Citizens Bank Manages To Make Debit Card Number Breach Even More Unpleasant

Mobile apps that can pay for things are pretty neat, but lead to a huge headache if your phone is lost or stolen. Especially if you don’t have a credit card, and use your debit card number instead. When Megan’s iPhone was stolen, she was ready to deal with the annoyance of getting a new debit card and changing her information on each app. She didn’t expect a cascade of incompetence and obnoxiousness from Citizens Bank.

On 5/20, my iPhone was stolen while I was on a business trip. Because my debit card was linked to apps on the phone, I cancelled my card. In a separate call, I asked for a replacement card.

During that call:

  • The rep asked our standard security question, which I answered correctly. He then asked an additional, unapproved question and denied access based on the answer. I had to go through additional layers of authentication to even discuss my account
  • The rep raised his voice
  • The rep denied access to a supervisor

I ended this call and spoke with someone else, who said she would send the debit card out right away. She also corrected our zip code, which has been wrong since we opened the account despite repeated requests to fix it.

My husband’s card no longer works online. On Saturday, 6/2, I learned that our current home address has been wiped from our account and changed to a location we lived at eight years ago. My new debit card was sent to that address, putting our account and my identity security at risk and creating further delays.

I spoke with a supervisor who gave the verbal equivalent of a shrug for this error. She refused to expedite the card without proof that the address error was made by Citizens. I have to wait another five to seven business days for a new card. Additionally, we corrected our address again and it will take a “full billing cycle” to kick in, continuing to limit the use of the single debit card in our household.

Do I have any recourse? Are there any tactics that I haven’t tried besides going to a branch (it’s impossible with our work schedules)? I’m about to leave on vacation and my debit card is an absolute necessity. We are planning to switch banks but are in a tight spot until we’re able to do that.

Thank you in advance for any help you or the Consumerist hive mind can provide.


Edit Your Comment

  1. That guy. says:

    She refused to expedite the card without proof that the address error was made by Citizens.

    Because the customer, in error, requested their address be changed to the one they lived at 8 years ago? They can see bank statements being mailed to the one they are current at before the strange change, and they still feel it wasn’t their error.

    I’d switch banks ASAP if that is the kind of critical thinking seen in the customer service supervisors.

  2. Blueskylaw says:

    This situation reminds me of why I don’t link accounts or use auto-pay. If you lose your phone then all of a sudden the finder has access to buy anything they want. If I use auto-pay then all of a sudden the company can raise rates or charge me for things I never ordered like account protection insurance or scammy things from third parties like joke of the day for $9.95 a month.
    This also beggars the question: If you’re in good financial shape, why are you using a debit card? All I see is drawbacks and no benefits.

    • who? says:

      This. The only thing my phone is linked to is a prepaid card with a limited amount of money on it. If I lose the phone, I cancel that single card. I’ve never logged into my bank account, any of my credit cards, or any other financial site or app from my phone.

  3. Auron says:

    Contact your state’s Attorney General office as well as the state commission that regulates banks. Once either/both of those entities get involved, resolution should come at a much quicker pace.

  4. SweetJustice says:

    OP here. We’re in great financial shape and would like to stay that way. We only use credit cards for large purchases. It works well for us.

    • frank64 says:

      You can use a credit cards and pay it off monthly. You get rewards often as high as 5%. More importantly it shields you from problems such as this. You do get some of the same protections with debit cards, but it is after the fact, the money is out of your account until the bank decides to give it back.

      I don’t like using debit cards because it gives many people direct access to your actual funds, and that can lead to bounced checks and not having access to your money. I have read of these types of things happening by mistake too.

    • CubeRat says:

      Please, please, please….having worked in branch banking in the early 90s, I had to help customers with this sort of problem, except the Iphone connection. I learned something very important, when the card is stolen, cancel ALL cards on the account.

      Do not order a new card yet.

