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Dear Citizens

No, not my fellow US Citizens, I mean Citizens bank. The bank that has my mortgage, equity line, and regular checking. When I found that my health plan qualified me to open an HSA (Health Savings Account) I was pleased to find that Citizens offered an HSA. Was pleased, as in “Is this really the same bank that I’ve grown to know and love for over a decade?”

It started when I opened the account and tried to fund it. When I set up a payment to my Mastercard or Amex, the Citizens Bill Pay offers me a next day payment. The funds are transferred directly to the other bank, for these cards as well as a number of utilities. When I tried to set up the payment into the HSA it became clear that Citizens was going to cut a check and mail it to another location. This was the first sign that I’d fallen into the rabbit hole.

I wait 3 days, and peek at the account. Day 3 there’s a negative $3.50. They sure know how to charge a fee quickly. Day 5, the deposit is there, and I see it cleared my checking account as well. I go to the HSA bill pay service and request a payment cut to a doctor 3 days later. Just so the money would surely have really cleared the account. Next day, I get an email:

Greetings from Citizens Bank HSA Online!
The following electronic withdrawal from your HSA Funding Account account could not be completed for the following reason:
A status or indicator on your account has blocked the posting of this transaction.
Payee: Doc Name Redacted
Transaction date: 02/05/2014
Transaction amount: $175.00

I call the number and am told by the bill pay department that I have insufficient funds. They can’t see my balance as I realized they are a third party, not part of the bank itself. I call the bank. They tell me nothing is wrong, try the payment again tonight. The next day, another bounce, and another two calls with both bill pay and the main bank. The bank insists nothing is wrong, they see my balance. Bill pay says there’s still an issue.

Last night, after the 4th bounce, I ask the bill pay gal if they’d be willing to conference call with the bank. Sure, but bill pay is 24/7, and the bank is just 9-5. At my request, she adds notes so the agent that answers today will conference in the main bank.


This is the 20 minutes it took me to tell my story a 5th time to another agent. To explain why a conference call was in order. To have her come on the line and say “transferring you now.” No. Conference. Call. 20 more minutes and the Bank agent agrees this needs elevation. He understands that somehow the bank is rejecting the bill pay request for debit. Why did it take me 5 calls and nearly 2 cumulative hours to get someone to agree to elevate? Because they needed to be sure something was wrong. At my expense. How long before I hear back? He doesn’t know. I ask him what reasonable amount of time I should set on my calendar before reminding myself to call in to see that all is well? He can’t say. I tell him if I don’t hear back in 10 days, I wont call, I’ll close the account. He says he understands.

What I don’t mention above – the account comes with 2 Mastercards tied to the HSA. Mine works, my wife’s doesn’t. These are separate calls also going nowhere. I remind myself, this is the same bank that paid me $5,000 to buy $50,000 worth of Visa and Amex gift cards. They know it’s me and they are now having their revenge. Who am I kidding? They can’t hand my $1000 from one account to another, they mailed a paper check. They don’t know me at all. And if they don’t fix this soon, they wont know me even less. I suppose after that rant, I owe you a decent article on HSAs and how they can save you some money on your taxes. Working on it. No, I don’t need ten days.

(Update and Conclusion – After my wife’s card was rejected earlier, I called the main dept last night. This time, the agent advised that my account just got funded the night prior. In other words, even though my account showed a deposit on Feb 3, and my Citizens checking showed the withdrawal on that date, the funds were not available to use until 8 days later. This morning I woke up to see that doctor’s check was cut last night and mailed out. Issue resolved.)

  • Peter February 24, 2014, 9:49 am

    What a big time hassle it caused you! Yeah, it’s pretty annoying to spend minutes to hours calling these phone bankers and getting not a single useful info and being redirected to one department to the other.

  • Travis @debtchronicles February 25, 2014, 7:59 am

    What pain in the behind. It never ceases to amaze me just slow things can move even in today’s electronic age where we all know the technology exists for money, which are just numbers out there “somewhere” associated with a account #, can be moved instantaneously. They can charge your account within a microsecond, but it takes 5-7 business days to refund you when you return something. Glad to hear it eventually worked out.

  • Joe February 25, 2014, 8:44 am

    Thanks for writing in! I’d have accepted the initial delay if only it was clear that my funds weren’t ready. I sell a stock at Schwab, and my account shows whether I can withdraw the funds or use the money for a new purchase. This isn’t rocket science.

  • andrew March 2, 2014, 3:47 pm

    That’s a serious pain in the butt! If only we could get reimbursed for the time we spend on hold with the banks, credit unions and any other company that sees to it that we waste a big part of our day waiting got no good response to our queries.

  • Tahnya Kristina March 5, 2014, 10:29 pm

    There is absolutely nothing worse than bad customer service. It really drives me crazy and I usually fly off the handle. It’s not a cute look but as a former customer service representative I can’t deal with bad (or worse, rude) customer service.

    I am with TD Bank and I absolutely love them. They have great customer service.

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