Life with disabilities: The citibank card in limbo


Categories: Autism Personal

Couple years back, Jesse got a credit card offer. We filled it out and sent it in on a lark; mostly, we wanted to see whether Jesse had a credit rating.

Jesse does. And now… we have a card. Unfortunately, the setup process involved picking a “secret word”, and the secret word is not known to us; we wrote it wrong, or they typoed on entry, or we just plain forgot. And there is no way to correct this, because Jesse is not able to deal with talking to bureaucratic strangers on the phone.

We have a power of attorney. They agree that I am authorized to spend money on the account, to close the account, to dispute charges, to do anything else. But! I cannot reset the secret word, because [b]only[/b] the account holder can do that. Period. This cannot be done through the mail, only by phone.

In theory, there exist text-to-phone gateway services for disabled people, but in practice, I’ve been unable to find anything that suggests how one would get legitimate access to one; they’re really built around the assumption that “disabled” means either “cannot hear” or “cannot produce speech”. “Can talk on the phone but only to people you know about unstressful things” is not the kind of disability they cover. For that matter, “cannot go about acquiring a service based on a vague assertion that such a service exists, but without a clear and detailed list of steps to take” is also not the kind of disability they cover.

So citibank’s basic conclusion is: Autistic customers just need to use the phone like normal people, because if we can’t see how your disability would prevent you from using the phone, you have to use the phone. There is no appeal, there is no workaround. Eventually, we’ll pay the card off and try to close it, which I imagine will be just as much fun.

Useful tip for people running companies: Not everyone wants to have the phone as the only allowed method of contact.

Comments [archived]

From: SorchaRei
Date: 2013-02-04 00:12:56 -0600

That part where they agree you can close the account? Use it as follows:

1. Find a credit card company which allows a different means of communication for the primary card holder.

2. Use that alternative means of communication to inform the new credit card company that you want to transfer the existing debt from Jesse’s current credit card to the new one. Many companies can do this for you without requiring you to interact with the old company at all.

3. Use your power of attorney to close the existing account. They will demand to know why, and you will take this opportunity to tell them. Account closure conversations are almost always recorded.

4. After the account is closed, write a physical letter to that company, over Jesse’s signature,,explaining that the account was closed and they lost the ability to continue to profit from that account, because of policies that discriminate against people on the spectrum. Send this letter to the head of marketing with a copy to the CEO.

From: Dave Leppik
Date: 2013-02-05 10:01:09 -0600

It may be even easier than SorchaRei describes. Call them to change the secret word; when they refuse, tell them you’d like to close the account. They are often allowed a great deal more discretion when the account is on the line.

From: seebs
Date: 2013-02-05 12:40:22 -0600

Good point.

In any event, my current plan is, roughly:

1. Leave a balance-at-0% on the account for a while, until it acquires an interest rate.
2. Pay it off once it acquires or is about-to-acquire an interest rate. Also re-send them the power of attorney (they only consider those valid for a short period).
3. Cancel account.

From: sta
Date: 2013-02-05 17:40:48 -0600

There’s a reason the place is known as Shitty Bank.