Reader Talks Citibank Down To A Lower Interest Rate On Her Credit Card

Nicole was hit with a surprise 6 point interest rate increase on her Citicard, so she fought back. Her story is a good reminder that you should look at all of your options and be prepared to argue on your behalf, even if you’re not in a position where you can just pay off the entire balance and walk away.

So recently the APR for my Citicard, which I have had for years at the still-crappy yet manageable APR of 10.99% increased to a whopping 16.99%.

Holy cow, you may be thinking. You must be some kind of deadbeat!

Nope! I have never missed a payment on this card. I have kept a substantial balance on it for years, which I’m sure credit card companies like. It seems that Citibank was just randomly screwing me. Of course, I could always refuse to accept the increase–and then close one of my oldest credit lines and hurt my credit report. Nyuh-uh.

I immediately responded by bailing: I transferred a huge chunk of the balance to my Bank of America card, which is no good for purchases as it offers no rewards, but oftentimes has promotional rates on balance transfers. I also called Citi today. It was a marginally successful call, only because I did not get jerked around as much as anticipated.

The customer service rep was a girl named Angel with no marked accent; surprising, being as all of my contact with Citi so far has been with heavily-accented men who try to wheedle me into buying account protection. “But ma’am you may cancel at any time.” But I digress.

I was polite yet slightly crazed. I told Angel 16.99% was the most ridiculous APR EVER. I told her that my first credit card that I applied for when I was 18 without any credit history offered me a lower APR than that. I told her I had several cards with lower APRs that hadn’t raised them because of some vague “financial market” excuse. I told her I didn’t want to use a card that would charge me 16.99%. I have options.

Angel fumbled politely for a bit, and quickly transferred me to her manager, which was a pleasant surprise.

The manager was understanding and also polite. After giving me more vague “financial market” excuses, she said she could review the card and POSSIBLY give me a lower APR. I then got to use my favorite phrase when speaking to customer service (in bold):

“I just don’t see how I can continue to use a card that has such a high APR, especially when all of my other card like my Discover card offer me 9.99% or better. I’m sure you understand.

“Oh yes,” she said. And she agreed that affective today, my APR would by 11.99. Not back to where it was, still crappy, but sure as hell better than 16.99. I am proud of my response:

“Well, I will accept the 11.99 APR, but I will probably still won’t use this card ever again.”

Cool like ice!

“Citicard: PremierPass to a high APR” [nicolestanfield.vox.com]

Comments

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  1. buckfutt says:

    Citi just sent my wife an “opt out” notice on a giant rate hike (from 10% to 10.99% PLUS the prime rate).

    We pay our bills off every month, and we’re telling them to stick it.

    • thefastest says:

      @buckfutt: I got the same “opt out” notice and its hysterical. They give you the option to NOT take their new interest rate. But you have to pay off your entire balance at the end of the billing year (i can’t remember the term, something like billing year).

      Thanks!

      • AuntieMaim says:

        @thefastest: Chase recently did something similar: they want to hike the cash advance rate up to around 21% and the default rate to somewhere between above the prime rate and 30%. The opt out statement said if I choose to opt out, my account will be cancelled.

        Doesn’t particularly affect me, as I never plan to use a cash advance and don’t carry a balance, but will probably tell them to shove it anyway. Those rates are just nuts.

    • ma3145tt says:

      @buckfutt: You call that giant? I have never carried a balance on my card. I’ve had the card for 5 years. Four of those years I was in college, again.. no balance. My interest rate was finally down to 13.99% and today I open my statement to see that my new interest rate is 19.99%!

      Let’s see what has changed…

      From 2004-2008 I was a full-time college student. Working a part-time job for 2 years, so living off of savings. Now I have a full-time job and doing quite well. Instead, Citi jacks my interest rate. Good job Citi!

  2. Ein2015 says:

    Ugh, guess I need to keep an eye on my mail this week.

    Thankfully I’m still in a promotional period until Jan 2010… 0% interest! Plus their card added a hefty amount of credit to my report, so my black friday and xmas shopping is going on it, then it’s back to cash + paying it off over the next year. :)

  3. campredeye says:

    I just recently had to buy a new computer (Well, parts to build myself) and put on about $1200, I was still in my 0% introductory rate period and had about $300 on it already from College. The intro rate was supposed to be for a year, but in their fine print they say they can change it at any time depending on how they see fit.

    Behold my next billing cycle, 12.99% APR. I used their online message center because I cant stand the phone, and they say its the normal rate, plus the prime rate. I asked why it went up when I was on a year intro rate, and they say it expired on a 5 month limit. I logged in today to notice they dropped it down to 10.99%, I guess I am happy with this as I am going to pay it off next pay period. The credit company’s are really shady.

