

We know that some of the traditional high street banks have popular apps, and are catching up with their app-only competitors, so we feature the best of these too.

While the app-based banks don't have a high-street presence, most have in-app customer support, with dedicated teams on hand to offer assistance if you've any questions or issues.

All apps featured in this guide are free to download – though some have costs associated with running them, which we clearly explain in our best buys below. You'll also need a relatively up to date smartphone running iOS or Android.

MSE weekly email

FREE weekly MoneySaving email

For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes simply sign up today – it's spam-free!

The five digital banking need-to-knows

To get your head around app-based banking, it helps to know the following: 

  • Although these apps aren't solely meant for budgeting, the main ones we feature in this guide can really help you to keep your finances in check.

    They give real-time notifications when you spend or save – so for example, if you bought something for £5 in Boots, you'd get an instant notification on your phone telling you what you've spent.

    This helps you spot fraud too. If you get a notification that your debit card's been used in Nando's, and you're sitting at home watching TV, you can immediately freeze the card within the app to stop any further fraudulent use, then call the bank to let it know about the fraud (and to send you a new card).

    Another feature they have is to give you insights into your spending habits. This means you'll easily be able to see how much you spend in one particular shop each month (coffee addicts beware!), or more generally how much you spend on entertainment or travel.

    This should make it easier to budget and keep track of your money, allowing you to cut the cloth where needed.

  • When it comes to your finances, you want to be sure your money's safe – so it's important to understand how your money's protected. UK-regulated banks have Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) protection. This covers up to £85,000 of your money in the unlikely event of a bank going bust (for more on this, see our Savings Safety guide).

    The apps below – Starling, Chase and Monzo – are fully regulated UK banks, and are therefore covered by the FSCS (though Chase's protection is shared with JP Morgan). This means your money is protected in exactly the same way as it would be with a big traditional bank, such as Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds or NatWest.

  • The financial technology firms – or fintechs – below offer a fully-fledged alternative to the main high-street players. Like their high-street counterparts, they offer debit cards, overdrafts, direct debits, standing orders and more. These challenger banks sell themselves on their high-tech, easy-to-use features, but it's still worth being aware of the old-school brands.

    Occasionally high-street banks offer incentives of £100+ if you switch to them, which can be really lucrative, or they offer ongoing rewards such as in-credit interest or cashback on bills, something the challenger banks don't tend to do. For what's currently on offer, see our Best Bank Accounts guide.

    But it's worth noting that you don't HAVE to switch to open an app-only account, you can simply open one as an extra – for example, many people use their traditional bank account for their salary and bills, then transfer their monthly spending money into an app-based bank so they can keep tight control of their spending.

    This might be a good option if you aren't convinced of the benefits of app banking but are keen to see what all the fuss is about.

  • Monzo, Chase and Starling all do 'soft searches' of your credit report when you apply (unless you're applying for an overdraft – in which case it's usually a hard search). A soft search means that other lenders usually can't see it, unlike a 'hard search' which is visible to other lenders searching your report and can lower your credit score.

    This search is for three reasons – the first is to check your identity so the bank is happy you are who you say you are and not a fraudster trying to use someone else's information. The second is to have a look at your credit history, and see if you're the kind of person who they'd like as a customer. The final one is to check how you manage any other borrowing you have. The banks use this as part of their checks to see if they'd be happy to give you an overdraft.

    If you do apply for an overdraft, the soft search generally turns into a hard search. This is to let other lenders know that you've applied for credit with that particular bank.

    See our Credit Scores guide for more information on the different types of searches, plus information on how you can check your credit report.

  • Banks have security systems in place that ensure fraudsters can't hack into your account whether you're logged in online or on your phone. But still be careful – never share your online/mobile banking information with anyone.

    If using one of the mobile apps featured in this guide, make sure you download the official version from your app store, and update the app regularly to make sure you benefit from any new security features. You should also protect your phone by setting a password, PIN or other screen lock (eg, pattern, fingerprint).

    It's also worth keeping your computer up-to-date with free antivirus software, so you're protected from viruses and spyware.

Top app-based bank accounts

To get a current account with one of the challenger banks below, you apply through their apps – the process is quick and easy, typically taking just a few minutes if you're accepted.

Do note these accounts can be beaten if you're looking for £150+ to switch or monthly cashback. But if you're after a high-tech account, these are our top picks. We've also included MSE users' app ratings from our most recent banking apps poll.

Top app-based bank accounts 

Useful spending notifications, great for budgeting + top for overseas use. Starling Bank* gives real-time notifications when you use your debit card, insights into your spending and lets you set up savings goals. You also earn a (very) small amount of in-credit interest. As an added boon, there are no fees for spending or cash withdrawals abroad, making it a top-pick debit card overseas. 

Starling Bank*


Service rating: 92% 'great' 

Overseas fees: None

In-credit interest (AER variable): 0.05% up to £85,000

How to pay in? Cash at any Post Office, cheques via app/post
Arranged overdraft cost (AER variable): 15%, 25% or 35% 

Unarranged overdraft cost: None
Get the app: iOS 
(rated 4.9/5) or Android (rated 4.8/5)
MSE users' app rating: 83% 'great' for usability, 85% 'great' for features

1% cashback for at least a year on most purchases, plus no fees to spend/withdraw cash abroad. The app-only Chase current account* gives a top rate of cashback on most spending (max £15/month), though there are some exclusions. There's no minimum pay-in required in the first year, but you'll have to pay in £500+/month after that to continue getting cashback. To use Chase, you'll need a device with at least iOS 14.1 or Android 8.1.


