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Simple ATM cards being declined (simple.com)
46 points by suneel0101 1603 days ago | hide | past | web | 61 comments | favorite

I don't have anything to do with 'simple' but I'm working with a group of people on another system somewhere in the payment chain. In banking failure is not an option, a little detail that I keep having to drill into my collegues, some of who would rather have an MVP with the occasional bit of downtime than something a lot more solid. So for now we're stuck in the 'hurd' loop.

Within any start-up there are always differing opinions on the level of reliability required. My first real job in IT was with the Dutch division of the Chase Mannhattan bank, they made it pretty clear upon hiring me that they did not mind hiring me into a responsible position as young as I was but that my first fuck-up would also be my last. I'm not sure if they would actually follow through on that promise but it certainly made me a bit more wary and more responsible. The fact that I ended up leaving of my own accord means that their threat probably had its intended effect.

When you're in the payment chain, whether as an IPSP, a bank or something else that directly affects peoples income and ability to function in society you have no excuse other than 'meteor fragments took out all three of our datacenters'.

Stuff is up, check-totals are at '0', transactions are never lost. 24 hours, 365 (of 366) days per year.

If you can't do that don't bother playing.

The bank I'm with (Rabobank in nl) lost a lot of respect from me (after building that up for 2 decades) when they blamed a bunch of down time on 'hackers'. What bugged me even more than the fact that they were down was the fact that they wanted to blame another party for being down.

The one thing I'll leave a little bit of room for is capacity issues during the holiday shopping spree, but even that is pretty bad form and indicative of very bad planning.

Judging by the post the error lies with Simple's partner, unfortunately for Simple customers will likely not care about that at all. To them their simple card doesn't work when they expect it to work.

I hope for simple they'll be able to fix this very quickly.

This is the right stance I believe. Sadly there seems to be a more and more failures creeping up in banking and payment processing areas, and people seem to get used to it. I had two different banks fail on me (operations not actually aknowledged when the interface was showing otherwise, error on payments because of misreadings of the state of the accounts, two factor authentication down under peak load) the last month.

It feels a bit like when the general public got used to see computer fails, and "the computer is never wrong" mental image became a "it crashes from times to times, you just have to reboot" one.

Just to contrast this a little, what you paint here is a panacea, while the reality is that even just this year 10 million accounts in the UK were out of order for a period of months due to a reliability problem: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/jun/25/how-natwest...

That looks like their settlement batches were no longer accepted. They deserve to lose their customers / go bust over that. Natwest will survive because not all their customers care about such stuff to the same extent, some may not even find out. Others are bound by their mortgages to have checking accounts with Natwest.

I didn't say that those things don't happen. I said that they are not acceptable. The fact that others fuck up does not give you an excuse to fuck up.

These are exactly the kind of discussions that I was hinting at above.

Simple has earned such goodwill with me for their amazing customer service, zero fees (even for overdrafts), and overall customer experience that I'm happy to give them a pass on this.

The fact that they're being proactive about their status updates, and transparently honest, helps a lot, too.

A relationship with a bank is a lot like a relationship with a doctor: bedside manner is sometimes the most important element to patient (customer) satisfaction - sometimes even surpassing outcomes, as long as it's not too serious.

Sibling threads touting banks as paragons of reliability, with any momentary loss-of-access-to-funds as unforgivable, must have been dealing with a different banking system than me.

With major banks like BofA, Citibank, and others, I've had…

• credit cards often disabled for fraud-alert false alarms

• check deposits sometimes subject to mysterious fund-availability delays

• individual ATM clusters or whole ATM networks down for short periods

• account information and ATM withdrawals sometimes unavailable during 'system maintenance' hours (often early Sunday AM)

• a check erroneously bounced by a major bank (BofA) when both available-by-rule funds and enrolled 'overdraft protection' would have each been individually able to cover the check amount

• my ATM card unusable while traveling to the exotic third-world locale of Ottawa, Canada due to some sort of more-than-one-day network security issue

Stuff happens, to banks also. Cut Simple some slack.

Errors on individual transactions and reporting being unavailable is not the same as transactions simply not happening at all.

Stuff happens to banks and then people switch to other banks, especially when you're a new player.

