Citibank vs. Chase: Which Bank Is Better?

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Updated on Friday, May 31, 2019

Debating whether Chase or Citibank is a better bank resembles a dispute over which fast-food franchise is better, Wendy’s or McDonald’s. Either side may offer menu items that are superior, but at the end of the day, they both succeed equally because of their ubiquity and reliability, rather than their mind-blowing quality (excepting the McRib, naturally).

Neither Chase nor Citibank offer amazing deals on their savings or checking accounts, but chances are you live within a 20-minute drive of a local branch of one or the other. And both have products that more than adequately meet your banking needs.

But just as McDonald’s partisans would blanch at the thought of eating Wendy’s fries, Chase customers claim superiority over Citi with some products, and vice versa. Let’s take a closer look at what each bank offers and help you make an unbiased decision about which big bank is right for your bucks.

Citibank vs. Chase: Location and availability

Citibank and Chase have a huge number of branches and ATMs, but Chase holds the clear advantage with 5,300 branches in 29 states (including the District of Columbia) and 16,000 ATMs.

While Citibank is hardly a boutique bank, it only maintains around 700 branches in 12 states, including D.C. International travelers may be interested to know that Citi has more than 1,800 branches overseas, but homebodies are more likely to see a Chase branch.

While Chase can claim to have more physical branches than Citibank, the latter provides its customers with more than 30,000 ATMs (either directly owned by Citi or through its partnerships with the MoneyPass ATM network) they can use without surcharges. If your main concern is access to ATMs that won’t charge a fee, your best bet is to bank with Citi.

Citibank vs. Chase: How their rates compare

The heart of any bank comparison lies with the rates each offer their customers, so let’s take a look at Citi and Chase’s benchmark accounts and compare them with the national average and the average offered by online-only banks.

 

Citibank

Chase

National bank average***

Online bank average***

Savings*0.04%

APY on
balances up to $24,999.99, 0.06%

APY on balances $25,000 and up.
0.01% APY0.276% APY1.52% APY
Checking**NoneNone0.196% APY0.52% APY
1-year CD0.10% APY on initial deposits below $25,000, 0.10% APY on deposits $25,000 and up0.02% APY on initial deposits up to $99,999.99, 0.05% on initial deposits $100K and up1.384% APY2.00% APY
5-year CD0.15% APY0.75% APY on initial deposits up to $9,999.99, 1.01% APY on initial deposits from $10K to $99.999.99, 1.01% APY on balances $100K and up 2.242% APY2.55% APY

*Citi’s Basic Banking Savings Account and Chase Savings Account
**Citi’s Basic Banking Checking Account and Chase Total Checking Account
***National and online bank averages are accurate as of the publish date of this article

While both Citibank and Chase offer piddling interest rates on their checking and savings accounts when compared with the national average and the online bank average, the former emerges as the clear winner.

One caveat (which will be addressed in greater detail below) is that Citibank doesn’t strictly offer stand-alone accounts — you must sign up for packages that typically contain a checking, saving and specialized savings account. You can close the accounts in the package you don’t care about, but the fact that you sign up for a bundle may annoy some customers.

Citibank vs. Chase: Which has better account options

The differences between the bread-and-butter savings and checking accounts from Citibank and Chase are slight, at best. Citi takes a holistic view: Your savings account balance automatically counts toward the minimum checking account balance required to avoid a monthly maintenance fee. Chase blunts Citi’s edge by allowing you to link a Chase Premier Savings account with a Chase Premier Plus Checking or Chase Sapphire Checking account to achieve the same effect.

Citi does offer more variations of a checking and savings account — five different tiers compared with Chase’s three — with the standout difference being Citi’s Access Account package. The Access Account is a bare-bones package consisting of a checking account with no ability to write paper checks and a basic savings account. However, it’s easier to dodge the $10 monthly maintenance fee for the Access Account — either by making an online bill pay from the account, having a direct deposit paid into the account or by maintaining an average monthly balance of at least $1,500 — than the $12 monthly fee charged by Chase’s basic Total Checking Account. For that product, you must either have at least $500 in direct deposits paid into the account, maintain a daily balance of $1,500 (or more) or maintain a combined minimum balance of $5,000 across qualified Chase accounts.

