How to check your bank balance by tapping your phone on your wallet

One simple (yet apparently unachievable) thing I’ve always wanted from my bank is an Android widget that displays my current balance. The Lloyds online banking system is an abject horror (as I’ve detailed at length before), and their mobile app is little more than a front end for their equally dire mobile site (as well as a chance for them to sell you shit you don’t need).

I’ve looked everywhere for a solution to this, and have so far come up with nothing. I have come up with a pleasing middle ground though – a way to check your bank balance by tapping your smartphone to your wallet. Now, for this to work you’ll need –

  • An NFC-equipped Android phone
  • An NFC tag

Step 1 – Get all your balances in one place

To do this you’ll need to sign up to a bank aggregation service – I’m using Money Dashboard because, well, it’s quite excellent. Before I move on it’s time for a massive caveat. Aggregation services use a company called Yodlee to retrieve financial data from your bank via screen-scraping software. You give this software your login details and it logs in, pretending to be you, and retrieves certain information. This is problematic, as I wrote about at length here.

Lloyds told me the following, which seems fairly cut and dry –

However the bank has recently updated its Terms & Conditions to include the following clause –

4.8 We will not treat you as breaking your security obligations just because you use an aggregation service we do not provide. A typical aggregation service allows you to view information about your accounts with different banks on a single website.

To me, this seems incredibly broad. What if a Nigerian Prince emailed me offering “aggregation services”?

Anyway, the crux of my massive caveat is that by signing up to an aggregation service you may be waiving your right to liability cover if your bank account is cleaned out. Then again you may not be – nobody seems to know.

After signing up to Money Dashboard, add as many accounts as you have / want to.

Step 2 – Set up an NFC trigger

Download Trigger for Android and click the + in the top-right to add a new task. Add a Trigger and select NFC as the trigger.

NFC Trigger

Click Next, the add an Action. Click ‘Applications & Shortcuts’, then choose ‘Open a URL/URI’. Click next and in the text box enter –

Click Next again and click right through the Setup Switch screen (you don’t need this functionality). You’ll then be asked to write your NFC tag – simply bump one against the back of your phone and you should get a confirmation sound.

From now on, every time you press your phone against that NFC tag it will open up your Money Dashboard homepage (assuming you’re logged in), showing the balances of whatever accounts you have added to the service.

Step 3 – Put the NFC tag wherever you want it!

NFC tags will work through thin materials, but not metal, and not if there are other NFC / RFID tags in very close proximity.

NFC tag on my wallet

This is what I’ve gone for – the NFC tag is on the inside flap of my wallet, so if I bump my phone there my bank balance will appear on the screen. It’s pleasingly literal and, given I have both of them on me at all times, very convenient.

NFC wallet tap

A couple of things to be aware of:

  • The Money Dashboard sessions expire quite quickly, so you’ll find yourself logging in a fair amount. I’ve alleviated this somewhat by making my password simple to type on a smartphone keyboard. This easy password will always be behind other logins (my smartphone lock screen / laptop login), so it’s a security trade-off I’m happy with.
  • Your balances won’t always be up-to-date in Money Dashboard, but you can just click the little refresh button and come back in a few minutes.

This is still a pretty crap solution in the grand scheme of things, but until banks decide to let us use our data as we see fit, it’s the best I can do.

Any improvements? Post them below for the benefit of everyone else who hates their bank.

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