OK, it happens to the best of us, and by best, I mean me. 🙂
You get over your head. You sign up for 5 7, 9 credit cards (double that if you are in charge of your partner’s plastic, too). You try to use the spreadsheet religiously (if you don’t, you’re looking for trouble) and yet, despite all your efforts, something goes wrong. It often does. Your Bluebird doesn’t work at a freaking Walmart — just on the day you happen to get there, or your RedBird gets declined at Target, or you are swamped with work, and you tell yourself, OK, no problem, I’ll take care of this later, there is still time.
Yeah, right. There is always time. Right until there isn’t.
Down the Memory Lane: Fail One
In all the years of collecting credit card signup bonuses, I’ve screwed up twice, and I still remember how much it hurt. The first was the Chase British Airlines 50,000-mile bonus. It was the surest thing in the world. I was about to proctor a series of exams for clients, and I had to make payments to the association administering the exams. So I told them to charge whatever spend I was supposed to meet back then (I think it was $2,000). It was great! I gave them my credit card information over the phone and forgot about it. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? Getting money from people — yes, I could write a book about that, but paying money — I’d never had a problem with that before.
Well, a few weeks later, I received a stern reminder from the Association in the mail. We still haven’t received your payment, it said. Please remit your payment immediately or we’ll have to void the tests results, it said. Wait a minute!
Long story short, they failed to charge my card. I have no idea why, and neither did they. Nothing like that ever happened to me before, or after. It was a perfect storm. She probably wrote down my info, went to lunch and forgot all about it. By the time I submitted the payment for the second time, the due date had passed.
Yes, I did call Chase, and no, they wouldn’t budge. Banks want to keep you happy, but for a weird reason, they won’t bend the credit card signup bonus rules. They can bend almost anything but not that. At least, this has been my experience.
Down the Memory Lane: Fail Two
Enters a Citibank Hilton HHonors credit card signup bonus. I think it was my fifteenth or so. I was not a novice by that time, and yet, I’m buying American Express giftcards with a freaking Citi! I have no idea what the hell happened. I had known for a long time it was a no-no, and I don’t remember having been drinking heavily right before the event. A few weeks later, I’m seeing cash advance fees in my statement, and once again I’m like:
Long story short, they waived the cash advance fees; as to the 50,000-point credit card signup bonus, well…
Good bye, my points, good bye!
Which brings me to the latest situation.
Fail Three That Was Barely Avoided
You know this Citi AAdvantage Business Credit Card and it’s 50000 signup bonus? I was very excited to get and confirm it, considering that I had applied for my previous AA business card only about nine months earlier. Besides, the Citi AA Business credit card is one of the very few that I had been denied in the past (and couldn’t get them to reconsider). It’s been a tough card for me historically, so I was happy to get it.
Although, I was much less excited about the $1,000 credit line.
Now, how stupid that credit line is, is another story. I have about $80,000 credit with Citibank personal cards, and yet they wouldn’t increase this ridiculously stupid credit limit for a totally legit business that has been around for more than 20 years. Oh well!
Does all that excuse my irresponsible behavior? It doesn’t. If anything, I should’ve been more vigilant, not less.
Simon Mall Mishap
For those of you, fellows, who have Walmarts and Targets in their backyards, we are not so fortunate here in NYC. I have to cross two bridges to get to the nearest Wally Land, and those bridges ain’t free. I have to pace myself.
Anyway, I run the Citi card once, repay, then I run it for the second grand. That was an adventure in itself. My friendly Simon Mall CSR told me she had to put the giftcard fees on the same card, and she wouldn’t let me pay cash or use another card. She had already run $8,000 between three different cards, and the Citi was the last one. Since I bought two $500 cards, there was no money left, and if I couldn’t complete the purchase, she would have to void the whole transaction. That would’ve been a big, big headache.