  4. Traveshamockery says:

    It’s fun to have a low APR, but it’s much more fun to not carry a balance, so it doesn’t matter.

    **Bonus fun – have a really high APR, and pay your card on the very last day of the grace period. CC companies get so disappointed when you get their hopes up like that.

    • deadspork says:

      @InfiniTrent: Yes, the trolls they keep in the basement who watch everyone’s account 24/7, 365, have to take their party hats off when you do this.

      Good job getting a lower rate, Nicole. Sometimes CC companies aren’t so willing to compromise, so I’d recommend to other card holders out there – keep accounts you’re not using open for 2 reasons:
      1) As every good Consumerist knows, closing a long-standing account can damage your credit score and
      2) You’ll always have an “out” if your CC company ups your rate, and you can’t afford to pay your balance off right then and there.

      • buckfutt says:

        @deadspork:

        Based on my own experience, I suspect this is something “everybody knows” that isn’t actually true. I switch card accounts all the time (or at least I used to, hasn’t been all that long ago) to get better rates, take advantage of 0% offers, etc., and my credit score remains comfortably above 775. I had no trouble getting a rock-bottom rate when I refinanced my house five years ago, and I’d done a lot more card churning prior to then than I’ve done since.

        Obviously YMMV, but the often-alleged credit score smack you’re supposed to see after dropping an account just hasn’t happened in my case, or if it has, it’s been a small enough drop to be meaningless.

  5. emkiku says:

    Can someone explain how something like this serves the best interests of the credit card company. They have been getting steady income from this woman for some time. She keeps a balance and she pays on time. Now they raise her rate, which will result in a higher monthly payment (presumably), which makes it less likely that she will be able to make the payments. Why would these companies deliberately make these accounts less stable in today’s financial climate?

    • deadspork says:

      @emkiku: Because most people will do WHATEVER they can do to continue to keep accounts in good standing, and avoid damaging their credit rating. Keep in mind, your CC company knows everything about you, including how much money you make, how much debt you’re in, and how much you expend on bills and such (IE anything on your CC report and more). They know your breaking point.
      If they can up your interest rate, you’ll do whatever you can to keep paying the account instead of hurting your credit information. Of course, some people balance transfer out, and that may be a loss – but the bank STILL at least gets their initial loan repayed in addition to any interest that was paid over the years. And people that play the balance transfer game often go back and forth between banks anyway, so there’s a chance they may end up right back with the bank they left.

    • Traveshamockery says:

      @emkiku: It’s all a giant risk-management math problem. They plug in how much money they need to make, and the mathematicians decide how many rates can be raised how much without causing folks to declare bankruptcy.

      But in the end, it’s like one of those sleazy car lots: “We don’t care who you pay as long as you pay us!”

    • English, MF, do you speak it? says:

      @emkiku: Also, for every Nicole there are 10 other people who won’t notice or have other options, so they’ll pay 17%.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I too just received a letter telling me that they were going to increase my rate to 18.99% plus additional annual fees, etc… I called and told them to cancel my card asap, as I have been an excellent customer for a number of years (excellent credit history, no late payments, paid more than the minimum due, etc…). They offered to reduce my interest rate to 9%, give me additional miles (I have the American Airlines card), reduce/waive my fees. They also thanked me profusely for being such a great customer for a number of years. Next time they pull this, I will DEFINITELY cancel the card and just stick to my AMEX.

  7. Orv says:

    Expect more of this soon. Citibank is in trouble and needs money, so they’re jacking up everyone’s rates. Most of their deposits are held outside the US, in non-FDIC-insured accounts. As a result, they’re facing the very real possibility of a run on the bank.

    • aftercancer says:

      @Orv: They’ve announced another 53,000 layoffs today. That’s in addition to the 22,000 they had already announced.

  8. chicagojim says:

    2 of our three cards got this increase – from 7.99 to 14.99. Strange though – the increase goes into effect from December forward, but the opt-out to maintain the current rate is valid until 1/31/09. That being said, I was told to call back after my billing cycle in December and I would be given a rate even lower than 7.99 Probably not true, but why would they extend the opt-out so far into the future? Another wierd thing: It also says that if I opt-out, the current terms (7.99) will remain and the account iwll close at either the account annivesary or expiration date on my card, whichever is first. Never heard of that either . . .

  9. Liam Kinkaid says:

    Of course, it was that rep’s last day there, [fe17.story.media.ac4.yahoo.com] . Lots of deals to be had from a rep that’s losing their job.

    • jlayman920 says:

      @Liam Kinkaid: It wasn’t her last day there. The layoffs are going to affect the credit card portion of Citi very little if at all. It is probably the most profitable segment of their business. Most of the layoffs will affect corporate in New York and London and a sizable portion of overseas operations. The people that have customer contact will be the last to go in a situation like this.

