A gambling block on debit cards has been introduced by NatWest, offering customers the option through their mobile banking app to trigger a 48-hour cooling off period.
Any transactions attempted within that time span would immediately be denied, with the block remaining permanently in place unless a customer wishes to delete it, in which case after the 48-hour duration it can be removed.
The bank says it has enforced the measure to encourage customers to take more control of their spending, adding that during the lockdown it saw a drop in gambling transactions.
NatWest notes, however, that spending by its clients “has started to increase rapidly” as constraints have eased. Overall, in September 2020, gambling related spending is estimated to be about 32 percent higher than a year earlier.
David Lindberg, NatWest’s retail banking CEO, explained: “The introduction of a gambling block for debit card customers will help us to equip gamblers experiencing harm across the UK with more tools to support their recovery. At NatWest, our partnership with GamCare is hugely important.
“Excessive gambling and financial hardship go hand in hand, and over the last year we have offered an increasing amount of help to those customers who need it most through our trained specialists and by donating branch space for treatment therapy to reduce barriers to access.
“I look forward to developing this work further and offering greater access to services through our work with GamCare.”
NatWest announced a collaboration with GamCare last year to provide gamblers and their loved ones suffering harm with support , guidance and treatment. This included an option to block credit cards, allowing clients to regain control of their spending and avoid all gambling-related transactions.
As part of NatWest ‘s relationship with the charity, the bank’s specialist support staff are provided with tailored training on how to recognise gambling-related harm and support clients and non-customers who wish to avoid gambling.
GamCare used a number of NatWest branches prior to COVID restrictions to offer face-to – face private appointments to help those affected by gambling issues.
GamCare ‘s CEO, Anna Hemmings, explained: “The ability to block gambling transactions through your bank card or app is an important tool for those struggling with their gambling, and is ideally used together with other practical tools such as self-exclusion, blocking software, and specialist support around the issue.
“A recent report from the University of Bristol Personal Finance Research Centre has highlighted that ‘positive friction’ such as a cooling off period is important for the success of blocks, as this prevents them being turned off in the event of urges to gamble.
“GamCare is pleased to see NatWest take this positive step to support their customers and we hope more of the financial sector follows suit.”