Thursday, May 21, 2009

Online Bill Pay in da Islands

Ok, so I just had my first experience with online bill pay. We have our checking account with one bank and our car financed with another bank. Both banks are here locally and actually right across the street from each other. I normally go once a month to the bank and make the payment. But our bank offers online bill pay so I thought I would give that a try. I tried entering the payment information but it wouldn't accept the payee because they are not set up for electronic payments. I called the bank and they said they should be able to accept electronic payments soon, but they are not ready yet. So the second option is to submit the payee information to the online service for check payments. They verify the payee and let you know when it's approved. It took about two weeks and I got a letter in the mail letting me know the payee was ready to use online. So I set up the rest of the payment information and had it to pay right then, May 11. The online statement showed that the money came out of the account the very next day, with a "sent" status for the payment. So I thought, great. That's taken care of. Now I don't have to drive there once a month to pay in person.

So today is the due date for the payment and I called the bank to see if they posted the payment to my loan. Of course they hadn't received the payment yet. It's been 9 days since the money was taken out of my account so where is it. I call my bank and the girl gives me a trace number which she says proves that the other bank received the money and I should call them back so they can use the trace number to verify. I call the other bank and tell them what the girl said. She says that they have no idea what a trace number is and they can not do anything with it. All she knows is that there is no payment posted. She transfers me to someone else that reminds me that they are not set up for electronic payments so if that's what I did, then the payment will be refused and I should see the money back in my account. I assured her it wasn't electronic, that it was a physical check and they should have received it by now. She couldn't understand why I would have the bank across the street cut a check and mail it when I could just come and take care of it in person. I told her that was a good question.

So I called a number I found online for Internet banking and of course it's in Spanish so I have no idea what they are saying. I keep hitting 0 and it sounds like I've been put in line waiting for customer service, but it just keeps repeating something and I never get to an actual person. So I check online again and find another number. This one is in English and I finally speak to someone. They assured me that the payment was sent and it should be processed by the payee within 7 to 10 working days. Since this is the 8th working day, they should have it by tomorrow. The trace number the first girl gave me is just the online reference number showing the payment was sent so that's why the other bank had no idea what I was talking about. I told the guy that with my stateside bank, when you do bill pay with an actual check, it doesn't come out of the account until the check is processed and cleared so that you know your payee got the money. But that's not how this bank works. They money comes out immediately so you have no idea when it's actually processed. So he suggested calling the payee to verify each month. Great.

So I call the bank loan processing department and tell her my story. She says I have a 5 day grace period before late charges are incurred. She made a note on my account that a payment should be coming in by mail. So now I have to remember to call by next Tuesday (Monday is a holiday) to see if the payment is posted. If not, I guess I'll still have to go in person to pay it and then try to figure out where my money is.

So now the question is, if they do get the payment by Tuesday and all is well, do I continue to use this method of payment and just move the payment date up to the 1st of the month when it's not due until the 21st and hope that three weeks is enough time. Or get my lazy butt up and drive to the bank and make the payment in person each month to ensure it's actually paid. UUGH!


Josh Young said...


I've just found your blog and I've found it rather interesting. My fiancee and I are coming to the USVI in December for our honeymoon. We hope to spend around 10 days just wandering around and soaking up the vibes. Your blog gives me a great idea of what to expect. I haven't bought our tickets home, maybe I won't!

Deb and Jay said...

Josh - You bought one way tickets? Then you should stay awhile! :-) STT and STJ are really beautiful islands as well as the british islands. You'll have a great time!

Kristin said...

This was entertaining to read. I've lived on islands before, and know what it's like where the most simple things get messed up. Sounds like they tied the check to a goat and sent him on his way.

Robin Chalkley said...

I appreciate these occasional reminders to be grateful for the services we have stateside. And why moving to the USVI should remain a fantasy, since my comfort zone is way too small for your trials and tribulations. I hope the views and vibes make up for these hassles!

BTW, sorry you weren't able to come to the Forum Beach Bar gathering on May 3. It was a small group, and I understand you can't get to all of them. Hope we can meet sometime in the future...