  10. Yogambo says:

    And then Citibank promptly went bankrupt.

    • jlayman920 says:

      @Yogambo: It wasn’t her last day there. The layoffs are going to affect the credit card portion of Citi very little if at all. It is probably the most profitable segment of their business. Most of the layoffs will affect corporate in New York and London and a sizable portion of overseas operations. The people that have customer contact will be the last to go in a situation like this.

  11. Goatweed says:

    Discover tried to pull that Prime + their rate trick on me, I promptly called them & refused it threatening to lock my card and pay it off – the manager agreed to leave my card as is (fixed) but at the same rate.

    I’ve got 2 other cards that are carrying balances, one being the evil Bank of America, but so far my rates are 8.9, 8.9, 10.9. I’ll have (hopefully) all three paid off by February, one or two sooner than the third.

    After this I’ll still use them but I’ll pay them off the same day I charge on them.

    • Anonymous says:

      @undefined: BofA went to a variable rate formula that adds 13.49 percentage points to the highest prime rate within the past 90 days, which took my APR up to 18.9%. I wrote them and they brought it back down to 9.9%.

  12. Pixelantes Anonymous says:

    Lonesharking is always profitable until you have to go bust some kneecaps.

  13. innout3x3 says:

    I think interest rates are all relative. To me that 16.99% looks golden to my 29.99%. I know you would think I’m some deadbeat who didn’t pay his cards. I was in college with no parental help. I used my cards to survive. At least I have a real career now and aggressively lowering all my balances. =)

    • termitehead says:

      @innout3x3: AGREED. I’m sitting at 22.99% on my BOA card… I called them and they flat out told me that there was no way to lower it. I’m really gonna have to call them back knowing that I’m getting screwed. I just thought ~20% was normal :P I always pay more than the minimum and on time, they probably love me since I pay all this interest.

      • Sarcasmo48 says:

        @termitehead: Double Agreed. BoA 24.9% and I’ve asked them twice to lower it. They won’t. But he was happy to offer me a loan to pay off my card. Kid you not. So I’m not credit worthy enough to pay 12% instead of 24, but you’ll loan me ANOTHER $6000 to pay off my balance? Since the last time I’ve asked I have paid off a line of credit and collected three Amex balance transfer offers on my mail table. I’m ready for round 3, bitches.

    • stinerman says:

      @innout3x3:

      I’m another.

      However, my highest card is 16.49% and most are in the 6-7% range. Somehow I got lucky.

  14. bnelson333 says:

    I’m surprised they did anything. I have two Citibank cards (one rewards, one just normal), and I haven’t used the one in a while. I think it had about 16% APR on it, so I called them to see if we could lower it.

    Gave them the whole script, I’ve had the card for 10 years, I want to put a hefty sum on it and pay it over time (you’d think they would like that), but no dice. They basically told me to take a leap… so the card went in the safe, never to be used again (but not closed of course, because it helps the credit score).

    • Shadowman615 says:

      @bnelson333: Like you said, you hadn’t used the card in a while. I’m guessing you also don’t carry a balance on the card. In Citibank’s eyes, you aren’t making them enough money to want to help you like that.

      But the OP in this story is a much better (ie more profitable) customer because she maintains a high balance and sends in interest payments every month. So they’re willing to do more to try to keep her.

  15. Starfury says:

    We had a problem with our BofA Mastercard. We mailed (yes, snail mail) in the payment 6 business days before the payment was due. They claimed it didn’t arrive until the day AFTER the payment was due. After some arguing they removed half of the late fee from the card.

    After the fee was removed, balance at $0 we removed ourselves as customers from BofA. I will NEVER do business with BofA ever again.

  16. mike says:

    It’s another loss for the smart consumer who spends within their means. Because so many people are defaulting, the good customers are getting penalized.

    I hate stuff like this, but if you’re a pay every month kind of guy, then this shouldn’t be an issue. It’s still annoying though.

  17. h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

    I like how she casually threw in that the rep didn’t have an accent. Classy.

    • Anonymous says:

      @h3llc4t: I didn’t mean to sound racist, I just wanted to illustrate that it’s more difficult to speak (or bargain) with somebody who does not have a 100% grasp on the English language. That’s why I as happy that it was someone (supposedly) who was a native speaker. Next time I’ll be more clear!

      -Nicole

    • West Coast Secessionist says:

      @h3llc4t: Whatever. If you like dealing with dudes with phony names that you can’t understand and who can’t understand you, and who have no autonomy to do anything to actually help you, outside of repeating their asinine script over again (oftentimes a sales pitch for some scam like the mentioned “Account Protection”)… then you must love doing business with Citi.

