Banking Stupidity

Yesterday’s snafu, which cost me about 3 hours of my life.

I hate when things don’t work the way they should — or even the way you’re led to believe they should. That bit me yesterday and caused a time suck for me. Here’s the story.

I recently moved all my banking to a local bank with branches throughout the state. I was tired of dealing with the mobile app deposit limits imposed by my business and personal banks (BofA and CapitalOne 360 respectively), neither of which had local branches. I figured that having all my accounts in one bank would make it easier for me to do my banking. And I found a bank I really liked, one where I was greeted with enthusiasm when I walked in and gave me service beyond my expectations. One with the online banking, bill pay, and banking by mobile app features that I needed to simplify my financial chores.

All Accounts in One Place
How refreshing to be able to see and work with all of my bank accounts in one place.

I set up the business accounts first and then the personal ones. To access all of my accounts via online banking, they set me up with their Business Manager system. I could see and work with all of my accounts (two checking and two savings) with one login. I could even easily (and immediately) transfer funds between accounts to handle surpluses and shortfalls in my checking accounts. All good so far.

I immediately set up my bill pay information for business and personal bills. I even set up e-bills and auto-pay, which would automatically pay bills on time without me having to remember to set up a payment. I’ve used this capability with online banking for years and it’s a great tool for anyone with a busy life, especially if you travel as often as I do. When I set this up, I was very careful to use the correct checking account for each payee — business bills to be paid from my business account and personal bills to be paid from my personal account.

So imagine my surprise when I got a letter from Premera Blue Cross saying they’d rejected my premium payment because they don’t allow payments from business accounts.

I wasted about 15 minutes confirming that I’d set up the autopay to pay from the correct account. I had.

I wasted another 5 minutes confirming that the payment that had been sent in September was sent from the correct account. It was.

I then spent a total of 30 minutes on the phone with Premera, most of which was on hold — of course — to tell them that they were wrong, that the payment had come from a personal account. They told me that the payment instruction — this was an electronic payment — indicated that it was from “Flying M Air L.” I had to explain at least three times in three different ways that it was a personal account held in the same bank as my business account. (Being on hold for so long put me in a pissy, frustrated mood that got me shouting at the guy and didn’t help my blood pressure reading when I stepped into the doctor’s office 20 minutes later.) The Premera customer service guy told me he’d start an investigation with the accounts receivable people but I was okay for now since my account was paid up for the month. He’d call back (which of course hasn’t happened yet.)

Later, I spent another 20 minutes on the phone with my bank’s customer service department. After not being able to figure out, at first, what was going on, they eventually told me that since I’d used a business log on to create the bill pay instructions, any payments would indicate that they came from my business no matter which account I used. If I wanted payments to show my name instead of my business name, I’d have to create a personal account login and use the personal banking app to manage payments. Fortunately, this wouldn’t change my ability to see and work with all of my accounts from the business login. I just couldn’t create personal payment instructions there.

So this morning, I spent over an hour recreating all of my payees and payment instructions on the bank’s website for personal accounts. And deleting those same instructions from the bank’s website for business accounts.

It’s dumb and its frustrating but at least (I think) it’s fixed.

Now don’t get me started on the bank websites’ crappy user interfaces.

But despite all of this stupidity, I am much happier with my current banking setup. Honestly: why did I wait so long to make this change?

Why I Buy So Much on Amazon

It’s all about quick and easy shopping.

I buy a lot of the things I need for my home and garden on Amazon.com. It’s gotten to the point that the UPS truck is at my place several times a week to drop off packages.

For a while, I felt kind of guilty about that. After all, the Wenatchee area where I live, has plenty of shopping opportunities. I should be supporting the economy by shopping locally.

Trouble is, the things I need aren’t always easy to find. Or they might take several stops to track down. Or — worse yet — I may simply forget to look for something I need while I’m out and remember a day or two later when I actually need it.

Hose Fitting
I went nuts looking for this $3.25 item in stores around town. Found it in five minutes on Amazon.

Here’s an example. I needed an irrigation fitting that would enable me to connect my automatic chicken waterer to my garden irrigation system. The idea is that when the timer starts up the irrigation system twice a day (for 10 minutes each time), it would pressurize the waterer’s water feed and top off the chicken’s water trough, which is shared by my barn cats. The irrigation hose already runs right past the waterer. Why run another hose across the garden entrance? One fitting and 10 minutes of effort and I don’t have to worry about water for my chickens or cats for the rest of the summer.

One fitting. You think I’d be able to track it down on one of my many visits to Home Depot or Lowes, right?

