LIFE has just got easier for consumers who like to organise their finances online.
A new system went live this week which opens the door to mobile-to-mobile payments. It means money can be transferred between accounts with a few taps of a touchscreen phone, making it much simpler for friends and families to settle straightforward IOUs.
As long as both parties are registered, there is no need to know account numbers or sort codes. Consumers are not required to have a smartphone to receive payment, though they do need a banking app in order to send payments.
Nine major banks and building societies have signed up so far for Paym (pronounced "Pay 'em"), including Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Halifax, Barclays and HSBC. Royal Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale and First Direct will join this year and Nationwide gets on board in 2015.
Around 400,000 people have signed up for the service since it opened for registration three weeks ago. Several banks, including HSBC and Santander, are offering incentives for their banking app users to get quickly on board.
Carl Howard, head of digital at HSBC UK, said: "People want to do their banking with us when it suits them, whether it's at home, work, or if they're out and about.
"We welcome this new initiative, which will make paying friends or family even easier."
Price comparison website Gocompare.com noted that Paym's take-up by high street banks suggests it will quickly be integrated into the banking system. However, the site's banking spokesman, Matt Sanders, said he fears it will make it easier for people to over-spend.
He said: "Taking away the physical need to have a debit or credit card or visit a cashpoint means that people could lose touch with what they are spending on and when.
"It will be interesting to see how many people make use of the new service and how, if at all, it affects spending habits."
Paym's launch comes as figures from the British Banking Association (BBA) suggest the number of mobile phone banking transactions made by UK consumers has nearly doubled in a year.
The BBA's The Way We Bank Now study noted that customers are now making more than 5.7 million transactions a day using smartphones or other internet platforms, and customers from the five biggest banks used their mobile phones for 18.6 million transactions a week last year, up from 9.1 million in 2012.
Some banks are also allowing customers to apply for accounts using their smartphones. NatWest and RBS have said that customers with an iPhone or Android mobile can apply for an instant access savings account on the go, noting that 112,000 customers already use savings accounts via their mobiles.
BBA chief executive Anthony Browne said: "This is an innovation that connects us more strongly to our banks than ever before and gives us greater freedom to handle our money wherever we please."
Yet for all the convenience offered by mobile technology, it seems not all consumers are ready to give up the traditional ways of banking. While cheque books are increasingly seen as unnecessary by younger people, they still hold sway for a significant number of older consumers.
Research carried out for thinkmoney, a budget account provider, found the option of paying by cheque would attract more than a quarter (26%) of 55- to 64-year-olds to a particular account (37% for over-65s).
That dropped dramatically among 25- to 34-year-olds (9%) .
Thinkmoney's Ian Williams said: "Many older people still prefer to have the option of paying by cheque. Until that changes, cheques will continue to play an important, if reduced, role."