      Count me in the “Hire domestick f****ing customer service staff if you want to keep me as a customer” column. Label me whatever you want.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I did the same thing recently with Citibank, although my interest rate was much higher to begin with. Initially they dropped it to 13.99% then with my last statement, it dropped another percent to 12.99% and believe me I am not complaining.

  19. rshettle says:

    Not to be snooty but all of my credit cards basically just tripled the interest rates from 8-10% to 25-30% and I couldn’t care less. My CC’s are all “rewards” type cards that I pay off every month so the interest rate doesn’t effect me. I like to think about it like this: they are paying me to use their cards. I highly recommend it.

  20. Sarah of Get Cooking says:

    I’ve been able to have my Citibank card’s interest decreased every year since I got it, except this one (and I never miss payments or give them any other reason to not want to lower my rate, I have great credit). 11.99apr seems to be their magic number this year.

  21. shepd says:

    I guess this is news after all!

    I phoned both TD Visa and MBNA Canada MC. The Visa was at about 23% and the MC about 21%. The Visa call went really easy, the guy practically knew what I was going to ask for the moment I said “My APR is 23%…” With the sad balance on the card (jobless + education for an extended period) his offer of the Emerald card where you pay a yearly fee (~$25 a year) for the card @ an APR of ~10% (11.25% now due to prime increasing) was worth it. (Note to self: Cancel card or change to other non-yearly-fee card once balance is under about $300).

    MBNA was a bit more difficult; I had to explain I’ll transfer my balance to one of the several 3.99% initial APR offers I get all the time before I got transferred to someone that was willing to negotiate down to 10.65% (fixed, I believe).

    After about 15 minutes of phone calls, I had reduced my interest by well over $200 a month.

    Of course, with the sad state of my debt, I’ll be a “revolver” for about the next 2 or 3 years, so either way, they’re making mad cash. They’re doing the right thing (financially, for themselves) by keeping me there.

    Did the same to my Line of Credit (23% down to 9.75%), although that came along with changing banks for a free EeePC. Yes, I received it, and yes, it took jumping through more hoops than the average person would want to.

  22. ndonahue says:

    I love this site! Citibank cranked me to the Kneecaps Capital rate of 18.99%. A quick call applying what I learned from the article on how to Jedi Mind Trick a CSR and voila: 9.99%

    If I carried a balance each month I could use the money I save to finance the purchase of Consumerist… sadly, I pay in full each month.

    To those who say they don’t care because they pay in full each month, you’re missing a valuable benefit of your card. In addition to the 30 day revolving credit, credit cards can, when used wisely and with fair rates, be a reasonable source of short-term debt on your balance sheet.

  23. MisterE says:

    I locked my Citibank Visa at 6.0apr and double points (for the year), after that – it goes back up to 9% using the “I’m canceling my card” method. I carried a $4700 balance for 2 months, paid it off and got my double points.

  24. kwsventures says:

    If you quit carrying a credit card balance (i.e, live within your means) and pay no interest, the card company can charge 100% for all I care.

  25. Anonymous says:

    To the guy who managed to get 6% locked in, congrats! That’s amazing! (Though I am admittedly a little skeptical).

    The headlining story is a little lengthy. Let’s be frank — use the same steps with your credit card as you do with your cell service provider, cable provider, etc. (1) call and threaten to cancel — demand to speak to a retention specialist if they don’t automatically forward you, (2) make your pitch and see what they can offer — push for as many bonuses as possible.

    I hadn’t even been aware that Citi was pulling this increase stunt on my card until I read about it on Consumerist (I usually throw away those tiny print mailings without reading them). Still, I called, found out my card was going to be upped from 10.99 to 16.99%, and got their retention specialist to lower my rate to 9.99% (which is 1% lower than it was even before the hike attempt) AND to increase my cash-back rewards to 2% of ALL purchases for the next 6 months (normally it’s 2% on gas/groceries/pharmacy only, and 1% on all else). They also ‘overrode’ the opt-out issue, so my card card won’t be canceled after the expiration, unlike the cards of those who opt out of the rate increase.

    My card is a Citi dividend world card btw, in case any one else wants to try to get the same deal. I’m a pay-in-full-monthly guy.

  26. MishyC says:

    Ugh… I received an opt-out notice too. What ended up happening in my case is that, after much finagling, they are keeping my 8.240% APR for an extra 6 months, at which time it goes to 12.99% (instead of that monster attacking me on the next bill). I just got married and the balance did go up a bit, but I should have everything paid off in full within 4 months… after which, as I told the customer service manager, I simply won’t use the thing. 2 months-ish after the 6 month “keeping it at my low APR” grace period, I’ll try to renegotiate a lower rate. They will not get anything from the card unless it’s a min 9% once August hits – period. Sad to say, I’ve actually had a super experience with Citi until this bullshit. What a nice way to stick it to a good customer.