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schmitibank the inflexibles rigidities

In this day and age, annual fees charged for credit cards are a no-no, as far as I am concerned. With banks or other financial institutions making money through every transaction charged, really, there is no need for annual fees...

Yet, Citibank, in Malaysia at least, probably in Asia in general, still continues to charge annual fees. I suppose they figure 'Why not?', after all, they are one of *the* names when it comes to credit cards and other financial services... and Malaysians are more than willing to pay for the priviledge of having such a branded credit card.

I signed up for a Citibank credit card in early 1999: this was still during the bad financial situation in Asia, and there were tales of people's credit cards being refused overseas... I was going to be heading to the U.S. for a holiday in May '99, and it was recommended to me that it would be much safer if I had a credit card issued by an internationally-recognised institution like Citibank, instead of, oh, Maybank or Hong Leong Bank, for example.

Idiots screwed up the processing, claiming I didn't enclose some documents that I knew I HAD enclosed. Bottom line: I got the card AFTER my trip. Idiots. So I was not a big fan of them, already from the start.

Aaanyway,,, fast forward a few years and an additional credit card later. I'm paying RM150 in annual fees for Citibank credit cards with a combined credit limit of only RM8000. Compare that to my one other card, issued by my bank, that has NO annual fee, and by itself has a credit limit of RM8000! Hmmmm....

The only thing going for Citibank was that their bonus points don't expire. That's it.

So when I quit my job and become a jobless bum over a year ago, I intended to cancel the Citibank cards, once they were due for their annual fees.

No thanks to their not-so-straightforward online account thingy, I ended up "renewing" one of them late last year. When I was in Malaysia this past April, I made it a point to cancel the other one (a Visa), and so I was down to one unneeded and unused Master Card.

My attempt to finally cut all ties with Citibank was a long drawn-out process...
  • In late October, I wrote them, using the secure online internal e-mail system of theirs, instructing them to cancel the card. I was also quite blunt, saying they Citibank has a reputation for trying to get people to change their mind about cancelling, and not to bother with me unless they were going to waive the annual fees. Oh, and for them to email me at one of my yahoo addresses to confirm that the card had been cancelled.
  • I got a reply saying they cannot process the request as they need written instruction with my signature, so I would need to either snail mail or fax them. Oh and no mention about the whole "if you waive it, I will stay" thing. But this was NOT to my yahoo account.
  • So i replied thanking them for the info, but expressing disappointment that they had NOT emailed me as requested.
  • They replied saying that they are unable to utilise unsecured 3rd party emails when dealing with account and customer information. Okay... fair enough.
  • I *finally* manage to fax the cancellation instruction (that was a minor story by itself, but nevermind). In the fax I stated that it was not necessary to call (since I'd have to pay international roaming charges) and re-reconfirm that I want to cancel the card, seeing as this was the second instruction given on this matter (I quoted the emails and the names of the people from Citibank who had responded).
  • A few days later, I dropped by the online account thingy: I could still log in - which meant it had not been cancelled yet! So I wrote an email, asking them to *please* just drop me a line at that yahoo account to confirm that the card is now cancelled.
  • Nothing.
  • A week later, I try to login - and can't. oooookay, i could *assume* that I'm now free of Citibank... except that I *would* like to hear back from them somehow... So i write to them via their unsecure "contact us" service on their website, asking, once again, to confirm that the card has been cancelled, and to drop me a line at my yahoo account.
  • The next day, I receive a call on my cellphone. I recognised the number. Guess who? Yep: Citibank.
CTB: Hallo, ken I spik to Ms (my full name)?
Me: yeah,speaking.
CTB: Ah, just wan to confem det you wan to censel your Citibank Clear Master Card, en befor I do that I nid to ask ah, wai you are censeling? Is it becos of poor customer service, or anyting?
Me: Well, I've already stated the reason in my fax, but you know what, right now yes I would say poor customer service is definitely a factor in my decision. How can you not process a simple request, and in fact you draw it out, and now you are calling me when I already said not to...
... the line was dead .. well, it *was* a poor connection... I don't think she hung up on me... a few seconds later, she calls back:
CTB: Sori ah, dunno if is your line or mine. So, sori ah, what is the reason you are censeling?
Me: *sigh* the bottom line is, my other bank is giving me a much higher credit limit and no annual fee, and I am not willing to pay RM90 a year for a measly RM4000 credit limit.
CTB: Ah, like that. Okay lah. Now I just need to verify some information then I can process your request
Me: (silently) O.M.G... *how* many weeks later??? You want written signed instruction, then you want verbal verification? How many more hoops??? How many????
CTB: Okay, tenk you ah, I ken now process this instruction to cancel.
Me: Okay, and can I be informed when the card is actually cancelled then?
CTB: Oh? Ah, you can consider this call as konfemayshen of kanselation.
Me: Oh, really?
Me: (thinking I should jot down her particulars for my record, then figuring that if they had me jump through all these bloody hoops, they had better keep all the records needed too, dumbasses!)
CTB: Ya. So okay, tenk yew for using Citibank.
Me: Yeah. (hang up phone)
Me: Good riddance to bad rubbish.
Okay okay, I *know* that they had procedures to follow to process cancellations, but come on... I told them by secure and unsecure email, by fax AND verbally, and only THEN could they act on my instructions?

Can you say rigid and unflexible??

Anyways: so now I am left with my free-for-life gold Master Card. Which a few months ago upped my credit limit to RM11,000, without me having to do anything.

And that, my friend, is *more* than enough for me.


  1. Citibank also charges an annual fee in this part of the world.It's true that some of their business practices and customer service sucks,that's why I never applied for any Citibank card.Instead,I have one of those mastercard issued by my bank. :D

  2. You DO NOT get credit cards without annual fees in Switzerland (or, if I am mistaken, would someone please let me know where and how I can get one).
    Coincidence, I wanted to cancel my Swiss Visa Gold card as I felt that the CHF 250.- annual fee was too much (but with a credit limit of CHF7000.-). So, since the card was to expire in 01/2006, I wrote to the customer service departement (registered letter, mind you) saying that I would not want to renew my Visa card (I wanted to do it 3 months before, since, this being Switzerland, I did not want to be slapped with an "automatic renewal").
    And what happens? I get a letter acknowledgeing the cancelation that was IMMEDIATELY effective. Hey, what about the 3 months left? Are you going to reimburse me? At I said I didn't want to RENEW to card, not that I wanted to cancel it at once...
    So, those idiots are everywhere...
    Still have a Swiss Mastercard, CHF150.- annual fee...
    Malapetaka betul.

  3. snglguy: whoohooo! yeah! way to stick it to "da man"!!

    bro: yikes! I suppose I should not be surprised that in Switzerland the annual fee does exist - kinda goes with the psyche or something :p and *y*i*k*e*s* at the cost!!! translated into RM it's A LOT!!!! And yeah, idiots abound,,, I am somehow not surprised at them cancelling instead of taking note that you just dont intend on renewing the card!!


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