Imagine you just moved to Manhattan from Michigan. You’re looking for a new gym, a new doctor, a new electricity provider and more. It’s dizzying. So dizzying it would be easy to forget about a recurring payment tied to your last residence, like a local gym membership.
But now, customers at Wells Fargo have a place to go to help them recall: their online and mobile banking app. It’s called Control Tower, and after testing the features for more than a year, the San Francisco bank made them widely available to customers’ on Oct.1. There, under one hub, customers can track where they’ve shared their payment information to get services like Amazon Prime or a membership to the corner gym.
“In a moment of transition or in a moment of a life change, this type of information is extremely valuable,” says Ben Soccorsy, the head of the digital payments product team for Wells Fargo’s virtual channels division.
Control Tower is also designed to simplify customers’ lives for the inevitable day when their card expires or if someone steals it. In these scenarios, Soccorsy says having the recurring transaction information on hand can save customers minutes, or arguably, hours of time, of having to remember all the places that will require their new payment information.
What is Control Tower?
While many banks let you turn your debit card off and on from a mobile app, Wells Fargo is advancing the card control concept to help you tackle something that’s increasingly easy to forget: the places you’ve shared your debit or credit card or bank account information with — like Spotify or Mint or a digital wallet. Think of Control Tower as your digital lost and found for your payment-related data.
Control Tower also lets you turn your debit and credit cards on and off, or more granularly, turn your debit card off for international transactions when you’re staying in the U.S.
The longer-term vision is to let customers control which devices, apps and companies have access to their account information through Control Tower. Translation: It’s a nod to future of banking.
“This is a tool that will enable our customers to do what they want to do inside of our properties, inside our app, but also potentially, give them the transparency and the control in a simple way for them to do things outside of our properties as well,” Soccorsy says.
Its national rollout come as Wells Fargo continues to try to restore trust with customers in the wake of its 2016 phony-account scandal.
Planning for a more connected future
While other financial institutions have components of Control Tower, Wells Fargo is ahead of the pack on grouping the features together under one hub.
Emmett Higdon, digital banking director at Javelin Strategy and Research, says Wells Fargo is planning for the future “really well.” He expects other banks to follow suit to respond to a trend that is only going to get messier for consumers: their cards connected to all kinds of things.
Already, Higdon says he can picture a more chaotic day when people are sharing payment data with not only subscription services, like a scrapbooking site, but with connected devices, like fridges and microwaves.
“I very much see a day when Control Tower won’t seem so novel,” he says.
What does this mean for you?
While you would need to bank with Wells Fargo to use Control Tower, you have other options to sort out who has your debit and credit card data. There are fintech apps you can use to help you track recurring transactions. Trim, for instance, will find and cancel transactions on unwanted subscriptions on your behalf. Truebill, for another, will also cancel unwanted subscriptions.
To use such services, however, will require you to share your bank data with the fintech apps — a common practice that many still consider risky. If you’re a customer of Wells Fargo, you don’t have to worry about this aspect. However, Wells Fargo’s Control Tower might not have access to all of your recurring transactions.
So, if you are looking for another option to stay on top of your card swipes, there are other precautions you can take.
Richard Crone, CEO and founder of Crone Consulting, urges you to set up bank alerts for all of your transactions, so you can keep tabs of what you’re charged, and when. “That’s their best line of defense,” Crone says.
For those using banks that offer card controls, he also recommends turning off your debit and credit cards when you don’t need to use them.
“They should not always be on,” Crone says. “You certainly don’t do that with the porch light.”