Two small deposits

I’ve often commented on my absolute disdain for the US Banking system. I’ve been poking around with what I can do to remove some of the barrier to the time delay and inefficiency in the system.

I used my online banking system to add the bank details of a friend. I did it by adding it as an “external account”, providing the ABA routing number and the account number. It informed me that two small deposits would be made into the account, and once I had the details to come back and confirm.

I emailed my friend and said I’d done it and why, and asked to be notified when they arrived and what they were. Once notified, I confirmed with my online bank and immediately did an online funds transfer of $100, it arrived overnight. Next day, I initiated a transfer from my friends account of $50, again, it arrived overnight. I then did another transfer of $50, no problem.

So, while there is no way for me to do any formal set-up or account management, without a single signature, and as far as we can see, no way for my friend to stop me crediting, or more importantly debiting from their account. I’m hopeful that a call to the bank could stop it, surely?

For the record, we bank at completely different banks. Yep, the US Banking system truly sucks, 3rd world at best of function and performance. Out of this world on profits though…

Banking like it’s 1985

Every time I deal with my UK bank, I’m reminded how utterly useless, inefficient, and expensive the US Banking system is. I just paid my UK credit card from my UK bank and got this response

The payment has been accepted by the beneficiary’s bank who advise that it will be credited by the next working day.

Yes, I paid it on Saturday from FirstDirect, a subsiduary of HSBC. The payment was sent direct to MBNA Limited(UK) bank, who accepted it and will credit it to my account on Monday.

Old%20Bank[1]I then went and paid my US CapitalOne credit card from my US bank, Austin Texas based Amplify FCU.  The payment process will not be started until banking hours Monday(8am Central), and not received until Wednesday, and if I’m lucky, credited on Thursday…

Yes, I know if I was lucky enough to have a banking account with the same Bank as my credit card company banks with, the payment would be within 24-hours, but that’s just coincidence, not design.

In other news, I set up one of those funky external account transfers this week to a friends account. You know one of those where they make two small deposits, and if you have access to the account, you confirm the amounts to your banking system. After that, you have credit and debit authority on your friends account. Keep banking weird.

A U.S. federal law of 1996 required the federal government to make electronic payments such as direct deposit available by 1999. Shame the rest of the US, ACH backed banking system has caught up yet.

Internet security < Whose risk?

In my professional life I’m acutely aware of the demands of computer and software security, see this post from yesterday on my tech blog as an example of things I’m currently involved in. This post though is prep for my call tomorrow with my UK Bank, FirstDirect, a division of global banking conglomerate HSBC. It made me wonder, who are they protecting, me or them?

The answer is obviously them…

Continue reading “Internet security < Whose risk?”

Check’s in the mail

Another frustrating, and wasted effort trying to deal with my FCU over online/electronic payments. I tried to set up an online payment to pay my Attorneys. They gave me all their banks details and double checked they could receive online payments. I went online entered my Attorneys details, it asked for the account number but not the ABA Routing number.

I asked online via chat and then in person while at a branch doing a wire transfer today, both reps from the bank confirmed that when I made a payment, the payment would generate a check; the check could be mailed either to the bank, or to the attorneys office depending on what address I used.

I got back on chat, to keep a record, and ask the agent, Shannon about Bill Payer. She insisted it was a dept of the bank rather than a 3rd party service, gave me a number to contact them along with a 5466 extension. I repeatedly asked for the name of the person who owned the relationship with Bill Payer, she insisted it was a dept and I call them. I called, the extension I was given wasn’t valid. I called the FCU, spoke to Cindy. Asked the same question, she said that extension was internal use only; said it was a 3rd party provider and gave me a 1-888 number to call.

I called, it turns out at least after a long validation that it is indeed a dept. of the bank, or at least that’s what the woman who answered said. She was unable to actually help with a list, frankly either because of my accent, or for some other reason, she kept saying OK sir when I asked questions. Finally I specifically asked if she was an FCU employee, she said she was. When I asked what service the FCU used for their Bill Payer service, she didn’t seem to understand the question, and said I see, OK Sir. I asked again, saying is it checkfree or similar because the FCU wasn’t listed on their website.

So, a wasted effort. It seems the only way I can pay a bill from one bank on Congress Ave in Austin, to another bank on Congress Ave in Austin, is either to write the check myself, or go online, put all the payee details into the FCU bill payer service, which then prints a check overnight; sends it the next day, that the post office gets that night; it gets delivered the next day(if you are lucky); the receiving bank then scans in the check and OCR’s it; and sends via the ACH for 7-day clearing… it’s like the 1990’s didn’t happen…

I really want to be wrong about this and have written to the FCU Vice President – Information Technology and Software Development. I’m afraid otherwise I need to go back to one of the big banks, which be a real shame.

