Simple bank shutdown goes awry leaving customers without account access

The online bank Simple shut down on Saturday and was supposed to seamlessly transition customers’ accounts over to its parent company, BBVA. But instead, many users found themselves unable to access their bank account at all, as BBVA’s website returned an assortment of error messages, from “system error” to warnings that their account information was mismatched.

The transition has gone so poorly that BBVA’s US website now opens on a large red banner warning users of extended customer service wait times. Anyone who visits the Simple transition page will see a different red banner, apologizing for the issues.

“To Simple customers converting to BBVA: This has not been a good conversion experience for many of you,” part of the message reads. “We know this, and we sincerely apologize.”

A banner on BBVA’s transition page for Simple customers.

Simple opened to customers in 2012 and was supposed to offer a digital-first approach to banking. In fewer words, it was supposed to be “a bank that doesn’t suck,” to quote one of its co-founders. The service had a website and app that broke down your spending and made it easy to categorize payments, send money, and set savings goals. It was purchased by BBVA in 2014.

BBVA said in January that it would be shutting down Simple later in 2021. The decision came from the company “reassessing its goals” as part of a planned sale to PNC Bank, which reached an agreement to acquire BBVA’s US operations in November 2020. The acquisition has not yet closed.

Accounts were successfully transitioned from Simple to BBVA on Saturday, but technical issues prevented customers from logging in, a BBVA spokesperson told The Verge. That led to a cascading series of problems. “Due to the volume of customers attempting to enroll in mobile and online banking simultaneously, there were technical difficulties with the enrollment process, leading to high call volume in our call centers, which overwhelmed the system, and created longer than normal wait times,” the spokesperson said.

Debit cards, ATMs, checks, and scheduled transactions still functioned properly, according to the spokesperson. Though online and mobile account access remains unavailable for users encountering issues.

“We know this conversion process was not smooth for our incoming Simple customers and we sincerely apologize to them,” the spokesperson said. “We are working to make it right, including extending hours in our call center and adding staff to handle the incoming calls.”

It seems that some people have been able to gain access to their accounts after waiting or working with BBVA’s customer service. Judging by reactions on Twitter from Simple’s very online user base, plenty of people still don’t have access though and have been unable to get help from BBVA’s customer service.

BBVA hasn’t provided a timeline for when it expects to restore account access for all Simple users. In its banner message, BBVA wrote that the company is “working to get it back online as soon as possible.”

Comments

Switched my account over today no problem.

Going to miss the Simple app tho. Was so clean.

I’d recommend Chime as a decent alternative. Its probably the closest to Simple in design. Coming from soneone who has used both at one point or another.

I guess you can say the experience has been anything but simple

Due to the volume of customers attempting to enroll in mobile and online banking simultaneously, there were technical difficulties with the enrollment process

This is exactly the Luddite corporate banking bullshit that gave Simple its appeal in the first place. Banking is almost entirely digital these days – the fact that BBVA is still thinking and working in terms of two different "enrollment" processes – "mobile" and "web" is telling enough. It’s not a digital-first bank. Banking fucking sucks in the US and it’s because of companies exactly like BBVA. They’re all stuck in the fucking dark ages just collecting fees like robber barons and providing absolute shit service in return. It’s a damn shame that the largest banks provide the fucking worst service, as well as the worst mobile and web experiences (BBVA, Wells Fargo, etc). Banking is a fucking disgrace in this country. No other company in any other industry would get away with a fraction of the absolute bullshit banks force upon their customers today.

Signed
- Former Simple Customer

But…they have an award-winning app!

I really wanna know what "awards" their app has "won". It looks like complete trash.

BBVA sold to PNC. I think PNC didn’t want Simple (didn’t screw enough customers and rake in fees), so BBVA is closing them as part of sale. Then it’s probably all going to convert over to PNC at some point. Noped the f*ck out of that. But why would BBVA just sell everything and leave the country? I’d love to know.

European banks don’t understand the American market. And most are only after US dollar clearing. HSBC is next out of the US retail market, but will maintain corporate offerings for that USD.

It’s so frustrating to see Monzo not care about Check scanning. It’s a key feature for many americans and they’re just ignoring it.

Yeah, gonna be hilarious to watch this all happen again when they switch BBVA accounts to PNC accounts.

BBVA is going away too. It’s being merged into PNC bank. That’s why Simple has to go away, because it needs to be folded into BBVA first, then eventually moved into PNC.

At least, that was my understanding.

Agreed. I’m amazed there still isn’t a direct alternative to simple’s budgeting features.

This is why I just stick with either my national bank or a local credit union. They have physical places where you still could get your money out if needed or if you have something that would be done better in-person than over the phone or especially over email. Yes, they may have their drawbacks, but they’re still the safest options than these "digital-only" banks.

I like my local credit union as well but their app is complete garbage, usually not a huge issue but when they closed their lobbies last year the drive-thru lines were insane and doing stuff online was painfully anachronistic.

If they had just let people see their account numbers in the simple app, everything would have been much easier.

Friday I got the message from simple that it would be gone after 9pm. I tried to open a BBVA account but it wasn’t working and I got busy. After opening my simple app, website, and seeing zero of my info, plus searching high and low but not being able to find my account info anywhere Saturday morning, I freaked out for about an hour until I realized you could also sign up for a new "debit card" and just needed my simple card number. That worked (jankily) and then I had access to my new BBVA account that was sitting there waiting for me…

…but for the majority of customers that is the dictionary definition of the functions being technically in place in the app/software but a horrible user experience. Cant access my money? Panic.

I already new it wouldn’t be like Simple, but that was sub-standard. I am noping out as soon as possible.

This is sad indeed. I enjoyed using Simple from when they first came out until they announced the closure. I initially switched to Chase but have since switched to mostly using SoFi. Thus far pretty happy but there are definitely some features I really enjoyed through Simple that no other bank offers.

As a Simple customer since the beginning, I realized how spoiled we all were using the Simple app. The BBVA app is terrible and confusing (not to mention all the reasons one would have a Simple account [lack of fees, overdrafts, savings goals, etc] are now completely gone). The Simple app was exactly as it’s name says. I seemed to have transitioned to BBVA fine, but it took some couple reload of the app to get things transferred correctly.

I switched to One. Not a perfect replacement for Simple, but their app is great. They’ve been adding in a bunch of requested Simple features over the past few months like recurring scheduled transfers between goals.

Closed my Simple accounts about 3 weeks ago. Moved to a local credit union. If I have to deal with a worse app and digital experience I may as well get good local service and good rates. BBVA can piss off. (PNC too :))

This is still broken as of Monday afternoon. Call center reps are hanging up on people, asking them for their entire social – all with zero direct communication from BBVA beyond Twitter.

You all should update and bump this.

It’s Tuesday and I still can’t get someone on the phone to unlock my account. No idea of my balance, if checks have cleared or when they won’t hang up on me when I call.

This, all too often, is the startup story:

  • create a startup to disrupt an industry by doing things in a better way
  • acquire customers and gain a loyal following
  • sellout to the "bad" industry leaders

In some cases, those very same founders will re-emerge with a similar product a few years down the line (once their non-compete is over and they’re tired of doing nothing but spending money all day). Rinse and repeat.

This is a colossal meltdown. It’s been four days since the transition and I can’t even get someone from BBVA on the phone. I believe this will probably result in a class action lawsuit and will be moving my funds away from the bank as soon as I can get eyes on it.

So glad I closed my account…except for the fact that I loved it and was sad to see it not continue. On to the Cash App!

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