When we choose to switch banks, it’s normally due to one of a few factors. We may be fed up of poor customer service; we may be seduced by the rewards on offer from another provider; or we may prefer the convenience of a closer branch. The quality of mobile banking apps is rarely considered – but recent trends suggest that it’s about time we factor this in to our decision making.
There’s been a noticeable shift towards mobile banking in the last twelve months. The number of transactions conducted on a mobile app reached 18.6 million per week in 2013, according to the British Banking Association – more than double the levels seen in 2012.
Customers of the five largest banks – Barclays, HSBC, RBS, Lloyds and Santander – downloaded over 12.4 million apps last year. Santander, which has gained a lot of new customers since the new current account switching system launched, saw a sizeable increase of 40% in the number of people using its banking app.
Clearly, we’re becoming much happier with the idea of using a smartphone for our banking needs rather than whiling away our lunch hour at the local branch. And with new services like Paym set to transform the way that we exchange money with others, we can expect the world of mobile banking to keep growing exponentially for some time to come.
It stands to reason, then, that the functionality of a mobile app will soon begin to have a major effect on how and why people choose their bank account.
Why people chose to switch current accounts in April 2014. Source: TNS Global.
But not all banking apps include the same features, and some have clearly gone the extra mile.
The RBS Group, which includes NatWest, is expected to reach four million mobile app users by the end of 2014, and it’s not difficult to see why.
The bank recently took the radical step of ditching introductory offers across its banking and savings products, but the vast functionality offered by its mobile app certainly stands out from the crowd.
In particular, the ability to withdraw cash without using a bank card may prove the benchmark for creative and convenient banking.
Almost all most banking apps now come with a standard minimum set of functions. These include: the ability to monitor accounts and view transactions; the ability to pay bills (including credit cards); the ability to transfer money between accounts; and the ability to transfer money to contacts.
If NatWest users wish to pay a contact, the recipient does not need the app – a valid Visa card and a UK mobile number is enough. A text message will direct the recipient to a secure page to confirm their card details and the expected amount, which they receive within 48 hours.
Offered by: most major current account providers.
Location, Location, Location
After that, it boils down to what functions a banking app can offer that its competitors can’t. One feature that is less common among mobile banking apps is the ability to locate the nearest branch or ATM machine.
Customers with RBS, NatWest, Lloyds, HBOS, Santander and Barclays will all find their apps equipped with this service. NatWest’s ‘Near Me’ service, which locates the nearest branch or the closest cash point, is available on Android, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Windows Phones.
Offered by: RBS / NatWest, Lloyds, HBOS, Santander, Barclays.
Mobile Access to All Accounts
Then there’s the features offered by very few providers. The ability to check mortgage details is currently limited to customers of the RBS Group and Nationwide Building Society. The RBS / NatWest mobile banking app allows full access to all accounts held with the bank, including credit cards, personal loans, and mortgages.
Offered by: RBS / NatWest, Nationwide.
Likewise, the ability to set up text alerts via the banking app is limited to the RBS Group and Santander. This feature is designed to help customers avoid overdraft fees and to alert them if any suspicious activity occurs on their accounts. The iPhone app for NatWest customers offers added weekly balance alerts, along with limit alerts when a balance exceeds or falls below a particular amount.
Offered by: RBS / NatWest, Santander.
The Unique Services: Cardless Cash!
Then there are the features that are unique to any one bank’s mobile app. Santander’s banking app includes the ability to report a lost or stolen card, which avoids the difficulty of trying to reach a call centre at an inconvenient time.
But the trump card is undoubtedly held by NatWest, with its award-winning ‘Get Cash’ feature. This allows mobile banking users to withdraw up to £250 per day without using a bank card.
Customers simply select the amount they would like to withdraw using the app, and they’ll receive a secure code that can be used at any NatWest, RBS or Tesco cash machine.
The service means that any account holders who forget their cards or prefer not to carry them around will be able to request cash from their smartphones.
Users will also be able to pay friends or family or help them out in an emergency by forwarding codes which will allow their contacts to collect the cash from an eligible cash point instead.
The ‘Get Cash’ feature, which is available on Android, iPhone, Blackberry and Windows Phones, won a Gold Cannes Lion at the 2013 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
For all-round functionality, NatWest’s mobile banking app is almost impossible to beat in the UK at the moment. Its formidable array of features includes:
- Checking accounts and balances
- Access to all accounts (including loans / mortgages)
- Paying bills
- Paying contacts (inc. friends and family)
- Locating the nearest branch or ATM
- Setting up text alerts
- Pay-As-You-Go mobile top-up
- Withdrawing cash without a card
Unless other UK banks begin to close the gap, NatWest could have a service here that offers a different and unique kind of competition to high street rivals, just at the time when users are engaging more with mobile banking and demanding more of these services.
|View Activity||Transfers||Pay Bills||Locate Branch||Check Mortgage||Set Up Alerts||Report Lost/Stolen Card||Cardless Cash|
|Bank of Scotland||✓||✓||x||✓||x||x||x||x|
Mobile banking features. Source: IAB UK.