Chime is a free mobile banking platform. When you sign up for a savings account, you can benefit from microsavings and rewards features every time you use the Chime debit card. The service is perfect for young adults just starting out. However, we had issues linking an external debit card, and customer service response was slow.
Created in 2013 by Chris Britt and Ryan King, Chime is often advertised as a bank for Millennials, but it was designed to cater to anyone who is more comfortable with banking on a smartphone than with a brick-and-mortar institution.
Chime’s spending and savings accounts and free Visa debit card are supported by the Bancorp Bank, a finance industry leader that’s insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). So you get the support of a big bank but none of the fluff and fees.
How Chime Bank Works
Chime was designed to work as a user’s primary bank. So customers are encouraged to allow direct deposit. However, there’s no harm in using Chime as a secondary bank and using other methods of deposit. (See below.)
To get the most out of Chime, you must have a smartphone that is capable of downloading the app (available for Android and iPhone).
Getting started is easy. It takes only five minutes. You’ll need to provide your Social Security number, birthdate, address and a secure password and have your smartphone handy to complete the signup process.
Once you’re logged in, if you want to use direct deposit, you can print out or download the information your employer needs to direct your paychecks to Chime.
If you decide to forego the direct deposit option, you can send money to your spending account >using the following methods:
- Direct bank linking by which you log into your external account using the Chime app.
- External bank link using your Chime routing and account numbers at your current banking platform.
- Depositing through Green Dot retailers. (Green Dot is a prepaid card company.)
- Using an external debit card. (This must be a U.S.-based debit card, and you are allowed only three transfers unless you enable direct deposit.)
- Wire transfers.
After signing up, any interactions with your account can be done through the mobile app. These include activating your new debit card, transferring money between accounts, opening a savings account or getting help. There is an online version at Chimebank.com, but features may be buggy and limited.
Visa Debit Card
After your spending account is approved, you automatically get a free Chime Visa debit card that is mailed within 10 business days.
The Chime debit card is linked to your spending account. Use your debit card anywhere in the U.S. that accepts Visa.
If you need cash, there are more than 24,000 free ATMs through Chime’s partner MoneyPass, a surcharge-free ATM network provider. Find the nearest in-network ATM using the Chime app.
You can also get cash during checkout at participating merchants like Walmart, CVS, Target, Whole Foods and Safeway, to name a few.
Chime’s Bank Spending Account
Chime’s spending account is a basic checking account without paper checks or an interest rate.
If you need to send someone a paper check, use Chime Checkbook. Through the app, go to your account to pay a bill and fill out the on-screen information, and Chime will process it for you by mailing a physical check to your recipient within three to nine business days. This service is free.
Manage your funds, analyze your spending, transfer money between internal and external accounts and view all your transactions from the mobile app.
Your Visa debit card is linked to your spending account. It makes buying whatever you need and paying for bills online super-easy.
There’s no minimum balance for a spending account.
Savings Account and Microsavings Bonus
Chime has an Automatic Savings Program that pays. When you first sign up for Chime, you’re signing up for only a spending account. If you wish to take advantage of Chime’s unique microsavings feature, you’ll need to sign up a second time. You will need to again give Chime your name, birthdate, address and Social Security number.
Having a savings account gives you access to the Automatic Savings Program (ASP). Every time you make a purchase using your Chime debit card, the ASP rounds up the purchase amount to the nearest dollar and saves that money into your savings account. (This is similar to how Qapital’s Round Up rule works.) You get unlimited round ups each month.
Chime Savings Account
Chime’s savings APY is nothing to write home about. Chime shines more when it comes to its automatic microsavings feature. However, here are the specific details for the traditional savings account:
If you have direct deposit going into your spending account, you can activate your savings account to automatically transfer 10% of your paycheck into savings.
Chime Cash-Back Rewards
As if round ups and weekly bonuses weren’t enough, you can also take advantage of Chime’s cash-back rewards program when you use your debit card to pay bills to participating utility companies and sponsored retailers.
Rewards are frequently updated and may feature a particular retailer like Pottery Barn or a general category such as restaurants. This works like cash-back rewards you see on credit cards or savings apps like Ebates and Swagbucks.
Split the Bill
Another helpful feature is Split the Bill. Split utility bills with roommates using your mobile app. Go Dutch on a dinner date. Or go halfsies on movie night. Chime will send a text message to the recipient with a link for them to pay you back using Venmo (a free digital wallet owned by PayPal) or via their own Chime account if they have one.
Customer Service Support
The fastest way to contact customer support is through the mobile app. However, it may take two to five days for someone to respond. Email is available, but it will take longer for someone to email you back.
Chime Bank Fees
Chime is dedicated to “empowering people to lead healthier financial lives.” They promise this by not relying on customer fees. Instead, Chime makes money from Visa every time customers use their Visa debit card for purchases.
There is no fee for minimum balances, transfers or overdraft. The only time Chime charges a fee is when you use an out-of-network ATM or try to get cash back at checkout from a non-participating retailer.
If you do incur a fee, Chime will take the money out of your spending account up to the remaining balance in your account, sending your balance to zero if applicable.
Currently, there is no overdraft protection, so if you try to make a purchase without sufficient funds in your spending account, your transaction will be declined (unless the merchant forces a charge similar to the way gas stations do or when you leave a tip on your restaurant receipt after paying for the bill).
There is no minimum balance for spending or savings accounts. However, there are transfer, paper check and cash-back limitations:
- Bank transfers via Chime — $200 per day, $1,000 per month.
- External bank transfers to Chime — See your external bank for limits.
- Green Dot — $1,000 every 24 hours.
- Chime Checkbook — Amounts are limited to $5,000 per check. Sending a check is completely free.
- External U.S.-based debit card — $200 per day, $25 minimum per transaction. (Note: if you do not participate in direct deposit, you are allowed only three external debit card transfers for the life of your Chime account. Otherwise, external debit card transfers are unlimited).
Pros and Cons
- No Fees — The only fee you’ll ever pay is for out-of-network ATM withdrawals.
- Visa Debit Card — You’ll receive a Visa debit card that can be used wherever Visa debit cards are accepted.
- Automatic Savings — Allow Chime to automatically “round up” money to deposit in your savings account. You can also have 10% of every paycheck automatically deposited into your savings account.
- ATM Network — Although Chime has no physical branch locations, you can make withdrawals fee-free at more than 24,000 ATM locations.
- Awkward External Debit Linking — To link an external debit card, Chime requires you to send a picture of both the front and the back of your card. This is an odd and unsecured way to link.
- Slow Customer Service — It takes an average (based on personal experience) of two to five business days for someone to respond to messages via the mobile app.
- Limited Banking Features — Chime allows only one spending and one savings account.
If you’re looking for a fee-free, mobile bank with simple features that can help you save and earn extra money, then Chime is worth the try.
If you need more robust banking features like automatic bill pay, physical checks, interest-bearing accounts or the option to have more than one checking and/or savings account, then Chime is not for you. Similar mobile banks such as Ally, Simple and Capital One 360 can offer you free, robust banking features but without a microsavings and rewards program.
Chime is designed for younger adults without complicated financial situations. But anyone who is looking for simple mobile banking and a microsavings app rolled into one can benefit from Chime.