» Citibank Credit Cards: "What We've Got Here is Failure to Communicate"
Citibank credit cards and their parent company Citigroup are an interesting study. How many of you remember the classic movie Cool Hand Luke? In Cool Hand Luke, Luke (played by legendary actor and philanthropist Paul Newman) gets arrested for cutting the heads off of parking meters after a night of drinking. As a result, Luke finds himself in a Florida prison camp run by a brutal Captain and his coalition of rough-neck prison guards. Luke is soon labeled a trouble maker by the sadistic Captain and his staff when the other inmates begin to respect and idolize him for his inspiration individuality and independence. In a famous scene, after an attempted escape Luke is shortly returned to the prison camp where he is placed in leg irons. Referring to the leg irons, the Captain tells Luke, "Don’t you never stop listening to them clinking. They’re gonna remind you of what I’ve been saying for your own good." Luke then replies to the Captain, "Wish you’d stop being so good to me Captain." Then the fanatical Captain hits Luke and knocks him down a hill on the roadside where the other inmates were working. While Luke lies facing the ground, the Captain tells Luke, "What we’ve got here is… failure to communicate."
What does this have to do with Citibank credit cards you ask? Well, at times Citibank seems to treat its customers the way the Captain and his prison staff treated the inmates of the prison camp in Cool Hand Luke. In early 2007, Congress was considering greater regulation of the credit card industry. At that time, in order to avoid greater regulation Citigroup executives promised congress and Citigroup customers that it would no longer reserve the right to raise interest rates at any time for any reason. Yet in little more than a year, Citibank had reneged on its promise it had made to Congress and tens of millions of credit card customers and began raising rates in tough economic times. This is an apparent "failure to communicate" much like in the movie. In an attempt to explain breaking their promise, a Citibank official stated, "We are carrying out this repricing in order to continue lending in this environment." Citibank seems to have raised credit card rates to satisfy its own interest, not the interest or needs of its credit card customers in tough times. I suspect by now Citibank credit card customers wish Citibank would "stop being so good" to them.
In another move by Citibank reminiscent of the movie Cool Hand Luke, Citibank seems to have a laundry list of fees and just about any cardholder action or inaction can trigger these fees. In the movie, a prison guard named Carr, also known as the “floor walker” methodically listed a series of infractions that could get you "a night in the box." The box was harsh solitary confinement where just about any action could land an inmate. Addressing the inmates Carr the floor walker stated in near monotone delivery, "Them clothes got laundry numbers on them. You remember your number and always wear the ones that has your number. Any man forgets his number spends a night in the box. These here spoons you keep with you. Any man loses his spoon spends a night in the box. There's no playing grab-ass or fighting in the building. You got a grudge against another man, you fight him Saturday afternoon. Any man playing grab-ass or fighting in the building spends a night in the box….etc" Citibank cardholders are now reportedly being charged an annual fee of $30 to $90 if they spend less than $2,400 per year on their credit cards. Some customers have also had their Citibank credit card rate jacked up to 29.99% for no apparent reason. Unlike in Cool Hand Luke, increased credit card fees and rates may be worse than “a night in the box.” At least a night in the box was only one night. Unfortunately, every indication is that Citibank’s recent increases will last far longer than one night.
There are some Citibank credit card customer’s who have been customers for years now refusing to use their cards due to the radical rate increase. So what does all this mean for the Citibank credit card holder or potential credit card holders? It means you must be extremely vigilant. If you are currently a Citibank card holder, please review your credit card agreement carefully. The more information you have the better off you will be. If you are a potential Citibank credit card holder, please carefully review their credit card offers and compare them with offers from other card issuers such as Chase credit card, and Discover Card. Remember that choice leads to competition which leads to better pricing and a better deal for you.