Tired of being nickel and dimed by your bank? There is a new way to bank that can eliminate fees, help you save money, and manage your finances. Meet Chime Bank. This is our Chime Bank review.
What is Chime Bank?
Chime Bank is an online bank. They have no brick and mortar locations which is one of the reasons they can offer nearly fee-free banking to their customers. Chris Britt and Ryan King founded the company in 2013. Chime’s goal is to help people make better financial choices. While traditional banks make money off you, Chime makes money with you.
You can open an account by providing your general information including your e-mail address. Once your information is verified, your account will be approved.
Once approved, you will get your debit card in the mail. You can call the toll free number to activate the card at which time you’ll get your routing and account numbers for your spending account. To open a savings account, you just provide your social security number.
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Chime Bank offers two accounts, checking and savings.
Chime calls their checking accounts “spending” accounts. When you sign up with Chime, you’ll be sent a Chime Visa Debit card that you can use anywhere that accepts Visa (which is nearly everywhere that accepts credit/debit cards).
The card is linked to your Chime spending account; it’s a debit card, not a credit card. You fund your Chime account by direct depositing your paycheck, transfers from other bank accounts, and cash or paper check deposits.
To direct deposit, provide your Chime routing number to your payroll department, and your paycheck is into your spending account. You can transfer money from your current bank online by providing the bank with your Chime routing and account numbers.
Currently, you can only link accounts from Chase, BOA, Wells Fargo, Citibank, US Bank, Fidelity, USAA, PNC, Capital One 360, TD Bank, SunTrust, Navy Federal, and Charles Schwab.
Once the accounts are linked, you can transfer from your current bank to your Chime account. There is a limit though of $200 a day and $1000a month. The funds are available within five business days.
You can also open a savings account with Chime. You will need to do so if you want to take advantage of Chime’s Automatic Savings rewards program. You can transfer funds between this account and your spending account on the site or use the App.
If you opt to have your paycheck direct deposited into your Chime spending account, you can have 10% of it automatically transferred to your savings account. You can’t spend what you don’t see so this is an excellent way to automate saving.
The interest on the account is just .01%, but no one opens a savings account with the goal of earning interest. But having a savings account with Chime means you can earn rewards. More on that below.
The average US household pays $300 a year in bank fees! There are almost no fees when you use Chime. There is no minimum balance, so no fee if you fall below a specific dollar amount, no monthly fees, no overdraft fees and no foreign transaction fees. If you’ve traveled abroad, you know these fees can add up. Each time you use a card with a foreign transaction fee outside the US, you can be hit with a fee of from 1-3% on every transaction.
If you don’t have enough money in your account to cover a transaction, your card will just decline. This avoids paying a $35 fee for a $3.50 can of Cafe Bustelo which happened to me when I first moved to NYC.
If your account falls below $0 and you have money in your Chime savings account, they will debit the money from the savings account to cover the transaction. If you have a negative balance for more than 90 days, Chime will automatically close your account so keep an eye on your balance. Chime makes this easy; you can get daily balance updates and immediate transaction alerts.
Chime only charges two fees. There is $2.50 fee for using an out of network ATM. They have 24,000 ATM’s nationwide that are part of the MoneyPass network. As long as you use one of those, there is no fee. This shouldn’t be a problem. Chase, a big bank, only has 16,000 ATM’s in the US. You can also get fee-free cash back at more than 30,000 locations.
The site and App have an ATM finder. I found an in-network ATM less than a five-minute walk from my apartment. The other fee is a 3% external debit charge; you incur this when you load your card via debit rather than direct transfer.
You can use Chime on your desk or laptop but it’s the phone App that shines, and it works on both iOS and Android. You can set up notifications on your phone for a daily balance update and real-time transaction alerts. You can place a temporary block on a misplaced card through the App.
You can pay bills, send paper checks, and get customer support on the App. You can locate in-network ATM’s if you need cash on the go.
As of this writing, there is no mobile deposit for checks, but it’s coming soon. If you need to deposit a check, you have to use a third party app like Ingo Money, and some of these apps charge a fee.
You can deposit cash at Green Dot locations, and there are 60,000 of them in the US. You can deposit a maximum of $1,000.00 per 24 hours or $10,000.00 per month. Wire transfers are not possible at this time but maybe in the future.
Sending Paper Checks
If you have a bill that can that you must pay the old fashioned way, Chime can send a paper check for you at no cost. You can do it right from the App, and the money is not deducted from your account until the check is cashed.
This can be a bit of a double-edged sword. It’s nice that the money is in your account until the check is cashed, but it means you don’t know when that will be and need to balance your “checkbook.”
