RBS, NatWest & Ulster Bank customers turn to cash after network crash

calendar iconSep 21, 2018


Throughout the morning of September 21st, 2018, NatWest customers faced a frantic Friday as the Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest and Ulster Bank experienced a technological glitch that left their customers unable to access their mobile or online banking services. So much for TGIF...

The timing of the crash was, to say the least, panic-inducing. Most NatWest bank branches are closed on Saturdays and Sundays, meaning millions of their customers had to decide on the spot whether to miss work (with little notice) and rush to their bank branches to settle bills before the weekend.

Not knowing when the problem would be resolved, the public turned to cash to ensure they are not left financially vulnerable over the weekend. It is also payday for millions, a crucial time for electronic banking. Understandably, professionals expect their salary to be paid on time, planning to pay their end-of-the-month bills, travel expenses and even mortgages over the weekend.

While services resumed 6 long hours later, this latest electronic banking glitch serves as a stark reminder of the value of cash.

It's a positive thing to have choices in the payments landscape: mobile, online, card and even crypto. But since not one of these options is immune to unexpected technological hiccups, it is essential that we hang on to reliable, tangible and crash-free cash. 

The far-reaching frustration is momentous within the cash debate as the public is once again forced to reconsider what it would mean to rely entirely on the fragile network of electronic banking in a fully cashless society. 

'We are aware of the problems our customers are having and apologise, we will provide more information as soon as we have it.'
"NatWest Facebook and Twitter post(6 March 2013)

NatWest was flooded with perfectly valid complaints via Twitter but 'Sorry and thanks for your patience' responses have done little to calm the millions of inconvenienced customers.

One NatWest account holder was mid-labor when the glitch happened. If having a baby wasn't enough of a strain, the added stress of an uncooperative banking app, looming overdraft fees, and unhelpful responses is simply cruel. 

Other customers were mid-travel when they realized they couldn't pay for their trains or buses. Some reported having to take pricey taxis, praying to NatWest's Twitter response team that they would be compensated

While NatWest reminded their customer of their telephone banking options, one Twitter user pointed out that calling requires waiting on hold for a long time, adding that perhaps he should bill the bank his hourly rate for the time spent trying to get connected.

Screenshot of NatWest service status page Friday 21 September 2018 (5:00-11:00)

Eventually, the connection was reestablished but the ripple of inconvenience is far from over as customers will spend the weekend figuring out how to reimburse the work, friend or family that had to come to their rescue when they unexpectedly found themselves cardless.

In light of the recent British Airways hacker attack, the Cardnet glitch and the Visa crash, the violent surge in cybersecurity issues plaguing the past few months, consumers must, for their own sake, reflect on their relationship with payment forms.

While diversity within the payments landscape protects against adversity, cash continues to hold its crown as the most trustworthy option for a reason.

Undeniably, cash is the number one contingency plan when it comes to payments. 

"We are still working through what the issue is - absolute apologies to customers…"
"Ross McEwanRBS Chief ExecutiveAs quoted by Sky News (Sep 21, 2018)

Screenshot of Twitter thread between @Natwest_Help and @KayleighBollington

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Last Updated: Sep 21, 2018