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Darn it, Citibank... - Zer Netmouse
May 25th, 2010
08:27 am

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Darn it, Citibank...
Dear Citibank;

There is a reason why I have been using my Citibank Dividend card as my primary credit card for years, and that was the definition of the Dividend program, which offered 1% cash back on most purchases and 2% (originally 3%) on gas or groceries. I tried having a Discover card, but having to sign up and keep track of promotional programs on a quarterly basis was really annoying and I clearly earned the cash back at a much slower rate than with my Citibank card, and they would only send cash back checks in particularly valued chunks, so I quit using the Discover card. I also have a Bank of America Worldperks card, which has a points system, but I have never liked those either. In fact, just two days ago I was on the phone with a Bank of America rep to activate a new card after changing to my married name and was asked what card I primarily use and why. The reason I gave was your Dividend program. Two days ago I was your loyal customer.

Today I got a letter from you explaining how that's about to change. Apparently you're believing Discover's claims of having the highest customer loyalty. I can only guess that because you're trashing your dividend program and adopting a program more like theirs. I'm sure if I bother to enroll in your special promotions on a regular basis and shop through your website I will earn even more cash back than I once did with your former dividend program. However, I'm not going to do that. I already had the opportunity to be the hamster pushing on that reward bar and it sucked.

I'm not going to throw away my Citibank card. But I am going to learn more about this Worldperks program. I already know it has better travel coverage and purchase assurance. It may well switch to being my primary card.

It think it's really sad that you're changing the Citibank Dividend card to being a Discover card wanna-be. Really, really sad. I'm disappointed in you.

--Anne

PS I also noted that when I registered for their online account management website, citicards doe not give you the option to opt out of promotional advertising email. Doubleplusgood, citibank.

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Comments
 
From:nicegeek
Date:May 25th, 2010 01:01 pm (UTC)
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This is, at least in part, a side effect of new and proposed regulations on the credit card industry. They are no longer allowed to charge the fees and interest rates that they used to, and there are proposals in the works to cap their ability to charge interchange fees (Google "Interchange fee regulation"). Whether or not you feel that this regulation is a good idea, it does mean that the CC companies' profits are being squeezed, and that money has to come from somewhere, and in many cases, that means the reward programs.
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From:kenllama
Date:May 25th, 2010 04:24 pm (UTC)
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I'm sure that's what the impetus is, but I have trouble imagining that the banks are being "squeezed" in any meaningful sense of the word. They have been making pretty outrageous profits in on us in the past, and are looking for a way to continue to do so.
From:nicegeek
Date:May 25th, 2010 04:48 pm (UTC)
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This is a bit too vague to respond to in a meaningful way...every corporation wants profits. It's possible (actually, it's pretty much proven) that some banks have padded their profits through unethical practices, but that doesn't mean that all banks are guilty, nor that they can't still be "squeezed" by new regulations.
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From:netmouse
Date:May 25th, 2010 04:59 pm (UTC)
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Citigroup reported a first-quarter profit of $4.4 billion this year.

According to the Wall Street journal, Citicards provides 40% of citigroup's profits.
From:nicegeek
Date:May 25th, 2010 07:00 pm (UTC)
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That alone doesn't allow one to draw any meaningful conclusions though, for several reasons:

First, a single quarter's results are not indicative of whether a company is profitable over any longer period. In this case, it's Citigroup's first profitable quarter in two years.

Second, while "$4.4 Billion" sounds like a lot of money, any big company is going to measure its profits (and losses) in the billions; the absolute size of their profits doesn't give any indication of whether they're "outrageous"; it just means that they're a big company. What's more significant is their profit margin (as a percentage).

Even then, before one could call their profits "outrageous", one would need to examine why their profits are what they are, and apply some kind of standard to determine whether they were reasonable or not.

I'm not saying that a company can't have outrageous profits; if a company is using unfair economic, political, or technological leverage to pad its margins, that could qualify, and companies have certainly done that. But it's not as simple as just pointing at a number with a lot of zeros on it.
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From:marsgov
Date:May 25th, 2010 02:07 pm (UTC)
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I'd love to sign up for electronic delivery of some of my statements, but I know that the moment I do so the clowns will bombard me with spam. I have my own defenses — over 450 separate email addresses and counting, one for each web site that asks for one — but in general businesses still don't have a clue about email etiquette.

