Citi cards physical quality decline

Old Nov 13, 18, 10:43 am
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Citi cards physical quality decline

I have had a Citi credit card account for almost three decades now, and over the course of time the account velocity has been millions of dollars. This is just to say that as a long-standing customer, Citi surely makes a hefty profit on my business.

Over the past decade, however the service has been less and less valuable to me, and nowhere has the quality of service been more evident than in the physical card that Citi sends me every year or two. Less than a decade ago, my physical card possessed these properties.

- Physically substantial card - thick, well-made
- Attractive designs (holograms, the old AA logo, the old AAdvantage logo, etc.)
- My photograph on the card to ensure proper use
- My signature embossed on the card to ensure proper use
- Proximity scanning / contactless RFID function

Today I received a new set of cards, and the current set includes unattractive, flimsy cards without pictures, signatures, proximity chips, or really anything else to make them objects with inherent value. The features I mentioned above have been withdrawn over the years, but this set is truly dismal - they look like Soviet ration cards.

Citi hasn't exactly amazed us with their service over the recent years, and the slow slide seems to be reflected in the physical reminder of their value to us in these cards. It is the little things like suddenly freezing the account when I am overseas on a long trip, or changing the account number every other year that accrue anti-goodwill, or switching from Visa to MC, or trying to charge new fees. All of these little peccadilloes come to mind when I see this limp piece of limited-function plastic.

Given that our credit union seems to constantly upgrade their services and performance, and Amex acts like Amex, and our state bank has been very valuable to us, we have constant points of comparison. Is this physical card deterioration something that others have experienced, or am I overreacting?

Last edited by Wilbur; Nov 13, 18 at 10:44 am Reason: cain't spel
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Old Nov 14, 18, 6:24 am
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Many of the things you mentioned aren't really unique to Citi. Unfortunately with fraud so prevalent these days, you pretty much should assume your account number is going to eventually change. It's almost inevitable. They aren't set in stone. Yes it is annoying, but not the end of the world.

Cheap, flimsy cards are par for the course for the most part, not just with Citi but other banks too. Especially with things moving more and more to mobile, I doubt banks will suddenly spend money to make higher quality cards again. I guess you never know but I wouldn't hold my breath. I don't find my Citi cards to be the most great looking or durable, but how much time do you really spend looking at them? They work when I go to pay, so eh, whatever.

Contactless really hasn't caught on in the US. Very few major products really offer it outside of Amex that I've seen. So again, not really Citi specific. Ditto for the photo being imprinted on the card. Outside of, ironically, the Citi Costco card, I can't think of any major product that has that feature today.
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Old Nov 14, 18, 6:36 am
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Magnetic stripe cards cost issuers a few cents each. Chipped cards cost a few dollars. The cost of an individual card is still small compared to the annual fee, but in aggregate card issuers are spending millions more, and it's not surprising that they have pressed card fabricators to lower costs by using different materials, and spending less on design.

Originally Posted by Wilbur View Post
proximity scanning / contactless RFID function
Prior to the Costco card I cannot remember a Citi product with built-in Contactless chip. My recollection is that they offered this function through a separate key fob or sticker.

Originally Posted by kdm31091 View Post
.... Outside of, ironically, the Citi Costco card, I can't think of any major product that has that feature today.
Diners Club (USA) and HSBC (USA) have issued Contactless cards for several years. American Express (USA) offers Contactless as an option on most personal, and some business cards. It is a standard feature of the recently refreshed personal American Express Gold card. Chase has announced that it will add contactless to Sapphire cards. It's something that Citi needs to revisit.
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Old Nov 15, 18, 8:34 am
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I guess comparing the most recent Citi card to the others in my wallet was the big catalyst for my complaint. The other cards are substantially thicker, more attractive, and possess contactless payment functionality. One of them has my photo, and another has my embossed signature.

Citi used to have it all, now it has similar heft and utility to my library card.
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Old Nov 15, 18, 2:31 pm
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Originally Posted by Wilbur View Post
...The features I mentioned above have been withdrawn over the years, but this set is truly dismal - they look like Soviet ration cards.
I believe you were looking for this esthetic (minus the RFID).
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Old Nov 15, 18, 4:40 pm
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Originally Posted by mia View Post
Magnetic stripe cards cost issuers a few cents each. Chipped cards cost a few dollars. The cost of an individual card is still small compared to the annual fee, but in aggregate card issuers are spending millions more, and it's not surprising that they have pressed card fabricators to lower costs by using different materials, and spending less on design.