So I get on the phone with Citi and ask them to allow me to go over the limit for $40 or so. That request initiates a 40-minute long conversation with putting me on hold, asking questions about my income (I kid you not), filling out some virtual application on her end, but, finally, it’s over. I get the go-ahead, finalize the purchase and drive to the nearest Walmart. Little did I know that my day was still young.
It was that infamous day at Walmart when BlueBirds wouldn’t get loaded. After leaving three Walmarts with money orders only, I stubbornly decide to drive to another one (I would still be able to buy a money order even if the BB wouldn’t load again). The pickle is, though, that not only BB won’t load at that last store, but the cashier demands to see my “debit” card and refuses to sell me money orders as well. I get into another line only to have the same… sigh, person to call the manager on the phone and complain about me. At that point, I’m pissed and tired. I’ve spent several hours driving in New Jersey, and I don’t have the stomach for yet another Walmart. I jump in the car and drive home. I still have a week until the due date, and this $1,000 is all I need to spend. I’ll prepay my advertising expenses and be done with it, I decide.
Paying Citi Mishap
So, it’s Friday. Tomorrow I’m going to Miami for a much-needed 3-day escape from the brutal New York winter. My path is clear. I’ll pay off the Citi to release the funds, then call my newspaper gal and get her charge the Citi card for another grand, and then I’m done. My due date is Monday, and I have plenty of time.
I get home from work, log into my Citi account and hit “Make the Payment”. And then I get this:
The payment post date cannot be a weekend day. Please select another date.
Apparently, Citi doesn’t let you pay between after 6PM on Friday, and 9AM on Monday. Next Monday is the final day to meet spending requirement and my credit line is used up. I’m screwed!
Is There Another Word for Stupid?
No! Well, yes, but I don’t want to go there. 🙁
On Monday morning, I call the Citi and spend an hour on the phone asking them to extend my credit for another $1,000. Keep in mind, I’m on vacation in Miami Beach. I should be on the beach, instead I’m sitting in the hotel conference room or whatever, on the phone with Citibank. To their credit and my delight, she does allow me to spend another grand, and I promptly call my advertising girl and get it over with.
After a few hours on the beach and at the pool (it was the checkout day), I’m logging into my Citi account to see if the charge was posted. Nothing, it’s not even pending. I call Citi again, and they tell me they can see the charge, but “it’s going to post 24-48 hours from now.”
I’m asking to confirm that I have completed my spending requirement. They won’t. They put me on an excruciatingly long hold, then tell me my chances are 50:50. If the system shows that my spend has been received on time, I’ll get my bonus. If not…
On Wednesday (I’m back home at this point), I call Citi and ask them to confirm that I’ve met the spend. She does and says I’ll get the bonus after the statement is cut. I’m shooting them a message to have it in writing and I’m getting no response for two days, which is quite unusual. On the third day, I receive a snail mail from Citibank stating that I didn’t meet the spending requirement in time, and that I’m not getting the bonus.
Now I’m both tired and pissed. I’ve worked too hard for it. I’m supposed to pay within the allocated time, not within the time it takes to post. The T&C don’t say anything about posting the charges. I get to my computer to “collect the evidence”, (which in this case is the screenshot of the offer). I’m starting to draft letters to Citi executives, then decide to wait and see what happens.
About two weeks ago, I logged into my AA account and found this.
OK, so all’s well that ends well. Phew!
I don’t like to own to my own mistakes any more than the next guy, especially mistakes that are so stupid and easily avoidable. But I hope that this cautionary tale will convince at least some of you not to wait until the very last moment to do what needs to be done.
Because Murphy Law is not an urban legend, and shit happens all the time. If shit does have to happen, it’s better if it doesn’t happen on the due date.
I’m grateful to Citi that they have come through for me twice (although what that letter was about, god only knows). A $1,000 credit limit was ridiculous, but this is what happens when the business or a part of it is run by computers. Every time I’ve dealt with humans, however, I’ve received the resolution I requested. Here is to giving credit when credit is due!
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