If my bank did this to me I'd be gone instantly, I almost did just over their inability to keep telebanking working through a denial of service attack, and then blaming it on the hackers. All my cards (credit, debit across several companies and private accounts) link back to the same bank. If that bank does not do its job I can't do mine.

ATM and pos worked fine during that period, if it had not I'd be gone for sure.

>If that bank does not do its job I can't do mine.

If banking is that important to you, then perhaps you ought to consider redundant providers? I mean, that's what you do with connectivity. you don't rely on one provider with a good sla; no, you get two providers.

There are quite a few problems that come with setting up double accounts for every company that I'm involved with. You'd have to spread the funds around in such a way that you could cover any contingency from any account, which in effect would mean that you's need twice the money. It also means a lot more work for the bookkeeper, two two factor auth tokens to keep on me, two account managers to manage, double the contracts and so on.

They deal I have with my bank is simple: they do their work, they get to keep transaction fees, screw me on the interbank interest rates and delay foreign transactions just long enough that they can go play with my cash. In return I expect them to deliver one thing: utter reliability.

If it gets to the point that there is no single bank that gives me the feeling that they can do just that I will indeed have to split assets across several banks. (there are other good reasons to do that, such as the maximum insured balance per account holder).

But the costs of doing so are what is holding me from that.

It looks like this started around Jan 1 00:00:00 UTC 2013.

I wonder if it's related to the leap second bug discovered in July. Apparently, a some popular NTP servers incorrectly sent out leap seconds at midnight. Even if it's not that specific issue, I bet the root cause is a time-keeping bug.

Ordinarily I might consider this worth a loss in reputation, but given the uniquely one-sided battle that is trying to cause any disruption in the banking industry, I'd be willing to cut these guys some slack. In this area the enemy has big guns

I wouldn't cut them any slack. I can't say my bank cards have ever gone down. Totally losing access to your customer's money doesn't help your reputation at all, "disruptor" or not.

EDIT: "The Bancorp Bank", the bank Simple farms out the actual banking to, has been around since 2000[0]. Simple _might_ have an excuse for screwing up like this if this was all their own system, but an established bank doesn't.

[0] http://www.thebancorp.com/about/

The inverse of this is exactly why I'd cut them slack: there's no way for them to do business without partnering with the competition, in this case being solely dependent on them.

Edit: it's exactly like trying to reinvent Twitter by consuming their APIs, and we've all seen how that goes

The Twitter comparison doesn't work here; Bancorp is explicitly a middleman. As long as Bancorp is getting paid, it's in their best interest (excuse the pun) for Simple to stay afloat.

Bancorp is a closer analog to EC2; they let Simple get off the ground quickly without having to build and harden their own banking systems and transaction networks. Also like EC2, Simple gets to take the heat equally if Bancorp screws up.

That said, this is pretty bad, but if Simple had built their own network and left a glaring security hole open, they'd be utter toast.

In the context of Wikileaks, Visa and Amazon were explicitly middlemen. As long as Visa and Amazon were paid, it was in their best interest <snip>

No doubt you already see where I'm going with this.

They are dealing with people's money, and should be held to the same standard as every other business in that space.

They also don't deserve any special 'slack' just because they use other companies services. You wouldn't accept that excuse from Bank of America.

Unless you use your bank cards every hour of every day, you don't know for sure if you've ever lost access, perhaps for longer than this Simple outage. Maybe you've just been lucky enough not to try access when it was out.

They're literally disrupting banking right now. Is accepting unreliability from financial institutions the disruption banking needs?

Is being unforgiving to new entrants in a typically scary industry the type of behavior that will encourage new competition?

You should be unforgiving. I have no idea what the root cause behind this is but testing roll-over is obviously part & parcel of the level of reliability required in the financial world.

Allowed: scheduled downtime announced ahead of time for reporting, unscheduled downtime with localized effect due to 'acts of god'. Not allowed: customers can't access their funds when they should be able to.

When you disrupt the banking industry you especially should be doing at least as good as the established parties do in the reliability department.

Let's hope they have it fixed very quickly or it may well kill Simple.

