Chime and Varo are two similar digital banking apps. While Varo is now a fully-fledged bank, Chime is still a fintech company that has to partner with traditional banks.
But which bank should you choose? Here’s our short verdict.
Varo has a better savings interest rate (3.00%-5.00% vs. 2.00%) and offers cash advances. However, it lacks overdrafts. On the other hand, Chime doesn’t offer cash advances but has fee-free overdrafts of up to $200.
Let’s see what else is the same or different between the two online banking apps.
Pros & Cons
|No monthly banking fees||No minimum balance requirement|
|No overdraft or ATM fees||No monthly fees|
|No transfer or debit card replacement fees||Fee-free overdrafts up to $200|
|No minimum balance||2.00% APY|
|Overdraft protection||60,000 fee-free ATMs|
|Early payday feature||No foreign transaction fees|
|Innovative budgeting tools||Mobile check deposits|
|3-5% APY||Paycheck up to two days early|
|Highly-rated customer service|
|Limits on cash deposits||Limited services|
|Limited cash deposit locations|
Varo is a digital bank from San Francisco that was founded in 2015 by Colin Walsh (CEO), Mykola Klymenko, Roger Van Duinen, and Assaf Guery.
The bank is most notable for being the first digital bank in the US to get a national bank charter. Before that, the firm was a fintech company, like almost all digital banks in the US.
Being a fully-licensed bank has many perks. It also means that the company can hold the funds and doesn’t have to partner with a traditional bank.
This also entails that the funds are FDIC insured for up to $250,000 per account type (savings and checking).
How to Open a Varo Account
Many people are surprised at how easy it is to open a digital banking account. And Varo is no different.
- Visit the Varo website or download the app for iOS or Android devices.
- Enter your email address and phone number, and choose a password.
- Have an ID ready, as well as your Social Security Number.
Chime is a fintech company from San Francisco. It was founded in 2013 by Chris Britt (CEO) and Ryan King (CFO). It’s a fintech company that has partnered with The Bancorp Bank and Stride Bank, Members FDIC.
These banks hold Chime customers’ funds and provide FDIC insurance in case something happens with Chime.
Chime has more than 14 million customers and is one of the most popular online banks in the US. It makes opening accounts easy and offers a high yield savings account (2.00% APY).
How to Open a Chime Account
You won’t need to submit any documents, but you will have to give your full name, email, address, password, and SSN. This is enough information to open an account and to quickly verify your identity.
Lastly, there are no credit checks, soft or hard, but you have to be a US resident and at least 18 years old to open a Chime account.
|No monthly or annual fees||No monthly or annual fees|
|No minimum balance||No minimum balance|
|Free to open an account||Free to open an account|
|No fee for using debit card||No fee for using debit card|
|55,000+ fee-free ATMs||60,000+ fee-free ATMs|
|$2.50 out-of-network ATM fee||$2.50 out-of-network ATM fee|
|$2.50 over-the-counter cash withdrawals||$2.50 over-the-counter cash withdrawals|
Accounts & Cards
Varo has a relatively simple set up that consists of:
- an online bank account
- a savings account
- a secured credit card
- cash advances
The bank account is easy to sign up for, has no fees, and is FDIC insured. It’s also compatible with Zelle and offers Varo to Varo transfers for free.
The debit card comes with a Visa Zero Liability guarantee, which means you won’t be responsible for any unauthorized charges on your debit card.
Unauthorized is an important term, as many people lose money nowadays because they willingly transfer money to scammers. In that case, you probably won’t get your money back, unfortunately.
The savings account offers high APYs from 3.00% to 5.00%. More on that below.
Lastly, there’s the credit builder secured Visa credit card that comes without annual fees or interest and can help you build or restore your credit score.
Chime is very similar in regards to its setup. It, too, has a checking account as well as a savings account. There’s also the credit builder credit card.
The checking account has:
- no fees
- no minimum balance
- lets you get paid early
- comes with a Visa debit card
There are also more than 60,000 ATMs you can use for free. Plus, you can withdraw and deposit cash at places like Walgreens, CVS, Circle K, and 7-Eleven.
The savings account has a 2.00% APY and offers automatic savings features. The average APY in the US is only 0.17%, mind you.
Finally, we have the credit builder credit card that you can use to build up your credit score. After each repayment, Chime will report to all the major credit bureaus. According to the company, members see an increase of 30 points on average.
Credibility & Security
Both Varo and Chime accounts are FDIC Insured. The FDIC insurance entails that all accounts are guaranteed up to a maximum of $250,000 per depositor for each account category.
This means that if Varo and Chime go bust for whatever reason, your accounts are still secured, and you should get your money back.
In addition, since Chime and Varo work with Visa, all Varo, and Chime debit card accounts are secured through Visa’s Zero Liability Policy.
This means that if, say, your debit card is stolen, you do not have to pay for charges made by whoever stole your card or account information.
In this sense, both online digital banking systems are comparable, and neither one is above the other in terms of security and liability.
Varo Money has a pretty solid savings account. First, with one of the highest APYs in the country, you start earning 3.00% APY and can even earn a whopping 5.00% APY if you meet specific requirements.
