There was a Citibank MasterCard bill in my mailbox on Monday, August 31st, When I took it upstairs and opened it I saw that I had been charged a $39.00 fee for late payment, plus some interest. While checking my records showed that I thought I had paid the bill, going online proved that I hadn’t. Something probably distracted me. Maybe the phone rang. Anyway I plead guilty to not going on the site and making the payment. But I figured I was a good customer and I thought maybe they’d give me a break. Here’s my record of payment to MasterCard, as provided by TransUnion--48 Months of payments made on time:
As I went through the various voice menus to find a human voice, the computer informed me that my credit card had been shut down and I was in big trouble. As I had only found out about the problem a few minutes ago, and Citibank hadn’t made any attempt to reach me by email or phone, I thought this was kind of harsh. So I wasn’t in a good mood when I finally was transferred to the calm out-sourced customer service rep. He didn’t respond to my anger, and just told me that my good payment record wasn’t an issue and in any case, all I had to do was go to the website, pay the bill and then call them back. Citibank would refund the $39 penalty and any interest charges. When I got to the site, I saw this:
On the next page were a series questions that I had to answer before Citibank would allow me to pay my bill
Either I had to lie and say the statement wasn’t received or I was traveling (that’s an excuse?) or I had to say that I was in deep financial trouble. Their point seemed to be that I could pay all my bills in full for four years (at least) until once I couldn’t come up with $20 for a minimum payment?
Here’s the next dropdown menu:
As I was hoping to be allowed to pay the bill in a few minutes, I estimated that my current financial situation would last 0-6 months, although quite a bit closer to 0 months than to 6 months.
As it was currently 8/31/2009, my ballpark estimation was that I could resume making my regular monthly payments in 08/2009.
I had to really study this one for a while. 401(k)? Disability Checks? Life Insurance Policy? Liquidated Assets? Public Assistance? Student Loan? I couldn’t put in “Paycheck,” as I’m a freelancer. Even “Savings” seemed a bit dirty, like I was raiding my nest egg for a $20.00 minimum payment.
Finally, it looked like I was going to be able to set up my bank transfer and pay my bill. But:
Wow! I transfer money all the time, but I’ve never received a warning like this. Any problem and they were going to assess me additional fees! I was trying to pay them because they assessed me ridiculous fees. But if there’s any hitch I would be assessed more ridiculous fees! Worse, I would not be eligible to enroll in another plan. I assumed that by “plan” they meant a way to renegotiate my payments and get out of penury, but I could forget about anything like that if something went awry with my transfer from my Citibank Checking account to my Citibank MasterCard account. If there were any glitches, there might not be a second chance for me. Soon I would have to sell my home and live in a van by the river.
I called again and went through the voicemail system again, until I reached someone who identified that the payment had been received and that I would be notified soon about my refunds. And sure enough, when I checked my account online the next day:
Soon after that, the refunds were visible on my account!
I got my $64.60 back! It would seem that Citibank had accepted the notion that forgetting to make one minimum payment didn’t necessarily put you millimeters away from homelessness. But then I got this:
This is a lie. I had never inquired about them increasing my APR for a very good reason. They had never told me about it before this.
It was time to break out the scissors. Citibank had finally convinced me--after over 35 years of using their card—to cut it up. It felt good. As you can see above, I recorded the occasion for posterity. But then I got another email:That was it! If you want to get email notifications from Citibank, you must face up to the “Sophie’s Choice” of Paper versus Paperless Statement. On one hand you have something that you generally receive and find handy for balancing your checkbook; on the other hand is something that might go into your junk mail box. But if you choose Paperless, from their point of view you would “eliminate the risk of statements being lost or stolen in the mail.,” and thus triggering their rip-off scams. But Paperless would be good for the environment and it makes me feel all toasty inside when I think about Citibank saving money on postage. Had I not cut up my card, what would I have done. I think $64.60 would have sealed the deal with me. This was a protectionist racket for Paperless Statements: Give up your envelopes or empty out your pockets, muthah!
At this point you’re probably thinking that I have a lot of nerve kvetching about this. Don’t I know that other people are getting really screwed by the credit card companies? People who are actually in financial trouble? But that’s the whole point. Citibank and companies like them have brought this country down by their greed and incompetence, forcing us to bail them out with our tax money. Now directly because of their actions and those of people like them, people are losing their homes and their jobs. So Citibank steps into the fray to steal money from the very people whose lives they have ruined. But that isn’t sufficiently cruel for them. They want to humiliate people too. Where is the fun in pushing people to the ground if you can’t kick them too?
My understanding of the credit card business today is that it operates like a partnership: one partner is a drunken driver that mows down pedestrians each day; the other one is an ambulance chasing lawyer pushing business cards into bloody hands. Nice work if you can get it.
To my friends at Citibank, thank you for asking for my feedback. Here goes:
You are causing more harm and more agony and more destruction to America and our way of life than Al Qaeda ever has done and ever will. You are traitors, and I don’t care how many congressmen you pay off so you can make your sociopathic attacks on America legal.
I’m about as religious as Bill Maher, but this almost makes me want to be. Then I could believe that all of your executives would burn in the fires of hell for eternity. That would be a start.
Have a nice day.
Reid K Rosefelt
Chase Visa Cardholder in Good Standing
One more chapter in Citibank’s never-ending correspondence: