Barclays in the UK has become the first high street bank to enable customers to block payments on their debit cards from certain types of retailers, in an attempt to help people struggling with certain types of spending addictions have more control over their money.
Available from the 11th December, 2018, Barclays will let customers choose to block payments to online gambling websites, betting shops, pubs, bars, and restaurants, supermarkets, and premium-rate websites and phone lines.
The ability to block gambling transactions is something that many responsible gambling campaigners have pushed for, for many years – and Barclays is setting a good precedent for other banks to follow.
Customers who wish to take advantage of the blocking facility can click a button from within the main Barclays app, where they are then shown a list of transaction types which can be blocked. Simply flicking a switch will activate the block, and all payment attempts that fall into the turned off category will be automatically declined.
Customers without mobile banking can also phone Barclays, or visit in branch to set up the blocks.
A spokesperson from Barclays confirmed that the new blocking feature is available to all Barclays debit card users, and there are also plans to roll out the facility to credit card holders in the future – although a specific date is yet to be given as to when this will happen.
The feature is available to all Barclays debit card customers and will be rolled out to credit card holders in the near future.
The move from Barclays has come from the bank’s work alongside the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, which was created by Martin Lewis – well-known financial journalist and founder of Moneysavingexpert.com – a leading website that helps consumers save money.
The bank also worked directly with the Money Advice Trust to help pinpoint the types of customer who might benefit from the blocking feature. This included substantial market research, which showed that those suffering with mental health issues, and addiction-related problems would likely benefit from the feature.
Commenting on the feature, Lewis said he had hopes other high street banks would follow suit: “Mental health and debt is a 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,” he said.
“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.”
Speaking on the gambling block facility, Marc Etches – the chief executive of GambleAware said: “GambleAware welcomes this initiative by Barclays, which we hope will encourage other banks to do the same. There are 340,000 problem gamblers in Britain and a further 1.7 million at risk, and initiatives like this can play an important role in helping to reduce gambling-related harms.”
Jeremy Wright, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, said: “Using technology for good must be a priority for all businesses. I support this move from Barclays that can help people protect themselves from the risk of gambling-related harm. This is an area where both industry and government have important roles to play. I urge others in the banking sector to follow suit.”
The bank has received some criticism, as – currently – the block can be lifted instantly. Monzo (formally known as Mondo), the UK’s leading online bank, has a policy where it takes 48 hours to remove a block for example. This would prevent gambling addicts from being able to quickly remove blocks – but still, it’s a good start from Barclays, and it’s a refreshing tool that should help problem gamblers around the country manage their money more efficiently and responsibly.