Keep the change

October 29, 2005

I hate change. Hell, I hate cash period. I'm very used to the surprised looks I get from friends when, for whatever reason, I actually whip out some cash to pay for something. One of the biggest reasons I hate cash is that you have to keep replenishing it, which means taking trips to the bank (or selling things on Craigslist), which means you're being inefficient (unless of course you walk around with thousands of dollars in your pocket or you work at a bank).

That said, most of the people I know don't seem to agree with me about this. They almost always use cash and make frequent trips to the bank to get more of it. My argument is simple: it's 2000-fucking-5, the world is electronic, why aren't you? I don't get it. With a debit/cash card you never have to worry about not having money (if you actually have money in the bank), there is an electronic record kept of whatever you purchase, and best of all there is no change to deal with.

Perhaps Bank of America has finally realized that a significant number of people still prefer cash, because they've just come out with a pretty ingenious program, Keep the Change, that would seem to prod people into using their debit cards more. Basically, the program rounds up any purchases you make using your debit card to the nearest dollar and puts the difference between the rounded amount and the actual amount into your savings account — automatically and with every purchase.

What I don't quite understand though is that the name "Keep the Change" seems to be a bit of a misnomer. I mean, if you are using your debit card, there is no "change" anyway, right? Right. Notwithstanding the confusing name, I still think it's a neat idea, especially for those spendthrifts who don't normally "save."

Sadly though, the program can't really compete with some of the other cash-back credit card programs out there because those give you something on top of what you've already put in (assuming that you pay off your balance each month) rather than skimming the top off of what was already there and repackaging it . That said, I do think that this aspect of the program is pretty cool:

For the first three months, we'll match your Keep the Change? savings at 100%. That means for every Keep the Change transfer, we'll contribute the same amount to your Bank of America savings account. And when the three months are over, to make it even easier to save, we'll continue matching 5% a year, every year.


While on the topic of Bank of America, I have to say that their website can be pretty goddamn annoying sometimes. For those not in the know, BoA has two completely separate computer systems, east and west, that cannot talk to each other; apparently, like those that still use cash exclusively, no one there got the memo that it's 2000-fucking-5 and that this sort of interoperability should be a non-issue — it's the same company for christ's sake!

I have accounts in both California and Florida and if I want to deposit a check into my Florida account while in California I actually have to go into the bank, fill out some paperwork and then wait in line so that I can talk to a teller (even though I can withdraw "Florida" money from any BoA ATM). What is more is that the deposit is not instantaneous and usually takes a couple of days to show up in my account. It's much easier to just deposit it into the California account and then move it over electronically.

While this isn't that big of a deal (I mean, how often do you use checks anyway?), there is another aspect of this divide that is incredibly annoying, namely, the fact that you can't consolidate multi-state accounts (if they exist on opposite systems) into a single online "account." I have to use separate logins to get into my accounts even though they are through the same damn bank. This wouldn't be such a chore if you weren't required to choose the state in which the account is held (the different login name isn't enough), but you are and the song-and-dance requires multiple steps.

If anyone can explain away this chasm, pray tell.

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