      Because of your problems with the address, if possible, go into a branch with proof of your CORRECT address, (ie electric bill), and have them change that and every other account you have. ALSO, ask the personal banker (don’t go to the tellers for this) to place an alert/warning on your account about potential fraud. Wait a few days THEN call and ask for new cards.

      Very, very important. Watch your account like a hawk, I mean check it online 1-2 daily – if anything unusual happens, immediately contact the bank and CLOSE that account. Don’t let them talk you into keeping it. If you have too many problems with them, you might consider opening the new account at a different bank. You only need to do this if anything weird happens, even a $1 deposit, as that could mean fraudsters are checking the viability of the account before they go hog-wild. If nothing happens, after a few weeks you can drop the checks of your account to ‘daily’, but it’s best to be very watchful of that account. If you do not have a secure computer (ie a home computer with good valid anti-virus software) to check your account from, be sure to clear the cookies and cache after closing all browser sessions.

      Never check your account from a cyber cafe or public computer – you’re just asking for problems.

  5. kranky says:

    I think since you have already found little to no help using the telephone, you HAVE to figure out how to get to a branch if you want something done now.

    In the future I would recommend never relying on phone support from a megabank. I’ve had good success with credit unions, but with big banks I make a point to be there in person if I need something done.

  6. az123 says:

    The simple solution to this is to actually go into a bank branch when you need to deal with these things. Calling on the phone seems so much easier and less of a hassle, but in reality if you went into a branch they would likely be more helpful and taken care of this / gotten it right. Well at least there are better odds of it.


    • RvLeshrac says:

      I’m glad you were able to read and comprehend the statement about not being able to go into a branch because of work schedules.

      “I need to go to the bank” is not going to be accepted at any but the smallest of companies.

  7. FatLynn says:

    What is an “unapproved question”? I have been asked all sorts of things by my bank over the phone, and I like the fact that they make it hard to talk to someone.

  8. KlueBat says:

    “Do I have any recourse?”

    Change banks. When you close out your account explain politely why you are doing so.

    • mdoneil says:

      This is the correct answer.

      Also use credit cards rather than debit cards as they offer significantly more protection for lost and stolen cards and account numbers.

      USAA is a great bank, I’ve been with them for 24 years. I have never had any of the problems we hear about on Consumerist.

  9. FatLynn says:

    Oh, also, can you call and ask to speak to a personal banker and/or find one listed on their website with a direct line? I have had numerous problems that the front-line tellers couldn’t help me with, but when I called a specific person at the local branch, they got things moving.

  10. Abradax says:

    Cant you go into a local branch and talk to the branch manager?
    I refuse to deal with customer no service at my bank unless I absolutely have to.

  11. blinky says:

    Um, credit union?

  12. Reading Rainbow says:

    Not that it would change me cancelling my card, but does the OP at least have a passcode for their iPhone?

    • SweetJustice says:

      Yes–they cracked it in 5 minutes. Apparently there are rings of phone thieves targeting airports so this is common.

    • humphrmi says:

      My iphone’s passcode was cleared once because I synced it to a new computer. This issue can’t have slipped the attention of phone thieves. The passcodes only really protect your phone from people who accidentally find your phone and don’t want to look at your data anyway.

    • SweetJustice says:

      Yes, I had a passcode on my phone–they cracked it immediately. I have a remote wipe service for my new one.

  13. Gorbachev says:

    Close acct, take money out, go to another bank, open account, put money in.

  14. Lyn Torden says:

    “Do I have any recourse? Are there any tactics that I haven’t tried besides going to a branch (it’s impossible with our work schedules)? I’m about to leave on vacation and my debit card is an absolute necessity. We are planning to switch banks but are in a tight spot until we’re able to do that.”

    This is why I have existing accounts at 3 different banks. Sure, it costs more for this peace of mind. If one screws up, I have the others.

    “She also corrected our zip code, which has been wrong since we opened the account despite repeated requests to fix it.”

    That should have been your first clue that you are dealing with an incompetent bank.

