Hi Ashley. Tell us about what you do…
I’m a travel agent for Travel Time World – a small independant company based in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. We focus on luxury travel solutions for our client and also cover a few other areas, like our coach business. We are also involved in the future of the travel being very active in the industry. In addition to servicing clients I cover the marketing side of things: currently I’m working on brochures for the coach business. I’m very interested in travel and technology.
How did you first hear of Starling?
Being in the travel industry, I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel quite regularly (even if it is in the off season). In fact the most I’ve travelled is 17 times in a year! I was flying quite regularly so I joined an online community forum about airlines called FlyerTalk. Earlier this year when British Airways (who I fly with quite regularly) started their buy-on-board system for food and drinks, there was an issue where certain cards wouldn’t work and then the community began to discuss which cards actually would work; after a little bit of research, I found Starling. I love the better rates of currency conversion to start with, of course that’s a big plus for me.
So you seem to be the guru in that group?
Yeah – exactly. I do a lot around the travel industry because I really enjoy it. Something else I’ve been really involved with recently is discussions around the future of travel and how it’s sold. We’ve been discussing virtual reality, and if social media will still be the driving force it once was for travel.
That’s exciting! What do you think the future of selling travel is then?
There are some in travel who see VR as the future of selling holidays, based on the assumption that imagining where you are going is likely to lead to a sale. I, however, see things slightly differently… I believe that a highly personalised service is going to be the future, helped by new technologies such as machine learning and ambient computing. Just like the Starling ethos of making technology (and in this case finance) more personal and more relevant.
So, tell us about your experience after you decided to use Starling?
Once I got the email to say I could open an account back in May —I was actually on the train — I decided to do this once I got home. The setup was absolutely flawless — a very well thought out and very simple process. The card came really quickly too, which was fantastic.
I certainly think that the Starling app has come a long way since then. Not just in terms of features, but also in terms of design. I have an eye for detail and I’m finding that the app has become increasingly consistent and the experience is much more streamlined and fluid.
What surprised you about Starling?
It has to be the speed of bringing new and updated features to the app. Three months ago the app only provided the essentials, but the improvement since then in such a short period of time has been amazing. I didn’t think it was possible so quickly, and definitely the small details make all the difference.
What’s your favourite feature so far, and why?
It has to be the real-time notifications – there have been so many times in the past where I have not known if a transaction has gone through, but with the instant notifications, sometimes even before the website or machine has said it’s been accepted. It is just one feature, but saves hours of trudging to find out if a transaction has failed.
You said on our community that you’ve connected your account to MoneyBox. What made you do this?
Well, it’s something new so I wanted to try it out, but also I was also in the market for a service which rounded up money into a savings account (after recently using Starling as my main account).
We are building out our Saving Goals feature. Do you think that will be helpful for your travelling?
Yeah certainly, so for instance, my sister is getting married in Mauritius this October and we’re all going out for the big day. I’ve just paid for that trip, and I wanted to ring-fence a certain amount of money for it. Having somewhere to put this aside will certainly be helpful for travellers.
What apps could you not live without when it comes to travel?
I always use the airline apps, whoever I’m flying with, whether that’s BA, EasyJet or somebody else. I also use FlightRadar24 – how technology has come forward to create something like this is incredible, though the app can be a bit technical. I also use Google Maps; I tend to check where I’m going on street view first so I don’t get lost. Podcasts too – for me they’re a travelling essential!