This is the third and final article in my series comparing Citi and Chase Checking accounts. To recap: since I have my mortgage with Citi, I was able to sign up for their mid-level Citibank Account Package and avoid fees. With Chase, I signed up for their lowest level Chase Total Checking and maintained a $1,500 balance to avoid fees. Since I use Ally as my primary banking source, I’m really only looking at Citi and Chase as a secondary banking option for whatever emergencies might come up.
Even the highest level gold and platinum checking accounts with Citi and Chase are worse than the basic account packages offered by Ally and ING. But I know a lot of people who still bank primarily with the big brick and mortar banks(I still don’t know why). The thing that sold me on Ally originally was the free ATM fees. With Ally/ING you pay absolutely no ATM fees on their side and the ATM’s side. I still have friends who let ATM’s determine their social schedule: “Let’s go to this bar because there’s a Chase ATM nearby.” Not me though, I can pull out money freely wherever and whenever, even those mysterious 2 am $15 ATM fees in Vegas are covered 😉
Product Comparison/Services – Winner: Chase
I was able to get Citi’s mid level checking package since I have my mortgage with them but there really aren’t a ton of benefits that come with it. Chase had a nice check ordering think a basic checking account with either bank is sufficient. But since most of my friends bank with Chase, it was very convenient to become part of their Quickpay service and start collecting debts instead of waiting until later and forgetting about them.
Chase also seems to have branches and ATM’s everywhere I go so they are definitely more convenient than Citi in my opinion.
Customer Service – Winner: Tie
I initially had some problems with Citi’s customer service via their secure message form but once I contacted them on Twitter, they were very quick and helpful in resolving my issues. Like I mentioned in my Chase review, I still don’t know why Chase initially closed my checking account and forced me to verify my ID at a branch. But nonetheless, the banker I worked with in branch was very helpful and knowledgeable. He helped me open my account and even followed up to make sure I got my bonus a few days later. Kudos to great customer service.
Sign-Up Bonus – Winner: Chase
Chase’s sign up bonus offers are a little harder to come by since there are no public offers but once you get them they are very valuable. I received $325 in cash just for opening a checking and savings account with Chase. With Citi, I got 20,000 points which is worth $200 in gift cards but only because I was able to sign up for their mid level account(due to my mortgage with them). If I would have signed up for Citi’s lowest level checking account, like I did with Chase I would have only received 10,000 points.
In addition the better sign-up bonus, Chase was much faster in posting the bonuses to your account than Citi. My Citi bonuses took almost four months to post from the date I opened the account, where as my Chase checking bonus took only a few days and my Chase savings account bonus took just under two weeks. The only bummer about Citi/Chase checking sign-up bonuses is that they are taxed! So that bonus is really going to be almost cut in half if you’re in one of the higher tax brackets. That’s one of the reasons why I prefer credit card sign up bonuses like the Barclay Arrival card($400).
Ongoing Bonuses/Benefits – Winner: Citi
Although Chase offers a superior sign up bonus, they don’t offer much after that. On the other hand, Citi will actually give you points every month just for banking with them. I’m currently getting 1,050 points a month from them without having to spend a dime. That’s very valuable to me since it’s passive income that could continue indefinitely.
My opinion might change though in a year when I try to sign up for the Chase checking/savings account again to see if I can get the bonuses again. I may be able to do the same thing with Citi but it’s not worth the risk or my time since I’m already getting 1,050 points a month with them.
Avoiding Fees – Winner: Tie
Avoiding fees with either bank is pretty easy. You can hold a $1,500 balance to avoid fees with either bank or with Chase you can avoid fees by having direct deposits totaling $500 or more. With Citi you’ll need 1 direct deposit and 1 bill payment per month. I choose to hold $1,500 in each since that way I don’t have to worry about direct deposits or bill payment. If you don’t have access to direct deposit, you can use the external transfer trick. If you’re not familiar with that trick, basically any external transfer from other banks like Paypal, ING, Ally, etc count as a direct deposit so you can just set up a monthly recurring transfer and send it right back if you want.
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Who’s The Best?
There’s no clear winner when it comes to brick and mortar banks since they’re all losers in my opinion, but If I had to pick one in this situation I’d probably go with Chase. The point of having a secondary bank is so that you can go into the branch if you have any immediate needs and Chase definitely wins there. I don’t think Citi has nearly as large of a branch presence as Chase but they are a close second. The sign-up bonuses with Chase are also far superior since you get $325 compared to 10,000 points for signing up for the basic checking account with each bank.
Personally, I plan on maintaining my account with Citi since I get 1,050 points a month and I’ll probably cancel my Chase account a few months before my one year anniversary and then try to sign up again and get the checking and savings bonus again.
Readers, what bank do you do your checking with? Do you think a brick and mortar bank is even necessary anymore?
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-Harry @ PF Pro