Citi Grinds My Gears…

Citi Grinds My Gears…

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Citi sucks.  Not as bad as Best Buy but pretty darn close.So in yesterday’s spending report, I mentioned that I’d been dinged for $1.87 in finance charges.

I’m not happy about it.

In my opinion, I never should have been assessed finance charges.

My statements come out on the 26th of the month. On February 25th, the account balance on my Citi AT&T Universal MasterCard was $0.

On February 26th, they assessed a finance charge of $14.97.

That was legit, I assumed, as I’d carried the a good chunk of the balance of the baby furniture purchased in January. It made sense — I wasn’t going to argue.

So I paid it right back down to $0 on February 28, you know, to make my monthly net worth update look nice with a $0 balance.

My balance on the card remained $0 until I bought gas on March 11.

The next morning, on March 12, I paid the card in full. Again, my balance was $0.

That was the last time I used the card so it came as a total surprise when I logged in to my account on March 26 to see that they’d charged me $1.87 in finance charges.

Huh?

My balance was $0 before the billing period began. They charged me $15 in finance charges, which I paid two days later. Then I charged $18 in gas and paid the bill one day later.

At my due date, the balance was $0.

At no time was my balance higher than $18.

And they charged me $1.87????

What?

My initial reaction was to just let it go. It’s a couple of bucks — who cares, right?

But then I recalled all of those horror stories I’ve heard of people struggling to get their balances to zero when the bank just keeps nickel-and-diming them with finance charges to prevent them from ever reaching that point.

Time to contact customer service…

I sent them a message through the website explaining politely that I was confused as to why I’d been charged any finance charges at all when my account balance was zero before the billing period and zero at the end of the billing period.

Here’s the canned response I received:

Finance charges for purchases, balance transfers and cash advances will begin to accrue from the date the transaction is added to your balance. They will continue to accrue until payment in full is credited to your account.

This means that when you make your final payment on these balances, you will pay interest for the time between the date your last statement prints and the date your payment is credited to your account.

Was this message helpful?

Seriously, the last line was really there. And my answer was “No.”

Thanks for the canned answer.

I know what finance charges are — I was just under the impression that when you had a $0 balance, you know, you kinda “earned” a 20-day (or so) grace period. Apparently, I’m mistaken even though that’s how every other card I’ve ever carried has worked.

The more I read into that canned response, the more I began to think that I was in the initial stages of being nickel-and-dimed.

It’s as if I was hit with finance charges on finance charges (not a “purchase, balance transfer or cash advance”) during those two days at the start of my billing period — though $1.87 for two days seems a little steep…

I frantically tried to make a payment of $1.87 to Citi to prevent it from happening next month.

Their horrible web interface told me that the earliest I could make a payment was March 30 — at the time, that was 4 days away! Oh no!

I began to stew.

And then I sent them a less-friendly response:

Okay — so it’s all but impossible to get my balance back to $0, huh?

Your website doesn’t allow me to “overpay” my bill so as to “pre” pay the looming finance charges — something I’d like to do — so you’re basically telling me that I’ll continued to get hit with minuscule finance charges indefinitely until I somehow “luck out” and am able to submit a payment seconds after the finance charges are debted from my account?

Is that how it works?

Seems pretty crooked.

And here’s how they responded, to their credit, pretty quickly:

The finance charges for purchases will begin to accrue from the date the transaction is added to your balance. They will continue to accrue until payment in full is credited to your account. This means that when you make your final payment on these balances, you will pay interest for the time between the date your last statement prints and the date your payment is credited to your account.

So apparently a $0 balance isn’t “payment in full” to Citi. Okay, whatever…

A few days later, on Sunday, still steaming (yes, over $1.87), I logged back into my account.

Though I check my account balances on a daily basis, this was the first time that I’d noticed that my rate had jumped to 16.99%

I would never apply for a card with a rate like that so why should I continue to use one?

I took the card out of my wallet.

And then it hit me, this was also the one credit card in my arsenal that earns reward points — yeah, those things that I think are a total joke.

Thinking about it some more (yeah, I couldn’t let it go), back in December, I remembered receiving one of those “change of terms” letters from Citi. Good thing I blogged about it — that’s where the 16.99% figure came from — but what I was recalling was some additional literature enclosed with something about them reserving the right to suspend the awards program or take away my reward points whenever they felt like it.

That did it…

I’m done with Citi,” I told myself.

I logged into their ThankYou network and started shopping and you know what?

I managed to spend all but 28 of my ThankYou points last night.

Wanna see what I selected?

Allie G, the singing alligator.

Yep. A singing alligator. (you need to click on him. I beg you.)

Silly? Yes.

Frivolous? Perhaps… but hopefully the baby will find it as hilarious as I do.

I should also mention that I very frugally used ThankYou points to pick up the ever-elusive telephone (a Panasonic KX-TG6432M) that I so struggled to find over the weekend too…

Thanks Citi — and good riddance.

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