Citibank Yanks Your 87,000 Rewards Points And Closes Account Without Warning

Andy and his wife were just about to use their 87,000 accumulated rewards points to take a vacation when all of a sudden Citibank closed the account and took away all their points. According to customer service, there’s nothing that can be done.

Andy writes:

After 5 years without a late payment and paying my balance off every month, Citibank closed my Credit Card account without warning and took the 87,000 ($870) rewards points we had accumulated. My wife and I were saving the points for a trip to Hawaii in October and we were just about the pull the trigger when we logged into our rewards program and the account was short 87,000 points. That’s $87,000 we spent to get those rewards. They said they closed the account because they had new rules required for the accounts based on rules from Equifax. I checked eqiufax and I have 39 accounts in good standing and one negative from a $1.32 balance from 2008 that was resolved.

I called customer service and they said there was nothing they could do since THEY closed the account. Normally you have 30 days after the account closes to use the rewards, but not in this case. I also just received my last statement from them on August 5th and it says nothing about the account being closed or that it was closed on July 30th. We logged into our Citibank online account as recently as July 28th and it said nothing about the pending closure. I logged into my rewards points account as recently as August 3rd and it said nothing about 87,000 rewards being forfeited.

One good thing is that they will keep my account open so I can pay off my balance that I accumulated in the month of July! However, I guess I won’t be getting any points for the $10,500 I spent in July.

Right now, I’m just really frustrated. I feel like someone has just stolen $870 out of my vacation fund and after I found the perpetrator, they won’t do anything about it. Funny thing is, I have 3 other accounts with them in good standing that I am now going to close myself and I will never do business with them again.

Thanks For Listening.

Andy

Yep. Rewards points are like arcade tokens. They let you play all the games you want but if the arcade closes down, you’re stuck holding goose eggs. You could try escalating your complaint based off of a threat to close your other accounts with them, maybe they’ll relent and let you have the 30 days to cash out the points.

UPDATE: Man Gets 87,000 Rewards Points Back

Comments

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  1. smo0 says:

    Yeah… GO CITI!

    Call in, ASK for retention – tell them the issue, and threaten to close your accounts – if they give you back your points, use them – then close your accounts… if they refuse to help out or try to bargain with some interest rate or “bonus” points on other cards…

    CLOSE THE ACCOUNT…. as a former Citi Cards employee…. there are only two types of accounts which cannot be reopened… “Deceased” (yeah that’s a bitch when it’s an accident, too) and “Fraud.”

    Everything else is fair game… if they say they can’t reopen the account, they are LYING.
    There are specific CODES in which the system does some sort of safe lock to prevent ANY user from opening or overriding (I mean of, course, at a programmer level they could reopen it). So unless your account was any one that I mentioned, there is someone at the supervisor level that can reopen it, ESPECIALLY if they are in retention.

    • Link_Shinigami says:

      His account was already closed, so they aren’t going to care that he wants to close it though.

      I say he should exec carpet bomb them as it sounds like they blew his account because of the points he was saving

  2. rick_in_texas says:

    If these were airline points, how can they yank them? Wouldn’t the airline have to do it?

    — Nervous because I have 200000 points that took almost 16 years to accumulate (on an AA-Citi Visa). Next year we plan to take the whole family on a trip with those points.

    • smo0 says:

      Again, Citi respose – Miles are uploaded to AA every month… I’ve seen people call and complain “why am I not seeing the 10,000 miles I accumulated last week on my AA account?”
      Simple, THAT system is in place and if you lose your points after it’s been uploaded, it’s AA, before – it’s Citi – you can usually corrolate (sp?) that with your billing statement.

      AA are the few people who generally don’t have to worry – but fair warning, after 3 years, your points you’ve accumulated from that date 3 years ago will expire, month… by month…. USE YOUR POINTS!

    • sleze69 says:

      This sounds almost like a case of theft/fraud. They took something from you that had a tangible, real value.

      If it is only $870, that would qualify for small claims court at the very least.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        This sounds almost like a case of theft/fraud.

        If it’s anything like my rewards card, it’s explicitly stated that the program can change or be terminated at any time.

      • Dover says:

        I vote for small claims as well. IANAL and I know absolutely nothing about contract law, but I would guess that even if Citibank is legally in the right, it’s not worth their time to show up, so they’ll just pay.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      Those points are safe, unless:

      1. AA goes bankrupt
      2. They expire because you don’t fly AA for 18 months.

  3. Skellbasher says:

    Your problem is you pay off your balance every month. That makes you unprofitable to keep as a customer because they’re not making any interest off you.