You can also set up its 'round-up' feature, which rounds all purchases up to the nearest £1, with the difference autosaved into a separate account paying 5% (for example, spend £1.45 and 55p is transferred). You can create up to 20 extra accounts and there's also a monthly spending overview – great for helping to manage your money.



Service rating: 93% 'great'

Overseas fees: None

In-credit interest (AER variable): 4.1% on £500,000 via its linked savings account, 1% on the main current account (no max), 5% on small amounts saved in the round up account
How to pay in? Cannot pay in cash
Arranged overdraft cost (AER variable): Not available

Unarranged overdraft cost: Not available
Get the app: iOS (rated 4.9/5) or Android (rated 4.1/5)

Helps you budget & also offers savings accounts with partner banks. Monzo* has similar features to Starling – real-time spending notifications and insights in to where you're spending. It's also good for overseas use, particularly if you won't withdraw cash or will only get small amounts. The difference comes with savings – Monzo has its own instant access savings 'pot' but also lets you set up 'pots' with its partner banks too, which often pay higher interest rates – though top-pick savings usually pay even more.



Service rating: 94% 'great'


Overseas fees: None on spending, though worldwide ATM withdrawals only fee-free up to £200/30-day period, 3% fee after (i)

In-credit interest (AER variable): 4% via its linked instant access savings account
How to pay in? Cash at any PayPoint (£1 fee), cheques via post
Arranged overdraft cost (AER variable): 19%, 29% or 39%

Unarranged overdraft cost: As above if applicable, or 39% (max £15.50/mth)
Get the app: iOS
 (rated 4.9/5) or Android (rated 4.7/5)
MSE users' app rating: 82% 'great' for usability, 86% 'great' for features

(i) In the UK, EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, it's fee-free up to £250/30-day period, 3% fee above. Though if you use Monzo as your main account (pay in £500+/mth and have one or more direct debits) it's always fee-free in these areas. See full info. Our service ratings are from our July 2023 poll of 4,000 people.

Top-rated traditional banks' apps

You may want a slick app, but from a banking name you know. We ran a banking apps poll to ask which apps are best – and while Starling and Monzo (above) came out on top for features and ease of use, the two below were the best-rated apps from the traditional banks.

For now, neither of these apps offers the same budgeting help as the newer players, but they're decent options if you want to stick with a name you know and you normally do a lot of mobile banking.

  • NatWest – 71% rated it 'great' for usability; 66% 'great' for features.
    The NatWest app rates the best of the apps from the traditional banks. Our pick of NatWest accounts is its Rewards Account, which gives users £3/month cashback (it's £5/month but with a £2 monthly fee) every month they use the mobile app and pay out two £2+ direct debits. However, you'll need to be able to pay in £1,250+/mth to hold the account.

    The app will let you check your balance, see transactions and manage payees and recurring payments. Plus you can request money from friends with a QR code/link and easily split a bill. Download the app for iOS (rated 4.6/5) or Android (rated 4.5/5). 
Lloyds bank app logo
  • Lloyds – 68% rated it 'great' for usability; 60% 'great' for features.
    The Lloyds app is also well-rated by MoneySavers for both features and usability. Our pick of accounts here is Club Lloyds, which pays interest of up to 1.5% when you have up to £5,000 in the account. However, you'll need to be able to pay in £1,500+/mth, or you'll be charged a £3 monthly fee to keep the account. You can also qualify for rewards, including cinema tickets, movie rentals or magazine subscriptions.

    The Lloyds app gives you instant spending notifications, lets you see transactions on a map and helps you manage monthly subscriptions. Download it for iOS (rated 4.8/5) or Android (rated 4.6/5).

What can other traditional banks' apps do?

In addition, we wanted to know what other banks are doing in terms of offering budgeting help, letting you freeze your card and other app features. This table summarises what they offer...

App features by bank

Provider Freeze debit card in-app? Instant spending notifications? Spending categories? Turn off certain spending? Any other features?
Bank of Scotland Yes Yes Yes Yes See list
Barclays Yes Yes Yes Yes See list
Co-op No No No No -
First Direct Yes No Yes Yes -
Halifax Yes Yes Yes Yes See list
HSBC Yes Yes No Gambling block See list
Lloyds Yes Yes Yes Yes See list
Metro Bank Yes No Yes No See list
Monzo Yes Yes Yes Yes See list
Nationwide Yes No No No

Savings goals

NatWest Yes Yes Yes Restrict online/phone use
Savings goals
RBS Yes No Yes Restrict online/phone use Savings goals
Santander Yes No No Yes View card PIN in-app
Starling Yes Yes Yes Yes See list
TSB Yes No No No Savings pots
Virgin Money No Yes Yes No Budgeting help
Last updated: Sep 2022.

MSE weekly email

FREE weekly MoneySaving email

For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes simply sign up today – it's spam-free!

Spotted out of date info/broken links? Email: