Guest blogger Raminta is highlighting Talk Money Week and encouraging more open conversations about gambling with banks and building societies.
Talk Money Week (9-13 November 2020) is an annual campaign to get the nation talking about money. For someone struggling to control their gambling, money can often cause a lot stress and worry.
If you are struggling, getting help and support with gambling is the most important first step, but sorting out your finances follows soon after. If gambling is having a negative impact for you, now might be a good opportunity reach out to your bank and see how they can help you manage your money.
Almost three quarters of the people who contacted our Helpline last year mentioned some level of gambling debt and/or financial hardship. Our Helpline advisers are trained to signpost people to free debt advice, but many people want to know what happens if they tell their bank about a gambling problem – would there be any unintended consequences?
Talking to your bank can help
There is no obligation for you to discuss gambling or any negative impacts it might have for you, but it could help. If you end up in a situation where it’s difficult to keep up with financial commitments, or debt is keeping you up at night, having a conversation with your bank is a good idea.
This may be daunting, but you’re not alone. Financial services staff have these conversations with customers every day. Because they don’t know you, they will look at the situation from a neutral point, and will work with you to see how they can help.
For instance, digital bank Monzo told GamCare: “All of our specialist support team have been trained in how to support people who are struggling with gambling, and they’d all be delighted to spend some time getting to know you and your needs. All you have to do is reach out and ask. You can let us know by going to the ‘Help’ screen in your app and searching for gambling. From there, you’ll be able to write directly to our specialist support team.”
Some might want to have the conversation in a branch, some might want to have it over the phone. It might be easier for you to discuss the issue via a customer service web chat, and that’s no problem. If you’re banking with a digital bank, that might be your only option. Whatever works, your bank is there to listen and support you.
How your bank can support you
Whether you’re worried about your own or a loved one’s gambling, there are ways that your bank can help you take back control of your finances.
Many banks in the UK now offer gambling blocks that allow customers freeze gambling transactions on their account. If you want to implement these, your bank should explain how to do this, or could even do it for you. These blocks are not permanent, they can be switched on and off with varying delays, so it’s a good idea to have other support in place if you want to stop gambling completely.
To reassure you, the use of these gambling blocks will not affect your credit score and are never factored into lending decisions.
Some banks may also allow you to set a spending limit for a single debit card transaction, or temporarily freeze your card if you feel like your spending is getting out of control. This will vary from bank to bank so check what protections your bank can put in place for you. For example, Barclays allow customers to lower daily cash withdrawal limits or switch off ATM withdrawals altogether. This is particularly useful for someone who may be gambling in person using cash.
Lloyds, Halifax, Bank of Scotland and MBNA are also working with blocking software provider gamban to offer their customers a free three month licence, which blocks access to thousands of gambling websites and apps across different devices. It’s worth checking with your bank if they provide this.
If you’re in arrears
If your financial commitments are becoming unmanageable (for example, you missed a credit card or loan payment), it is important not to ignore it and speak to the bank or lender about your situation as soon as possible. They have specialist teams that can give tips about budgeting, and may even be able to offer a repayment holiday to give you some breathing space while you’re getting everything sorted.
One person recently told GamCare how much of a relief it was to contact his bank about his gambling. He talked about how helpful their customer service agents were, and how his debts are not keeping him up at night now as knows the finances are going to be sorted. After having that conversation, he said he can answer the phone and open letters without fear again.
Anything you say to your bank is confidential and they won’t use any of the information you give without your permission. If the bank thinks that you are vulnerable to financial difficulty because of your gambling, or you disclosed other issues that are of concern, they may add some notes or flags on your account. Those records are solely for the purpose of providing you best help and support and are not used against you if you apply for credit in the future. Remember that as a customer you are in control of your data and you’re within your rights to ask what records they have.
How gambling affects loan and mortgage applications
Many people contacting GamCare are worried they will be refused for future credit if they talk to their bank about their gambling problem. We have spoken to many lenders who confirmed to us that it’s simply not the case.
When you apply for a mortgage, a loan or a credit card, the lender will look at your credit score and carry out affordability checks to make sure you can pay back what you borrow. Your credit score won’t be affected by gambling or the use of gambling blocks unless you are gambling on credit and have missed payments.
If you have gambling transactions on your recent bank statements, the lender will decide whether that’s within an affordable limit. The rules will vary across the sector, and it’s a good practice for lenders to be transparent about why they’re refusing credit. For example, where a gambling problem has been identified, London Mutual Credit Union follow up with an email and signpost members to gambling support.
On the other hand, if you’re still struggling with gambling and want to be excluded from lending, make sure to tell your bank about it. You may also consider adding a Notice of Correction (NOC) to your credit file, which lenders have to check when assessing credit applications. You can find out more information on Experian and Equifax websites.
Talking to someone about your gambling can take courage, but it is worth it as the situation may feel a lot worse if you are dealing with it on your own.
If you would like to talk about your gambling, or if you’re worried about someone close to you, you can contact us for help and support on Freephone 0808 80 20 133 or via live chat, whenever works for you – we’re available around the clock and ready to listen.