Wells Fargo Billing Glitch Reminds Us to Keep a Close Eye on Online Banking

Banking concept snail pulling money with copy space
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In 2018 — a modern age of contactless payments, instant peer-to-peer money transfers and whatever we’re supposed to be doing with bitcoin — online banking still has a major hurdle to leap: glitches.

Some Wells Fargo customers discovered Jan. 17 that recent payments made through the bank’s online bill payment system had been deducted twice. For some of those customers, the double bills wiped out account balances and started the cycle of overdraft fees.

Wells Fargo’s Twitter account confirmed the issue and updated customers when it resolved the mistake. The bank blamed the glitch on an internal processing error and said it would resolve the problem without customers having to take action.

Capital One customers found themselves similarly confused shortly after the new year, when debit card transactions appeared multiple times on their online accounts. That issue was resolved quickly, but not before some customers feared their accounts had been hacked.

At best, these glitches are annoying for customers seeking up-to-the-minute information about their balances and billing activity. At worst, they can cause panic for people who maintain lower balances and are one internal processing error from overdrafting.

Online Banking Isn’t Broken. It’s Just Not Perfect Yet.

So if banks have a hard time making sure their online systems are working correctly, how can you, the ordinary user, be confident your accounts are squared away?

First, be sure to check regularly for updates to any banking and budgeting apps you use. Not only will this ensure that you see the latest and greatest features, but it will also protect you from malware or other threats the provider recently encountered.

Then, turn on as many alerts as you need to feel comfortable and aware. Setting an alert by text or email when your account balance dwindles to a certain amount may be enough to remind you to log in and take a peek at recent activity. Plus, it’ll help you avoid pesky overdraft fees.

But it may help to go one step further and receive an alert every time a payment is made using your debit card.

If you’re standing at the register and get a text as soon as you swipe your card to buy shampoo, you can rest easy knowing you set off the chain of events. If you’re curled up in front of the TV and start getting debit card purchase notifications right and left, well, then you’ll know right away there’s a problem.

Beyond using the tools and alerts your bank offers, you can’t rely completely on them to manage your money seamlessly. That’s why an old-school budget — maybe even on paper, if it makes you feel more accountable — can help you spot online banking issues ASAP. Your budget, whatever form it may take, should note any recurring expenses, anticipated dates for automatically debited bills and typical amounts for those bills.

Automation alone can’t guarantee a perfect banking experience, but technology combined with your own record keeping can get you close.

Lisa Rowan is a senior writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder.