The days of going to a bank branch and standing in a queue so you can speak to someone are numbered. Mobile banking puts your finances at your fingertips 24/7. There’s a host of challenger banks, digital-only banks and personal finance apps available now, designed to give you better, faster control of your cash.
Challenger bank Monzo is changing its overdraft pricing structure, following the financial regulator's decision to ban fixed overdraft fees from April 2020. Read more…
What is digital banking?
Digital banking is a way to control your money, usually through a smartphone app or web app. It allows you to log into your account anywhere with Internet access, giving you constant visibility of your money and helping you understand the best way to manage it.
Why should I use app-based banking?
There are several advantages to app-based banking:
Banking access in your pocket
Many companies offer 24/7 access to banking support
Instant spending notifications
Many banking apps offer ways to automatically save money
Another major benefit of app-based banking is the degree to which it has opened up the competition. The new Open Banking rules have enabled third-party apps to innovate, drawing on the infrastructure of traditional banks.
Things to know about app-based banking
Here are a few things that you may not know about using your mobile as your main point of contact with your bank:
If you’re planning to apply for an overdraft on a banking app, you will be subject to a credit check. Even if you’re not applying for an overdraft, most banking apps require some form of ID to prove that you are who you say you are.
High street banks are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) to the amount of £85,000. Not all app-based banks have this same protection. Make sure you know what level of protection your new app-based bank is offering you, just in case anything goes wrong.
If you’re looking to change banks, switching to an app-based bank is not necessarily the most rewarding. Although there are plenty of functionality rewards (24/7 access, automatic savings, etc) the financial rewards, such as a new customer cash incentive, may be greater at a traditional high street bank.
A benefit of an app-based bank is having full access to your account at all times. Lots of app-based banks allow a temporary freezing of your account in the case of a lost card, so if you find it again it’s not as much hassle to get a replacement. If you forget your pin, the banking apps also tend to have access to a pin reminder after you complete a couple of security questions.
Not all app-based banks are banks in the traditional sense. Some banking apps work alongside your pre-existing accounts to gather all your spending data in one place, offer you insights into the way you spend your money and suggest ways for financial improvements.
If you want to share your information, your bank has to agree
Many banking apps are designed to help their customers save. These apps access your current bank accounts and use clever computer programs to analyse your spending and look for ways that you could save money.
Previously, you could ask your bank to give these apps permission to view your banking data and the bank could refuse. Now, as long as the app is properly licensed, your bank must grant access if you agree to it.
Different types of app-based banking
App-based banking is different to traditional banking in many ways. Unlike traditional banking, app-based banking covers a much wider definition of “banking”.
Current account apps
As part of the app-based banking innovations, a clear class of banking app has emerged: the challenger bank. Challenger banks are new, fledgling banks that are aiming to take on the big, traditional high street banks and change the way we save and spend money. Challenger banks such as Starling, Tandem and Monzo are similar to traditional banks in that they offer the full current account experience but with all the added benefits of an app-based bank.
Apps that help you save
One of the most common reasons for people heading away from traditional banks and towards app-based banking is how easy app-based banking makes it for people to save money. Several providers such as Plum and Chip offer automatic savings for customers. Plum’s clever computer program looks at your spending habits and income and identifies how much you can reasonably save each month and then helps you set up a direct debit to your Plum savings account for this same amount.
Prepaid card apps
Another way to use app-based banking to help you save is through the use of prepaid cards. Cards with banking companies such as Pockit, Cashplus and Tuxedo allow you to load specific amounts of money on to your card and even further segregate this money into “pots” to spend on different things. This way you don’t have access to too much money all at once and are less likely to fall for those expensive “impulse buys”.
Another popular way to use app-based banking is saving through investment. Apps such as Moneybox allow you to make weekly or one-off deposits to three risk-assessed categories of investments. Several of the app-based banks also allow you to sign up to a “round-up” where your account rounds up your purchases to the nearest pound and uses the change you would have received as an investment.
Traditional banking apps
App-based banking doesn’t only apply to challenger banks or money-saving banking apps, it’s also becoming increasingly possible to bank on your smartphone with traditional banks such as Barclays and Natwest, both of whom have highly-rated mobile apps where you can control your money.
Charlie Barton is a publisher at Finder. He specialises in banking and investments products, including banking apps, current accounts, share-dealing platforms and stocks and shares ISAs. Charlie has a first-class degree from the London School of Economics, and in his spare time enjoys long walks on the beach.
Yolt and MonzoYou can track your spending on Monzo plus loads of other bank accounts with the Yolt app.
Bó reviewWill Bó become the new Monzo? NatWest is about to launch its very own digital banking app and challenger bank.
Tally Money reviewTally is an innovative banking app that effectively uses gold as a currency. We've looked into how it works for you.
How likely would you be to recommend finder to a friend or colleague?
Very UnlikelyExtremely Likely
Thank you for your feedback.
Our goal is to create the best possible product, and your thoughts, ideas and suggestions play a major role in helping us identify opportunities to improve.
finder.com is an independent comparison platform and information service that aims to provide you with the tools you need to make better decisions. While we are independent, the offers that appear on this site are from companies from which finder.com receives compensation. We may receive compensation from our partners for placement of their products or services. We may also receive compensation if you click on certain links posted on our site. While compensation arrangements may affect the order, position or placement of product information, it doesn't influence our assessment of those products. Please don't interpret the order in which products appear on our Site as any endorsement or recommendation from us. finder.com compares a wide range of products, providers and services but we don't provide information on all available products, providers or services. Please appreciate that there may be other options available to you than the products, providers or services covered by our service.