The UK’s BEST (and WORST) Banking Apps For iPhone

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Back in 2014 I took a look at all of the UK’s major banking apps and rated them from worst to best. But in the time since–as tends to happen with apps–many of them were updated, and some completely revamped, so we felt it was a good time to return to this all-important app sector and rank them again.

What’s most surprising of all is the many of the bank that had the worst apps are now the banks that have the most-improved apps. Which one’s are they and how does your bank’s app now stack up? Read on.

The Worst: TSB Mobile Banking by TSB Bank, Lloyds Bank Mobile Banking by Lloyds and Halifax Mobile Banking by Halifax.

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I’m grouping these three apps together because they are all the exact same app, just reskinned for each bank. In fairness, they are much improved over 2014 when they were eseentially just mobile websites fittend into an app.  However, the framework used in all three apps is slow and buggy. The final nail in the coffin for these three apps is that they STILL don’t support the iPhone’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor to make secure login effortless. Yes, even after two years these apps still require PINs. Believe it or not, that PIN login is actually an improvment over what came before when you needed to enter a username and password to login each time.

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Still I  find the design of the apps still a bit too web-like, but on the plus side they are actually well thought out apps in terms of what’s on offer inside. I love the layout of the home screen and how easy it is to swipe between your accounts and your statements, which are grouped by months.

Runner Up To The Worst: Nationwide Mobile Banking by Nationwide

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Nationwide’s app has two big problems. The first is that it’s desperately in need of a makeover. Its design is a mix of iOS 7 and above flat elements and iOS 6 and below bubbly style. It’s an ugly app to look app, in short. The second–and you’ll notice this will be a recurring theme here–is that Nationwide still doesn’t support Touch ID login, so it’s going to be at the bottom of this list with others that still don’t support Touch ID.

On the plus side, it does offer some good, basic features any banking app should have. Inside you can check transactions, statements, and balances for current, savings, credit card and mortgage accounts; transfer money between accounts; pay existing payees; and view and cancel direct debits and regular payments.

Another nice feature is the app quickly and easily lets you view your savings account interest rates and manage your current account overdraft.

Getting Better: Personal Banking by Santander 

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What was one of the better apps in 2014 has sunk lower on the charts because of one thing: NO TOUCH ID SUPPORT. Do you see a trend here? No Touch ID = an app that is behind on the times.

But besides that, this is a banking app that really takes advantage of mobile. It does most of the things the other banking apps do—checks balances and statements, makes payments and transfers, find local branches—but the real reason this app is better than the previously mentioned ones is because it allows you to set up alerts that are pushed to your phone when your balance falls below or goes over a certain amount and it also allows you to report lost or stolen cards.

Reporting lost or stolen cards is something we’ll do from our phones almost the moment we notice the card is gone, so it makes sense for a bank to build an easy to use missing card reporting feature into their app. The same goes for push notification alerts. Push notifications are why our phones are as useful as they are. When something important comes up, our phones automatically ping us. I can’t think of a more important message than one from my bank saying my balance is below a certain level. 

And since the last banking app roundup Santander has added the ability for all you ballers to now check your bonds on the accounts home screen.

The Baseline For A Good Banking App:  first direct Banking on the go by First Direct and HSBC Mobile Banking by HSBC

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And now we’ve reached the baseline for a good banking app. Both First Direct and HSBC support Touch ID! Welcome to 2016, guys–we really appreciate it. These two apps are also grouped together because they are also essentially the same app, just reskinned for each bank.

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Neither are going to win any awards for creativity or features, but they do what most people need. There’s the standard pin entry any banking app should have and once you log in you can access and view all of your  accounts. The apps also allow you to pay bills and make transfers right from within them. You can also transfer money to anyone in your contacts using just their phone number (a feature quite a few of the apps on this list now support).

I’m actually a bigger fan of Santander’s app’s design and layout, but give both these apps support Touch ID login, they are better overall.

Almost Great: Royal Bank of Scotland by RBS and  NatWest by NatWest

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Starting with The Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest apps are where we get into the “great” category. These apps are again just reskinned version of the other, but both support Touch ID and also offers a secure 5-digit pin needed to access it, which lets you log in and see all your accounts in one place (current, credit, and savings). It’s also very easy to view your statements, make payments and transfers, and find close cash machines.

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A really nice feature about these apps is they also allow you to get a temporary 4-digit passcode if you are at a cash machine and realize you’ve forgotten your debit card. The code will allow you to get up to £250 a day out. Another amazing feature is called “Pay Your Contacts.” Using this all you need to have is someone’s phone number who also uses the app, and you can instantly send them money that is deposited directly into their bank account. Another bonus? This is one of the rare banking apps that is universal, so it works on the iPad too.

The Best: Barclays Mobile Banking by Barclays

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Nothing’s changed here since 2014, folks. If there is a gold standard of mobile banking apps it is still found in the Barclays Mobile Banking app by Barclays Bank. This app is so well-designed and feature-loaded it would instantly make me switch from any other UK bank if I weren’t already a member. And that’s despite the fact that Barclay’s, bafflingly, doesn’t support Touch ID login–a rare miss for the bank considering it’s so progressive in other features. And it’s those other features that give this one app a Touch ID pass.

The app supports both business and personal accounts and makes it exceptionally easy to navigate your way around both. To start with the design and layout is flawless. I can quickly see all my incoming or outgoings for any account with just a few taps. Sending payment and making transfers couldn’t be easier either. Matter of fact, I haven’t once logged into my online Barclays account since downloading this app. All of my banking is done through their mobile app.

The app is so feature rich you can even upload a customised profile photo for each account so you can more easily distinguish between them. The app even includes a mobile PINsentry, which business users will be familiar with. No longer do you need to have your cumbersome physical PINsentry reader with you to make payments and transfers, or identify yourself in any way: it’s all handled through the app.

Barclays obviously has put a lot of time and money into their mobile efforts and it shows. The Barclays Mobile Banking app receives regular updates with not just bug fixes, but major new features—the most recent being the ability to use the app to take pictures of and upload secure financial documents to Barclays’ CloudIt cloud storage feature.

Now if Barclay’s would only add Touch ID support, this app could be called “perfect”…

The Future…

Of course, the ranking for the UK’s best banking apps could change radically in the coming months. It mainly depends which banks that currently don’t are going to take advantage of access to Apple’s Touch ID–a feature users love for its ease and security.

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