I know I am just a pawn in the credit card game whose real beneficiaries are the banks and card companies that make outsized profits off the backs of consumers and merchants alike. At least I can feel good about having a no-fee cashback card that rewards me for my spending. Some false comfort.
Let's just break it down. Credit card companies charge merchants fees for every transaction. In turn merchants mark up their prices to cover their costs and everyone ends up paying more for the bit of convenience, including people who don't or can't have a credit card. A lucky few with reward cards, may get a bone tossed at them once in a while.
The institutions also make serious money from those who carry balances on their cards. It's a perfect racket and since new bankruptcy laws make debt forgiveness almost impossible, the money keeps on rolling in.
The reward system is one way card companies buy the loyalty of their customers by the cheap, but a recent experience with my Citibank cashback reward card left me wondering whether the perk, if you can call it that, comes at the expense of customer service.
The Citibank cashback reward process is pretty straightforward. Charge up your purchases, the card will kick 1% or so of the purchases back to you up to the maximum of $300 annually. Okay so far, but here's where the process gets silly. You can request a cashback check when your balance reaches $50 or more. Why should I request this money? Can't they just credit my account automatically when my balance reaches $50? Even if for some reason I had to request the reward (probably to cross sell me when I contact them), why do I have to wait for a check in the mail?
I decided to put that question to Citicard on their online customer service page. Here's what I wrote:
hi, can you offer a way to apply the cashback to the card balance? seems that this would be beneficial to you too. no checks to issue, no possible lost checks to track, and the money recycles back to you quick. less work for both sides. is this really so hard to implement? thanks.
And this is what I got back:
Customer Service Wrote:
We are unable to apply your cash back as payments on your account.
Thank you for using our website.
This is really a type of answer you would expect from a software engineer with some deficit in customer interface skills. Someone like myself. The answer is terse, unhelpful, and rather blunt. My reaction was, "Why did I even bother?" Obviously they know the process is asinine and they're not going to do anything about it. Yep, I'll be waiting by the mailbox for my next cashback check.