Chime is a popular online banking app that has over 14.5 million active users according data to Statista. Users have access banking services like checking, savings and a secured credit card but Chime is not a bank.
Why is Chime Not a Real Bank?
Chime is not a bank because it does not have a banking charter. Chime is considered a “neobank” that operates exclusively online and without physical branches.
A banking charter is a license that is granted by a government agency to a financial institution that allows it to conduct certain activities, such as accepting deposits, making loans, and providing other financial services. If a business does not have a banking charter, it cannot call itself a bank.
Rather than pursuing a banking charter, Chime partners with The Bancorp Bank, N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A to provide FDIC-insured checking and savings accounts, debit and credit cards. Chime does not hold its customers’ deposits; rather it acts as a middleman between the customer and the app’s partner banks.
There are two types of banking charters in the United States: federal and state. Federal charters are granted by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), while state charters are granted by the banking regulatory agency in the state in which the bank is located.
Chime Banking Complaints
The purpose of a banking charter is to protect consumers and ensure that banks are operating in a safe and sound manner. Banks are subject to a variety of regulations that are designed to protect consumers from fraud and other abuses.
Complaints made by bank customers can be submitted and resolved at several different government agencies when a financial institution has a banking charter. Chime customers are limited in the number of agencies that can resolve complaints.
Unfortunately, Chime is fraught with complaints when compared to some the largest real banks in the U.S., for example:
Better Business Bureau Complaints:
- Chime has more than 14.5 million customer accounts with 8,072 complaints closed in last 3 years
- Bank of America has more than 118 million customer accounts with 7,570 complaints closed in last 3 years
- Wells Fargo Bank has more than 68 million million customer accounts with 5,654 complaints closed in last 3 years
- Chase Bank has more than 66 million million customer accounts with 4,411 complaints closed in last 3 years
Chime has far less customers compared to the biggest banks in the U.S. But when it comes to customer complaints, Chime outnumbers the biggest banks.
There are countless stories in newspaper articles, social media like Reddit and X (Twitter) and even local tv news where Chime customers have been denied reimbursement when fraud occurs or Chime unexpectedly closed accounts but failed to reimburse funds to customers. That's a problem when people's money is on the line.
Real Banks like Chime
There are several real banks like Chime if you enjoy free checking, early direct deposit, high-interest savings and free ATMs.
Here is a list of 3 banks to consider as alternatives to Chime:
1. SoFi Bank
SoFi is a real bank operating entirely online that combines a checking and savings account. Customers get free checking with no overdraft fees and over 55,000 fee-free ATMs within the Allpoint® Network. SoFi has a sleek banking app with high ratings.
Where SoFi Bank really shines is if you have direct deposit; for instance, direct deposit customers can get paid up to 2 days early, get a welcome bonus up to $250 for opening a new account and earn 4.60% APY with the SoFi savings account.
2. Quontic Bank
Quontic Bank is an online bank that offers a range of financial products including a high-interest checking, high-yield savings, money market, and several competitive rate certificate of deposit accounts. Based in New York City, Quontic is a recognized community development bank that serves customers nationwide.
It's ideal for customers seeking high-interest accounts, conducting their banking online, and not requiring weekend customer support.
3. CIT Bank
CIT Bank is an online bank that offers a variety of banking products, including checking accounts, savings accounts, and high-yield no-penalty certificates of deposit (CDs).
CIT Bank is known for its competitive interest rates and lack of monthly maintenance fees. However, it is important to note that CIT Bank does not have a free ATM network but reimburses customers up to $30 per month for outside ATM fees and doesn’t charge any ATM fees itself.