One day, we'll be wondering how we ever managed to pay for things without our mobile phones. Right now, however, Barclays Bank is taking the plunge and allowing their customers to push payments from their smart-phone to someone else's phone. For now, only Barclays customers can push money, but anybody with a UK current account (with any bank) can sign up online to receive money via their phone number. The service is called Pingit, and is supplied as an app on iOS, Android and Blackberry devices.
You can download and start using the app straight away; all you have to do, when you need to pay for something, is remember to first ask them if they can take Pingit. If so, they tell you their mobile number and you use that, plus the amount, to complete the transaction.
You can still download and install the app; the latest version of the app allows you to open a 'Barclays Pingit Wallet Account' which you then link to your mobile phone number. You can also sign up online (at www.barclays.co.uk/pingit) to start receiving money into your own account. The sign-up process involves filling in a couple of pages of forms about yourself, your phone and your bank account, then a mobile phone verification step (with a text message), then a bank account verification (with a 1p credit into your account, tagged with a special code). The phone verification can be done straight away, as SMS texts are virtually instantaneous. The bank account verification, however, is potentially more time-consuming: you may be able to hop into your online banking straight away and see that the 1p has been deposited (thanks, FasterPay!) but you may not be able to see the verification code at that point. (This was the situation with Nationwide's FlexAccount, where the full statement is a day behind; a support team at Nationwide can help you out, but they're on a 9-5, Mon-Fri service - no good for the weekend!)
We do of course hope that Barclays have got the core security worked out, and that their apps and payment routing are secure. Beyond those basics, the big danger with a service like Pingit is that we are told to be wary of phishing scams, where we are offered something as long as we hand over some details. A scam claiming to be Pingit could send you a payment notification, and you would be asked for bits of personal identity (bank details, address, etc) before the 'money' is transferred to you. It will take a new initiative of public tutoring to make sure that we ignore unsolicited payment-received notifications.