Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Bank of America vs. Citibank: How Do They Compare?

Bank of America vs. Citibank: How Do They Compare?
18 Oct
9:58

Huge, multinational banks like Citibank and Bank of America used to be the primary go-to for nearly all banking customers. Though competition from online banks has taken some of their customers, they still remain industry stalwarts that many customers think of as their first choice when it comes to banks.

Both of these institutions offer nearly any banking service a customer could desire, and both boast an international reach. This is one of the main advantages that large banks such as Bank of America and Citibank have over online banks and credit unions — global reach and support, coupled with the ability to access your money and even talk to a banker in person nearly anywhere in the developed world.

When it comes to a head-to-head comparison of these two banking behemoths, the main difference is in CD and savings rates, where Citibank has the edge, and access to ATMs and branch locations, where the verdict is a split decision.

Bank of America vs. Citibank: A brief overview

In many ways, Bank of America truly is “America’s bank,” as the company traces its roots back 240 years. As Bank of America’s website says, its heritage banks helped grow the whaling industry in Nantucket, rebuild Chicago after the Great Fire and develop the first nationally licensed credit card, which ultimately grew to become Visa. In 1998, BankAmerica merged with NationsBank to become the country’s first coast-to-coast bank, and on Jan. 1, 2009, the bank acquired brokerage firm Merrill Lynch, making it the biggest bank in America at the time. Today, Bank of America serves one out of every two American households, with nearly $2.4 trillion in assets.

Not to be outdone, Citibank traces its roots back to 1812, when it helped finance the U.S. government during the War of 1812. City Bank, as the bank was originally named, later played a role in some of the most important developments in American history, including financing the Union Army in the Civil War, aiding in the creation of the Panama Canal and supporting the financing for the Marshall Plan. The bank currently safeguards over $1.9 trillion in customer assets and is the world’s largest credit card issuer.

Both firms are global powerhouses, offering everything from basic banking services to advanced financial planning internationally. The two banks have been competitors for over 200 years, and as survivors in the industry, they both share a number of the same capabilities and services. However, there are some important differences between the two.

Bank of America vs. Citibank: How they compare on rates

Bank of America and Citibank both have a bewildering array of rates for their products, particularly in the checking account and savings account categories. Customers making larger deposits or paying additional monthly fees are entitled to better rates, as they move toward the designation of being “preferred” customers.

At the end of the day, however, rates for checking and savings accounts at both institutions are extraordinarily low and a far cry from even the national average rates — even for those with the largest deposits. The incremental gains earned by moving up the “preferred customer” ladder are negligible.

For example, at Bank of America, the savings account rate at the Platinum Honors Tier for deposits of $500,000 or more is 0.06% APY, which is not much more than the standard 0.03% APY for those who aren’t Preferred Rewards clients. Savings rates at Citibank peak at 0.15% APY for Citigold package customers depositing at least $500,000. Plus, there’s no interest-earning checking account at all for basic accounts at Citibank, and even interest checking with the top-tier Citigold banking package pays just 0.03% APY.

There is one huge and notable exception, however. In 2019, Citibank unveiled the high-yield version of its Citi Accelerate Savings account, which has a very high 2.05% APY. This type of account is more in line with what online competitors currently offer. However, the Citi Accelerate Savings account is not available in several states, including California, New York and Texas.

When it comes to CD rates, Citibank asserts itself as well. For both 1-year and 5-year CDs, Citibank’s rates are considerably above Bank of America’s. In the case of 1-year CDs for deposits of at least $25,000, Citibank’s rates are even quite a bit above the national average.

In a head-to-head comparison, there’s really no winner when it comes to basic checking and savings rates. Both banks offer abysmally low rates that will hardly make a difference to the average customer. For example, a standard customer with a $100,000 savings deposit will earn just $30 per year in interest at Bank of America. Things aren’t much better at Citibank, where a Basic Banking customer with a $100,000 savings deposit will earn just $60 per year. However, Citibank’s CD rates — and its Citi Accelerate Savings rate, for those who can access it — make the bank a much better option overall when it comes to rates.

