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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Nothing is ever easy, including Online Banking

The Marvels of Online Payment

Having my own business for over 30 years had a measurable impact on my vacation time. Up to the last three years I had never taken more than 5 consecutive business days off in those 30 years. I realize I have more than a smidgeon of the little red hen in me but even realizing it didn’t help. I was paranoid about taking more time off. Now that I am retired I am able to take off more often and for longer periods. This impacts paying my bills on time.

Introducing online bill payment, whoohoo what a marvel. Well, let’s just say that regardless of all of the propaganda to the contrary it is NOT seamless. Every vendor, bank, credit card etc. has their idea of how to do it. We spent literally hours and hours of time online, filling out forms, providing security information and plowing through terms and conditions. Once the bull work was done, I thought, ok we are home free. WRONG, one credit card will work through my bank’s account and another won’t. So some bills get sent to my bank and others I have to go to their web site, download the statement and then manually input the numbers to pay them. It works but hardly with the ease that marketing wants us to believe.

This morning I canceled a credit card due to the card company’s unwillingness to cancel a $39.00 late charge on a $36.38 bill. I never got the emailed statement for the month in question and since I have never been late with a payment on the credit card in over 15 years, I assumed they would take my explanation that I never got the statement and waive the penalty. WRONG, their stance was I should have gotten the email and too bad I didn’t but the late fee remains. Oddly enough I get multiple snail mail requests from this same credit card company each week telling me I am pre-approved and wouldn’t I like to have their platinum, gold, zirconium, tin plated card. Needless to say I canceled the card, interestingly enough they told me I had to go into my online account and turn on that fact that I wanted a paper statement. I specifically never wanted only an online statement; I wanted both electronic and paper statements. Mainly because I was skeptical as to their ability to do the electronic part accurately. My skepticism was well founded as they did screw up.

In addition it took over 40 minutes on the phone just to cancel the card. Now this is not a diatribe against electronic payments. I think this will work out, it enables me to get my bills and pay them when and if I travel. Noting the price of gas, that may not be as often as I hoped. This is just a cautionary tale the you should cover your behind when starting electronic banking and bill paying. Assume they will screw up and double check your records. Hopefully as this media matures, the assorted vendors will improve their online services.
So is this going to save you any money, at $0.41 per stamp, it probably saves me less than $10.00 per month. However the convenience factor when on the road is as they say, “PRICELESS.”

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