    Consumers that are fiscally responsible are not worth keeping in this economy, at least as far as the banks see it.

    • milrtime83 says:

      It just makes you not as profitable, they still make money off of every single transaction you do. They would have no reason to close your account simply because you never carry a balance.

      • Skellbasher says:

        Closing credit card accounts of people that do not carry a balance has been a quite common practice in the current financial climate.

      • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

        Except with rewards payments, they are giving some of it back to him, so he really isn’t all that profitable. They charge 2% of total purchase price.They give him back 1%. So people pay their balance off each month and the credit card companies end up getting only 1/2 of the fees they normally would b/c this person gets rewards. Plus, they aren’t getting interest off these people.

        In the end, his fees are being paid by everyone, even non-credit card users (in the form of higher prices that businesses charge to cover fees.) His bringing money in to the cc companies is causing people like me, who don’t use cc and don’t get a cash discount, to cover his cc fees. So basically other people are paying for his rewards. It’s called credit card free loading. I don’t feel a bit sorry for people who play the system to get free shit while I get charged higher prices by businesses to make up for the credit card fees. It’s welfare for the rich.

        Citibank sucks for taking back the points, but they shouldn’t be giving them out in the first place.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          “It’s welfare for the rich.”

          Since when can only rich people get reward’s cards?

          • It'sRexManningDay! says:

            The more money you have, the more likely you are to be able to rack up big credit card purchases every month (thus generating lots of rewards points) and then just pay the balance off in its entirety. How many poor people do you know who could put $10,000 on a cc in one month and then just pay it off in total?

  4. milty456 says:

    Doesn’t it say on all of those CC deals in the fine print that they reserve the right to close the program at any time? I know mine do. Also, you spend 10,500 dollars a month on your credit card and pay it off every month…and your pissing over $870 dollars. Pshaw. I wish I had that problem.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      How’d you get that math? 87000 / 5 years / 12 months = 1470 which is pretty conservative considering.

      Also commenting system FAILS TODAY!

      • DarthCoven says:

        OP specified that they spent >10k last month.

        Oranges’ reading comprehension FAILS TODAY!

        • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

          That’s why its a credit card… you don’t have to pay that up front. Sure they have been paying off the balance (a reasonable amount) up to this point but the poster says he’s going to pay off the remaining 10k balance from July, and states no time frame. In addition, the 87,000 points were BEFORE the 10k purchase from July, so the 1470 a month figure still stands.

        • Link_Shinigami says:

          Likewise, the guy could have realized he was getting closer to October and stuck everything possible on his card. Like everything he could possibly think of, car payments, car down payment, etc etc.

          Sometimes you just have insane months… Mind you, I’ve never ripped past 1200 on an insane month, but hey, I’m not this guy and we don’t know what exactly he did to crank that balankce for the month

        • Megalomania says:

          You know you can buy virtually ANYTHING with a credit card, right? Just because he spent $10,000 in one month does not make it routine. He could have had a deck built, bought a car, had remodeling done… tons of things. Regardless of any class warfare, he had almost $1,000 essentially stolen from him. You would be pissed if it was you.

    • LisaLisa says:

      Yes- they are legally allowed to terminate your rewards program at any time. Most companies, however, will give you a redemption period (aka 30 days) to redeem your points- but they do this only to avoid publicity like this.

    • mythago says:

      He probably has the kind of income to afford $10K a month because he cares about smaller amounts like $870 being taken from him.

    • keith4298 says:

      I charge a lot for work and get the points and repaid by work for the charges. He might be doing something similar and not have $10k of disposable income.

  5. MikeF74 says:

    Maybe because you went from averaging $1,500/month in charges and spent $10,500 in July. That must have raised all sorts of red flags for them.

    But in the end, they still should not have screwed you like they did.

    • Elcheecho says:

      i did this on a bunch of my cards recently and nothing happened. it’s called life. like car. or engagement ring. or vacation. or balance transfer. or home renovation. it would be silly for a one-time jump like this to warrant closing a credit card. you’d have to close everyone’ eventually.

      • Conformist138 says:

        Dear Customer,

        You seem to have more money now and are giving us a slice of it. We would like to take this moment to destroy your confidence in us. It is our pleasure to make sure the door doesn’t hit you as you storm out.

        Love,
        Every Bank Everywhere

        ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

        Dear Government,

        We seem to have less money. Any help?

        Your pals,
        Every Bank Everywhere

  6. johnva says:

    This is why I cash out credit card points immediately upon reaching the highest redemption level. They can legally do this at any time (although it’s horrible customer service).

