Friday, June 27, 2014


How To Avoid The Perils Of Online Banking

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There are times — many, in fact — when I love online banking.

Then there are other times when I find it so frustrating — and costly — that I think maybe I should pull the virtual plug. That’s because I make careless mistakes in paying my bills.

Maybe you do, too. If so, I’d like to spare you some of the same pain, so I’m here to offer tips to help you avoid similar banking frustrations.

But first: How do I love online banking? Let me count the ways.

What I Love About Online Banking

First, there’s the ease of being able to check my balance at any time of day or night on my computer or smartphone. I also adore online banking’s simple bill-paying features. At one sitting, I can arrange my payments and schedule them for different days, often weeks in advance, closer to the due dates.

And just last week, my bank launched a mobile phone app that lets me deposit a check simply by taking a photo of the front and (after I endorse it) back. Zap, zip and it’s done.

What I Don’t Love About Online Banking

What’s not to love about online banking? Unfortunately, I’ve learned the hard way that it can sometimes be my nemesis. Three examples:

The forgotten click. Once, in my rush to complete a batch of electronic payments, I neglected to click the “schedule payments now” button. I discovered the error when the next batch of bills came due — with outstanding balances and penalty fees. (Fortunately, I got the fees waived after explaining the error; but if I made this faux pay again, I don’t think the companies would be so accommodating.)

The water torture. A few months ago, our public utility notified us that they were about to cut off our water since we hadn’t paid our quarterly bill. Turns out I’d entered the date for a month after it was due, so the payment failed to arrive.

Unfortunately, I didn’t open the notice until 5:15 p.m. on a Friday, after the utility’s office closed. So I nervously sweated out the error over the weekend. When the office opened on Monday, I went there to pay my bill.

Beyond my blues — Verizon. Once I sent my electronic payment for Verizon Wireless to my Verizon landline account. I discovered the mistake when the next Verizon Wireless bill arrived past due and with a penalty. I quickly paid up and asked Verizon to return my money from the landline account, but the company said I had to wait 60 (!!) days to get it.  Grrr.

Those mistakes are nothing compared to a friend who sent her health insurer $254,600 electronically for a $254.60 bill. You guessed it: She misplaced a decimal point. Fortunately, the insurer caught the mistake, notified her and never deposited the money. Still, the thought that it could have prompted both of us to have all sorts of nightmarish thoughts of bounced checks, overdraft fees and penalties.