Bank websites, hit by wave of stimulus interest, experience some outages and slowdowns

Websites of major U.S. banks experienced heavy outages and slowdowns Wednesday as people looked to see if their government stimulus payments had been deposited.

About 80 million Americans are expected to see a stimulus payment hit their bank accounts at some point in the day. Many people had already shared on social media that their $1,200 infusions had been received.

U.S. Bank, Chase, SunTrust, BB&T, Capital One, and Citi all confirmed that their websites experienced interruptions Wednesday.

“This is the result of an unprecedented volume of customers using these channels to check their accounts for Economic Impact Payments and other forms of financial hardship relief,” Marcey Zwiebel, the director of public relations at PNC Bank, said in an email.

Doug Suttles, the CEO of Ookla, the company behind the outage monitoring site Downdetector, which aggregates self-reported outages from website users and complaints people post on social media about websites not working or being down, said the uptick was clear evidence of a sizable wave of user action.

“The bank websites are not designed for all of their customers to use them all at once,” he said.

The IRS created a web tool that launched Wednesday called Get My Payment, in which taxpayers can check the status of their stimulus payment. Users can also submit their bank account information to receive their payment electronically, instead of waiting for the check to arrive in the mail.

That website also experienced some problems.

“The other thing you can look at on Downdetector is the IRS website has had a high volume of reported problems, and this is absolutely related to stimulus payments,” Suttles said. “This is [Secretary of the Treasury Steven] Mnuchin saying 80 million people will get their payments today. They’re all logging into the websites at the same time.”

Downdetector analyzes about 22 million reports of website issues a month. The IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for Chase said its website did not experience an outage but did have some “slowdowns.”

“Today’s payday for a lot of people in addition to some of the stimulus that people have been getting, so you’re seeing an increase in volume,” the spokesperson said.

The first set of stimulus payments are slated to reach those who already filed their 2018 and 2019 tax returns and have given the IRS authorization to make direct deposits to their accounts. The IRS is issuing payments to people in that group with the lowest income first. Those who have not provided direct deposit information to the IRS could be waiting for weeks for their check to arrive in the mail.

It would have been hard for banks to shore up their websites in preparation for high traffic expected Wednesday, Suttles said.

“It’s very hard to re-architect how these services are built to support such a big increase in traffic,” he said. “It could be months of work.”

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