The Perils of Modern Banking

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When I was a kid, banking was pretty basic. I'd grab my passbook, hop in the car with my parents, and head down to the branch. Once there, I'd fill out a withdrawal slip and wait in line. A few minutes later, I’d have enough cash in hand for a few trips to 7-11, and a new entry in my passbook. I could take out as much or as little as I wanted, and in any crazy denomination I requested.

Sometime in my teenage years, ATM’s and debit cards became popular. How convenient! Instead of going into the branch, I could drive through and get my 7-11 money. Unfortunately, it was soon after that the arbitrary restrictions began. Suddenly, there was only one bank left in town that would dispense anything smaller than a $20. Ironically, it seemed like I always had about $17 in my account. If it was late at night, and I really needed $20, I would find myself depositing $5 just so I could get back a full $20.

From those times back in the 90’s until now, a lot has changed. We’ve been told it’s for the better. Some of it I do understand. Cheques became obsolete in personal shopping due to fraud. The other thing that fraud did was limit how much money we could get out of an ATM, especially after making a deposit. Now, I don’t think I really tested the limits of this as a teenager, but I know that anything I deposited into my account at an ATM was immediately available. After x amount of people deposited an empty envelope into the ATM and pulled out $1000, they decided that this needed to be fixed. Now, at the banks that allow it, you can usually get about $200 back from what you deposit. The rest gets held for 7-10 business days.

The reason I’m writing all of this is because the limitations have become very frustrating to me recently.

As you can imagine, a big chunk of my day revolves around the banking system. I am constantly monitoring bank accounts for deposits and cheques clearing. The other thing I need to do a lot of is move money from one account to another. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes I need to move money from a chequing account to a credit card. Sometimes it’s money between accounts at different banks. Other times it’s making direct payments to vendors and staff, usually via email money transfers (or e-transfers as they’re now called). Over the past year this has become more and more difficult to pull off, and it’s taking up far too much of my day, simply because of arbitrary policies.

I’ll give you one example to illustrate my point. I’ve got a credit card at Bank A. I need to get money onto the card to pay a vendor. I’ve got money in a chequing account at Bank B. Let’s say the amount is $3000 that needs to go onto the credit card. Of the banks I’ve ever used, only 1 will let me move $3000 via e-transfer. It’s not Banks A or B. And, the banks that let you money $1000 or $2000 per day usually have a $7000-10000 monthly limit. This is just fine for most personal accounts, but completely useless in most product-reliant small businesses. And, this is a head office, written in stone policy. This isn’t like a credit limit on a Visa. You can’t talk to your branch and have them raise the limit. Trust me, I’ve tried. If Bank A has a limit of $7000 on monthly e-transfers, then that’s what it’s going to be.

Fine.

I’ll go down to the branch, get a draft for $3000 from Bank B, and deposit it into Bank A. A waste of 1 hour of my day, and $6.50. Guess what? Due to recent fraud worries, all banks in Canada treat a bank draft (you know, the guaranteed funds you pay an extra $6.50 to obtain) as a cheque, and now hold those funds for at least 5 business days.

What?

So, guess what my only option is now? Yep. I have to withdraw $3000 in cash…in front of a huge crowd of people, and then walk that money a few blocks away and deposit it into Bank A. I don’t think I have to tell you the risk of doing this, not to mention the looks I get from the bank employees for withdrawing large sums of cash.

Can I take it one step further for you? In some banks that I have to deal with, I can’t transfer money from a biz account to a personal account online. I can’t do it by linking the accounts…not by setting them up as a payee…nothing. So, if I wanted to move money from a chequing account to the credit card…in the same bank…I still have to go down to the branch and do it in person.

Don’t get me wrong, on some level I understand. If someone hacks your account, or some employee you just fired gets down to the bank before you’ve had their name removed, they can do less damage with these restraints in place. But once again, for the 99% of businesses that don’t encounter or cause this type of theft, it’s just a huge pain in the butt.

In another post, I'll explain why these frequent trips to the branch can actually do some good. Until then, I'll leave you with a simple plea to the Canadian banks.

I understand fraud is very real. If my account was cleaned out, I'd be devastated. But...setup a system with 2 simple rules.

1. Make it hard for anyone other than me to alter my account. Give me an electronic token, force me to use 20 character passwords...whatever. I'll live with that.

2. Once you have proven that it's me...let me do whatever I want with my money.

There we go...simple enough, eh?

How To Advertise Your Business With Google Adwords

iStock_000016877038XSmallIf you’ve been thinking about taking your business online, now is the time to do so.  Despite economic struggles, more and more people are turning to the internet to do business.  While there are several ways on how to advertise your business online, I strongly encourage you to consider Google Adwords.

Google Adwords is Google’s pay-per-click model meaning your ads can appear on the first page of Google for a number of given search terms that you select, but you only pay when someone actually clicks on your ad.  As you set up your campaign, here are a few key things to keep in mind:

Critical Error #1 – Setting Up Campaigns and Ad Groups Wrong

Your campaign is the overarching theme of what you are advertising.  Say you sell men’s shoes.  Your campaign could simply be titled “men’s shoes”.  Your ad groups, however, need to be the specific niches within the theme like:

Men’s dress shoes

Men’s work shoes

Men’s’ running shoes

…etc.

Critical Error #2 – Not Using Negative Keywords

When building your keyword lists for your ad groups, you’ll also want to build negative keywords. These are words that you tell Adwords not to trigger your ads for like free, inexpensive, cheap, etc.

Simply click on the keyword tab, scroll to the bottom, and you’ll see where to enter the negative keywords.

