A 2018 Review of Chime Bank

There are quite a few reviews of Chime Bank out there. But what I noticed is that many are from last year when features such as mobile check deposit were not available. On top of that, they tend to be overly-positive with a good amount of sugar coating added to the cons. While my overall impression of Chime is a good one, I strive to offer a more realistic take.

Chime Bank Doesn’t Feel Like a Bank

This could be a good thing or a bad thing…depending on what you want. Your money is held/controlled by The Bancorp; a financial entity that is also affiliated with Simple and various prepaid debit cards. With Chime everything is centered around the smartphone app and your debit card. The secure customer website is functional, but does not offer any more features or additional depth than the app. A bonus here is that the interface of the app and the website are similar, so thumbs up to Chime for consistency on that.

There are no physical branches…which is no surprise. But customer service is a bit hairy. From the app, if you say that you need help, you are connected to a chat bot. If you hit the ‘Support’ link on the website, you are taken to a FAQ section which is surprisingly thin and outdated. But in the footer of the website is the phone number and email address for customer service. That’s the only way you can talk to a person and let’s face it; when it comes to your money, you need some human interaction sometimes.

Debit Card and Checks

I initially set up my account a couple of weeks before Christmas. I was pretty disheartened to see that it took more then 3 weeks to get my Chime debit card. Even with the holiday, I felt that this was pretty slow (I had opened up another bank account a week after opening my Chime account and that debit card came before my Chime card).

The account provides no physical checks. So without the debit card, it is tough to access your money. Chime offers a ‘checkbook’ in the app. Basically it is a bill pay service…where you designate a payee and Chime with send a paper check out to the address you specify. Unlike a check and many bill pay services though, the amount of the check is deducted from your account balance right away.

Downsides

While I have not had any major problems, Chime does not quite feel like it is ready for prime time yet. There are a couple of reasons why…

The app crashes a lot

This is surprising; especially for a bank that makes its smartphone app so integral to its experience. Please note – I only use the Android version of the app. When you first open it, you need to enter in your PIN code. I would say that about 20% of the time I get a message that says ‘Oops, something went wrong’…and it closes. This is most likely to happen if I have an unread notification from Chime. It isn’t a huge deal. I re-open the app and try it again. It usually works then. But still…. 🙁

Customer service feels insufficient

Like many companies, Chime utilizes a chat bot as its first line of defense when you opt to contact the company through the app. Sadly, the bot seems to be limited in regards that the issues that it can respond to. When you email them or send a message, responses can take days. So if you need help quickly, the most reliable way is to get them on the phone. And their phone number isn’t on the app…you have to go to the website.

Oh and their F.A.Q. section is too thin and it needs to be updated.

The rewards program needs to be expanded

Chime advertises that you are able to get rewards through using the card…similar to how a standard credit card offers rewards. However as of now, I only see three vendors (Warby Parker, J.Crew and Crate & Barrel) where you can earn rewards. And the thresholds are high (spend $100 to get $5). So in my humble opinion, the program is really nothing to write home about.

Checking with limits and (some) fees

As I mentioned previously, there are no physical checks with this account. Mobile checking works good enough (although I still do not know when the cutoff time is for accepting deposits for that day – that information is not readily available). However I had a deposit rejected because it was a check from another one of my accounts (they sent me an email that I would need to do an ACH transfer).

Also ATM fees are not reimbursed if you use an out-of-network ATM.

Inflexible Budgeting

It may be a positive for some people, but Chime automatically categorizes your spending. On a scale from 1 to 10, I would say that it does a 7. Needless to say it bugs me that a good 40% of my budget is designated as ‘services’; and if I could, I would re-categorize some of these items.

And then there is the confusing tagging feature. You can go to any transaction and insert your own tag for it. I then thought that you could then filter your transactions by using these tags. But no. It’s more like a memo. Well it is a memo. My goodness…just call it a memo then!

In Conclusion

It took some time to grow on me, I do like my Chime account. It’s visually attractive app and overall effective attempt to put a friendly spend on a checking account has won me over. Having early access to your payroll direct deposit is nice too (Chime advertises this like it is something special — but the truth is that several pre-paid debit and payroll debit cards offer this same feature; but whatever). It helps that you not view it as a traditional bank with traditional banking conventions. But for the unbanked and for those on Chexsystems, it is a much better option then a fee laden pre-paid debit card. But of course, if you’d like to look into better options, I highly suggest to visit this website https://www.atlanticunionbank.com/personal/checking.