Fifteen Dollars

November 21, 2006

Yesterday I set out to pay some bills online. Most of the creditors I have sport payment pages on their web site making it easy to point, click, and pay. One loan, however, proved to be the exception. Several years ago, when purchasing the two Apple computers I own, a line of credit was established at MBNA. The old MBNA site had a mildly complicated but still navigable online payment process that I used to make payments. Recently however, MBNA has been merged into Bank of America, and the online payment experience just isn't working anymore.

Directing my browser to mbna.com resulted in my being redirected to Bank of America branded page that explained the merger. In the left side navigation there is a link to sign into your account. Click that link results in a textbox for your online ID and a drop down list cryptically labeled: "Account In". Turns out they want to know what state your account is "in". Is that the state where I live now? The state where I lived when the account was established several years ago? Or the state where the payment stub gets mailed when I pay by check? Or a fourth state unknown to me? Taking a wild guess that it was the state I lived in I selected Kansas. No dice. Adding insult to this process, once a state is selected you cannot select another one. A cookie is set and you are now forever trapped in the wrong state.

Subsequent tries with different browsers using Illinois and Delaware also failed to gain me access. Searching the payment stub revealed a different online address to try. This site asked for my account number - all fourteen digits of it, my zip code, and the last four digits of my social security number. After typing all of this in and hitting the enter key I got an error message stating "There was a problem accessing your account. Please call 1-800-XXX-XXXX." Typing the numbers in a second time just in case I'd finger-fumbled the first time resulted in the same error.

The helpful customer service drone at the other end of the 800 number asked what the due date on my account was. "December 12" I replied, only to have him explain that since the account wasn't delinquent I could not pay online. Huh? "You mean I have to wait until December 13 to pay online?" More or less the answer was yes. He did offer to take my payment over the phone but then his computer started having trouble so he transferred me to his manager.

After identifying myself to the manager (name, birthday, last four of social security number, and address), she said she could take my payment but there would be a $15 fee.

Excuse me?

A fifteen dollar fee.

I said you want me to pay you $15 because your web site won't let me make a payment online until my account is delinquent? Without batting an eye or any trace of embarrassment she said "Yes." I said, "You are certainly making it very hard for me to give you my money. I'll waste a stamp and mail the check to you instead.

Unbelievable.

Author's profile picture

Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.