One thing to note is that with both banks, rates vary slightly based on where you’re located. While we used rates for Los Angeles, rates were slightly higher in New York, for example. However, the change in rates based on customer location are minimal overall, with the exception that some states do not have access to the higher Citi Accelerate Savings rates.

  Bank of America Citibank National Average
Checking Below $50,000: 0.01% APY

$50,000 – $99,999: 0.02% APY

$100,000 and over: 0.02% APY

0.00% APY* 0.202% APY
Savings Below $2,500: 0.03% APY

$2,500 and over: 0.03% APY

2.05%** 0.284% APY
1-year CD Below $10,000: 0.05% APY

$10,000-$99.999: 0.05% APY

$100,000 and over: 0.05% APY

Below $10,000: 0.25% APY

$10,000 – $24,999.99: 0.25% APY

$25,000 – $49,999.99: 2.00% APY

$50,000 – $99,999.99: 2.00% APY

$100,000 – $499,999.99: 2.00% APY

$500,000 – $999,999.99: 2.00% APY

$1,000,000+: 2.00% APY

1.365% APY
5-year CD Below $10,000: 0.75% APY

$10,000 – $99,999: 0.75% APY

$100,000 and over: 0.75% APY

Below $10,000: 1.25% APY
$10,000 – $24,999.99: 1.25% APY

$25,000 – $49,999.99: 1.25% APY

$50,000 – $99,999.99: 1.25% APY

$100,000 – $499,999.99: 1.25% APY

$500,000 – $999,999.99: 1.25% APY

$1,000,000+: 1.25% APY

2.159% APY

*Rates vary based on the type of banking relationship customers have.
** Rates may vary based on location; this rate is only available in certain states. Rates pulled are based on the location of the bank’s headquarters.

Bank of America vs. Citibank: What account options are available?

Both Bank of America and Citibank offer a wide range of product options. Each bank offers checking, savings and CD accounts; both also offer money market accounts, though they are only available within an IRA. Though retirement money market accounts typically earn low rates of interest, they also tend to be low-risk, providing stability.

If anything, both of these banks offer too many account types, as there are an incredible number of subdivisions of accounts based on the size of your account and your customer status at the bank. For example, when you open a standard savings account at Citibank, it’s opened as part of one of five banking packages: the Access Account, Basic Banking, The Citibank Account, Citi Priority or Citigold. Depending on which banking package you open, your rate on your savings account will vary. Generally, the more money you have on deposit with Citi, the higher your interest rate, but again, the increase in rates is minimal at best. The Citi Accelerate Savings is the logical choice for most savers, but again, it is not available in all states.

Bank of America operates in a similar fashion. Interest rates vary based on how much you deposit and if you are a member of the Preferred Rewards Program, which has three tiers: Gold, Platinum and Platinum Honors. You qualify for these tiers based on your account size, with the top tier requiring an average three-month balance of at least $100,000. These tiers qualify you for interest rate boosts of 5%, 10% or 20% (depending on tier), along with other perks like fee-free withdrawals from non-Bank of America ATMs and free stock and ETF trades through the firm’s self-directed brokerage platform, Merrill Edge.

Figuring out what type of banking package you should have and how much you should deposit to earn the highest rates and pay the least amount of fees can be overwhelming. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a variety of account types to choose from, you’ll certainly have a wealth of options at both Bank of America and Citibank.

  Bank of America Citibank
Checking account
Savings account
Certificates of deposit
Money market account

*Money market account only available within an IRA.

Bank of America vs. Citibank: How they stack up on fees

Fees are the bane of most large, traditional banks, and to a large part, it is these fees that have accounted for the rise of numerous online banking rivals. Although there are ways around the fees charged by Bank of America and Citibank, there are numerous ways you can be tripped up by them.

At the time of publishing, Citibank, for example, charges $12 per month for its regular checking account if you’re in a Basic Banking package, but that fee goes all the way up to $30 if you’re a Citi Priority member. If you choose to have a standalone savings account, those fees range from $4.50 per month to $25 per month. These fees seem excessive in an era when countless online banks — and even credit unions and larger banks — offer fee-free checking accounts. With the Basic Banking package, the bank does waive the typical $2.50 charge for out-of-network ATM withdrawals for account holders age 62 or older.

Bank of America is no better than Citibank when it comes to basic account fees. Although waivable with a $1,500 balance, a qualifying direct deposit of $250 or Preferred Rewards client status, the Advantage Plus Banking account charges $12 per month, at the time of writing. Though there is an account option with a $4.95 monthly maintenance fee, Advantage SafeBalance Banking is a very basic account that does not offer checkwriting.

Overdrafts at Bank of America are a whopping $35, and the bank will charge that fee up to four times per day. Even overdraft protection costs $12. A standard savings account will set you back $8 monthly, although this is waivable as well with a minimum balance of $500, a linked Relationship Banking account or Preferred Rewards client status.

  Bank of America Citibank
Standard checking account $12, waivable $10-$30, waivable
Standard savings account $8, waivable $4.50-$25, waivable
ATM fee $0 for in-network ATMs
$2.50 for out-of-network ATMs
$0 for in-network ATMs
$2.50 for out-of-network ATMs (can be waived in specific circumstances)
Overdraft fee $35, charged no more than 4 times per day $34, charged no more than 4 times per day

When to choose Bank of America

  • You want access to more physical branches.
  • You have a Merrill Edge investments account.

If you need to visit a physical branch, Bank of America should be your choice over Citibank. Although Citibank has an impressive 700 domestic and 1,800 international branches, they are dwarfed in number by Bank of America, which boasts 4,300 retail financial centers in the U.S. alone.

If you want the convenience and control of an online brokerage account while still banking with a brick-and-mortar giant, Bank of America has the answer for you with its Merrill Edge brokerage platform. Consistently rated among the best of its kind, Merrill Edge allows you complete control of your investment portfolio via low-cost trading while still offering access to financial advisors, if you so desire.

When to choose Citibank

  • You want easy access to customer service.
  • You want a larger ATM network.
  • You want higher rates on 1-year CDs and savings.

Many customers choose large, traditional banks for their customer service, and Citibank delivers in this regard. Citibank has so many divisions that there are separate toll-free phone lines depending on which department you need and what type of banking relationship you have. The important thing is that you can reach a live person 24/7. You can also live chat, visit a branch or connect by mail. Bank of America phone lines are only open for 15 hours during the week, and 12 hours on weekends.

The ATM network for Citibank is vast, with more than 60,000 surcharge-free ATMs available for use. This is considerably more than Bank of America, which lists about 16,000 ATMs.

While Citibank won’t get any medals for its basic checking and savings account rates, it does actually offer a few bright spots in its rate lineup. Citibank’s 1-year CD rates for those depositing at least $25,000 are actually quite good, and well above those offered by Bank of America. And if you live in a state with access to the Citi Accelerate Savings account, you’ll get one of the higher savings rates in the nation.

The bottom line: Is Bank of America vs. Citibank better?

Both Bank of America and Citibank have the best and the worst features of a large bank. On the plus side, you’ll never be too far away from a branch or ATM with either bank. Both banks have long-established reputations and trillions of dollars in customer assets, so you’re likely to find bankers that understand any financial problem you have and can offer a number of financial products to solve them.

On the downside, the interest rates that these banks pay on basic accounts are anemic. For the long haul, neither of these banks is generally a good place to park your money if you’re looking for a decent interest rate. Citibank’s new Citi Accelerate Savings account is definitely a step in the right direction, and an indication that the bank desires to compete with online banks for savings dollars. Again, however, you must be in a state that offers the account. So far, Bank of America hasn’t added such an option to remain competitive.

Citibank also steps up on its current 1-year CD rates, where a deposit of at least $25,000 will earn you a rate well above the national average and close to the best rates offered by online banking competitors.

On a head-to-head basis, the odds generally tilt towards Citibank over Bank of America. Although Bank of America has a much larger number of physical branches, Citibank has a much wider ATM network, and its high 1-year CD and Citi Accelerate Savings rates outgun anything offered by Bank of America.

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John Csiszar

John Csiszar |

John Csiszar is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email John here

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