Thursday, March 4, 2021

Has Citi Credit Card bait and switched millions of their credit card customers during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

(Update: Friday, March 19, 2021 2:15 am). I thought I had a good talk with the Citi Executive representative who called me, but when their PDF arrived it basically stated nothing would change and Citi is doing nothing wrong, so I have doubled down on my belief that Citi is wrongly posting to the credit bureaus the total amount owed by waiting until a new bill is generated which automatically amplifies the customer's borrowing amount by several hundreds of dollars. Once a new bill is posted a customer has 20 days to pay down the amount owed and what should be being reported to the credit bureaus is the amount owed just prior to a new bill being generated, NOT the amount owed as soon as the new bill is generated. And, the additional overage charges when a new bill is generated are illegal in my opinion since they are not allowing the customer to pay down their debt even though the customer has 20 days to do so and was actually under the credit limit just prior to a new bill being generated. (End of Friday, March 19, 2021 2:15 am update).

(Update: Wednesday, May 17, 2021, 2:42 am) I filed a complaint with the CFPB and yesterday I received a call from Citi's Executive Office. I agreed to recuse my claim of a "pre-ordained conspiracy in which Citi overcharges on their monthly minimum payment which leads to a chain reaction in which the customer calls in to ask why their monthly bill is radically higher than normal...and without asking the customer who called in is then offered a lower interest rate for 6 months which in turn triggers a reduce customer's credit line "trap" the next the time the customer makes a large payment" if.... the executive assistant would forward my request to the powers that be that Citi customers be given their "real" credit limit (which is actually approximately 1.5% lower than the written credit limit) so the customer knows approximately how far below the actual credit limit they need to be so they don't suddenly incur an inflated monthly minimum bill even when they were actually below the credit limit just prior to their new credit card bill being generated.  (End of Wednesday, March 17, 2021 2:42 am update).

I had called Citi customer service asking why my monthly credit card bill which is normally a certain amount, was suddenly 160 dollars higher.   
The customer service rep seemed to instantly know, as if many customers were experiencing the same situation. Without my even asking, the customer service rep offered me a six month, 7.99% percent interest rate. I was shocked, I was humbled. I felt like I was in a Honda Commercial where they perform a Random act of Kindness. Silly, foolish, Alessandro Machi. This is a credit card company, any kind hearted move has to have an ulterior motive.

"But it's the pandemic, it must have softened the hearts of the Credit Card companies, that has to be it".  Gasp. Silly, foolish, Alessandro Machi. Are you really trying to see the good when it comes to a credit card company?  Really?

I had called simply asking why I was being charged an extra 160 dollars for my monthly Citi Credit Card bill and instead of giving me an answer, my interest rate was lowered to 7.99% for six months, which could save me several hundred dollars in lower interest rate charges. How could I be so fortunate?

When a short time later I had the chance to do a zero percent balance transfer offer from a different credit card, I chose to pay down my Citi credit card because having some elbow room on the card would be of benefit to me.

The moment the balance transfer went through, Citi gobbled it all up by lowering my credit line an almost equivalent amount to the balance transfer. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing since a lower credit limit means I have lower monthly payments and less going towards interest rate charges. However, in this particular instance it would mean I would now lose some of the 7.99 low interest savings I had just been awarded for six months, by at least one hundred dollars, maybe more.

However, specifically because of the pandemic I needed my credit limit and the gap I had just created through a balance transfer from another card. I needed the credit line max to remain as is. Once the 6 month, 7.99% offer had expired, if Citi wanted to lower my credit line that would be totally fine by me.

So as I retrace my steps what basically happened was this...

I called before my credit card due date to see if I needed to make any payments to ensure I was below my credit limit. I followed the automated information I was given over the phone and made two small payments to put me below my credit line limit. However, my next credit card bill triggered that I was over my limit even though I had made the payments necessary to get below the credit limit and had made them before the due date and they were credited before the due date. Instead of being hit with the standard 1% of what is owed, plus interest, I was hit with 2% of what was owed, plus interest AND my account was flagged as making insufficient payments even though I made the payments as suggested when I called in to check if I was below the credit line limit. Afterwards, when I called in to ask why my bill was 160 dollars higher than normal my call triggered an offer by the Citi rep to lower my interest rate for six months to 7.99%, which in turn triggered an AUTOMATIC lowering of my credit line the moment I made a large enough payment to do so.

I have no problem with Citi wanting to lower their credit line, I do have a problem with Citi giving out false information as to how much one should pay to avoid inflated payment due amounts that  also create a red flag scenario of insufficient payments being made that was caused by incorrect info Citi is giving their customers.  

Citi, it's this easy, when customers call in to check their credit card balance to make sure they are under their credit limit, use the following recording when giving out credit limit information, "To avoid a higher monthly payment due amount, please pay down your account by the amount of ____________ before your due date", and then actually give the CORRECT AMOUNT needed to ensure the credit card balance remains below the credit limit even when the new bill is assessed.

What Citi basically did was give inaccurate credit balance info so that a higher payment due amount would be triggered, which is then used to DOWNGRADE a customer's payment history and assess the customer as a risk, even if the customer has NEVER been late with a payment.

If Citi used bait and switch strategies against their own customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, something should be done about it by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Please consider signing the Debt Neutrality Petition by clicking here.

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