Yesterday, I nearly had heart failure when I opened up my Citibank Citicards VISA statement, and saw that it was double the usual payment. After getting off the phone with Citibank to ask them what happened, I felt like I got paid a visit by the loan shark.
The Interwebs are a consumer's ally
I prefer to use blogging as a way to help inspire and be uplifting. Rarely do I rant or go off on people, places, or things. But when I do a rant, like I did with Oprah and her January 09 weight gain issue, I do so because I am so blown away by the ridiculousness that something has to be said….and to be honest, in this particular case, Citibank made me feel like they were some big bully stealing lunch money from a good kid just because they felt like it. Frankly, I hate bullies!
But then I remembered, naw, I’m not powerless against a corporate bully, I have the interwebs, and I can fight back. This is the power of social media for the consumer, and brands had better start taking it more seriously because consumers don’t have to lie down and just take it anymore.
Loan sharking 101: Scare them into paying up
Essentially, Citibank Citicards lost me as a VISA customer more because I felt forced to choose between an outrageous payment or hurting my credit score if I didn’t pony up more dough.
What pisses me off the most is that what they are doing is using the fear of affecting my good credit I’ve worked so hard for as a way to gauge me for more money. That is SO wrong on so many levels.
Citicards doubled my interest rate from 15% to 30% because, and I quote, “….in order for us to provide better services to all our customers.” WTF! How is this customer, me, getting better service by having to fork over a huge chunk of cash which is enough money, in my case, to pay my iPhone bill and car insurance plus some happy hour drinks.
My other option was to stay at the 15% but then my account is now officially closed. Here’s some reasons closing a credit card can hurt your credit rating. Those were my two options from Citibank, and because of my current financial situation, I had to close the account because there is no way I could pay double. None.
Disguised as options
Citibank calls those options; I say those are not options. That is like the Hitman asking you, “Would you like me to stab you or choke you?” What does it matter, I’m still gonna suffer and then be dead.
In this Citibank situation, no matter what I choose I am financially screwed, and for no reason other than, “….because we can. It says so in the fine print.”
What Citibank’s statement really means is that because they made mistakes passing out credit like it was Halloween candy, and then a whole slew of people and their bad credit habits got their institution into financial troubles, I, an excellent long term customer am being punished for other people’s mistakes.
My VISA is as old as the interwebs
I have been an excellent Citibank VISA customer for 14 years without ONE problem. I got my credit card in 1995, that’s practically when the Internet came into our homes. For 14 years of being a good, loyal customer, I get no break whatsoever. Financially, I have been in a pinch myself, but I always paid my payment on time. I have never been late with them thanks to automatic payments.
You WANT to keep a customer like me
Not to toot my horn, but frankly, I’m the kind of customer a credit card company wants to have, pays on time, never complains, and spends money…for 14 years. During my pre-IPO millionaire days, you should have seen the charges I put on that card. Interest rate gold.
And yes, I am going through some financial tough times right now, but better believe that will not be the case for long. I plan on having those millionaire days again because if you did it once, you can do it again.
But more importantly, in general, I have a good credit rating, and I've shown some stress, but I pay all my cards and bills on time. Why can't Citibank see the whole picture, not just a sliver of it?
My hopes for buying a house sag like a wilted plant
The closure of this card will affect my credit mainly because the VISA will fall off my credit reports. This VISA card is my oldest card, again, 14 years, and future creditors like to see long history, and now it will be gone. All that hard work is gone.
This card closure will affect my ability to get a home loan as a first time buyer, and one of the reasons I moved to Phoenix recently from the Bay Area is so I could buy a home. Can you see my hopes of buying that home start to vanish? Poof!
Closing cards also signals that you’ve maxed out or are close to maxing out your card. In my case, yes, I was close to the max limit, but who isn’t in this tough financial time?
But more importantly, what does it matter if I make my payments on time? I have never missed a payment, and I didn’t close my credit card because it was a decision I felt best for me, I closed the card because Vinnie waved brass knuckles in my face and said, "Pay up 30% interest or take it in the knees."
Out of principle, I will not give more money to a bully, so okay, I'll take it in the knees, and then go share my story on the web.
Not all customers are credit equal
In the fine print, Citibank essentially says they can just raise your interest if they feel like it when you venture too close to the max limit. How is this fair at all? I get that Citibank is a business and has to make money, but do you have to treat your good customers like the delinquent ones?