Wrong. Try as I might, I couldn’t find what I needed. In any of the four stores I tried.

Then I sat down at my computer and, in less than five minutes had found and ordered exactly what I needed. It would be at my doorstep in two days without any more driving or searching or frustration.

Do you know how many stores I visited, looking for a microwave that would fit on my kitchen’s microwave shelf without looking like it belonged in a dorm room? Home Depot, Lowes, Sears, Save-Mart (the local appliance store), and even Walmart. Basically, every store that sold microwaves. But again, a few minutes on Amazon and I’d narrowed down the search to the ones that fit and matched my other appliances. Then it was just a matter of picking the one I like best. A few days later, it was on my doorstep.

I bought the wrong vacuum cleaner bags for my old ShopVac three times (and returned them three times) before I did an Amazon search, found what I needed, and ordered them. I didn’t even bother trying to find the vacuum cleaner bags for my household vacuum; I just ordered them on Amazon.

I needed ghee — a clarified butter used in Indian cooking. Local supermarkets didn’t have it. Amazon did.

New battery for my Roomba? Where could I possibly find that locally? Found it on Amazon in minutes.

Want to help support this site?

Use this link when you shop at Amazon.com. A tiny percentage of your purchase will be sent to me as a referral fee. It won’t cost you anything extra and you’ll still get the great product selection and service you expect from Amazon.

And I think this is the reason online shopping poses such a threat to brick and mortar stores. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s affordable, and it often comes with free shipping — including return shipping if you decide you don’t like it.

It’s Friday and the UPS guy has been at my home four times (so far) this week. I’m expecting him today with that irrigation fitting. Yesterday, I apologized to him for so many trips down the two miles of gravel road to get to my home. He said he didn’t mind. When I jokingly suggested that it was people like me keeping him employed, he laughed along with me and agreed.

And I’m just happy to be able to save time shopping so I can get more important things done.

20 Things that Turn Me Off about Your Online Dating Presence

This is my list. Other women’s lists may differ — although I bet there’s a lot in common.

This started as a Facebook thread. I was lamenting the sad fact that someone I’d begun messaging with on an online dating site had proven himself to be completely illiterate. Hell, here’s the original post:

So I’m on this dating site and this guy’s profile looks interesting to me. Short but nicely written and says the kinds of things I want to read. So I strike up a conversation with him in the site’s messaging system. After four exchanges, I realize that the guy is clearly unable to write, spell, punctuate, etc. His messages to me are so bad that they’re beyond illiterate — it’s almost as if this whole thing is some sort of joke. Is it wrong for me to be completely turned off? I don’t expect perfect grammar, but I do expect communication that doesn’t need to be deciphered before I can respond to it. I want the guy who wrote the profile, not this moron.

I got a bunch of comments — from both men and women — and the string of comments morphed into me sharing a list of about a dozen things I considered a real turn off on a man’s online dating profile. The more of these I see on a profile, the less likely I’ll be to either initiate or even respond to communications with an offender.

Before I launch into the list, I need to say a few things. This is my list of the things that bother me. Another woman’s list might be different. A few women who are desperate enough to hook up won’t care about any of this stuff. But guys — is this the kind of woman you want? Don’t you want to attract someone who’s a bit more discriminating in who they’ll hop in the sack with? If you don’t care, then this list isn’t for you anyway; move along.

One more thing. I’m sure that guys reading this will agree that many of them apply to women’s profiles. Ladies, take note!

Now for the list. To make my list easier to consume, I’ve separated it into categories.

Picture

Your profile picture is the first thing a woman sees when she looks at your profile. It should clearly show what you really look like. Head and shoulders is good for a primary photo, full body (clothes on, please) should be somewhere in the collection.

I want to make it clear here that I’m not just interested in great looking men. As more than a few of my friends have pointed out, my ex-husband was not someone who would turn the average woman’s head, with male pattern baldness that was already advanced when I met him 30+ years ago. Still, I looked beyond appearances and found something I soon grew to love inside him. (Not sure what happened to that.) Looks are only part of what makes a person.

What I’m mostly looking for in a photo is a man who takes care of himself, has some pride in his appearance, and has a great smile. And, as we all know, a person’s appearance often gives some insight into his personality; for example, a man with long, hippie-like hair is probably going to be kind of hippie-like, no?

Anyway, here are my turn offs:

1. No picture.

What are you hiding? Are you The Elephant Man’s stunt double? While not everyone can be a Calvin Klein underwear modelI wish! — don’t be ashamed of who you are. A nice photo can really catch a woman’s eye.

