Thanks to Dan for his review…

Mike and Elaine’s initial response to the Natwest app seemed a little on the chilly side. However we’ve seen the TV ad campaign now so we know it’s legit and I’ve spent a bit of time looking at it so see if it lives up the hype.

The sign-up process to actually use the Natwest app is the most extensive and laborious that most iPhone users will have encountered, however it’s not without good reason as it does give access to your bank account after all.

As well as a few pieces of personal information you’ll also need to enter the details of your Maestro card which tells Natwest the account you’re wanting to view. As far as I know every current account comes with a card as standard so this shouldn’t prove a problem – but there’s no helping some people is there – no names mentioned! You then give your account a name for easy reference and choose a passcode for logging in.

Once you’ve entered all your details you might expect to be able to log-in immediately and get going…. well not so fast. The information you’ve entered now has to be verified which the app says takes upto 48 hours; so there’s either a lot of interest in the app or there’s an element of manual checking involved. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, given the nature of the app, but nor does it seem very 2009.

Occupy yourself for 2 days and you’ll be rewarded by a ‘handset verification code’ by SMS. Enter this into the app along with the passcode and you’re finally ready to go.

There are 3 options on the app’s home screen: Natwest, Service options, Message centre.

‘Natwest’ gives you the option of checking your balance and seeing a mini-statement, both of which do as they say on the tin. They’re clear and basic as in the TV advert; the mini-statement is just a list of recent transactions with the balance at the top. Then there’s text services, where you can set for a text to be sent to you with your balance. That, as far as I can see is as far as money management goes in the app. In some ways this is good as you don’t necessarily want someone to be able to transfer any amount of money from your mobile, and knowing Natwest online banking, they’re pretty security conscious about any money being moved. However it may disappoint some who were expecting online banking-like functionality to be replicated in the app.

The only possible money spending option in the app is the ‘top up phone’ function, but if you’re using it on iPhone there’s a reasonably good chance you’re on contract, so likely of limited use and I’ve not had need to try it out.

Back to the app’s main menu. Delve into the second option ‘service options’ and there’s an option to ‘add bank’. This may come as a surprise but the app isn’t strictly Natwest at all but is the ‘Mobile Money’ platform from a company called Monitise. The app allows accounts to be added from: Alliance and Leicester, First Direct, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, RBS, Ulster Bank. So not a comprehensive list but not bad either. I didn’t have any of these to test it with but it could be helpful for some and could certainly widen the appeal of the app.

On the whole the app is okay. It’s being panned on iTunes – I suspect due to its very limited money management features and from people expecting much more – but just being able to check your balance and transactions can be worthwhile enough to have the app. So while I’ll be keeping it, it might fall short of being a ‘must have’ app for a lot of people

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The MacBites Crew are Elaine Giles, Mike Thomas and MacBitesSiri. Together they bring you tips, tricks and valuable first hand experience of the Mac platform.

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