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Blog: Barclays' Pingit - Transfer money as easily as texting

iPhoneBarclays' Pingit smartphone app allows you to pay bills and transfer money simply by knowing the recipient's mobile number. Is this the future of banking?

The German word for mobile phone is “handy”, taken from the English language.

And thanks to little programs called apps, mobile phones are becoming more and more deserving of the "handy" name.

The latest money app from Barclays will allow customers of all banks to transfer up to £300 to someone else's account simply by knowing the mobile number of the recipient.

At the same time, it'll do what many of Barclays' innovations since the 1960s have intended to do - make us spend more money.

The rise of mobile banking

Banking services through mobile phones, or mobile banking as it's commonly known, allows us to check bank statements and make payments just like through internet banking.

We can sign up for text message alerts to warn of large transactions on our accounts, and to show if we have received our salaries or are nearing our overdraft limits.

We can even make contactless payments by waving or tapping our mobile phones against readers in shops.

One step further

But Barclays has now taken it one step further with its Pingit app that makes it even easier to make small payments from your current account.

Apart from saving time, this app, which the bank insists is technologically as secure as other banking services, avoids the need to copy down bank details, which might be seen or intercepted.

The idea is that you can repay that £10 you borrowed, or pay the plumber, as easily as sending a text message.

Currently the app is available for Barclays' current account customers only, with transfers to any bank possible.

But the bank says it will soon release another free app that lets customers of all banks make transfers with Pingit.

The program is free to download for iPhone, Blackberry and Android phones, and money recipients can still receive payments even if they don't have a smartphone.

Industry innovator

So far, this all sounds like an advert for Barclays, but the bank has a history as an innovator, having launched the first UK credit card back in 1966 - the Barclaycard.

A year later, the first cash machine in the country was launched at a Barclays branch, making getting cash – and therefore spending it – even easier.

The bank also brought out the first debit card in 1987. The ease with which we could now buy things encouraged us to do so even more.

Contactless payments

Two decades later, in 2007, the bank introduced a credit card which added Oyster, the London transport payment system, and, for the first time, included contactless technology for spending in shops.

Spontaneously buying sweets or other treats when we were intending just to browse has never been easier.

In the same year Barclays trialled mobile banking, although on this occasion it was narrowly beaten to the punch by HSBC, which months earlier started letting you check your bank balance by mobile phone.

But Barclays' mobile banking service also included contactless payments by waving your phone against readers in shops.

Barclaycard has taken the lead again now with Pingit, a service that is bound to increase transactions yet more.

What's in it for the banks?

The more we spend, the more banks profit. Sometimes this happens directly, with banks taking a cut from shops for our card purchases, or through charging us interest on purchases and cash withdrawals.

Other times the banks profit indirectly, through the increased opportunity to learn more about us and to sell more products to us.

These might be things that we don't really need or that might be cheaper or better elsewhere.

So while you're thinking how convenient Pingit and other mobile banking services are, it's worth keeping all that in mind.

What do you think?

Is mobile banking the future and will you be using Barclays Pingit?

And what do you think about Barclays as an innovator? It's made life easier for the consumer but has it ultimately led us into temptation by allowing us to spend money we don't have?

We love to hear from our readers. You can leave your points of view on the message board below.

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Neil Faulkner

Neil Faulkner

Neil Faulkner waded his way through a mountain of claims as a paralegal before moving on to be an insurance consultant and claims manager. He is a long-term investor, and one-time property owner and landlord. He writes about property, investing, insurance, consumer issues, and helping people get out of debt misery.

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