Tuesday, March 10, 2009

PNC Virtual Wallet is really a Virtual Wall

Are you a PNC Bank customer who is thinking about signing up for their Virtual Wallet online service?  If you want to continue to use any other financial software with it, think again.

I was in a PNC bank branch on a Thursday and the representative there told me about Virtual Wallet.  It provides handy tools online like a calendar and a balance forecast, and if you take advantage of their very powerful and easy-to-use (in my opinion) Online Bill Pay, the calendar becomes that much more useful.  But the best part I heard is a 2.6% interest rate for their "Growth" savings account.  Not many banks will match that interest rate these days.

So I signed up for the service.  As a side note, it wasn't done right, unfortunately.  The two new extra accounts (one a reserve checking account with a small interest rate, the other the growth savings account) were created, but it was never set as a Virtual Wallet, so the interest rate on the savings was still .12%, and the online experience didn't change.  I called into PNC customer service on Friday.  They enabled the appropriate flags, apologized for the branch representative's mistakes, and by Monday, I was good to go.

Well, not really.  I've been using Microsoft Money to track my finances since 1996.  When I tried to sync with PNC Bank, Money said there was a technical issue with the bank, so I called PNC back.  PNC customer service explained that their combined free checking + reserve checking is really treated as one account, so no financial software, not Money, not Quicken, etc., would be able to understand that.  But they didn't treat it as a mistake they would correct, but an intended "feature" as, you see, with PNC Virtual Wallet, you would never need to use any other financial software.

Oh, really?  I played with the Virtual Wallet interface a bit.  You can set up paydays, and give them meaningful names, but you don't see the names for them on your calendar unless you hover over them.  And you can't even set a dollar amount for any payday--just a name, start date, and frequency.  I also didn't see any budgeting tools, or a means by which to import your Money or Quicken account's data into the tool.  You can't export data either in a usable format.  So if you wanted to continue to use Money or Quicken on the side and manually import your PNC statements in QIF or OFX, forget it.

Then I thought, maybe I'm too old-school.  Maybe it's time to give one of those online financial services a try.  I signed up for Mint.com just to give it a whirl.  It supported the download and import of data from all other financial institutions with which I have an account, but PNC was a no-go.

Deciding that I'm not going to live with inferior financial software just so I can have a 2.6% interest rate, I called PNC back.  I have since discontinued the Virtual Wallet service, and now everybody's happy:  Money, Mint.com and me. :-)

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Cheapest DR Strategy I've Seen

Here's what the Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance Online Services Web site says when you try to use it today:

I thought that one of the points of offering online services, besides just the general convenience and cost-savings factors, is that you could continue to provide services to your constituents even in the event of severely inclement weather.

Imagine for a moment if a major bank or online retailer posted the above message on its Web site. I think Massachusetts can do better than this.