Does Bank of America Hate Californians?

Or at least the ones who use Quicken to manage their personal finances with Bank of America’s online banking services? I don’t know, but it sure seems like that could be the case, based on my recent experience.

A couple of months ago BofA began notifying its customers who use Quicken and the bank’s online services of a major system upgrade which would require a Quicken reconfiguration. Apparently the bank was consolidating its data processing nationwide, and unbeknownst to those of us in the Golden State, we’d been the odd folks out within the back offices of BofA for a while. But we were about to be brought back into the fold so we could all be one big, happy family.

The reconfiguration didn’t look that difficult. But the bank proposed an alternative that was even easier: upgrade to Quicken 2012 and the transition would be handled seamlessly behind the scenes (“Upgrade to Quicken Windows 2012 and these setting updates are automated with no action required by you.” – link).

I’d just upgraded to Quicken 2011 a few months ago. I upgrade Quicken every two years when Intuit tells me they’re about to cut off my online banking services due to changes in the program. In the last ten years I haven’t seen any significant changes to Quicken, other than the user interface, which frankly seem to be motivated more by a desire to have an excuse to require an upgrade than any improvement in functionality or usability. It’s a mature product that you “upgrade” in order to continue to use it. A bit disingenuous on Intuit’s part, perhaps, but more annoying than anything else.

While I wasn’t planning on upgrading to Quicken until late in 2013, avoiding disruptions of my financial management activities is worth a lot. So I bought and installed the upgrade, secure in the knowledge that all would be well.

Boy was I wrong.

Last night when I went to pay bills Quicken complained that Bank of America rejected its entreaties. Reading up on the “no action required by you” fine print I discovered there was something I was supposed to do. I did it. No joy.

Contacting Quicken tech support was worse than useless (“it’s the bank’s problem” — oh, really? How can you tell that?) Calling Bank of America’s tech support was almost as bad, although I have to admit almost all the people I spoke to tried to be helpful. Unfortunately, they were mostly rather clueless, too.

I was finally able to get the two checking accounts I’d been using for online services for years re-linked to the bank’s new system. But only after disabling the online services for each account and then re-enabling them. And then re-entering my pending payment transactions. Which were, in fact, precisely the steps the “no action required by you” upgrade was supposed to avoid.

This annoyed me so much — paying extra to solve a specific problem, only to have the problem left unsolved — that I browbeat a BofA supervisor into refunding me the Quicken 2012 upgrade fee. That was admittedly somewhat petty (it was only $40), but by that point I’d been given the runaround by enough “helpful” people that I didn’t care . Besides, it was fun confronting him with more and more facts (e.g., the exact language from his company’s website promising “no action required by you”) until he caved.

It probably wasn’t my pitch that made him change his mind, though. At one point while he was researching the software problem in his internal system I could tell he came across a bunch of documentation about similar experiences of other annoyed customers. And maybe even a note saying “if confronted on this issue, do whatever you need to within reason to buy off the customer, because we are at least partially to blame here”.

There was one last zinger the bank threw my way. After getting the accounts re-linked the first attempt to access BofA’s online service from within Quicken returned a TON of transactions to clear. Going back a year in some cases. I knew most of these had already been cleared — I’m pretty religious about clearing stuff several times a month — but I figured I’d just re-accept them and be done with it.

Fortunately I stopped doing that right before I had the brilliant idea to click the Accept All button. Because I discovered, to my horror, that re-clearing the transactions was overwriting historical data with invalid/incorrect information. That’s right, folks: the bank’s “no action required by you” process not only didn’t work, it corrupted my financial records.

This resulted in another, even more tense, call to the bank’s tech support group. Who admitted, when a second or third level support person came on the line, that this was a “known issue”. Really? And you didn’t think it worth mentioning the risk in the alert messages you’ve been bombarding all your Quicken-using customers with every time they try to access your online system? You know, something simple like:

Our system upgrade may end up corrupting some or all of your Quicken financial records. Be afraid.

I would have paid attention to that.

The workaround to this overabundance of cleared transactions is straightforward, but painful: you have to manually delete each one from within Quicken. The good news is your thumb, wrist and fingers will recover from the ordeal of deleting several hundred line items. Eventually. Mine almost have.

Thanks, Bank of America! I can’t imagine a more pleasant way to spend most of an evening and a morning.

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