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Would you do all your banking on your mobile phone?

Mobile banking

With the decline in high street bank branches and the rise in mobile-only banks, branchless banking seems to be the way of the future. Could you be convinced to give it a try?

Only a few months into 2017 comes the announcement from big high street banks that 141 more branches have shut, or will shut this year.

Meanwhile, we’re witnessing the rise of branchless firms like Atom Bank, Monzo and Revolut, which can only be accessed using a smartphone app.

Where do you stand on the mobile banking ‘revolution’? Late last year, we ran an online survey of 9,076 Which? members – it suggested that more than half of under-40s would be happy to open a mobile-only account. However, this figure dips dramatically for those aged 40 and over.

The pros and cons of mobile-only banking

Earlier this year, Atom Bank launched a range of highly competitive savings accounts in an attempt to lure customers. The move suggested that better savings rates could prove to be a key advantage of branchless banking.

However, the resulting rush of desperate savers reportedly caused its smartphone app to crash.

At times like these, the drawbacks of having no in-branch customer service becomes painfully obvious. Although many savers could be happy to sacrifice face-to-face service for better interest rates, this error reportedly meant that some couldn’t even apply for them.

Would you give mobile banking a try?

Previous Which? research revealed that the major banks closed over 1,000 branches between January 2015 and January 2017.

When we posted about this issue a few months ago, the majority of commenters, including Diane Lyne, appeared to agree that this was far from ideal:

‘I am very upset at the closure of my local NatWest, I’m not happy to do online banking. I’m a senior and have been with NatWest for forty odd years. This closure is going to make life doubly difficult for me, I prefer the human touch.’

Here’s what Stuart L had to say:

‘Yes, internet banking and the ‘hole in the wall’ does obviate some need for branches, but when there is a problem or you need to pay in – especially coins – a long journey is inevitable. The banks (AND Building Societies) MUST stop and think again. Shared facilities, part-time branches in stores, mobile banks should all be on the agenda.’

However, Wavechange would consider other options:

‘Apart from visiting my bank a couple of times to set up a large payment, the only times I have visited my bank in the past year have been to deposit cheques, sometimes just posting them through the letterbox. I would be happy to use an ATM to do this if the facility was provided. I do appreciate that some people want to keep their bank branch and my branch is usually busy when I have been into it or walked past.’

Yet, the latest branch closure figures suggest that financial firms are continuing to push their customers towards mobile or online banking.

What would it take for you to get on board with mobile banking? Could you ever be comfortable completing financial transactions through your smartphone? Do you already use mobile-only banking and, if so, what’s your experience of it like so far?

Profile photo of duncan lucas

Not in the years left I have , never going to happen , this is all part of removing fiat money from the public and giving your government and ultimately International Banking , namely the IMF/ WB ECB and all the others to control you , as a certain banker once said let whoever run the country as long as I own the money I really run it. No this is your fully propagandized/rammed down your throat/ this is “good for you ” / be with it/ –Globalisation which I thought was stopped by the change in the US administration but the “Donald ” isnt getting it his way he has been forced to employ “Clinton friendly ” government administrators whose policy this is . Its being presented as a young couple hand in hand walking towards a beautiful shining sun while in reality it ends up a large trapdoor of -lets get into debt-its good for you , let “US” control you – We will take care of you -except of coarse for the poor who will get poorer left out of society the “unterklasse ” the shadows you walk by quicker because you dont want to acknowledge them and it upsets your sensibilities –so YES -it will be a “roaring ” success (for some ).

Profile photo of John Ward

I take it that’s a NO from Duncan and it’s one from me as well. Since I don’t even have a mobile phone at the moment – and I am not missing it – it’s not actually an option. I do, however, bank on-line from time to time and prefer that to queuing up in a branch. But recently I had a number of things to sort out and was glad I could just pop into the branch and receive comprehensive and competent attention.

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Not for me either. And with the news that Chinese hackers have managed to defeat even two-step authentication on Androids it doesn’t look a good move.


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The posting of this article is timely given the latest major hack on mobile phone transactions currently being illustrated in China where phoney mobile masts are used to intercept and relay messages. If your phone has been infected – and this can occur before delivery to you of your new phone, or by your own action, or a message from a friend -then your banking could be seriously endangered.


” the Swearing Trojan has the capability to steal bank credentials and other sensitive information from victim Android devices and to bypass two-factor authentication by replacing a user’s legit SMS app with a malicious version that intercepts incoming SMS messages.
What’s more interesting? To avoid detection of any malicious activity, the Swearing trojan doesn’t connect to any remote command-and-control (C&C) server. Instead, it uses SMS or emails to send stolen data back to the hackers.”

