Bloody Stupid Banks: a rant about spaces in numbers

Image: Jojo Mendoza.

I only want one little thing from my bank. Well, that’s not absolutely true – I really want many things from my bank: low interest, high interest, no fees, all that sort of stuff. But right now, immediately, I only want one thing:  I want them to print out their BSBs the same way they insist on us entering them into their forms.

I love my online banking, a land of sweeping gains. It has made the payment of bills, the tracking of investments, the opening of accounts all so easy compared to the old-fashioned branch-based methods. Banking is truly an industry which has shown how businesses can be re-engineered using technology. Sometimes, however, the little things get overlooked in the huge things done along the way.

Have you ever noticed that whenever a bank emails you or prints out the BSB it breaks the numbers into blocks of three digits? So 123456 becomes 123-456. That makes a long number much easier to read and I assume that’s why they do it. Certainly it’s not anything to do with the code itself. The code is broken up like this xx-x-xxx: the first two numbers signify the bank, the third number the State and the last three the branch (which, by the way, raises the question why so many forms also ask for the branch name when it’s encoded into the BSB).

Anyway, it makes some sense to break the BSB into two sets of three digits. There’s a lot of evidence to show we find it easier to read numbers like that, after all it is how we traditionally write long numbers.

So, I’d be happy with the BSB being broken into blocks like that IF they then allowed you to use that same number format in their forms. Which of course they don’t. Whenever a bank requires a BSB to be entered they only allow 6 digits to be entered and a space or dash counts as a digit. So if you copy and paste the BSB or account number from what they send you a few numbers get chopped off the end. It is just silly. It could not possibly be difficult to parse out the spaces or the dash in the middle of the BSB; really it couldn’t

So that leaves you typing the numbers in rather than pasting. So what? First there’s a much higher margin for error typing in the number. Secondly, most banks actually encourage you to cut and paste instead of typing because it is more secure – you can’t key-log a cut-and-paste. And finally it’s just really, really unnecessarily annoying.

Bloody Stupid Banks.

3 thoughts on “Bloody Stupid Banks: a rant about spaces in numbers

  • March 30, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    I can say that with total authority and experience that banks can be very challenged when it comes to user experience.

    • March 30, 2012 at 8:26 pm

      Thus speaks one who has programmed for the dark side of the Force…

  • December 14, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    Great article! Kudos!


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