You want it how?

Yes and I assume you’ll receive it by email as a pdf, because the last time I used a fax was around 1989, assuming we don’t count 3rd world countries…

My bank approved a Home Equity Line of Credit, it comes with a mandatory 3-day cooling off period, the loan officer at the bank email me and reminded me that the final form had to be faxed back tomorrow, and couldn’t be sent early. My reply was how I feel about banking in the US.

ACH – We got ya by the checks

The Planet Money podcast has a great summary of the topic I was frustrated and grumpy over about 15-months ago, the US Payments clearing system, known as the Automated Clearing House. which I discussed in a follow-up comment to this post.

Except, they really didn’t get to the bottom of the problem. I wrote in a comment on their facebook page, here, but figured I’d post my comment here as well.

“I was excited to hear this and actually set aside time to do it via the podcast. Your description of the problems and the explanation of the ACH was right on the “money” but then you let it slip through your hands.

Yes, the US System has a scale issue compared to the UK. But does the US system have problems with credit cards? No. Which is a much, much larger scale. The difference is with credit cards the banks are lending us money, with bank payments they already have our money so it’s in their interest(pun intended) to make it hard for us.

You really dropped the ball when you got to the end of the piece and discussing local banks. It’s as if you accepted that local banks and financial institutions don’t have computerized records, they still pay people to write entries and process checks using ledgers.

Please consider doing a follow up show. I’d be happy to contribute, I have a ton of knowledge and background, I was part of the first online banking project, Pronto at Chemical Bank in the early 1980’s where even then we were complaining about the way the ACH was implemented. I went on to work at IBM, for whom I taught COBOL programming as part of a workshop in Atlanta for college graduates… I can also explain how COBOL is not really needed anymore and why that is to a degree another fallacy foisted on you/us by the banking industry as a reason they can’t change.”

Money too tight to mention, credit no longer matters

I’ve finally had a financial epiphany. Since the summer of 2004 I’ve been totally focused on getting a perfect credit rating after I got turned down by AT&T for a lousy monthly cellphone contract as I had a -3 credit rating, despite owning a big house back in the UK and having a near perfect credit rating there.

Anyone that reads my rambling will know that until recently I was still anal retentive about this. Especially since I paid off my mortgage and much to my horror, my credit rating dropped. It dropped last month as well and is down from a high of 780, to 764. 764 is still in the top 5% but I was really hoping this would be one way I could make the top 1%.

The epiphany? Well, actually, just like I don’t much need AT&T anymore, I don’t need a credit rating. While there are a few things a credit check remains important for, the rating itself no longer matters, hopefully for me it will stay that way.

Edit to the credit

Some of you know I’ve been on a crusade to get the best credit score I could after arriving here in the US and getting refused a cellphone because I had a -3 rating, ie not-known, does not exist. Over 4-years I managed to get my credit rating to 730, and over the last 2-years I managed to get it up to 781.

One thing they tell you in all the credit score get rich quick schemes is that your credit score isn’t a measure of how much money you have, it’s the ration of debt to credit and your ability to pay. So paying off your mortgage, you’d think, would be a big ticket item in the rating, but apprently not the one I expected.

I paid off my mortgage last month, and this month saw the first report that included, or rather didn’t list my real estate debt. Guess what? My credit rating went down 10 points, to 771.

I guess it’s understandable, but it shows a massive flaw in the credit rating system. They don’t know how much I earn, they also don’t know why I no longer have real estate debt. So from that basis, I could be broke and homeless, just not using credit. By the end of the year I may make that illusive 800 mark, I have two hard inquiries on my record which will both age out after late Sept./Oct.

The Bike Through Bank

New tube Sir?So, as I pulled into the drive through ATM at the Amplify Brockton Branch yesterday to deposit two checks, worth combined less than $2, something grabbed my attention out of the corner of my eye. Yep, there was a guy on a bicycle in the drive through bank.

Apparently it’s not all that uncommon, all I know is I laughed hard until I started to try to deposit the checks. Here is a zoomed version.

No Hassle Cash – My foot

I’ve got one of those CapitalOne No Hassle cards, instead of getting worthless points, I get cash back based on how much I spend. I can use that “cash” on the same sort of useless purchases as I could with worthless points, or I can request a credit in my CapitalOne card account, or, yes, a check. I elected to just get the credit, $67.18 as an account credit.

Seemed like a good thing, I clicked, confirmed etc. and then got the message

Order Number: 19330721
Order Date: April 4, 2012
Estimated Posting Date: 5-7 business days

I guess they send themselves a check, after all an electronic transfer couldn’t take 5-7 business days, could it?