NatWest debuts 48-hour cooling-off period to gambling block feature

NatWest has introduced a gambling block on debit cards, giving customers the option to trigger a 48-hour cooling off period via their mobile banking app.

Any transactions attempted during that time frame will be automatically declined, with the block remaining in place indefinitely unless a customer chooses to remove it, in which case it can be disabled after the 48-hour period.

The bank says it has introduced the measure to allow customers to take further control of their spending, with it added that it saw a decline in gambling transactions during lockdown.

However, as restrictions have eased, NatWest reports that spend among its customers “has started to increase rapidly”. Overall, gambling related spending is reported as being around 32 per cent higher in September 2020 than a year earlier.

David Lindberg, CEO of retail banking at NatWest, explained: “The introduction of a gambling block for debit card customers will help us to equip gamblers experiencing harm across the UK with more tools to support their recovery. At NatWest, our partnership with GamCare is hugely important.

“Excessive gambling and financial hardship go hand in hand, and over the last year we have offered an increasing amount of help to those customers who need it most through our trained specialists and by donating branch space for treatment therapy to reduce barriers to access. 

“I look forward to developing this work further and offering greater access to services through our work with GamCare.”

Last year, NatWest introduced a partnership with GamCare to provide support, advice and treatment for gamblers and their loved ones experiencing harm. This saw the inclusion of an option to block credit cards, allowing customers to take control of their spending and stop all transactions linked to gambling.

As part of NatWest’s partnership with the charity, bespoke training is provided for the bank’s specialist support teams on how to identify gambling related harm and support customers and non-customers who want to stop gambling. 

Prior to COVID restrictions, GamCare used a number of NatWest branches to provide face to face private consultations to support those impacted by gambling problems.

Anna Hemmings, CEO of GamCare, explained: “The ability to block gambling transactions through your bank card or app is an important tool for those struggling with their gambling, and is ideally used together with other practical tools such as self-exclusion, blocking software, and specialist support around the issue.

“A recent report from the University of Bristol Personal Finance Research Centre has highlighted that ‘positive friction’ such as a cooling off period is important for the success of blocks, as this prevents them being turned off in the event of urges to gamble. 

“GamCare is pleased to see NatWest take this positive step to support their customers and we hope more of the financial sector follows suit.”