What Is Chime Banking?
Chime Bank is an online bank that offers checking accounts and an automatic savings plans with 10% cash back rewards up to $500 every year.
The bank was founded in 2013, according to its LinkedIn profile, under the leadership of co-founders Chris Britt and Ryan King. Britt is the company’s current CEO, while King is Chime’s CTO.
Britt has a lot of experience working in the credit card and prepaid card industry. He was chief product officer and a senior vice president at prepaid card company Green Dot Corporation, as well as a Senior Product Leader at Visa.
King has a lot of experience working IT in Silicon Valley – he was CTO and Vice President of Comcast Silicon Valley from May 2011 to November 2012, according to his LinkedIn profile.
The bank has grown in popularity as Millennials have shunned big banks in search of smaller, online banks who don’t charge fees and function through app-based banking.
“It is an upstart bank account that pitches itself as being built for a more technologically savvy-generation,” a Jan. 2016 Fortune article said. “Unlike big banks, Chime was created during the smartphone era and, therefore, features an app that is more than just a way for customers to review their bank accounts.”
Chime certainly has, from our perspective, brand recognition and relevancy, but what exactly do they offer? Are they really fee-free? What are other people saying about them? These are the topics we’ll cover in this review.
What Does Chime Bank Do? Checking, Savings, App
Chime offers the basics you’d get with a traditional banking experience: checking, savings, and an app. However, as you’ll read, these features have nuances that separate them from big banks.
Chime’s checking accounts are called “Spending” accounts and are purely online. There are no Chime brick-and-mortar stores.
You might be wondering how you deposit money into your spending account if there’s no branch office, right?
At the time of publishing, Chime offered three ways to deposit money into your account: Direct Deposit, ATM deposits, and bank transfers.
Direct Deposit is pretty standard among banks, but Chime says that you might be able to receive your paycheck up to two days early.
Chime gives you a Visa debit card with which you can pay for stuff like groceries or bills, but you can also use it to deposit cash to your Chime account via Green Dot ATMs. If you remember from our introduction, Green Dot is where Chime’s CEO used to work.
According to Chime’s website, you may have to pay fees to do a transaction at a Green Dot ATM.
Chime says that you can deposit money from any of your existing bank accounts into your Chime account for free.
In our opinion, this option is great when you’re starting your Chime account and moving money over, but loses its value the longer you have your traditional bank account open. Your fees will most likely continue and you’ll be defeating the purpose of Chime’s fee-free banking model.
Photo Check Deposits
At the time of publishing, Chime had yet to launch the bank’s photo check deposit function.
Basically, this function allows you to deposit a check simply by signing it and, through your banking app, uploading photos of the front and back of the check.
No Joint Accounts
At the time of publishing, Chime Bank did not offer joint spending accounts.
A Quick Word About Chime Rewards
Chime’s website also indicates that you can earn rewards on certain purchases throughout the year. Six examples of rewards purchase categories on their website include: groceries, restaurants, utilities, internet, entertainment and streaming services.
We called Chime to find out what those rewards rates were and got nowhere. The phone representative repeated what was on the website, but could not explain any of the rewards wording.
Pro tip: In order to set up a Chime spending account, you’ll also need to sign up for a savings account.
Chime Savings Account
Chime’s savings account is one in which you deposit money with what’s known as a “round-up.” If your grocery bill, for example, comes out to $51.63, then Chime automatically deposits $0.37 (the “round-up” to the next dollar).
This is nothing new – Bank of America started a program like this around a decade ago. What’s unique about it, though, is that Chime will give you a 10% bonus on whatever your deposit as the result of round-ups. The cap on this bonus is $500 and bonuses are deposited every week.
The Chime App
You can follow your account, spending, and other data through Chime’s app, which is available for Android and iOS.
The app is, basically, your bank. It’s where you go to check your balance, find out if deposits have arrived in your account and see where your money is going.
Like other banking apps, you can use Chime’s app to find ATMs, conduct transactions and check your balance. The app also notifies you when transactions take place.
The Fine Print: Will Chime Charge You Fees and Are There Limits to What You Can Do?
One of the things we found intriguing is Chime’s claim that banking with them is free. We were also curious about the fine print – would we find something suspicious or disadvantageous?
Chime Bank’s Fees
After reading through Chime’s fine print, we found only one fee: a $2.50 charge for using out-of-network ATMs.
Chime says you’ll definitely be charged $2.50 for withdrawing money and that some financial institutions may charge a fee for checking your balance or attempting a withdrawal without actually withdrawing money.
