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Online Banking Sucks (Saturday, February 24, 2007)

I've been using Yahoo! Bill Pay for years. At first it was the greatest thing ever. But it has become progressively more and more unreliable. In recent months (well, for ever a year), it's hit or miss whether clicking "submit" will actually submit, or result in an "intermittent" error, and tell you to try again. There have been times where I have had to re-submit the same transaction ten or more times. That's a bit frustrating. So on Thursday, I went to pay this month's bills, and I can't get the page to load at all. I tried yesterday, and I tried today. If this were some free web page, it would be one thing, but these are my bills, and I'm paying for it! It needs to work. Period. It is non-negotiable. And while they have a "feedback" page, they have no real tech support. There's no one you can call, not even a form for e-mail where you can actually expect a real response. A search online reveals that many other people are suffering from the same problem. As much as I like Yahoo! and their integrated approach for everything... if their paid services don't work, I'm not going to be paying them anymore.

So, I go to the web site of my own bank, M&T Bank, because I know they have online bill pay. They've been annoying me recently by forcing me to answer a bunch of stupid questions to log in, as though someone would be able to guess my password, but wouldn't be able to figure out my best friend's name. Actually, I couldn't figure out my best friend's name. I don't really have any friends. I didn't ever have any pets. I don't have a favorite book. These questions are all stupid and ambiguous, and could have different answers depending on what mood I'm in. It's completely stupid. Of course, I have several very secure passwords — but I can't use those, because they don't meet the site's "strict" password requirements. Of course, by having those constraints, they just make it easier for hackers. And what's with not letting my browser save my password. My laptop is WAY more secure than the systems at the bank. And then we're supposed to print the answers we gave. Because having a sheet of paper lying around the house is so much more secure than my password protected encrypted file system running an operating system so obscure that most hackers don't bother with it.

So back to bill pay... M&T Bank's bill pay feature seems to be mostly plain HTML (although it's got some "cute" JavaScript stuff that just annoys me), and it seems to work. But it doesn't have an option to pay a bill and remind me about it every month. What? Do they think my electric bill is going to be the same each month? So I have it set up as a recurring payment, and I have to remember to go in each month and change the numbers. We'll see how long that lasts.

So, I go to pay my credit card bill, and I want to log in to my credit union to check what I owe... and I'm faced with filling out yet another series of stupid questions, AND I have to identify some stupid picture. Because someone can get my password but not that other stuff. Are they insane? What second grader came up with this stuff? Certainly no one with any clue about computers did. And what's worse, is that my credit union is exploiting a bug in Firefox that prevents my browser from remembering my account number and password. Who the hell can remember a half dozen 10 digit strings of numbers? I'm good at numbers and that's asking way too much. Let me worry about my own security. You just make sure no one steals my account information on your end. Firefox used to have a feature that would override the non-standard HTML "AUTOCOMPLETE=off" attribute, but they stopped honoring that for fear that banks wouldn't support Firefox anymore. That's completely brain dead. I control my browser, not the stupid banks. I had written a Firefox extension to fix that, but my credit union has cleverly figured out a way to further inconvenience me. Can you believe they'd waste time on that? I just can't understand why they would torture me this way.

Security is a complete illusion. And this is more than an illusion. It's a damned inconvenience. They want to save money by not having any phone support and then they develop these stupid useless login schemes, while meantime, anyone can walk out of their building with my personal data. This is just horrible.

—Brian (2/24/2007 1:49 PM)
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