You should put a link to this essay on Twitter -- at least some clueful companies read Twitter.

I don't necessarily agree with the previous comment. The Democratic Party received huge donations from Wall Street, which is why the finance "reform" bill is skewed towards the interests of large banks and financial institutions. I suspect that the impetus for squeezing loyalty programs comes from lower profits due to lower consumer spending and consumer reluctance to carry debt.

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From:ann_totusek
Date:May 25th, 2010 02:32 pm (UTC)
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I signed up for email delivery of my statements with all my cards. In the process of doing that I was able to click on a choice that said "No, you may not contact me with other offers." I followed that up with a phone call explicitly forbidding them to contact me by mail, phone, or email with "promotional offers." I made it clear that if they did, I would immediately cancel my accounts with them. I've had no problems whatsoever, I'm happy to report. I have cards with Citi, Chase, and Capital One, plus I manage my mother's Discover, Target Visa, J.C. Pennneys, and others. So far it's worked for all of them as well.
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From:ann_totusek
Date:May 25th, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
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P.S.- I'm not suggesting that when you registered, there was no option to opt-out, simply stating that when I did there was.
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From:netmouse
Date:May 25th, 2010 05:00 pm (UTC)
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I just hunted down how to opt-out. I had to drill down through four screens in the account management section and select an option for them to only send me information about my account.
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From:kenllama
Date:May 25th, 2010 04:19 pm (UTC)
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Well, shit. I've been using the same card for the same reason. (I haven't gotten that letter yet...)

I've had a discover card for 15 years, and I find the complexity of their rewards system maddening. I do have some other options, but they are all for store-specific rewards. I likes cash. It's handy and it goes everywhere.

Oh, waily waily!
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From:logangrey
Date:May 26th, 2010 01:44 pm (UTC)
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Yah, I was irritated to get that letter too. I don't mind the 2%->1% change, but the implication that I should be constantly watching their web page and pursuing changing offers and otherwise making spending decisions based on their corporate deals is absurd.

I love your way of putting it- the hamster pushing the reward bar, I'm totally going to use that from now on to describe programs like this. :-)
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From:netmouse
Date:May 26th, 2010 02:03 pm (UTC)
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:)

yeah, the other thing about their quarterly deals is they reward more consumer-oriented behavior. Like, the first one is a higher reward for eating at restaurants, renting cars, and staying at hotels. Getting groceries and gas was something I *do* and feel good about doing. It was nice getting a higher rate of return for those things. Those other things? more upper class and luxury (or business), and not the sort of expense I anticipate much of from July to October.
From:magik_sometimes
Date:May 27th, 2010 12:18 am (UTC)
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If you are looking for an alternative, I have been using REI's visa card for decades. 1 percent back on all non-REI purchases. Their visa program is through US Bank which seems to actually care about retaining and growing their customer base.

http://www.reivisa.com/ext28

PS $20 to join REI if not already a member and $20 gift card if you use another members ID when you apply. Plus I get a $20 gift card too, which you are welcome to as well.


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From:rightkindofme
Date:June 3rd, 2010 03:46 pm (UTC)
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Hello, you friended me. :)

I have been very happy with our American Express card. I think it's the Blue card? We get 1.25% back on most purchases (down from 1.5%) and 5% back on groceries/gas/drugstore purchases. Once a year they apply this 'reward' towards my current bill and it goes down to almost nothing, which is nice. :)
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From:netmouse
Date:June 3rd, 2010 03:50 pm (UTC)
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Hello, yes! You looked interesting, especially our mutual interest in dance. :)

I have gotten card offers from American Express but it seems to me like it is not accepted at a lot of places. Is that your experience?
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From:rightkindofme
Date:June 3rd, 2010 03:59 pm (UTC)
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I don't dance much these days. :) I'll get back to it someday.

So AmEx charges a higher fee than Visa/Mastercard for the business. This means that a lot of smaller stores/restaurants where it is more Mom'n'Pop don't take it. However I find that we make about 5% of our purchases on our Amazon Visa. That's a pretty small percentage. :) We pay almost all of our bills/utilities on the AmEx so it really does pay off in the long run. :)
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