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Updated on Tuesday, June 11, 2019
You may have come across Citizens Bank in your neighborhood. Citizens Bank claims to be the 13th largest retail bank in the country. Citizens Bank has partnerships with different dealers for auto loans under the name Citizens One. Citizens One has over 30 years experience, making it a well-established choice for financing your auto purchase.
If you’re considering Citizens One for your auto loan, here’s what you need to know.
About Citizens One
If you’ve looked into applying for a Citizens One auto loan, you may have hit a bit of a dead end. That’s because Citizens One only offers financing through dealerships. The lender claims to have partnerships with over 6,700 dealerships in the U.S., across 41 states. This means you won’t be able to simply fill out an application online, visit a branch or get preapproved for an auto loan with Citizens One the way you would with many other banks or online lenders. They are willing to work with credit scores as low as 620, making it an option for a wide range of borrowers.
If you’ve been to Citizens One’s auto loan landing page, you’ve probably noticed that very little information is available on their website about their terms, rates, fees or other information that would generally be helpful to know before applying. While that probably has to do with the fact that their loans are only available through dealerships, it is not easy for a prospective buyer to find out what dealerships offer Citizens One financing. If you really would like a Citizens One auto loan, you will probably have to ask your local dealerships if they work with Citizens One.
Citizens One: At a glance
- Loan terms up to 84 months
- Minimum loan amount of $7,500
- Financing for used vehicles up to 10 years in age and under 125,000 miles
- 620 minimum credit score
Citizens One offers auto loans for new and used cars and trucks bought at one of their dealership partners, as well as business loans that could be used for buying equipment or vehicles. Citizens One requires used vehicles to be less than 10 years old and have fewer than 125,000 miles.
Financing for a Citizens One auto loan must be arranged through a dealership partner. Judging from the information available on its website, there is no way to tell which dealerships Citizens One works with, and in what areas. Refinancing is not available through Citizens One.
How to apply for financing
To get a Citizens One auto loan, you’ll have to go to a participating dealership and apply for a loan.
That said, it’s worth understanding how dealership financing works. Dealership financing works a little bit differently than when you apply through a bank or lender directly. However, you’ll need the same documents you’d need to apply with any other lender, such as:
- Proof of income: Bring a paycheck stub or other documents to prove your income.
- Credit or banking information: You’ll want to provide any documents that show other financial obligations (like mortgage or lease agreements, credit card statements, etc.)
- Proof of residency: A recent utility bill or credit card statement will work for this.
- Proof of Insurance: You’ll need to prove that you have insurance before you’ll be allowed to drive the vehicle off the lot.
The dealership will likely check your credit, and an inquiry for auto financing will appear on your credit report. The dealership will send your information to several lenders to see which will give you the best deal. At this point in the process, the dealer would sell the contract to a bank, credit union or other lender. This lender then acts as your loan servicer who you will be repaying.
It’s worth noting that sometimes dealerships can mark up loan rates in this process. We always suggest shopping around to find out what offers are available for your financial situation. Because very little information is available on Citizens One’s website, it’s hard to tell what their auto loan rates, terms and fees will be like. You’ll want to know exactly what’s out there for you. When looking into dealership financing, you should definitely make time to do your research before stepping foot in the dealership to buy. To do this, get quotes from several different lenders. You’ll want to go into the dealership prepared with other financing offers with which to compare a dealer’s offer.
When you’re ready to start applying to find financing, you have 14 days to shop for your auto loan without having multiple inquiries impacting your credit score. Use this to your advantage, and apply with several different types of lenders, like traditional banks, credit unions and online lenders. Then, when you’ve compiled and compared several offers, it’s time to visit your dealership. The dealership will then tell you what they can do for you, and while Citizens One might be an option, keep in mind that it’s not necessarily their best offer.
The fine print
It can be hard to know much about Citizens One’s financing simply because there is so little information readily available from its website. You can’t access information about fees, loan terms or rates online. A representative stated that interest rates vary by “state, credit and loan characteristics,” making it hard to tell what kind of rates Citizen One offer up front.
The fine print isn’t accessible until after you’ve applied at the dealership. Because many people get dealer financing quotes just before they purchase their vehicle, it’s worth shopping around before you go in to buy. Keep in mind that the dealer’s offer might not beat your other offers.
You should head into the dealership prepared with those offers. If you’re serious about a Citizens One loan, ask if the dealership is a Citizens One partner. If so, they’ll be able to tell you more about what rates, terms and payments that they are able to offer to you through Citizens One.
Pros and cons of financing through Citizens One
If you’re looking into financing with Citizens One, you should do your research on other lenders as well. Since the dealership’s financing offers will likely be one of the last you’ll get, you’ll want to have other offers in hand.
Financing through Citizens One can be tricky given the lack of publicly available information, but it is possible if you live within one of the 41 states where it services auto loans. The only states that Citizens One does not service are Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Highlights of Citizens One auto loans
- Well-established: If anything, this is a company that has been around for many years and has experience with auto loans. They’re established in the lending space, so there’s some stability and trust for some that comes with that name.
- Wide availability: With 6,700 dealership partners across 41 states, Citizens One has a comparatively large footprint in the auto lending industry.
- Works with fair credit: Citizens One will work with those who have as low as a 620 credit score.
Lowlights of Citizens One auto loans
- Doesn’t offer refinancing: This lender does not offer any other auto loan services like refinancing. If you find yourself in need of refinancing or other services later, you’ll have to switch lenders.
- Very little information available: As a lender, they only offer their loans through dealerships, and give little information about their loans to customers directly through their website. As a consumer, you’ll need to know what options are out there before you visit a dealership to apply for an auto loan. It’s hard to tell much about this company’s auto loans up front, so your best bet is simply to be prepared.
- Complicated online payments: Using their online portal for monthly payments can be difficult. In order to access their online payment method, you’ll have to provide your most recent loan statement or account number, and the last four digits of your Social Security number to login. Using this information every time you log in could be less secure and inconvenient than setting up a simple username and password.
- Can’t apply online or get preapproved: Citizens One does not offer this option, meaning you cannot get more information on a potential financing deal until you visit a dealership.
The bottom line: Who is a Citizens One auto loan best for?
Citizens One auto loans are really best for those who will choose to go with dealership financing. Because there is no way to get preapproved for a Citizens One auto loan, or even know what the rates are before you apply, it’s not ideal for someone who wants to preplan their loan, or is on a strict budget. You’ll only be able to find out rates, terms and more when you have the dealership submit your information, so it’s not a great option for those who don’t have much flexibility.
If you want to get a Citizens One auto loan, your best bet is to ask the dealership you’re working with if they are affiliated with Citizens Bank. If they are not, you likely will have to check with a different dealership altogether, or choose an alternate financing route.
The information in this article is accurate as of the date of publishing.