How Citibank Screwed My Happiness, and Why Citibank Sucks?! (** updated **)

Posted: May 1, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

I am a Citibank platinum credit card holder for YEARS, with an excellent history. In fact, I hold a Diners Card and a Mastercard, and I also have an add-on card, all of Citibank, and I have had a generally decent relationship with the bank. The one experience that I had recently, and especially their response, leads me to believe that Citibank has sunk, and is currently in a desperately sorry state.

My recent communication to their service team, over email, details the story as it happened, and I quote:

———- My email to Citibank —–

Dear Mr. Prasad,
This has been one of the most frustrating and embarrassing experiences that I have had, on account of Citibank.

Here are the details, some of which you are aware:
1. Against my statement, I make the exact payment of Rs. 35,497.10 to Citibank.
2. While feeding in the entry, there is an error from your end, and you feed it in as Rs. 35,497.
3. The cheque returns due to this difference, being an ‘encoding error’.
4. When I hear about this, I check with my bank, HDFC Bank. After their checking, they inform me about this error from your side.
5. I call up Citibank immediately. While they confirm that the cheque has been returned, they do not know the exact reason. So they confirm that they will check this out, and meanwhile, in order to keep my card active, they ask me to make alternate payment immediately.
6. In fact, I am advised that for earliest credit of payment, I should make an online payment via Net Banking. They also advise me that I should put a stop-payment instruction on the original cheque.
7. I enquire about possible delayed payment charges, etc., and that this being a fault of Citibank, I should not be penalised for the same. I also convey that they should not make me call up multiple times and waste my time. So the operator assures me that HE will call me, to confirm that the charges are reversed.
8. That said, I do what he suggests. I make immediate payment by net banking, via your website. And I also put a stop-payment on that cheque.
9. As confirmed, I get a call from the Citibank operator a few days later, that the delay payment charges are reversed.
10. At this point, I am relieved that the transaction is sorted out. Little did I know that worse was yet to happen.
11. After the independent enquiry by Citibank, about this cheque, they recognize that they had keyed in the wrong amount (35,497/- instead of 35,497/10), and in all their wisdom, they now decide to represent the cheque! This is after I have already made alternate payment, and put a stop-payment instruction on that original cheque, as guided by the Citibank operator!
12. As expected, due to the stop-payment instruction, the cheque returns back!
13. Now, without giving me any intimation (at other times, for various transactions, there are all kind of messages and alerts), my card gets blocked. I have no idea about this.
14. We get a rude shock, when my wife fills up petrol in her car, and offers her add-on card to make payment. And the card is rejected, as it has been blocked.
15. As luck would have it, she was not carrying enough cash on her, she was nearly 15 km from where I was, and the only option was to rush someone with some cash.
16. During this time, she went through the most embarrassing time, waiting for the money, and which caused huge agony and frustration.
17. Once I found out that her card was rejected, I got on to the phone with Citibank, and it took nearly 30 minutes of interaction on phone, before I could figure out how much of a mess you had created for me, and how you had put me into this precarious condition. For no fault of mine!
18. In the end, the operator worked around to clear that particular transaction for me, manually, but by that time, it was too late, and we had already managed to reach some cash to my wife.
19. Very graciously, as if he was doing me a favour, the operator offered to reverse the charges for the cheque that came back a second time. A cheque that I had put a stop-payment on, as per advise of Citibank operator, and which you chose to represent of your own will, and which came back. And you are trying to seem very generous by reversing the penalty charges on that cheque for me!! Wow – you are clearly generosity personified!
20. Worse news were to follow. Even though the details of the case were pointed out, and it was clear that you had made all the wrong moves, from the very beginning, and ending with the depositing of a cheque that you had earlier asked me to stop-payment, just because the cheque HAD bounced in fact, I was supposed to make emergency payment right now. Or else my card will not be valid!! I ask you WHY? WHY should I make this urgent payment? My statement is not due yet. I have a clear credit limit that I enjoy. You have screwed the whole transaction completely, at your end. And yet, I have to make some payment, to keep my card active?? What are you talking about??

The above is the complete sequence of events. I need an urgent explanation.

Specifically, answer these questions:
1. Why did you make a stupid mistake of punching in a wrong amount in the first place? The entire saga is one of a 10 paise error!!
2. Once you advised me to pay via online banking to cover the transaction, and which I did, WHY did you represent the cheque??
3. Why did you represent the cheque which you had advised to have a stop-payment put on??
4. Now that you realize the error and that it is completely your fault, why can’t you override your system and unblock my card, without needing me to make any payment???
5. Most importantly, for YOUR mistakes ALL THROUGH THIS SAGA, I have had to spend so much time on phone, at both times, now again, as I write this email and send these details to you, and my wife was stranded on the petrol pump.. for all these pain that you have given to us, HOW DO YOU PLAN TO COMPENSATE???

I await your response.

