Banking apps: All you need to know about money on the move

Banking apps have taken off in a big way over the past couple of years, allowing customers to check their balances, make payments and transfers with a couple of taps of their smartphone or tablets.

Most of the major banks now have their own take on what a banking app should be, but which is the best? Here’s a look at the current crop of free banking apps.


As a NatWest customer, I use the bank’s iPad app fairly regularly to quickly check my balance or to transfer money to a friend or relative.

You must first sign up for online banking at and register your mobile phone number before you download the app.

App setup is fairly simple – you’ll be asked for your mobile number and the bank will text you an activation code to activate the app. You’ll than have to choose a six-digit passcode which you’ll have to enter each time you use the app.

The interface is simple and easy to understand, though its features are a little limited. You can view around 10 of your most recent transactions and the app allows you to send payments to any account you already have saved in your online banking payees list.

You tap once to choose which account you want to pay out of, once to enter the amount and a third time to choose the payee from your list. You can make a transfer in less than a minute.

I’ve never used them, but there are options to top up a pay-as-you-go mobile (PAYG) phone and a cash machine finder, which uses your phone or tablet’s location services.

If you want to send money to someone for the first time, the app falls down somewhat as you’ll have to go to NatWest’s online banking site and set up a new payee (verified with a NatWest card reader) before you can pay them.

Another annoying quirk is that you don’t seem to be able to register the app on both a tablet and a phone. For instance, if I have the app on my iPad and try to install it on my Android smartphone, I get a warning that access from the iPad will be revoked.

RBS (NatWest’s parent company) uses the exact same app, but branded with its own insignia.


Barclays is a relative newcomer, having just launched their app this past week.

Unlike the NatWest app, set-up can be completed entirely in the app on your smartphone or tablet. You’re first asked to set a five-digit passcode and then prompted to enter your mobile phone number, sort code, current account number, your name and title.

Once you’re set up you can check account balances, pay a bill or send money to someone you’ve paid before, transfer money between your own accounts and locate your nearest branch or cash machine.

The features and user interface are easily as good as NatWest’s, and Barclays scores points for letting you set up the app without first having registered for online banking on the main Barclays site.

Again, like NatWest you can only make payments to people you’ve paid before. This can be inconvenient, but serves as an extra level of security should someone manage to get hold of your phone and crack your passcode.

Interestingly, when I tested the app on my Android smartphone I was told to consider installing virus protection on it.

Lloyds TSB

Lloyds’ mobile banking app also lets you find nearby branches and cash machines, view balances and transaction history and make payments.

Like the Barclays app, you can set up the Lloyds app entirely from your phone or tablet. You’re asked for your name, date of birth, postcode, email address, sort code and account number before creating a logon password.

The interface isn’t as clean as NatWest or Barclays’, but it’s fairly easy to use. Parts of the app appear to simply connect you to a mobile version of the Lloyds TSB site, which gave an error when I tested it.

Lloyds’ app does actually let you make payments to new and existing payees, so it scores big points for convenience over NatWest and Barclays. You can also check your mortgage balance using the app.


HSBC’s app is a little less robust than its competitors in that you can only view your current account balance, see a mini-statement and top up a PAYG mobile phone.

You can set up the account entirely from your phone or tablet by entering your mobile number and then the activation code you receive in a text message sent to that number.

From there you’ll be asked to create a passcode and enter the debit card number of the account you want to link to the app.

The Fast Balance app is very limited in comparison to those of the other banks, but has a clean and simple interface which is fine for just checking your balance.


The Santander app doesn’t seem to be available on Android yet (there is a Spanish version) but you can download it for iPad and iPhone now.

It allows you to view account and credit card balances, your recent transactions, transfer money between your accounts and pay someone you’ve paid before.

You first need to register for online banking on Santander’s main site before you can use the app. If you don’t have an Apple device you’ll have to settle for the mobile version of Santander’s website, which is optimised for mobile devices.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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