On Online Banking

Today, I took my first steps in the online banking world. And got grumpy.

"Finances" does not appear anywhere in my list of hobbies, and I'd rather not have it appear on my list of activities at all. Sadly, I turned eighteen last year. And that means I'll have to take care of money from now on. But I had little fear, for I knew we now live in the age of online banking. So, I sat down with my mother to get this stuff done elegantly. A few hours later, I am disillusioned and slightly angry as well. Here's a report.

Before I go any further, note that I had no prior experience with online banking and the experience I gained today was only with the software of ASN Bank, a Dutch bank. I don't know how things are with other online banking solutions.

Step 1: Logging in

The first thing to do is of course to get access to my personal environment. Someone had already created login credentials for me when we switched banks (parents, sister, I don't know) so I had to find those first. Luckily, I do stuff all letters somewhere so I quickly came across the initial password. The login name was nowhere to be found though, I guess it was forgotten to write that down somewhere.

That wasn't a big deal, however. ASN made it possible to retrieve the username by filling out a form with some details including name, phone number and email address. After the first attempt failed (they set session timeouts to very small durations, when I had to open a new bank account I had ten minutes in which they also expected me to agree to terms of multiple pages), I filled it with a speed nearing light's and got an email with my username, horribly enough containing both "asn" and my birth year (really, who requested this for me?).

Anyway, combining the name and the temporary password from the letter finally gave me entrance. Then I had to enter a new password. I happened to recall a very good one I was once planning to use for a PGP key. So, I entered that. But for magical and unfathomable reasons, I was not allowed to use a password longer than twenty characters. Absolutely stunning. So I had to come up with something else, from 8 to 20 characters containing all sorts of special keys which almost only make it easier to guess the password as 5 of those maximum 20 keys are practically forced to be numbers and punctuation marks.

After that, I wanted to change my username to something less cringeworthy. I couldn't find a way to do it. Wonderful.

Step 2 -- Wait, where is my savings account?

I am now presented an overview of my bank accounts. Well, one of them. I'm also supposed to have a savings account. Weird. First thing we do is to check through all mutations on the one account, which I incidentally can only request per month or for the latest three months. Not, say, per year. I can't search through it either, not on IBAN, not on description, not on nothing. If that isn't possible, then what exactly is the gain of online banking for the user?

Anyway, after clicking all months since creation, one by one (luckily it had only been around for like a year), we found a record showing a decent (for unemployed 18-year-old-student me) amount of money being transferred to an account apparently owned by me (internal transfer) with an IBAN. A bank account that did not show up in the overview.

We checked everything. Maybe the transfer of the account to my person when I got 18 years old hadn't executed properly, or maybe it was supposed to only transfer the main account connected to the credit card. The account wasn't listed in the overview of my parents as well though. It had disappeared.

My mother called up ASN. "Oh, yes, that happens sometimes." We had to stay tuned. A few minutes later I am told to log out and log in again. Suddenly, the savings account is listed in the overview. Apparently, this isn't something to get worked up about. I mean, it's just a bank account full of money disappearing without a trace. If we had assumed that the money from the account had gone elsewhere when I got 18 or whatever, like deposited to my main account or whatnot, I had probably never seen that money again. Pretty disgusting if you ask me.

Step 2: Create two savings accounts

In order to create some financial structure, two new savings accounts had to be created. I checked the whole sidebar of the environment, there was no way to create the accounts. Then I threw some stuff in a search engine and suddenly I find a page accessible somewhere from the homepage of ASN to create a savings account. During the procedure, I am asked for my online banking credentials. Out of the online banking environment, asking for my credentials. Like it's nothing. And even if we don't consider that weird practice for highly sensitive data, consider this: I was already logged in on the online environment. So this whole system is working on its own, apart from the online banking environment, and still working with my secret credentials for said environment. Insane.

Moving on, I had to check some boxes, check some data (most was already filled in) and finally accept to terms. For this I was informed to have 10 minutes, by the way, but I already mentioned that. In any case, finally I created the account. So I log back in on the online environment. The newly created account doesn't show up. So I check back at the creation page. "The account will be ready after one workday". Marvellous. Is this a security measure? In any case, it's a horrible one, because I expect to be able to work quickly. That's what online banking is supposed to be for, right?

Well, that was one account. Obviously, I couldn't create two accounts at the same time, so I had to go through the whole form experience again for the second account. Hopefully, I will be able to see and use them tomorrow.

Conclusion

What an entertaining ride. Tomorrow, I'm going to get back and then actually start doing what I was planning to do today: finances. I dearly hope I won't have to return here after that. But let's be real, with this first impression (an environment which is worse than simple forum software, for crying out loud), I'm bound to be back. Until then.