RBS and NatWest launch mobile app

Millions of people will be able to send payments to family and friends as easily as texting due to a new service from NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

From today, customers using the RBS/NatWest mobile phone app will be able to send a payment of up to £100 to anyone with a Visa card by entering their mobile phone number. The new service is initially being tested out by some groups from today, with a full launch planned after Easter.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
The announcement comes just days after the banking group apologised to customers for its second computer hitch in a year. A hardware fault left RBS Group customers blocked from using cashpoints for several hours last week, while online and telephone banking services were also disrupted.

As well as currently having more than two million active users, the RBS/NatWest mobile banking app has 13 million logins per week.

The UK payments body the Payments Council is currently developing a similar industry-wide initiative which will be up and running from spring next year as mobile payments become increasingly popular. The Barclays Pingit app, which also allows people to transfer small amounts of cash and has been downloaded more than 1.4 million times, can be used by any adult who has a UK current account, not just a Barclays one.

But RBS/NatWest claim their new Pay Your Contacts initiative is the "UK's easiest payment service on mobile", with no need for people to register to receive their money and 115 million Visa cards currently in use in the UK.

The service is being made available to RBS customers in Scotland and NatWest customers in England and Wales. There are currently no plans to extend it to customers of Ulster Bank, which is part of the same group, or to people who are not RBS/NatWest customers.

It is available for customers to download as an upgrade to the existing mobile banking app for Android, iPhone and BlackBerry, with an enhanced version of the Windows phone app due to be released soon.

RBS Group said last week's computer fault, which affected RBS, NatWest and Ulster Bank customers, was unrelated to a huge IT meltdown it had last summer which left customers unable to use their accounts properly and cost the group £175 million to put right. Last October, NatWest also had to suspend a feature on its mobile phone app called GetCash, after the service was subject to a spate of "phishing" attacks by fraudsters. The GetCash service, which allows customers to withdraw cash without using a debit card, was later reinstated after security was beefed up.

The partnership with Visa Europe is currently UK-only, but those behind the scheme said there is scope for this activity to be extended into cross-border payments in the future. Sandra Alzetta, senior vice president and head of mobile at Visa Europe, said: "Mobile technology has the ability to fundamentally change the way that people manage their money and make payments - not only in this country but around the world."

10 things we hate about our banks
See Gallery
RBS and NatWest launch mobile app

More than 46,000 of 106,000 the complaints received by the FOS in the second half of last year related to payment protection insurance (PPI). And the organisation is expecting to receive a record 165,000 PPI complaints in 2012/2013.

The huge numbers are due to the PPI mis-selling scandal that should now be a thing of the past, but there is no doubt that the insurance, which can add thousands to the cost of a loan, is highly unpopular!

(Pictured: Martin Lewis after the PPI payout ruling)

Complaints about mortgages jumped by 38% in the last six months of last year, the FOS figures show, compared to an increase of just 5% in investment-related complaints.

Common gripes about mortgages include the exit penalties imposed should you want to sell up or change you mortgage before a fixed or discounted deal comes to an end, and the high arrangement fees charged by many lenders.

While there is nothing in the data released by the FOS about the number of complaints relating to savings accounts, hard-pressed savers have been struggling with low interest rates for several years now.

You can get up to 3.10% with Santander's easy-access eSaver account, but many older accounts are paying 1.00% or less and even this market-leading offer includes a 12-month bonus of 2.60% - meaning that the rate will plummet to just 0.50% after the first year.

Banks are imposing the highest authorised overdraft interest rates since records began, with today's borrowers paying an average of 19.47%, according to the Bank of England.

A typical Briton with an overdraft of £1,000 is therefore forking out around £200 in interest charges alone. Coupled with meagre returns on savings, it's enough to make your blood boil!

While authorised overdrafts may seem expensive, going into the red without permission will cost you even more due to huge penalty fees.

Barclays, for example, charges £8 (up to a maximum of £40 a day) each time that there is not enough money in your account to cover a payment.

If you need to send money abroad, the likelihood is that your bank will impose transfer charges - and offer you a poor rate of exchange. Someone transferring a five-figure sum could easily lose out by £500 or more as a result.

The good news, however, is that you can often get a better deal by using a currency specialist such as Moneycorp.

Automated telephone banking systems, not to mention call centres in far-flung parts of the world, are one of our top gripes - especially as we often encounter them when we are already calling to report a problem.

In the words of one disgruntled customer: "What is it about telephone banking that turns me into Victor Meldrew? Well, maybe it's the fourteen security questions, maybe it's the range of products that they try to push or maybe it's because I'm forced to listen to jazz funk at full volume while my phone bill soars.

"Actually though, I think it's because the people I eventually speak to rarely seem able to solve the issue I'm calling about."

The days of a personal relationship with your bank manager are long gone - for the huge majority of us at least.

When ethical Triodos Bank investigated recently why around 9 million Britons would not recommend their banks to a friend or relative, it found that almost a third felt they were not treated as individuals. Another 40%, meanwhile, were simply disappointed with the customer service they received.

When you're in a rush, the last thing you want to do is wait in a long queue at your local branch.

Researchers at consumer champion Which? recently found that most people get seen within 12 minutes, but you could have a much longer wait if you go in at a busy time. Frustrating stuff!

The Triodos Bank research also indicated that the bonus culture that ensured the bank's high-flying employees received large salaries, even when it was making a loss at the taxpayer's expense, was hugely unpopular with consumers.

About a quarter of those who would not recommend their current banks said this was the main reason why. And with RBS executives sharing a £785 million bonus pool despite the bank, which is 82% publicly owned, making a loss of £2 billion last year, it's not hard to see why.

Read Full Story