By Trevor Clawson.

It’s very much a twenty-first-century problem. In a world where contactless cards are fast replacing cash as the preferred means to make even the smallest of purchases, the average bank statement can contain details of hundreds of transactions every month. Drinks bought at a bar, a newspaper purchased at a railway station, a few emergency grocery items picked up at a convenience store. Transactions that were made without thinking and, afterwards, almost immediately forgotten. So when the time comes to open up our online banking apps, we are faced with a history of card spending that we may not fully recognise. And the problem is, that if we don’t remember every single transaction, it becomes difficult to spot those that are unusual and potentially fraudulent.  

So the Lloyds Banking Group has set out to make life a little easier for customers by enabling them to track their spending via a graphic representation on Google Maps. Available to those who are signed up to Halifax, Bank of Scotland or Lloyds, the service is currently up and running on Android phones and will be rolled out to Apple’s iOS operating system in the near future.  

A Simple Concept

It’s a simple concept. Customers who use the tool – which can also be accessed via desktop PCs and laptops – can see at a glance where each transaction has taken place. And in addition to the name and address of the payee, the user will also see the amount spent, the nature of the purchase (for instance, contactless), the date, and the location pinpointed on an accompanying map.

In theory, at least, the incorporation of Google Maps should play a useful role in jogging the memories of bank customers. To take an example – if a cardholder visited Johnson’s Convenience Store, Peckham on Sunday, October 28, he or she may not remember doing so when looking at a statement a week or so later. However, if the transaction is marked on a map, the customer will be able to see the context. The shop in question might be just around the corner from an office building where the cardholder was attending a meeting, thus explaining why a purchase was made there and on that particular day.

But is it Useful

But does this tool amount to anything more than a fun addition. Does it have any real utility?  

The Lloyds Banking Group, clearly thinks it does – particularly in terms of the ongoing fight against fraud. Commenting at the launch of the app, Retail Fraud Director, Paul Davis said:  

“Helping keep our customer’s money safe is our priority and the new Google Maps feature is another way that we can help protect our customers from Fraudsters. This new feature will help customers spot suspicious activity as well as cutting down on the inconvenience of blocking card transactions.”   

And as Davis added, the bank hopes to use the location-based information to bolster its own armoury of anti-fraud measures.

“We are already looking at a number of measures behind the scenes to spot the online banking behaviour of customers and unusual activity,” he said.

Card Fraud

The risk of falling victim to card fraud is undoubtedly rising. In August of this year, a survey by Compare the Market revealed that almost five million people had reported money stolen from their bank accounts in 2017. According to the research, card and bank account fraud jumped by around 40% in 2017, with one in ten UK adults affected.   

The most common type of crime associated with credit and debit cards is the so-called card not present fraud. This involves the theft of card details, which are then used to make online purchases. In such cases, there is no direct contact between the retailer and the purchaser to enable a physical check. However, contactless payment cards have opened the door to stolen cards being used for small purchases in shops, restaurants and bars. The stolen card can be used until the theft is reported, so any system that makes it easier to check where payments have been made should make life harder for fraudsters.

Of Limited Use

Lloyds Turns To Google To Make Card Spending More Secure

But not everyone is convinced. Nick Healy, CEO of card processing company Suresite says the tool adds little value to the customer experience.

I see little difference between this geographical checking service and checking my card statement each month to ensure that no rogue transactions appear,” he says.  

And as he points out, when assessed as a weapon against fraud, any system that doesn’t include online purchases must be limited.

“I cannot see this being that much use for online purchases, which now make up the majority of customer payments,”

Healy says, adding that he doesn’t expect widespread adoption of the concept by other banks and finance providers.  

However, what we probably can expect is a continued effort by the major banks to add bells and whistles to their online and mobile banking services, if only to compete with the apps offered by digital-only challengers, such as Monzo, Starling and Atom.  

More Features

For its part, Lloyds plans to roll out more features, including a timeline of scheduled payments for the month ahead, mapped onto information on money going in. The aim is to help users see how much cash they will have to spend once all the regular direct debits have been paid. Variations on this budgeting theme have already become a selling point for many of the digital challenger banks.  

As Nick Healy sees it, more effective and responsive security features could represent a real value-add. An example would be alerts for abnormal spending.

“In the past, these alerts have been passed on to the cardholder by a phone call, but a simple text message would now suffice and it’s in real time,” he says.   

Technologies such as contactless transactions have brought a new convenience to the humble debit card, prompting more of us to switch from cash. Any system that makes it easier to track our card spending is probably to be welcomed. The challenge for banks is to make their software as user-friendly as possible.