More and more often we are using our smartphones to carry out our banking transactions – the most recent British Bankers’ Association (BBA) data available, from 2015, shows that consumers logged into mobile banking apps a staggering 73.8 million times a week – up from 18.6 million logins a week in 2014.
During the same period, in-branch banking transactions fell by 6% – so can banking apps replace face-to-face transactions? Are banking apps safe? And which apps are worth their salt?
To an increasing number of consumers, the quality and functionality of a bank’s app is becoming more and more important. A lot of banking apps offer basic functionality, the ability to check your balance, view statements and make payments – but some mobile banking apps are doing more than that.
Some shining stars in the mobile banking world are Metro Bank, First Direct and NatWest. Metro Bank’s app gives you more peace of mind – you can block an unblock your card via the app – great for if you lose it or are one of those people who regularly misplaces it. First Direct has a new fingerprint login – meaning that because of the level of security required to access it you are able to carry out more banking transactions through the app than with other apps, including easily setting up and amending new and existing payments.
NatWest has two great aspects to its functionality – you can notify NatWest of your travel plans in advance via the app, preventing your card from being blocked whilst you are abroad, and Natwest is the first app to be accredited by the Royal National Institute of Blind People for the way it supports visually impaired customers who might find it hard to go into a branch.
But it isn’t just the big banks who can help you manage your finances through your mobile – “digital wallet” apps such as Android Pay and Apple Pay allow you to add all of your credit and debit card details and then pay with your phone – you use it like you would a contactless card, anywhere contactless cars are accepted. This is a great service if you don’t like to carry numerous cards around with you or if you accidentally leave them at home one day.
There are also numerous apps which help with day-to-day budgeting and offer good levels of protection against fraud – we’ll discuss those later.
Are mobile banking apps safe?
The reported number of cases of fraud using banking apps is small, but we should all be vigilant when it comes to our finances no matter what form of banking we are using – so here are some scams to watch out for:
- Only download apps from Google Play or the App Store – your bank will likely link to them from its own website
- Never follow links in emails unless you are absolutely certain the email has come from your bank – phishing emails can be used to get you to download fake apps
- Keep your passwords and account details safe – the same as you would with any form of banking
Which banking apps do you recommend?
There are huge numbers of apps available to help you manage your finances, some of our favourites include:
This is a personal financial assistant that shows you exactly where your money goes and helps you make better decisions.
- Secure sign up
- Pulls together all your financial accounts – bank and credit
- Set saving goals
- Spending is categorised so you can see at a glance where you can cut back
This app and card combo allows you to track in real-time how much you are spending and categorizes your spending. You can see exactly where you stand with your balance – unlike with some banking apps which can take days to update.
- Pre-paid card required
- Put a freeze on your card if you misplace it
- Excellent for using abroad – no fees
- Spending is categorised so you can see at a glance where you can change habits
Go Henry and Osper apps
These apps are similar to Monzo, but allow parents to track their child’s spending – giving some financial independence but with some safeguards.
PayPal offers a different way to pay for goods online, and in some shops. By creating and using a PayPal account to pay for goods online you add additional protection – Paypal pay for your transaction and you effectively reimburse them – great news if you are concerned about the security of a site.
- Gives peace of mind when buying from sites you haven’t bought from before
- PayPal take payment once the item you ordered has arrived – protecting you further against scams
- You can use PayPal to send money to friends or family who also have PayPal accounts by sharing your registered email address – no need to share your bank details over email or text
Could banking apps fully replace in-branch transactions?
As the usage of apps increases, the number of in-branch transactions goes down. As security measures progress, more and more services are available through banking apps – and some people report that they now never visit a branch. So maybe, in time, there will be little need for in-branch transactions other than for those who have assistance needs that apps cannot cater for.
There is now a bank – Atom bank – that offers its products through an app exclusively; Due to its lower overheads it is able to offer better savings rates and cheaper mortgage deals – could this be the future of banking for everyone?