I Was Almost At The Bus Station When My Ship Came In

So, for years, I’ve been using an Alaska Airlines card to rack up mile so that, whenever we travel, we can get some ridiculously cheap airfares.

And it’s worked great–until a pandemic came along. Then we stopped traveling. So, with almost 100,000 miles waiting to be used, I thought I’d take advantage of Costco’s offer of switching to their VISA card, which would give me rewards cash back.

Oh, I’ve been using this for everything. Xfinity bill? Pay it with the Costco Citi card, then immediately pay the card off. Basically, use it like a debit card, but just make sure to pay it off right away.

I figured my rewards would come to me like the previous Executive Member Rewards and last year, I received a check for $177-ish, which was a kick back on my in-store purchases at Costco. I even lost that check at the store and had to ask for a replacement, which they sent in the mail a couple of weeks later.

I thought that was the end of it.

But then at the end of last year, I got this email that looked about as spammy as they get.

Oh, sure. Who do you think you’re dealing with here, pal? I already got my rebate check, fools. And I’ve never received anything in the $400 club. And what’s with the info4.citi.com address? Oh, I’m not falling for that one.

A week later, the aforementioned rebate check appeared in my inbox:

Uh, well, it looks real. But I don’t have time to deal with this right now. So, I devised a plan: print it out, take it to Costco at some point and see what they have to say about it.

Well, that was in early January. As readers of this blog know, that’s when my world got turned upside down and our downstairs flooded, wiping it all out. I had printed out the coupon and it sat behind my laptop until this past week, when I was heading north to visit a friend. I thought, this is the perfect occasion to just hop into customer service, ask if it’s real and be on my way.

I walked into the Shoreline location, the guy asked me to step forward and I told him the story of this spam-looking coupon. He playfully said, “Oh, one of these,” took it from my out-stretched hand and tucked it underneath the cash in his open till. He continued his dry delivery with someone like, “Yeah, I’d just forget about it, if I were you. I’ll take care of it.”

He then handed me a quarter.

As I stood there wondering what was going on, he grabbed a chunk of bills from his till and started counting out: “20, 40, 60, 80, 100…..” and so on, until he had counted out $438 to go with my new quarter.

“It’s real?” I asked. He replied, “Yup!” I told him, “If I could get through this glass, I’d hug you.”

The spam-looking coupon was authentic. The measly 3% kickback grew to quite the size by using the card to pay for almost everything over the year.

But I couldn’t help but wonder how many other people saw that email come in, viewed it as spam, and never collected their bonus? I wonder if CITI Bank is counting on that happening?

It’s why I felt compelled to tell you about it. I mean, seriously, I almost threw the darn thing out because it wouldn’t have been worth the hassle or embarrassment to take it into Costco and ask.

Search your inbox in late December and early January for CITI, Rewards or Costco and see what shows up. I can’t believe I almost tossed away $400 because of how weary I am about receiving spam. I was this close to being at the bus station when my ship came in.

Tim Hunter

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