To get the 5.00% rate, you need to:
- Receive direct deposit(s) of $1,000+
- End the month with a positive balance in both your Varo Bank Account and Savings Account
If you meet these two requirements, you will earn 5.00% APY on your first $5,000 and 3.00% on the rest.
There are two ways of saving money with Varo:
- Save Your Pay
- Save Your Change
Save Your Pay works by taking a percentage (you choose the percentage) of your direct deposit and transferring it to your savings account.
With Save Your Change, Varo rounds up every transaction to the dollar and moves the spare change to your savings account.
Another added benefit of a Varo savings account is that you can instantly access your funds and transfer them to your checking account.
Similar to Varo, Chime has similar features for its savings account, albeit with a lower interest rate.
Chime also makes it easy to save with its two optional savings programs. Their Save When You Spend program takes the extra cents you spend when you use your debit card and transfers it directly to your savings account.
And the Save When You Get Paid feature automatically transfers 10% of your direct deposit into your savings account when you deposit $500+.
The interest rate stands at 2.00% APY, which is still very good but less than that of Varo.
Varo Bank also allows you to choose the percentage you’d like to save on autopilot.
Both Varo and Chime offer credit-building programs that allow you to build credit if you have low, poor, or nonexistent credit.
This means that if you’re just starting out and are trying to build credit from nothing, you can do so without a cosigner. It also means that you have an excellent opportunity to build your credit back up if you have poor credit.
Applying for their credit cards also doesn’t impact your credit score. Plus, you can monitor your credit account right in the apps for easy access.
Both Chime and Varo offer programs to automatically pay your balance on time every month in a further effort to help build up credit. There are also no annual fees or interest, no minimum security deposits, and every on-time payment gets reported to the credit bureaus.
However, Chime credit accounts are capped at a limit of 2,000 dollars. And since you only get one credit card when you bank with Chime, you’ll always be at that limit.
Overdrafts and Cash Advances
Varo has recently discontinued its overdraft protection. However, that doesn’t mean you’re left out in the cold.
One significant benefit that sets Varo apart from Chime is the Varo Advance Program, which gives customers a small financial cushion that can help them avoid overdrawing the account or stretching their paycheck.
You can borrow up to $100 if you qualify. Up to $20 is free. Here’s the breakdown:
- $20 advance costs $0
- $50 advance costs $3
- $75 advance costs $4
- $100 advance costs $5
But in terms of simply being able to overdraft your account, Chime’s SpotMe program is far superior as it allows you to overdraft from your accounts with zero fees for up to $200 for eligible members.
They’ll then apply your next deposit into your Chime Online Spending Account to your negative balance. Chime also gives eligible members boosts every month to increase your or your friends and family’s SpotMe limit.
Varo has an okay rating of 3.7/5 on Trustpilot, with 78% of 2,400+ reviewers giving it an excellent mark and 15% a poor one. With this score, Varo is placed better than Chime and much better than traditional banks like Bank of America (1.4), Chase (1.3), Capital One (1.2), and Wells Fargo (1.2) but worse than the likes of MoneyLion (4.7) and Current (3.8).
Chime has a somewhat good 3.2/5 star rating on Trustpilot, with 74% of 8,100+ reviewers giving it an excellent mark and 13% a poor one. With this score, Chime is placed better than traditional banks like Bank of America (1.4), Chase (1.3), Capital One (1.2), and Wells Fargo (1.2) but worse than the likes of MoneyLion (4.7), Current (3.8), or Varo (3.7).
Why You Should Choose Varo
Although both challenger banks have a high APY on their savings accounts, Varo does have a higher rate that can go up to 5.00%. For some people, that might be more than enough to choose Varo.
Between the two, only Varo offers cashback that you can get by simply using your debit or credit card.
You can get cashback every time you reach $5. The maximum that you can earn is $50 per month, though.
If you sign up for a Varo account, you might be interested in their credit building program that’s free, doesn’t have a minimum deposit, and doesn’t require hard credit checks.
Simply spend money and make payments on time to have a better credit score.
Why You Should Choose Chime
If you ever found yourself strapped for cash, you know you don’t have much choice. Either you won’t make the purchase, or you will incur hefty overdraft fees. Not with Chime.
Once you set up direct deposits, you can enroll in their SpotMe program, where you can go up to $200 in overdraft for free.
SpotMe will cover your debit card purchases and even cash withdrawals.
Just like Varo, Chime also offers a credit builder program. Both are very similar and useful as they can help you bootstrap your credit score.
Chime doesn’t have to use Zelle. It has its own Pay Anyone platform that lets you send money not only to other Chime users but to anyone, no matter what bank account they have.
The transfers are free and instant on both ends. Simply enter the recipient’s $ChimeSign, email, or phone number if they aren’t on Chime.
Non-members can collect their money in up to two weeks by entering their debit card details.
In a matchup between two very similar digital banking apps, it’s hard to find a clear winner. Both offer checking and savings accounts, as well as a credit builder program.
Arguably the only differences between Varo and Chime are the higher APY that Varo has and Chime’s fee-free overdrafts.
Everything else is mostly the same and it might be tough for you to decide which banking app to choose.