Critical Error #3 – Not Split Testing Your Ads

You’ll never know what people respond to until you try different kinds of ad copy.  Do this: create two different ads for each ad group, run them for a couple weeks, and see which one does better.  Then, delete the weaker and try to outperform the stronger.  This will not only bring you more traffic, but Google will reward you by lowering your cost per click.

These few tips will help to create a better overall experience with your Adwords campaign.  Like I mentioned, there are many effective ways on how to advertise your business, but Adwords provides the quickest way to get to the first page of Google.

 

This guest post was contributed by Brandon Jones. Brandon Jones is a Google Certified Partner.  He publishes free internet marketing tips on his blog www.MyGoogleMarketing.net.

Dear PayPal. This Canadian has a few requests.

paypaldebitI’d have to say that PayPal is one of my favourite bi-products of the internet. Not specifically that company, but just the ability to send and receive money online instantly.

I remember vividly the “fun” of buying on eBay before I had a PayPal account. It was so much “fun” driving down to the bank to get a money order, paying the $5-7 fee, driving to the post office, mailing out the money order…and waiting. Waiting the week or so to have something shipped is hard enough, but having to wait the extra week before the seller even received my payment? Purely infuriating.

Despite my love of this method of financial transaction, I have a few bones to pick.

I suppose I could go off on the “trust” aspect of PayPal. Many people don’t fully trust them, and I suppose I should be less trusting too. However, I don’t trust that my dogs will stay out of the trash while I’m gone…haven’t gotten rid of them either.

No, my frustrations lie once again with features available based on geographic location. Apparently in the US, your PayPal accounts are pretty close to full bank accounts. Up here in Canada, they sometimes feel more savings bonds or coin collections. Sure, there’s money in there, but I just can’t get to it when I want to.

There are 3 key features that I would like the folks at PayPal to deliver North just as soon as possible.

Debit Cards


Ok, we actually had this…very briefly. When I got my first PayPal account years ago, I also got a PayPal MasterCard. It was a debit card, and I could use it like any other debit card, but with the funds in my PayPal account. Unfortunately, back then, I was only buying things online, so there was never any money in the account. By the time I started selling on eBay, they had discontinued the debit card program.

This is my biggest request for PayPal. Being someone who harps about cash flow regularly, not having instant access to my money is frustrating.

Shorter Wait Times for Transfers


Alright, so we don’t have debit cards. Fine. At least I can move my money to an account that does. For some reason, in Canada, our wait times are higher. In my account, I’m given the option to transfer my balance to a Canadian or US bank account. The former takes 5-7 business days, while the latter takes 3-5. Transferring money into my PayPal account is even worse. It takes 6-8 days from a Canadian account vs. 3-5 for a US account.

If a client pays me via PayPal, that means it could take 7 business days for the money to be in an account I can use. In any businesses, that’s a long time to wait.

Bill Me Later


Ideal for small businesses, “Bill Me Later” let’s you purchase items through PayPal on terms. Let’s say you need supplies for a job that you’re not getting paid for in advance. You could get the supplies immediately, and then pay for them when you get paid. While it’s always better to pay up front, there are times when this feature would be really helpful.

Alright PayPal, now it’s your turn. I don’t know what sort of red tape stands in your way. I’m sure, just like Spotify and Diet Cherry Pepsi, there’s some crazy reason Canada won’t let you in. All I’m saying is that I would use your services much more (that means more $$ for you) if you had these features in place. I don’t think I’m alone.

Ask ThatBookkeeper: Whose job is it to use Freshbooks?


Most of the time, pouring over my site stats and analytics is a waste of time. I usually just end up obsessing over why more people read last Tuesday's post than yesterday's, or something else equally trivial. One little nugget that I find very useful is the search terms that people use before they end up at the site. Today's "Ask ThatBookkeeper" question is one of those search terms.


Whose job is it to use Freshbooks?



This isn't exactly how it was worded in the search term. Basically, this person was searching to figure out if the bookkeeper or client was meant to be using Freshbooks, which I thought was an interesting question.

The short answer is that it's the client, not the bookkeeper, that is meant to run Freshbooks. The bookkeeper will often reference that Freshbooks data, but it's not intended to replace bookkeeping software. On the surface, it may seem strange that there's a bookkeeping app that's meant for the client. However, when you look at it closer, you realize that this is how we've done things for a long time.

In the past, a salesperson would hand write invoices when they were out in the field. In most cases, it was too cumbersome to lug around a computer and printer to a client's office or house. When they got back to the office at the end of the day, they would submit their invoices, which would end up on the bookkeeper's desk. The same went for expenses. The salesperson would keep receipts from fuel, meals, travel and supplies. In some cases, they were required to submit a proper expense report along with those receipts.

Fast forward to today. Hand written invoices and expense reports aren't gone...but they should be. This is where an invoicing app like Freshbooks or Blinksale comes in.

It's trivial to bring your smartphone when you visit a client. With it, and the right app, you can handle everything. You can create an invoice on-site that can be emailed directly to your customer. That same smartphone can snap pictures of receipts. Those pictures can be included with relevant details, and forwarded directly to your bookkeeper, whether they're back at the office or somewhere across the country. Now, at the end of the day, 2 things have improved.



    1. You're work as the salesperson is done. You don't need to create an Excel report or drop off copies of the invoices.


 



    1. The bookkeeper has almost real-time access to the sales and expense information. This means that instead of always being at least a day behind, the whole system has accurate sales information on the same day it was generated.





How are you handling these tasks in your small business? Are you still hand writing invoices? Have you gone completely paperless?