Bamboozled with high street banking apps? Here's our expert guide..

By Andy Webb
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Forget Candy Crush. Your banking app should be one of the most used on your phone. Here’s why it’s essential.

Two in five people with smartphones use an banking app, making it one of most popular app activities after email, social media, games and checking the weather - and there’s a reason for that. No more faffing around with mini statements from the cash point. No more horrible phone banking. Instead, a swipe and a tap and you’re seeing what your bank balance is RIGHT NOW.

Why mobile banking apps are good for you and your money

Knowing your balance

So what difference does it really make that you can see the balance? Well, it’s key to being good with your money. Know what money you’ve got, and you know what money you can spend and save.

 

Keeping an eye on payments out

Sometimes the balance can be a bit deceptive, but with an app you can quickly look at regular payments to check when they are due to leave and how much they’re likely to be. This’ll stop you thinking you’ve money to spend when you don’t.

 

Checking for payments in

Waiting for your pay to finally hit your account? Well, you can check at the bus stop or at your desk to make sure the money is cleared and ready to spend or save.

 

Paying friends and bills

You can transfer money to friends or pay bills within seconds, and most will let you set up a new payee from the app, meaning you don’t have to find a computer.

 

One great feature is called by “Paym”. As long as your friends are registered, you can transfer money to their mobile phone number. No need to remember sort codes and account numbers. And if you’re registered you can receive money that way - meaning you can get friends to pay you there and then for their half of the taxi fare.

Check out how Paym works here.

Moving money to savings accounts

I’d recommend using a standing order to move money to savings accounts when you get paid, but if you want more flexibility you can use the apps to quickly move cash between accounts at the same bank.

How banking apps work

To use a banking app you’ll first need to register with the bank for their online banking. This can take a while as they’ll usually post you your username and details, though some will email or text them to you. It does mean you need to remember yet another password, but a lot of the apps have simple passcodes or allow touch ID to make logging in a bit quicker.

Once you’re setup you can download the app. As long as you don’t share your password or code you shouldn’t have anything to worry about security wise, but it’s worth having a passcode on your phone too.

High street banking apps - which are the best?

As a money geek I’ve got eight different bank accounts to take advantage of different deals and switching incentives such as cashback on bills and higher interest rates. This puts me in the perfect place to tell you about the main apps from the high street banks.

Santander

The Santander app is a pretty decent all rounder to manage your money. You’ve got the ability to set up text alerts to let you know if your balance drops below a level you set - really handy if you’re often close to zero.

The main downside of the Santander app is you can’t set up new payees in the app. Instead you have to log in online. It also doesn’t work with touch ID, though you only need to remember a five digit passcode to get access.

Santander offer a separate app - Spendyltics - which analyses your spending habits to highlight where your money really goes. It’s just a shame it’s not part of the main app.

 

Natwest

A great feature on the Natwest app is the ability to withdraw emergency money from a cash point without your debit card. You simply hit the “Get Cash” button and you’re asked how much you want to withdraw. A code will be texted to you and you just enter that at a Natwest, Tesco or Royal Bank of Scotland cashpoint. There’s a max of £130 a day, and you can only get two codes each day - but if you lose your card it means you’ll be able to get home.

You can also set up new payees from within the app too, meaning you shouldn’t need to use the main online banking at all. Touch ID is also enabled.

Halifax & Lloyds

These apps are essentially the same. You can do everything in the mobile app that you can do via online banking, including letting your bank know you’re going abroad - handy when you realise at the airport you haven’t done it yet. You can pay someone for the first time from within the app. There’s also a function to quickly add cashback offers at places like Pizza Express and All Bar One to your account so it’s worth checking before you spend. And yep, you can log-in with your fingerprint too.

 

Barclays

The Barclays app does everything you’d expect from a banking app, though it doesn’t have touch ID. If you do need to call the bank, you can avoid the pain of security questions thanks to a nifty feature within the app where you can call Barclays and the operator will already know your details.

 

TSB

First Direct

Nationwide

Co-op

These apps are easy to use, but otherwise they’re all pretty basic. Only the TSB app will let you set up a new payee from within the app, meaning you need to log-in to online banking every time there’s a new bill to pay. First Direct and Nationwide are set up for Touch ID so it’s quick to get to your details.

 

Top Takeaway

There’s no excuse to not know how much you’ve got in the bank. Download your bank’s app and make sure you check it every day to stay in control of what you spend and avoid going accidentally overdrawn.

 

By Andy Webb

Andy is the money blogger behind Be Clever With Your Cash, as well as the editor of blogging network UK Money Bloggers. He's passionate about helping people get the most from their money, and a little bit addicted to yellow reduced stickers in supermarkets. You might also have seen Andy on TV talking about money matters as he's one of the money experts on BBC One's Right on the Money.

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