Monday, November 9, 2009

Eff You Too, Citibank; Thank You, Suze Orman!

It's official: banks are the power-drunk husband and Americans are the cowering, bruised woman in the corner. Long gone are the days of "Dear Valued Customer" and in are the days of, "shut up and take it, Bitch. What are you gonna do, move out? As if you had any friends or anywhere to go."

Suze Orman has made me paranoid out of my mind about my finances, and one of the few things in my life that I can legitimately brag about is that my FICO score is in the "great" range. This means I have the power not to get screwed by abusive loan agents, et al. Right?


This letter was waiting for me in my mailbox when I got home from work tonight:

We are making changes to your account terms.

These changes include an increase in the variable APR for purchases to 18.99% and will take effect on December 20, 2009. As a valued customer, you have the ability to earn a special rate that is below your current purchase rate if you accept these changes. Whether you're looking to consolidate multiple balances into one easy-to-manage payment or have extra cash on hand for emergencies or unexpected expenses, this special rate is a great way to gain added control over your finances.

As always, you have the right to opt out of these changes and pay down your balance under your current terms. If you opt out, you may use your account under the current terms until the end of your current membership year or the expiration date on your card, whichever is later. At that time, we will close your account.

19%. This is a loan shark rate, not a legitimate bank's interest rate. And this is as good as it gets these days.

And don't think I didn't notice the lack of a greeting. Not even a cordial hello. Just: "We are making changes to your account terms," which is certainly followed in invisible ink by [and you can't do jack shit about it! HAHAHHAHAHAHAHA].

But even with that, it's the our-way-or-the-highway attitude that instantly turned my eyes bloodshot. If I don't accept their new terms, they will close my account. The account that I have had for, what, a decade now? A third of my life?

OK, so what are the terms, anyway? Oh, simple:

Here's how the special rate works:
  • Transfer $3000 or more by December 10, 2009
  • Receive a special rate of 9.99% on this balance transfer until January 1, 2009. This special rate is below your current purchase rate.
  • In addition, effective December 20, 2009, you will receive this special rate on existing and new purchase balances until January 1, 2011,
  • After that, your variable APR for purchases of 18.99% will apply to any unpaid balances under this offer.
  • There is a 3% balance transfer fee with this offer.

Get that? This "special rate" requires 1) carrying a $3,000 balance before December 10, 2) accepting the extorsion rate after January 1, 2011 anyway, and 3) paying Citi an extra 3% ON TOP of the interest they are already stealing--er, charging.

This is where Saint Suze comes in. If I hadn't followed her advice and become uber-paranoid about money, I wouldn't have a good personal savings that makes me able to pay off my credit card balances from month to month. More importantly, I wouldn't have a great FICO score (or even know what a FICO score is, actually), and I wouldn't have any choice but to accept this kind of abuse.

But you know what? I don't have to. I decided to apply for a new VISA with my credit union and--guess what--I was pre-approved for a new card with the same balance as my Citi card and a SEVEN POINT NINE PERCENT interest rate. Yeah, you heard me.

So, Dear Citi, my here's my special offer to you: I will never use another card or account bearing your name or logo.

Treat your customers with some respect and maybe they'll do the same. Happy sinking.

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