Here’s how their fine print puts it:
“If you use an ATM not owned by us for any transaction, including a balance inquiry, you may be charged a fee by the ATM operator even if you do not complete a withdrawal. This ATM fee is a third-party fee amount assessed by the individual ATM operator only and is not assessed by us. This ATM fee amount will be charged to your Spending Account.”
Chime’s Fine-Print Limitations
Further reading in Chime Bank’s fine print revealed a series of limits on transactions that would be helpful for you to know about.
Delays on Big Deposits in First Thirty Days
For the first 30 days, you have your account, any check deposits above $5,000 will be split up. The first $5,000 is available the next day, but it could take up to nine days to see the remaining amount in your account.
Limit on Dollar Amount of Checks You Write
Chime puts a $5,000 limit on the payment amounts you can make at one time with a check and a $10,000 limit on all checks written in a month.
Using Another Bank’s Debit Card to Make a Deposit to Chime
You’re allowed to do this three times during your account’s lifetime, with a maximum of $200 a day. If your account is less than 30 days old, you’ll be limited to one transfer of this type.
Chime will not process a payment if it requires more money than what you’ve got in your account. If your account has a negative balance for 90 days, Chime says they’ll close your account.
Debit Card Restrictions
You can do an unlimited amount of Chime debit card withdrawals during any given day, your withdrawal totals will be capped at $500 per day. The same rules apply to getting cash back at a point-of-sale.
Chime says your debit card purchases will be limited to $2,500 per day.
We also discovered that Chime pre-authorizes $75 or more for gas purchases. If your fill up costs more than $75, your card may be declined, Chime says, and you’ll have to go inside to the cashier to pay.
There’s a similar procedure for restaurants, hotels, and car rentals. You’ll be pre-authorized for the transaction amount plus 20%.
So, if your bill at the hotel is $100, Chime will pre-authorize $120 and that amount will be unusable for up to 7 days. This means that if your charge is $120, that amount of funds will be unavailable until the transaction clears.
Pro tip: Chime will send you paper checks if you need them.
Reviews of Chime Banking
There are several different reviews of Chime Banking, but some of them are pretty outdated. We’re going to focus on two more recent reviews, as well as the reviews the Chime Bank app gets in the Google Play and iTunes stores.
Rockstar Finance gives Chime Bank 4.5 stars out of 5, saying the bank is a good fit for “anyone looking for a great (simple) online bank, mixed with features often found in apps, like round-up savings.
The review went on to say that they liked how Chime was fee-free but disliked how the app was only available to residents of the United States.
“If you’re looking for a solid, fee-free bank that helps you save more, Chime is worth the consideration,” the site said.
The College Investor
The College Investor’s review of Chime Bank resulted in 4 stars out of 10 for the fee-free bank. The review’s main complaints were that it wasn’t a good fit for people who use cash, there was no mobile check deposit feature and the bank’s transaction limitations were inconvenient.
“If you have straightforward banking needs, Chime is an excellent bank for you. It’s fee-free. It’s got a built-in savings tool. You can spend money with a visa debit card, pay bills via the mobile Chime Checkbook,” the site wrote. “However, the simplicity has some drawbacks.”
More than 2,800 reviewers on Google Play gave Chime Bank an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars. Nearly 2,000 of those reviews were 5 stars and 240 were 1 star.
A recent review from “Shaneka Howell” gave the app 5 stars and also gave some feedback about Chime, saying she loved the instant transaction notifications and the absence of overdraft fees. However, she said, she faced a long wait time to talk with customer service.
Her experience was similar to ours. The customer service line has limited options, it took five minutes of waiting and working through the menu to talk with someone and, when we did, we were given unhelpful answers.
Our Final Thoughts About Chime Bank
Chime Bank is the prototypical modern-era personal finance tool. It’s purely online platform and fee-free banking are similar to investment apps like Betterment and Acorns that charge miniscule fees for their services.
In that sense, Chime Bank is a great tool for anyone who is comfortable doing all their banking online.
Furthermore, Chime’s 10% bonus up to $500 on money you save is pretty unprecedented. The bank is literally giving you free money, which is usually only done when you sign up for an account and not given as a regular reward.
The downsides to Chime are that you can’t have a joint account and there are spending limits that may hamper the efforts of someone with an above-average income who writes a lot of checks or makes multiple, high-dollar transactions on a daily basis.
If you’re not comfortable doing all your banking online and you want to explore other options, check out our review of Capital One’s 360 checking account. This account, as our review details, doesn’t charge you a fee for using it and has plenty of ATM machines across the country that provide you free transactions, too.