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Credit Card Payment UX Fail

April 7, 2011

So, I bank with Fidelity.com and use one of their credit cards for the majority of my purchases.  Their credit cards are issued by FIA Card Services (MBNA), which was of course acquired by Bank of America in 2006; my current theory is it’s actually impossible not to have a credit card owned by Bank of America.  FIA’s online payment system is a textbook example of usability gone wrong.

Gripe Number 1

Rather than a normal human-being style logon with a username and password box, they’ve decided to divide the logon process into two pages.  On the first page, you enter your username.  You then click “Sign-in” and get a brand new page where you enter your password.  Of course, the password textbox is not given focus by default and it’s nowhere near the top of the tab order, so you have to grab your mouse and click on it.  Paul Fitts is turning over in his ergonomically perfected coffin I’m sure.  After typing in your password, you can press enter to logon.  Nowhere do they have the ability to save your login info, retain your session, or do anything that might be helpful to minimize this ridiculously protracted logon ritual.  Pretty much the only thing I ever do on this site is pay my credit card balance in full.  Being without a job and living off savings, I have no reason to keep a positive credit card balance.  I’m allowed three online payments per month, so I have to juggle them around strategically as not to incur any unnecessary finance charges.  The online payment experience is also designed to make use of as many unnecessary steps as possible, which leads me to gripe number two.

Gripe Number 2

From the home page (after their non-sensical logon rigmarole), you have to go through the following steps to make an online payment:

  1. Click which credit card you want to drill into (even though I only have one)
  2. Click Pay Online
  3. Go to a page that shows absolutely no new information, and click Pay This Account

You’re now at the page where you can pay your credit card balance, and presented with a Payment Date, which defaults to the date at the way end of your billing cycle.  It’s not as if I’m here to maybe make a payment today, or anything.  So now I have to click on this and change the date to today’s date.  The payment amount textbox is, of course, blank, so hopefully you have a great memory for numbers or you wrote down what your credit card balance was 3 pages back.  No where on this page does it say either the minimum payment due or the current balance.

I can, of course, see why they do these things.  FIA would rather I make my payments as late as possible, insuring more charges will have passed their grace period.  Not knowing what my balance is will provide a higher likelihood of me not paying my card in full.

So enough with this, I decided I just want to automatically pay my balance every 14 days.  Luckily, they have an “Auto-Pay” feature that should do exactly that, right?  Wrong.  This would be gripe three.

Gripe Number 3

The auto-pay feature allows you to pay your bill automatically either bi-weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, or semi-annually.  It has one box that says “Payment amount $:” where you can enter in the dollar amount to pay.  I decided to type in $5,000 here since my bi-weekly credit card charges would never exceed this amount.  The logical programmer side of me figured if my balance was under $5,000, they would simply pay the current balance on the card.  WRONG!

A few weeks later I decided to check on this.  When I logged on, I saw that my credit card bill was now negative $4,100!  They had swiped five grand from my checking account!  There were three more payments setup staggered every other week for another five grand a piece.

So let me get this straight, FIA.  To use your auto-pay feature, you have to magically know what your balance will be?  And if it’s under, they simply take the money anyway and leave you with a negative credit card balance?  It was then I realized this feature has absolutely nothing to do with customer convenience, it is simply designed to deter anyone from paying off a credit card, and hopefully leave people automatically making minimum payments on their exorbitant credit card balances for as long as possible.  I have no choice but to remember to logon every few weeks, jump through these hoops and pay off my card in full.  At this point, I’m thinking I should just go back to using a debit card.

The lesson here?  When designing a UI, don’t be evil.  You’ll just annoy bloggers who will write about your gratuitous usability sleaze.

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