    FYI, a long time ago I had a zip code problem like that with a bank. I pursued the issue until I got to the CIO. He thought that could not happen but told him I had physical proof in statements mailed to the wrong zip code that the postal service took over 30 days to reroute to me. He did investigate and found multiple defects in a program they used to convert addresses into zip code table lookups. Turns out the mailing system doesn’t use the customer provided zip code (he said because there are more errors in that … yeah, maybe). But he had is IT staff put in a work around and I did start getting my statements to the correct zip code.

  15. Bryan Price says:

    Close all of your accounts. In person. I would probably be enough of a bitch to make sure that a manager was there, and I would do nothing but a running commentary of WHY you were closing out your accounts. Be sure to yell out as you are leaving in the lobby that you have closed your account and the reason for doing so.

    Open up new accounts at a convenient credit union.

  16. dush says:

    “my debit card was linked to apps on the phone”

    No, just no.

  17. chiieddy says:

    I used Citizens for years and it was in the past year I began to have problems. To the point where I got the CSFB involved. I left earlier this year and moved everything to Charles Schwab.

  18. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Gah. If I get a smartphone I’m not using those apps. Of course, if I could afford an iPhone, I’d probably be able to get a credit card too. Even if I cleaned up all my financial messes, I still don’t make enough money.

  19. gaya2081 says:

    Hi OP! I use to bank at Citizens too, and dealt with their hassles, I finally gave up when they started charging me a fee for using a foreign ATM (in addition to the foreign ATM’s fee). I decided to switch banks then. I switch to a Charles Schwab checking account (opened in October), and have been VERY impressive with their service. There is NO minimum balance, it gets interest, and they refund ALL foreign ATM Fees, they don’t charge a fee to use your card outside of the country. They have an Android app (and have had one for a while). As promised they have added Bill Pay into their app. I can do ALL my banking from my phone-balance, check deposits (under 1,000), bill pay. I have had to mail deposit some checks and they get to Schwab and clear faster than some of my in person deposits. Calling them is ALWAYS pleasant and quick.

    Seriously I recommend switching banks. I closed my Citizens account last month and wasn’t even asked why I was closing. I chose Schwab from recommendations and because of the lack of fees for both foreign ATMs and using my debit card outside the country (for when my work AMEX isn’t accepted or I need cash).

    Good Luck…

  20. NotLeftist says:

    Tar, feathers.

  21. Press1forDialTone says:

    For the 1,456,324,111th time:

    Switch to a credit union where the bank board and personnel are answerable to it’s


    If you think the banks are obnoxious now, note RepubliThug(tm) in November and
    watch all hell break loose. The banks have Romney and his billionaire thugs (which
    they are among) in their pocket. Retail banking (that’s the banking that is done with
    the bank and you or me) for stockholder-held banks IS NO LONGER PROFITABLE
    after the banking scandals both recent past up to and including Chase’s latest criminal
    activity. The inside plan of all the top 10 banks is to LEAVE RETAIL BANKING before
    the Obama admin starts a long delayed (by the RepubliThug(tm) house of rep) to
    separate retail from investment banking like it used to be which was a protection
    for banking customers from what Chase just did which was to use retail bank
    customer money to bet on derivative – based investments that went bad. They have
    already poisoned the entire mortgage market.

    The entire too-big-to-fail banking roster will be out of retail banking by 2020 and
    you should move your business to credit unions now before they use your money
    to finance the move to investment-only banking for the ultra-rich.

  22. jenniferrose76 says:

    “She didn’t expect a cascade of incompetence and obnoxiousness from Citizens Bank.” Really? Why not? And no, not blaming the OP-Citizens is awful. But to not expect incompetence and obnoxiousness from them is just silly.

  23. BadSister says:

    I’ve had the most awful experiences with Citizens Bank. I have a business account and find them impossible, inflexible and NOT on the side of the customer. Terrible banking experiences each and every time I deal with them…and their fees are never-ending and outrageous.