Just When I Thought Citi Couldn’t Get Any Dumber, They Did This

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Citibank's Fraud Verification

Citibank’s Fraud Verification Process Makes Absolutely No Sense

Wow, so this is maybe the dumbest interaction I have had with a bank…and of course it is Citi. I was recently approved for the Citi Premier card, after years of planning and missteps I finally had it in hand.  So today I figured I would take my new card out for a ride around town and wear off that new card smell.  I expected to run into a few issues because, you know, Citi and all, but what I ran into was entirely next level.  It left me flabbergasted at Citibank’s fraud verification process.

Backstory

After dropping the kids off at school I headed to Kroger to grab some things and went to check out.  I was excited to use my new Citi Premier card for some 3X earning at the grocery store and the charge was on the larger side, a little over $500.  The card tripped a fraud alert, which wasn’t a big deal and somewhat expected. I didn’t get the text until after I ran the charge under another card but approved it and moved on. I figured it would be all set at the next store and I went ahead with the swipe there, another decline.

On my way home I decided to pick up some McDonald’s and was going to use the Premier card for another opportunity at 3X earning in the restaurants category. The card was once again declined, at this point I was entirely annoyed.  I had verified the previous charges and I still was getting hit with fraud warnings, on a $6 bill.  So I once again moved onto another card (Amex Gold for the fraud free wins around here).  I knew that this meant I needed to call in to get this figured out.  Not a huge deal and should be a quick, yeah that was me, please unlock my card…but what followed was completely asinine.

Citibank's Fraud Verification

Citibank’s Fraud Verification Process Is Bananas

Call Rep 1

After calling in and verifying my card info the Citi rep asked for my phone number so they could send me a verification code via text.  She leaves for a few minutes, comes back and apologizes that the system will not let them text me because the phone number on my account is too new.  The phone number I have had for 10 years and has been on my Citi account for 5 or more years was somehow too new.

That is when she asked if there was another phone number they could text, which makes no sense.  So if I give you another number, not on my account, you can text a verification there for FRAUD!? Anyone see a problem here? This is the opposite of how fraud verification should work.  It should ONLY be the number on your account. I said no, my cell phone is all I have available.

That is when she said that they would have to mail me a code and I could call back in when I received that. My jaw hit the floor at this point.  I had already verified my name, my card number, the CID number, given the correct phone number for my account and I even remembered the secret code word on my Citi account. All of that wasn’t enough to clear their verification process. And, they wouldn’t let me verify the account by some other means. Something along the lines of verifying the numbers of one of my other cards with Citi, my address, my mother’s maiden name etc. etc. You know what EVERY OTHER BANK DOES! I would need to wait a week (or more with USPS these days) to get this code in the mail.

I was beyond words at this point and I just laughed and then hung up. Rude, no doubt, but I figured it was better than losing my temper. Plus, the rep didn’t seem all that on the ball so I figured a HUCA (hang up call again) was in order.

Rep #2

I called back in and ran through the same dog and pony show with the second rep.  After accessing my account he said he needed to kick me up to a senior account specialist for this particular issue. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some notes on my account after my hang up to expedite this.

phone call

Rep #3

So the senior specialist gets on the phone and we go through everything for a 3rd time.  And she starts up on the text verification process and I give her my cell number.  She comes back and says, oh our system won’t allow this because the number is too new 😣. Then she asked if I have house phone or something instead. What? I am not sure how you send a text to a house phone, but I guess maybe it would have been a recorded message? That is still bizarre to me since no other phone number is on my account, so how can I use a random number to verify my account for fraud?  Yet I can’t use my cell phone number that is actually on the 🤬 account.

This is when things went straight into the Twilight Zone.  Here is our conversation (paraphrased):
  • Rep: Do you use any other banks besides Citi?
  • Me: Yes
  • Rep: Which Bank
  • Me: Chase
  • Rep: Is it a debit card or credit card
  • Me: Credit card
  • Rep: Can you give me the card number and I will call Chase to verify it and then call you back.

Yeah, you read that right. Citi was gonna call Chase to verify a card I have with Chase in order to verify my Citi card.  Somehow that makes more sense then texting my phone or asking me personal questions about my Citi account. And, what if my card was really a victim of fraud and my wallet was stolen? The thief may have my Chase card too…so what are we verifying here actually?

