Using a Starling card abroad in 2023: fees, ATM limits and safety
Can I use a Starling card abroad?
Yes, you can use a Starling card to spend abroad. The card supports payments in 33 different currencies and 67 different countries, including Euros (Eurozone countries), Turkish Lira (Turkey) and US dollars (United States).
What people say about using their Starling card abroad
See the full list of currencies and countries supported by Starling in the FAQs.
Does the Starling Business card work abroad?
Yes, the Business card can be used for card payments abroad with no fees at the Mastercard exchange rate. An additional benefit to business account users is the option to open up a US dollar account to receive payments in USD.
What are the fees?
One of the key benefits of a Starling card is zero fees when using your card abroad. They use the Mastercard exchange rate with no added fees on top.
To illustrate that in practice, imagine that you are about to pay €40 for lunch at a beach-side restaurant:
- You tap your Starling card on the card reader
- Starling converts €40 at the Mastercard exchange rate
- The resulting amount in pounds is taken from your Starling bank account with zero extra fees
Is the Mastercard exchange rate the same as the market exchange rate? Not quite. Read more on that below.
Always opt to pay in the local currency
Choosing the local currency (e.g. EUR, USD) ensures the transaction happens at the Mastercard exchange rate with no fees. If you choose to pay in pounds (GBP), the merchant will apply their own exchange rate (which may contain a markup) and may apply their own fees. The result: you end up paying more.
Are there fees for cash withdrawals?
No, Starling doesn't charge for ATM withdrawals abroad. However, bear in mind that doesn’t stop the ATM provider from charging their own fees - some will charge a flat fee for any cash withdrawal, regardless of the card that you’re using.
How much cash can I take out?
You can withdraw up to £300 per day over six separate withdrawals with a Starling card. You cannot alter this limit; it’s fixed for every Starling user.
I’ve seen somewhere that Starling charges 0.4% fees for international payments?
That’s correct - in part. Starling charges various fees ranging from 0.3-0.4% plus flat fees for international money transfers - i.e. sending money from a Starling account to an international bank account. An example of this kind of transaction would be sending Canadian dollars to a family member in Canada who uses a Canadian bank account.
These kinds of payments are different to everyday card spending abroad; the former will incur fees while the latter is fee-free.
If you’re looking to make an international money transfer, you can compare the cheapest ways to send money internationally on Exiap.
However, if you’re simply using a Starling card to pay for things while you’re on holiday, you will not pay any foreign transaction fees.
The Starling Euro account
Starling offers customers the option to open up a fully-fledged Euro bank account, complete with a set of account details (namely an IBAN number and SWIFT code). This is similar to offerings from Wise, Revolut and Monese, who all offer customers a set of ‘local’ Euro account details.
The Starling Euro account allows you to hold Euros and receive money via bank transfers as if you were a local resident.
However, it’s important to note that converting pounds from your GBP balance with Starling to your Euro account is subject to a 0.4% conversion fee, even though you’re effectively sending money to yourself.
As such, it is marginally cheaper to spend in Europe using your GBP balance (zero fees) than it is to convert in bulk to Euros and spend from your Euro balance (0.4% fee).
What exchange rate does Starling use?
When you spend in a foreign currency, Starling uses the Mastercard rate to figure out what you owe in pounds.
It is difficult to say for sure whether the Mastercard rate is better or worse than the interbank rate (also known as the market exchange rate). This is because the interbank rate is constantly fluctuating, whereas the Mastercard rate is set once a day. In other words, the interbank dips below and rises above the Mastercard rate constantly.
One estimate from 2020 estimated that the Mastercard rate was about 0.38% worse than the interbank rate over a seven month period. This only applied to the GBP-USD currency pair.
If you want to be sure you’re getting the interbank rate, use a card like Wise - they always use the market exchange rate. Otherwise, you’ll get a decent enough rate with Starling.
Is Starling safe to use abroad?
Starling has a few features that keep you safe when spending abroad:
- Freeze or cancel your card form the app if you think it’s been lost or stolen
- Biometric identification to log into the app
If you lose your card while on holiday you can cancel it in the app and re-order one to your home address. As soon as you’ve ordered a new one you’ll be able to add a virtual card to Google Pay or Apple Pay to continue paying for things, but bear in mind you won’t be able to withdraw cash with just your phone.
For an added level of security, companies like Wise, Revolut and Monese offer ‘virtual’ card details. These can be generated and re-generated instantly, meaning you can safely pay vendors that you don’t fully trust.
Your money is FSCS protected
Starling is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority and your money is protected by the FSCS scheme up to a value of £85,000. Note: the £85,000 figure covers deposits in both your GBP and your Euro account, they are not insured separately.
Can my child use the Starling Kite card abroad?
Yes, the Starling Kite card uses the Mastercard rate with no fees in the same way as an ordinary Starling card.