Citibank: Worst bank ever?

posted 06 March 2007

I am almost incoherent with anger right now.

In a continuing run of bad luck with me and banking, over the weekend I misplaced my long-fought-for Citibank ATM card. This was very, very irritating, because Citibank on Tuesday this week was finally going to give me access to funds that I had deposited into that account last week Saturday -- a full 11 days, 7 of them working days, to deposit money from a cheque drawn on a Citibank branch, deposited at another Citibank branch, into a Citibank account. So after waiting and waiting, I finally have the money, but now the ATM card is gone so I can't spend it.

Ok, no problem, right? I'll report the card lost, then transfer money from that account into my shiny new Wells Fargo account, where I will have an ATM card sooner than the replacement card from Citibank will arrive. Or even transfer money into my UK bank account, where I already have an ATM card, though that will take almost as long.

But guess what? Apparently your online banking ID is linked to your ATM card number, so when you lose it you get locked out of online banking. So, just when you don't have real-world access to your money, you get locked out of online access to it as well. Phone access? No way, they don't do money transfers over telephone banking. No, not just because the account is locked: not ever.

Okay, I'm not entirely faultless here. I lost my ATM card, that was stupid. But I bank with three other banks. I know for a fact that two of them have their online and ATM card ID systems completely separate. Those two also do money transfers over the phone. This is not rocket science. Why on earth would you lock me out of online banking, anyway? My online banking requires a username and a password -- not my ATM card number or my PIN, even if my ATM card had my PIN scrawled across it in neon lettering.

They also have a number of subsidiary stupidities that make the process more painful. For instance, their website lists contact information for lost or stolen credit cards. Except that number doesn't work properly: I have to call it three times to get it to even ring. Once I get through on that number, a pleasant man asks me to identify myself with various pieces of personal information. I do this, and then he informs me that no, this is the credit card number. ATM cards are a different number. Is that number on the website? Had I missed it? No, it's an internal number. He'll transfer me.

He transfers me, and an automated prompt asks me for all the same information again. I enter that information, and somebody picks up. The system has worked out that I'm a Global Executive Banking customer, a special designation which, despite the name, seems to mean "make things inconvenient for this guy. Not just a bit tricky like normal, but really stupendously unhelpful." A man answers the phone and asks me for the same personal information again. Why, I ask, is it necessary for me to identify myself to him if I identified myself before he even picked up? Apparently "that's the automated system". Yes, I know, and all the other automated banking systems I've ever dealt with are quite capable of flashing up my verified identity on the screen of the person who answers the phone. No, not Citibank, not for their global executive banking customers, apparently.

After I discover the bad news about the online banking, I immediately call them back trying to transfer over the phone. No, I can only do it over the phone or by going into a branch during working hours. Oh, wait, you're a Global Executive Banking customer, a program which, let's remind ourselves, is supposed to be designed for people who live outside of the US and therefore can only conduct banking over the phone. Well, of course you have a way to transfer money by phone, sir. You have to call another number though. Between 9 and 5pm. Eastern time. Sucks to be a Japanese global executive, huh? You can only do your global executive banking in the middle of the fucking night!

I am disgusted at the levels of service these bastards have shelled out to me, while insincerely thanking me for my custom at the end of every call. As soon as is technically feasible I am shunting all my money straight out of there and closing the account. And if I could set fire to their web page, I'd do that too.

It has not been a good day.

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