Chime is a fairly new challenger bank that is snatching customers from big banks. With more than 12 million users, it’s on a fast approach to traditional banks like Wells Fargo. That’s why we’re putting the challenger, Chime, versus the incumbent, Wells Fargo, head to head.
Before we dive in a bit deeper, here’s our brief verdict:
Chime and other challenger banks are slowly making a dent in the likes of Wells Fargo. However, there aren’t many reasons to switch to Chime because Wells is offering well-rounded banking and financial services, albeit with low savings and CD rates.
- Easy to sign up
- No monthly fees
- Early paycheck
- No overdraft fees
- Free Chime > Chime transfers
- Credit builder credit card
- Savings account
Chime was instituted in 2013 by Chris Britt, the CEO, and Ryan King, the company’s CTO. It’s a financial technology firm that is partnering with Bancorp Bank and Stride Bank to deliver financial and banking services to its clients. By partnering with established banks, customers get FDIC deposit protection of up to $250,000.
Fintech businesses still can’t offer banking services directly and have to partner with traditional banks to provide checking and savings accounts and all other such services. Chime’s partnership with regular banks is nothing uncommon, and the laws might even change soon so that it won’t be necessary.
What advantages does Chime bring to the table? All customers receive a mobile phone app and a Visa debit card without monthly account fees and hidden fees in general.
There are many other interesting benefits as well, such as getting paid up to two days early if you have a qualifying direct debit. Then there’s the fee-free overdraft, free ATM withdrawals inside the network of 60,000+ ATMs, and a useful credit-building program.
A savings account with competitive APY is also present, as well as the round-up feature that puts all your loose change directly into the savings account.
- Full-service online bank
- High overdraft fees
- High-rated app
- Mortgages, investments, retirement
- Wealth management
Wells Fargo has been around for a very long time, since 1852, and is the fourth largest bank in the United States by total assets and part of the “Big Four Banks” that also include Chase, BoA, and Citigroup.
In its present form, Wells Fargo is a result of a consolidation between the original Wells Fargo & Company and Norwest Corporation in 1998. The company is ranked 7th on the Forbes list of largest public companies in the world and 37th on the Fortune 500 list of the largest companies in the US.
Who should use Chime?
With more than 12 million users, Chime must be doing something right. The company is often focusing on disenfranchised people as there are no credit checks to open the account. The customers, of course, love that there are no hidden fees and that the sign-up process is easy, fast, and seamless.
Chime was designed not only for people who are comfortable using their smartphones but also for everyone looking for a new kind of banking experience where you don’t need physical branches.
For people with a credit score that is low, bad, or even non-existent, Chime advises a free Credit Builder Program that will equip them with a free credit card that might put them on a route to a much better credit score, opening up many new and exciting doors.
Many financial services are missing that traditional banks or even digital banks like Axos offer, but the simple account and a great app are still standouts.
Who should use Wells Fargo?
Wells Fargo has thousands of bank branches across the country, more than any other bank, and that is still one of its selling points as many people don’t want to switch to completely online banking.
Fargo is a full-service bank that offers all the financial services you could wish for and then some. If you’re looking for a one-stop shop that will service all your banking and investing needs (except crypto), Wells Fargo is still a solid choice.
Its app is also one of the best in the business and lets you manage all aspects of your accounts, credit score, investments, etc.
The bank is very traditional in offering extremely low savings interest rates and CDs that really aren’t worth your time and especially money.
Wells Fargo is also completely different from Chime in that it has very high overdraft fees of up to $35, with a maximum of three fees per day. Although the company has some workarounds that can help you avoid these fees, it’s still a nasty way of making money off poor people’s backs.
Pros and cons
- No minimum required balance
- No monthly maintenance charges
- No transaction fees abroad
- Mobile app check deposits
- Two days early payday
- 0.50% APY on savings
- 60,000+ ATMs
- Restricted financial services
- Insufficient cash deposit locations
- $2.50 fee for out-of-network ATMs
- Fees can be easily waived
- 13,000+ ATMs
- A choice of services
- Superb mobile app
- Thousands of branches
- $5-25 monthly fee
- Minimum deposit required
- $35 overdraft fee charged up to 3x daily
- Only 0.01% APY on savings
How are Chime and Wells Fargo the same?
Chime and Wells Fargo are extremely popular, and tens of millions of customers between the two are using them daily. Their mobile apps have more than five million positive reviews on app stores and are easy to use and nice looking.
Both banks also have tens of thousands of ATMs across the nation where you can withdraw money for free. There will be a $2.50 fee if you use an out-of-network ATM.
With Wells, you can check your FICO score for free, while Chime can help you build it up.
