Online banking has taken the world by storm. This is no surprise, given that we do practically everything online these days. Digital banking provides many perks that make it an attractive alternative to conventional or in-person banking.
With so much competition in the market, savvy consumers will find online bank accounts that offer flexibility, convenience, and security, while allowing them to save on traditional banking fees.
Knowing which digital banking account is right for your needs, your budget, and your lifestyle will require some research and consideration.
We’re going to take a look at two quality digital-only banking companies: Chime vs. Current. We’ll examine each in detail and get a clear view of how they stack up against each other. This should go some way in helping you decide if either of these companies are the right fit for your financial needs.
Digital Banking Account Overview
- $50 bonus for creating an account
- Access to ATMs with no fees
- Instant peer-to-peer transfers
- $200 overdraft protection
- FDIC insurance of up to $250,000
- Credit builder credit card available
- Users can receive money from deposits earlier
- No fees for monthly members
- Free replacement for debit cards
- Check writing service
- Easy and quick sign-up
- ATM access with no fees
- Instant peer-to-peer transfers to fellow Current members
- $100 overdraft protection
- FDIC insurance of up to $250,000
- Users can receive money from deposits earlier
- No monthly fees for basic members
- Optional $4.99 premium membership for extra features
- Debit card replacement for $5
- Temporary card generation
- Saving accounts with no interest
- Rewards program
- Gas refunds
- Teen accounts
Key Features Compared
Now that we’ve got a basic overview of the Chime vs. Current checking accounts debate, it’s time to dig deeper. Let’s run through an in-depth comparison of the major features between these two digital banks, and weigh things like monthly fees, savings accounts, overdraft fees, and foreign transaction fees.
Early Deposit Access
Both Chime and Current allow users to access direct deposit cash sooner than others. For example, if you direct deposit your paycheck into your digital bank account, you can access that up to two days earlier than many other digital banks.
Both financial institutions accomplish this by immediately getting the exact dollar amount of your direct deposit from the Federal Reserve. So, even if your check is dated for some time in the future, you can access that money straight away.
It’s a super convenient feature for folks who may need payday funds sooner rather than later. However, note that regular Current members don’t have access to this feature; only Current Premium members do, and Premium membership costs $4.99 per month. Chime, in contrast, offers this to all of its users.
Overdraft Fees and Other Hidden Fees
Fortunately, both Chime and Current don’t have overdraft fees. Overdraft fees are a major concern for digital bank users as they can accidentally cause a financial spiral where you continually owe more money than you have in your account.
Chime uses overdraft protection called SpotMe. As long as you have a qualifying direct deposit of $200 per month or more, it’s automatically enabled.
Current, on the other hand, offers Overdrive overdraft protection. It protects you from up to $100 overdraft withdrawals without fees. However, you have to make a qualifying direct deposit of $500 per month.
As you can see, Chime’s overdraft protection is higher and easier to access. Still, both digital banks provide this valuable service to their customers, even if Chime is a bit better in this regard.
As far as other fees go, Chime lets you use ATMs without any fees, and it doesn’t charge any monthly fees. You can even get a free debit card replacement if you lose your current one or think it has been compromised.
Current also provides fee-free ATM access and doesn’t charge any monthly fees if you are a basic account holder. Remember, Premium members do have to pay $4.99 per month for things like early deposit access. They also provide debit card replacement, but it costs you $5 per request.
Both Current and Chime offer instant peer-to-peer transfers. This makes it very easy for you to send cash to your friends or family members from the comfort of home. Luckily, there are no fees for instant peer-to-peer transfers from either of these digital banking providers.
However, Chime allows you to send peer-to-peer transactions instantly to anyone, even if they aren’t a Chime member. On the other hand, Current only allows you to send money instantly if the recipient is a Current member. Once again, Chime is a little more convenient, though it is nice that neither provider charges unnecessary fees.
Account Spending Limits
Chime and Current both have a daily withdrawal limit of $500 from ATMs. Furthermore, Chime limits your daily spending to $2500, while Current has a daily limit of $2000. Note that both banking providers count your ATM withdrawals toward the daily spending limit.
Chime offers a $50 bonus for all new members, and the requirements aren’t too difficult to meet. Firstly, you’ve got to sign up through a promotional link from a current member. Moreover, you’ll need to make a $200 direct deposit within the first 45 days of opening your account. If you can meet those terms, you’ll be in line for a $50 bonus.
Current, on the other hand, doesn’t offer great sign-on bonuses. They will give you a $1 bonus if you sign up via a promotional link, but that’s hardly impressive given the $50 bonus offered by Chime.
