“British bank Barclays has launched an ambitious new app that promises to let people send money to family, friends and small businesses using just a mobile number”

- The Guardian Online

Yesterday morning while waiting for a meeting in Starbucks I spotted a tweet from one of my favourite technology journalists Rory Cellan-Jones about Barclay’s new banking app Pingit (Rory interviewing Barclay’s Antony Jenkins: New bank app lets you transfer money by mobile). Available for Android, iOS and Blackberry operating systems the app is designed to allow you to send money to another user via their phone number.

Since online banking became possible brands have been fighting to compete in the digital space, through mobiles sites and various phone apps that allow access, however looking at the discussion online you can’t help but feel that banks have yet to earn trust in these new transaction methods.

After yesterday’s news about Pingit The Telegraph started a poll on trust in banking apps, the results of which (so far) show that a majority trust mobile banking. (Of course being an online article we’re also discounting the individuals who don’t use or don’t regularly use the internet in the first place.)

Reading the documents on Barclay’s Pingit page it’s clear that a lot of the security depends on how web-savvy the user is. There’s plenty that can potentially go wrong…

Someone else gets hold of your phone

If you lose or have your phone stolen then Barclay’s have a number you should call which will get the account blocked and force the app to self-destruct. Of course this requires the individual to take action as soon as possible. The Pingit app requires a private 5-digit pass number to enter and Barclay’s also recommends that you have a pincode lock on your phone to stop someone using it in the first place. They talk about other safety measures on their website which of course I would recommend you read/watch carefully before downloading any banking app.

You send money to the wrong phone number

This can easily happen, although the app asks you to confirm the receiving number more than once. Barclay’s have a disclaimer in this instance but will put you in touch with the relevant bank if you’ve sent money to the wrong account. Be very careful!

In a clever move Barclay’s have put a maximum limit of £300 on transfers which makes it ideal for emergencies but should prevent large unauthorised transfers (as reported by Marketing Magazine).

The danger of other apps

I would imagine this may become more of an issue as app development becomes easier. I would imagine there’s potential for an app to be developed that could access banking data or change numbers on phones using the software. To reduce the risks, never download any app that’s not from an official store, read through the small print of apps and never give your private pass numbers to anyone (even Barclay’s staff won’t request this).

The benefits of mobile banking apps 

There are of course many benefits to using a mobile banking apps. It gives you easy access and they are taking plenty of security precautions so the risk should be no greater than using a debit card. Ofcom revealed last summer that a quarter of adults and half of teens have a smartphone, so it should encourage a younger audience to take responsibility for their money. Barclay’s is also offering part of the service to customers of other banks and hope to role out the whole service soon.

So far Pingit has received 4.5 stars out of 5 in the 476 Apple app store reviews but there have also been concerns raised about support in setting up the app. I definitely think there’s room here for a big educational piece by Barclay’s to help customers use the app and reassure people that their money is safe.

No doubt we’ll soon seen other banks following suit.

What are your thoughts on this new way of banking? 

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