February 5, 2007

shady citibank practices

Cutting-to-the-chase-moral: Keep PDFs of your credit card applications!

I recently started to do an app-o-rama with credit cards, aka credit card arbitrage (aka get a bunch of cards with 0% apr, do a balance transfer and put the money into a savings account to earn interest). There are some good "deals" out there in terms of cards with balance transfer fees waived. One such deal I found was for Citi's PremierPass credit card.

The offer was 15k points after your first purchase, and up to 12 months to do a balance transfer. A BT would run you 3% of the amount transferred, maxed at $75. I just got my card in the mail today, and was surprised to find a few differences from the application I submitted. Notably, the two that caught my eye were:

  • No annual fee (the promotion said that there was an annual fee, so this was actually good news)
  • Balance transfer fee would be capped at $250, not $75
The last point just wasn't going to work for me in my arbitrage plans -- paying $250 to do a BT would require me to earn even more in interest just to cover that amount. I called customer service and was told that if I had "proof" of the terms I said I signed up for, then I'd need to mail or fax it in to get them applied to my account. It's very annoying that I have to do this at all -- almost feels like a bait and switch tactic to me.

I went back to the URL where I first signed up for the card, and lo and behold, the terms and conditions were different now. So the only way I could prove the offer I agreed to was to have a print-out of the original application. Who keeps a copy of their credit card application? Clearly, Citibank is banking on people just submitting an application, getting approved and being stuck on less than agreed-upon terms just because they didn't print out the actual application.

However, they banked wrong with me!

I have a PDF print-out of the credit card application, with the terms of the offer on it. With this "proof" in hand, I should be able to get Citibank to honor what they had offered in the first place. =)

You may be wondering why I'm so anal to have an actual PDF of the terms and conditions. It's a trick I picked up when I applied for all these airline/hotel rewards cards. A site I did some research on gave that valuable piece of advice. With a PDF print-out, you can ensure you receive the points/miles/dollars/rewards/etc. you were promised. You don't waste any paper with a PDF, and it takes minimal space on your hard drive. And for those situations when you need to prove to the bank what their original offer was, then having it is golden!

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