Avoiding Student Loan Default At Citibank: A Cautionary Tale

It’s an enormous relief to find someone at a large, powerful company who is kind, helpful, and able to solve your problems. Unfortunately, reader Flora learned that just because a person is kind and helpful, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t document your conversations with them in case things go horribly wrong.

I am writing with the hope that someone else might read my story and not make my mistake. I’ve had a lot of trouble paying my bills this year. I moved in with my parents in November to get things under control. One of the companies I owed money to was Citibank Student Loans. I finally contacted them in mid December to try to make things right so my loan would not go into default. The customer service rep could not have been friendlier. After I made a payment on the loan over the phone, she told me she had set me up on a payment plan, that as long as I continued to pay the same amount every month, my loan would not default. She wished me a Merry Christmas before I hung up the phone hugely relieved.

Last week, I called Citibank again to make another payment on my loan by the appointed date, as she had instructed. The very friendly customer service rep told me that my loan was in the process of being sent to collections, but that I could call Citibanks’ default department to make a payment. I called the number prepared to pay 300% of the payment I owed to keep this from happening, 800-XXX-9977. No one answered. The call went to voicemail. And the voicemail box of the number was full. I just tried it again, and it’s still full. [That’s because the correct number is (800) 967-8877. -Ed.]

I called the main citibank number back, explaining that I wanted to make a payment. They just told me to keep calling the default office every hour or so until they emptied their voicemail box. After four hours, I finally left a voicemail which was returned the next afternoon while I was in a doctor’s appointment. I called again to leave a voicemail that night, being sure to keep my phone on me at all times so I could answer them. They called back the next afternoon. The customer service rep I talked to explained that my loan had been sent to collections in the 3 weeks since I had last talked to citibank, she claimed they had no record of any payment plan, and explained that they had the right to send my loan off to collections whenever they chose to. When I protested, asking if they had any recording or computer record of the conversation I had with the representative, and awe-struck that they completely ignored our deal, the customer service rep immediately changed her tone to shouting at me over the phone, explaining very brutally that it was all completely my fault for not paying. I waited long enough to hear the number of the collection agency to call before I hung up the phone literally in tears. I’m now trying to reach the collection company so I can start to clean up my credit score, bit by bit. I realize that I should have been paying more sooner, but that shouldn’t change the fact that they made an agreement with me, and then broke it immediately after, right? I don’t even know where my last payment went, if it’s in the citibank system or with the collection agency. All of my information has been removed from my online account. I was really trying to make this work.

I hope that anyone having difficulty making payments to citibank student loans records any and all conversations they have with customer service representatives. I was so naive, and trusted that such a large business would not completely lie to me. I hope that you let other people know not to make the same mistake.