  7. GMFish says:

    I feel like someone has just stolen $870 out of my vacation fund…

    You feel like you’ve been robbed? Sorry, you have been robbed.

    • Conformist138 says:

      Not according to his contract. It likely says those points don’t belong to him, and the company can revoke them pretty much at will if they really want to.

  8. sugarplum says:

    I pull out my points at $50 or $100 (whichever is allowed) instead of ever letting them just sit and accumulate. I always assume a sitting account with $100s of dollars to be redeemed is just asking to be looked at. You could still open a side savings account and put the rewards in for a trip or whatever you are saving for, too.

    • milkcake says:

      Word. I pull out the moment I can. Also, I have a Chase card that credits towards your balance monthly so I never have to take out.

    • AbsoluteIrrelevance says:

      Same thing here and I have Citi. I’m always afraid they are going to devalue my points on something I want, which has already happened once. So no more flights, just gift cards and cash back.

  9. AI says:

    I’m going to go cash in my points right friggen now……no way my bank is going to screw me out of an iPod Touch.

  10. donjumpsuit says:

    I’ll never do business with CitiBank again,
    I think that’s all I have to say.

  11. LisaLisa says:

    Actually, that’s not true… I used to be a business analyst for a different credit card company (I know, I know, I’m one of the bad guys). Not carrying a balance is actually good in a lot of ways- credit card companies still make money from interchange, which can be quite significant. If you are a long-time customer, who is a high-spender who pays off your credit card in full every month, it basically gives the credit card company tons of interchange with minimal risk of you charging off.

    One of the misconceptions is that credit card companies LOVE subprime customers, because they make so much money on fees, etc.- the problem is that these customers are actually quite risky, so the fees are pretty much needed to balance out risk. Subprime customers wouldn’t be able to get credit at all if it wasn’t for ways to get revenue besides interchange. Targeting subprime customers has blown up in a lot of company’s faces, because they failed to account for the huge level of risk. The charge-off rates of credit cards are actually ridiculously high (I had no idea before I started my job), especially in subprime markets. Don’t get me wrong, companies can make a lot of money from them when they do it correctly, but it is hard to do.

  12. diasdiem says:

    That’s why I love my PenFed Visa. The cash back gets applied to your balance every month.

  13. scoosdad says:

    A lot of posters have commented, “why did the OP wait for so long to cash out the points?”

    If it’s like some programs, you get a higher rate of exchange (dollars for points) the longer you let the points accumulate. For example, WorldPoints on a Bank of America Visa starts off at a half a cent per point (2,500 points yields $12.50), but once you reach 25,000 points, you’re getting a whole penny a point (25,000 points gets you $250, and that’s their plateau).

    So maybe the OP was holding onto points so that upon redemption, he got twice as much cash for them as they’d be worth by just cashing out at the lower redemption levels. It’s a gamble but a way to essentially double your money for free.

    • johnva says:

      87,000 points is a lot, though. I doubt there are many programs that would require you to accumulate that many points to pull them out at the highest level.

      • Dover says:

        He was saving the points for a trip, it’s reasonable to assume that he was going to buy plane tickets, hotel stays, etc. with them rather than cash them out.

      • Dover says:

        He was saving for a vacation, it’s reasonable to assume that he wanted to use the points toward airfare and hotel stays (presumably at a better redemption rate).

  14. MustardTiger says:

    I guess I feel kinda good about not being able to save points for the life of me and getting Starbucks gift cards. I’m closing out my account with them next month in either case– gettin’ paid, gettin’ paid.
    As for the article, Citi is based out of the eighth level of hell, I wish this dude the best in battling Satan’s serpents.

  15. BigBoat2 says:

    If the escalation practices mentioned above don’t work, you have a decent small-claims case. IANAL.

  16. shaqfu says:

    Yes, Citi has the legal right to do what they did, but it wasn’t ethically right. I’d raise a stink about it. EECB, post on web blogs, tell your local Media (in my market, there’s plenty of reporters who cover consumers), make sure Citi loses more than $870 in bad press. It may not get your reward points back, but at least it’ll make you feel better

    • zegron says:

      Absolutely, make it more unprofitable for them to ignore you then it is to keep your points. Companies are driven by profit, they have to otherwise it becomes a hobby, not a business. :-)

  17. jeffbone says:

    Ah yes, it’s Citibank unilaterally yanking rewards once again:

    http://consumerist.com/2009/10/citi-mysteriously-closes-scads-of-mastercard-accounts-nationwide.html

    IMNSHO they still owe me $20 from my last billing cycle, not that I’ll ever see it.

