On 16th February 2012 Barclays bank launched a new, innovative app named ‘Pingit’. Available on Apple, Android and Blackberry platforms, it is said that this new release has the potential to revolutionise the way in which the general public makes payments.
When registering the app, users are required to enter their bank account details (i.e. account number and sort code) and their mobile number. Using mobile internet, these bank details are stored securely on a cloud server, and a link is established between them and the user’s mobile number.
Once registered, Pingit gives its users the ability to transfer money to another user without needing to know their bank account details. Instead, all one needs in order to make a transfer is the recipient’s mobile number.
When such a request is made, the recipient will receive an SMS along with an optional 30-character message entered by the sender. Should they choose to accept the payment, they’ll be invited to download the app if they don’t already have it, whereby they can confirm the transfer.
If the transfer is accepted by the recipient, the app uses the linked mobile numbers to access the cloud server via mobile internet and obtain both users’ bank account details. The money is transferred securely and quickly using the ‘Faster Payments System’, which clears most payments in seconds.
There are many scenarios where this quick transaction could be beneficial. For example, imagine you’re at a restaurant with friends and you need to split the bill. Using this app, it is merely a case of texting the amount you owe to your friend. Gone are the days of rummaging through wallets/purses and attempting to scrounge together the correct change.
As it stands, this exciting app is limited to those who have a current account with Barclays; a full version usable by customers registered with other banks is expected in March 2012.
Of course, there are initial concerns raised about how secure this operation is. Barclays themselves assure us that transactions performed in this manner are just as secure as any other method of banking transactions, whilst highlighting the fact that a customisable five digit pass code is required before a transaction can be made. Should your phone be stolen, your account can also be remotely disabled.
Whilst this idea seems ground-breaking, people have been quick to highlight its potential drawbacks. Firstly, the fact that users have to be aged at least eighteen immediately isolates a large proportion of users of mobile devices. For example, parents who might have hoped to use the service to transfer money to their children will be unable to. The age limit is expected to be lowered over time, though no plans have been confirmed.
Also of note is the fact that there is no way to cancel a transaction once it has been made. Should you make an error whilst entering your intended recipient’s phone number or the amount to send them, you’ll need to get in contact and ask them not to accept the transaction. Simply put, if you enter an incorrect phone number as your intended recipient, there’s nothing to stop the stranger from accepting and taking your money.
As the app has only just been released, it will be interesting to see how the public takes to it, especially when it becomes usable by those registered with other banks. Barclays report that 120,000 people downloaded the app during its first week, meaning initial signs are encouraging. At present payments must be between £1 and £300 – but if it is successful there are plans to open it up to businesses, which would potentially allow larger payments.