Is My Citi Credit Card Using Creative Marketing or Is It Up To Something Else?

by David Ning · 29 comments

My Citibank credit card updated their website recently and something very important changed. I noticed that instead of showing the statement balance, it is showing the current balance (see red cross in picture). I never knew the difference before but current balance apparently is the statement balance + unbilled balance.

The statement balance on the other hand is moved to the right in small writing (see green line in picture).

The only reason why I noticed the change is that I almost overpaid my bill this month. As you can see, I need to pay $5,105.28 to avoid any interest charges by Nov 28. However, the amount that Citibank wants me to think is due on Nov 28 is $5,839.46.

I wonder if they are only showing this for customers that pay in full every month (thus not letting Citibank make money on interest). The minimum amount due is also pretty visible since they are hoping everyone just pays the minimum balance. The website actually tries to trick me even further by having the default option as “pay the minimum balance”. In order to pay in full, I would have to type in the statement balance ($5,105.28 in this case) manually.

So, is this creative marketing? Or is it a crafty way of trying to make more money? You be the judge.

Side note: My Wells Fargo credit card does none of this BS. Everything is easy and visible, and paying in full can be set up automatically.

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  • Garry kerr says:

    customers that pay in full every month amount due is also pretty visible since they are hoping everyone just pays the minimum balance.who get rich off people making only the minimum payment.

  • MoneyNing says:

    kev: I’m glad you noticed this too. As long as we are alert, we should be okay.

  • kev says:

    Hey, I just stumble upon your website. I noticed the odd user interface at Citi’s site, too. Although, as a brand new customer, I was unaware they didn’t always do it this way.

    I definitely think they’re trying to trick those of us who pay our statement balances in full each month. They definitely didn’t set up the interface this way to be user friendly – it’s unintuitive and confusing (the opposite of user friendly).

    Those tricksters…

  • MoneyNing says:

    alicia: Thanks 🙂 If you need a beta tester next time you build some website, let me know 😀

  • alicia says:

    I appreciate you being open-minded. Unless you’ve had some reason to see this sort of thing firsthand, there’s no way to know. Cheers.

  • MoneyNing says:

    alicia: You’ve convinced me that the corporate execs are far enough away from the IT guys for something like this to happen. I guess I was thinking too small scale and was complaining about everything like usual 🙂 Thanks for the insight 🙂

  • ningpo says:

    good point. as much as i would love to wring all of “their” (i’m not really paranoid, it’s just simpler::-) ) necks, i’ve just not come across many companies which had the “you don’t qualify” button up front or the “are you sure you want / need…. our product”… know what i mean? the dutch say that all the “stuff” comes from the states, although i don’t totally agree, alot does, the loan companies are popping up like mushrooms and finally they are doing pre-feasability studies to insure the customer can afford the loan. yes.

  • alicia says:

    Definitely. What I’m trying to say is that the people at Citibank who make decisions about this sort of thing are miles away from the dudes at the top who get rich off people making only the minimum payment. I mean, you don’t think they all sit in a big room together to plan this stuff, do you? Or that a memo came down straight from the top that said “Make the statement balance the third-most prominent account detail instead of the first”? I’d be shocked if the execs had even seen the updated page.

    This looks to me like a straightforward website-usability issue. And based on the projects I’ve been on, high-level corporate planning and web-usability decisions simply aren’t related. It’s the corporate planning that screws consumers over.

    Looking at this page, I’m guessing they’re catering to people who use their online account to keep track of their balance. If you think about it, this is a good arrangement for folks like that. The fact that they’re trying to create a hierarchy of information (using blue bars to highlight what their research says are the two most important things to their users) means they’re trying to make the page more useful, not less.

    You’re certainly entitled to be irritated by the new layout. It would just be more accurate if you were irritated that the page caters to people who use the site differently than you do. If you’re looking for corporate malfeasance and manipulation on Citibank’s part, there are a lot more obvious places to look than this.

  • Amanda says:

    Very subtle tactic… I noticed the change but I never thought through the motivation. These companies know what they are doing.

  • MoneyNing says:

    alicia: It wasn’t totally obvious but now i know 🙂

    Do you get requirements from your customers though? I’m sure they tell you what they want to highlight and show right?

  • alicia says:

    🙂 Citi might be. But any design change that makes their website more usable and appealing inevitably came from an outside agency.

    I’d bet $5 that this change was thought up by an information architect at whatever third-party web firm Citi uses, and that he or she genuinely wants the info being presented to be more useful and understandable.

    (In case it’s not totally obvious, that’s pretty much what I do for a living–but I don’t do work for Citi.)

