Banking options are more prevalent than ever these days. From traditional accounts to new credit cards offering a slew of free shopping amenities and upgraded travel experiences, 21st-century consumers have more choices than ever.
That’s both good and bad news. While it’s great to have such a wide range of offers, it’s tough to wade through what they all mean—and if they are right for you.
One new option in Chime, one example of a new group of virtual bank-like companies competing for your dollar. But how does Chime work and is it worth an investment switch?
What Is Chime?
Don’t call Chime a bank. It’s not, and it recently was barred from calling itself such. Chime is best described as an American financial technology company that facilitates banking through the Bankcorp Bank or Stride Bank. Rough translation: It’s not a bank in and of its self, but works with outside banks.
Founded in 2013, it boasts about 8 million account holders. Its selling point: simplicity. Chime’s major draw is making banking uncomplicated, featuring one checking account, one savings account, and one secured credit card, an attractive proposition to those carrying multiple cards from multiple banks.
Chime also prides itself on being fee-free, another draw for bank account holders who may struggle to manage or understand the slew of ever-changing fees on different accounts imposed by banks.
How Does It Work?
It’s true: there are no fees associated with the Chime Spending Account, which is what the company dubs its checking account. Chime’s savings account is high-yield, boasting an 0.50% APY with no minimum balance and — yes — no monthly fee. There’s also no cap on the interest you can accrue, and there’s no minimum deposit to start an account.
You won’t be going to a brick-and-mortar bank anytime soon if you join Chime. Chime transactions are all accessible on a mobile app, though it does link to an impressive network of more than 38,000 ATMs. Those are also, you guessed it, fee-free.
The Good and the Bad
Those who love mobile banking, even when using physical checks, will love the ease of Chime. Its app is highly rated, whip-fast, and intuitive. Chime also includes two unique features that are fantastic for those who may struggle with managing their savings.
The Save What You Spend feature is a no-nonsense, round-up-your-purchase option. For example, spend $9.25 at a store and the feature will put the remaining .75 cents into your savings.
For more ambitious savers, the Save When I Get Paid feature sets up a transfer of 10% from your paycheck ($500 or more) from checking to savings.
Speaking of direct deposit, Chime also gives you the option to receive your direct deposit up to two days early, perfect for those regularly in a money crunch between paydays.
Chime’s credit card is more of a mixed bag. In true Chime-style, it’s simple. It can be obtained without a credit check, which is great for those who don’t have a credit history or have a history of bad credit. You can also transfer money from your checking account to your credit card to build credit over time. Another big plus: It charges 0% APR.
The secured credit card is something of a downgrade, though, for those used to more traditional or specialized credit cards. Many will find the simple nature of it refreshing, but for those used to cards such as American Express or Discover, the extra amenities will be lacking.
There are no points to accumulate or travel benefits or rewards, which will seem like a downgrade to many used to a more engaging, rewarding card.
Another drawback: Chime’s Pay Friends mobile program only lets you, well, pay friends who also have a Chime checking account, limiting your power to pay for goods and services quickly and with less fuss.
For those just starting out on their own or attempting to get their spending and savings in check, Chime has a lot to offer. The fee-free approach is extraordinarily appealing, especially for those at constant battle with their bank over accidental or random fees month to month.
The mobile app is one of the best banking apps we’ve used so far, especially among new financial services recently on the market.
But for those who enjoy the experience of more traditional banking — or satisfied with their bank’s fee system or mobile offerings — Chime will feel like a bit of a step back in your financial life.
Image by Artem Beliaikin