There’s not much that these two companies have the same. They are inherently very different and offer vastly different experiences to their millions of customers.
How are Chime and Wells Fargo different?
There are many, many fundamental differences between Chime and Wells Fargo. For starters, Chime is a digital-only challenger bank that was founded to take as many customers from big banks.
At the same time, Wells Fargo is considered a systemically important financial institution, not only in the US but the world. It’s one of the banks that are “too big to fail”.
Wells Fargo Bank is part of a huge corporation of more than 250,000 employees worldwide and 70 million customers. It’s a fully licensed bank with all the financial and banking services and products imaginable.
Chime offers a much simpler service with fewer financial products and a more modest checking account that is greatly focused on people with no or bad credit history. Chime’s savings account does have a much higher interest rate on savings deposits and is almost consistent with other digital banks.
On the other hand, Wells has an abysmal interest rate that is aligned with much of traditional banks’ offerings. You’re better off stuffing your money under the mattress.
And while Chime doesn’t have overdraft fees and will spot you up to $200, if eligible, going into overdraft with Wells Fargo could cost you an arm and a leg.
How to open a Chime account?
Chime is a digital bank and therefore makes account opening as seamless as possible so that you can start banking asap. You just go to their website or, even easier, download their app from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.
You’ll have to enter your name, email, and password, of course, as well as your address and your Social Security Number. They’ll use the info to open an account for you but also to verify your identity.
To open a Chime account, you will have to be a United States resident and be older than 18.
How to open a Wells Fargo account?
You’ll also need to supply your personal details like your first and last name, home address, phone number, email address, and similar. Wells Fargo has an initial minimum deposit requirement of $25.
As we already mentioned, Chime presently has only one spending account available. However, it also has a high APY savings account and a valuable credit-building program that’s free of charge.
The Chime checking account is typically (for digital banks at least) free and comes with a Visa debit card. The account and the debit card are connected to a beautiful mobile app that was made by a fintech company rather than a bank, and you can see it. But, more about the app later.
Chime’s savings account comes with a fairly high 0.50% APY which is higher than the most conventional banks have but is still below the usual savings rate of the bulk of online banks.
They regularly offer even higher savings rates as they have less overhead costs and are willing to attract new customers this way.
One of the additional highlights of the savings account is the automated savings feature that will round up the purchases that you make with the card and put the spare change in the savings account.
This makes it extremely easy to save on autopilot. And while you might think that spare change doesn’t add much to the bottom line, cents and quarters can quickly sum up and help you grow your rainy day supply.
There’s also no minimum balance for the savings account, and you can transfer the money to the checking account anytime you wish.
The Chime Credit Builder Program involves a credit card that records all your transactions and informs the major credit bureaus of your on-time payments, and, in the process, raises your credit score. At least in theory. Each individual is different.
Nevertheless, it’s a complimentary program with no fees aside from those connected with the credit card.
Wells Fargo offers a variety of checking accounts. The three checking accounts include:
- Clear Access Banking
- Everyday Checking
All three checking accounts have a minimum initial deposit of $25 and have a monthly service fee of $5, $10, and $25 per month, respectively. The fee can be waived if the account holder is between 13 and 24 years old.
The Clear Access account is especially geared for teens, while the Everyday Checking account is the most popular choice that offers overdraft protection, zero liability debit card, check deposits, bill pay, alerts, Zelle; basically everything you’d expect from a modern-day checking account.
Portfolio by Wells Fargo is the most expensive checking account among the three and costs $25 per month (used to be $30). The fee can be waived if you have $20,000+ in your linked accounts each fee period. With Portfolio, you can pay less in everyday fees, earn interest on your deposit, get interest rate discounts on new loans and lines of credit, 24/7 phone support, and more.
Then there are the savings accounts and CDs. They include:
- Way2Save Savings
- Platinum Savings
- Wells Fargo CDs
Nothing much to say about them as they aren’t worth anyone’s time with a 0.01% APY. The savings accounts have a $5 or $12 monthly fee and a $25 minimum initial deposit. The CDs have no monthly fee but have a minimum deposit fee of $25.
We keep coming back to overdraft fees as many banks have started to get rid of them in an effort to help lower-income folks, especially during the epidemic. A recent example is Varo Bank.
Other banks have eliminated overdraft fees by not allowing overdrafts. Discover eliminated them in 2019. That’s still better than applying a $35 fee up to three times per day as Wells Fargo is doing.
Estimates say that about $34 billion is deducted from overdrawing accounts from some of the most vulnerable customers who unknowingly sign up so that the sale proceeds with a fee rather than declines.
