So I have what I think is an interesting and funny Catch-22 that might give someone a chuckle. And perhaps someone can help me!

I just got a American Airlines Advantage Citibank Platinum Select credit card. Credit limit is something like $20K. I tried to use it for the first time to buy an iPhone (approximately $1000). Card was declined. Not surprising as it's a new card and it was probably flagged as fraud. I called in and was routed to Citbank's fraud department. I verified a bunch of info and then they said what phone number are you calling from? I told them and told them that this is my phone I signed up with. It's a cell phone # and I don't have a landline. They said, "they couldn't verify" the number so couldn't unlock the account. I simply paid with another credit card (American Express). Back at home, I called again but this time to cancel the card. They won't let me cancel because they can't verify the phone number! At first they said there was nothing to do and the account would remain open. When I pointed out the stupidity of this, they offered that I could send signed (and notarized?) copies of drivers license, passport, etc. Until then the account will remain in a "quasi-open" state. Card can't be used, but neither can it be cancelled.

This seems crazy! I've always heard that you should cancel an unused card. And even if that's not true, at this point, I don't want Citibank to have an account for me. The idiots might open it to someone else, or god knows what else.

My questions:

  1. Anyone encountered this scenario?
  2. How can I cancel the card?
  3. Which are the appropriate authorities to complain to? I don't think they should be wasting consumer time this way.

BTW, the only info I got about the phone # was that some carriers don't allow their numbers to be browsed, so there is no way to verify them. I have T-Mobile (had it for years).

Clarification!!! The problem is not that I entered the incorrect phone number. The second time I called, they verified this. The problem is they can't find the number in some "database" that they look these things up in. I've never had this happen before, even with Citibank. Like I said, it's a real catch-22.

Here is the response I got from Citibank via by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as suggested by Levi. Despite Citibank stating on the phone multiple times that couldn't and wouldn't close my account, one email to CFPB and the account was closed!

Citi(R) / AAdvantage(R) Platinum Select(R) Account ending in XXXX

Dear Mr. YYY:

We have received your inquiry that was submitted to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regarding authorizations that were declined on your above-referenced account.

I certainly regret any inconvenience or difficulty you may have experienced when your transaction was declined. I also regret that your contacts with our representatives were not completed to your satisfaction. The protection of our cardmembers is a high priority, and verification policies and programs, such as the Fraud Early Warning (FEW) Referral System, are in place to ensure that protection. When authorizations are requested that meet certain criteria, a block may be placed on the account or the charge may be declined.

Upon receipt of your inquiry, the block was removed and your account was closed as you requested on January 19, 2016. As the quality of the service we provide our customers is of great importance to us, your comments related to our verification process have been forwarded to management for review.

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your inquiry.


YYYYY ZZZZZZ Executive Response Unit

  • 3
    Why can't they verify the phone number by calling you at that number? That must be at least as reliable as using caller id. It's trivial to spoof callerid (as well as ANI), so it is very week authentication. You could always using a callerid spoofing services to spoof your own number.
    – Johnny
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 1:12
  • 1
    Johnny, you're being too logical :) All I can get out of them is that there is some sort of database with phone #s in, and they look up the phone # on the database and expect to find "Dave" or whomever. Your next logical comment might be, "Why didn't they consult this list for the # you provided at the time of application?", and my response will be, "Johnny, you're being too logical" :)
    – Dave
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 19:04
  • Have they sent you a bill yet? Does this account show up on your credit report?
    – Ben Miller
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 19:18
  • I've never used it! I tried to use it for the first time to buy the iPhone. Not sure if it shows up on credit report. But I'm told that too many open lines of credit is bad and you should explicitly close them (not just stop using them). Plus, I don't trust citibank at this point not too do something else detrimental to me, either maliciously, or more likely, through sheer stupidity.
    – Dave
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 20:10
  • 1
    Is there a local Citi branch? Perhaps try talking to someone in person.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 0:32

4 Answers 4


I understand this would be super frustrating, but on the other hand this is nice because the company is protecting your identity, but they definitely dropped the ball not properly recording your personally identifying information (PII). Unfortunately, even though your PII was incorrectly input you will want to jump through the necessary hoops to verify your identity. The only way you will be able to cancel your credit card will be to verify your identity. They are protecting your PII and that is very important with all of the breaches that seems to occur on a monthly basis.