The other question I wonder — and I admit that this is a bigger concern to me — is who are you hiding from? Your wife?

Simply stated, if you don’t have a photo, I have to assume you’re hiding something. I don’t want to have to go on a date to find out what it is.

2. Old photos.

I really don’t care what you looked like when you went on that cool trip to Paris in 2005. Or when you played in a band in college. I care what you look like now. Sharing old photos is akin to lying. Your photo should show what you look like. Not what you used to look like.

Photos shouldn’t be more than two years old. Period. Delete the old ones, add new ones. Adding photos is a good way to get a fresh look on the same site, anyway. Win-win.

On the same vein but not deserving its own category: blurry, over exposed, under exposed, or extreme closeup photos. Also, group photos where it isn’t clear which member of the group you are.

3. Cropped couple photos

I can’t believe I even need to list this, but I do. Guys actually do this. I’ve seen more than a few photos of a man who clearly has his arm around a woman who has been cropped out of the photo. Seriously?

4. All photos are selfies.

Yeah, I know selfies are the big rage these days. Selfie was even the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year in 2013.

But seriously, don’t you have any friends? If all your photos are selfies, I can only assume that you don’t.

Everyone with a cell phone these days also has a camera. The next time you’re looking presentable while you’re out with your friends, hand your phone to a friend and tell him/her to snap your picture. Take a few and then use the best one (not all of them). Was that so hard?

(Oh, and there’s a special place in hell for any man who uses vacation photos taken by his wife on a dating site when he’s still married to her. Did you get that, honey?)

Personally, I think solo selfies are kind of juvenile. It’s one thing to snap a shot of you and your friends at the ball game or beach, all bunched together making faces at a camera for fun, but it’s another to hold the camera at arms length in your bathroom or bedroom to shoot a photo of your face with a clear view up your nostrils. As for mirror selfies, I find them especially offensive. Kind of creepy, in fact.

5. Shirt-off photos (especially selfies).

You’d better have a build like a Calvin Klein underwear model if you include shirtless photos in your profile. I’ve seen too many shirtless photos of guys who really need to keep that stuff covered.

And when the photo is a selfie, you’re sort of admitting that you wouldn’t show it in public anyway.

Remember, you’re trying to attract a woman, not disgust her.

6. Harley fan photos

This is strictly personal preference.

If more than one of your photos or your only photo is of you with your Harley Davidson — especially if you’re wearing Harley clothes — I am not going to be interested. I ride motorcycles but I’m not at all interested in the Harley mentality and its black and orange trappings. I ride motorcycles because I like to ride, not because I like to park a shiny chrome bike in a parking lot after riding a mile or two to have some beers with my friends. I could probably out-ride most of the Harley guys out there and I’m sure I have more motorcycle miles in more states under my belt.

Now put a photo of you standing next to your sport or sport touring bike with a sleek leather jacket and jeans on and you’ve got my attention. Let’s go riding!

Profile Text

Your profile description is where women look next. They want to see what you’re all about. They want to know what you like and what’s important to you. Once your profile photo got a woman’s interest, this is where she’ll go to see if you might be compatible.

My turn-offs here are a mixture of basic no-nos and personal tastes.

7. Poor grammar, spelling, etc.

Okay, not everyone has perfect grammar. Hell, I’ve been writing for a living since 1990 and even I don’t have perfect grammar. I don’t actually expect perfect grammar, either. But I do expect a guy to be able to string together correctly spelled words into a coherent thought that resembles a punctuated sentence. For pete’s sake, we have spellcheckers and autocorrect that practically do the spelling for us!

I can’t help judge a person’s intelligence by the way he/she communicates in writing. I’ve even blogged about that. If you come across in your profile as being illiterate, I’m not going to be interested in you. I’m looking for more than a warm body in bed. I want someone able to think, communicate, and sustain a conversation.

And again, I’m not talking about a few little mistakes. That’s to be expected. No one is perfect.

8. Brief/Incomplete profiles

Dating sites usually give you plenty of space to describe yourself and the kind of woman you’re looking for. A sentence or two concluding with a statement like, “Learn more when you meet me” is a cop-out, plain and simple. Chances are, those two sentences haven’t given me a reason to want to meet you.

Dating sites also usually have data fields with multiple choice options to describe yourself. While I don’t expect you to share your income information or other information that you might consider a bit more private than you’re willing to share in a forum as public as a dating site, I do expect you to provide answers for fields such as your marital status, height, body type, education level, religion (or whether it matters), number of children (if not grown), and whether you smoke or do drugs. Why would you leave out any of this information? This is pretty basic stuff a potential date needs to know.

