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Apologies to SmartyPig

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On Friday I went a little off the handle reviewing SmartyPig's registration process. I got frustrated by the many security steps that I had to take before finally getting locked out because my information didn't match the information in Equifax/SmartyPig's database.

What I should have said is that many online banking security systems are not user friendly nowadays - and it's not their fault. The fear of identity theft has driven everyone including regulators to more and more stringent standards. What confuses me is that not every bank has the expansive security process. I have accounts with Bank of America and TD Ameritrade. These account have thousands of dollars in them. These companies are worth billions of dollars - how can they not be required to implement these security systems? It makes no sense that a smaller start-up like SmartyPig, with a business plan that would lead to smaller accounts, should have to be more secure (and I don't buy that they want to have this process in place).

Back in 2004, I worked for a company that created cell phone applications that utilized the GPS in some phones. It was a tremendously difficult business as only a small subset of phones were GPS enabled, and cell phone carriers didn't want allow customers to install these applications on their phones (because they'd be the one that would get complaints if it didn't work out). It was a frustrating time for the whole industry. I feel for SmartyPig - it seems like a similar situation to me. The comments from others showed that these extensive registration/login processes are frustrating customers. It's not to the same degree, but when you are required to frustrate people, you are facing an uphill battle.

I don't know if it came across on Friday, but I was particularly critical of SmartyPig. I had hoped to give them a review that would help them advance their product. It appears they will be taking my suggestion to reword the requirement of a driver's license to include a state issued ID. I would like to see them be able to take a passport ID or a military ID in absence of those as well. Overall it's a minor issue as most adults will have required ID. You'll notice I stressed "adults" there. It would seem to me that the SmartyPig service would be popular amongst teens saving up for their first car or a video game system. Yet this target audience likely doesn't have the state IDs necessary to sign up. I'm sure the SmartyPig team knows this and are looking at ways to address the youth market.

In the coming days and weeks, perhaps I'll be able to set up an account manually and give a full review of the service.

Last updated on October 21, 2009.

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9 Responses to “Apologies to SmartyPig”

  1. pbj says:

    I’m not surprised your article got a quick response from SmartyPig (what a terrible name!)

    I also hope your 180 apology doesn’t have anything to do with a realization that similar companies may stop asking you for trials and reviews if you show a history of dogging them.

    I’m not saying you’re selling out, just want to say I feel you and your readers are best served by expressing your raw, honest opinions. Friday’s article definitely got that across!

  2. Lazy Man says:

    Oh no, so I’ll still call them on out things like the drivers license (which they fixed to say state ID). It’s just that I realize the problem isn’t with SmartyPig, it’s much broader. It’s a large reason why you don’t see many ING Direct ads here. I need them to simplify their logon process before I will recommend them.

  3. HisMoney says:

    Exactly how would you have ING simplify their login process? There’s one extra security question asked the first time you logon from a particluar computer. Afterwards, you simply click your pin number in.

    As far as Smartypig goes, I think it bodes well for their future that they are listening to their users and making so many changes quickly, such as allowing ACH transfers out, reducing fees to fund someone elses’ account, etc…

    Sure, it seems as though they didn’t think some of their business practices through enough but if you listen to your customers, they will let you know how to improve. Not enough businesses do that these days.

  4. Lazy Man says:

    My process for logging into ING is like this…
    – Find obscure Customer Number/Saver ID that I didn’t assign in a pile of papers
    – Verify the rose and the phrase (which had to be set up at one point, but at least it’s a small one-time cost)
    – Click on the image to enter in my pin.

    I guess it’s not as bad as I remember – other than the random digits that make up my Customer Number. If that becomes my username, my e-mail, or something else that I have to go physically look at, I’d be good with it.

    I hear that SmartyPig is doing the right things and listening to their customers, I still want to try the service myself.

  5. The thing is, the problem IS with Smarty Pig. They know what their registration process is like (or should). The end user doesn’t. If their registration process is so bad they need to take proactive steps to see that users don’t go away frustrated. That may be the way they present it. “We take your financial safety seriously, therefore…” They could list the information that will be needed to complete the process up front. They could do as ING does and explain why on the phishing control.

    Your tough review was one of the best I’ve seen, and the banking needs to know that. They CAN help it.

  6. Lazy Man says:

    Part of me can’t believe that they don’t already know that it’s getting too complex. The other part of me thinks that maybe they are getting squeezed by the regulators on one side and the consumers on the other.

    I would challenge SmartyPig and any financial organization to push back on the regulators, so we don’t need to unlock 72 locks to open up one door.

  7. Mrs. Micah says:

    re:ING, I was able to set up a simple saver ID just using a SN I used about 6 years ago. So I still remember it, but it’s not really associated with me. And then the security questions don’t get me since I always login from my computer.

    So it’s 1 screen of entering ID, 1 of typing in PIN and I’m ready. Not as fast as 1 login, but maybe 30 seconds?

    The state ID thing seems rather cumbersome. At the library, we require something similar, but parents can use (and are required to use) theirs to sign up for minors. If the minor has a license, we’ll enter that too… But we accept passports, military ID, green cards, basically anything governmental.

    I don’t know if there’d be a way for Smarty Pig to set up dependents accounts.

  8. deepali says:

    I just opened an FNBO account and had to deal with the same process. The same with a brokerage account at Scottrade. It *is* very frustrating. The last time I logged into my cell phone account, I was asked to enter some security questions/answers. I’ve already had to do the same with my credit card accounts, including the pictures/phrases. But I take comfort in knowing that extra work for me means extra work for the guy trying to steal my identity.
    It is time-consuming and expensive to track down someone who open a false account with false funds (kiting or whatever). Those expenses are passed on to the consumer. I’ll take the extra security instead, please!

    As for setting up account for teenagers without ID – I know you can get an ID for a teenager (the same state ID that non-drivers have). But you have to be 18 to open a bank account anyway (I assume SmartyPig operates like a regular bank, FDIC and all?). For a teenager to open the account, it would have to be custodial, which is doable, since I know you can do so with brokerage accounts. Except it requires paper mail and things being notarized. Still frustrating!

  9. Lisa says:

    Unfortunately online banking and shopping and other services are becoming more complicated in an effort to assist people in their efforts to protect themselves from identity theft. But it is a problem, as I too become frustrated with the amount of information requested.
    There are some great ways to protect your information as well as to make shopping and surfing the net that much faster and fun. Like using roboform for saving frequent information and forms.

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