Bank of America Insults My Intelligence

It may sound strange, but I like to pay my credit card bills by phone.  There’s none of the risk associated with online banking and no need to remember to mail off a traditional paper payment.  That’s right, I’m so lazy that I’d rather spend extra time sitting around and navigating automated menus.

It wasn’t always like this.  Many years ago, my bank (Bank of America) tried to start charging people extra for paying by phone.  Hmmmm.  Paying by phone means that no one at their company has to sort mail from me, no one has to open my payment, check to see that it’s the right amount, verify that the check is signed, and no one has to enter my payment into a computer.  And they wanted to start charging me for this?

Ladies and gentlemen, it has become fashionable in recent years to demonize banks for their outlandish extra charges and questionable business practices.  I assure you that these problems are nothing new.

Since, presumably, the attempted fee turned people away from paying by phone, they got rid of the charge after a while.  So now I’m back to paying by phone, but there’s still some obnoxiousness to speak of.

When I call in and enter the payment system, they first thing they tell me is my balance, my minimum payment requirement, and my payment due date.  And then after a few more menus they offer me the opportunity to schedule the minimum payment, which would be transferred from my checking account on the due date.  (Remember, the less and later you pay, the more interest they rack up.)  Just press “1” and you’re all done!

Then there used to be a convenient pause (perhaps so you’d think there wasn’t another option?) before they give you the opportunity to change the amount and payment date.   And then they’re kind enough to offer an example of what it means to enter a payment amount using both dollars and cents.  Of course, the payment amount they use in the example is the minimum payment. Power of suggestion, I suppose, or maybe the bank assumes (correctly?) that some people will interpret the example as “I must enter 1-5-0-0.”

Then the system does the same thing with the example for how to enter a payment date.

But I suppose I should be thankful.  I received a self-congratulatory letter from the bank a few years back telling me that they were innovating their payment scheduling.  That’s right!  The payment deadline was now going to be the same day every month instead of being shuffled around all over the place.  (Translation: they were getting rid of another cheap moneymaking tactic.  If you were paying late because the deadline jumped around and you lost track, they got to charge a penalty!)

And then they have another “service” for me.  Would I like to schedule any payments up to twelve months in advance?  Um, no.  If I set the amount too low, I’ll have a bigger balance to pay interest on.  If I set the prepayment too high, the bank will have the extra money to earn interest off of.  And I won’t.

When a bank calls something a “service,” it’s usually more of a service to them than to you.

And now I’m done with my rant.  I think I’ll go feed the birds.

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