Mobile banking I am afraid is a convenient but ultimately dangerous concept. The banks in their drive to make money are also introducing the 1 day clearing and I suspect this will – surprise surprise also be flawed – at this stage the banks will demand abolition of the cheques – or more to the point simply stop processing them. The wishes of the people and Parliament will be irrelevant.

As one who both studied auditing and worked as a banker I can tell you one of the ways to prevent fraud is to build in delays and checks . There are costs attached to any system. The immediate one for the Banks is to get everything electronic as that is cheaper for them.

As we know from the lending debacle in 2008 Banks are now working in the very short-term with executive bonuses to be considered. As the Banks are unable and unwilling to think of adequate security other than the latest promised secure system then the Government is not much better.

The Consumers Association, publishers of Which?, need to consider that in fact they need to do an in depth look from the consumer side of the fence as to the what-if scenarios that one can foresee and how customers will be affected. Reiterating what Banks put out and pretending everything is rosy and secure is doing subscribers no good whatsoever.

It is almost as though all those Wikileaks about cracking phones and systems does not indicate anything at all and what the NSA can do so can crooks. The story that two US multi-nationals were conned out of $100m over 2 years also shows even without hacking the systems have insufficient drag to allow humans the time to think and consider what is happening.

If we are to be forced towards an electronics only system then the safeguards for the elderly, infirm and incapable, the recovery method were Banks go off-line, and many other aspects need to be sorted NOW so we can be slightly reassured that policies are not being made on the hoof and all with a view to the profit margins.

We also need to consider that we need a parallel system – cash and cheques – which in the event of a major attack on the clearing system or the networks allows people to continue to buy food etc.

I use cash a lot because it is a demonstration of its utility and simplicity and aids budgeting. I do fear an entirely card/electronic system that is inherently vulnerable to outages or manipulation.

Profile photo of John Ward

The one-day cheque clearing will involve a photographic image of the cheque being transmitted to the drawer’s branch for verification, possibly even the customer ‘posting’ the cheque to their account by sending a picture of it to their bank branch. And what happens to the original? Could it be presented again? I see arguments looming.

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Just to illustrate the power of systems that have no delay for safety:


” KfW, which on its website says it’s been awarded the title of the world’s safest bank by magazine Global Finance, isn’t the only lender to suffer a glitch. Deutsche Bank AG’s foreign exchange unit in June 2015 mistakenly sent $6 billion to a hedge fund client and recovered the sum a day later, a person familiar with the matter said at the time.”

You have to laugh otherwise you have to cry. A specialist body screws up for billions and we expect imperfect non-technical humans to master systems and then fine them for going overdrawn. And of course all this interaction based possibly on a single mobile which if lost or damaged presumably is fairly disastrous for the owner.

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I prefer to do on-line banking via a proper PC, but I have sometimes used mobile phones to access my bank accounts.

Some of the accounts and features I use require both the pc and the mobile phone to be present, e.g. where security codes are sent via sms messages to my phone and are then typed into the pc.

Hence, I wouldn’t want to do the majority of activities by only using my mobile phone, because that would never be as secure as any system that requires me to be in possession of, and communicating via, both my pc and my phone.

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That was an inspired post further back Patrick Taylor and the answer is– ask HMG if they will let their Government Secure Intranet be used for banking by UK citizens —and wait years for an “okay “. Your right of coarse this is one area I know a lot about and the more snooping carried out ,the more back-doors, the more back-doors the more high power hackers that gain entry , the public just dont have 100 % security on the Web. Think Windows 10 and back-doors.

AnthonyH says:
25 March 2017

I only do online banking and have not been in a branch or used cheques etc for years. I freely switch from pc to phone to tablet using browsers and apps. Whenever possible i use credit cards and ideally contactless payments on my phone.
I have weekly emails to track transactions and alefts if balances go over/under set limits. Everything is set with direct debits or standing orders, but for ad hoc payments I’ll crack open their app to do it, even to setup the payee.
I cannot imagine banking without this freedom. There are various protections in place should anything go wrong, so my liability is trivial.
My only consideration is to turn on VPN if I am on a public wifi, or wait until I get back to 4g or home.

Profile photo of PatrickTaylor

And this is indeed the ideal free and easy banking as advertised. Whilst everything works it is a dream for the technologically capable. My question is what happens in various scenarios and how easy is it to get matters sorted if you are hacked, or someone clones your card, or pre-installs malware.

It sort of reminds me of the car adverts where a young couple swan across the empty road net. A la-la land of road movement and it is the nitty-gritty, the actuality, where we need detail. I have mentioned before that apart from ” theregister” and “thehackernews” our media is fairly light on any news that does not reflect the advertised dream.

Anthony H has the process down to a “T” but in my experience many people are not as organised.

