July 2009
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Doesn’t add up

I don’t use Moneybookers very often, but I have an account there for the odd times I need to receive money that way.

This was one of those times.  I was sent a sum of money, originally in British Pounds but it got converted to US Dollars as that’s the currency on my account.  It landed in my balance as $96.20.

Then I went to withdraw it.  As I hadn’t really taken any notice of the actual amount in dollars so far, I just agreed to everything – including a $2.50 withdrawal fee.  It said I could withdraw up to $93.69 and I asked for the lot.

Did you spot it?  $96.20 minus $2.50 cannot result in a number that ends with a 9.  There’s a penny missing somewhere, and I almost wan’t paying enough attention to notice.

Thankfully, it showed me a handy statement afterwards:

Great, everything balances in the end.  They just made a penny disappear to compensate for the error.

$2.51 minus $2.50 is zero.  Apparently.

I don’t think there can be anything more embarrasing for a wannabe bank than not being able to add or subtract two amounts of money.  Perhaps that’s why their software has this error correction built in: “If something goes wrong, we’ll just pretend that it didn’t and hope nobody notices”.

Guess what.  I noticed.

The penny is insignificant, especially when the amount of money we’re talking about has already been converted to once and will be converted again to end up back in a GBP bank account.  When that happens, you have to expect to be hit by an unfavourable exchange rate and that they’ll skim off fractions of a penny at every possible opportunity.

But that’s not what’s happened here.  The statement simply does not add up – it is blatently wrong.

We’re not talking about a dodgy online casino that only has to pay a sum of money to a random island nation in order to call itself licensed.  This is a financial institution regulated by the FSA in the UK, and it’s very worrying that such an organisation could make any sum of money vanish without an audit trail.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s not hard to make sure that your software handles decimal numbers correctly.  And, yes, I am available for consultancy work.

Let’s see what they say…