Who's bean counting? Online banking makes Brits better at budgeting

  • 20 years since Nationwide launched UK’s first internet bank, but one in ten still don’t bank online
  • Next 20 years expected to bring further innovation including paying by thumbprint and implants
  • Nationwide saw a 73% rise in online logins over the last year, according to new customer figures

Twenty years after Nationwide launched the UK’s first Internet Bank*, new research shows that most Brits say online banking has made them more financially aware.

However, despite the mass adoption of digital banking, one in ten people haven’t yet made the switch to go online with their finances.

The Nationwide Current Account survey of 2,000 adults reveals that more than two thirds (69%) believe that using internet banking allows them to keep on top of their finances, with four in ten (40%) saying they are better at budgeting due to being able to bank at home or on the move. As a result, nearly a quarter (22%) are less in debt through constantly eyeing their finances online, and in excess of a third (37%) have avoided dipping into their overdrafts as a result.

Nationwide introduced the nation’s first Internet Bank in 1997 – the same year as Titanic cruised into cinemas and Tony Blair moved into Number 10 Downing Street. Since then, internet banking has evolved, largely moving onto mobile apps, enabling banking on the move. As a result, usage has soared - Nationwide customer data shows a 73 per cent increase in the number of customers logging on across 2016/2017.

The internet bank has also proved to be an effective timesaver, with more than a quarter of Brits (28%) declaring they save at least an hour a week versus queueing up at an ATM or visiting a branch to carry out straightforward services, such as making a payment or checking balances.


While the vast majority of Brits believe the advent of online banking has allowed them to manage their finances more effectively, one in ten (10%) still do not use internet banking. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is an age divide when it comes to using technology, with only one in 20 (5%) 18-24 year olds saying they do not use internet banking compared to nearly a fifth (17%) of those aged 55-plus.

While the survey shows digital services are generally seen as more convenient, particularly for booking appointments and reservations, there are some areas in which people still prefer to deal with humans. More than half of people (51%) would opt to collect medical prescriptions in person than online, while four in ten (42%) would rather arrange a new mobile phone contract in person. Home-movers (40%) would also prefer to speak to someone when arranging a mortgage rather than going online, while more than a third (37%) would want to open their child’s first current account in person.

Top five activities by preferred method
Human Automated Online
Customer service Supermarket checkout Managing bills
Supermarket checkout Passport controls at airport Bank transfer of up to £1,000
Passport control at airport Buying train tickets Booking tickets (e.g. cinema/theatre)
Medical prescriptions Bank transfer of up to £1,000 Booking a restaurant
Booking doctor’s appointment Medical prescriptions Opening a savings account

Old school payments for now:

When asked what payment methods will exist in 2037, nearly three in five (58%) Brits believe they will be able pay for items using their thumbprint, while nearly a quarter (23%) even think they will be paying using a chip implanted in their hand. However, more than half of people (55%) didn’t look too far ahead in terms of advancements, believing phones or watches will be used to pay for everything in 2037.

However, while many people believe new payment methods will be introduced over the next 20 years, they are not yet ready to forget existing payment methods, and believe that debit cards (56%), credit cards (53%) and cash (43%) will still be utilised in 2037. Around one in ten (9%) still think that traveller’s cheques will still exist. Four in ten (40%) believe cash will be redundant within the next 25 years.

James Smith, Nationwide’s Director of Mobile and Digital, said: “Nationwide was the first organisation to bring internet banking to British consumers and, as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the launch of our Internet Bank, our latest research highlights how innovation and financial management go hand in hand. People are using the ability to log on anytime, anywhere to try and ensure they are staying well in control of their finances and attempting to avoid any unnecessary debt – this is further demonstrated by the near three quarter increase in the number of logins to our digital services.

Innovation in personal finance is clearly something that intrigues people, as three in five believe we will be paying for everything via our thumbprint by 2037.”

* Nationwide Building Society launched its Internet Bank on 27 May 1997.

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

Please note: If you are a customer looking for information on our products and services, please visit the main website.