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Bank of Scotland, Halifax, Lloyds and Santander planning to let you block gambling transactions

At least four more high street banks – Bank of Scotland, Halifax, Lloyds and Santander – are working on plans to help customers restrict their spending on gambling, after Barclays became the first to do so last month.

Barclays announced in early December that it was allowing customers to 'turn off' payments to certain types of retailer, including gambling services.

It developed the feature building on evidence from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, the charity set up by founder Martin Lewis. It was designed particularly to benefit customers with mental health issues, addictions and those who rely on a carer or guardian to handle their finances.

After the launch of the Barclays tool, Martin called on other banks to follow suit – and it's now emerged that at least four more banks are planning to bring in a similar function.

If you're among those battling with mental health and debt issues, or you know someone who is, see where to go for help in our free Mental Health and Debt booklet.

Martin: 'Making something difficult slows people down'

Responding last month to Barclays' announcement, Martin said: "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."

In a further Facebook post explaining why 'friction' matters, he added: "Making something more difficult to do slows people down, and gives time to consider. This is important when you're dealing with impulse control.

"It has long been used in other sectors, eg, blocking pharmacies selling people more than 32 paracetamols makes it more difficult for someone to buy enough to overdose. Of course people can go to more than one store, but the conscious act of having to do that because people are trying to prevent it is a barrier.

"With blocking gambling transactions (or premium phone lines as Barclays also allows) on a card, the fact you chose to do it, adds an emotional significance to working around it – ie, you've committed to not gambling, and now you're changing.

"So friction is just as much a behavioural blocker as a transactional one. It isn't perfect. It won't stop everything, yet hopefully it is another tool to help people control themselves."

How do existing gambling blocks work?

Since last month, Barclays customers can choose categories of retailer to 'turn off' by pressing a button in the bank's mobile app, or via telephone banking or going into a branch. If customers try to make a payment to a retailer they've previously turned off, it will be automatically declined.

App-based banks Starling and Monzo also offer gambling blockers. While Barclays and Starling allow customers to remove the block instantly, Monzo requires 48 hours' notice to lift the restrictions.

What are other banks planning?

Other high street banks haven't yet released full details about what they're planning, but here's what we know so far:

  • Bank of Scotland, Lloyds and Halifax are working on "self-service" gambling restrictions, though we don't yet know exactly when these will be introduced.

    A spokesperson for Lloyds Banking Group, which runs the three banks, said: "Throughout 2019 we will be enhancing our customer communications so customers are informed and alerted to their gambling spend as well as introducing tools to improve self-service options such as gambling restrictions."

  • Santander is looking at introducing similar spending restrictions at some point this year. A spokesperson said: "We are currently working on functionality for debit card holders to turn off a number of broad categories of spend, for example gambling."

  • Royal Bank of Scotland, which also owns NatWest, has been less specific with its plans, saying only that it is "always looking at further ways to help customers manage their money." It's understood this could involve some form of spending controls on debit cards – but it's not clear at the moment if this will allow specific restrictions on gambling.

What to read next...

For more help if you or someone you know is dealing with money and mental health issues, also see:

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