Why These Guys Switched to an Online Bank No One’s Ever Heard of
Banks are not the most popular businesses in the world these days. That’s putting it kindly.
Two of the top five most-hated companies in America last year were well-known banks, with Wells Fargo and Bank of America inviting the ire of customers.
Think of your last interaction with a big bank.
I tend to avoid them whenever possible. I know I’ll be stuck on hold with customer service for 45 minutes, waiting to speak to someone who definitely can’t answer my question about the unexpected “maintenance fee” that showed up in my statement.
It’s enough to make you want to stick your money under a mattress… but you know that’s a terrible solution.
Thankfully, a few smart companies have become privy to everything we hate about traditional banks, and they’re starting to offer solutions.
Modern institutions are popping up with online bank accounts seemingly designed in direct response to every complaint we’ve ever had about our traditional banks.
Why Open an Online Bank Account?
Lee Best opened a spending and savings account with Chime on a co-worker’s recommendation. He’d been venting over the proverbial water cooler about his existing bank, and the co-worker suggested the company, which Best had never heard of.
“He spoke so highly of Chime and his experience with them,” Best said, “I decided to check them out. I have been highly satisfied ever since!”
Is Your Money Safe in an Online Bank Account?
Skeptics often worry about the security of an online bank account whose name they don’t know. Something about a brick building with a literal vault inside makes you feel like your money is safe.
To mimic vault-like security online, Chime partners with The Bancorp Bank to offer FDIC-insured accounts — just like your existing bank — and it uses a huge fee-free ATM network.
Chime issues a Visa debit card, which offers protection against unauthorized transactions. Its website and app use 128-bit encryption, two-factor authentication for password protection, as well as Touch ID login to keep your digital information safe.
Eliminate the Inconveniences of Traditional Banks
Samuel Demeny switched from Wells Fargo to Chime to get away from unnecessary fees and restrictive daily spending limits.
The move is already paying off.
When we spoke, Demeny’s sister and her dog were visiting for a couple of weeks, and the poor pup had recently visited the vet.
Demeny’s sister found herself at the vet’s office without a way to pay the $700 bill — not what you want to deal with when you already have a sick pooch. She had the funds in her account, but her card was declined “because of the daily spending limit at her credit union,” Demeny said.
Luckily, he was able to step in and cover the cost with his Chime card. “It was nice that I was able to pay for it right then and there without having to call my bank.”
If he’d still been with Wells Fargo, he’d have been stuck with a $300 limit and an annoying wait on the phone with customer service to raise it.
Though online-only banking is still new and unfamiliar for a lot of people, both Best and Demeny have been pleasantly surprised by their experiences using Chime.
Here’s why they say it works better for them than their old (more well-known) institutions.
1. Save Money Without Thinking About It
One of the most attractive things about this online bank account, both guys said, are the automatic savings options.
Demeny is using both of Chime’s “Automatic Savings” options to build a nest egg — one option is to save every time he spends, and another feature lets him save every time he gets paid.
The app rounds up his Chime card purchases to the nearest dollar and moves the digital change to his savings account. He likes that he doesn’t have to think about these savings, and he doesn’t notice them absent from his budget.
In nine months, he’s saved $800 this way.
He also recently activated Chime’s option to stick 10% of every paycheck into savings. He’s already stashed $450 from three paychecks.
He and his boyfriend Thomas will use the savings for a move to Seattle.
“It’s just so hot down here,” he said of his current home in Houston, Texas. “I want to move up north.”
Demeny and Thomas visited Seattle two years ago and fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. They look forward to calling the area home eventually.
When they move, they’ll be able to put their savings toward all those little moving expenses that add up — like down payments on furniture — instead of using credit cards.
“We can pay for a lot of things up front, because we both use Chime, and the money’s saved,” Demeny explained.
2. Enjoy Great Customer Service (Without Getting on the Phone)
While Demeny’s been able to convert a lot of friends to Chime, his boyfriend Thomas was a harder sell, he said. Thomas had reservations about using an online-only bank account.
Who would he go to with questions?
But Demeny showed Thomas a few chat logs with Chime’s customer service and explained how simple it was to send a message through the app when he had a question
“Their customer service is top-notch,” Demeny said. “… You can send a text message and within 10 or 15 minutes have a response. With Wells Fargo, it was, like, two or three days.”
Best agreed. Chime reps are “always professional, polite and knowledgeable” he said.
Demeny’s enthusiasm for the company is simple. “The people working for Chime just seem happier, like they like their jobs more.”
3. Get Your Paycheck up to 2 Days Earlier Than Your Co-workers
“I receive my direct deposit a day earlier than all my co-workers who use other banks,” Best said. “I receive mine Wednesdays; they get theirs on Thursdays.”
Demeny gets his paycheck two days ahead of his co-workers — on Wednesday instead of Friday.
Unlike most financial institutions, Chime doesn’t wait to give you access to your money until your pay date. It adds money to your account as soon it receives notification from your employer and immediately posts the funds to your account.
“The fact that I’m paid on Wednesday versus Friday… helps me budget before the weekend even starts,” he explained, “so … I can set up my plans accordingly without overspending.”
4. No Hidden Fees to Use Your Account
Demeny cited fees as one big reason he left Wells Fargo after opening a Chime account. He was paying $25 a year just to keep his checking account active and would’ve had to pay another $45 a year to add a savings account.
“I don’t want to have to pay to keep a bank account open, especially if I have money in it,” he said.
Chime, in comparison, charges no monthly fees (and has no minimum account balance), no overdraft fees and no foreign transaction fees.
ATMs are fee-free at MoneyPass locations. Demeny uses the ATM at a local Walmart, about a 10-minute drive from home.
On those rare occasions when there’s no fee-free ATM nearby, the app also helps him find businesses where he can get cash back at check out, like a nearby grocery store.
5. Earn Money for Telling People Why You Love Chime
Demeny is an Apple sales associate by day, but he doesn’t rely on salesmanship to convince friends and co-workers to try Chime.
“I don’t feel like I’m upselling a product,” he said. “I feel like I’m talking very happily about something, because I feel for it. It is a lovely bank [account].”
Lucky for him, Demeny can get paid for those he “happily” converts.
6. Do Your Banking From Anywhere
“The app is user friendly and convenient,” Best said.
Demeny echoed that sentiment, mentioning several times how easy the Chime app is to use. Signing up took just a few steps, and he received his debit card in the mail in four or five days.
You can also link an existing bank account and transfer money back and forth with the Chime app. Once you have direct deposit set up, you can use Chime’s mobile check deposit feature to deposit paper checks via the app.
If you ever need to mail a paper check for those old school payments like your monthly rent, you can enter the payment info into the app, and Chime will cut a check and mail it for you.
Dana Sitar is a writer and editor at The Penny Hoarder. Say hi and tell her a good joke on Twitter @danasitar.