If I could set online banking rules…

Money sticking out of white piggy bank

Banks are fond of establishing industry-wide "best practices" guidelines. Often, they do so at the behest of regulators; sometimes, to reign in competition.

I’m a saver, not a regulator or a banker. Nevertheless, I have five best practices of my own to suggest, beginning with online banking applications for CDs.

Disclosures. A bank should provide an up-front link to its Truth in Savings and deposit account disclosures, preferably on the first page of its online application.

I’m tired of having to search under "Customer Service" or "FAQ" tabs, or fill out two or three pages of an application, before I can discover whether I’m permitted to make early principal withdrawals without the bank’s consent, or have interest paid electronically to an external account.

Interest disbursement. A bank’s application process should permit online selection of an interest disbursement option (capitalization versus withdrawal, check versus internal or external funds transfer).

Often, online applications systems don’t provide this feature, and I’m forced to contact a customer service representative to arrange what I want. Sometimes, my request is ignored, and my first interest posting is capitalized, requiring a follow-up call or email.

POD designations. A bank should provide for online creation of payable-on-death accounts, with a form accurately reflecting FDIC regulations.

Again, many banks require contacting a CSR to establish a POD account. This can be as unreliable as setting up interest disbursements.

Even when I’m offered an online POD option, bank forms don’t work because they fail to incorporate current FDIC rules on charitable beneficiaries (a non-profit entity doesn’t have a "date of birth" or "SSN.")

Electronic signatures. Banks should permit electronic signing and submission of signature cards, account agreements and W-9s.

For a CD, I shouldn’t have to sign and mail in hard copies. Occasionally, they don’t arrive, or get lost at the bank, and I have to re-sign and re-send them.

I’ve even had taxes on interest withheld after one bank misplaced three signature cards I’d mailed back.

Time-outs. Banks should avoid unreasonable "time-out" features, and permit customers to "save" an application before submitting it.

I hate seeing "your session has expired" pop up on the screen. I also appreciate the ability to save, and later go back to, my application, so I can rethink things without having to start over.

I haven’t named specific banks here. But you banks not passing muster know who you are.

So please get with the program.

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