By Esmée Hardwick-Slack
Barclays will be the first high street bank in the UK to allow customers to block certain payments on their debit cards. The idea is to help their more vulnerable customers, particularly those with gambling problems or those who are struggling with serious debt.
The mobile banking app allows users to choose from certain types of retailers to block payments to. This includes:
- Groceries and supermarkets
- Pubs and bars
- Petrol and diesel
- Premium rate websites and phone lines (blocking purchases, not the numbers themselves)
- Gambling websites and betting shops
At the moment the tool only applies to debit cards, although there are plans to apply it to credit cards in the near future.
The bank has used research from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, a charity set up by journalist and money saving expert Martin Lewis, to help create the scheme.
He said “Mental health and debt is marriage made in hell. Many with mental health issues struggle to control their spending – whether through gambling, shopping or premium phone lines – and I commonly hear from people with thousands of pounds of debt as a result.
“This is one reason why I set up the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute charity – and its detailed research shows the power of giving people more options for control tools that can add friction to this type of spending.”
GambleAware has also welcomed the initiative by Barclays and hopes that other banks will follow suit. Chief executive, Marc Etches, has said: “There are 340,000 problem gamblers in Britain and further 1.7 million at risk, and initiatives like this can play an important role in helping to reduce gambling-related harms.”
While Barclays is the first major bank to operate this scheme, other online banks already offer a similar services. The mobile banks Starling and Monzo allow customers to block spending on gambling sites, or with specific retailers.
What are your thoughts on a spending blocker? Will it help people control their spending habits? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.