NatWest has introduced a gambling block feature on debit cards, giving customers who may suffer harm a 48-hour cooling-off period before they can make payments.
The feature aims to help customers with gambling addictions to take control of their spending.
These customers will now have to wait 48 hours before they can make gambling-related payments, during which time any attempted transactions will be automatically declined.
The block remains in place unless a customer chooses to remove it, in which case it can be disabled after 48 hours.
NatWest customers can access the gambling control in their mobile banking app via a “manage my card” feature.
NatWest said it saw a decline in gambling transactions earlier on in the lockdown.
But it said that as restrictions eased, gambling-related spend among NatWest customer has started to increase rapidly.
Overall gambling-related spending is around 32% higher in September 2020 than in 2019.
Last year, the bank partnered with gambling charity GamCare to provide support, advice and treatment for gamblers and their loved ones experiencing harm.
As part of NatWest’s partnership with GamCare, training is provided for NatWest’s specialist support teams on how to identify gambling-related harm and support those who want to stop gambling.
Before coronavirus restrictions were imposed, GamCare used several NatWest branches to provide face-to-face private consultations to support those affected by gambling problems.
A similar scheme has already been introduced by Barclays.
Barclays’ gambling block means that if users decide to restart spending on gambling websites, apps or in venues, there will be a 72-hour wait before they can make such payments.
Any attempted transactions during that period are automatically declined.
David Lindberg, CEO of retail banking at NatWest, said: “The introduction of a gambling block for debit card customers will help us to equip problem gamblers across the UK with more tools to support their recovery.
“Problem gambling and financial hardship go hand in hand and through our work with GamCare, we have offered an increasing amount of help to those customers who need it most through our trained specialists and donating branch space for treatment therapy to reduce traditional barriers to access.”
Anna Hemmings, CEO of GamCare, said: “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.”
Carolyn Harris MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling-Related Harm, said: “I very much welcome this announcement. Gambling blocks and the financial services sector as a whole have an important role to play in preventing gambling-related harm.”
NatWest has a gambling support page at personal.natwest.com/personal/life-moments/Struggling-financially/managing-your-gambling.html