    Yes, I do have a long memory, why do you ask?

  18. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I was listening to Dave Ramsey yesterday, and he commented on an email from someone who asked if it was OK to use a credit card for cash back purchases, and then pay it off every month because they pay no interest and get rewards.

    His answer was something like this…dealing with credit card companies is like dealing with snakes. Sooner or later you’re gonna get bit.

    I too have zero balances on my cards, and use them to get cash back & other perks…now I’m seriously rethinking this approach. If Citi can do this, what about Discover?

    • AK47 - Now with longer screen name! says:

      They can all do it.

      I’m a Dave Ramsey fan, and that’s the first thing I thought of when I saw this. A lot of people disagree with his stance on not using credits cards, for the very reason that they get rewards points for spending.

      Then something like this happens and reminds us all that when you have a credit card, you are really at the mercy of the credit card company. Rewards points? Nah, think we’ll take those back. Low interest rate? Nah, we’ll hike it up to 30% for no good reason. That payment you sent on time? Sorry, we didn’t actually process it until the day after the due date, so you owe us $39 for our own incompetence. It’s all in that tiny print contract you signed.

      No thanks. I don’t want to play anymore.

      • Coelacanth says:

        Can’t say much about the rewards being yanked from under your nose, but if you’re paying your bills off in full every month, at least right now – the APR on the account doesn’t matter. Furthermore, online bill payment makes the payment processing part of the equation a lot more reliable.

      • Bibliovore says:

        If you pay it off in full every month so are paying no interest or fees, then even if you earn no rewards or cash back at all you’re still coming out ahead. In addition to the various protections that paying with a credit card can give you, you’ve got from the purchase date through the card-payment date to keep earning interest on the money you’ve spent.

      • JMILLER says:

        Well that would mean that Dave Ramsey does not believe in an interest free loan to buy products? Seems MR Ramsey is not too bright. If I buy groceries on the 1st of the month, and my billing cycle is the 15th of the month, and my payment is due the 10th of the following month, that gives me a 40 day interest free loan. I also never have to carry cash which means it won’t get lost, or stolen. I don’t carry around a check book which has my address on it. I gain warranty protection that I do not have with cash. Even with zero rewards, a credit card offers something that has value., Dave Ramsey can pitch any stupid advice to anybody, but it does not mean it is good advice. Oprah can give good advice on weight loss, but Warren Buffet and Bill Gates use credit, and Dave Ramsey is a radio host.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      If you’re paying them off every month, the risk/reward is very heavily in your favor. Ramsey errs on the side of caution, because the main concern is people who overspend and hence start having to pay interest. I don’t know what the rate on my credit cards is, and I really couldn’t care less. Paid interest just once (except times when the credit card cash advance rate was less than my after-tax savings acct rate, so I was making money by carrying a balance), made a boneheaded mistake and put the decimal in the wrong place for an online payment.

    • Ragman says:

      The motivation matters. It’s not a good idea to make a purchase because you can get cash back. It’s different when it’s a purchase that you would make regardless, and the decision is merely what method (cash, check, CC) of payment would benefit you the most.

  19. f5alcon says:

    If it was thankyou points, they kinda sit in their own account are not tied to any airline and the value of the points vary widely depending on what you buy with them. some are fractions of a penny per point, i am looking a hotel deal on mine that ends up being close to 2 cents per point. Also a lot of things generate bonus points for things like food/gas, for me rent on my apartment is double points, so just food, rent and gas is over a 1000 points a month without even any discretionary spending. So them accumulating 80,000 points is completely possible over a few years.

  20. UncleAl says:

    Not to play blame the OP, but I guess I am. Why has nobody commented on the fact that this person had *39* accounts in good standing, including four with Citibank? There’s a limit on how many credit accounts one person needs, and in this credit climate, it shouldn’t be surprising to see some of them disappear quickly when the number is this high.

    • runswithscissors says:

      I don’t think this was 39 currently open accounts. This is likely a lifetime of small to large loans.

      Each mortgage (if you tend to 3 year terms, you get a “new” mortgage every 3 years) is an account. Car loan. Student loan. Any past credit card. Store card. Line of Credit, empty or never used. “No interest no money down” furniture buys, paid off.

      Live 15-20 years after college, married (maybe a couple marriages), own houses, sign up for store cards… yeah, someone could reasonably accumulate 39 past debts (accounts).

  21. zogr says:

    3 years since closing my last credit card account after 30 years of ignoring the fact that they write the rules of their own game. No one needs this type of credit.

