Financial Technology is Changing Banking for Visually Impaired People

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    A hand holds a hot coral colored Monzo card. On top of the card in neon green are the texts 'Accessible Banking of the Future'

    Financial Technology is Changing Banking for Visually Impaired People

    Accessible banking for visually impaired people is still relatively new, but a lot of our high street banks are embracing it, making the banking experience a lot more accessible, with banks such as RBS and Barclays providing their visually impaired customers with high-vis and tactile cards. Apart from the cards themselves, other features such as statements, communications and more are insured to be in an accessible format that allow individual users to access their information independently.

    Additionally, with the arrival of online banking, it unlocked new opportunities for those who use to struggle traveling to a physical bank.

    However, is this enough?

    With the advancement of Financial Technology, better known as fintech there are new financial solutions to our traditional banks. These fintech companies uses innervation such as artificial intelligence to help people save and organise finances by looking at spending habits; something traditional banks are still struggling to roll out. This is despite more of this technology being adopted by today’s digitally focused generation.

    However, what a lot of people will fail to notice, is that there is a group that has always benefited of advancements in technology, and fintech is no different. I am of course talking about those with a visual impairment.

    Many fintech companies are available, but a notable one that is worth mentioning is Monzo.

    Introducing Monzo, ‘a bank for everyone, that works’

    Monzo is a bank that is on your phone, so there aren’t any physical branches for you to walk in to open an account, deposit money, cash a check or talk to a teller; instead all interaction is done in the app.

    They do still provide you with a debit card so you can withdraw cash from ATM machines, pay using your card in shops, receive and send money with a bank account. Put simply, it’s exactly like a normal bank but with a lot more features.

    Here are some of the features that I find most useful:

    Real-time Push Notifications of Money Going In and Out

    Get alerted right away when money leaves and enters your bank account, you no longer need to constantly check your bank statement to see if you are paid for this month.

    More importantly, you can catch unauthorised charges to your account right away as these notifications are real-time; so if you
    were told by a cashier that the phone you just purchased costs £200, and he decides to charge you £250, you will be able to see this at once and challenge the payment. It will also avoid situations such as the following

    A screenshot from a Facebook post which reads:'Hi all, apologies for the long post but I wanted to share details of an alleged scam that happened to a member of Connect in London. They were invited into a shop at called Hermetise Tresor Rare at 37 South Moulton Street, off Oxford Street Central London to purchase skin care products. Pressure selling meant they were in the shop for over an hour and a half as well as being offered several glases of wine. Due to being unable to see the sales slip properly a large amount of money was taken from their credit card. Luckily, the police were involved and the money has been refunded but I was asked to share this information with you all so it dosen't happen to anyone else. If you think you've been the victim of a scam please contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.'

    This applies to all transactions including card payments.

    Frozen Lost Cards

    If you are like me and often misplace your card, and then find it later on, you don’t necessarily have to report it lost/stolen to the bank, but for your peace of mind you can temporarily freeze it which means no one can use it until you unfreeze it from the app, and if you really cannot find it, request a replacement card. I have mine constantly frozen to prevent skimming, but it is so easy to unfreeze it is no hassle at all, and it insures me that my money is safe.

    Transaction Histories

    Within the app, each transaction is full of information, not only the amount and sender name, but it provides a running history of past transactions, you can see how much money you’ve sent a person and how much they’ve sent you, more interestingly, you can see how much you spent with a single merchant. Do you ever wonder how much you spend on Amazon in total? 😰

    But What About Accessibility?

    As a blind user, after using Monzo’s services for just under a year, I observed the following accessibility implementations:

    Accessible iOS app

    I can’t speak for Android as I do not use one, but the app on the iPhone is fully accessible with my screen reader VoiceOver, it reads my balance, statements, allows me to send money, secure the app with Face ID, receive help from a real person via the chat feature within the app. I can’t think of any aspects of the app that aren’t accessible and I am able to do everything everyone else can. More importantly when I reached out to Monzo about a slight annoyance when reading chats with VoiceOver, they were eager to find out more about the issue and asked me to submit a screen recording to their development team, this shows that they do care and not just give a generic ‘we will pass on your feedback’ answer.

    The bright colour card

    What makes Monzo users stand out is the hot coral colour debit cards they issue to its customers, which is like a bright neon orange colour. Understandably this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for someone with low vision, it’s great to see it if I happen to drop it or if I have to look for it amongst my messy belongings.

    This card is issued to most of its users so it’s not like it’s a special card for those special blind customers. Not only accessible, but inclusive!

    Alternative Text on their website

    Although this doesn’t affect my banking experience and has nothing to do with the app, images on their website are described via Alt text, this allows a computer such as a screen reader to describe a picture, so instead of the reader announcing it is IMG023211.jpg, it will say something like ‘Monzo Card with iOS and Android phones showing the Monzo app feed’. It’s always the little things that I appreciate to know how much a company cares about accessibility.

    How do I get money in my Monzo account?

    As there aren’t any brick-and-mortar bank branches, you are not able to deposit physical money in the old way, but you can still deposit money at over 28000 PayPoint stores in the UK, this has a £1 fee and is extremely limited.
    The most common way is to simply send money into your Monzo account via bank transfer, and to not manually do it every time, set up a standing order. You can also, like me, get your salary paid directly into your Monzo, just share your HR team or boss your Monzo’s bank account number and sort code.

    Is Monzo Safe?

    Yes, it is, Monzo is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) which protects customers, so if Monzo ever close their doors suddenly, your money will be covered up to the value of £85000.

    Conclusion

    Attention to detail is what makes Monzo the fintech company I chose, accessibility should be within a company’s DNA and not just a link near the bottom of your website with some spew about trying to meet accessibility standards for some PR reasons, it should be what Monzo has done here, from their accessible app with VoiceOver to their high visible cards, it makes me believe that it’s ‘the bank for everyone’!

    Disclaimer

    As of the 5th of December 2018, I own several shares in Monzo. I acquired these shares during their crowdfunder of £20 million. I wanted to put my mouth where my money is and decided to back this company who has given so much thought to accessibility. So you may take what I say how you will, but I just wanted to be transparent here.

    Skeptical? You can try it out yourself for free by signing up to Monzo here, and for this month, you can also get £10 when you join! This is a referral link, but I do not get any money, it’s only for new customers.

    What are your experiences like with your own banks? Good or bad? Please let me know below!

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    • Linz Reply 13/12/2018 at 15:47

      Thank you for the £10 Alex, signed up, it was a bit tricky doing the video, but my partner helped me and now just waiting for my card! XX

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