Out Damned Spot! Help A Reader Clean His Citibank Credit

Ben — a man with perfect credit — needs help. Not Ben Popken, editor of this Mickey Mouse pajama publication. Ben A. — one of our most prolific tipsters.

Ben’s problem essentially relates to the vagaries of American-Canadian ATM transactions. Ben is very careful about his credit. While I don’t pay my credit card bills for months, then fling thousands at it in one go, Ben meticulously and immediately pays off any small debt he may incur. Good for him.

Nevertheless, he somehow managed to get a blotch on his pristine credit record, thanks to the way in which Canadian ATMs interact with American cards. Essentially, on a month long trip to Canada, he withdrew money everytime from his savings account. But ‘savings’ is apparently Canadian for ‘checking’. And his checking overdraft facility was a line of credit through Citibank.

Citibank’s not budging, but Ben is perturbed. He’s wondering if there’s anything he can do to clean his record. Anyone got any ideas?

Ben’s email, after the jump:

I was hoping your readers could help me try to get this nagging blemish removed from my credit report, which has bothered me for years.

I have perfect credit besides this– I’m very careful about paying all my bills on time. The offense in question occurred in Summer of 2002. I had a checking and savings account with Citibank, which I opened at my school’s bank branch in 2000. As a special offer to new students, I was offered $500 of “overdraft protection” which I could technically borrow money out of any time, and was listed as a 3rd account in my ATM. As a young freshman, I never quite realized that this constituted a line of credit, which is probably a good thing, since I never used it like one. I never borrowed money out of it, I would only use it on the rare occasion when I did overdraft from my checking account. If this happened, I would IMMEDIATELY transfer money from my savings account to pay off my balance– I never paid interest rates.

OK, flash forward to summer of 2002. I went on a little vacation up to Montreal (beautiful city, by the way) for about a week. I was using my Citibank ATM card at these Canadian ATMs. In those days, I would keep almost all my money in my savings account to earn interest, and just a minimal balance in my checking for odd bill payments. I was up in Montreal for about a week, and made several withdrawals from my bank account– probably close to 500 dollars. I would always specify “SAVINGS” on the Canadian ATM’s.

Well, I go back home for summer vacation for another month or so after Canada (and of course, there are no Citibank ATM’s back home either). When I finally get back to school, I realize that even though I specified “savings” from those Canadian ATM’s, the money was withdrawn from my checking account. And since checking had barely any money in it, it got sucked out of good ol’ Overdraft Protection. I immediately transferred money from my savings account to pay off the balance in
full. But unfortunately the damage was already done: for over a month, I had not made any payment towards overdraft protection, so payment was marked as late and still shows up on my credit report to this day. (The credit report shows that my recent behavior is perfect, but it STILL says “was 60 days past due”).

Now I admit, if I had checked my online bank statement when I was back home that summer I would have seen this error (my paper statement was sent directly to school). But at the time I had NO REASON to ever expect something like this from happening. If there wasn’t this glaring error in American-Canadian ATM relations, I would have never had this problem.

Now I’ve called Citibank recently and have explained this in detail with them, and I’ve asked them to send a letter to the credit agencies to take this off my reports. They refuse to comply. They take no responsibility for this error and put all the blame firmly on me. They refuse to accept any responsibility for the error in how their banking system interacts with foreign ATM’s.

Is there anything else I can do, or am I stuck with this scarlet letter on my credit report till the end of time?