She called back a few minutes later and said that Chase verified my account and then proceeded to ask me about my charges.  Once I confirmed they were mine she said my card was unlocked and that I could start using it.

Other Citibank’s Fraud Verification Process Stories

I was chatting about this with my buddies Derrick from Travel on Point(s) and Doug from Travel Rewards Warrior and they have had similar issues.  Derrick had to wait for the verification mailer when he was on vacation and his card stopped working. Doug had to go through the process three separate times and only the mailed card fully unlocked his card.  So this isn’t a one off thing.

Derrick’s wife also had to do a three way call with Citi, and her bank, to verify it was actually her bank account that she made payments with.  Citi wouldn’t apply the payment to her balance until that process was complete. They required this even though it was the same bank account she used to pay her other Citi cards for YEARS.

Lastly, a member of our Diamond Lounge shared that he had to go through something similar to verify the checking account he paid his Citi cards with.  The real kicker was that he was paying them with his CITI checking account. You can’t make this stuff up folks.

Citibank's Fraud Verification

Watch & Listen To This Story

We did an impromptu livestream to tell this story in our Facebook Group yesterday so you can watch it there for more detail. It should be released as a bonus podcast episode too this weekend. So that is an option for you as well.

Final Thoughts

This is the most asinine interaction I have had with a bank.  Citibank’s fraud verification process makes absolutely no sense and is just yet another reason that I rank them at the bottom of the banking pile. Their system seems to be stuck in the 1990’s and they refuse to spend the money required to update it and improve their customer’s experience.  I am all for banks protecting you, and themselves, when they think fraud may happen. But, the way Citi goes about doing it is backasswards.

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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46 COMMENTS

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46 COMMENTS

  1. I knew where this was going. What is interesting to me is that Citi had to actually call Chase without you on the line. I was always under the impression they could independently verify your Chase acct either thru CR or back end access. I agree Citi’s FAs are legendary. But if you don’t like it, you can take your business elsewhere. Every bank has pros and cons.

    • And P.S. This system makes a ton of sense. The fact that you don’t like it doesn’t make it stupid. Phone numbers are not easily hacked (they can tell if it’s a fake/cell/home and look up owner details on LN), a thief might have your chase card but odds are they don’t, they almost certainly won’t know your checking acct no, and a thief is highly unlikely to intercept your mail. Banks have actually sent verification codes to the cardholder’s spouse or parent and had the cardholder read them back (presumably after contacting the next of kin while on the phone).

      • Talk about loading up on logic fallacies. No, their system really makes no sense and Mark has stated clear reasons for what he thinks is flawed. And please, “take your business elsewhere” and “every bank has pros and cons” are sooo Ergo Decedo.

  2. I am having the WORST time trying to get them to take fraud charges off my account. It’s been 3 months and countless phone calls. I’m not surprised by this nonsense.

    • Sorry to hear that Jill. That is beyond frustrating when you can’t find anyone that knows how to help.

  3. I went through a similar nonsensical procedure with CapitalOne. After a fraud alert I called in and was told my cell phone number could not be “verified” in order to receive verification code by text. This is even after uploading a copy of my SIN card and drivers license through a secured link. In the end, I couldn’t receive the text message and they wouldn’t offer any other alternatives so I had to cancel the card. Will never do business with CapitalOne again.

    • Pure craziness that they couldn’t come up with other options. I can never get Capital One to approve me so I don’t have to worry about them 🙂

  4. Anybody try the large purchases alert “Tell us about your next big purchase to avoid any disruptions at checkout?” Don’t bother! That doesn’t work! Try a second time, file the alert, call to confirm, be assured purchase will go through………..Haha, jokes on me. Nope, still doesn’t work

  5. My Citibank story doesn’t compare to yours, but it is worthy of an eyeroll. A couple of years ago I took advantage of one of those 0% balance transfer offers. So I fill out the forms online, everything goes fine and then I receive a fraud alert text message to confirm it is me. Fine.

    Then, after 1:00 AM my cell phone wakes me up. The Citi fraud computer decided to have me confirm a second fraud alert message, just to be sure, at 1 AM.

