Citibank Shocks Reader With Consumer-Friendly Policy

Anthony received a Newegg rebate in the form of a prepaid debit card. When he went to use the $15 card for a $15.93 purchase, he received an unexpected and wonderful surprise.

I recently received a $15 rebate from a purchase made at The rebate came as a Visa prepaid debit card through Citi Bank. This weekend I used the card for a purchase at OfficeMax. The purchase came to $15.93, so I told the cashier I had $15 on a card (which he referred to as a gift card), and handed him the card and a $1 bill.

He swiped the card and told me the charge went through, then handed me back the card and the $1 bill. At first I assumed I had simply misheard the price or remembered the amount of the rebate wrong, but today I noticed the receipt said the card now had a $-.93 balance. I immediately expected this to turn into a horror story- overdraft fees on a gift card, customer service nightmare- but it was not to be. I called the customer service number on the card and was told by the CSR that their policy is to automatically cover a small amount of overage- I think the CSR said $5- as a courtesy. I was told I did not have to pay the 93 cents, and would not incur a fee.

This was definitely a pleasant surprise, and I have now come away with a better impression of both Visa and Citi Bank. It may not quite be above and beyond, but it is an experience worth sharing.

No, it’s not to the level of “above and beyond.” Still, it’s nice to hear that the bank has such a friendly policy.

The question is, who eats the extra $5? The bank? Perhaps the unredeemed amount (not to mention fees) on thousands or millions of other prepaid cards more than makes up for any overages.

(Photo: pstardesign)


Edit Your Comment

  1. GitEmSteveDave_ThatChickRockingKicks says:

    Unless the card is branded with your name, how could you get charged fees? I’m seriously asking.

    Also, $5 EACH card? I mean, dang! Even if it was $1.00 over a million gift cards, that’s $1,000,000 the bank is shelling out needlessly.

  2. lotussix says:

    i can see this “loophole” being closed quickly if everyone starts using their $15 gift cards for $19 purchases.

  3. ben says:

    Banks *should* give away $5? Maybe “how I’d like things to be.”

    • cameronl says:

      @ben: Yeah, that’s definately “above and beyond.” I expect decent service from companies, but I don’t expect them to be giving money away. “How thing should be” would be the initial transaction; stating the card has $15 on it, handing over the card and $1 and getting $.07 back.

      The fact it didn’t go as expected, and the customer had to take time to call Citibank in fear of reprisal is not a good thing.

      That statement is a great example of the over-inflated sense of entitlement so many people have.

      • LINIS says:

        @cameronl: @ben: Thank God there are others here that don’t think this is the way things *should* be. This is definitely above and beyond – a bank is a business and it exists to make money. Covering overages on an individual account is completely independent of the fact that there are many dollars on other accounts that go unredeemed.

  4. ilves says:

    No, that is way above and beyond the expected. A $5 overage policy, summed over thousands and thousands of people, is a HUGE sum of money. Even at $1 this will cost Citibank a lot over the long run, so this is a ridiculously consumer friendly policy.

  5. Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

    Yes, this sounds like a big deal, but most people never spend their cards at all, or if they do, they leave money on it, rather than go over. It probably saves them a lot of headache of not chasing down someone who spent an extra couple dollars.

    • Rachacha says:

      @wagenejm: No chasing down required. Most merchants have a system where they can accept multiple forms of payment (multiple gift cards, pre-paid credit cards, and cash). The cashier simply swipes the card, and the amount on the card is deducted, and you then pay for the remaining balance with another form of payment. In this situation, $15 should have been deducted from the card, and the remaining $0.93 taken from the $1.00 bill. No chasing down of people, no penalty fee, and no “free” money being handed out.

    • Parnassus says:

      @wagenejm: I’m a bit surprised that I haven’t read anybody else saying this, especially considering
      “The consumer groups told Reuters that “An estimated 10 percent of this value (the card’s original value) is never used.””

      Is a Visa prepaid debit card different than a Visa Giftcard?

  6. Tim says:

    $5 is quite a bit on a $15 card. That’s 33%.

