In Valid Logic

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Wells Fargo BillPay = FAIL

Recently came upon the realization of how poorly Wells Fargo has their Online Bill Pay system set up. It is so flawed and useless, I can barely fathom who thought this thing up.

#1 - Payment Sent vs Payment Received

First, one thing it does that is completely illogical is that you don't pick what day the payee gets paid on, you pick the day the payment gets sent. For instance, say your electric bill is $200 and is do on the 17th, it would seem entirely logical to go the screen, type in $200, pick the 17th, and click send, but NO. They have to be complicated. You pick the day it gets sent on, so if your bill is due the 17th, and it takes 2 business days to send the payment, you need to enter in the 15th. This seems completely counter intuitive, not user friendly at all, and bit me a few times the first time I started using the service.

On top of that, each payee has different time it takes to send. Your utility bill could take 2 business days, your cable bill take 3 business days, and people not in their database of payees (like my landlord) take 5 business days. So paying multiple bills takes more thought than I really want to put into it. I hate paying bills, but it is a necessity of life. They know how long it takes to send the payment. Why can't their little computer system figure it out? "Ohh, they want it paid the 17th? This payee takes 2 days, so we'll schedule it on the 15th".

#2 - When they take money out of your account

I recently found out that they take the money out of your account when they send the payment, so when it posts to your account, it doesn't mean the company got your payment, it means Wells Fargo paid the company that sends the check for them. Why does this suck? Because I pay my landlord through Wells Fargo bill pay and was seeing the money consistently taken out on the 1st/2nd. I had her on auto-pay, so never thought twice about it. Come to find out she was getting it on the 5th (close to the deadline), and I was late this month (more on the why there later).

This really irks me because traditionally, when something posts to your checking account, it is paid! Checks, ATM transactions, transfers, etc. If you have a billing dispute with a company, you may not realize it doesn't reflect when they got their money.

Additionally, I am a stickler for my budgeting system and categorizing of transactions. I want my July rent to be withdrawn in July. I don't want it to be in the end of June. So for me to pay my landlord sooner, I'd need to schedule the transaction earlier. Really minor, but it screws up my filing system for those bills that are due at the beginning of the month. Minor, yes, but annoying to need to alter the way I do things for this poorly designed system.

#3 - Flawed automatic payments

This builds on #1 a little bit further. The amount of extra thought you need to put into scheduling regular auto-pays just compounds the complexities mentioned before. Just follow these steps and exceptions you need to account for because they don't do the math:

  • Say your rent is due on the 1st, and late on the 2nd (my landlord isn't a big stickler, but maybe your utility/mortgage/other company is).
  • It takes 5 days to pay them.
  • August 1st will be their first auto-payment, a Friday.
  • Using their software, you figure you need to send the payment on Monday, July 28th.
  • So now, Wells Fargo will send the check on the 28th of each month.
  • But wait! It takes 5 business days. What if the first falls on a weekend or on a Monday?
  • So you need to change it to send it earlier. First, they don't exactly explain what happens if the day to send the payment falls on the weekend. Does it send it the Friday before, or the Monday after? Big thing there. For the sake of argument, we'll assume it sends it the Friday before, so you can set it to the 26th, and if that is a weekend, it will send it the 25th (I hope).
  • But wait! You haven't out smarted the system yet! What about holidays? This was what bit me this month, Friday was the 4th of July, no mail, so my rent payment took an extra physical day. So ignoring Thanksgiving (a 2 day holiday), you need to schedule your payment earlier! Schedule it for the 25th so you can account for when there is a holiday during the time payment is sent and payment is received.
  • Haha! You've out smarted them! Or so you thought. Remember, not all months are equal. You might be fine for a while and never even think about it, but what about time that will eventually happen where it is February and there is a weekend between the send date and the delivery date? This will make you days late, despite all your careful planning for weekends and holidays. Say February 25th is a Friday, which would make March 1st the following Tuesday. Using the careful planning we did before, your payment wouldn't arrive until March 3rd, a full two days late.

So now you need to plan everything as if it was February, and change your bills to be sent no later than the 23rd of the month if you want them paid by the 1st. So a quick recap of all the steps just to figure out "when should it pay this bill?":

  1. When is it due?
  2. What if there is a weekend?
  3. What will it do when the send date is on a weekend?
  4. What about a holiday?
  5. What about February?

So in this day of Web 2.0/2.5/3.0, I can't understand why I can't tell Wells Fargo just when my bill is due and let them deal with the complex mumbo jumbo. I know banks are basically still on Web 0.5 in many cases, but I consider something like this so fundamentally flawed and confusing that it makes you wonder if the authors of the software or executives at Wells Fargo have ever actually used their own website. The first time you use it and see their little calendar pop up, you'll be confused. And on the page to create an automatic payment, it doesn't have the useful calendar pop-up, and no information about how things can affect the day the bill is actually paid on. Additionally, with them taking out the money early, it will give you a false sense of security that everything is paid on time and all is well.

Wells Fargo BillPay = FAIL

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

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