Hallelujah! Citi Fixes Magnetic Strip Placement On Premier & Prestige

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This is probably the most minor of minor complaints, but if you have the Citi Prestige® Card or the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card you’ve probably had to explain the location of the magnetic strip on more than one occasion.

Or every time you use the card, which has been my experience.

The sleek design of the card means that unlike every other swipe-capable card ever, the magnetic strip isn’t on the upper back of the card:


Instead, the “stripe” is actually on the bottom of the front of the card.


As a very shy introvert, having a conversation about credit cards with every purchase isn’t my cup of tea, so the Citi ThankYou cards have been getting pushed further and further into my wallet. That’s unfortunate, as the cards have some fabulous bonus categories, and ThankYou points have tangible value to me for flights on American.

So I was quite excited to see the post from Doctor of Credit noting it was possible to request redesigned versions of both cards, with magnetic strips on the back, effective today.

Requesting a card with a relocated strip

Citi isn’t promoting this option on their site as far as I can tell, so I called the number on the back of my Citi Prestige Card and asked to speak to an agent. As with nearly everything in my life, the first agent I spoke to was lovely, but had no clue what was going on:

Me: Hi! I heard y’all are offering a new version of this card with the magnetic strip on the back — can I request one of those please?

Friendly agent in South Dakota: Gosh, that would be great — we’ve received a lot of feedback about that stripe placement. However, I don’t believe that’s an option at this time. Let me check with a supervisor just in case if you don’t mind holding?

Me: Of course, thank you!

Friendly agent in South Dakota: Thanks for your patience. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like that’s an option at this time, but I will make a note of your feedback. Hopefully that’s an option soon though.

Me: Okay, thanks for checking. Though are you sure there isn’t an option to request a new card? I believe this just started today…

Friendly agent in South Dakota: Well, I’m not saying there isn’t, but I’m a manager and I haven’t heard of it. I’ll make a note and escalate this though, because we do appreciate your feedback.

Me: Sounds good, thanks!

Obviously this isn’t a huge deal, though as I put my headphones away my husband (who was driving), asked “Aren’t you going to hang up and call back? You always hang up and call back!”

I explained that it probably wasn’t worthwhile in the middle of the night on a Sunday, as staffing is generally limited anyway, and if managers aren’t getting the memo it’s probably best for everyone to just wait and let the information percolate a bit.

So imagine my surprise when the phone rang a few minutes later (I mean, it’s always a surprise when my phone rings, but even more so in this case):

Friendly agent in South Dakota: Hi, Mrs. Funk? I just found the memo referencing the card update, so if you’d like I’d be happy to request a new version of the card for you.

A quick address verification and we were all set, and a set of cards with the strip on the back like nature intended are on their way to me.

Bottom line

This is a very small thing, so I actually find it impressive that Citi has responded so quickly to customer feedback. Of course Citi should be motivated to remove obstacles to using their cards, but what should happen and what actually happens are often not the same.

I am legitimately excited to be using these cards more often now. I’ve been using the Citi Prestige Card and the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card for internet purchases and times where I can swipe the card myself, which means I’ve been using less-preferred cards in other situations.

And having an agent call me back with the right answer was a super nice way to end my Sunday!

Has anyone else been annoyed by the magnetic strip placement on these cards? Will you be requesting a replacement?

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  1. With the rollout of chip readers it should become rarer to need to swipe let alone hand anyone your card. I actually like the layout of the back and don’t mind the stripe on the front.

  2. Amen! I dislike saying “stripe is on the front” every time I use my prestige. I can’t believe they thought hiding a magnetic stripe on the front of the prestige card was a good idea. As my teenage son would say, “Epic Fail Citi!”

  3. Wow man… I mean, this goes even beyond FIRST world problems. You “can’t” use a credit card because the stripe isn’t where you believe it should be? Card still swipes, doesn’t it?

    IMO, not already having chip + PIN on every card is a MUCH bigger issue.

  4. People who don’t think this was a problem clearly didn’t try to use the card frequently. The Prestige card was actually my primary card until last fall when I received the horribly redesigned version. I literally had to explain where the placement of the strip was every time I used it domestically… and in Asia and Europe, I had to explain where the chip was 9/10 times because people just seemed to not see it, even when I handed the cards with chip side up.