Family Bank Options
What if you want one or more family members to also have a digital bank account? Chime doesn’t do much for you in this regard. However, Current does – it offers a teen account that costs just $36 per year. The teen account is perfect for teenagers learning monetary responsibility for the first time. It includes key features like:
- Parental controls over spending
- Blocks on certain merchants
It’s a perfect starter bank account for teens who are learning how to use their money responsibly, and for parents who want to know exactly what their teens are buying online.
Savings Account Options
What if you want a savings account in addition to a checking account?
In addition to their checking account, you could also open a Chime savings account and avail of an interest rate of 0.5%. More importantly, you can transfer money between your accounts instantaneously and turn on automatic deposits. This is great if you want to funnel a bit of each paycheck into your savings account.
Chime’s Round-Up feature is similarly excellent, as it lets you save money whenever you shop.
Current doesn’t offer any savings account, exactly. Instead, they have “Savings Pods.” You can make these small savings accounts for specific goals or purchases, like an emergency fund, buying a new car, or something else. Unfortunately, these Savings Pods don’t pay any interest. Premium Current account holders can have up to three, while basic account holders can only have a single Savings Pod.
Digital Account Security
Fortunately, both Chime and Current have several security measures to keep your funds and personal information safe.
For example, both of these banks are insured by the FDIC for up to $250,000. Both of them also use EMV chip technology for debit and credit cards. Instant transaction alerts, end-to-end encryption, and other methods also keep you in the loop about when your card is used and potential breaches into your account.
In our opinion, both Chime and Current are level in terms of digital security.
With Current, even free account holders get rewards. Simply use your Current debit card at participating locations, earn points, and then benefit from cashback offers.
One of the major downsides to Chime is that they don’t offer any rewards program, so in this regard Current wins out.
Credit Card Offerings
Chime offers customers with a Chime Spending account to nab their Credit Builder Card, which is a Visa Debit card designed to help you build or rebuild your credit score. It’s perfect for teenagers or folks looking to rebuild their credit from scratch.
It also doesn’t require any minimum credit score, and comes with an adjustable credit limit that is funded directly via your Chime Spending Account. In terms of secured credit cards Chime’s Credit Builder is one of the best on the market.
If you’ve been denied a checking account in the past, you won’t have to worry with either of these accounts. Both Chime and Current do not use ChexSystems when you apply for an account. And neither of them check your credit.
Which Is Right for You?
In terms of the bottom line, Chime and Current are both great options for anyone looking for a new online banking account. Chime is usually a more attractive option overall, although both are reputable and quality digital banking providers.
Chime has fewer fees, better overdraft protection, and a better sign-on bonus, all of which tend to be high-priority features for most. However, Current might be a better choice if you want a digital bank account for your business and a traditional credit card, or if you want to benefit from cashback rewards as you shop.
The good thing about both Chime and Current is that they’re online banks and as such, there’s no need to deal with account maintenance fees. While that’s one less fee to worry about, you’ll still want to make sure that you don’t go into overdraft or end up paying transaction fees if you pick the wrong bank for your needs.
Alternative Banking Options
In addition to both Chime and Current, let’s not forget that there are also some very popular alternatives that might just be the perfect fit for you. If you’re going to consider Chime and Current in depth, it will be worth your time to look at some other competitors too. Here are some of the biggest alternatives to consider:
While Chime is of course a financial technology company, and not a regular bank, there are some traditional old school banks which might present a strong alternative, depending on your needs. If you’re looking for banks similar to Chime, Discover might suit you well.
Discover Bank offers both checking and savings accounts which are FDIC insured, plus certificates of deposit, competitive savings accounts, and a huge network of no-fee ATMs.
One of Discover’s biggest draws is that they offer numerous cards, including secured credit cards and travel cards. Discover can be a strong option for people looking for a specific kind of credit card.
Discover also offer relatively low fees across the board for a traditional checking account, but keep in mind that fees will ramp up for things like wire transfers, which can incur a fee of $30. If foreign payments are a regularity for you, then Discover might not be the best option for those transactions.
Ally is another competitor that could be worth a look. There are no checking account fees or minimum balance requirements with Ally. On Ally’s mobile app, you can easily check your account balance, as well as access a whole range of products including checking and saving accounts, loans, investments and a useful savings calculator.
If foreign payments are a priority for you when you bank, then Ally may not be the right fit for you, however. Ally doesn’t offer the ability to send international wire transfers, although you can receive them to your account.
