False advertising on Citi credit card rewards

I’ve had a Citi Forward credit card for a couple years now, without any problems. I earn 1 point per dollar on most purchases, but 5 points per dollar on “entertainment” including bookstores and eating out (the main ways I get that credit, since I can’t stomach the prices at movie theaters, and who goes to a video store anymore?).

Enter the problem. I bought a Nook touch screen reader as soon as they were available for pre-order; so I made a purchase of around $150 from Barnes & Noble. You know Barnes & Noble, right? Big store, lots of books, some calendars and journals and magazines, cafes in some of the stores. Bookstore, right? It’s right there in the name, on the front of every store: Barnes & Noble Booksellers.

Well, according to Citi, they’re not a bookstore. Say what?

Unmentioned anywhere in the reward program terms and details is a crucial little fact: Citi only counts a merchant as a bookstore if it tags itself with the merchant code “5942 — Book Stores.” But there’s another bookseller code available to merchants, “5192 — Merchandise–Books, periodicals, and newspapers.” You guessed it: the second code is the one Barnes & Noble uses.

So Citi is refusing to credit its customers with category bonus points for purchases made at Barnes & Noble, because according to them, Barnes & Noble is not a bookstore. I have called them on bullshit; we’ll see if they respond any more helpfully than they did in Round 1.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking it might be time to switch to Chase or Capital One. Fun note: in looking at reviews, it appears that all brick & mortar banks are “the worst ever possible in the history of the universe ZOMG!!!

(Okay, that’s not a strictly verbatim quote, there, but I think it captures the essence of many of the calmer reviews. 😉 )

Update, July 5: Citi’s customer service has replied, this time saying that they are crediting me with the more than 600 bonus points for my B&N purchases. My threat to close my account may have had something to do with that. Presumably, they will continue not to count B&N as a bookstore; they didn’t say otherwise, so I don’t see why they would correct their policy. I may switch to Chase anyway; Capital One is a no-go, as they refused to answer me by email when I asked whether cash back and gift card redemptions get the same 100 miles = $1 rate as travel expenses.

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