In September my husband and I transferred all of our remaining credit card debt to the Citi Home Rebate card. The card had no annual fee, no balance transfer fee, and a 0% intro APR for 12 months…enough time for us to pay off our card.

I faithfully made payments above and beyond the minimum due. September…October…and in November I switched over to paperless billing. Toward the end of the month I noticed that I hadn’t received a statement in my email box. Normally I would have had the paper statement by then, so I checked the due date online and made a payment. That was November 21.

I received the email statement in my inbox a few days later. I double checked online to make sure everything was hunky dory, and I went on my way. At the end of December I received notice of another statement. I let it sit in my inbox for a couple of days, because I was busy with the holidays. Two days later I received a notice that my balance had gone UP by around $100. THAT got my attention!

I logged into my Citi account and saw that I had been hit with a late fee, AND my interest rate had gone up! I looked all over the site for a customer service number and couldn’t find one. So I went into the depths of my freezer to unfreeze my credit card. Credit card in hand, I dialed the customer service number.

The man who answered the phone seemed nice enough. I sweetly explained that I had made a payment every month, and I didn’t understand why I was hit with a late fee. He explained that I had paid my bill too early in November. I (getting less sweet by the moment) explained that things got messed up when I went to paperless billing, and that I had made November’s payment specifically to avoid a late fee.

The man replied that he would do me a “courtesy” of dropping the late fee. I think my jaw dropped.

He was doing me the courtesy of dropping the late fee, even though my payment wasn’t late? I couldn’t wait to hear his answer to my next question.

Are you going to set my interest rate back to 0%?

His reply: “I’m not sure if that’s possible, ma’am.”

Me: “So, let me get this straight…I switch to paperless billing on YOUR site. I don’t receive my statement on time, so I take the preemptive measure of paying my bill to avoid a late fee. It ends up being a couple of days early, so it doesn’t count, and now I lose my interest rate, because I’m a good customer?

The guy (stutters a bit) “Let me see what I can do.”

After much more haggling back and forth, and a lot more of the guy trying to convince me that I was wrong, he agreed to lower the interest rate. End of conversation….so I thought.

Two days later, I was blissfully taking a Sunday afternoon nap, when my husband received a phone call. You’ll never guess who it was. You guessed Citibank’s automated calling system? You’d be right.

The automated system informed my husband that we were late in making a payment and asked if he’d like to pay now, or whether he’d like to talk to a customer service representative. He pressed the number 3 for customer service. You’ll never guess what the automated machine told him next. Are you ready for this?

We’re sorry, but there are no customer service representatives available today. Please call back during regular business hours.

I woke up from my nap to the sound of my husband yelling at the phone. That’s not a pleasant way to wake up.

Monday I called Citibank again, just to make sure things were OK. This time I got a very nice woman. I explained (again) the whole story and asked her to please make sure that our account was listed as current, that our late fee was waived, and that our interest rate was set back to zero.

She pulled up our record and said she could see the account was set back to zero percent, but she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to waive the late fee.

What? Didn’t the guy I talked to a few nights before say that the late fee wouldn’t be a problem, but the interest rate might be? At this point I’m really beginning to doubt whether these people know what they are talking about.

The conversation ended with the woman assuring me that my account was current, my interest rate was 0%, and the late fee was waived. But she told me to double check my next statement just to be sure. Very reassuring. So now I’m waiting until the middle of the month to make sure everything is taken care of. Pray for me. I may need it.

To recap:

  • I faithfully make payments to my credit card every month….payments that are larger than the minimum due.
  • I switch to paperless billing.
  • My statement is running late.
  • I make my usual payment to avoid a late fee.
  • The payment ends up being 5 days early, because my due date apparently moved.
  • I get hit with a late fee and an increased interest rate.
  • The first guy I talk to sets my account current, says waiving the late fee will be no problem, but that resetting the interest rate to zero might be a problem.
  • He eventually says the interest rate is reset.
  • Two days later we get an automated call, telling us our account is past due.
  • I talk to a live operator the next day, who tells me that setting the interest rate back to zero isn’t a problem, but waiving the late fee might be a problem. She eventually tells me it’s all taken care of.
  • But she’s not completely sure, so I need to make sure to double check my next statement.

Does this sound ridiculous to anyone besides me?

Make no mistake. Credit card companies want to suck you dry. Check your statements, check them often, and follow up quickly when you notice something is wrong. And get out of debt!