Varo bank is more of a Chime-equivalent banking experience, as it is a digital platform which focuses on convenience and low fees. Varo accounts have no credit check, no monthly fee and no overdraft charges, and like Chime provides customers with a 55,000+ network of no-fee ATMs. You can even open a savings account with Varo and save at an APY of up to 5%.
Varo is also similar to Chime in basing most of its features on a requirement for direct deposit. With Varo you can’t make or receive wires to or from your account. So, to add funds, you’ll need an alternative. Direct deposits from an existing bank account or digital check deposits are two of most common routes people use to fund their Varo accounts.
Wise is a great alternative to Chime and Current, with no fees required to open an account, low transaction costs and extremely competitive international transfer rates.
Wise is another fintech company which aims to significantly reduce the fees associated with regular banking. There’s no minimum balance requirement, and no monthly fee for maintenance of your account.
Wise excels in foreign transactions and is a great option for frequent travelers and expats. With a regular free account, you can hold 54 different currencies, send payments to over 80 countries, and even get local bank details so you can get paid fee free from 30 countries.
Wise also offers international business accounts, and claims to be around six times cheaper than old-school banks when you send, spend, or withdraw money around the world.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Chime a Real Bank?
Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. They are partnered with the Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, who provide banking services to Chime customers.
So while Chime isn’t a ‘real’ bank in the sense that it doesn’t operate like a traditional bank would, it absolutely is a legitimate fintech company with very real banking services provided.
Does Chime offer free ATM withdrawals?
Yes. One of the benefits of having a Chime account is that you can avail of a network of around 60,000 fee-free ATMs. Although ATM fees might be seen as negligible, customers who like to withdraw cash regularly will notice the difference when using fee-free ATMs. This is definitely an advantage that Chime has over traditional banks.
What card is better than Chime?
There are some popular alternatives to a Chime card, but deciding which is better really comes down to your preferences and financial habits. For example, Discover is a traditional bank which provides many features that are similar to Chime.
Wise is another of the major financial technology companies which works really well for international transfers, and they have a debit card option as well as very low fees in general.
Whether there’s a bank or particular card that’s better than Chime will depend largely on your needs, and which features you prioritize. Feel free to check out our suggested alternatives to both Chime and Current above.
Does Chime have a downside?
One of the major downsides to Chime are the fees that come with using out-of-network ATMs. While in-network ATM transactions are free, using an ATM that isn’t in the Chime network can get quite costly at $2.50 per transaction.
Chime also doesn’t allow joint accounts, so this is a feature that it’s users will have to go without.
Does Current have a downside?
There are some downsides to Current in comparison with Chime, although most would consider them minor. For example, withdrawal fees from foreign ATMs are high with a Current account, and there are no sign-up offers or bonuses that Current offer.
Some also find Current to provide less of a personal touch in comparison to Chime and other financial technology companies, so if that’s something important to you, then Current might not be the perfect service for you.
What credit score do you need for Chime?
There is no minimum credit score required to qualify for a Chime account. If you’ve got a Chime Spending Account then the Chime Credit Builder Card is available to you, and this is designed specifically to help build or repair bad credit.
Chime doesn’t run credit checks, and so your credit limit is determined by how much money you deposit in to your account, and this can be changed at any time as often as you like. This is what makes Chime such a great option for those with thin or damaged credit.
Does Chime have any hidden fees?
Chime has built a great reputation as a company with no hidden fees. There are certain qualifiers to their fee conditions, however, such as the transaction and cash deposit fees that customers will incur when using out-of-network ATMs.
These fees are stated upfront by Chime, so it wouldn’t be fair to call them hidden fees. Furthermore, Chime’s overdraft protection is only automatically applicable once you’ve got at least $200 in direct deposits per month.
Understanding these finer details is important to avoid getting stung by unexpected fees and charges.
Will Chime refund stolen money?
Chime, like Current, both offer great protection against fraudulent transactions and will, in most cases, be able to return any stolen funds from your account. Chime debit cards are also protected by Visa’s Zero Liability Policy which is designed to protect consumers from taking responsibility for unauthorized charges.
It’s also really easy to quickly block transactions on your card via Chime’s app, meaning you can act quickly to protect your existing funds if you detect any suspicious activity on your account. Moreover, you can turn on transaction notifications so that if you do ever fall victim to fraud, you can act quickly and protect your account from further theft.
At the end of the day, the differences between Chime and Current are minimal. Deciding which one wins out for you will largely depend on what you value most from a digital bank. While both banks offer similar services, if you’re someone who wants a competitive savings account, for example, Chime will win out for you with a better savings rate.
You might even decide that some of the alternative banks we’ve looked at above are better suited to you. Ultimately, you want a bank account that works for your wallet rather than against it.