9. Using LOL more than once in your profile (or in messages)

Are you a man or a 15-year-old girl sending a text to her BFF?

I cannot think of a more overused text abbreviation than LOL. While it’s tolerable in conversations on social networks and texting when you see or read something that really makes you laugh out loud, do you find your online dating profile or messages to me so funny that you’re actually laughing out loud while writing them?

I’ll give you one, and that’s only because you might have learned it from your daughter when she was 15.

10. Inaccurate Profiles

If anything you include in your profile is not true, you are a liar. Period.

That includes truth stretched beyond all recognition.

You love to travel, huh? When was the last time you were away? And no, visiting your kids in Spokane doesn’t count. Someone who really loves to travel takes at least a trip or two a year.

You love to work out at the gym, huh? A guy who really loves to work out at the gym wouldn’t look so dismal with his shirt off (see #5 above).

You love fine dining and wine tasting, huh? Then what’s with that photo of you and your friends at the sports bar guzzling Bud Light?

Do you really want to attract a woman with a lie? What do you think will happen when she discovers the truth?

While it’s true that people who are desperate enough for companionship will overlook lies about age, physical condition, hobbies, etc., are you one of them? Do you want to attract one of them?

And yes, passing off old photos as recent is lying.

11. Saying that you’re looking for a beautiful or sexy woman

Duh. Doesn’t every guy want a hot woman?

But by saying that’s what you’re looking for — especially if you list that first or only list that — you’re telling me a few not-so-pleasant things about yourself:

  • You’re shallow. Looks are more important than anything else.
  • You objectify women.
  • Brains don’t matter. You don’t care what a woman has between her ears as long as she looks good on your arm or services you in bed.
  • You’re in it for the short run. What happens as a woman ages and isn’t as beautiful or sexy anymore?

I actually saw a profile today where the only thing in the description was that he was looking for a beautiful, sexy woman. That was the only tidbit of information he felt worth sharing about himself. And no, he wasn’t a Calvin Klein underwear model, either. Are guys like this ever?

Related: Saying that you don’t want “a fatty” or an “ugly woman.” Same bulleted list applies.

And, for the record, yes I’d like a hot stud. But you won’t find that tidbit in my online profile. I don’t objectify men.

12. Saying more than twice in your profile how important your family is to you.

I get it. You have kids and maybe even grandkids and you love them. Fine.

But if you feel a need to mention it more than twice, I have to wonder how many times I might be dragged to your family gatherings or stuck babysitting your grandkids. I didn’t have kids for a reason: I didn’t want them. While I don’t mind spending some time with kids, I’m not prepared to take over the role of mother or grandmother for yours.

Obviously, this is a personal preference. There are women out there who might love being around kids. But still — do you really need to say it over and over in your profile? Isn’t there anything else you’re interested in that doesn’t involve your family?

This is one of the things that falls under my “three strikes and you’re out” rule.

13. Mentioning your important relationship with Jesus Christ or God.

There are special dating sites for people who have found Jesus. If your relationship to your deity is so important to you that you need to mention it in an online dating site profile, you should go to one of those sites. That’s where women who would appreciate your love for Jesus Christ will be.

Related: Finishing up your profile description with “God bless you” or stating that one of your favorite books is The Bible.

Again, this is a personal preference. I’m not religious at all and would not be happy with someone who was very religious.

14. Mentioning that one of your favorite things to do is to go to the gym or that you work out more than three times a week

Really? You spend so much time working out at a gym but you can’t hook up with a woman there?

And while I don’t expect (or even want) to take up all of a man’s free time, he’ll have a lot less time to share with me if he’s at the gym five days a week after work. I hope he doesn’t expect me to go with him. I have better things to do with my time than play with exercise machines.

I see this gym-love so frequently in dating profiles that I’ve come to suspect that there’s a blog post like this somewhere telling guys to include that line just to impress women. News Flash: Most women in the 40+ crowd aren’t impressed.

15. Going into more detail about what you don’t want than you provide about yourself or what you do want

Profiles like this read like laundry lists from negative people. I can use them to read between the lines. Everything a guy says he doesn’t want is something he’s had in the past that he didn’t like. And, for some reason, he thinks that by listing them, he’ll avoid them.

All he’ll do is avoid any self-respecting woman who wants a man with a more positive outlook on life and dating.

