Beware Long-Term Cardholders With Perfect Payment Histories, Your Credit Lines May Be Slashed

Oliver paid off his Citibank platinum card on time, in full, every single month since 1989, but that didn’t stop Citibank from slashing his credit limit when a minor mistake popped up on his credit report.

Oliver writes:

I’ve been a Citibank Platinum cardholder since 1989 – that’s longer than some bloggers have been alive now that I think about it – anyway, in all that time I have never (and I seriously mean never as in NOT A SINGLE TIME) had so much as a late payment. In fact I typically pay thousands of dollars a month in Citibank payments because I get mileage from the card so I use it for everything I possibly can.

So today I go to pay for a rental car and I get declined which is pretty weird but because Citibank has a ridiculous and excessive security policy I figure that renting a car in my own neighborhood is triggering a risk profile. So I call and when I inquire they tell me that I am over my credit limit. Huh? “ I’m nowhere near my credit limit “I say, “I just sent you guys a couple thousand dollars not three days ago.”

“I’m sorry sir, it says here you’ve exceeded your credit limit of xxxxxx”.

“Umm, excuse me,” I say, “my credit limit is not xxxxxx, it’s yyyyy.”(yyyy being a couple thousand more than she is telling me it is)

She says that I should hold and as I’m holding I realize that there’s a vein starting to bulge in my forehead and that little pieces of my porcelain crown are starting to chip as I grind my teeth in irritation.

After two minutes of listening to their loony-happy Citibank hell-evator muzak she comes back and seemingly gleefully informs me that: “Sir, due to some recent negative information on your credit report we’ve determined that you are a credit risk and have lowered your spending limit accordingly. If you’d like to make a payment over the phone to restore your account to a non-over-the-limit status I’d be happy to help you with that.”

About now the crown gives it up completely reminding me that I have a dentist appointment in an hour.

I ask for the credit risk management department and after another five minutes of their delightful muzak director’s shit taste I get some bimbo named Carolyn or Charlotte or something like that.

I explain to her that this must be some sort of mistake and besides, how can they lower the available credit for someone that has never missed a freaking single payment in nearly twenty years? Never even been late one time in that whole time? Never even paid just the minimum due in that whole time?

Apparently she thinks this is humorous because she takes on this condescending tone with me and suggests that if I paid all my bills on time perhaps I wouldn’t be having this problem.

It’s a miracle I’m not stroking our right there or doing an imitation of that eighties movie Scanners where the guys make each other explode from some sort of telekinetic/pyrokinetic attack. Before their heads actually explode they start to bleed out through bulging veins and that’s about how I feel listing to Miss C… $6.50 an hour tell me about paying my bills on time.

I ask just what it is that is on the credit report that is reflecting so poorly on my but she can’t (or won’t) share this information with me. As she says this last I swear she’s laughing. I wonder to myself where they find these people and realize that she’s lucky she lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota – it should give you some idea of how annoyed I am that anyone would be lucky to live in Sioux Falls. If she were much closer I could see myself paying her a visit…

At any rate, feeling far from satisfied at this turn of events and the delightful treatment I’ve had at the hands of a bank that’s been the recipient of large sums of my money for two decades I head home and get a copy of my credit report.

As I review it a second vein, this one in my neck starts to turn an ominous shade of purple and I realize that I’m punching the keys on my computer so hard I am actually bruising my own fingers.

Looking at the report I see what the problem is – or rather what they are. Two companies that I do business with are both indicating that I’ve been thirty days late making payments once in the last ninety days.

Only both of these issues are not exactly correct. In both cases the vendors, Sony and Volkswagen respectively failed to mail me billing statements to the correct address in spite of both of them being updated as to the change.

I contact both Sony and VW and in both cases they agree that their own system errors were to blame and that they’ll notify the credit bureaus that the derogatory information will be removed from my report the next time they update their files.

Hearing this I feel somewhat better and the vein in my neck throttles back to a more garden variety bluish tint- still not normal but at least not “you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” purple.

Silly me. I figure that armed with this information I can contact Citibank and get things straightened out.

Au contraire Mr idiot. Citibank decides that you’re a deadbeat and no amount of perfect history will reconcile the fact that you’re not. Isn’t this wonderful I think to myself – through no fault of my own by credit bureau report gets hosed and in spite of both companies committing to fixing their mistakes, a company with whom I’ve done business for ages, and with whom I not only have credit but also funds on deposit (a factor which you’d think alone was sufficient to mitigate their concerns) they won’t even talk to me about it.

The new credit manager – Sue is her name – informs me that “once I get the credit bureau’s corrected report I can write them and they will evaluate the account to determine if I am eligible for an increase at that time.” Can you believe it? “Eligible for an increase” Not, “sorry we fucked up and we’ll fix this right away.” Not “thank you for your loyal business we appreciate you taking the time to straighten this out. “ Not even ”I apologize for the inconvenience and will see what I can do to rectify the situation.” Nope. “Just screw you mister deadbeat you’re just another suspect loser and we could care less about your history with us, your funds on deposit or any other factor which should indicate your continuing credit worthiness. “ Nope. She won’t even give me the name of an executive to whom I can write a letter.

In fact, “Sue” tells me that they always play it this way. She says if they’re going to lower someone’s available credit they always do it first thing in the morning and they never tell people in advance so that folks can’t preemptively charge their cards up to whatever limit they might happen to have before the decrease takes effect.

That’s messed up. All of it. The fact that people would play that charge up the card game is pretty lame but the way Citibank treats its customers is even lamer. The simple fact is that two providers of services screwed up and made an erroneous report to the credit bureaus regarding my credit. This in turn impacted my score which caused Citibank to take action that impacted my score further.

So even though I could prove that the problems that started this whole chain of events were definitely not my fault and that further there is nothing wrong with my credit worthiness or even any negative change in my financial standing, Citibank has chosen to treat me as if I’m a complete loser who doesn’t pay his bills.

By this time I’m so burnt out on trying to fix things that I’ve no longer got the energy to grind my teeth and my blood pressure has apparently plateaued at some unacceptably high level leaving me a bit bug eyed and with a pounding headache and the desire to — write something and stick it up Citibank executive’s asses. Maybe, I think to myself… Maybe consumerist will write something about this and those fucktards at Citibank will learn to treat people a little nicer… And not to fuck with bloggers.

Though Oliver may be Citibank’s ideal customer, the bank’s actions are no surprise. Banks are furiously slashing credit lines to limit their exposure to the ongoing subprime meltdown, often relying on credit reports to justify their actions.

Sony and Volkswagen may be willing to take responsibility for the erroneous blot, but Citibank won’t restore the full credit line until the mistake falls from the credit report. Neither company can be trusted to unilaterally inform the credit reporting agencies of their mistake. When you spot an error on your credit report, dispute the negative item yourself.

Banks aren’t eager to tell customers that they’re slashing limits, so they stay quiet and hope nobody notices. Keep an eye on your monthly credit card statement to see if your limit suddenly falls, and take advantage of your free annual credit report to spot errors before they harm your credit line and your credit score.

RELATED: Contact Citibank CEO William Rhodes
(Photo: Getty)