Citi Checking Accounts Try but Fail to Impress
Citigroup is one of the world's largest financial conglomerates with prominent operations in investment banking, credit cards, and wealth management. The company also offers simple checking accounts, and they can all be opened with no deposit.
First up is the Citibank Account. It can be enrolled in the bank's customer loyalty program, ThankYou Rewards; although Citi requires one bill payment and one direct deposit each statement cycle to earn points for the statement period. The Citibank Account can be established as either interest-bearing or non-interest-bearing. The APY on the interest-bearing account is typically very low.
On top of these rather tepid policies, the financial company charges $25 per month for the Citibank Account. This steep fee can be avoided by maintaining $10,000 in deposits with Citigroup. Many different types of accounts can be used, including retirement, brokerage, wealth management, and bank accounts.
For ATM users, Citi charges $2.50 per withdrawal at non-Citi machines. Even worse, this is in addition to whatever fee the ATM owner imposes. Citi does waive its charge when the $10,000 minimum balance mentioned above is maintained.
The first order of checks with the Citibank Account is free of charge, which seems to be the only decent policy with this account.
Next up is Basic Banking. This account comes with a much lower $12 monthly fee, and there are easier ways to avoid it as well compared to the Citibank Account. Citi requires just $1,500 in assets to waive the charge. Alternatively, making a bill payment and receiving a direct deposit in the statement period will avoid the fee. Citi will also waive the $12 fee for account owners who are 62 years old or older.
Unlike the Citibank Account, Basic Banking does not come with ThankYou Rewards, nor does it offer any interest. The bank's $2.50 ATM charge is waived for Basic Banking account holders who are at least 62 years old. Like the Citibank Account, there are no refunds of ATM fees charged by other financial institutions.
Checkwriting is available with the Basic Banking package, but unlike the Citibank Account, there is a charge for the first order of checks.
Now we come to the third and final option. Affordable Access Banking carries the lowest fee of the three accounts—just $10 per month. It can be avoided by keeping $1,500 on deposit with Citi. Alternatively, a direct deposit or a bill payment will waive the monthly charge. Notice this time it is direct deposit or bill payment. Basic Banking requires both, whereas Affordable Access Banking only requires one.
Although this third account clearly has more generous policies, there are some downsides. The biggest seems to be the fact that the account doesn't offer checkwriting, at least not in paper form. The account does come with ACH capability, along with an ATM or debit card, so it is possible to move money when you need to.
All of Citi's checking accounts have access to the bank's 3,400 ATM's located in the United States, and it's always free to use these machines. The Citi debit card and bill pay have no monthly fees. The bank’s website offers convenient account management 24/7. Account alerts can be sent to an e-mail address or mobile phone number. Electronic monthly statements cost nothing.
Despite the deep pockets of Citigroup, the bank seems to fall short in the checking account category compared to many other options available today. Ally Bank, for example, offers a checking account that consistently pays higher interest, comes with free checks, and even reimburses ATM fees. These perks are available with no account fee and no minimum balance requirement. Citi does offer one option to obtain better account policies; but the service, called Citigold, requires a very steep $200,000 to qualify.