Quicken 2010 transaction upload failures - Foreign Characters to blame?

While using Quicken 2010 I got repeated OL-293-A errors when uploading bill pay transactions to a bank (or to a Financial Institution or "FI" as Intuit like to say). Downloading transactions worked fine as did access via the bank's website. The printed message that accompanies the OL-293-A says something to the effect of the server at the bank has issued an unexpected response - try again later. In essence, an EAGAIN.

Calling the bank for support (Are they experiencing other outages? Are they in a maintenance window?) was not helpful and it didn't seem that they were aware of any systemic problem.

You can look at your "conn" and "OFX" logs from inside of Quicken (I think it's Help | customer support | logs) and this showed more detail - in fact the OFX is a complete XML record of every packet sent and received, while the conn is more concise and a bit more readable.

You can see other error values being returned in these logs but it all came down to the fact that the FI server wasn't happy about something.

OK - now what?

Well I had been thinking about moving bank accounts anyway due in no small part to the fact that I had been "taken over" by Bank B, having been previously banking with Bank A when they got acquired by Bank B so I took this as an omen that now was the time.

So I opened a new account at a different bank and got Quicken going with that bank.  I could connect OK but there were really no transactions to download.

Then I thought, well how about trying one of the rejected transactions (these are basically bill pay transactions - pay X dollars to Y person or company).

So I selected the smallest of the transactions that had given the previous bank fits and tried to upload it to the new bank. This time it failed but with a different error code! The error code - well I don't have it right in front of me but it was something like an OL-363-A or something in that range. And the message was different. It said "Payee State is invalid" or words to that effect. Of course every transaction has to have a payee and every payee has to have a state.

But wait a minute. The state was North Carolina! And the new bank is based in North Carolina!  What on earth is going on?

And that's when it hit me. As is often the case with error messages (compilers are notorious for this but it's by no means unique to them) they indicate that something has gone wrong but they don't always pinpoint the problem as exactly as one might like.

It turns out that the state was just fine. But .... the payee name had an "ç" character in it. Could this be a clue? To make matters even a bit more confusing this payee had been used in the past with the original bank with no problems whatsoever.

So .... created a new online payee this time eliminating the "ç" character and repeated the upload (to the new bank) and - voila - success!

Then - I uploaded the remaining transactions to the old bank - those that had previously failed - presumably because they were batched with the questionable transaction and these now worked fine.

I could have gone back to the old bank and tried with the newly created payee (where "ç" was replaced with a "c") but I suspect that that would have worked fine as well and I didn't bother. But I think I'm pretty convinced that the lesson is pretty clear - avoid the use of any foreign characters in any fields when uploading transactions to Quicken FI's.

There are some aspects to this story worth highlighting specifically:

  1. The same payee name had worked in the past - something must have changed on the server side. This is not all that surprising as I would imagine that Intuit pushes out server updates just as they push out client updates.
  2. Same transaction with two different banks produced two different errors but produced errors nonetheless.
  3. I could imagine that there might be some security aspects for Intuit wanting to eliminate foreign characters. Or perhaps it's just easier to do so.
  4. Kind of interesting that an invalid payee name is reported by one FI as an invalid state. Not accurate but it was the thing that made me thing to ultimately look at the payee name. 
  5. When you call the bank support people they will offer to inactivate/deactivate your online account or tell you to create a whole new data file because that is all they know how to do. However, it's not completely worthless to call them because if there is a widespread outage or a maintenance window they will generally know this and let you know. 
So the bottom line is that if you want to use Quicken online bill pay to pay, I don't know, your Citroën dealer, best to change the payee name to Citroen!
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