Imagine being in a bar somewhere right now and having just bought a round finding out that you can't pay for it. You'll hear about that one for years.

you especially should be doing at least as good as the established parties do in the reliability department.

Easy to say but I think it is unreasonable to expect a company that is couple years old to have as much reliability as ones who have had decades to figure it out.

I think the Simple customers have every right be absolutely pissed. For some, they may even realize that the downside of going with Simple isn't justified by the upside. Hopefully, for the majority of Simple users the upside will make the rare downtime bearable.

My view would change if this becomes a regular occurrence with Simple. But that does not seem to be the case.

Try explaining how less reliability is acceptable to the guy that is out of gas trying to get home.

Payment systems have an impact that is unlike any other system.

It's very well possible that lives depend on your system working. You may never know about it but you should definitely build as though they do.

You can't build financial software the same way that you build some CRUD site or the latest social fad.

You can't build financial software the same way that you build some CRUD site or the latest social fad.

No one is arguing that you should be able to do that. And it is kind of insulting to imply that that is how the folks at Simple look at development without some source.

Systems break for many reasons, and you can't simply assume the cause to be a social fad attitude of the dev team.

I highly doubt Simple's invite-only early-adopters are dependent on their Simple card as their only way to buy beer and/or (your downthread example) gas for the drive home. (And I hope they're not using their card for both on the same night.) #firstWorldProblems

You really should have a look at how Simple bills itself. They bill themselves expressly as a replacement for your bank. The whole idea is that you absolutely rely on simple to do their thing or you might as well not use them.


If Simple is used the way they intend you to use them those scenarios are playing out right now. You really can't shift the blame for that onto those that believed the Simple proposition and acted as though simple was going to deliver.

Ordinary everyday people do not do single-point-of-failure analysis on their wallet, they simply expect it to work.

And as noted in my other comment, my giant banks have failed in similar ways, leaving my to my own other options or simply shit-outta-luck for a few hours. You seem to have a similar complaint above about 'Rabobank'.

I don't see any marketing claim on the Simple site that they'll have fewer outages than the Rabobanks/BofAs of the world. (Where do you see that claim, or actual delivered level of service, from any actual existing bank?)

For me their homepage has text on it like this:

'get ready to leave your bank'

'unmatched security and support'

'replace your bank'

'use the simple card for all your purchases'

Those set the stage for some pretty high expectations, they make it plain simple expects to be your sole provider.

Rabobank fucked up once in 20 years, and then only on a peripheral part of their service (ATM and point-of-sale still worked). If they had dropped the ball on either I'd be out of there for sure.

Not one of those implies "fewer brief outages" than traditional banks.

It's resolved now.

Almost four hours isn't brief. And I've never had a point-of-sale or ATM outage like that, ever. (other than the power blackout a few years back in the North-East, but not being able to pay for stuff was the least of your problems back then. By the way, our gas station was the only one running for 75 miles around because I had actually thought through how we'd operate in a situation like that).

It looks as if we hold our payment service providers to different standards. I expect mine to be there when I need them, you're ok with whatever your definition of 'brief outages' is.

It makes me wonder what it would take for you to start wondering if you've got your money parked with the right institution.

For me not being able to get at it when I need it is the one thing that would do it.

Anyway, great for 'simple' that they have it resolved, this will likely slow their adoption for a bit (though sync is on the ball in this thread and turning lemons into lemonade) and it will hopefully cause some serious introspection inside simple to make sure stuff like this will never happen again.

And maybe I'm wrong and old fashioned in my attitude towards payment services and we should just cut all those banks some slack and accept periodic outages. But my mid 80's bosses would fire my ass very quickly if I displayed that attitude on the job and I think it is too far ingrained in me to let go of.

Doesn't worry me in the least.

This just in: people tweeting also sometimes embellish their situations for dramatic effect!

For example, in surrounding tweets @Skroob jokes about paying with Bitcoin, mentions his dining party has other options, and then despite some disappointment concludes with sympathy for @Simplify. He further says that Simple's "company policy of ignoring the s* out of HN, especially during outages" is something that "just makes me love you guys more".

So: while non-customer HNers with crazy-high standards whinge, real customers can laugh about the situation (and even laugh about HN's negativity-bias).

