Some learnings from the time I removed my overdraft on Natwest.


Disclaimer, I’m building a bank at Monzo

Full disclaimer, I’m a Product Manager at Monzo. Monzo’s a UK challenger bank that lives on your smartphone.

I recently turned off my overdraft with Natwest

Control matters a lot, particularly when it comes to money, so I’m always on the lookout for where we can improve this part of the banking experience.

I don’t use my Natwest account as often as I used to, so I turned off my overdraft

  • For peace of mind
  • To avoid accidental charges (this later proved futile)
  • To learn some stuff

It was an awful experience but I learnt some stuff

I had a frustrating, shitty experience. But, in the process, I learnt some basic principles:

  1. Minimise steps in the process, and avoid asking for unnecessary information
  2. Give people what they ask for (i.e. no overdraft charges if I’ve removed my overdraft)
  3. Get the basic technology right (instant, mobile first, single browser, error handling)

Read on for more.



Here’s some learnings

:zap: 1. Make it in-app, in one place, and instant

overdrafts

  • I’m set up for mobile banking so I tried there first, unsuccessfully
  • I have to open three browser windows in total - try to keep things in one place if you can
  • If you insist on opening something new, multiple tabs are better than multiple browsers
  • Ideally, removing my overdraft should be immediate too

:massage: 2. Make it simple, and avoid unnecessary steps

overdrafts

  • Don’t make me fill out a form to ‘apply for an overdraft’ (I don’t want one, I’m trying to remove an overdraft :information_desk_person:)
  • Tell me why you need information, or don’t ask for it (three previous addresses :expressionless: ?)
  • Thumbs up for accessibility though

:question: 3. Be specific, or explain why you can’t be

  • Natwest tell me that my request be actioned ‘as soon as they can’
  • Vague timelines are really frustrating, so try to be specific when you can
  • If that’s not possible, explain why it’s the case

:floppy_disk: 4. Use ‘normal’ communication methods

overdrafts

  • Ideally I’d have got instant confirmation that my overdraft was removed
  • If a delay is unavoidable, just send me a quick text later saying it’s all sorted :thumbsup:
  • Instead, a day or so after ‘applying’ I get an email that invites me to log back in and view the results of my overdraft application (tension is killing me)
  • Logging in takes a while, and then I have to download a PDF, with seven full pages, and trawl through for the result (spoiler alert: my overdraft is removed)

:no_good: 5. Actually give people what they ask for

fees

  • I’m told that even if I remove my overdraft I can still go overdrawn - even worse I’ll actually get stung with loads of fees :scream:
  • I’m removing my overdraft because I want to eliminate the risk of going overdrawn, so ideally I wouldn’t be able to go into an ‘unarranged overdraft’ - why does this have to happen?
  • If that’s not possible - I know that sometimes there’s still a small chance an offline transaction (e.g. the Tube) might take you overdrawn - let me know why and at least give me a chance (send a notification and give me til the end of the day to add money before applying charges)

:no_entry: 6. Handle errors elegantly

overdrafts

  • 10mins after starting my overdraft journey, my world ends in an unexpected error
  • If something fails, let me know why
  • If you don’t know exactly, give your best guess as to why… is it because it was a Sunday night? Was there maintenance?
  • Help me understand when to try again, to avoid me failing repeatedly… should I try again immediately, maybe later today, or should I wait til tomorrow?




Please help keep us honest and let us know when we fail to meet expectations. We all rely on feedback to improve :relaxed: .

I’m also trying to write better. Let me know how well I’m doing - if you fancy - via email :point_down: .