Be careful of 'InstaLoss' with InstaPay

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at Feb 22 2021 10:58 AM

Earlier this month, I shared my stressful experience of tracking down a funds transfer gone wrong. The matter was not yet resolved at the time of my writing so I didn’t get to share how that played out. Let me update you now of my lessons learned.

It took many text messages, frantic phone calls and 96 hours before my hard-earned cash was credited back to my account. Out of several persons I spoke to, according to the lone person willing to explain what happened, the funds transfer failed because of a system time-out. 

While the cash “successfully” left the account, in the process of transfer, the delayed response from the receiving bank placed the funds on hold, and it was just there floating in money cyberspace while I was losing my mind. Why did they not call me then? Their system cannot monitor this?

As a heavy user of funds transfer intra-bank and interbank via InstaPay, this incident left a bad taste in my mouth. There were so many scenarios playing in my head: did I type a wrong account number? Did I press a wrong button? Did I choose a scheduled transfer instead of real-time? You can see that I mostly blamed myself, when I now realize I should have been equally blaming the banks and their system.

After the money was returned, I combed through the terms and conditions of Instapay bank transfers that I have to consent to each time I send out cash and broke into cold sweat. Let me spell them out for you as forewarned is forearmed.

#1 “There shall be no reversal of completed transactions.”

In the operational guidelines, the terms and conditions state that when the originating institution (the bank with the funds) has debited the amount and service fee if any, and the receiving institution (the bank the funds are being sent to) has credited the beneficiary account (could be yours or someone else’s where you wanted to make a deposit), the funds transfer is deemed completed. So make sure you keyed in the right amount and account number, plus chose immediate or scheduled transfer.

If you want to have a better idea of how painful this can be, let’s take the case of a multinational bank who intended to only pay interest on a client’s loan to the client’s lenders but instead paid back the full amount and settled the debt three years earlier than its due date. There were several lenders and some returned the “early” payment but others decided to keep it, forcing the bank to go to court. Well, a US federal judge ruled last week that the lenders do not have to return the money, saying the transfers “were final and complete transactions.” 

#2 “The bank is not a party to any agreement” relating the funds transfer.

We’re only human and humans make mistakes. For the multinational bank I cited earlier, it was a $900-million mistake sadly made by three checkers with six eyes, and of course, the bank intends to appeal the decision. But for little me and little you, we do not have an arsenal of lawyers to help us when we make errors in our funds transfers. 

The terms and conditions for the InstaPay service of my bank states that “should there be any discrepancy with the transfer (such as, but not limited to, incorrect amount or incorrect beneficiary), [the client] agree to coordinate directly with the Beneficiary.” So if you meant to send to Juan but sent to Carmen instead – who you do not know personally but her account number is almost the same as Juan’s except for one digit – you have to deal with Carmen. But you don’t know her, where in the world she is, and the bank cannot disclose client’s information without their consent.

#3 “I agree to hold free and harmless…the Bank…for acting upon my…instruction.”

To add salt to the wound of #2, any expense, loss or damage incurred by your bank transfer will be solely born by you. In the same terms and conditions, you also agree to indemnify the bank if it suffers any expense, loss or damage from your transaction.

There’s a lot more to the published terms and conditions and I encourage you to read them before ticking the box and consenting to agree. InstaPay has become my constant financial companion during the pandemic, and has afforded me many conveniences. I confess I am back to using it today, and will likely keep using it in the future. But I now do so with eyes wide open, and for every transaction, no matter the amount, I make sure to check at least 3 times the amount I am transferring, the account I am transferring to, and taking a screenshot as proof for my personal tracking. One more thing, I have set a threshold against sleepless nights – meaning I no longer transfer funds that will keep me awake if they once again end up in money cyberspace. 

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Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.