——— End of my email to Citibank —–

By the way, to the earlier basic enquiry about this cheque payment, this is what Citibank had written back to me:

————- Message from Citibank to me ———– (my rejoinders for purpose of this post, in blue, below!)——

Dear Mr. Mehta,

This is with reference to your email dated April 20, 2010.
We are concerned to note the feedback on your recent experience with us. We regret the inconvenience caused.
Based on the issue raised by you, we have forwarded your query to the concerned department and we find that the cheque # 0792870 was incorrect encoded without 0.10.
** They admit the mistake made **
We wish to inform that we have represented your cheque # 0792870 (** WHY did they represent the cheque, damn you? **) for realization to your bankers and we are in receipt of your Online payment of Rs. 35,497.10 (** They confirm that the online payment has already been made, yet they represented the cheque!!). Both this payment credit reflects in the April 2010 statement (** first of all, ‘this’ and not ‘these’ – Citibank, learn some grammar; secondly, WHY do they want to have BOTH of these in credit at their end?? Of course, in reality both DID NOT get credited, as the cheque had stop-payment instructions!).
We confirm that the Late Payment Charge of Rs.700.00 levied in the statement for April 2010 has been reversed and this credit will reflect in the statement for next month (**small mercies).
We value your patronage and loyalty and we would like to reassure you of our diligent services (** Oh please.. give me a break!!).
Should you require any further assistance please feel free to revert. Alternatively you can contact your nearest CitiPhone Banking.

We assure you of our best attention at all times.


S. Prasad
Officer – Customer Care

Citibank India has been awarded the “Best Consumer Internet Bank 2009” by Global Finance (** So isn’t this the funniest irony of this saga??!).  Log-on to and experience the convenience today !

——— end of Citibank’s email to me ———

Now, waiting for Citibank’s response. Will share the details as the drama continues to unfold, here. Watch this space!

*** Update ***

After the above mentioned developments, I got a couple of emails from Citibank, promptly within the (internal, I presume) stipulated SLA period of 3-4 days. Each one saying that they were sorry to not resolve the matter yet, and that they needed some additional time. After two such extensions, I finally got a call from someone in the VP’s office, in Chennai. He apologized profusely for all the troubles, including what my wife had gone through, including the fact that they had made a mistake in representing my cheque even though I had paid already, and for having had our cards blocked for so many days.

I had purposely not paid till that point, as I was looking for a resolution on this matter. Without asking me to pay anything, he confirmed that my card was fine and usable right away, and that he had credited my account with 3000 reward points, which for my Platinum card, were the equivalent of Rs. 3000.

I thought this was reasonable. I thanked him for sorting this out finally.

Later, someone from the customer service team called and repeated the whole thing, and I also got the following email, from them:

—————– Latest email from Citibank —————

Dear Mr. Mehta,
This is with reference to your email dated May 01, 2010 and further to the telephonic conversation you had with Ms. Zakira on May 11, 2010.
We were unable to respond to your query within the stipulated time frame as your query was under investigation.
Our top-most priority is to ensure customer satisfaction through quality service and addressing customer’s concerns satisfactorily. It is indeed disappointing to note that your experience has been to the contrary.
We are concerned to note the dissatisfaction expressed by you due to non-approval of authorization in your card ending 0006.
We sincerely apologize for having presented your cheque # 792870 to your Banker.
Despite the highest control standards, an occasional error occurred and we would like to sincerely apologize for the same.
We can understand the confusion and anxiety it would have caused you.  We assure you that we have taken sufficient steps to ensure that such instances do not occur.
We confirm that your card ending 0006 is in active status and you can use the same for future transactions.
We have attached the different modes of payment for your reference.
As a special gesture, we have credited 3000 Reward points to your card account.
This credit will reflect in your next month statement.
If there is anything else that we could help you with, please contact us via our Customer Access Points: or log into Citibank online or our executives at CitiPhone banking are always at your service.
We assure you of our best attention at all times.
S Prasad
Officer – Customer Care
————— End of Citibank’s latest email ——————

So it was a fair resolution after all, and I must acknowledge the same, as fairly as I had raised a ruckus, when I had got the wrong end of the stick.

  1. Karthik says:

    Banks’ stupidity (amidst telecom operators’ stupidity and processes) knows no bounds at all – it can exceed all permissible, reasonable and human expectations. Do what I did after a massive fight with Standard Chartered bank after merely trying to close my home loan – it took them 3 long months, during which I threatened to immolate myself outside their branch, go on a fast in the same spot, get the media to cover my live suicide attempt and even acted as if I had a heart attack on the phone only because I was put on hold and footballed on calls for 2+ hours. That said, I’m very, very happy with HDFC and ICICI banks – nothing bad so far!

    • Sanjay Mehta says:

      Thanks.. but no, thanks 🙂
      My frustrations are not quite that level where I need to threaten to immolate myself.. lol.
      Having said that, I think they will act. Even as I mentioned that I will share this saga on my blog, etc., there was a sense of concern in their voice. Lets see how they react now.

