An Open Letter to Amalgamated Bank

Dear Amalgamated Bank,

I’ve recently begun using online banking to manage some accounts and was hoping to do that with my primary checking and savings account at Amalgamated Bank as well. However, your terms for AmalgamatedOnline state:

A personal computer running Microsoft windows with Internet access is required to access our Internet Banking System (the “System”). For security we require the web browsers to support 128-bit SSL encryption. For example, Microsoft Internet Explorer Version 5.0 (or later) and Netscape Navigator Version 4.75 (or later) are acceptable.

This is quite distressing. There is no need or excuse for a bank to use anything other than open standards to serve its customers in this way. Proper use of W3C standards such as XHTML, CSS, and HTML could ensure your services would be accessible to all your customers, regardless of their choice of computing platform. It would likely save you money as well, since standards based sites are routinely simpler, easier to use, easier to develop, and easier to debug.

For example, sticking to standard HTML could have avoided the broken JavaScript that is hiding the basic contact e-mail address from your customers. Yes, I’m sure the JavaScript disclaimer works just fine in Windows in Internet Explorer. However I use Firefox on a Mac so finding it was a large hassle. Had you simply used a basic mailto link and HTML as I’ve done here, you would have saved yourself a significant development cost and better served your customers.

Personally I do use a Mac to manage my financial information, as I’m sure many of your other customers do as well. Probably there are a few using Linux. There might even be some business customers who need to pull their accounts into an old VMS or MVS accounting system. It’s sad to see you’re going out of your way to segregate us from our data.

Thus, after being a loyal Amalgamated Bank customer for over ten years now, I will begin looking elsewhere for my banking services. I’m sorry to leave, but I can’t afford to stick with a bank that won’t provide basic services just because I prefer to use a Mac.

Sincerely yours,

Elliotte Rusty Harold

12 Responses to “An Open Letter to Amalgamated Bank”

  1. Leave a Reply Says:

    O, man ! That’s just stupid – switching bank because it’s JavaScript ! Mos of bank web sites have JS stuff.

  2. Leave a Reply Says:

    LOL ! I can see “Done, but with errors on page” message in my MSIE :)
    Your blog is not MSIE compatible :)

  3. Barend Garvelink Says:

    At least it’s JavaScript; you could have fixed it with Greasemonkey even if you shouldn’t have to. I’m aware of several sites that rely on VBScript. Now there’s a dead end.

    What I can’t tell from your open letter is whether you’ve asked them for Mac support and got flat out rejected before announcing you would close your account for lack of it, or whether you just announced you’d close your account for lack of Mac support. I’ve found my own bank to be quite responsive to feedback on their Internet services. It saves them a lot of overhead cost, so there’s a real driver for contiunually improving it.

  4. Oliver Mason Says:

    I don’t think he’s switching banks just due to some javascript. It’s the principle that counts. If we don’t fight for open standards you will soon find that more and more webservices won’t work until you’ve got the latest version of Windows and IE, and possibly also Flash and whatnot.

    And the main point is that this is not even necessary at all. I suspect it’s just ignorance, as the people in charge of the web at the bank can’t imagine that anybody would run anything else but Windows/IE. Or they think it’s cheaper to only support one browser.

  5. Elliotte Rusty Harold Says:

    The JavaScript issue is just a symptom. I wouldn’t switch for that alone. The reason I’m looking for a new bank is because their terms of service specifically require me to use Windows. I’d rather switch banks than operating systems.

    That being said, though, the use of JavaScript to replace mailto links is indicative of poor website design and general lack of competence. It doesn’t give me a great deal of faith in this bank’s ability to protect my information or provide a decent user experience, on Windows or otherwise.

    Finally, I didn’t write most of the software for this site, and I do know there are some problems. If there are specific issues, especially with regards to standards compliance, please point them out, and I can probably fix them However, I think the only JavaScript you’ll find on public pages is from Google ads, so if that’s what’s confusing IE, then you’ll have to talk to Google.

  6. anon Says:

    Why would you think it is stupid? Why not change a bank if you are not happy with… whatever? Or even, why not change a bank if you feel like that, for no reason whatsoever? Who’s a cutomer?

  7. jeffcityjon Says:

    I happen to be a lead Web Developer for a group of banks. I do believe in Open Standards. I personally see to it that all of our sites work on all significant browsers. You should check us out.

  8. Clive Says:

    lol – it made me think of the good old Dresdner Bank over here in (D) … their online site didn’t work with Mac / Safari well, but they had a Mac in their ads for online banking! Talk about misleading ;)

  9. Life focus pro Says:

    I think the banks have the right to impose their own requirements for security in online banking. It makes be feel safer than if they relied only on open standards. All this is too sensitive to be complaining.

  10. Barky VonSchauzer Says:

    Amalgamated has failed to respond to my 25 emails and 10 voicemails regarding my application to open a CD online two weeks ago. Wouldn’t care but they’ve got copies of my and my wife’s driver’s licenses (required to open account) and the approval to withdraw significant $ from my checking account at another bank.

  11. GS Says:

    I understand your frustration with Amalgamated Bank. I have been with them since I moved to Manhattan 29 years ago. I use to get great customer service. I knew the people on the platform who knew me and my accounts. AB are always at least 3 years behind on development. When they went on-line, it was very confusing–just look at their website. You have to hunt just to find where to login-in. Go Ahead–try it!! They surely don’t come up immediately when you Google, only that it is a misleading link. I usually have to try 3 times (I do it so infrequently). Half of the time their ATM’s don’t work. You can’t get a mini-statement any longer from the machine. You have to give your SS# verbally on the telephone. The head of customer service in the branch isn’t even a “nice guy” anymore. And yes…I am weening myself off from my original financial institution. Why am I still with them–maybe because they are still the “no fees” bank. But all the new ones offer this too. Yet there is something to say about longevity and being the “workers’ bank” as opposed to the investor’s bank. And that it is something that remotely traces the vestiges of the east village and my early years here. They have been there for me through all my struggles. etc etc

    Amalgamated is a VERY conservative establishment. And I think as long as they are, change will be difficult for them.
    They should be more universally adaptable. They should be more accommodating to their customers’ needs. Especially basic and the primary ones–i.e.: managing your account. They moved their branch to 14th Street and look more plastic and contemporary, but that isn’t enough. I believe their customers are leaving them, finally. With the availability of 7-day week banks on every other block why should we pledge out allegiance to an institution which doesn’t fulfill our requirements?

  12. Elizabeth Says:

    I am also thinking about changing….I have been with this bank for 7 years and they don’t seem to want to keep with the times……

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