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System glitches hit two banks' online services

Customers of Washington Mutual and Emigrant Direct wait days in some cases to access accounts.

Two of the nation's banks struggled on Tuesday to repair glitches at their Web sites that had prevented customers from fully accessing their accounts for as long as two days.

Emigrant Direct, a bank recently written up in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times for offering high-paying savings accounts, saw a malfunction block customers from entering the site for long stretches over a two-day period, according to a bank employee and customers who posted complaints at an Internet message board. A note placed on apologized for the intermittent outages.

A representative for Emigrant Direct could not be reached for comment.

Seattle-based Washington Mutual saw a systems defect prevent some customers from performing banking chores, according to the bank's representative. Customers of the financial services company who e-mailed CNET said the problems began appearing over the weekend.

Online banking is one of those service sectors where site operators have to get it right, analysts have said. A hobbled Web site can undermine consumers' confidence in a financial institution, especially because many people just now making the switch to online banking fear that hackers or a system mishap could lead to losses.

Emigrant Direct, which operates mostly in the New York metropolitan area, announced last week it would take the site offline over the weekend to perform an upgrade. The site was supposed to be back up on Monday. But as Monday afternoon came and went, customers began to get nervous when a revamped site failed to debut.

"Co-worker and I have been attempting to access the site since this morning with no luck," said one person who posted a message at "Concerns me a little, but understand they are undergoing changes for the better (I hope)."

The outage, coupled with the scheduled weekend closing of the site, meant that some customers had been without access to their money since Friday.

At, some customers were able to view basic account information but were not able to complete other banking functions such as paying their bills, transferring money or calling up their transaction history, according to people who e-mailed CNET

"If I attempt to click on 'bill pay and loans' I get a message that says 'Portions of our Web site are temporarily unavailable due to regularly scheduled maintenance,'" Patrick Briggs, a Washington Mutual customer, said in an e-mail.

Gary Kishner, a Washington Mutual spokesman, acknowledged that the problem wasn't caused by maintenance but said that it didn't affect a large percentage of customers. He said the problem was expected to be fixed by Wednesday morning.