      For the record, I have had an otherwise, good experience with Citibank, till date, and for that matter with HDFC Bank as well.
      I guess, when things work fine, they work fine. It is when something goes wrong, accidentally or otherwise, that the bank is really tested. For how they respond at that time!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Wickram, Wickram, Wickram, Wickram, Karthik S and others. Karthik S said: Banks' stupidity knows no bounds! RT @sm63 How Citibank screwed my happiness […]

  3. Ankur says:

    Forward your mail to higher management of CitiBank. Escalate as much as possible. I did it once with TataSky. Sent mail to all the mail ids that I could find on internet (including their CEO). Within few hours got a call from one of their seniors who sorted out my problems.

  4. Rajesh says:

    Act with your feet. Take your business somewhere else!

    • Sanjay Mehta says:

      That option exists of course.
      I am a former customer of Stanchart. And there is a reason why I am a ‘former’ and not current customer there! If Citi pushes me, I will be out..

  5. That is a regrettable experience.

    I just wanted to say (without discounting your ordeal or the validity of your grouse) that as a Citibank Platinum CC holder (same as you) that I’ve had the best customer service experience with Citibank. They’re open to admitting thier mistakes, non-hesitant with reversing charges and proactive in their approach.

    Shit happens. 🙂 It just sucks when it happens to you 😛

    • Sanjay Mehta says:

      I have mentioned that even I have had a good experience with Citibank prior to this one. Which is why, in spite of suggestions to walk away from Citi, or do more drastic things, I am willing to give them a chance to redeem themselves here. I do maintain that the true worth of these brands, and their customer service attitude, gets tested only when there are exceptional cases. Routine goes on just fine. Including the one-off reversal of an incorrect transaction, and stuff like that.
      In this case, they snowballed a simple error into a massive mess, by their cumulative stupidity and lack of system support to sort this out!

      • Shailesh Prasad says:

        I do not think so that accepting mistake makes anyone great. THEY HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO ACCEPT THEIR MISTAKES because if they would not have then you could have taken it to the court.

        They delayed transfer of my amount to my bank by not sending me the draft when I closed my account. They did accept their mistakes but kept mum over the interest compensation which I lost during those months due to non-transfer. ONLY AFTER I ASKED them to pay the interest compensation they did pay the same WHICH THEY SHOULD HAVE DONE IT BY THEMSELVES WITHOUT MY REMINDING!

        Reply if you can! Thanks!

  6. Sanjay Mehta says:

    Please see the updated blog above. I did not take any of the drastic actions suggested by some of the readers of the blog (and on Twitter etc). I waited to see how Citibank responds. And I was glad for the way that they finally did. As mentioned in the post above.

  7. […] was the same experience with Citibank. After the blog and the tweets and what not, Citibank “heard”, and matter was resolved […]

  8. Daman says:

    You could resolve because it was you Sanjay, just imagine, in your place if there was some other guy, not some much articulate, educated, not social media savvy, what could happen to them. Just think.

  9. nancy says:

    I have had a Citibank card for several years and have an excellent credit rating. My balance was $11,600 approx. I do online banking and pay my bills that way. I was receiving harassing computerized calls from Citi saying that my payments were not being received. I called my bank which did a conference call with Citi to try to figure out what these chimps are up to. I was very upset. The next month my credit limit was suddenly dropped to $11,000 so I was over my limit!!! I think it was retaliation because I had to get my bank on the phone with them. Now that I am over my credit limit my interest rate shot up to almost 30 percent.


  10. Shilpka says:

    I made a transfer of 748082.50 INR on 1 Jan 2013 to my university (QUT, Australia) and because of bank;s fault, the fees were refunded on 15th Jan 2013 of amount 724047.60 so now the question is who will bare the cost? bank is not at all responding to my queries sent via your query in my suvidha accounts. can you please help me getting an email address where i can send an email ?

  11. Suman says:

    same they did with me, I have coorporate salary account since years and linked credit card.

    last week they closed card account without any intimation, while I was making all payments on time and never even missed any.

    this was my primary card and as of luck I was having enough cash to fill my tank when I got card rejected at pump.

    but citi is saying they unable to deliver statement so closed the card.

    why they took 9 years to decide that they unable to deliver statements due to their Bad BSA courier agency …

    finally I decided to get rid of them ..

  12. Amit says:

    Hi Sanjay,

    I wandered to your post while looking for “Encoding/listing error” as i faced one yesterday while things on my side are yet to unfold (& in my case they took away 14K for a cheque amounting 12K) however yours was a painful experience and there are only 2 things that i will put forward to you:-
    1) Citi has made an attempt to pacify you and mask their mistake by crediting 3000 RPs.. however i still urge you to bring this to the notice of their senior management or even ombudsman so that they relalize what they have done and what domain they are operating in (unless you don’t want to).
    2) Do have a look at your CIBIL report to see if CITI has anyhow adversely impacted it (by putting forward something under “settlement” heading).

    Being in service industry for last 10 yrs, the only thing that i have gathered is that all service providers (from whichever domain) need someone like you or me to keep reminding them (on & off) periodically about what they are there for.


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