Fine print, Living with credit

Credit card pendulum swings, whacks editor

Julie Sherrier

I’m not going to be smug about my credit anymore. I thought I was different. I thought the credit card companies still loved me. After all, my credit limits hadn’t been slashed, my APRs actually went down upon request and my credit score was almost 800. Well, no more. I’ve been humbled.

Here’s what happened: I applied for a new Citi AAdvantage Gold MasterCard after receiving a direct mail piece offering 30,000 free air miles after spending $750 in a four-month period. The annual fee was waived for the first year; it’s $50 thereafter. I read all the fine print. I wanted the miles. So, I applied via the direct link provided on the mailer. I was told to wait for a confirmation e-mail. I figured it would take less than 24 hours.

Well, 24 hours became 48 hours. I was beginning to feel a twinge of concern. I was used to being instantly approved. Then 48 hours became 72 hours, and voila! I had a message in my inbox. Expecting to be told that a card would be in the mail pronto, I was met with a barrage of requests that, well, was kind of insulting. Here’s how Citi began its missive:

“We have attempted to contact you to verify information on your application. We were unable to verify your residential address, telephone number, and/or employment/income. In an effort to ensure the security of your personal information and identity, we must request the following information to continue processing your application.”

OK, well, that just doesn’t make sense. Haven’t they heard of Google? If not Google, what about the phone book? Plus, I provided my phone numbers, and nobody called me to verify anything. But it gets better. Here’s what they want from me:

“Please send us all three of the following:

1. Your most recent home telephone bill. We need the original bill (not a copy) showing the telephone number and the name and address for that number.

2. A copy of ONE of the following, which clearly shows your name and home address:

  • A bank statement.
  • A credit card statement.
  • A utility bill other than your telephone bill.

3. A copy of your most recent pay statement clearly showing your name and the date. If you are retired or self-employed, you may send one of the following instead:

  • A letter from your broker, CPA or personal banker confirming the income stated on your application, or
  • A copy of your federal tax return for the most recently completed tax year. The tax return must include your signature and all supporting schedules.

If you are a college student, please send only your telephone bill and an original letter on official letterhead from your bursar or admissions office. The letter should state your enrollment date and confirm that you are still enrolled.”

Wow. I’ve read rumblings in the blogosphere about the tax return requirement, but I really didn’t believe it until now. There’s NO WAY I’m sending my tax return to anyone but a mortgage company. Sorry. I’m just not ready to make that leap.

And if I didn’t have a handy pay stub to send along, would I have to pay my CPA to verify my income just to get a credit card? And does anyone really have a “personal” banker anymore?

Finally, what if I didn’t have a home phone anymore? More and more, people are canceling their home phones and just using their cells. According to Citi’s requirements, not having a home phone would seem to automatically disqualify me from getting the card since it’s one of the “three” major requirements. Plus, I just shredded this month’s bill after paying it.

So I guess my question at this point is how bad I want those miles. Is it worth the trouble? I have other credit cards. And I think it’s kind of funny that Citi is asking me to provide them with a copy of a credit card statement from another issuer. There’s a funny analogy there; I just can’t think of it.

Ah well. I really didn’t need the card anyway. I just thought it would be easy. Like it used to be.

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  • NotInDenial

    I think we should all report the credit card companies as Price Gouging during a disaster. During the “Economic Disaster” of this country these crooks, who CANNOT even qualify for their OWN credit based on their own standards, are freely allowed to gouge all of the rest of us AND still be in charge of OUR credit scores. WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS OBVIOUSLY Un-American PICTURE?!

  • rhitter94

    Oh my lord — talk about gouging. First of all, I have too many credit cards to start with, so I just need to determine which one to get rid – but that is another story. I just checked my statement for my CapOne MC and my APR went up 10 #&$*@ points! WHAT!!!!! And on top of that, because of the increase, the finance charge put me over my limit… and ding ding ding… OVERLIMIT charge! Oh my lord! How are we EVER going to get out of this crunch!

  • Joe C.

    Wow! A tax return??
    I recently replaced a 15 year old Chase VISA with a Business Chase VISA a few months ago for reasons similar to yours-the ‘ol “maximizing benefits” game. Fortunately my situation ended differently. I did my due diligence (read the info box) and called the handy toll free number on the offer. I got the impression that my existing Chase account would have no bearing on the approval of my new business account and I actually specified a “If you can’t give me X worth of credit (slightly more than my soon to be retired LOC), I didn’t want the new card. Having no additional contact, I received my new card in the mail with the requested credit line.
    Are you sure you didn’t have any library books overdue or something:)
    All that said, it boils down to your statement- “So I guess my question at this point is how bad I want those miles. Is it worth the trouble?”
    For someone new to the CC world, this may be the new reality. For us old timers, we may just need to rethink flitting from one card to another to get the free toaster 🙂

  • Julie Sherrier

    Joe: I applied for the card via the online link provided on the direct mail piece. Perhaps I should have called that handy toll-free number instead. Since then, I have received three more direct mail pieces advertising the same deal, so it doesn’t look like I’ve been blacklisted. 🙂
    And all my library books have been turned in and any parking fines paid. LOL

  • nathan

    that’s ok i just got my recent statement and they slashed my credit limit in half doubled my apr . gave them a call to discuss the recent event and they tell me i should get the notice in 2weeks why the changes took affect – then i ask again and he tells me Ive got to many credit cards – Ive only got one and that’s with chase morons – i pay it off every month – and this is the thanks i get for paying them off in full every month – we give them our tax paying dollars to bail them out of the mess they got themselves into – and we end up paying their bail out for them

  • James

    Wow, just saw this blog today. Yesterday I got a letter from Chase for their Priority Club credit card – Please send most recent W-2 or 1040 for Proof of Income. Mind you – credit score is 809 and I already have the business card. Oh well, Identity theft, here we come!

  • Jim B

    I received the same message from Citibank after applying for the CitiForward card. I explained that I don’t have a home phone, but that the number I used was a Google Voice number. I did send them a tax return as well, as I really did want the card for the 5% cash back equivalent for restaurants. Shortly thereafter, I received the card in the mail. I didn’t like the tone of the letter which said “we have attempted to contact you”, because no one made any attempt to contact me by phone or e-mail.

  • Credit card issue

    Hi. We had some troubles of that kind with Capital One bank. They processed the application in a minutes, approved and send the credit card in a week. But after two days of using it my wife just found that it stopped working. After the call to the bank we investigated that the card was suspended and to open the credit limit again we need to send verification of address, verification of income and ID. The problem was that the bank could accept only mail and fax messages – no emails and other modern stuff. So we need to send fax 3 times to get it accepted by a bank because their fax was not working well.