Did Citibank Block Your First Purchases Of The New Year?

1/1/11 is a nice-looking date, as sets of digits go. But M. reports that the new date caused a hiccup on the debit card that she uses for her Citibank checking account. But, wait–a Citibank representative assured her that everyone had problems with their cards right after the new year began. Really?

I had not seen a report of this problem that Citibank had on 1/1/11, and I found it funny when you think about all the energy and money spent on fixing the Y2K “bug”. My husband and I went out to dinner on New Year’s Eve and around midnight tried to pay our bill. The server couldn’t get either of our Citibank checking cards to go through, he kept getting an “invalid account” error. We paid another way and called Citibank, concerned that something was wrong with our account. After 40 min on hold, we gave up. We called again in the afternoon on Jan 1, and the person we spoke with said everything was fine with our account, but that the bank system had not reacted well to 1/1/11 as a date, and for some period of time around midnight no one’s card was working. I don’t know how long the issue lasted, or if, in fact, all Citibank cards were effected. Had I not had another way to pay, I’d probably find this less amusing.

Did this happen to anyone else out there in Consumeristland? Please let us know, in the comments or by e-mail.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Well, we’re off to an early start today. :o Normally I don’t start seeing new Consumerist articles until about 10:30 my time.

    (Goofy Newfie Timezone)

    – – – –

    Glad to see the OP had another means to pay for their meal. I rely on my bank card for just about everything (There’s only one business in our country that doesn’t use the nation-wide ‘Interac’ system) and if my bank account suddenly went toes-up on me, I’d be royally hosed.

    • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

      That’s why people carry a “back up” credit card- maybe a $500 limit, low APR, no frills card for emergencies. I personally think if you bank with Chase, you shouldn’t have a Chase credit card in case of company-wide computer failure for instance.

  2. humphrmi says:

    I don’t use my Citibank debit card, but my Citibank credit card worked fine on Saturday.

  3. shoelace414 says:

    that doesn’t make sense.. 1/1/11 isn’t all ones, it’s 010111.

  4. Southern says:


    That’s when Citibank credit and debit card users, like Patrick, were declined.

    “Our card didn’t go through and I even tried my wife’s card, it didn’t go through,” said Francis.

    “It was just really weird, we didn’t know what was going on,” added Pilger.

    Citibank released this statement about the odd problem:

    Shannon Bell, with Citibank said,
    “We experienced some minor issues with our daily overnight processing which…may have impacted customers attempting to transact in the early morning hours…We are working…to resolve any issues and apologize for the inconvenience.”

  5. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Really, 01-01-2011 was a problem? I wonder if this was just a glitch that happened to occur on a holiday which meant light staffing at a computer center which resulted in the problem? I mean, the changes are 1 in 365.25 that an error will occur on 1/1 of any given year.

    • webweazel says:

      I don’t know about that. A long while back, a friend had bought a ticket on Amtrak for Jan. 1st. He arrived at the station on time, but no train. He asked the agent what was going on, and the convo went something like this:
      “Jan. 1st is considered a holiday, and the trains run on the Sunday/Holiday schedule.”
      “But my ticket is made out to a regular schedule time, and if there was an issue with a holiday, shouldn’t the train schedules reflect that automatically when I go to purchase my ticket?”
      “Our scheduling program cannot recognize Jan. 1st as being a holiday until the day itself comes up.”
      (I figure, just like Easter and Thanksgiving, the New Years holiday moves around on dates every year, right? So, that could be a software programming nightmare, right? Right?)

    • sqlrob says:

      Not necessarily.

      They may have “fixed” Y2K by rebasing and saying a certain range was implied 21st century, and only done it by a decade. 11 may very well have been before any issue dates because it implied 1911 in the computer.

      • NotATool says:

        By that logic, it should have broken on 1/1/10, not 1/1/11.

        • sqlrob says:

          Decades start when the year ends with a 1.

          • ben says:

            Decades are any period of ten years. They don’t start during any specific year. You’re thinking of named centuries, i.e. the 21st century started in 2001, since the 1st century began in year 1 AD, not the non-existent year 0.

  6. yaos says:

    :10bux: says their Y2K fix caused the problem.

  7. Roloboto says:

    A bunch of check out tills at my local grocery store were down on Jan.1st. so the line ups to buy groceries were long as all hell.

  8. Bunnies Attack! says:

    Also all the login servers for World of Warcraft went down at 1/1/11 at 1:11 pm. (or at least thats when the message was posted). It took a few days to work itself out. Weird.

    • Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

      That’s only when they posted the update, not when the actual servers went down.

  9. hymie! says:

    Bank of America lost my on-line payment which was scheduled (by them) for 1/1/11. Not sure if it’s a date issue or a coincidence, but it only took 2 phone calls (20 minutes in the hold queue each time) to fix.

    • Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

      I was watching for 2 payments to post to my account at BoA. Since one was around $1K, it made a big difference in my balance. Although I was expecting them to post around midnight 1/1/11, they didn’t post until Monday. Since the receiving party for the large payment showed as having received the money, I wasn’t terribly worried. But I saw a lag (of sorts) as well.

  10. icntdrv says:

    I have a Citibank Mastercard. I was able to make a purchase at Best Buy at about 6pm on 1/1/11, but by that time they were probably already aware of the problem and may have already implemented a fix.

  11. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    CitiBank credit cards and super-advanced hyper-beings capable of detecting anamalous patterns.

    Also, they appear to be superstitious.

  12. blinky says:

    Oh wow. Come to think of it, I got a call from visa about my first transaction of the year, though it went through. Somebody obviously forgot a break statement (obligatory obscure reference)

  13. edstace says:

    My Citibank debit card was declined for an Amazon.com transaction just before 1:00 AM EST on 1/1/11. I called customer service and after a 20 minute or so hold I was told the issue will be fixed within 3 hours. I was also told I could use the card as a debit card with my PIN or withdraw cash from an ATM, so it seems the issue was with processing as credit card transactions. Fortunately I was able to make the Amazon purchase later in the morning.

  14. duxup says:

    With my Citibank card they seem to be more and more hyper sensitive to what I buy triggering fraud alerts more frequently and for more and more transactions. I bought a game on Steam (something I’ve done numerous times) recently and that fired off a fraud alert. On top of that anytime I use PayPal… fraud alert.

    They’re always nice and leave the last few words of an automated message on my voice mail. Just enough that I have no clue who it might be leaving the message except that it is probably Citbank based on how often it happens.

  15. AllanG54 says:

    Maybe the servers just figured that 010111 was some kind of binary code that it couldn’t translate.

  16. ahotw says:

    Perhaps people had been using 1/1/11 as a testing date, so somewhere it was put in to ignore/reject transactions with that date. (Easily entered as it only uses the ‘1’.)