Since the 1970s, I have been a customer of Yorkshire Bank, which, three years ago, merged with Virgin Money. A few weeks ago, I started receiving letters from Virgin Money telling me about an “exciting new credit card app”. As I don’t have a smartphone, and use my laptop for online banking, I didn’t think it applied to me. However, when I recently tried to transfer money from my current account to my credit card account, the latter had vanished. I was told by the bank that my credit card could only be managed by the “exciting new credit card app”. At no point during our correspondence was it mentioned this would be the case for a laptop user.
CB, Ilkley, West Yorkshire
Virgin Money’s decision boils down to money. Or, in its own words, to “focusing our development resource” on “customer preference”. Maintaining a secure website and an app is expensive and, if banks decide that they can shave their budgets and dress it up as an improvement, they are unlikely to be squeamish about the minority of customers who are disconnected.
Virgin argues that only a “small percentage” of customers were reliant only on the non-mobile online service, and points them to the online chat function for “basic” requests. Basic requests do not, however, include making a payment, for which you’ll now have to ring the contact centre. Customers who do have a smartphone, and used Virgin’s existing app to manage their accounts, have voiced their displeasure after discovering their credit card accounts had vanished from that one, too.
To make its service “quicker and easier”, Virgin has separated the new credit card app from the general banking app, so customers now have to download the two apps, and set up a direct debit or register their credit card and current account as payees, to transfer funds between them. Campaigners have warned that technological advances, that make banking more convenient for the majority, can exclude older and poorer people who don’t want or can’t afford up-to-date smartphones.
“Virgin’s decision to only allow digital access through smartphones is a step too far, too quickly,” says James Daley of Fairer Finance. “It should retain its online banking systems for those who still rely on them and only shut down old processes when it can confidently say that all customers are now supported.”
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