80%+ of overdraft fees are paid by people that are living paycheck to paycheck or have consistently low balances on their accounts and are, according to one report, “disproportionately Black and Latinx”.
Both Chime and Wells Fargo have amazingly useful apps that make it easy for you to manage all aspects of your accounts. The apps have a nearly five-star rating from 316k (Chime) and 6.3 million (Fargo) ratings!
Chime’s app makes it easy to quickly check all the important stuff, from ATM locations and overdrafts to the Credit Builder Program and budgeting and analytics.
Fargo’s app has more features and capabilities, but only because the bank offers full banking services. Not only can you access your account through the app’s “Control Tower,” but you can also easily pay your bills, see your Fico score and see the balance on all your credit cards and loans, as well as transfer money and deposit checks by using your mobile.
Security features include the ability to freeze and unfreeze cards, get instant alerts, report fraud, get suspicious card activity reports, etc.
Number of customers
Chime has the most users out of any challenger banks in the US. The company acquired almost 13 million users and is on track to lure in many millions more in the foreseeable future.
Wells Fargo is part of the “Big Four” banks in the US and has more than 70 million customers and 250,000+ employees. This includes all of its operations, including the bank division.
Chime has a 3.9-star rating out of 5 on Trustpilot, with 77% of 7,133 reviewers giving it an excellent mark and 9% a bad one. With a 3.9 score, Chime is placed better than Wells Fargo (1.4), BoA (1.4), Capital One (1.3), and Chase (1.3) but worse than MoneyLion (4.7), Current (4.2), and Varo (4.4).
Wells Fargo has only a 1.4-star rating out of 5 on Trustpilot, with only 7% of 590 reviewers giving it an excellent mark and 86% a bad one. With a 1.4 score, Wells Fargo is barely better than Capital One (1.3) and Chase (1.3), the same as BoA (1.4), and much worse than Chime (3.9), MoneyLion (4.7), Current (4.2), and Varo (4.4).
Chime itself is perhaps the worst threat to its customers as the fintech company has been closing possibly thousands of accounts that were and weren’t part of foul-play, such as fraudulent deposits.
Many everyday customers seemed to have paid the price and could not access their accounts or money for several months until the investigation was completed. In the meantime, the customer service isn’t allowed to shine a light on why the account was closed or temporarily blocked, creating a catch 22 situation.
Although these issues continue to plague the company, Chime is still a solid bank for the vast majority of its customers and is applying the most high-level security systems to assure its systems and user data are safe and secure.
Wells Fargo has arguably had more scandals, controversies, fines, and settlements than any other bank in its long history. Some of them include discrimination against its workers, altering documents, opening more than 1.5 million checking and savings accounts and 500,000 credit cards on behalf of clients without their consent, embezzlement, and so on.
Although the bank also had their customers’ data breached on a couple of occasions, your account and information are generally safe as the company employs the latest security solutions and encryption.
There’s also an extensive security section on their website that is great for educating not only their customers but people in general on how to stay safe online.
Chime and Wells Fargo alternatives
Axos Bank is a full-service digital bank out of San Diego and should definitely be mentioned when talking about Chime and Wells Fargo. They are a pioneer with over 20 years of experience and have always been an online-only bank. The bank has low or no fees and offers aggressive interest rates and convenient access to their small and medium business, commercial, and personal accounts through the mobile app or desktop.
MoneyLion is a comprehensive financial services company that takes spending and saving, but also budgeting, investing, and building up credit to the next level. They are constantly launching new features such as crypto investing, which might also bring in many new customers.
SoFi has more than two million members who use the company to invest in stocks, ETFs, and crypto and take out insurance and loans, including mortgages. Sofi is a different variety of finance company whose goal is “to help people get their money right”.
Varo Bank, the first US challenger bank to get a nationwide banking license offers accounts with no fees and is accordingly great for daily banking, spending, and even traveling.
RELATED: The 20 Best Digital Banks In The USA
The bottom line
Chime is a simple mobile banking account with free overdrafts, early paychecks, and a real credit-building plan. Although it has no loans or business accounts and no mortgages, CDs, investments, etc., it’s a bank of choice for millions of Americans looking for a fair challenger bank account.
Wells Fargo is a complex traditional bank that offers a plethora of services apart from checking accounts. You can get everything from personal and mortgage loans to IRAs and private banking services. You can even pop into one of the thousands of branches nationwide which is still a plus, even in the age of digital banking.
Adrian Volenik is a fintech enthusiast who loves testing and reviewing digital banking apps and financial products in general. How many digital banking accounts can one man have? Not enough, if you ask Adrian. As his wallet will soon explode if he doesn’t cut back on the number of cards.