Thursday, March 20, 2008

Soured on Citi

A couple of days ago, I wrote glowing praise of Citibank's Access Account, which seemed to provide a simple means to do direct deposit and wire transfers without need for visiting the bank to open the account or to give transfer instructions.

I take it all back.

I tried a test transfer, moving $100 from my Washington Mutual account to the new Citi account.  Since the hour was late, I accidentally typed in the account number of a closed savings account rather than my active checking account at WaMu, a simple clerical error.  As expected, within a day, Citi notified me that they could not execute the transfer.

Unexpectedly, they placed a lock on my Citi account, preventing further wire transfers of any sort.  When I called to follow-up, explaining the error, I was told that this required an investigation.  Today, I was told that they required (no joke) a letter from Washington Mutual, on letterhead, explaining when the savings account had been established, who owned it, why and when it had been closed, and the account status on the date of the transfer.  Citi would then conclude an internal investigation to determine whether to unlock my Citi account for further wire transfers.

In the meantime, I was free to make deposits into the checking account, and could use the online service to view the money in my account.  Seriously: only to view it.

I went up two levels of supervisors, explaining that it was my 3-digit clerical mistake, only involving a $100 domestic interbank transfer, and that I would gladly re-enter the order with the correct number.  No-go.  I finally explained that I had no alternative but to close the account.  With Pleasure, they said, glad to be done with it.

Wire transfers can and do fail for all sorts of reasons.  It's no big deal.  When a Fortis transfer failed while being sent to the US, they simply backed it out, returned the money to my account (minus 50 euros handling fee), and we tried again. I'm baffled as to why this went so spectacularly wrong.

In any case, it's a good test: I never would have been able to unwind a failed international transfer.

...and I'm once again searching for a banking home.

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