Prior to the Costco card I cannot remember a Citi product with built-in Contactless chip. My recollection is that they offered this function through a separate key fob or sticker.



Diners Club (USA) and HSBC (USA) have issued Contactless cards for several years. American Express (USA) offers Contactless as an option on most personal, and some business cards. It is a standard feature of the recently refreshed personal American Express Gold card. Chase has announced that it will add contactless to Sapphire cards. It's something that Citi needs to revisit.
I was referring to the photo on the card. I have not seen that on a major credit card, other than the Costco/BJs ones etc, in a long time.
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Old Nov 16, 18, 2:09 pm
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Originally Posted by kdm31091 View Post
with things moving more and more to mobile
If you're referring to using stuff like Apple and Google Pay, the stuff I've read seems to imply that Americans aren't really using those either. Or at least aren't using them nearly as much as people in other countries using contactless cards.

Originally Posted by mia View Post
It's something that Citi needs to revisit.
Most banks are probably going to need evidence that people are taking to contactless cards more than mobile wallets for them to consider it, or some sort of other inducement (possibly Visa or MC giving them a good deal on licensing by doing so?) Hopefully Chase's rollout works out well.

Originally Posted by kdm31091 View Post
I was referring to the photo on the card. I have not seen that on a major credit card, other than the Costco/BJs ones etc, in a long time.
I didn't think it was possible to have photos on most credit cards, since the application process doesn't require an in-person visit. My BofA debit card has my photo, though, but that's easier to accomplish when you mostly had to go in-branch to get the account. (Of course, that's not really true these days either.)
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Old Nov 16, 18, 4:48 pm
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Originally Posted by tmiw View Post
I didn't think it was possible to have photos on most credit cards...
It's possible with some card issuers. Wells Fargo, Capital One, and a few others allow a user-provided image to replace their standard card design. Discover offers a large catalog of card images, but not yet a user-provided option.
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Old Nov 16, 18, 7:06 pm
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Originally Posted by MaxVO View Post
It's possible with some card issuers. Wells Fargo, Capital One, and a few others allow a user-provided image to replace their standard card design. Discover offers a large catalog of card images, but not yet a user-provided option.
I was thinking ID-type photo, not photos in general. But yeah, some have let you put (almost) any photo on cards for a while.
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Old Nov 17, 18, 3:59 am
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Originally Posted by tmiw View Post
I was thinking ID-type photo, not photos in general...
That was a marketing gimmick when Citi, BoA etc. solicited ID-type photos. It was always a decorative element, and did not affect the use of the cards (i.e. did not make them photo-IDs).
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Old Nov 19, 18, 8:53 pm
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Contactless cards have been around for ages, I remember having cards with them but I just never used them much. One of the problems was simply finding places that could accept them in the first place. It was nice to have, but at the time it was a chicken and the egg problem where the cards might have them but the merchants did not. That has improved a little with the advent of mobile wallets, but it is nowhere near ubiquitous. Merchants wont start accepting them until they're more popular, but people don't use them because merchants don't accept them.

As for the quality of your card... you're talking about changes over the course of decades. 30 years ago, a credit card was a symbol of wealth, prestige, and power. It needed to reflect its own importance. Nowadays they're everywhere and crafting a card out of higher quality plastic is frankly meaningless to the average consumer. Probably less than .1% of consumers would even care about the quality of the plastic that their credit card is made of. Meanwhile, it would cost the issuer millions of extra dollars to make those higher quality cards that no one notices. The banks have switched to using metal "premium" cards now for those that want the heft and "plunk" value. If you don't have one yet, don't get too excited because the quality isn't all that high either (although they're annoying to destroy).
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Old Nov 20, 18, 10:08 am
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Originally Posted by baroqen View Post
Contactless cards have been around for ages, I remember having cards with them but I just never used them much. One of the problems was simply finding places that could accept them in the first place. It was nice to have, but at the time it was a chicken and the egg problem where the cards might have them but the merchants did not. That has improved a little with the advent of mobile wallets, but it is nowhere near ubiquitous. Merchants wont start accepting them until they're more popular, but people don't use them because merchants don't accept them.
The good news this time around is that the cards might be accepted in more places than mobile wallets simply because it's easier for some merchants to tap a card for you (given customer inaccessible terminals) than to tap a phone. That said, I think enough issuers got burned by the last attempt that they're going to wait a while before trying again.
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Old Nov 21, 18, 9:09 am
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The contactless payment option was really good for purchases at Lowes, Rockler, and Home Depot, where your hands are full or filthy, and just rubbing your wallet up against the pedastal ran the payment. No need to finger through the billfold.
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