    What might be easier than calling to get a replacement is tweeting the social media team at Citi at @AskCiti on Twitter. I received a prompt reply (in the affirmative, that yes, a new card design is available), and after privately providing my phone number, received a call back from a knowledgeable person who placed the order.

  5. Oops you’ve given the game away now – Ben will realise you’ve been using his card to charge all your flight purchases 😉

    I’m personally more shocked that in 2015 a US financial services company has actually managed to issue a card WITH A CHIP! 😀 Don’t worry, I’m sure it’s with signature rather than PIN though 😉

    I genuinely can’t remember the last time I swiped a card, even Chip+PIN is relatively rare, I’m so use to tapping and paying with NFC, pretty much every card in Australia and most in the UK have it now!

  6. This is a standard running joke I have when I run the card and it ends up being me talking about how Smith in product design got his superiors wasted and then dropped the idea into the conversation. 95% fail rate for usage. Time to cancel the card now anyway but it’s been a hilarious exercise.

  7. While using the Citi Prestige card, it has received a lot of negative comments from vendors. “That’s weird. I’ve never seen that before.” “Why would they want to do that?” And one time, the employee at a diner was so confused with the card, even after pointing where the strip was (as I always point out to be helpful), she said it wasn’t working, so I had to use another card. The card worked fine at a different vendor the next transaction. First world problem or “beyond”, it’s still a design issue. Will be calling Citi for the new card.

  8. I think their are two types of credit card consumers:
    Type A are the people who want other people to be wowed when they present their AMEX Platinum or similar card. This is the target audience for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi Premier/Prestige. By having a conversation starter every time they pay, they draw more attention to themselves and have an automatic talking point. For Type A, having to explain how to use the card is the point. It draws attention to the fact that they have a special unusual card.
    Type B people are probably more like Tiffany and many of the other people who play this game. They care about rewards and maximizing points while not drawing too much attention. People who MS do this to the extreme. They just want to do their business without drawing any unnecessary attention. I’m definitely Type B. Give me a nice regular card and I’ll be fine. The Chase Freedom is a good example of basically a perfect card design for a Type B credit card person.

    I have noticed that I can tell when I am in areas that have lots of people who play this game. The cashiers instantly know how to swipe the card.

  9. I’ve had Citi products for years, and they’ve consistently “tweaked” their designs to be “unique” in some way. Sometimes it’s simple, like the design on the Citi Forward, which was unique when it was released (and they made much hay of that, I might add). Other times, it’s been that the back of the card was upside down, so instead of flipping it horizontally around your finger to read the CVV (like every other card ever), you had to flip it vertically over (otherwise your text was upside down). The Prestige design is just a natural progression of this (they had to one-up the Sapphire Preferred somehow!).

    I’m not sure if it’s a way to draw in people with unique card designs, or an attempt to give people a conversation starter by making cashiers work harder; it’s probably some combination of the two.

  10. Was in Tokyo. Popeye’s Beer Club could not properly swipe the card no matter how much I tried to explain where the mag stripe was. I assumed Citi had frozen the card and used a different card to pay. I used the Citi card the next day with no problem and without contacting them. Looked online and didn’t see any temporary authorizations for Popeye’s on it.

    So yea, banks trying to be creative with their card designs do little more than annoy customers and in this case lose out on actual business.

  11. IMHO people complaining about “First World Problems” is a major First World Problem. 🙂

    Using this card in Europe last Summer, it was constantly annoying that cashiers would swipe it the wrong way 5 or 6 times, and tell me my card wasn’t working, before I could convince them to turn the card over. I will absolutely be requesting a card with a normal design.

  12. I love using the Premier card, and I think it’s very interesting that we have taught ourselves to look at the front of the card or the numbers to determine which direction to swipe rather than looking for the actual strip. Seems a bit inefficient, doesn’t it? 🙂

  13. So far the Citi Agent, Account Manager, and Senior Account Manager have told me this is impossible unless I remove the PIN.

  14. I get that the stripe placement is an annoyance for certain customers, so it’s good of them to offer a “normal” version. Honestly, what I really want is chip and PIN so I can use it at automated kiosks in Europe. Trains/ public transit never take the chip/signature cards.

  15. Absolutely will be switching my Premier and Prestige!! Premier has become my go-to card for pretty much everything given its fixed value and literally earns 2 or 3 points/$1 on everything I use cards for. Literally EVERYWHERE I use it at, I have to explain it to the person. Tired of it.