    I could understand a policy of maybe 50 cents or even $1, in cases where maybe someone underestimated sales tax.

  7. jeffbone says:

    I’m still waiting for 2 Newegg Visa card rebates. Nearly 10 weeks and counting, even after the rebate processor assured me two weeks ago that the cards would be mailed “next week”. At $10 each, it’s hardly worth the time to make much of a fuss, and yes, I know that’s part of the appeal to the processor.

    I hate rebates and avoid them where possible, even more so from now on…

    • oneandone says:

      @jeffbone: I had a similar experience with a $20 rebate from Motorola. Took nearly half a year and very frustrating. Their rebate processor went out of business, but that’s still no excuse for more than 5 months of delay (especially since from the beginning they said all the paperwork was in order).

      If you’re feeling stuck, try calling lots of different numbers for the rebate processor & Newegg. Anyone you can get ahold of. Get names of people you speak with, and try to send faxes/pdfs of your documents whenever possible. Good luck!

  8. tfarrenkopf says:

    Really Laura Northrup? Not above and beyond? How things should be? So you expect companies to dish out 33% extra on a card?

    Its attitudes like that discredit consumer advocacy. Nothing comes free. Companies don’t have to give you things for free, unless they’re trying to make up for a mistake.

    In this case, they’re making up for potential customer mistakes (not thinking about taxes or incorrectly assuming the amount left on a card) and they’re making up for it at their own expense.

    A $5 variance is above and beyond expectations of a prepaid card.

  9. thomas_callahan says:

    Step 1: Buy 10,000 $10 cards
    Step 2: Buy 10,000 $14.99 items
    Step 3: Profit 49.9%?

  10. Zclyh3 says:

    A rarity at best for Citi.

  11. PLATTWORX says:

    I would understand perhaps a 5-10% window depending on the value of the card. However, I betcha as soon as this story went up on Consumerist, someone at Citi said “WHAT!!!?” and closed this loophole.

  12. srh says:

    I wouldn’t be overly surprised if the merchant was required to eat that small amount.

  13. Xerloq says:

    Wouldn’t the $5 just come out of the service charges to buy the card in the first place, not to mention the unused value from other gift cards?

    I can also attest that this is not a universal policy among card issuers. I receive a card for $20 as a rebate and tried to purchase just under $20 worth of stuff. It was declined because the $1 per transaction fee would have put it over the limit.

  14. Mr_Human says:

    This will be more than made up for by their pilot plan to charge balance-paying customers an annual fee:


  15. cameronl says:

    article edited without comment…

  16. nsv says:

    Wait, now that I think about it, my guess is that Citibank mistakenly set up these card incorrectly. I’m now officially talking out my gluteus maximus, but they might have set up these cards to allow overdrafts, and as soon as they realize it they’ll fix it.

    Just my WAG.

  17. AllanG54 says:

    It’s probably their way of saying “thanks” to all the taxpayers that bailed them out and have yet to see the money returned.

  18. x24 says:

    93 cents is nothing, what with all the rebates they stole from the Shell Mastercard holders they just closed.

  19. VagrantRadio says:

    How exactly can they charge you over draft fees for a rebate gift card when it’s not tied to your bank account or any other monetary withdrawal system?

    “Here’s a giftcard for your birthday son, but don’t spend more than it’s worth or Daddy will get raped by the issuer”?

  20. Traveshamockery says:

    Wait, so it’s not above and beyond, but the tag for the article is “Above and Beyond”? Don’t do this to me during a week of Mondays, Consumerist!

  21. suburbancowboy says:

    Citibank received so much of our money in the form of a handout, making us all part owners of the company.

    As a part owner, I think this is a fine rule.

  22. nybiker says:

    Not to nitpick, but the OP says “I think the CSR said $5.” So unless we can get confirmation of the overage allowed, I am not going to say it’s too much.

    But I like the concept.

  23. PeterFS says:

    Gosh, that makes me feel so much better that they decided to raise my interest rate to 29.99%.