Pakistan’s banking apps are abysmal. Pakistani banking apps, when compared to banking apps from other nations, such as the United Kingdom, fall far short due to a lack of features and user comfort. Almost all local banking apps repeatedly ask for PINs and OTPs, to the point where it becomes more of an annoyance than a security concern.
This is only one example of how these apps fall short of international counterparts. Let’s take a closer look at each app to see what its advantages and disadvantages are in order to determine which ones are the best and which are the worst.
This will be the first in a series of posts in which we will take a close look at each banking app and provide an unbiased evaluation.
Let’s begin with Askari’s mobile app.
This hasn’t always been the case with the Askari banking app. It has received multiple updates in the past that have entirely overhauled its appearance and included a number of new functions. However, for the purposes of this review, we will only discuss the most recent versions of banking apps and their flaws.
The Askari mobile app is presently available for free on both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. It has over 500,000 instals and a 4.0 rating (out of 5) on the Play Store. It was last updated on December 24, 2021, indicating that Askari’s creators have not given up on the app, which is a positive sign.
When you first launch the app, you’re greeted with a login screen that asks for your username and password. Without asking for any verification PINs, entering your credentials or fingerprint will take you straight inside the app (which used to be a requirement in older versions of the app). If you forget your password, it’s a good idea to have the fingerprint login option enabled.
The login screen does not have a “lost password” option for some reason. Only when you’ve successfully logged into the app is this option available. It should also be accessible outside of the app if you forget your password or haven’t set up the fingerprint login.
The login screen includes contact information for Askari (email and phone), as well as exclusive Askari discounts available nationwide via debit/credit cards. There’s also a “Apply Online” option for applying for other types of loans, such as vehicle loans, agriculture loans, interest-free Islamic loans, and more.
Because some of these options require a login, placing them outside the login screen makes little sense. When they require a login, why are they presented before the login screen? Placing these functionalities into the app (after login) would eliminate a step that is currently unneeded.
But, in general, these menus are plain and simple to explore.
The top of the app’s main menu displays your account type, account number, and account amount. When you’re attempting to keep your privacy in a public location, this can be an issue. There should be a way to conceal these facts and have them only appear when you touch your account information.
Due to a problem, the account balance is sometimes reported as N/A, which can be rather concerning. But don’t panic; it’s only a minor problem in the most recent version of the programme at the time of writing.
The hamburger button (three horizontal lines adjacent to each other) on the bottom right opens a separate menu with more options. Account Details, Card Management, Bill Payments, and other functions are similar to those found in the main menu. Other features in this area may have made greater use of this space. This would also make the main menu options a little more manageable.
Furthermore, for correct classification, aspects like ‘Account Statement’ should not be separated from ‘Account Details.’ Instead of retaining two of the same feature options in distinct locations, it should be combined on the main menu or only the hamburger menu.
The same space-saving issue can be seen with “Card Management,” where the main menu only has one category for it, yet the hamburger menu has two different categories for managing credit and debit cards. This is a complete waste of time and space.
Payment choices such as ticket purchases and bill payments can be grouped together in a single tab called “Payments” to keep things easy and organised.
A section for “Digital Banking Reward Points” may be found in the “Points/Discounts” area in the main menu’s centre. There is no explanation of what these points are, how to earn them, how to redeem them, or how to use them. If there was a straightforward explanation within the programme, there would be no need to Google anything.
Finally, the search feature is missing from several horizontal scrolling menus. Some portions of the app, such as the bank transfer section, offer a search tool for convenience, while others, such as the ATM finder, may benefit from it. This would save users from having to navigate endlessly through the list to find the relevant box.
Aside from that, the interface is pretty straightforward to use.
Now for the highlights
Logs Out Too Quickly
First and foremost, the app’s login sessions are quite brief. If you leave the app idle for more than a minute or two, it will log you out, prompting you to log in again. While this is a security feature, logging in every other minute is really cumbersome. Users should be able to customise the length of their login sessions.
When using a slower internet connection, the app may become stuck with the “Loading, Please Wait…” notice. Slow internet, on the other hand, cannot be faulted because superior programmes do not have this problem even with a poor connection. This issue can also be encountered while attempting to send money to someone. Even with a normal internet connection, the programme frequently gets stopped on “Loading, Please Wait…”.
Tax Certificates Don’t Work, Account Statement Limit
The most recent version of the app does not load tax certificates and does not allow you to view an account statement for more than 6 months at a time at the time of writing. Better banking apps, such as the Barclays banking app in the United Kingdom, provide more information in the app-generated bank statement.
Additional handy features of the Barclays banking app include a secure cloud where you may store critical documents and other private goods.
Cash Withdrawal Without Card
Askari, on the other hand, is one of the few banking apps in Pakistan that allows you to withdraw cash without a bank card. Transferring money to someone is also a lot easier with the Raast Instant Payment system. To send money to someone, simply use your phone number or your Raast ID as your account number.
Several Pakistani bank applications, like Askari and UBL, have implemented this feature.
Last but not least, Askari deserves praise for always improving their app with new upgrades. In the past, the programme didn’t have nearly half of these functionalities, and the user interface has also evolved with time.
There are still a few wrinkles to work out, but Askari is on the right track.