August 20, 2006

Give Me My Money. Now.

The Players: Wells Fargo Bank, eTrade, and Bank of America

The Hypothesis: I should be able to get my own money when I want, as fast as I want, to do whatever I want.

The Reality: Although each of these institutions offers Web-based transfers, and in the case of eTrade, stock purchases and sales, I don't really get access to my own earned money immediately, despite the fact it's mine. While they have made it relatively simple to move money from one institution to another, and have even gone so far as to make it without charge (that's good!), I find myself consistently frustrated that I can't get to my own cash, in the event I need it.

I have been a loyal Wells Fargo customer since 1998, and opened an eTrade account during the online stock boom in the 1999-2000 timeframe. My wife, a loyal Bank of America customer herself, was acquired following months-long negotiations involving multiple parties. While we've so far avoided getting a joint checking account, something that may change soon, it is common for me to need to write her checks to cover outstanding items, or to spot her on excess spending. And every once in a while, what she needs exceeds the cash I have on hand, meaning I need to draw from the till at eTrade to make ends meet.

One easy way would be to transfer to her Bank of America account directly from eTrade, but we've learned that can take 4-5 business days, and lots of waiting around to figure out if it's really happened yet. The same is true if I transfer from eTrade to Wells Fargo, but the onus would then be on me to wait - more accepted, obviously. I could write her a check, and post-date it, but that'd be silly.

And there's one more option - move all my banking to eTrade. After all, they do say they offer competitive savings rates. But that's not happening any time soon.

Until then, we still have two major issues:

1. I can't figure out why I first can't send my money from eTrade to Bank of America or Wells Fargo immediately.

2. Why doesn't money I gain from selling stock on eTrade become immediately available, either for reinvestment or for transferring?

This Wednesday, I sold half my Apple holdings, to diversify and to gain cash. But the money hasn't appeared available to transfer to either Bank of America (her) or Wells Fargo (me), several days later. Foolishness. It's not as if eTrade is going to bounce a check if they send me my money. Last I checked, they were doing fairly well. And as a strong customer for both them and Wells Fargo for several years, one would think that the skids would be greased a bit for simple transactions like buying, selling and transferring. They're basic. But instead, I need to deplete my savings to give my wife the money she needs, and then wait a week or so, optimistically, to get my own money out of eTrade and into Wells Fargo to refill the money pit. It's real simple - make a change. Give me my money. Now.

Listening to ''That's Life'', by Paul Van Dyk (Play Count: 6)

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