Exactly. No one is denying this isn't a terrible thing. I don't think we have to convince Simple that this can't be happening. And I don't think one major downtime is reason enough to call for their heads as several of the comments imply. At the least let's wait for them to do the detail write up about the outage.

From our position on the sidelines, it's easy to say that banking is an industry that needs some disruption. But it's also an industry where service interruptions are absolutely inexcusable, and none of the established players have issues like this. Maybe the only reason that simple is able to 'disrupt' is because they don't fully appreciate the requirements of the industry, and if they put as much effort into failover and redundancy as the big players they wouldn't be able to disrupt anything.

I'm genuinely curious - what is Simple doing that is disrupting the banking industry (excluding, of course, the current literal disruption of banking for their customers)?

My current setup is a cash-back credit card, with the bills for it paid from a high-yield savings account. I net close to 2% cash back on the card, and around .8% APR on the savings account, and pay exactly $0 in fees. Based on the language on Simple's site, I'm guessing the APR on their savings is closer to .25% or so, and they definitely don't offer cash back on the use of their card.

Sure, the tools they offer are nice, but my credit card provider also has pretty nice spending analysis tools (that don't require an iOS device), and lots of other providers are adding or improving spending tools as well.

What am I missing?

IIRC the original innovations of Simple were (1) usable UI (including mobile) and (2) a single account that's debit and credit. #1 has been mostly caught up by traditional banks and #2 mostly benefits financially irresponsible people (of which there are many, but perhaps not many around here).

I may be misunderstanding you re: #2, but it their Simple card appears to just be a debit card with no overdraft protection.

Their original claim from 2010 was "We will launch later this year with a simple card with in built checking, savings, rewards and a line of credit." Since they're still in invite-only beta, maybe not all of the features have been implemented yet.

Uhh. This is quite catastrophic actually. Not being able to access your funds at all really blows.

90% of the time I wouldn't notice, but on NYE theres a significantly higher chance i'm at an ATM looking for some cash.

Running a bank is like being a cop, the stakes are high for fucking up.

The difference being that banks are (relatively) open to free market forces, while the police is not.

Unless you're an exceptionally large bank :).

And on NYE, to make it worse.

I was hit with this, but like I'd imagine every other simple user just pulled out a credit card. I figured it was some issue with Subway's card reader on University, guess it wasn't.

All news is good news? I had never heard of Simple before this and am now semi-interested in getting a card..

What do they do? What benefits they offer over traditional banks or credit cards?

They provide a much better UX for debit cards.

It looks like they are trying to do good, however Banking is not like Google or Amazon cloud. Whilst the odd downtime happens with these technology companies, people forgive and move on, but banking really is different.

If my bank went down losing access to my money, I would be naked, I don't always have cash and money is our oxygen is this society, a absolute essential. Hopefully the downtime for Simple will be short, but if they had 100 million people using them as their main bank and this happened, you could expect mass exodus the next day.

The only time I have lost access to my money was a few years ago when VISA or MASTERCARD went down (or both), with them you don't have a choice and everyone lost access to their money, but if ever just one bank went down it wouldn't turn out good at all.

I have six invites for any adventurous HNers interested in living life on the edge.

Would love one. kyle.boddy@gmail.com.

I'd love one, gwillen@nerdnet.org.

sure why not.. if you haven't already ran out :)

I'm just curious: who is their transaction partner?

http://www.thebancorp.com/about/ is their partner bank so I'm guessing the issue is there.

This actually bit me last night. It was a little bit embarrassing, but it all worked out in the end.


Simple (altough not as much as other money-related startups like Stripe or Square -hum... what's with the "S"?-) has been on HN several times, most of them through Al3x/Alex Payne, their former CTO (http://al3x.net/2012/07/25/moving-on.html) and co-founder: http://www.hnsearch.com/search#request/submissions&q=al3...

You may recall them from their previous, and much much much better name, BankSimple. There have been a number of stories.

Having the word "bank" in your name means you have to meet all the legal requirements to be a bank. Simple is not a bank.

It was called BankSimple until recently, and has had a lot of coverage on HN.

Really? I've seen it on HN several times throughout the last 4-5 months.

They're back up.

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