Rebates and Refunds Take the Form of Nearly Useless Prepaid Debit Cards (and how Citibank Lost a Customer)

Long ago, I gave up on rebates.  In most cases, most of the rebates I sent in were simply never honored.  Now, when I see a rebate for a product, I don’t buy the product.  Period.

As a result, I never noticed the shift in the rebate industry from paper checks to debit-card-like-gift-cards.  Companies are now issuing are issuing debit-card-like gift cards instead of rebate checks, which come laden with so many restrictions and catches it renders them nearly useless.

Unfortunately, these debit-card-like gift cards are becoming malignant and encroaching on other areas of my life so I cannot avoid them.  I received one from the university that enrolled at, just in case I get a refund.  I noticed today that a local community college is now issuing them to every enrolled student for the same purpose.  You don’t have a choice.

However, I was personally surprised when I received a rebate debit-like gift card from Proctor and Gamble.  It took a few minutes for me to connect the $203 rebate card with the refund I was expecting for returning a Braun shaver that broke in the first 30 days after Christmas.  Eight weeks after returning the expensive broken electric shaver at my expense,  I received a shiny new card, “for [my] convenience.”

The debit card is so convenient that:

  • it cannot be used at an ATM;
  • it has a $3.00 monthly maintenance fee after three months;
  • it cannot be used at the gas pumps, it has to be used inside the service station, but only as a credit transaction (not a debit transaction);
  • it can only be used for a maximum of 12 transactions in a single day;
  • it cannot be used to pay your other credit cards;
  • it has a convenient $6.95 replacement fee if you loose the card;
  • it must be run as a credit card, not a debit card.

A paper check would have been far more convenient.  Seriously.

Most importantly, I’ve found that the cards are a tremendous hassle at best.  Why?  Let me give you an perfect example.

At first, there wasn’t any issues.  I successfully used it at three restaurants.  However, when I tried to use what was left on the card, things got progressively more difficult.  If you use the card at a self-service checkout, you cannot split the transaction.  You can only use one card.  Some retail cashiers simply cannot understand the concept of splitting a retail transaction on multiple cards.

The card was denied when I tried to make an online order for some tools at harbor freight.  I sifted through the internet looking for clearance sales on things I wanted to no avail.

Frustrated, I finally decided to burn the rest of the card and turn it into an amazon.com gift card.

I logged into Citibank to check the available balance.  The card had $65.61 left on the card.  I ordered an amazon.com gift card for $65.61, and after a few minutes I received an email telling me that the card had been denied.  I called the number on the back of the card to find out what happened and I learned two things: 1) it is impossible to navigate the phone system to talk with a real human, and 2) the available balance on the card is $64.61.  One dollar was missing, probably as an authorized hold.

I burned the $64.61 and hopefully the $1.00 will be available in the next week so I can order another amazon.com gift card for precisely $1.00.

Next, I thought about how Citibank had done just about everything it could to keep me from getting all of my money, forcing me to use the card so they could rack up swipe fees while I try to get the full amount of cash out of the card.  Why on earth would I do business with Citibank?

The pettiness within me prevailed and I self-righteously decided I would cancel my Citibank AAdvantage card, which had just sent me a form letter informing me that they were raising the yearly membership fee, probably “for [my] convenience.”   

I called the number and while talking to the first customer service representative I got imagedisconnected mid sentence.  I called back and had to listen to two advertisements about balance transfers and the Citibank AAdvantage card before having to wind my way through the telephone navigation system.

I cancelled the Citibank AAdvantage card and tonight, I’m no longer a Citibank customer, or at least I won’t be after I get my last $1.00 from that card.

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One Response to Rebates and Refunds Take the Form of Nearly Useless Prepaid Debit Cards (and how Citibank Lost a Customer)

  1. Steven Garren says:

    I got one of these idiot cards after returning a Braun shaver that ripped hairs out of my face. If this is what a refund means to them then I have purchased my last Braun product. Never again!

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