Thursday, June 14, 2012

20 Reasons Why America's Next Bank Holiday Will Be a Nightmare

Here are 20 Reasons why America's next bank holiday will be a nightmare:

A bank holiday will create a virtual blackout of information on not just checking and saving accounts, but also automated mortgage payments, CDs, and more. Our presently quite transparent banking system will suddenly become opaque. Your bank balance will become invisible. Your handy-dandy online banking web page will be replaced by a "Service Temporarily Unavailable" notice. The willingness to accept checks will evaporate in less than a day. The FUD factor (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) will be overwhelming.
Most businesses will no longer honor personal checks, corporate checks, or bank money orders. Showing a merchant your most recent bank statement isn't likely to sway him. Again, the FUD factor will rule.
All checks in the U.S. are cleared through the automated clearinghouse (ACH) network. Most of this network is inside of banking system firewalls. Many Federal, State, and local tax payments are also handled through ACH. (A similar network exists for European banks--the Pan-European Automated Clearing House (PE-ACH), under the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) system).
Credit cards might not be accepted. The FUD factor will dictate that anything even peripherally related to the banking system will be suspect. (Even though the credit card companies have their own credit clearing mechanisms that are only attached to the banking milieu.)
Except for a few grandfathered recipients, Social Security payments are now made exclusively via bank direct deposit.
Military monthly pay, housing allowances, and ration payments are now made exclusively via bank direct deposit, in CONUS. That is true virtually across the board (Active component, Reserve, and National Guard.) Ditto for monthly military retirement payments.
Many State and Federal employees no longer get physical paychecks. They too, are trapped in the "direct deposit only" world.
Many Americans are now very dependent on bank debit cards (also known as a bank cards or check cards.) In fact, many people don't even carry more than a few dollars in their wallets. If our world suddenly goes "cash only" most people will suddenly be out of cash.
ATMs, debit card transactions, and online banking can be shut down in minutes. This huge vulnerability of banking customers has already been evidenced by a few minor glitches.
Online payment systems like PayPal will be sharply degraded, because they rely on their ability to move funds to and from banks. More importantly, online payments are inextricably tied to credit card processing. If credit card processing is suspended, then online payments will be "dead in the water."
Many regular monthly payments such as mortgages, insurance premiums, and some utilities are automatically debited from checking accounts. These will all come to a screeching halt.
SWIFT wire transfers will probably be suspended, freezing a good portion of global commerce. Similarly, International ACH transactions (IATs) will also be shut down, since they access the U.S. ACH network.
The ability to process credit card payments will be dubious, at best. Many merchants will wisely "just say no" to credit cards, even if their countertop POP terminals are still functioning and show available credit. And the fact that many credit cards are now just debit cards in disguise will only add to the reluctance of merchants to take any credit cards.
Point of purchase (POP) processing of credit and debit cards at gas stations has become ubiquitous. Nearly everyone now uses the "pay at the pump" option. Gas and diesel could become "cash only" transactions.
Most American families keep less than $300 in cash at home at any given time, including their kids' piggy banks. For most families, that wouldn't cover even one month's rent.
Formerly distributed as "Food Stamps", the USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), provides benefits to low income families through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card payments. These cards look much like credit cards. And like checks, EBT payments are all routed through the ACH network. Again, this is a network that is inside banking system firewalls. If the banking system goes into holiday mode, then it may take days or even weeks to get EBT processing back on line. If the EBT payments stop, we can expect riots in metropolitan areas in less than a week.
Gift cards will be "iffy." There are now two types of gift cards: "open loop" (or "network") cards and traditional "closed loop" cards. Open loop cards are issued by banks or credit card companies and can be redeemed many places. It is likely that only closed loop cards will be honored by the issuing stores, because merchants will fear that open loop cards might have been zeroed out elsewhere. (If they can't confirm the available balance, the card will be refused.)
Most Internet vendors are almost entirely dependent on credit card processing. If that processing system is disrupted, then mailorder firms will either have to cease operations, or have them slow to a snail's pace, and be restricted to only non-bank money orders.
Reversion to U.S. Postal Service money orders (commonly called "PMOs") will only be partially viable solution. This is because many small town and rural post offices don't keep enough cash in their tills to be able to hand you $1,000 when you go to cash a PMO. You may be thinking, "Oh well, I'll just ask them to write me a blank PMO, in exchange. Nope. A recent change to postal regulations designed to curtail money laundering banned money order-for-money order issuance. Bummer. And if you are considering using "Forever" postage stamps, hold your horses. Under a hygiene regulation published in the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM), postal clerks are not allowed to cash out ("buy back") stamp booklets unless they are still in their sealed clear plastic master packages. So it might take decades to use up your Forever stamps, or you will be forced to liquidate them on the gray market at a slight loss.
Bank safe deposit boxes will probably be inaccessible. Plan accordingly.

No comments:

Post a Comment