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Barclays lets mobile banking users 'switch off' certain types of spending

A new feature on the Barclays mobile banking app will let people switch off their spending on certain retail sectors. Credit: PA

Mobile banking customers can now choose to 'switch off' certain types of spending, in a move which could put people struggling with addictions more in control of their finances.

The new feature launched by Barclays could help those dealing with gambling problems, for example, to cut off their spending in betting shops and on gambling websites.

Barclays said it has developed the tool to turn off certain types of spending with vulnerable customers in mind.

How can you 'switch off' spending?

Barclays mobile banking app will allow people to block their spending on certain sectors, such as gambling Credit: Barclays/PA

A button within the Barclays mobile banking app enables customers to choose which types of retailers they are able to spend with.

Attempted payments that fall within the "turned off" category will be automatically declined.

People can also block their own spending in pubs and bars.

Where can customers control spending?

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The new feature is now available to all Barclays debit card customers, and will be rolled out to credit card holders in the near future.

Barclays said it will help all its customers take greater control over where their money can be spent.

The bank’s work has used research from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute set up by consumer champion Martin Lewis.

It also worked with the Money Advice Trust (MAT) to identify types of customer who would particularly benefit from being able to decide how and where their money is spent.

These include people with mental health issues and addictions as well as those who rely on carers or a guardian to handle their finances.

How have experts reacted?

Martin Lewis said he hopes other banks will follow suit.

He said: "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.

"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."

Barclays customers can control their spending on five retail categories within the mobile banking app Credit: Barclays/PA

Catherine McGrath, managing director at Barclays, said: "This new control feature is the latest new service that we have introduced in the Barclays Mobile Banking app that aims to give all of our customers a better way to manage their money in a simple, secure and effective way."

Chris Fitch, vulnerability lead at the MAT, said: "Technology that meets everyday banking needs, while recognising the challenges many of us face in our lives, is the way forward.

"Giving everyone more control is the key to achieving this - whether this is someone who wants to be less vulnerable to fraud, or a customer who is trying to take charge of their gambling."

Marc Etches, 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."