The best way to complain to the credit card company is to call and let the customer service rep know you want to place a formal complaint. Additionally, you can go to http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/ and submit a formal complaint. Generally, telling a financial institution that you will be submitting a complaint, as long as the complaint is valid, to the CFPB will get the institution to act much quicker. The CFPB is the government agency implementing consumer regulation and protection. Complaints are taken very seriously.

I would recommend jumping through the company's hoops prior to submitting the complaint, and if you get verified and the company still makes life difficult for you closing the account. I would then first submit a complaint to the company, then to the CFPB. I hope this helps. I have never had this issue before.

  • Thanks Levi. See my comment. It's not a question of me (or them) entering the wrong phone #. Thanks for the consumer finance link. I was also thinking of trying BBB. If they're going to frustrate me and waste my time, the least I can do is return the favor :)
    – Dave
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 19:02
  • @Dave how do you know for sure this isn't an issue where they got a couple digits flipped or something when entering PII?
    – WBT
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 23:24
  • Levi, I wrote to consumerfinance.gov. I'll report back on how it goes. Thanks!
    – Dave
    Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 20:38
  • 1
    Levi. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! That worked like a charm. I've posted the response I got from Citibank under edits to my question. Had I known it was that easy, I could have saved myself some elevated blood pressure by hanging up sooner.
    – Dave
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 23:59
  • 1
    "They are protecting your PII and that is very important with all of the breaches that seems to occur on a monthly basis." Oh, please. Do you think they apply the same security standards to OPENING an account? Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 22:10

Call them back and tell them you lost the card and it was possibly stolen Have them reissue the card and send replacement to the info on file. When you receive the new card with a new number cut it in pieces wrap the RFID chip in foil and type the a letter to cancel the account and send it registered mail. Or you can activate the new card and not use it and eventually the card company will close it for inactivity. If you really are mad at them send them a dollar payment every three months to trigger a credit balance which they have to refund by check so unless this card has a fee to join or maintenance fees you can get some satisfaction without harming your credit.

  • 3
    Thanks AShaffield. In fact card does have 80 dollar fee after 1 year. That's one reason I want to cancel right away. Even though they say it will eventually "self cancel" due to lack of use, I don't trust them to do this within a year!
    – Dave
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 18:59

Do you have online banking, that you can log in and either (a) see what phone number is listed on your account, to verify that it's what you think it is, and/or (b) use the secure messaging center in your online account access to send a closure request (or even see if it's a self-service option buried in one of the menu items/pages)?

It seems that you do have Web access and enough know-how about how to use it to ask this question on this site, and Citibank does offer online account access that you can log into or register for here.

  • Brilliant WBT, but unfortunately registering at their site generates the message I paste below. As I said, it's a Catch-22. We've Detected Suspicious Activity We apologize for any inconvenience, but to protect your account, further charges may be limited until you have contacted our Customer Service Department at 1-800-825-0393 (TTY: 1-800-325-2865).
    – Dave
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 19:16
  • And as far as I can tell, you can't close the credit card online. If you have a link that says otherwise, please post. I suspect they want you to call in and be talked out of it.
    – Dave
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 19:17
  • @Dave that's tough. This is one example of where it would've been helpful to have already had that online login/account - which I recognize is not always possible and may not have been here. Also, you're probably right that most financial service providers want to try to talk you out of closing an account.
    – WBT
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 23:27

I've run into a similar situation. Some database company actually makes money of this stuff, and these big corporations lose money of it. I have perfect credit and sometimes when I apply for a car loan Citibank or capitol one will deny it because they can't verify my phone number. So another company with more common sense gets my money.

Report it as fraud on your credit report. That'll get their attention and force the account closed. I once had a company refuse to close my account because I used my middle name and not my first. I reported it to the credit bureaus and 30 days all was closed. Granted I had a zero balance when I did that.

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