It’s also worth noting that Citi offers as part of all five of its account packages a high-yield savings account (separate from the basic savings account already in the package) called Citi Accelerate Savings. It earns an APY of 0.70% no matter what the balance in the account, which is better than Citi’s 5-year CD APY. If your Accelerate Savings account isn’t linked to any other accounts in your Basic Banking package, you must maintain an average monthly balance of $500 to avoid a $4.50 monthly fee.

Citibank vs. Chase: How they compare on fees

Apart from attractive interest rates, bank account fees may be the factor that really determines who you bank with. Citibank and Chase don’t vary much on this front, but in general, Citi offers more opportunities for you to beat certain fees, especially monthly maintenance fees. Here’s how the fees for each bank’s basic accounts stack up:

 

Citibank

Chase

Savings account$4.50 a month if you only opt for the savings account portion of the Basic Banking Account package$5 a month
Checking account$12 a month for the entire Basic Banking Account package$12 a month
ATM fee$2.50 for any withdrawals from non-Citi ATMs, both foreign and domestic$2.50 for any inquiries, transfers or withdrawals with domestic non-Chase ATMs

$5 for withdrawals and $2.50 for any inquiries and transfers using non-Chase ATMs abroad
Overdraft fee$34 per charge, with a maximum of 4 per day (after which transactions will be declined)$34 per charge, with a maximum of 3 per day (after which transactions will be declined)

The fees are accurate as of the publish date of this article

One of the biggest differences you’ll notice is that Chase makes it very expensive to use a non-Chase ATM when venturing beyond America’s borders. The $5 additional charge they tack on might be enough for frequent international travelers to think twice before banking with Chase.

The monthly fee for a savings account at Citi is also 50 cents cheaper than the savings account at Chase, but both of these accounts (as well as the checking accounts) offer ways to avoid fees. For example, the Chase Savings account requires at least $300 in the account each day to waive the fee, as opposed to the $500 average monthly balance required with a stand-alone Citi savings account.

Seniors should note that Citi will waive the monthly service fee on its Basic Banking Account package, as well as the non-Citi ATM fee, for customers aged 62 and older.

Who should bank with Citibank?

If you’re looking for a big, national bank, you can’t go wrong with either Citi or Chase. However, those eager to earn interest on the money they deposit should stroll down to the closest Citi branch, if possible. The interest rates Citi offers on its CDs and savings account trump those from Chase, even if neither of them hold a candle to the national average or what online banks offer.

Given the hefty fee Chase charges for using a non-Chase ATM while abroad, international travelers may want to go with Citi instead of Chase. And seniors 62 and older should remember that Citi waves out-of-network ATM fees and monthly maintenance fees for the Basic Banking Account package.

Who should bank with Chase?

There’s one metric that Chase absolutely crushes Citi on: branch availability. With 5,300 physical locations in 29 states, plus the District of Columbia, and 16,000 ATMs, Chase is seemingly everywhere. And sometimes that’s enough to make it your bank of choice, especially if you just need a place to perform basic banking and believe convenience trumps higher interest rates and (slightly) lower fees.

Alternatives

Looking at the numbers, neither Citibank nor Chase cover themselves with glory when it comes to fees and interest rates when compared with the competition. If you’re willing to give up the convenience and personal touch of physical banking, online banks can offer some terrific rates for minimal fees (though since they usually lack the brand-name recognition of a big bank, you’ll want to do your research before depositing your money with an unknown entity). Local banks and credit unions can also provide competitive rates while still giving you a warm, fuzzy feeling from knowing the person behind the teller window.