16. Hinting about (or even outright stating) the problems you had with your ex

We’ve all got stories about our ex-partners or ugly breakups. (Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve got whoppers.) If the baggage your ex left you with is so bad that you have to mention it on a dating site, you need a therapist, not a relationship.

This includes comments that make it all too easy to read between the lines. You want a “faithful” woman? What guy doesn’t? When you make a point of saying that in your profile, you’re telling me that your last partner cheated on you. I don’t want to hear about it. If you can’t get past that on your profile, will you drag it into conversation on a date, too?

Personal preference again: I want a strong man, not one who needs constant reassurance and other mommying.

And I definitely don’t want a play-by-play of your ugly divorce on one of our first dates. (Guaranteed mine is uglier and I don’t want to talk to you about that, either.)

17. Saying how hard you work and how important your job is to you.

I work pretty hard in the summer months, work less hard in the spring and autumn, and spent most of the winter trying to keep myself busy with fun things. Because I’m a freelancer and business owner, I don’t have any set hours. That means I can do fun things between work just about any day of the week any time of the year.

I was married to a 9 to 5 slave who spent all of his vacation time going back to New York to visit his family. Although he had many opportunities to build a lifestyle like mine, he apparently preferred the steady paycheck, corporate grind, and the rut he dug for himself. It took a real toll on our relationship in its final days.

As you can imagine, the last thing in the world that I want is a relationship with another guy so caught up in his work that he has no time for a life.

So yes, this is personal preference. If you’re spending so much time working, what time will be left for us? Will you even find time to date?

Messaging

The few dating sites I’ve been to all have an onsite messaging system that makes it possible to communicate with a potential date without giving away your email address. I always exchange at least three or four messages with a guy before agreeing to meet him (in a very public place, of course).

Messaging does a few things:

  • It helps break the ice in an effort to determine whether the other party is interested. Some guys just don’t respond because they’re either not interested or already dating someone else.
  • It helps learn more about the other party. A little conversation can go a long way to help determine whether someone is worth meeting in person.
  • Set up a date.

Guys could use some improvement here, too.

18. Initiating contact with an inane or open-ended comment.

Last week, I got a message from a man that just said, “hmmm interesting”

What’s the response for something like that? I couldn’t think of anything so I didn’t say anything.

Two days later, he messages me again with “We have five things in common Wow”

I read his profile. I couldn’t see five things we had in common. I did see that he mentioned several times how much his family meant to him and how he expected his partner to spend a lot of time with them. I replied (as kindly as I could) that I was not a family person and he could find a better match than me. Then I wished him good luck and happy new year. I never did find out what the five things were.

Christmas Photo
Sure, I’ll take a compliment on this photo. I think I look pretty darn good here.

Here’s another exchange:
Him: Love your Christmas party pic very nice
Me: Thanks!
Him: your welcome

That’s it. Is he serious or just throwing around compliments? (I’ll gladly take any compliment!) He didn’t leave me anything to move forward on, so I left it at that. It’s funny because I liked his profile and had considered making contact with him but this short exchange changed my mind.

What’s the problem with it? Well It indicates to me that either the person isn’t very imaginative or simply doesn’t want to put any effort into that first contact. Either way, it’s a turn-off to me. Hell, my profile is at least 500 words long and describes a lot of the things I like and do. If you think we have enough in common to make contact for a possible date, why not zero in on one of those?

19. Saying something in a message that proves he didn’t read my profile

My user name on a dating site is IFlyHelis. One of my profile photos is me standing next to a helicopter. My profile mentions the memoir I’m writing about my season as a Grand Canyon helicopter tour pilot and the fact that I’m prepping to build a helibase. I even include “flying” in my list of interests.

Yet I still get first contact messages from guys saying “Do you really fly helos?”

My response: “Yes.” It’s not worth putting more effort into it since he obviously didn’t take the effort to read my profile.

20. Failing to maintain a minimum level of literacy in messages

This goes back to my original Facebook post and what I mentioned in #7 and #9 above.

A message to a potential date on a dating site should not resemble a cryptic text message sent by a 15 year old girl. Yeah, I get it: you’re accessing the site with your cell phone. But honestly, that’s no excuse for sending me messages so full of misspelled words (or typos) and so lacking in punctuation that it takes me five minutes to decipher before I can respond.

No, I don’t expect perfect grammar, full sentences, and flawless spelling. But I do expect something that I can immediately read and understand. Something that assures me I’m dealing with an intelligent, articulate adult and not some prepubescent kid trying to hook a date using photos of his dad.

More?

