The free iPhone that nearly cost me full price

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free iPhone citi att access more credit cardCitibank’s AT&T Access More card has an excellent but unusual signup offer.  Instead of points or cash back, you get a new phone.  The deal requires having (or getting) AT&T wireless service, so its best for those who are already with AT&T, or want to be.  In my case, my family is on AT&T’s mobile share plan, so the deal makes a lot of sense for us.

I had occasion to make use of the deal recently when my niece mentioned that she was planning to get a new iPhone.  Her birthday was coming up, so I told her to hold off just in case she were to get a nice birthday present.  And, by the way, I asked her, exactly what model and color iPhone would you want if you got one?

My first step in securing her birthday present was to sign up for the AT&T card.  After activating the card, a link appeared on my account to purchase a phone.  The idea is that cardholders can go through that link to buy a phone and, after meeting the card’s $2,000 minimum spend requirements, they’ll get a credit applied to their account, up to $650.apple-iphone 6s plus 128gb-rose gold-964x750

The phone purchase and minimum spend requirements

My niece’s new iPhone cost $850 before taxes, so I knew I wouldn’t get all of the money back, but I didn’t mind springing for the difference.  It’s great that the cost of the phone actually applies towards the card’s minimum spend requirement and the purchase earns 3X ThankYou points.  I quickly finished the rest of the $2,000 minimum spend requirement with a few miscellaneous purchases and a couple of Nationwide Buxx card reloads (this was before Nationwide limited reloads to $200 at a time).  I thought I was all set.

The waiting is the hardest part

In early January, I noticed that I still had not received a statement credit for the phone.  I called to ask about it.  The agent I spoke with verified that I had met the minimum spend requirement, and then told me that it can take two or more statement cycles before the account is credited.  In other words, I had to wait.

Fortunately, someone at Citibank is seriously on the ball.  I received a letter about a week later telling me that they were following up from my call.  After investigating, they found that my Buxx card reloads were financial transactions that did not count towards the card’s minimum spend requirements (for the record, note that I did earn points for those transactions and was not charged a cash advance fee).  The letter went on to tell me the exact amount I still had to spend, and the exact date by which that spend was required.  I had about two weeks remaining.  Thank you Citi for proactively sending me that letter!

For the next two weeks, the AT&T card became my primary card for all purchases.  I finished off the final bit of the spend requirement by making a few Kiva loans.  Not only was this easy and convenient, but also I was curious if Kiva would somehow count as online retail or travel so that it would earn 3X points (it didn’t).

Still no credit, but a great phone agent

After really meeting the minimum spend requirement, I hoped to see my $650 credit appear with the next statement close.  It didn’t.  I called again.  The agent I spoke with was great.  He told me that he wanted to investigate to see what was going on, but he didn’t want me to have to wait on the phone.  So, he verified my phone number and told me that he would call me back.

A few hours later, he called just to let me know that he was still working on it.  He didn’t want me to think he had forgotten about me.  Then, a few hours after that, he had the answer for me.  Apparently, that link that I clicked to buy the new phone is supposed to work a bit like a shopping portal.  Tracking information is sent to AT&T along with the click, and when you buy a phone, AT&T reports the transaction back to Citibank (AT&T probably pay’s Citi a commission for the sale, too).  Anyway, in my case, the tracking didn’t work.  The agent didn’t know why it didn’t work, but said that it happens often.

$650 credit finally received

The solution was for me to dig out my email confirmation of the phone purchase and mail or fax it to Citibank along with my name and account number.  I used FaxZero to fax the information since I gave up my fax machine sometime last century.  Two days later, I received the following secure message from Citibank:

Thank you for contacting our Customer Service Team. We have credited your account $650.00 for the AT&T Access more card. If you have any questions or are in need of further assistance, please call us at 1-855-488-6642…

Yahoo!  Strangely, it took another two days for the credit to actually appear in my account.  The important thing was that it did appear… Finally.

Wrap Up

As you can see from my experience, things can go wrong when trying to secure the AT&T card’s signup bonus.  If you used the card for any financial-ish transactions, you may need to confirm with Citi that you have really met the minimum spend requirements.  And, if you still don’t get the credit, check with them to see if they have a record of your phone purchase.  If not, you may want to dust off your fax machine Smile.

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