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5 July 2004
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Korea Life Blog - Citibank Idiocy


I rarely use my credit card anymore. I keep it mostly for emergencies. Also, I send most of my money to my US bank account and if I were to need cash, I figured I'd use my credit card, then pay it online from my bank account. Today, that situation came up. Julie and I have been pooling our money for the deposit on the brand new office-tel apartment in Song nae we just rented. Also, we need to buy just about everything including a TV, sofa, desk, etc. Julie has a huge list.

The last two times I tried to use my Citibank credit card here left me angry and bitter. Today was no exception. The first time came when I went to buy a computer at Technomart. The card was denied. All the clerks stared at me as if I were a poor buffoon. In their presence I had to call Citibank. After sifting through the menus for an operator, I explained the situation. They blocked my card because I was in a foreign country and the computer was over $1000. I said that's fine, despite the fact I'd been living here and using the card occasionally for the past 3 years. So they unblocked the card and the clerks were happy again and I had a computer.

The next time I tried to use the card was months later at a restaurant. Julie and I ordered something that was more expensive than we though and I didn't bring enough cash with me. No problem, right? Wrong. Card declined. Luckily combined Julie and I could pay the bill. Later I called Citibank and they told me the charge had gone through. Angry I went back to the restaurant. They showed me their credit card records for the day and mine wasn't on there. Without explanation, the charge never did show up on my account.

Now today. I have been using the same Citibank card for the past 7 years, have always paid if off, and therefore have a higher limit than any sane man would use. It goes up automatically every year it seems. I've never called to have them lower it because I thought maybe someday I could use it to pay for a trip into space on a Russian Rocket. Or, more likely, if I were to get deathly injured in a hospital I could use it to pay for soothing Morphine drips.

Anyway, they only let you withdraw a maximum of 300,000 won at a time at the normal cash machines here. So I took the subway all the way into Gwanghwamun and walked a ways to the Citibank, confident I'd go in and walk out with my cash advance. The clerk at the counter spoke little English. "Use ATM, sir."

"But I need 1,000,000 won."

"Use ATM 3 times."

I went back out and used the ATM twice. I got 600,000 won. The third time my card was rejected and I was given some weird code and a phone number to call in the US. Fortunately I had my cell phone on me. Is it only me who literally hates with a passion computer automated operators? I sifted through the menus and got the most annoying and unhelpful woman on the planet.

"Why can't I take more cash out of this machine?" I started.

"Sir, you can only use the ATM three times."

"But I only used it twice."

"That's because you're in a foreign country and our system automatically blocked the card as stolen."

"Jesus, what kind of stupid system is that? Being in a foreign country, I'm more likely to need a cash advance, right? What if there was no phone around to call you?"

"Sir, do not swear at me. Sir, stop swearing."

"I'm not swearing!"

"Sir, yes you are. Now you have to calm down or I can't help you."

The scene reminded me of that in the movie Anger Management when Adam Sandler is on the airplane and he ends up arrested over a minor outburst. I took a breath and waited.

"I'll authorize your account again," the hellish woman went on. You can use the ATM one more time in this 24-hour period. If you need more money you have to go into the bank. You can take as much as your limit in there."

"But I just went in the bank and they can't speak English. They told me to go back outside."

"Sir, they probably can't speak English because you're in a foreign country."

"It's an international Citibank, for crying out loud. I came all the way here because I'm a foreigner and a Citicard holder. The damn ATM receipt is all in English and they gave me your number in the US to call."

"Sir, calm down. I can not help you if you don't calm down. It sounds like the clerk you spoke to doesn't understand well about Citibank credit cards. You have to find a manager."

Exasperated I tried again. I went inside and found a clerk who could speak English this time. She told me the same thing the other guy did, that I have to use the ATM machines. I'm sitting there showing her my ATM receipt that shows a large available cash advance amount. Meanwhile the original clerk who could speak English is standing by and shaking his head no, no, no.

"Just use the ATM machine many times," the woman said.

At this point I started to think of the movie Falling Down in which Michael Douglas plays the part of a man who has a nervous breakdown because of all the BS in the world.

"I can't use it more than three times in 24 hours."

"I'm sorry, sir. We can't help you. You have to use the cash machines." At that point the security guard, an old and ugly ajushi started to look at me funny. I went back out to the cash machine and begrudgingly used it for the 3rd and final time, still short on the total I needed. I can only wait until tomorrow, if I want to take out more but I'm wondering if I'm going to get a fee for each separate cash advance too. I don't even want to. I'll find another way, those morons. Imagine if I wanted to take $5000 off it. What kind of idiot system is this?

I spent the last 20 minutes writing Citibank through my account online a heated letter about the situation. When I hit enter, I was told there's a 20 line limit. I cursed and broke it up into 2 messages. Later I got this reply:

Our system automatically review charges being put through from an area that does not match the address on the account.

The address on your account is a New York address. Please provide us with your current address and telephone numbers.


I did so and asked again how I can take a higher cash advance in the future. I got this final reply:

We appreciate your comments and the time you have taken to provide feedback. We strive to be the best in the business and feedback like yours helps us to improve our service. Rest assured this will be considered in our efforts to provide the best service possible to our customers.

Thank you for using our website.



Wow, what a great help they are. I'm so glad I've been a customer of theirs for so long.

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