Wednesday, June 22, 2005

So much for the “citi”

Without much fuss I was able to close my Citibank account this morning. I’ve had it since I first moved into New York, over four years ago. I thought that after such a long relationship the breakup would be messy, but c.b. stayed calm and didn’t make any last-minute declarations of love or, “I promise, it’s going to be different this time.” So, here’s to a clean break. Though I’d been considering ending things for a while, particularly during the lengthy trek to their nearest ATM, it was unexpected non-Citibank ATM charges that brought things to a head. After my trip to Barbados with mrlittlepants, I noticed a $4.50 charge from my bank for using other banks’ ATMs three times. I know this isn’t unheard of, but it is new to my account. In France I used my card dozens of times over the course of 9-months and certainly would have noticed such a charge. I had stuck with Citi because it was one of the few banks that didn’t have a weirdo charge for using bank cards abroad (WaMu, Chase, tsk-tsk). This kind of change, which applies inside the U.S. too, is even worse! When I called Citi for an explanation, I was told that “EZ Checking” accounts opened in New York City always have always had this fee. My insistence that I had not paid it when I lived in France was met with the claim that records older than 3 months were unavailable to the citi-skeptic on the line. I offered that, perhaps, the fee was lifted during the time that my account address was outside of the city. “No.” I asked for an alternative explanation, and got none. Apparently, I was just lying. I requested a statement online to use as evidence, and three days later I had my proof. Indeed, I had not paid those fees. I wanted to print up the statement and shove it in the face the disbelieving account representative, but that would have required a trip to the Indian subcontinent. I decided it wouldn't be satisfying to even call the Indian-skeptic hotline a second time; instead I would just find another bank. First Republic, if anyone’s interested, has free worldwide ATMs. Not only do they not charge you, but they refund any fees you incur. American Express had a checking account like this a few years ago, but it was limited to uselessly few transactions. This one is unlimited. The caveat is that the average minimum balance is high ($2,500 OMG$$$!), but like most banks these days the balance is ignored if you have direct deposit. (That charitably applies even for my paltry salary.) If you live in New York, California, or Las Vegas (what?), you may as well switch to this bank. Then you can stop wondering the streets looking for your bank’s ATM and just use any old machine with a slot and keypad. (By the way, the list of things that are better in France just lost an item! Things are getting pretty lopsided at least in the banking department, Pierre.)