Friday, July 20, 2018

Surprise! Departure Time and Costco/Citi Bank Billing

Surprise 1:  Departure Time

I got up yesterday (Thursday) thinking that my daughter and granddaughter were flying home today (Friday) - that we had one more day of human sunshine at the house.  But my wife informed me they were leaving that day (yesterday) at 3:30pm.  This was about 9am.

Whoa, how could I make that big a mistake?  I checked my computer calendar and I had them down for today - the 20th.  So I looked for the email and got the Alaska Air reservation.  There it was:  July 19.  But it wasn't 3:30pm.  It was 11:07am!  (3:30 was their arrival time.)

Needless to say when I told my daughter, who was still in bed, there was a bit of hustle and bustle. But we got them to the airport ok.

It hurt to see them go.  But the last minute burst of packing and rushing was distracting.

It means we can get back to our cleaning out the house activities - more paper shredding, more sorting, tossing, giving away, the crumbling front steps will be replaced.   I think I've decided to not put so many pictures back up on the walls.  Instead, we'll just change what is up now and then and leave many of the pictures in the 'archives.'  It's just that we're trying to minimize storing stuff we don't use that much.

Surprise 2:  Paying Costco Bill Still A Pain

It's not the amount that's the problem, it's the complicated way Costco and Citi Bank (their credit card) do things.

When we had to change to the Citi Bank Costco credit card last November, we didn't realize that we would get two cards with two different numbers.  And since my wife happened to be the person who signed up for them, she was automatically the primary card holder.  I have no problem letting her be 'primary' except that I'm the one who pays the bills.  So the first bill we got I had lots of trouble - the website didn't recognize my card number.  You see, when I use my card, it all goes to her card number.

And I couldn't even call in and work it out.  I had to give the phone to her to get permission to pay the bill.  She gave it.
So I was able to set up the user name and password.

Until a couple of months later, they didn't work.  I couldn't get past the security questions.  Turns out my card number has no value at all in identifying myself.  I have to use her number, but she still had to give permission.  Despite our pleas to let me have the ability to call in and talk to them without getting her permission - and their saying ok they were doing that - it didn't happen.

So when I tried to pay the bill they emailed me today, it didn't work again.  The rep this time was much more sympathetic than last time.  (Last month she denied that I had ever been made an 'administrator' even though we knew we'd called in and asked for that to happen.)  So Jazzalin made me an administrator yet again.  But I can't change a mailing address or security questions without my wife's permission.

I understand that some couples might want to put restrictions on one another or other users including children, but I don't understand why we can't have the option of one card number and equal access for both of us.

But then I got transferred to the tech side to figure out why I couldn't log in.  The rep did say that I had logged in successfully at 2:06pm (so I knew he was on East Coast time).  But the messages I got all said something like "Your info does not match our records."
He asked how I had gotten to the website.
Me:  "I used the link in the email statement I got."
Him:  "Ah, don't use that.  Go straight to"
Me:  "You're saying the link in the email statement doesn't work?"
Him:  "There have been some problems."

There are enough refunds using Costco's preferred card to make not using it a real decision.  Besides, using their credit card doesn't give them any more information on what I buy than they already get from their membership card, and I don't usually carry much cash on me these days, and you have to have the credit card to get gas there.  So I'm resigned to using the card.

[UPDATE July 28, 2018: A reader emailed me to say she gets gas using her Alaska Airlines credit card, and that having two different card numbers was helpful when she lost her card.  Her husband's card still worked.]]

He also said it was Costco, not Citi, that requires the two different account numbers.  So I did send in my complaint to Costco too.

Another issue we discussed was Security Questions.  He said he's asked at meetings how and why they pick the obscure questions they pick.  He was told that so much info is available on social media these days that they need to be more obscure.  But he also realizes that some people - particularly older people - don't remember 'their first' whatever any more.  And I pointed out that you have to remember exactly what you wrote.  Spelled exactly the same.  Did you give your youngest brother's birthday as July 1, 1996 or just July 1?  Or July1?

But I also raised the issue of potentially giving hackers even more detailed information about a person.  Think of the recent scam attempts lately where someone calls and says, "We've kidnapped your granddaughter and you need to buy gift cards for $5000 and give us the codes within 30 minutes."  They now can convince grandma with obscure details like her granddaughter's first dog's name, or first car or the street she lived on when she was in elementary school.

Or someone stealing your identity can have that information too.

How much are we willing to pay for convenience?  And is it our convenience or the company's convenience?

I've spent at least three hours of my time dealing just with Costco billing in the last six months - that really isn't convenience.


  1. Steve - I tell people in my Preventing ID Theft presentations that you do NOT have to give the true answer to security questions. Make up words/phrases to use. The cc company/bank doesn’t look for the real answer. It’s just a prompt for a word or phrase that you would remember to give you access.

    1. Excellent point Michelle. And the rep pointed this out to me in our conversation. My response was that the point of these questions was to make it easy to remember the answers and if you make things up, you lose that and then have to add more to your list of passwords. I would guess (no basis whatsoever but hunch) that at least 90% of folks use the true answers. But I should have mentioned this too and thank you for doing so. The moral of the story is to treat these like additional passwords and make up false answers. Thanks.


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