The Georgia trip was a blast. We went everywhere we wanted to and did everything our hearts desired. Wonderful opportunities arose, and we were careful to avoid disaster on the trip as well. Caution can be taken so far that you don’t have fun, but short of that, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Here are a few things we kept in mind on this trip:
- Don’t leave valuables hanging out. Gadgets in the car, money in your wallet, camera around your neck, these are all attractive to people you don’t want to hang out with.
- If you’re using a card, check for skimmers. Grab the card reader on the gas pump and tug on it. Look for bits that are hastily glued or stuck on. Thieves install these to read your card, store the number, and then print up a new card with your info that they can use or sell.
- If you’re taking an adventurous trip or tour, do what the guide or company recommends. Danger is but an absent-minded fail away.
To the first point, I had one experience where someone kindly offered to take my laptop off my hands. I was stuffing it in my bag as I was leaving a cafe, because I was in an EXCEPTIONAL hurry. That was a poor move, but a kind “Thanks, but no,” resolved the situation. To the second point, I used my card very little and am now habitually check card skimmers without even thinking about it. Even places I regularly patronize. And I always cover my hand when entering my pin. And on our kayak trip, we heeded the advice on avoiding oyster cuts, sharks, and letting the tide drag us or our boats out to sea. It was a win overall. Monday, back at the office, I got an alert on my phone for $118.30 at Rite-aid Pharmacy. I messaged my bank immediately to make sure it was mislabeled or some other kind of glitch. A little while later, when two more transactions came through (one for over $500), I called the bank immediately. They’re usually quite responsive to messages, so I’ve never had to call them in the past, but this was clearly out of hand. The card was immediately blocked, and a new one was issued and expedited to arrive Thursday. I was assured that the charges would be reversed in my account and I would not be part of the dispute process. (Basically, the credit card company refuses to pay the shop, and that establishment is left with the burden of the charge and handling the criminal investigation. So the only thing I had to do is wait for the new card, activate it, and then wait for the funds to be restored to my account. The card arrived Thursday, ahead of the July 4th holiday, which was nice. But they got it here so fast, the card processor doesn’t have my information in the system for me to activate it yet. So I can’t do anything with it even today, Sunday, 7 days after the theft occurred. In a few days, my funds will be restored. In the meantime, all I can do with my account is send payments (electronic checks) and pay things with my account numbers. Now, while no retail establishments will accept that, I can at least manage most of my bills. The real moral of this story, then, is that caution is not always enough to protect you. While I wasn’t mugged or swept out to sea (thank goodness), I still became a victim of fraud. What can we do to mitigate the severity of the problem, should it arise?
Surround Yourself With Allies
Let’s be honest. We’re talking about banking, and it’s pretty much impossible to get allies in that market. You’re less likely to get mugged when you’re with a group of friends. When venturing out, the buddy system has been around all these years for a reason. Banks, however, well, what can you do. Well, you already know where I’m going with this. I can’t shut up about Simple. I’ve had my account for a while now, and have been raving about it from pretty much day one. The most frequent argument I see FOR switching to Simple is this: Fees. I know most banks hook people saying they have no fees, but then they all nail you on fees. Simple has fees on a few things I think, but literally nothing that I’ve ever needed. I’ve never gotten a single fee on this account. It’s incredible. But it’s still not the most compelling reason for me. I’m a Simple customer for the service. If I have a question, I can call and someone will usually answer right away. I don’t have to futz with digital prompts, pressing or saying 7, waiting on endless hold, or getting transferred the moment I get someone on the phone … three times in a row … with no one able to resolve my issue or answer my question. I can even send them a quick, secure message through the bank app and usually get a response within an hour. There are so many reasons, I should make a list:
- No fees for anything a normal person would need to do with their account
- Amazing service both in-app and by phone
- Amazing app with TONS of features
- Near-instant notification of transactions (mine push to my Pebble watch)
- Transaction search, for the life of your account, on date, amount, text, tag, store, or even location via geotags
- Goals, which are like little separate accounts where you can store money for special things like saving for a house or setting aside your food/utility/mortgage budget for the month – whatever you want to do with them
- Send payments to anyone any time
- Instantly send money to other Simple accounts (great for spouse or business partner)
- In-app ATM finder (Simple doesn’t maintain ATMs, so they are part of networks that provide no-fee ATM services for account holders
- Attach a PDF or photo to any transaction
- Lots and lots of security, but still convenient to use
- You can temporarily block your own card for any reason (fraud, theft, or otherwise) at any time through the app (I wish I’d know of & thought about this when that first transaction came through)
- Transaction tags (through hashtags in the description) for detailed tracking and management (e.g. tracking business expenses for your LLC vs travel expenses to invoice to a client)
- Tons of analysis tools (web only)
- Simple isn’t a bank, but an interface to a bank (Bancorp, specifically), so your funds are still FDIC insured and protected by all the same infrastructure on which everyone relies
Aside from the web-only analysis tools, ALL of this can be done through their mobile app. Oh, and if you don’t have a fee-free ATM handy, cash back on transactions is free where stores offer it. Each of these features is excellent. All of them together is nearly overwhelmingly awesome. Think about all the times you’ve hated on your bank, yet still let them manage your money. You can put an end to that if you want.
There are few marks in the negative column, and perhaps none of them apply to you, but here’s what I know.
- No business accounts (yet)
- No joint accounts (yet)
- No paper checks included (you can order them from a check company, but I’d rather send checks digitally, and Simple makes that easy)
- US only (for now)
- Invite only (they’re still scaling up)
- Simple isn’t a bank, but an interface to a bank (Bancorp, specifically), so I don’t think they’re substantively disrupting the market, just providing an alternative front-end
In my mind, the only real takeaway from that list is that they’re still a young company and scaling up. That said, members are given codes that they can use to help their friends gain quicker access. You can sign up here if you’re interested. If you just want to learn more, Simple.com is their URL. I have been in no way compensated for or encouraged to write about this post. I’m just a massive fan of Simple. There’s literally nothing in it for me to write all this. After my phone call with them about the fraud, I was so delighted with the service that they were providing (on top of already loving the heck out of the company), I decided to blog about it. So there you have it. Questions? Let me know or contact Simple directly through their Twitter, Facebook, or site.