Is Citibank Judging You for Being Single?

Just because more people are living alone by choice doesn't mean they don't have their share of problems. Add to that possible trouble: Bank accounts. In particular, those privacy questions you're supposed to answer in order to access your account.

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A question that's been coming up pretty regularly in this modern world in which fewer people are marrying, more people are getting divorces, and most who do marry are doing it later in life than ever before, is one of how should the world treat singles, this new near-majority. Eric Klinenberg, NYU sociologist and author of the book Going Solo, has gotten a lot of attention in the past few months for his book's discussion of single people living alone, and how this may no longer be a "phase." He makes the point that only 51 percent of American adults are married, and more than a quarter of all U.S. households consist of just one person—and not only that, they're pretty happy that way. Or at least, reasonably so, when they're not being weird.

But that doesn't mean that unmarried people don't face problems. In February, Maura Kelly asked in the Daily Beast: "Are Unmarried People Discriminated Against?" pointing out that the unmarrieds often have to pay more for health and car insurance, don't get the same tax breaks, and can have trouble buying homes and renting apartments. Add to that possible trouble: Bank accounts. In particular,  those privacy questions you're supposed to answer in order to access your account, well, they can be kind of... judgmental.

Jeff Wilser, a 35-year-old relationship writer and founding editor of The Plunge, a website about engagements (who happens to be unmarried), was on his online Citibank account lately when he noticed something a bit odd: His privacy question options seemed distinctly marital-oriented. He went to his Facebook page to post his response:

Thanks, Citibank, for making us single people feel like failures in life. (First security question: "Where did you go on your honeymoon?" Second security question: "What is your spouse's nickname?" Third question: "In which city did you meet your spouse?") N/A, N/A, N/A. Pass me a bourbon.

He added, after various friends commented, "It gets better. They also have wedding anniversary, spouse's middle name, and college your spouse went to. Very few non-spouse choices. Here's one of the few: 'What is the last name of the funniest friend you know?' Are you effing kidding me? I have lots of funny friends. 9 months from now when I've forgotten my password, you really want me to do an inventory of all my friends, think about who might be the funniest, and then try and spell their last name correctly?"
Relatively small potatoes in terms of single people discrimination, perhaps, particularly since you can go on to craft your own questions, which Wilser did. But still, in a time of almost predominant singles (not to mention, gay marriage that's only recognized in certain states) should a bank being assuming that any person with a bank account is married? In fact, at least half of the people we know with bank accounts—real, bona fide adults—aren't.
Wilser told us he wasn't offended so much as amused. "I was just cracking up. Maybe whoever wrote that has an agenda? For a split second, I felt like, 'Wow, I had not made their cut in a way. Apparently I'm not up to your family standards!' I wouldn't use the word 'discriminate'—maybe they're thinking if you're old and mature enough to have a checking account, clearly you're married. There were 10 options, and 5 or 6 were about that."
Wilser points out that there is something of a social trend separating the married (and the married with children, in particular) from the singles—something childless singles know full well. "You're at work, it's 5 or 6, and you say, 'I need to leave to pick up my son from daycare;' the response is 'Of course, of course.' But you can't say, 'I'm going to go meet my friends in a bar to be social and drink,'" he says. "We implicitly make value judgment."
When Wilser tweeted his concern, the @AskCiti account responded, "I understand your concern. I will make sure to submit your feed back to the proper department. Thank you." Others, including dating columnist Kelly Seal, have weighed in as well...
We've reached out to Citibank for comment and will update with their response.
Image via Shutterstock by pabmap. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.