Not cool Citibank, not cool

Over the last few days I’ve been attempting to re-acquire access to my online accounts using the laptop, since my desktop remains down for the count.  For the most part I’ve been successful, but my Citibank account has remained elusive in being accessible.  I encountered the first problem on Wednesday, when I attempted to log on, only to be told that there had been multiple failed attempts to access my account (more than likely by my continued efforts) and I needed to reset my password.

I went through the motions that the site said was necessary, having a code sent by text to my phone, and inputting it in the appropriate place when prompted.  At that point I was prodded to change my password and when I did, I was presented with a screen that said ‘the content you’re looking for doesn’t exist on our website’, or words to that effect.  I tried the same process twice more just to get the same response, so I shelved my efforts to another day.  Which turned out to be Friday.

Friday was the day that we were getting our vehicle (finally) inspected prior to the end of  our lease, so I had to be awake at 6:45 in order to make a call to the dispatch people to be certain the inspector was coming at the right time, to the correct place.  We’d been through the merry-go-round more than once with this and I wanted to be completely certain there weren’t any screwups this time.

After successfully handling that (vehicle came out clean, no issues) I took the time to call the 800 number referenced by Citibank when I was unable to access my account.  After navigating through the myriad of automated menus, I was finally able to speak to a real person.  I told the woman what my problem was, she asked for my checking account # and I told her that I wasn’t a member that had a bank account, I had a credit card.  “Oh,” she says, “you called the wrong number…this is the customer service arm for bank accounts.”  But…this is the number the website gave me.  She proceeded to apologize for the error on the website and transferred me over to the credit card customer service section.  Where I had to wait on hold for another 10 minutes.  No pleasant music on hold either, just dead air.

The next customer service rep asked for my account number and SS #, which I told her the account number but said I wasn’t willing to give out my social # over the phone.  She asked a challenge question and I answered it, these were preset when I originally set up the account 12 years ago.  Thank goodness for my password storage program, or I might never had remembered the Q&A.  But having been given the correct response, she asked what she could do to assist.  So I proceeded to relate my problem again.  To which she had no offering of assistance on her own, I was going to have to be bumped to the technical support people.  Wonderful.  I was beginning to get a little despondent of ever regaining access to my account.  The only lament I had been, my bill was due in about a week and I wasn’t completely positive I still had it on auto-pay, so if I had to do a transaction over the phone, they were going to charge me a fee to do so, because they always do.  It’s not convenient for me if you’re going to charge me more money for taking my money.

So it was back to holding.  And finally I reach tech support.  The woman who I spoke to this time, doesn’t have the information of why I called, but she does want to know my account # and social again.  I mention that I’ve already spoken to two different sections of her company and both have asked me the same questions and been rewarded with the proper responses.  She replies that she has no record of it, and do I want the help or not.  Seems a bit snippy to me, but what the hell, I wasn’t in a good mood at this point either.  So I give her the account #, and tell her I’m not obligated to give out my SS # and she accepts that.  Asks again my problem and I tell her.  She asks what browser I’m on.  Chrome, I reply.

Tech Support Lady: Do you have a different browser you can use?
Me: I have Microsoft Edge, but I’m not confident in its ability to do what I need it to do, which is why I have Chrome.
TSL: I see.  Can you try it anyway?
Me: Sure, but I don’t see the point.

I bring up Edge and attempt to go through the Citibank credit card website. I get the same result as when I was using Chrome. I relate it to the woman and she’s perplexed. Enough to mutter under her breath ‘It should work‘. I’m with you lady, it should have worked the first time.

She asks if I can delete my browsing history and cookies etc. from Chrome. I can, but I have to log out of Chrome so I don’t lose my history etc from all the other devices I use. She wants me to delete ALL of my browsing history, all the way back from when I first started using Chrome. Which admittedly was a while ago. I’m really not interested in losing all of that history. So I log out of Google on the laptop and proceed to delete the browsing history on that particular version of Chrome that’s running on the computer. And then Chrome crashes. Perfect. Have to reboot the computer so I tell the woman who it was going to take a while (truth), and if I needed further assistance I would call back. No sense me wasting her time while I’m waiting for an old Thinkpad to reboot. So I bid her good-bye and wish her a good day, anything to get her off the phone.

