More Citizens Bank shenanigans

By | August 10, 2011

Those of you who have been reading the ongoing saga of my dissatisfaction with Citizens Bank will no doubt be pleased to hear that it is nearly at an end. Last week, my wife and I transferred our home equity line to Century Bank and opened a checking account there, and we applied for a Capital One Venture Rewards card to replace our Citizens Bank card. In another week or two the final details of the transition will be complete and we will close our Citizens Bank accounts for good.

In the meantime, however, I have yet another bit of Citizens Bank lunacy to report.

While transitioning from our Citizens checking account to our Century account, I canceled a number of online bill payments on the Citizens Bank web site and recreated those payments from my Century account. One of those canceled payments was my monthly payment to my Citizens MasterCard.

The Citizens Bank web site actually shows my MasterCard account as one of my Citizens Bank accounts, so theoretically I could make payments by using the “Transfers” tab on the web site instead of the “Pay Bills” tab. However, because I don’t entirely trust the bank not to screw up such transfers for reasons which aren’t worth going into here, and for consistency with all my other monthly payments, I usually pay the credit card through “Pay Bills”, and that has always worked fine in the past.

It turns out that the Citizens Bank web site is “smart” about payments to a Citizens Bank card scheduled through “Pay Bills”. Although the payment shows up in the bill payment section of the web site, in the back end it is handled as a transfer.

How do I know this? Because although the web site gets this right when you create such a payment, it apparently gets it wrong when you cancel one. The payment disappears from your list of pending payments, but this is left behind in your list of pending transfers:

(click for full-size image)

If this were a normal transfer, there would be links under “Edit” and “Delete” which I could click to edit or delete it. But this transfer isn’t normal… it was created automatically by the web site’s back-end code, and so I can’t do anything about it.

I obviously don’t want my credit card bill to be paid twice, so I need to make this transfer go away. So I sent Citizens Bank this message through their web site:

I canceled this payment and it should not be showing up as a pending transfer. There’s no button for me to cancel it, so something is clearly wrong. THERE WILL NOT BE ENOUGH MONEY IN MY ACCOUNT TO COVER THIS TRANSFER ON AUGUST 16, so you’d better fix whatever program is causing this transfer to keep showing up even though I’ve canceled it!

Here’s the useless answer which I just got back from them:

Thank you for your recent email regarding a pending transfer to your credit card. Please note our records indicate this transaction was not scheduled through the online banking “Transfers” feature. In the event you have scheduled this payment through the credit card website please log in to your credit card account to cancel the transaction. You may also contact the number below for assistance.

I just sent them the following response:

I already explained this to you. Let me try again.

No, I didn’t schedule it through “Transfers”. I scheduled it through “Pay Bills”.

Your computers decided to convert the bill payment into a transfer. Then when I canceled the bill payment, your computers decide not to properly cancel the corresponding transfer that YOUR COMPUTERS CREATED.

Please don’t blow me off. THIS IS YOUR FAULT AND YOU NEED TO FIX IT.

I will be REALLY, REALLY PISSED OFF if you fail to fix this and the transfer goes through despite the fact that I canceled it and contacted you well in advance of the scheduled transfer date to notify you about the problem and ask you to fix it.

THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH YOUR COMPUTERS. Please forward this to someone who can actually do something about it. Do NOT send me another message blowing me off and telling me it’s not your fault. IT IS YOUR FAULT.

It’s bad that the QA they do on their web site is so feeble that either nobody ever tested this use case, or worse, they tested it and decided it was OK to allow this bug to make it into production. It’s even worse that their customer service staff is too stupid or poorly trained to recognize when the web site is broken and escalate the issue to someone who can do something about it.

I guess I’ll just have to make the issue moot by withdrawing all my money from the account and closing it before August 16.


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3 thoughts on “More Citizens Bank shenanigans

  1. JonT

    I’ve heard good things about Century Bank, but when I looked into their online offering, and found that they require passwords to be between 6-8 characters long, and that they only keep your account history for 6 months, I decided against it. But I’ll look forward to hearing about your experiences with them.

    1. jik Post author

      I agree with you that their site should allow passwords to be longer than that, but it’s not a showstopper for me. You can cram an awful lot of entropy into 8 characters, and I use LastPass, which means that my password can be arbitrarily complex and difficult to remember, because I don’t really have to remember it. Unless someone breaks into their servers and steals their password DB, I think it’s unlikely that anybody is going to be able brute-force an eight-character password.

      To give you some idea of their security, when I made an online bill payment through my personal hotspot on the bus on the way to work a few days after opening the account, they called and emailed within a few hours to confirm that the payment was legitimate (new account + different IP address from the one I registered with + wireless IP address were the factors that caused them to call me, they said). I thought that was pretty impressive.

      As for account history, I don’t use the bank’s Web site for account history, I use GnuCash, and I can download my PDF statements each month and save them if I want “proof from the bank” of when transactions were posted. I don’t think I’ve ever had to obtain such proof for a transaction more than six months in the past, though.

      1. JonT

        While it is possible to create a secure password with an 8 character limit, I’ve tended to take such arbitrary limits as a sign that the company doesn’t understand what they’re doing. But that bit about the confirmation is indeed impressive.

        I haven’t used GnuCash. I keep thinking I ought to try it, but haven’t gotten around to it.


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