  • MoneyNing says:

    alicia: That’s probably the case but they are.. They are out to get us. 🙂

  • alicia says:

    If the page were reversed so that the statement balance was big and obvious and the current balance was smaller, you could make the opposite argument: “They’re trying to keep me from seeing how much I’ve actually charged.”

    To be honest, I think you’re reading into this because you believe Citi is out to get you.

  • MoneyNing says:

    Double Journey: Yup I believe they are losing but I’m sure they will make it up elsewhere 🙂

    ningpo: Yup everyone is up for themselves. I guess it just depends on who can actually be craftiest 🙂

    Laura: It was definitely misleading to me. Oh well. I better be more alert.

  • Laura says:

    This borders on misleading. I realize some ‘smart’ person in marketing go this great idea, but it can be misleading to customers.

  • ningpo says:

    back to the original question: yes, this is crafty marketing. yes, they have hired psychologists, marketeers and etc. to “optimalize” their income, …we are after all in a “tape-worm” economy, love the analogy. Our financial health is NOT the primary concern of most of the institutions.

  • ningpo says:

    good point, journey journey :-), if you pay off every month. that’s a must. the card should be a tool with the max. potential credit for emergencies (and travel convenience, dollar cost averaging) and yet at zero for the least draw on your overall financial balance sheet. Here’s one of my favorite catch-22 ad’s; “buy and save at….” ::-))

  • My Amex works like this and I think its fine.

    Your point about cash earning cash is right on, but you have to look at it from the other perspective. You are getting a loan free and clear from your credit card. If you are like me, and pay off your card in full every month, the CC companies don’t make that much off of you, and in fact “lose” some money because they give you an interest free loan for up to 30 days.

    I say “lose” because in reality, they make it up in the fees they charge merchants, but to you it’s as if it is free money.

  • ningpo says:

    help, .. get 13….% PLUS, by zeroing your credit card… success with this endeavor, the fine print and whether or not / and how they bill is NOTHING compared to the steady income THEY get and not YOU. success, all of you out there, i may be old fashioned, but we all really need to turn this around and do the simple math, plus activities on one side of the paper and minus activities on the other, next to it. turn all the minus’s into zero, first, then go on…

  • Ray says:

    I think goig automatic is by far the better option coz these matters are very complex.By the way if u want to establish business credit then check out ..

  • MoneyNing says:

    Randall: Heh the credit card includes my work expenses too so it is high 🙂

    I’m not sure if Citi allows you to do automatic full statement payment. I heard somewhere that they don’t allow that but I will have to research that if I want to do it 🙂

  • Randall says:

    Wow you owe a lot. 😉

    I’ve see a few billers do it that way. It doesn’t really bug me because I’ve gone automatic with everything. Whatever is billed, gets paid, including total due.

    I love eBills.

  • MoneyNing says:

    paidtwice: That’s a good different perspective on this. I guess there is no way a website can be tailored for everyone. It would be good if they actually let you customize the site for yourself…

    NotACitiBankStooge: I dunno why but I just don’t have it. Maybe I need to call in?

  • NotACitiBankStooge says:

    I am pretty sure there is a “pay the balance in full” radio button, as that is what I always use (though it is not the default).

  • paidtwice says:

    It displays that way for everyone. I don’t pay my balance in full every month (@ 0% til next September) and it displays my current balance like that and my last billed balance where yours is.

    I actually prefer it this way because I make payments multiple times a month and I like to see exactly where I am at and how much is left, not what I started at that month. But since I am paying down this debt and not charging anything to it, it is more user-friendly for my purposes but maybe not for everyone else’s.

  • MoneyNing says:

    Chris: Good point. 🙂 I still don’t think I want to pay them until it is due though.

    It’s sort of like how our company gives out Net 30 but many companies won’t pay until the 35th date since they want to stretch it out.

  • Chris Eaker says:

    I see your point, but this is really a loan to you which you are repaying early. Technically, the moment you make the charge, you owe the company, although they don’t require you to pay it for 30 days.

  • MoneyNing says:

    Chris: It’s not really a problem per-say but it is rather their way of making more money because cash generates money. Every day that someone has our cash, that person is able to make money from it. It might not seem like much but it is worth millions/billions of dollars to the bank if every client starts giving them $800 30-day loans.

  • Chris Eaker says:

    I’m not quite sure what the problem is. If your previous statement balance was $5,105.28 and since then you’ve charged an additional $734.18, then you still owe $5,839.46. If you paid that amount, Citibank would not be making any more money, you’d just be paying off the entire balance, instead of just the statement balance.

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