  16. When trying to be innovative goes entirely wrong…

    SUCH a hassle with my Premier card. I use my Double Cash more because of this design problem.

  17. good information! If you’re curious, you can see on the back (or really front) of the card that it was manufactured in Pennsylvania by a company called Gemalto.

  18. >>>As a very shy introvert,<<< Are you sure that is the problem? I consider myself a shy California introvert too, but the credit card can be kind of a conversation starter with the merchant. I've never had it be anything other than a friendly exchange.

    Nevertheless, it sure is nice to hear that Citi is listening. Getting a call back from the CSR? For real? I've long avoided my Citi cards because their customer service was noticeably inferior to Chase and Amex. Maybe I'll have to rethink that now.

    There is one good thing from this: it shows Citi is trying with their card designs. There are too many atrocious card designs out there, Citi Doublcash being the worst, so it is nice to see Citi making an attempt to design better cards, even if this one failed. Yeah, in this particular case, whoever decide to put out cards with the mag stripe on the front should've been fired the instant the complaints started rolling in. I cannot believe any consumer testing got positive feedback.

  19. @ Joseph N. — You’re assuming that starting a conversation with the merchant is a positive thing for me 😉

    Citi customer service has been delightful for at least the past 14 months. Have had equally poor experiences in the past, but they seem to be getting much better lately.

  20. With Apple Pay, carrying a card with magnetic strip is soon to be obsolete. 😉 All online purchases do not matter. I don’t find it an issue at most stores since you can either swipe the card or insert it card by yourself at credit card terminal even if they don’t use Apple Pay. But yes, I do need to tell waitress how to swipe the card correctly at restaurants. That’s pretty much the only places that requires someone else swipe the card now a days.

  21. Both the stripe and the chip are on the wrong side of the card. Do you know if the chip has been moved to the front? (I’ve used the card in both the US and Europe, and found the chip placement to be more challenging to merchants than the stripe placement. Maybe it has something to do with everyone speaking the same language :-). )

  22. Our long national nightmare is over.

    Thank you, seriously, for pointing this out. I immediately dialed for a replacement. They said all replacements are getting the new design so if you want you can even just tell the roboprompter “replacement card” rather than having to have a friendly conversation with someone in South Dakota.

  23. @Uaphil although the chip is still on the opposite side to the magstripe, so it’s just that they’ve flipped the whole front/back design, not the relative layout of chip vs stripe. Normally you put the card in yourself so chip up and first into the machine would still work fine. If they’d built NFC in (as I mentioned before) then it’d be even less of an issue!

  24. For those of you lampooning this post, you REALLY have no idea how much of a pain the Prestige card is to use. It’s even worse with automated ticket machines of any shape or size; you have to mentally translate the swipe image on the machine to the Prestige card, and know you have to flip the card over and rotate it 180 degrees.

    Tiffany, thank you so much for posting, and ignore the idiots who don’t have this otherwise excellent card.

  25. Somewhere out there is a cashier who finally got the hang of the older style. When he encounters this new design, it’s going to drive him nuts.

    @Mark G.: Incidentally, Gemalto happens to be one of the world’s largest manufacturers of credit cards, SIM cards, passports, and the like.

  26. This was a MAJOR pain in the behind for me cuz all over Europe, 9 out of 10 times the persons were puzzled and can’t figure out where the darn chip is and where the magstripe is. They are used to holding the card in a certain way expecting to see the chip but in fact their thumbs block the chip. Then they start looking for the magstripe on the back but “nada”… Almost every time I had to point out the location of both. Those who never really knew how the chip works, automatically inserts the card incorrectly with the chip upside down then complains it’s not working…. darn Citi!

  27. The magnetic strip should remain in the front. I luv having the magnetic strip in the front and I like explaining where the magnetic strip is. I swipe a lot and it is not an issue having the strip in the front. People find it intriguing and like seeing something different. Citi did a great job in designing the original card with the strip on the front. Original, sets it apart from the other cards as it should because it is Prestige.

  28. Having the strip on the front is fine for us over-entitled, over-intelligent elites, especially when we can swipe the card ourselves. But some cashiers simply do not get it. For one purchase, no matter what I tried, I could not get the cashier to insert it the right way….finally had to use a different card for the purchase.

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