And further to my war with banks… I opened an account with Elders Rural Bank a year or so ago, because as we all know, I loathe the air that HSBC breathe, and I was looking for an account with a better interest rate than INGDirect. So I went through the whole schtick, got my application form witnessed by three Swedish virgins and the lesser known Victorian tree frog, and nominated my credit union account to be linked to my new account – as it is an ‘online account’ and therefore lives in the ether.
ERBOnline (as they call themselves) and I got along quite well. No dramas. Of course their BSB information is impossible to find on their site, but it’s a bit much to expect a bank site to demonstrate any kind of superior usability. Then one of their call centre drones called me at work on Tuesday:
“Hi Beth, sorry to call you at work,” she said, not sounding at all apologetic, “But it’s the only number we have for you.”
“That’s right,” I agreed, and waited.
“I’m just calling on behalf of Elders Rural Bank…”[I immediately decided it was a phishing attempt, and wriggled delightedly in my seat in anticipation.)
“…to let you know about our security upgrade.”[I knew it. Any moment she was going to ask for my account details.]
“I’m not sure whether you noticed on your last statement, but we detailed the introduction of a new security key for all our account holders…”
I groaned. This was not a phishing attempt, this was pure bureaucratic white noise. “Not you too…”
“Yes, in an effort to tighten our security, every account holder will need a security token…”
“Just like my HSBC account. Oh well. Whatever…”
“It’s very important to us that our customers have the highest possible internet security, so you just need to purchase a token…”
I screamed. She stopped speaking abruptly.
“Sorry,” I said, recovering, “You didn’t just say the word ‘purchase’. Did you?”
“It’s just a twenty dollar one off fee.”
“…which will be directly debited from your account…”
“…and will enable you to use the ‘pay anyone’ option on your account.”
“Are you telling me that I have to PAY for the privilege of transferring my OWN money out of my OWN account?”
“It’s just a twenty dollar one off fee that will give you improved online security…”
“I’m sorry. Are you joking? Is this mandatory? Because there is no way I am going to BUY anything from you. Can I still access my account without a token?”
“Well, it is for the benefit of our customers. Only last night a man had two thousand dollars extracted from his account, and if he’d had the security token…”
“I SO don’t care.”
“It’s there to HELP our customers…” she trailed off.
“Can. I. Access. My. Account. Without. A. Security. Token.?”
“Yes. You can access your account. But you won’t be able to do any ‘pay anyone’ transfers.”
“So,” I said, as the rest of the people in the office looked at me with interest as my face got redder, “I won’t be able to transfer my own money out of my own account. How useful. Will I be able to transfer it to the credit union account that I nominated on my account application form?”
“Well, you see, that’s not actually a ‘linked’ account, it’s just the account that you nominated for us to use to transfer out the initial balance when your account was created.”
“So I can’t even transfer MY OWN MONEY TO MY OWN SELF?”
“Not without a security token. But you’ll still be able to use BPay without it.”
“And when,” I seethed at her, “does this come into effect? Because I won’t ever be buying a security token and will obviously have to close my account.”
“…but it’s only twenty dollars…”
“That’s not the POINT.”
“I think it comes into effect in August.”
“You think? Well that’s a start.”
I hung up, and ranted around the office, as everybody there said how outrageous it was. I wondered, uselessly, how much Elders Rural Bank had profited in the last financial year and, if they had to get all security tokeny, why they could not just send all their customers a security token for FREE? Fuckers. I googled in fury – Elders Rural Bank made a profit of $30.6 MILLION for the 2005/2006 financial year. And now I want to kill them even more. I called them back; another drone confirmed what I’d been told and said I would have to apply in writing, via snail mail, to have my account closed. I am never going to close that account. It can sit there empty and ROT.