NatWest has warned its customers not to share their online banking details with finance apps – apps designed to help savers keep a closer eye on their budgets.
We’re often reminded of the need to budget correctly, and it wasn’t long until a whole range of smartphone apps were released that could aid those who wanted to make sure they weren’t over-spending.
Originally, these apps worked similar to your basic budgeting spreadsheet: Users input what money they have coming in and how much they’re spending each month and the app helps them keep an eye on it all.
However, some of these apps confidential log in details, in order to accurately track outgoings and incomings.
When NatWest was informed that a finance app was requesting customers’ full online banking details, they issued a warning to users not to give this information out.
They’re not the only ones. Nationwide Building Society, Halifax and Lloyds all warned users that giving out this confidential information breaks security agreements, while a spokesman for Royal Bank of Scotland stated that, ‘We do not authorise the use of these apps.’
However, it’s worth noting that new EU rules coming into play in January 2018 will force banks to let their customers use these budgeting apps.
As such, Santander will allow customers to input their banking data into apps from January 13th. Meanwhile, Barclays are already happy to let their customers give out this information to ‘reputable’ finance apps.
And perhaps this is where the waters get murky: How do you know if the budgeting app you use is reputable?
Essentially, you’re looking for recognisable name brands (those with more than just a fancy website). Ones with good reviews on trusted finance sites.
This means it’s unlikely that the app developer has simply created an app unscrupulously designed to collect confidential banking details for fraudulent purposes.
However, by finding bigger, more trusted names, you can also be assured that they’ll be securely protecting the data you input.
One of the biggest risks here is that smaller yet reputable finance app developers simply may not have necessary the infrastructure to protect your information under a strong and sustained hacking attack.
Of course, if you’re still unsure how reputable your finance app is, it’s best to not even take the risk. Your online banking details, after all, are arguably more important than your PIN number.
Happily, HSBC are already moving to make an budgeting app – due for release sometime next year – that will allow users to manage all the budgets for all their accounts, even if they do their banking elsewhere.
Finance app providers are represented by the Financial Data and Technology Association. In response to NatWest’s declaration that its customers are, currently at least, forbidden from using these types of finance apps, the association stated that, ‘Our members have been providing aggregation services without incident for several years.’
However you manage your money these days, be cautious and protective over your confidential online banking details. Or, in other words, operate on the Gandalf Principle: Keep it secret, keep it safe.