    Oh, I felt so happy that morning, not. The next day I had to go to a Wells Fargo branch and we all had a great time laughing at Citibank. 🙂

  6. I literally have about 6 stories with Citi crazier and more insane than this one that I can’t be bothered to type it up. Just today they send me an email saying I have not paid my card – you know, the one I closed 5 years ago. They are USELESS

    • Depending what state you live in you may have a state version of a Fair Debt Collection Actices Act violation

      • Is there any version of the FDCPA that offers sanctions against a first party collector? The Federal version does not apply to first party collectors

  7. I had a similar issue and they asked to wait for the 4 digit mailer. I complained and they gave me 500 TYP points which is a damn joke. I was irritated at having charges blocked without any warning so I also filed a CFPB complaint while on the phone with them. The crazy thing is they unblocked my card a few days later before I even got the mailer. Maybe because of the CFPB complaint, idk.

  8. I had a similar issue with Citi. After I provided verbal responses to all their authentication questions, they asked me for my bank account number. I refused to give it and I had to wait for a snail mail of a code. Even so, I’m still working hard to generate as many thank you points as possible.

  9. I have a recurring subscription charge that I put on my DC last year. It declines as fraud every month like clockwork. Same amount, same day of the month. Each time I OK the charge and it finally goes through. The only reason I keep trying is the amount is small and keeps the card active in case it ever becomes useful again.
    The Chase verification sounds like the script for a Phishing expedition. I would have hung up at that point and watched my card very closely.

  10. Citi is too busy giving away 900 MILLION dollars by mistake and then not being able to get it back due to incompetence, so this does not surprise me whatsoever. I use a couple Citi cards but all interactions with them, every single time, has been at least weird, if not infuriating.

  11. That’s hysterical. The thing with Chase is concerning though. Why aren’t they telling Citi, who is not you – to kick rocks? Why is Chase able to verify you to a third party?

  12. I had a similar situation with Citi last year & ended up just cancelling the card in question because they were so awful to deal with. TYP are garbage to me anyway.

  13. Request a cancelation of the card. You will likely be immediately transferred to the retention department in the States. They will fix this much more quickly.
    I used to work for a subsidiary of Citi and this is wholly normal.

  14. I dont see what the issue is. based on my interactions with citi fraud, this is standard procedure, normal run around. !!

  15. Omg! When my premier card was new 6 mos ago I used it for an online purchase-something mundane like a pair of pants. Alert Alert! Fraud! Callled in had same phone number issue-then they called Chase to verify an account with them. How bizarre.

  16. I usually need to take a sedative and a shot of NyQuil before I call Citi. That’s the only way I can tolerate their shenanigans. You are a saint Mark, after all of that I would have been ready to tell them where to go, how to get there, it which exit to take.

    You should have told them that MtM = Miles to Memories AND My time Matters.. and ain’t nobody got time for all of their drama.

      • Citi is far from advanced. They refuse to spend money in upgrading their technology. They have very arrogant workers at the top levels. They are very unfocused on what and to whom they want to be a bank to and who they want as customers. Their arrogance will catch u with them. BTW what used to be a growing consumer bank is now down to less than 700 branches. They keep closing branches instead f trying to improve their way of doing banking.
        These major problems began about 5 years ago when the jerk that runs Citi Technology Inc. decided to outsource the global help desk. You are now dealing with foreigners who read and respond from a script.

  17. Aother bizarre thing about Citi is that when they do encounter an ongoing fraud, they are shockingly uninterested in pursuing it through law enforcement. My wife and I both had our cards skimmed and tracked it down to a particular ATM in a shopping mall. Citi happily reimbursed the $10K total or so in damages, but had absolutely no interest in the ATM at issue, where it was located, etc., so that the skimming no doubt continued. I found that absolutely bizarre.

  18. wow very disappointing fortunately I haven’t had any issues with Citi because rarely use their cards except in the first few months after a sign up since I haven’t had their premier or prestige cards since they improved the earning potential. Weirdest thing I’ve seen is Chase flagging $5.60 charges from Southwest on their Southwest card!! (duhhhh).

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