Again, I can understand the rise in interest rate if I have started to shown signs like late or no payments, but I have done nothing like that. My assumption is that my summary just triggered some software program to lump me in with everyone else because the numbers put me in some category that triggers, “Double their interest rate.”
I thought long and hard before closing the card, but I just cannot suck it up and pay that doubled monthly payment at the new 30%. My immediate needs take over future needs, and I really HATE that Citibank put me in that position, especially when I have done nothing wrong.
Forget writing customer service. I will blog and tweet instead
After talking to a service rep, then higher up the food chain to a manager, they both told me I could write a letter to Citibank customer service, but seriously that’s a useless Dilbert procedure. No thank you.
Instead, I shared that I’ll take my dissatisfaction to my blog and Twitter because I have no doubt that I am not the only one Citibank Citicards has taken advantage of this way. Even if we don't get anything resolved with Citibank, we can at least feel like we've bonded with others. Again, this is one of the beauties of social media, finding a commonality with others and feeling less alone.
Were you an excellent credit card customer and then got interest rate gauged? What did you do?
You know how you meet someone and you end up having one of those first dates where time just seems to fly by and at the end you feel like you're on a cloud wondering, "Where have you been my whole life?"
I know. I know. It sounds dorky to feel like you are being romanced by a piece of electronics. "Steph it's just a phone. Not a husband." Well, it's almost like an electronic husband.
I love this thing! It's not often I get all fangirl about something, in fact, rarely do I get this attached to an inanimate object, but literally, after just one week, this iPhone made my life so much better in terms of productivity, efficiency, and comfort. Yes, comfort.
I find the phone comforting because I can never get lost, forget anything, or feel uninformed ever again. And best yet, it's pretty and cute. Admittedly, design and cuteness highly matters to me. Functional can also look hawt and this is a factoid that most geeks underestimate. Looks matter and sometimes more so than pure function.
Example, hot chicks and dudes. They may be lacking in substance but they look hot and for many people that's enough to build a relationship upon. Not saying it's right. Yeah, it's superficial. I'm just saying that's a reality to consider even in designing a piece of electronics. The whole fashion industry is based on looks and Apple gets the looks thing better than anyone in tech.
The iPhone is both hot and full of substance
The girlie part in me loves, loves the cuteness of the apps, the shiny curves of the phone, and the little details that just make you fall in love much like the small things you come to love in a person. I am totally into design, so those big and small design elements matter a great deal to me.
I got razzled all the time by people who couldn't believe a professional blogger like myself could function with a 2004 cell phone because it's so ancient since it only has a regular phone dial pad. Like, how else could one function without a full keyboard. But hey, I built a Twitter following of 45K+ @skinnyjeans with that RAZR and remind people it's not the tools, it's the skills.
But I have to admit, having a more robust tool is helping me be more functional with the skills. For example, here are just a few things I have come to love about this iPhone:
One of the reasons I left Silicon Valley was because I was tired of this geek mentality that only speeds, feeds, and features matter. Well they do matter but they are not everything to everyone, and especially to us everyday folks who just want something useful and enjoyable.
What most people care about and I mean truly care about more than features is, "Will this thing help me with stuff like make money, lose weight, find love, locate deals, or make me happy?" Who cares what the chips, software code, or hard drive capacity is as long as the thing again is useful, worth the price (which is subjective), enjoyable, and yeah hot looking to those who care about that.
And yeah, as much as I love the phone, it also is not perfect. The dropped calls are annoying but I haven't experienced the drops that much, and mobile phones are never as reliable as land lines. And, I have to get used to the fact that I have to keep the nails on my thumbs and index finger short because the touch screen is not fingernail friendly. But like people, there is no such thing as perfect. There is only what works best for you and your needs.And so far, the iPhone exceeds my expectations.
I'm in love. You'll find me happily committed to my iPhone :)
Disclosure: Chris and I are doing work together on iPhone apps. We used to work together back in my corporate days, and he was one of the few people who had my back at that company. I happily plug Chris and work with him because you never forget those who were kind to you when you needed it most.
Note: Picture is a stretch of highway in Wyoming during a fun road trip this summer.
Besides death and taxes, change is a guaranteed. Nothing stays static because change happens whether we like it or not. Can you hear Yoda, "Change is so. Be it must."
Life with all its change will consist of beginnings and endings and cycle like a Ferris wheel. I guess that’s part of the fun and hell of the ride.
Recently, I've come to an ending in my life, a pretty significant and much needed one actually, and have decided this time around that moving on literally means moving...somewhere else this is not in California.
Where am I moving to you ask?