Missed click causes interest rate jump

August 21, 2009 7:42:22 PM PDT
Marge Martin makes her Citibank credit card payments "like clockwork," she says. So she was shocked to come home from vacation to find a huge bill from Citibank.

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"They said I owed $1,000," Martin said.

The bank said it never received her monthly payment, and because of that, Citibank raised her interest rates -- a lot. It went from an average 3.99 percent to 25.99 percent.

"I was mortified, I mean, I started to cry," martin said. "I mean it really surprised me because I pay on time and everything."

As a result, her finance charges shot up from about $66 to $635 per month. Her minimum payments rose from $281 to nearly $800.

She contacted the bank right away to say there must be some mistake. Martin had even printed out the payment transaction. Still, Citibank said there was no confirmation number, no record of the payment and no way it would restore her lower interest rate.

"I cannot keep on paying $800 a month; I mean 25 percent interest will kill you, you know," Martin said.

Marge re-traced her steps online and realized she may have simply forgotten to click one thing -- the "receive confirmation" button. But even if that was true, she says it was such a small error compared to the harsh penalty. Further, she had been a loyal customer for more than 20 years and never late, but none of that seemed to matter.

"I couldn't get anyone to listen or respond," Martin said. "I shed many tears; I did because I didn't feel I'd done anything wrong."

Finally, Martin called 7 On Your Side, who contacted Citibank. A representative looked into Martin's case and the very next day she heard back.

"I got a phone call around 4 o'clock from the vice president of Citibank," Martin said. "He said that he'd been contacted by ABC7 On Your Side."

The Citibank executive gave Martin the great news. He had not only restored her low interest rates, but reversed the extra finance charges. He even told Martin what she had waited to hear.

"He said that he appreciated my longevity," she said. It wasn't an apology, it was just an acknowledgement of the fact I was a good customer and that I would have my rates reset and I'm back to where we were to begin with."

Citibank told 7 On Your Side, "We are pleased that the customer's account matter has been resolved. We encourage consumers to review their statements and account activity on a regular basis, with a focus on specific transactions and payments to ensure they are processed accurately."

Martin is going to do that in the future.

"I think I had a smile on my face all night long, I mean I was so relieved," she said.

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