Needless to say once I rebooted, I still wasn’t able to access the account. I even tried to use the Citi app on my smartphone but every time I attempted to use either the old or new password, the app replied there was a ‘long wait time’ and kicked me out of the app. Finally this evening I tried a different laptop that hasn’t been used online in over a year. Again I got the same result, but this time I was able to change the password successfully. And when I did that, it all clicked and fell into place. I was logged on. About damn time. I checked my account, the auto-pay was active, so I didn’t have to worry about missing a payment after all. There was a blurb from Citi asking if I wanted to see if I qualified for a credit increase. Just for the hell of it, I clicked yes, answered their questions and was rewarded(?) with a $2300 increase in my limit. Granted the interest rate is still ridiculous, but just about any card is these days. Even if you’ve been a customer in good standing, the banks are inching up the rates little by little about every six months or so, knowing that people are inured to them with more debt so they don’t have a lot of recourse.

I certainly could have done without the merry-go-nowhere that I had to deal with, but anymore customer service is a crapshoot. I know many people who work in call centers, and they say that the people they deal with, have no patience. Well, when things go to shit and you get raked over the coals time and again, there’s a good reason. And this is coming from someone who works in the customer service industry.

Tackling Debt

One of the main problems most people have these days is debt.  In that, I’m pretty much no different, though there have been times in my life when I was for the most part debt free.  Having been lax over the last 10 years, that’s no longer the case, and I’m in the process of doing something about it, since I have retirement coming more into view with every passing month of work and life.  I don’t have a lot in the way of assets, the way my wife and I have structured our ‘things that have great value’, by and large they’re not really in my name per se, so I don’t have full ownership of them.  We own a house (with a mortgage) and we lease our vehicle.  Consequently, we don’t ever have large bills to pay insofar as car repairs, since all the vehicles that we lease are brand new, only ever get to three years in age before they’re turned in, and are completely under warranty for all the time we’re driving them.  And its fully covered by our auto insurance policy.

Over the years I’ve made some really dumb decisions with money, and that’s contributed to the current hole that I’m in.  Too, I have several credit cards with sizable balances, and rather sneakily, the banks that own them have been inching up the interest rates little by little, making it harder and harder to pay them off in an easy manner.  Where at one time one of the lesser interest rates was around 11%, it’s now been jacked up to 13.25% and so on.  My worst interest rate card is about 26%, and I’d really like to cancel that one, except it carries a balance.  So while watching YouTube videos instead of doing things around the house, I stumbled upon a method that seems to have a pretty good following, as well as many success stories.

It’s called the Seven Baby Steps, and it seems to be pretty straightforward.  Now granted, the originator of this system posits that the best method to start with is saving $1000 for some sort of family emergency, but I’m forgoing that since I have sufficient funds already socked away that can be accessed if there was some sort of dire need for it.  The second step is what’s called the Debt Snowball approach.  Listing all of your debts that have interest rates, regardless of what those rates are, just list the debts from lowest to highest in terms of balances.  Start paying off the lowest amount first with as much as you can afford to throw at it, remembering to pay off the other debts with the minimum payment.  Once the first one is paid off, add the amount that you were putting towards that to the next one in line and keep going until your debts are paid off.  It doesn’t say anything about cancelling credit cards, since every one you cancel has an effect on your credit score.  So you need to be careful about that.

For the past several years I’ve been maintaining a database with my credit card debts so I can keep track of what the interest rates are, when they’re paid every month, balances, and so on.  I’ve steadily been able to put about $1000 towards the debt every month from what I make, but it hasn’t been doing very well because I’ve been torpedoing my efforts through spending on frivolous things, lending people money and so on.  Which just means I need to get a little medieval with my spending, with my saving and with my dedication towards getting out of debt, not adding to it!  I have to admit I’ve tried a similar sort of plan for the last year or so, trying to pay off the higher interest rated card first, the so-called Avalanche method, but it’s had only limited success.  Again, when I run low on my checking account balance, I tend to go to the credit cards, and generally the ones that have the larger interest rates also have the bigger credit lines.  So it can be a trap of sorts, when you borrow more than you can really afford, and are paying high interest as well as putting it out over time.  I can easily see how people get to the point where bankruptcy seems to be the only logical option.  Large financial institutions get forgiveness easily, your average borrower, not so much.

Either way, I’ll be revisiting this issue more in the months to come.