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” Late last year, we ran an online survey of 9,076 Which? members – it suggested that more than half of under-40s would be happy to open a mobile-only account. ”

It must be a tribute to journalism that the Question: “Would you consider a mobile-only current account” translates to ” happy to open”. I can assure you that being happy to consider is not the same as happy to open.

I would therefore suggest that the article is flawed and quite possibly the survey – which we have no link to see the quality of the questions and the full data. I have a suspicion that this would be a web-based survey to those on the Connect panel who by the very nature might be regarded as the more computer literate.

It does seem a shame that Which? does not provide subscribers with the details of surveys when it is commonly acknowledged that surveys can be open to manipulation and misinterpretation and surely a consumers body should be demonstrating the transparent and open use of data.

Profile photo of duncan lucas

The problem you have Patrick Taylor is that probably Which doesn’t want the full details of all the major hacks on banks and other public organisations as it makes them look bad ,while the government tries to play up policies that tie in with globalization and big business . They want public confidence in subjects ,that ,behind the scenes are anything but secure . I have years of data stored having posted on security websites been on their forums, get emails from many as well as data from freedom websites that are never printed in the UK media . The technical ones are all high brow not low value websites well thought of worldwide but I know I could never post half the info here as it would be blocked so I stick to non-controversial ones that are common knowledge worldwide.

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We have asked before that Which? publishes the survey questions and preferably the data derived so we can see for ourselves just how sensible they are. They don’t. There have been some very dubious survey results in the past. many people see “survey” and automatically think the outcome is therefore valid. Not necessarily so.

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Which? hasn’t been hesitant in coming forward to scandalise banks and other organisations that have caused major public dissatisfaction over their handling of data and security, so I wouldn’t accuse it of trying to conceal survey results in order to protect the banks or to follow a government agenda [if there was one]. I just think it’s a case of not wanting outsiders to apply detailed analysis to their more populist expression of apparent conclusions. We do have a tendency in Which? Conversation to grind things exceedingly fine which probably make some of the in-house researchers and writers a little uncomfortable. Personally I am all in favour of transparency and exposing deductions to external scrutiny, but as we all know mass surveys rely on simplicity, even to the point of being glaringly simplistic, in order to get enough people to complete them to produce a statistically significant response – riddled with flaws though it is. The interpretation and translation of the findings is pure journalism.

When Which? says ”Late last year, we ran an online survey of 9,076 Which? members . . .” I would put money on that not being the truth either. I suspect they surveyed twice or thrice that number but fewer than ten thousand had nothing better to do at that moment the remainder either giving up on it or ignoring it altogether. In the world of opinion research, abstaining does not count so it is not reported.

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Which ties in nicely with this article on negative reports not being published or at least unlikely to be published. I had thought I posted it to Conversations previously but it seems to have failed to appear.


One can imagine that peddlers of cranberry juice place more cash with the media than researchers so it would seem logical for the myth to continue. It is surely consumer bodies like Which? who should assist in educating the public that the claims made for the juice are unproven.

On a more practical note the reputation of a consumer body that relies on dubious surveys for red-top headlines is surely going to undermine the more well-thought out and useful work. I may be more sensitive than the general public to survey opaqueness but IMO the average subscriber is more intelligent than the general public.

Andrew Phillips says:
31 March 2017

All very well until something goes wrong, then you are into a nightmare labyrinth of anonymous undocumented failure to take responsibility. Quite apart from the elephant in the room: FRAUD. Lest anyone not realise, this is an INDUSTRY.

thomas e edddleston says:
16 May 2017

my plain answer is no to apps on mobile devices we are if we go down that road giving our rites away to privacy: one there is no guarentee you have a secure line and my second comment would be with the baboons currently serving in government and one i can name personally as the one and only amber rudd calling for all internet service suppliers to create a back door for agency’s to read and infiltrate messages and the like what message does this send to those who engaged in scamming and outright theft on the general populace i have been saying for years to my bank in particular there is absolutely nothing in place to protect the customers rights all the regulations are in favor of the vendors this needs to be changed as a matter of the utmost urgency

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I hope his calls go unanswered Thomas , as witnessed by the NSA malware code being obtained by hackers and causing havoc all round the world . I have been saying its the most stupidest attempt for total snooping on the British public by removing an ISP,s encryption , its obvious HMG doesn’t give a hoot for security on your computer by forcing back-doors as per Windows 10 . The Snoopers Charter made the UK the most spied on country in the world and now this ALL your computer security made NO effect ! They will then have no moral right to lecture ANY computer user on internet safety and would probably mean UK internet users were classed a-a DANGER to the world and get blocked from whole countries just so those guys in jeans and sweaters sitting at screens looking at your computer use can obtain the tiniest bit of info from you – as will hackers inc. 5 minutes later . Pure Madness !!