Never Underestimate the, er, Narrow-Focused Thinking of a Bank, Especially Online

Never Underestimate the Stupidity, er, Narrow-Focused Thinking of a Bank, Especially Online

Not that long ago, my Husband and I (no, I’m not Queen Elizabeth, but it’s ok to read that part in her bitten-off high-pitched voice, I always do) opened a joint no fee chequing account at President’s Choice Financial. Because we wanted to open it with the least delay, we filled out the applications at the kiosk at a grocery store. Most of the procedure went well but here’s the exception.

Linking Our PC Financial No Fee Chequing Account to our Big 5 Chequing Account

To facilitate transfers from yet another no fee joint chequing account, this one at one of the Big 5 Canadian banks, we filled out a form at the PC Financial “office” at our local grocery store. So we were attempting to link two joint chequing accounts together. Sounds relatively simple, right?

Well apparently not. About two weeks after we applied, we received a form in the mail to sign and send back authorizing the link. We’d already filled out what was either the same form or a very similar one while at the kiosk. We’d also already spoken with “head office” about the link while we were at the kiosk. Anyway, we assumed they’d screwed up decided they needed additional information, so my husband completed the form and signed it and I mailed it back. (At least they provided a postage-paid envelope.)

It is important to note, at this point, that my husband did all of these steps both at the kiosk and on the mail-in form. PC Financial has to set a “principal bank account owner” on joint  accounts, and we agreed to make him the principal. So I did not speak to anyone at head office or sign any forms.

Another few weeks passed. I kept checking whether I could transfer to the other bank. Nothing. I began to wonder whether I should phone to find out why.

Then a light bulb went off.

PC Financial Uses Your Debit Card Number Not Your Account Number for Signing In

When you sign in to your PC Financial no fee chequing account using online banking, you use the number on your ABM card as your account number. You don’t actually use the bank account number.

This is kind of odd because in the case of a joint account, like ours, we each have ABM cards with different numbers.

So I decided, out of curiousity, and a healthy dose of suspicion, to have my husband sign in to the PC Financial system using HIS card.

PC Financial Did Not Link Joint Accounts Jointly

Sure enough, the JOINT accounts are linked when we access the JOINT bank account with HIS card. ONLY.

Does this strike anyone else as stupid?!

Computers are Dangerous Because They Do EXACTLY What We Tell Them to Do

I’ve been around long enough (remember Fortran 77?!) to know the principal danger of computers is that they do exactly what we tell them to do. They do not say “Hey, that sounds like a stupid idea. I bet you really want me to do this, right?” They just follow their code.

So this inability of me to transfer money from my joint account to my joint account using my ABM card isn’t really a sign of stupidity on the part of PC Financial. It’s a sign of a computer being programmed to do one thing and only that one thing. (We won’t ask out loud, though, about the programming team that set up the code this way. I’ll be generous and assume that all programming decisions were made by a committee, and we all know what happens then.)

Stay Tuned for Further Episodes in this Ongoing Saga

So I guess my next step is to call or write PC Financial to find out how *I* can get the two accounts linked so I can make transfers when I sign on.

CAUTION! Don’t Share your PC Financial Password Even with your Wife (or Husband)

Why, you might ask, don’t I just sign in under my husband’s ABM number to transfer the money? Because according to the brochure “Legal stuff” PC Financial gave us when opening the account, if I do, PC Financial will hold him responsible for ANY fraudulent activity in the account whether I am committing the fraud or whether his card gets compromised at a bank machine or grocery store!

Here’s the actual quote:
“If losses occur by bank machine or Interac Direct Payment
You will be responsible for ALL losses if

  • you authorize anyone else to use your card, PIN, password or the answers to your personal verification questions”

Note it doesn’t say that the loss has to result from the activities of the same person to whom you told the password.

Wish me luck on getting transfer access myself.

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How long did it take you to get an external account hooked up to your PC Financial account? I’ll never know now how long it took us because they hooked up my husband’s account not mine and he wasn’t watching. Please share your experiences with a comment.

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