Personal Finance

Barclays introduces first high street ‘spending blocker’

Barclays has become the first high street bank to allow its customer to block certain types of spending on their debit cards.

Primarily designed to help vulnerable people such as problem gamblers and those in serious debt control their spending, the function is available to all account holders.

While customers cannot block specific retailers, anyone can now “switch off” the ability to spend money in certain sectors such as supermarkets, restaurants and pubs, petrol stations, gambling premises and premium-rate websites.

Barclays developed the feature with input from debt charity the Money Advice Trust, and building on evidence from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, the charity set up by MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis.

The website says “the feature will particularly benefit those with mental health issues and addictions and those who rely on a carer or guardian to handle their finances, while helping all customers take control of spending”.

In a Facebook post explaining why “friction” matters, Lewis said: “Making something more difficult to do slows people down, and gives time to consider. This is important when you’re dealing with impulse control.”

“It has long been used in other sectors, eg, blocking pharmacies selling people more than 32 paracetamols makes it more difficult for someone to buy enough to overdose. Of course people can go to more than one store, but the conscious act of having to do that because people are trying to prevent it is a barrier,” he said.

While Barclays is the first major bank to offer the service, mobile operators such as Starling already allow customers to block spending on gambling sites, and even specific retailers.

The BBC says Monzo, which introduced a similar tool in June, has already reported a 70% decline in spending on gambling as a result.

Barclays said the move would help all its customers take greater control over where their money can be spent, as well as making them less vulnerable to fraud and scams.

In comes amid a raft of new banking app features aimed at assisting vulnerable spenders while protecting them against fraud.

Last month Lloyds bank became the first to add a location tracker to its banking app to help customers spot fraudulent transactions.

The Daily Telegraph says “fraudsters who clone cards often use them in other areas of the country, so if cards were used in a supermarket or other chain, it would not be immediately apparent from a bank statement”.

The security measure means app users will now be able to click on a transaction and see its location on Google Maps, “allowing them to identify fraudulent activity more easily”, says the paper.

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