That’s my list — so far. I’d love to get feedback from women and men sharing their pet peeves from dating sites. What do you think? Have anything to add?

To the guys reading this who are guilty of one or more of these offenses, please don’t think I’m attacking you as a person. I’m not. I’m just pointing out what I’ve seen and experienced and what my opinions are.

And before you comment to bash me about my opinions, read the Site Comment Policy. And then think about what you were going to say. If you’re guilty of these things and are taking offense, lighten up and rethink this post in the spirit in which it was intended: as constructive criticism. If you’re not doing as well as you’d like on dating sites, maybe you can use some of these points as tips to improve your profile and message communication. If so, please do stop back here and let me know how it helps.

I also want to point out that I would never blog anything negative or embarrassing about a specific, identifiable person I met online or dated. We’re all in the same boat — well, sort of. And I’m not one to rock boats when I’m a passenger.

Banking by Phone [App]

Almost full-service banking by smart phone.

I’ve been doing 95% my banking online for the past five to eight years. I seldom write any checks and never visit the bank and wait on line for a teller. Instead, I have direct deposit from some of my publishers and use online bill pay (through my bank’s Web site) and online bill paying features in Quicken to make payments. When I receive money by check, I deposit at an ATM. When I need to pay someone with a check — which is more and more seldom these days — I pull out one of the ones leftover from my original check stock, blow the dust off, and write one.

Some Words about Bank of America

I do all of my banking with Bank of America. Before you start bashing them, let me explain why. Our local branch in Wickenburg was, until recently, extraordinarily helpful. We had no trouble opening accounts, getting loans, refinancing our home, getting a home equity line of credit, etc. The staff knew us by name and always helped us immediately with any problems. It just made sense to put everything in one bank.

Since then, Bank of America has done its part to seriously piss me off — as they piss off everyone else they come in contact with. The local branch service completely failed to help us with a very serious problem, actually bringing me to tears in the branch location. I was forced to work with the monster that is Bank of America’s loan department and, although I resolved the situation satisfactorily, I have not been back to the branch since. I also have serious fears that the same problem will arise again and it has forced me to take a completely different approach on my personal finances. But that’s another story.

In general, my banking with Bank of America works pretty well. Between my husband and I, we have many accounts: 3 personal checking, 2 business checking, 2 credit cards, 2 mortgages, 1 home equity line of credit, and a 1 “recreational vehicle” (helicopter) loan. To start moving these accounts to another bank just because Bank of America isn’t what it used to be would be a time-consuming exercise in frustration. I have better ways to spend time frustrating myself.

What I do like about Bank of America’s Web access is that I can access all of my accounts from one login screen. This makes it really easy to manage my accounts. And it works with Quicken for free (although they do charge for QuickBooks access, which is why I don’t use QuickBooks). Even bill pay is free. And checking, as long as I use my debit card at least once a month. So my banking costs are quite low and access is quite convenient. How can I complain?

Point is: please don’t fill up the comments with suggestions on a better bank. I’m not interested in switching.

The Bank of America App

Recently, I downloaded the Bank of America iPhone App. It sat on my phone for at least a few weeks before I decided to give it a try. It has limited functionality, but it does make it relatively easy to check account balances, pay bills (to known payees), and transfer money using the app.

BofA AppThe app is pretty straightforward. You open it and then log in using the same kind of Site Key protection that’s on the Web version of online banking. You then choose from three options:

  • Accounts displays all your accounts and their balances. Clicking an account shows transactions in that account. Clicking a transaction shows transaction details.
  • Bill Pay & E-Bills gives you access to the bill pay feature. You can make a single payment, view (an cancel, but not change) outgoing payments, and view unpaid e-bills (if you have any).
  • Transfer Funds lets you transfer money between your accounts now, schedule a transfer between your accounts for later, or transfer to another person (if you have this feature set up).

Although the app’s limited functionality makes it impossible to use without occasional Web access — for example, you can’t set up a payee in the app; you must do that on the Web site or from within Quicken — it is, in general, quicker to use than the Web site — especially if you suffer from painfully slow Internet connections, as I do at home in Wickenburg. The phone has fewer options, so it takes fewer clicks (or taps) to get to the feature you need. Unfortunately, that feature doesn’t appear immediately. Worse yet, when you go back, there’s no indication that the app is doing anything — some kind of wait cursor or Internet access indicator would really help. But I still think it’s quicker and easier to use than the Web site for the few features it does support.

