I chose my bank in the UK, how most of us chose their country of birth or favourite football team - by location. When I moved to the UK back in 2011 - Barclays was the closest branch that would accept me, and I was their loyal customer ever since. Because of convenience, I used them for my personal accounts, business accounts, credit cards, and ISAs (Investment).

So, in 2017, I decided to shop around and see what new financial institutions can offer us. I'm going to compare Tide, Starling, Metro Bank to my good old Barclays. But before I start I need to outline basic rules of this review - I'm going into numbers, I'm not going to cover interest rates and service charges. This article is about Customer Experience, with capital C and Capital E. Just like @StartupLJackson said:

This article is about how much fun do these companies bring me while saving my money. Yes, you heard it here first, in 21 century, I don't just want my bank to optimize my liquidity, I want it to make me happy and excited!

Metro Bank - Old-school, new bank

Main Points

  • Open on Saturdays and Sundays - Amazing for freelancers and consultants.
  • Walk-in services. They can open your personal account in under an hour, and business account in a couple of hours.
  • The mobile app is functional but somewhat mediocre. Android version is sometimes clunky and slow (Google Nexus 6P, 2007).
  • One of the ugliest logotypes I ever saw.

Metro Bank is the old school new bank. My first experience with Metro Bank was in 2016 when friend and colleague of mine pulled out one of the ugliest debit cards I ever saw in my life - Metro Bank. That peaked my interest, and I googled them later same day. Opened in 2011 it represents evolution, not the revolution. It has branches, and managers in suits, and surprisingly enough I haven't seen their CTO giving a speech yet. So if you want a bank, that operates like a bank, with physical offices - they are great.

Another great feature is that they offer walk-in service. No need for appointments, you just walk in, with your documents and open yourself personal or business accounts. They don't offer you coffee though when I asked the nice gentleman if they could bring me a coffee he gave me a look, but they allowed me to pop out to get my own coffee. Another thing to note is their atrocious logotype, that was designed by 7-year-old, who just read the blog post about reading the book about typography. Also their business and personal debit cards look exactly the same.

Aesthetics aside, Metro Bank works 7 days a week, and they are old school bank. They will give you a credit card, they will open an ISA account for you, and probably rest of the stuff. One of my big gripes about Metro Bank - is that they don't allow you to give custom names to bank accounts.

Starling Bank - Personal Only

Main Points

  • Fully online bank. No branches and everything can be done with an app.
  • No savings accounts, no credit cards, no ISA.
  • Business accounts are in early access. (Beta?)
  • Really nice app.
  • You can set your pin before you receive your card!

TL; DR

So far Starling is actually my favourite in this bunch. The moment they polish their business accounts I can start using them more seriously, the only problem at the moment - no savings accounts, and because I'm somewhat paranoid - I don't like keeping all my money on current accounts with cards.

Paranoia aside, they have really great service, they help you via the app, or via twitter. On the downside - they don't have credit cards or investment options, but they do have "Goals" section in their app, which makes me think that they will introduce some kind of savings or investment options in future.

Tide - Business Only

Main Points

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  • No personal accounts, only business current accounts.
  • Fully online bank. No branches and everything can be done with an app.
  • Should be good for freelancers and consultants, no need for appointments, you dear reader can upload your documents, and wait for approval.
  • Additional features to help you manage business account, like invoice generation,
  • Invoice generation from within App.
  • Really nice ways to categorize transactions, and write rules.
  • For some reason, they allow you to take screenshots. Other applications prohibit it.
  • Will need something like Transferwise for outgoing international transfers. No support for international banking at the moment. According to support - coming in few months.

TL;DR

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If they had had credit cards and international support - I would have ditched Barclays for Tide tomorrow, their support actually recommends using Transferwise for international payments, which is actually alright, and cheap, and to be frank I'm using Transferwise to do my international payments anyways.

With their app, you can create and delete bank accounts, rename them, which is my favourite feature. I prefer to bank account per major income source (i.e. client) and separate one for online transactions and HMRC (taxes).

You can sort incoming and outgoing transactions by categories (see screenshot), and even send invoices to your clients.

All in all, I'm very happy with Tide, and I'm going to go forward with them, and I already decided to close my business Metro Bank account did I tell you that their debit cards are ugly?

Nationwide - Control Check

Nationwide is obviously is not a new kid on a block, but I decided that I should have a control check, and try and open a bank account with existing old-school organization. And they are old-school. You will need an appointment, that said there is a chance to get served over teleconference if you are walk-in and they will offer you coffee (I'm looking at you Metro!). 

They will also send you tons of post, that you have to collect until you collect the critical mass of magic words, passcodes, pins, and numbers that will let you finally use your accounts. 

So yeah. Control test, Nationwide is a good old bank-ish-banky-bank.

Conclusion

This abundance of new banks and their APIs reminded me of API mashups of 2005-2009 when every new startup would publish their API for everyone to use for free. Until they realised that they don't make any money, spend a lot of money on servers and dilute the market. That said these APIs are for actual financial institutions, and PSD2 regulation will force these banks to keep at least some portion of their APIs open.

But real revolution is not in banky-banks. Banks like Tide, Monzo and Starling will be profitable, and some of the new banks will start making billions, they are amazing fintechs and startups. But I think real future in more abstract ways. Future is automated Financial Advisors and Accountants. Set of services that will handle receiving and sending money. If you think about it - a lot of things we do, like paying out subcontractors, filing documents to tax authorities, and even basic investment into low-risk portfolios should be fully automated.

There are a lot of mundane tasks that should be automated.