Why Fifth Third’s Online Banking Application Sucks

I used to love doing my online bank­ing through Fifth Third. Their old sys­tem allowed me to make prompt pay­ments that were imme­di­ate­ly reflect­ed on my bal­ance, so I always knew exact­ly how much mon­ey was at my dis­pos­al at any giv­en time. Their newish sys­tem threw all of that out of the win­dow. I’ve nev­er been one to have over­drafts, but since they went through what I’m sure they con­sid­er an upgrade, I end up with one just about every oth­er month. Here’s an exam­ple of how the new sys­tem works:

Let’s start with $500 in the account. You get your cable bill for $100, and log on to make the pay­ment. Fifth Third’s sys­tem sched­ules the pay­ment to be made 2–3 days after you enter it. Your account still shows a bal­ance of $500. The day before the pay­ment is to be made, you decide to can­cel the pay­ment and go in to do so. Besides being ridicu­lous­ly hard to find out how to can­cel the pay­ment, when you final­ly get there, you’re unable to because appar­ent­ly the sys­tem is already pro­cess­ing the trans­ac­tion. The pay­ment does NOT show up on the item­ized pend­ing trans­ac­tions screen, but IS reflect­ed in the total pend­ing pay­ments line. Your bal­ance still shows as $500. The next day, the day of the pay­ment, the cable pay­ment com­plete­ly dis­ap­pears from your pend­ing trans­ac­tions list, and is list­ed as PAID in the pay­ment activ­i­ty screen. Your bal­ance remains at $500. The day AFTER the pay­ment is made, your bal­ance is updat­ed to $400. Fair­ly com­pli­cat­ed to fol­low along, but not impos­si­ble, if you only pay one bill at a time.

Let’s say I have $500 in the account. I get my cable bill and sched­ule the pay­ment. The next day I get my phone bill and sched­ule the pay­ment. The day after I get my elec­tric and gas bills, and sched­ule those pay­ments. Now can you keep track of what’s pend­ing and what your bal­ance is for the stag­gered 2–3 day cycle it takes to pay each bill? Maybe if you’re a COBOL main­frame.

I know NO ONE who actu­al­ly thinks about their mon­ey in a stag­gered 2–3 day pay­ment cycle. If I write a check for $100 and give it to a cashier, and they take 2–3 days to cash it, I don’t think that I’m still in pos­ses­sion of that $100. As soon as I hand it over, it is mon­ey I no longer have. The Fifth Third user inter­face should reflect this human par­a­digm, not the way the com­put­er process­es trans­ac­tions.

There’s an easy way to fix this, and it’s even a com­pro­mise between the two par­a­digms. It appears that Fifth Third has tried to make it work, but they’re fail­ing there as well. Show the math. The offi­cial bal­ance, minus the pend­ing trans­ac­tions equals the avail­able bal­ance. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the sev­er­al dif­fer­ent pend­ing trans­ac­tions screens NEVER agree with each oth­er in regard to the math, and don’t give enough detail for a human to make sense of what’s going on.

On the Account Activ­i­ty page you get a lit­tle box that gives your bal­ance as of yesterday’s date; a line for total pend­ing trans­ac­tions, a line for oth­er trans­ac­tions and a line that shows avail­able bal­ance. You can­not click on the pend­ing or oth­er trans­ac­tions lines to see where they are get­ting those num­bers. If you click on the Pend­ing or Oth­er links to get an expla­na­tion, a 404 win­dow pops up.

There is also a pend­ing pay­ments screen on the Make Pay­ments page. This page takes your avail­able bal­ance from the first page (the one that you get from sub­tract­ing pend­ing pay­ments) and sub­tracts pend­ing pay­ments from it. It’s always in red for me. The math doesn’t remote­ly reflect the oth­er pend­ing pay­ment screen.

And don’t get me start­ed on the fact that my mort­gage pay­ments (also through Fifth Third) don’t even appear as pend­ing trans­ac­tions, the mon­ey just dis­ap­pears and shows up on the item­ized list of post­ed trans­ac­tions. I have to have a reminder on my Google Cal­en­dar so I know when that mon­ey is going to be tak­en out. If you bank with Fifth Third and have your mort­gage through them, you should be able to set up that pay­ment through their online sys­tem instead of the third par­ty they use.

And that’s just me bitch­ing about the math. The user expe­ri­ence is Byzan­tine. There are frames with­in frames with­in frames, each with their own scroll bar, some are ver­ti­cal scroll bars, some are hor­i­zon­tal scroll bars. There are fly­outs with­in fly­outs that make me click 3 more times than I should have in order to pay a bill, or sched­ule a pay­ment. A pay­ment that can no longer be can­celed does not give a prompt explain­ing why it can’t be can­celed, the option just isn’t there. I don’t need to be able to assign a car icon to my car pay­ment, I need to be able to see how much mon­ey I have.

The most impor­tant thing I’ve learned from work­ing on gov­ern­ment web­sites is that cit­i­zens do not give a shit about how pret­ty or bell&whistly a site is. They want the infor­ma­tion they’ve come to get, they want to pay their prop­er­ty tax­es with as lit­tle fuss as pos­si­ble, and they want every­thing to be clear and con­cise, so they can go back to watch­ing YouTube ASAP. This same expec­ta­tion applies to bank­ing. Show me my mon­ey and what is being done with it.

This is what I’d like to see at a glance:

What a Bal­ance Sum­ma­ry Should Look Like
Cat­e­go­ry Details Amount
 Cur­rent Bal­ance (6–29)  $500
 Pend­ing Pay­ments  Cable (pro­cess­ing) (6–30)  -$100
 Phone (can­cel this pay­ment) (7–2)  -$75
 Stu­dent Loan (can­cel this pay­ment) (man­age recurrence)(7–2)  -$80
 ATM With­draw­al (6–30)  -$320
 Bal­ance After Pay­ments (7–3)  -$75


Oh, hey, look. I can see that I’m going to be in the red if I don’t can­cel my phone bill pay­ment. I see that I can’t can­cel the cable bill because it’s already being processed. I see the dates that each bill will be paid. I see that the bal­ance after pay­ments is effec­tive through 7–3 and I can plan which bills to pay and which to hold until next pay­day because I can tell:

  • How much mon­ey I have
  • How much of that has already been assigned
  • How much is left after

The list of all trans­ac­tions can be on anoth­er page, the man­age pay­ees sec­tion can be on anoth­er page, every­thing can be on oth­er pages. I want some­thing that looks like my check­book. I might go back to using my check­book. Buy­ing stamps is cheap­er than pay­ing over­draft fees. Unfor­tu­nate­ly there’s no way to get past the wall of basic cus­tomer-ser­vice folks to speak to some­one who might have the pow­er to affect how their bank­ing works, so I’m reduced to writ­ing a bitch­ing weblog post.

The old sys­tem was sim­pler, and sim­pler is bet­ter when deal­ing with your mon­ey day to day. I shouldn’t need to be a CPA to under­stand what my bank is doing with my mon­ey.



lateral bone knobbled
ends akimbo space
enough for dog's 
split or shatter
tenon pulled hunger
constructor bearer
pushed weight 
dragged last audacity
aldehydes of sweat
flaring to nosedove 
burst spread eye 
absorbed from the
girded light ray
new last push

mythic stickened daughters
apply arithmetic each
tick flips to new form
the cannon of cellular
the cacophonic
blast torrent
awash awash its
noise unships
slowly into
rank at last
a sense can
a hand exists
to grasp toward
for the first
creation of
mountains formed from
the teat-milk of a
dead world androgyne

the sky wheeled
and now imagined a
purse with one coin
one coin remains
yet one coin
abides watch
wide-eyed but at
some point attention
shifts from coininpurse
to coininhand 

is a glorious traitor
it sneaks between
neurons with its hands
pocketed and no footprints
it isn't wherever attention
is it is the empty space
in the head labeled
wonder it is the fifth
spot at the table it is
the friend who never
returns calls it is
the beam you cannot look
upon the beam you can
look along in
a darkening woodshed
the last light for
blind eyes the 
unmeasurable gap
between order the
primordial reverberation

call it
the space between
call it
call it
call it a
shell game
call it
call it what
you will.

Father’s Day

I don’t real­ly have a con­cep­tion of what Father’s Day is like for dads in two-par­ent homes. By the time I reached the age where I could effec­tive­ly under­stand what it might mean to my own father, he was no longer a part of my life. My son doesn’t know what it means any more than I did at his age. It takes a long time to grow into empa­thy. I don’t get a lazy day of praise from wife and chil­dren. I don’t sleep in or skip church. I make the boy break­fast, take him to church, help clean up his spills and help him make a store for his cars to shop at. I do all the things a father does every oth­er day of the year. Basi­cal­ly, the day is just like any oth­er Sun­day with my son — for the most part. Maybe it’s like that for all fathers, Odin’t know. (My god, I think that’s the worst pun I’ve ever made.)

What’s dif­fer­ent is that I reflect — and I get a tad defen­sive. Most days of the year I don’t think about what peo­ple think about when they see us out and about, but on Father’s Day I kind of assume that they’re think­ing “Dude has his son for Father’s Day,” which, in my mind, is short for “unmar­ried unin­volved father spend­ing court-man­dat­ed time with his off­spring.”

Look. I know that’s crazythought. But I’ve heard its echoes from folks I know, who see tons of unac­com­pa­nied dads out on Wednes­days (the typ­i­cal week­ly overnight for stan­dard par­ent­ing sched­ule dads), feed­ing their kids at the Hot Dog Din­er or the like. I always feel there’s an impli­ca­tion that these dads are doing the min­i­mum, and that when I’m iden­ti­fied as a sin­gle dad, I’m also assumed to be doing the min­i­mum. If there’s one thing that is cer­tain to get me hack­led, it’s being thought of as some­one who doesn’t take respon­si­bil­i­ty or do his best. There’s cer­tain­ly still a stig­ma to being a sin­gle par­ent, and I’d argue, the stig­ma is worse for sin­gle dads. There are so many sin­gle dads out there who do the min­i­mum or less, and it reflects upon the sin­gle dads who actu­al­ly give a hoot.

It’s also a hefty por­tion of per­son­al inse­cu­ri­ty and a lit­tle resid­ual shame on my part for being taught that there is some­thing shame­ful about being a sin­gle par­ent.

Out of all of that inter­nal­ized roil I sit in a boat above it and reflect. And I think, for me, Father’s Day is becom­ing, and like­ly will con­tin­ue to be, an exam­i­na­tion of con­science on what it means for me to be a father. How I’ve been doing. How I can be bet­ter.