  22. runswithscissors says:

    You OP blamers are REALLY reaching on this one. I know you *need* to blame the OP every time in order to feel safe, but this guy did everything right.

    Paid off his balances each month. Had a good reward program. Saved up instead of wasting points on blenders and such. Monitored his accounts, checked balances, read his statements, even read all the contracts.

    Citi just up and screwed him for no good reason. There was nothing he should have done differently. He did it all correctly and just plain got screwed and yes, it could happen to you or me. There is no protection other than lots of us constantly pushing banks that we won’t tolerate this behavior.

    Blaming the victims will only encourage banks to do this to everyone, including you some day and no matter how much you are sure you’ll never make a mistake, that won’t matter.

  23. Wang_Chung_Tonight says:

    the arcade didn’t close down-what they did IS stealing.

    It’s happened to me on a much smaller scale. I had about $25 in Best Buy reward points saved up and they sent some crap in the mail saying “we are cycling our points now…” and reduced my point total to 0.

    This should really be illegal-its total bait and switch.

    • JMILLER says:

      It is not stealing. Best Buy is VERY clear about their rewards points up front, USE EM OR LOSE EM. It is in the contract. I know that for sure. If it is in the contract it does not matter.
      Here is an example why it is legal. You take a job with 2 weeks vacation. You were always able to carry over your vacation from year to year. After 5 years, the new rule is communicated to you. All vacation time MUST be used in the year it is accrued. You have 6 weeks saved up. Unless you get something in writing, they are well within their rights to do it. It is not theft, even though you earned it when the rules were different.
      It may suck, you may not like it, but you are the one who agreed to the terms and conditions.

  24. Sparty999 says:

    what dillholes…

  25. JMILLER says:

    1. It is shitty customer service
    2. It is not theft, fraud, robbery, assault, murder or any other crime. It is a contracts case.
    3. I have not read this specific contract, BUT every rewards contract I have ever read reads something to the effect “we reserve the right to change, cancel, discontinue the program for any reason”
    4. If the OP’s does not have this, he could file a civil case against them. I doubt that is the case though

  26. COBBCITY says:

    “Right now, I’m just really frustrated.”

    No need to be frustrated.

    1. Do a EECB to Citibank. That should get the points back.
    2. Write Consumer Protection in your state. That should shake the tree if #1 doesn’t.

    I will echo what others have said. I used to have a Citi MasterCard. I would cash in my ThankYou points for $50 or $100 gift cards IMMEDIATELY. When they changed the program from 5 points for every dollar at grocery, gas and drug stores to 1 (just like all other purchases), I shut the card down.

    1%? No thanks.

    I say push, push, push until Citi gives you those points back.

  27. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Donny! We got a bank over here wants to die for country. O-blige them.

  28. arkansan says:

    Even if you pay off your account each month, the bank is still making money off of you because the bank charges a retailer for each sale. When I was in business, it was about 3% but that varies according to volume and bank and I don’t know what it is now. One reason why a lot of retailers won’t take American Express is that their commission is higher.

  29. skapig says:

    They probably saw that crazy accumulation and assumed that submitter doesn’t bother with the rewards and therefore wouldn’t complain.

  30. jaxdiablo says:

    Ok, here’s what you do. Call general customer service, ask for a supervisor, and then when you get to that group (which is really called CRT, Customer Relations Team), ask for either the Office of the President or Presidential, they’ll know what you’re talking about. It’s a small specialty group in South Dakota (home office of usury central) who have the power to do anything they want on any card. Even if it doesn’t exist in the system. CRT (supervisors), have the power to change just about anything on a card (trust me I know, I was authorized to credit someone $16k in finance charges).

    When you either get transferred to presidential or get a call back from them get the name and extension/direct number of whoever you talk to, or their e-mail. Mention in no uncertain terms that you will contact the BBB and your local news media concerning this. They hate that.

    Hope this helps.

  31. maryjane1217 says:

    The same exact thing just happened to us on our business accounts we had merged. Our balances are extremely high as we put everything allowable on it, including our other bills. The account is paid off in full every month. In January, 2010 we had a late payment to our mortgage company due to a bounced check as a result of someone else’s check bouncing in our account. It was immediately settled when we found the problem and the mortgage company refunded our late charge, yet it got sent to the credit reporting companies. It even states the payment was made on the credit report. We have no other glitches on our credit report. I just tried to check our rewards balance today and found out we lost the rewards. Ours were probably a couple hundred thousand points. We save ours for the fall/winter when we travel only to find out they are lost. We should probably band together to fight this injustice. We are being punished and have done nothing wrong!!