Thursday, January 24, 2008

Liking ING Direct

Since I opened up my savings account with ING last November, I have been drawn to its minimalistic yet functional user interface. It is so refreshing compared to my other banks.

Bank of America used to have a quick-loading interface until they changed it. Its current interface has more functionalities, but of the kinds that I don't need. It has became slower and not as agile as the previous one. Compared to ING's, the size of the main content column is smaller too. Transaction descriptions are wrapped and often end up truncated. You'd have to click twice to see the full description and the full description display replaces the transaction list display. It's cute, but not functional. I rather have a wider main content column so I don't have to be clicking around just to read the full description, just like in their older interface.

Bank of America's disappointing new interface along with their lack of any savings or CD accounts with decent rate prompted me to consider other banks as my primary bank.

At that time I already have a HSBC checking account for me to withdraw money from while traveling abroad since HSBC has branches in just about every place I have and am planning to go.

So, I setup online access to HSBC and found that its login procedure was clunky. Type in username in one screen. Move to another screen to type in your password and clicking your secret word on a virtual keyboard. Cumbersome and misguided security implementation. While the position of the virtual keyboard keeps changing, the relative distance between the keys on the virtual keyboard is constant. A key-logger simply has to record the relative coordinate of each click to figure out your secret word.

The interface is not fancy, but quite decent. One thing I find is inadequate is the lack of running balance in its transaction listing. Transactions are also not posted until the next day. So, if you make a payment for today, the money will be deducted from your account today and you'll see that the available balance goes down. But you can't see the transaction that causes that until the next day.

HSBC's online account opening is also another thing that is lagging behind other online banks I've dealt with. It took me almost two weeks to finalize opening a savings account. I did it in less than half hour with other banks offering online account opening: BofA, ING, ETrade, Countrywide, Wells Fargo, Wachovia, etc.

Yet, I am still sticking with them because of their international branches and also decent savings and CD rates.

But, nowadays, ING is my primary bank. Its interface is quick-loading and minimalistic. There is no distracting in-bank advertisement on the top, sides, or anywhere else on the screen. I don't need to have a javascript-enabled browser to access it. It does not use silly virtual keyboard for authentication. It has a wide main content column so transaction descriptions are not wrapped and truncated. It has running balance. Posted transactions show up immediately. And it has a feature that no other bank has yet: its transaction listing screen shows scheduled transactions that is going to be applied to the account. You get to see all the pending transfer and bill payments together with posted transactions so you get an overall sense of the activity.

The only thing I hate is the screen for entering payee information. Too many small fields so you can't copy-paste information from the payee website effectively. You'd have to copy-paste information in small chunks. It's so frustrating. By far, BofA's bill payment interface and functionality are still the best I've seen.

The rates in ING are not exactly spectacular but also not something to sneeze at either. Among online banks, its rate offering has lately fell somewhat below the average. That really does not matter for me because I'm using it as my primary bank and the cost of not incurring aggravation on myself due to having to use badly designed user interface more than make up its so-so rates.

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