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March 21, 2006


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Here’s a new trend I just found out about this morning: restricting access to online payments.

It being the holidays, I’ve charged a lot of internet purchases to my credit card. As I have received my holiday bonus and a couple of paychecks this month, I have made online payments to my credit card to pay for those purchases.

This morning, when I went to pay on the balance a little further, I was informed that I had exceeded the number to online payments I could make. So I called Bank of America (who just bought out my old credit card company, MBNA) to see what was up with that. I was told that I could still make a payment over the phone or mail a check, but it was the bank’s policy to not allow you to make more than two payments online in any calendar month. I asked why. I was told that was just the way it was and there was nothing I could do about it. Excuse me??? There’s nothing *I* can do about stupid policies, poor service, and mouthy customer service techs? Oh, I bet there is!

After I hung up on the rude associate, it dawned on me that it’s a known fact that making a payment online is cheaper for the payee than making a payment over the phone, and especially cheaper than processing a check. Not to mention they get their money faster. So why on earth would any business try and discourage me from using a cheap and fast payment method?

The only purpose of this policy that I can see is that they want to discourage people from paying down their debt the Dave Ramsey sort of way. He (and every other financial guru I’ve heard/read) says to put a part of each paycheck towards debt reduction, and to pay that money as soon as you get it so 1) you don’t have time to be tempted by it and use it for something else, 2) that’s all the less interest you have to pay. He also says to apply bonuses, tax returns, gift money and any other windfall you get to pay down your debt. Let’s see: if you make a payment on your Bank of America credit card from your first paycheck of the month, then also your second one, then you can’t make an additional online payment with your windfall money.

I bet, as there’s carts to horses, Bank of America is expecting you to be too lazy to bother sending in a check or calling and waiting on the phone for a while to make a payment when you get locked out of the online bill pay. You’ll probably just say, oh, well, I’ll pay on it some more next month. And, of course, you accrue interest in the meantime.

Well I, for one, am not lazy when it comes to my finances, and I spent the balance of my morning shopping for a new credit card. I plan on calling Bank of America and making a telephone payment for the balance on my card—-and then tell them to cancel it. That looks to me like a good way to do something about their online payment policy.

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