There is a limit of $5,000 per transaction or $10,000 per month for the Chime Checkbook, and it takes 3-9 business days for the check to be sent.
Chime doesn’t have brick and mortar locations but when is the last time you went into a bank branch if you had a problem or needed help with something? You can reach Chime customer service through live chat on the app, by phone or e-mail.
How do they Make Money?
If Chime isn’t burdening their customers with fees, how do they make money? Chime makes money when you use the card. Every time you swipe, they earn a small amount on that transaction from Visa.
You can earn money every time you use your Chime card too! Keep reading.
Keep the Change
The Chime card works how a cash back rewards credit card works. You earn instant cash back when you use the card to make purchases from certain retailers in categories like groceries, restaurants, utilities, and entertainment. The categories change, and you can find the current ones on the App. The cash back is deposited into your spending account usually within 24 hours.
If you opted to open a savings account, there are more rewards ahead. Each time you use the card, Chime rounds up to the nearest $1. That money is deposited into your savings account automatically. At LMM we are all about automating your finances as much as possible, and Chime gives you a great way to automate savings painlessly.
Every week you get a bonus of 10% of the total you deposited into savings that week, up to $500 each year. Free money! Name a traditional savings account that pays enough interest to equal $500 a year!
So if your roundups for the week were $8, Chime adds $0.80 to that, and you will see $8.80 in your account that week.
Chime also offers statement credits when you spend with certain retailers much the way American Express does. Some of the offers include $5 back when you donate $25 to the Red Cross.
Chime accounts are FDIC insured up to $250,000, just like traditional bank accounts. The card also has fraud protection through Visa, so you are not responsible for unauthorized charges. Chime cards currently aren’t chipped though which will be a problem if you try to use them in some foreign countries and can pose a problem with some US credit card terminals as well.
We have talked about avoiding fees a lot at LMM, so the fact that there are virtually no fees with Chime is a big pro. While $2 here and $15 there might not seem like a lot to some people, it’s a lot of money for others, and when you don’t have enough money even to meet a regular bank’s minimum balance, you don’t have money to be throwing away.
It’s also partly the principle of the thing. Do you know how much big banks make per year? Billions, tens of billions. And they have the nerve to charge you $15 a month for “maintenance” fees and pay you a small sub 1% interest all the while raking in that kind of money? No!
Chime lets you take back your money and gives you some extra to go along with it.
The other biggie is the rewards. That’s one of the reasons a lot of people don’t use debit cards; there are no perks for doing so; no cash back, no points, no airline miles. I like free stuff, and I chose specific credit cards to get it, so there is no incentive for me to use my debit card for anything other than to take cash out of an ATM which I rarely do since cash is hard to track.
Chime is a rewards card. Not only do you get cash back like you do when you use a card like the Amazon Mastercard, but you also get that 10% bonus too.
Pay Day Comes Early
This is pretty cool! When you have your paycheck direct deposited into your Chime account, it’s processed right away rather than holding it for a period like some banks do.
I prefer chipped cards because they provide an added layer of security. This isn’t a credit card after all where any fraud is immediately not your problem. This is your cash, and if it were to take a few days or longer to clear up any fraudulent charges, you don’t have access to your cash.
Banks are getting better and better at catching fraud, but it can take a few days until the charges are confirmed as fraudulent, and the money is put back into your account. Just use common sense, don’t write your PIN on your card or carry it in your wallet, if you lose your card or if you suspect fraud, notify Chime immediately so they can freeze your account and send you a new card.
There are some transaction limits that may be problematic for some. There is a $5,000 per transaction or $10,000 per month limit from the Chime Checkbook. This probably won’t affect many people, but it’s something to keep in mind. It also takes 3-9 business days for the check to arrive so give yourself plenty of time.
No Joint Accounts
Chime does not offer joint accounts nor a second card for authorized users, but this may change in the future.
No Check Deposits
Not being able to deposit checks via the App is also inconvenient. You have to deposit checks through a third a party app that might charge a fee. Again, mobile deposit is something that Chime will make available soon.
Is it Worth It?
I like Chime. It’s easy to use, and I like the idea of taking my business away from big corporate banks. I also really like the cash back rewards aspect of the card. Lack of rewards is one of the reasons I use credit cards rather than my debit card for nearly all my purchases. I like free money. But if I’m honest, I’m much more cavalier about spending money on credit cards.
It makes spending money seem more real when you spend cash on a debit card. That money is gone from your account in an instant, not a few weeks in the future like when you pay the balance on your credit card, and you can only pay the minimum rather than the whole amount of the damage you did. Chime keeps you honest while giving you some nice rewards.