cc licensed flickr photo by Miicha A. Ponce
Between gorging on the tax payer supplied bailout, Citibank is going to even things out by gouging and sticking it to their own customers. I just found out that I contributed to their cause, without being aware of it.
Back in October 2008, I decided to close out a CitiBank AT&T Mastercard I’ve had for like 9 years. I had called months earlier and asked if they could offer a lower interest rate- they did like from 14 to 13%, which seemed rather tight for a long time customer. And I had just gotten a Chase card at 9%, so I called CitiBank to cancel the account.
I must have been weak, because I let the woman on the line talk me into keeping the card. “You can just keep it in a drawer for emergencies. It wont cost anything if you don’t use it.”
So I paid out my balance and put the card in a drawer.
Since I was not used it I never opened the monthly statements they sent by email.
So today I got a thin letter in the mail from from G. Stevens, Vice President of CitiCorp Credit Services:
Unless you act at once, your AT&T Universal Card account will be referred to a collection agency, To prevent this from happening, call us today to discuss a special payment plan…. You have only 21 days from the date of this latter to work with us….
How could this happen when I did not use the card?
Thinking perhaps it was a fraudulent use of my card, I logged on to their site to look at my statements.
It says there is a balance due of $191.67.
March- late payment charges. February- late payment charges. January- late payment charges… finally, back in November, I see am $87.50 from RightSource, a place I get mail order prescriptions. I thought I had changed my credit card with them, but apparently not.
So that was my fault.
I shrugged, said, “my bad” and logged on to try and pay what I owed.
Then I started thinking- if my account was 5 months overdue, why have they not tried to contact me? I called their phone line, danced through hold music, and explained the situation to the agent. I asked why they did not notify me. She said since I had opted for electronic statements, it was in my e-mail.
Oh, my bad. I’d been skipping those emails.
So I hung up,
Then I got curious to see what was in those emails.
For 5 months they have been sending me monthly emails like:
Dear ALAN H LEVINE:
Your AT&T Universal Card statement is now available at www.universalcard.com. This notification is part of the All-Electronic Program you enrolled in to receive your statements online only instead of in the mail.
To ensure that you receive monthly statement notifications via e-mail, please keep your contact information current. If you’re planning to change your e-mail address, sign-on to www.universalcard.com, go to the Manage My Account menu, and choose Update Personal Profile to edit your Email Profile. To change your postal address, just use the same menu and choose Address & Phone Change.
If you use your work e-mail address, keep in mind some employers may block receipt of employees’ personal e-mail. Please update your e-mail address at www.universalcard.com -see instructions above.
We hope you continue to enjoy the many benefits of the All-Electronic Program.
There is nothing in the e-mail that says, “Hey S*** for Brains, you are past due on your account.”
To find out this nugget of information, I would have to think to open an attached PDF for a statement on an account I was sure I was not using.
I don;t know about you, buy if I loaned a friend $90 with the understanding of a quick payback, after a few months, I might just call or send a quick note- “hey you remember those 90 bucks I lent you….”
But CitiBank is not my friend.
So what they do is let an overdue account sit quietly, and accrue more than 100% of the amount due in late fees.
Sure, maybe legally they don’t have to tell me my account is past due, but I feel like a hand has reached in my wallet for $104.
I decided to write a letter, explaining the situation, sharing a copy of the monthly emails that contained no warning that my account was overdue, and let them know the address they can mail the $104 to, which would compel me not to file complaints, and launch a frontal twitter attack (okay that last part was not in the letter).
I paid the full bill– in the end its my own stupidity.
It’s the small amount I have been arm twisted into contributing to solving the banking crises.
Yet, I am not so sure of getting a response from CitiBank given that they seem likely to fold like the house of cards they are.
I hope G. Stevens can handle cooking fries at McDonalds. If for some small chance CitiBank gets through this debacle, I sense new motto- “CitiBank, fleecing customers the old fashioned way, one at a time.”