Point in case: today I paid my mechanic for some work he did on my helicopter. I was able to do this while eating breakfast, without firing up a computer. Launch the app, log in, and get right to the payment page. Enter an amount, send it, confirm it, and I’m done. It took about a minute.

And I can do this from anywhere I have a 3G phone signal. (I have Verizon, so that’s nearly everywhere I go.)

Conclusion

While I’m certain this isn’t the best banking app out there, it is the one that my bank offers, so it’s the only one I’ve experienced. If this is an indication of what’s to come, I’m very glad. The quicker and easier banking tasks are, the less time I have to spend doing them — or dealing with the bank’s staff.

Now that I’ve tried it, I’ll likely be using it more often.

What do you think? Do you use an app for your banking needs? If so, share your experiences in the comments.

Why Shop Online?

Save money, save time, get what you want.

The best way to explain is with yet another of my long stories. I’ll try to keep it brief.

Our Phoenix condo is a sort of bachelor pad where Mike and our roommate Matt live during the week. I’m also down there on and off at various times of the week. It has five rooms: living room, dining room, kitchen, and two bedrooms. We furnished it simply with a mixture of old and new (mostly Ikea) furniture. We “decorated” it by putting a few enlarged photos on the walls.

It’s passable, but nothing special.

The Blinds

One of the things that always bothered me was the blinds. The apartment has four sliding glass doors that lead out to its two patios. The ones in the living room and master bedroom are triple doors with the middle door that slides. On both doors are off-the-shelf vinyl vertical blinds that don’t fit quite right and look, frankly, like crap.

I’ve been wanting to replace the blinds on these two doors since Mike bought the apartment. This week, I decided to support the local economy by having a local blinds company put them in for us. I used Google Maps to find a company nearby, called, and got an appointment for an in-home consultation today.

The saleswoman arrived on time with her computer and some samples. I was disappointed to learn that the fabric blinds I wanted would be very costly, so I took her advice and went with vinyl blinds. Of course, the colors I wanted weren’t available anymore either, so I had to pick different colors. She measured and did the math. The total was over $1,200, with “free” installation.

For two sets of blinds.

To my credit, I didn’t choke or pass out from sticker shock. Instead, I told her I’d “present” her estimate to my husband.

(Women always have this option if they don’t want to say no immediately. They can pretend their husband has to make the decision and later say that their husband said no.)

BlindsA while later, I got online. I went to SelectBlinds.com, an online seller of all kinds of blinds. I looked at their wide variety of styles and colors. I called their toll-free number and asked a few questions. And then I ordered the fabric blinds I wanted in the colors I wanted. With the 30% off coupon right on their home page, the blinds cost $359 delivered. The only reason it cost that much was because the 108-inch length of the blinds required a $70 shipping surcharge.

I’d saved over $800 by ordering online.

Yes, I know my husband will have to install them. I think he’s up to the task. But even if I did have to hire a handyman, I’m sure it wouldn’t cost $800 to get the blinds installed.

The Photos

Another thing I’ve been wanting to fix up in the condo are the photos. When Mike first bought the place, I bought a bunch of plain black frames with off-white mats at Ikea. I then began filling the frames with enlargements of some of my favorite photos.

Trouble is, the off-white mat looked pretty crappy. It kind of took the steam out of my photo project and, after filling only two frames with 20 x 30 prints, I stopped.

I’d done some research at Aaron Brothers, a local framing shop, and discovered that new mats would cost a small fortune — about three times the price of the prints! I got the same general pricing information at Michaels, another local place that does framing. Suddenly, it seemed that my inexpensive photo framing project would be very costly.

But today, I got online. I went to PictureFrames.com, which can cut mats to any size you like. I had some trouble deciding what color to use — I have absolutely no creative design skills. I knew I wanted all the mats to be the same color, no matter what the print was. I wanted consistency.

I discovered that if I pretended I wanted to order a framed print, I could upload an image, choose a mat, and choose a frame. I could then see how they looked together. Doing this, I decided that a dark gray frame would give me the neutral color I wanted while complementing the photo. (My artist friend, Janet, later confirmed this after I sent he screen shots of the previews.) I was able to preview four photographs with the gray mat/black frame combination.

Preview Frame

Framed PrintOnce I’d decided on a mat color, it was just a matter of entering the measurements for each of the mats I’d need. I ordered a total of eight mats in four different sizes, ranging from outside measurements of only 8 x 11 to 30 x 40.

Before checking out, I poked around the Internet and found a free shipping coupon code for PictureFrames.com. When I applied it, it saved me over $20 in shipping charges. The total cost of the eight mats came to about $100.

Of course, I didn’t have all the prints I wanted, so I also went online to my Zenfolio photo gallery, Flying M Photos, and chose four new prints: two 16×24 and two 8×12. You can see one of them here in the mocked up frame. The total cost of that, with shipping, was under $50.

Zenfolio now offers framing with mats (the mats are new and still very limited); in the future, I’ll likely buy the prints framed and matted to save the bother of doing it myself.

Shopping Done

I expect the prints and mats to arrive within the next week or so. I’ll assemble them and put them up on the walls. With luck, the new blinds will arrive around the same time and Mike will put them up. Together, they’ll give the apartment a more finished look.

I do wish I could have bought these things locally to support the local economy. But should I have spent two or three times what I did — literally hundreds of dollars more? I don’t think so.

What do you think?

Another Example of the Media Screwing Up the Facts

A brief rant.

One of my Twiiter friends, @Vatsek, tweeted the following to me last night:

Have you seen this? Helicopter crashes at Texas A&M, killing one — CNN News web page

First of all, I do want to make it clear to folks that I don’t normally go out of my way to track down news stories about helicopter crashes — unless they’re local or there’s a chance I might know the pilot. But since @Vatsek tweeted it to me, I figured I’d better check it out to see why he’d flagged it. I found the article on CNN.com, “Helicopter crashes at Texas A&M, killing one.”

It was a brief piece with an overhead view of what looked like a helicopter that someone with a very large foot had stepped on. Included in the text were these sentences:

…The copter, which was heavily damaged, was attempting to take off when it crashed. A rudder apparently failed, the university statement said….

“All of the sudden, he dropped straight back down into the ground,” [a witness said]…

I have two problems with these statements:

  • A standard helicopter does not have a “rudder.” It has a tail rotor, which is controlled with anti-torque pedals. Those pedals resemble rudder pedals on an airplane, but they are not rudder pedals because a helicopter does not have a rudder.
  • If a helicopter’s tail rotor (anti-torque system) failed, the helicopter would not come “straight down.” It would be spinning like crazy. That’s because the tail rotor prevents it from spinning like crazy. If it failed, it would spin. And it’s pretty clear from the photo in the article that the helicopter was not spinning like crazy when it hit the ground.

This is yet another example of the media speculating, with absolutely no knowledge, about the cause of an accident, spreading misinformation among the public. What’s even worse about this is that if they asked any helicopter pilot — even a new student pilot — to fact check their story, they could have gotten it corrected with, at the very least, the proper terminology for the tail rotor/anti-torque system.

Scamming Jobseekers

How low can some scum go?

This afternoon, my sister called me to chat about some things. The topic of her ongoing job hunt came up and she told me about what we both think is a scam.

She’d applied for a bunch of jobs that were listed on Craig’s List. Later the same day, she got an e-mail message from someone identifying herself as “Sister Mary Joseph” who claimed that one of the people my sister had applied for a job with had forwarded her contact information. Sister Mary Joseph was supposedly a recruiter who had dozens of high-paying jobs waiting to be filled. She provided a partial list that was short on details. The problem was, my sister’s resume needed some work and Sister Mary Joseph’s company would have to revise it before they could apply for any of the jobs.

The fee for this service? $100.

Sister Mary Joseph offered to give my sister 90 days to pay the fee. All she had to do was give Sister Mary Joseph her PayPal information, and Sister Mary Joseph would deduct the money from my sister’s PayPal account when the time came.

All this was revealed in a series of e-mail messages between my sister and the oh-so-generous-and-helpful “Sister Mary Joseph” — one of which actually ended with the phrase, “God bless.” When my sister pointed out (truthfully) that her resume had just been redone for her by a professional, Sister Mary Joseph said that she’d shown the resume to a bunch of people and they were all critical. It definitely needed the work that Sister Mary Joseph’s company would provide.

At this point, my sister, who recognized this as a scam as soon as the $100 fee was mentioned, broke off communication. Baiting a scammer is fun, but after a while, it does become a waste of time.

My sister thinks that a number of too-good-to-be-true job ads in Craig’s List (New York) were posted by a person or company who uses them as bait for desperate job seekers. They con them into coughing up $100 for resume services they probably don’t need to get jobs that probably don’t exist. Or, for the really dumb ones, they get PayPal information so they can suck an account dry or go on a shopping spree. She’s reporting the scam to Craig’s list. With luck, they’ll act and remove these scammers before they con anyone else.

Because I’m sure they’ve already sucked money out of enough job seekers.