A growing number of cards are now offering interactive budgeting apps and other tools that promise to help people charge more responsibly. One of the most groundbreaking tools is the new “Control Your Card” feature Barclays has added to its mobile app.
For years, experts have blamed credit cards for encouraging overspending. But what if instead of nudging you to charge more, your credit card helped you monitor your budget and finally put a stop to impulse spending?
It may sound far-fetched, but a growing number of cards are now offering interactive budgeting apps and other tools that promise to help people charge more responsibly.
The new Apple credit card, for example, offers mobile phone users real-time transaction totals and weekly and monthly spending summaries so that cardholders can visualize what they’re overspending on.
Other card issuers, such as Discover, have also added visualization tools to their mobile apps to help you keep better track of your spending. Some issuers even let you monitor your credit score for free using just your phone.
One of the most groundbreaking tools introduced in recent months, though, is the new “Control Your Card” feature Barclays has added to its mobile app.
In addition to more standard card features, such as card locking and instant transaction alerts, the new Control Your Card app gives consumers the unique ability to curb their overspending by customizing how and when their card can be used.
See related: Fear overspending? Don’t avoid credit cards
Using a card to block problem spending
For example, rather than rely on willpower alone, Barclaycard customers can now set per-transaction spending limits on their Barclaycards and even restrict certain types of purchases they’ve had trouble avoiding in the past.
For example, if you’re trying to control your restaurant spending, you’ll be able to temporarily turn off the ability to charge dining to your card.
Or, if you’re trying to make it harder for yourself to go shopping, Barclays now lets you instantly turn off the ability to charge your card at a department store.
The tool is only available through the Barclays mobile app and relies on an on-and-off switch within the app that lets you instantly enable or disable a feature.
Other purchases you can temporarily block using the app’s on-and-off switch include gas station purchases, grocery store spending, household purchases, entertainment spending, personal care products and age-restricted purchases.
Although Barclays makes it easy to change your mind and switch the ability to spend back on, the extra step of going into your mobile app and enabling charges at a particular store could be helpful to consumers who have a tendency to buy on impulse.
Many experts argue that credit cards encourage people to overcharge because they make transactions so quick and easy. The easier a transaction is to sail through, the likelier people are to thoughtlessly overspend. But if you have to stop and change your card’s preferences before you head to checkout, you may be more likely to think a bit harder about whether it’s worth spending money on your card.
The app also lets cardholders set purchase limits for other members of their household – similar to business cards that let employers customize individual employees’ spending limits. For example, if your kids are authorized users, you’ll be able to restrict certain types of purchases or set hard spending limits so they can’t overcharge.
In a press release announcing the new tool, Barclays’ Sagar Dalal likened it to a remote control you can use for your family’s spending.
“From parents of college students who want to limit spending in particular categories, to the consumer who wants to exert more control over their spending at the supermarket or local watering hole, this mobile feature acts as a remote control for cards within the Barclays mobile app,” Dalal said.
Will other card issuers let consumers control their spending?
Barclays is currently the only major issuer in the U.S. that lets cardholders customize what can and can’t be charged. But if the Control Your Card app takes off, it could inspire other card issuers to introduce similar tools.
That could be a welcome change for cardholders who struggle with self-control or who are wary of giving their kids unfettered access to their spending limits. In a world where so much is customizable, why not have more control over your card?