3 articles Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank Review (British Columbian perspective)

I have banked with Citizens Bank for just under a year, and so far have been quite happy with my experience there.

It all started about a year ago when I graduated from school and was faced with the end of my ‘student’ account at one of the big banks. Although I had already been paying fees (about $3.50/month, which bought me almost no services), the non-student plans were even worse. I decided it was time to explore some no-fee account options. Here is how I decided on Citizens Bank:

I didn’t want to buy a membership to a bank

My first line of inquiries was around credit unions, which typically have good reputations for having better fee structures. Citizens Bank is very comparable to credit unions, but it is not actually a credit union and thus you do not have to buy shares.

I wanted a stable bank, where my funds were secure

Citizens Bank is an ‘online’ bank, however they do have one branch location in downtown Vancouver, which appeases any worries I have about not having any face-to-face customer services options. As well, they are owned by Vancity, which means that they have the backing of a larger group. Funds deposited at Citizens Bank are also covered by the CDIC.

I wanted no-fee accounts, with high rates, and overall flexibility

I was looking to have two accounts: a chequing / savings account and a high interest account. Citizens Bank had both of these, and the accounts are automatically connected. My only point of dissatisfaction with their accounts was that the chequing / savings account was not completely ‘fee free’ (like Coast Capital Savings) as you have to keep a minimum balance ($1000) to avoid fees. However, as has been recently announced, they will have a completely free chequing / savings account shortly. This has improved my satisfaction about 30%, as I found it unreasonable that they could not match the Coast Capital ‘no fee’ account. After all, Citizens Bank is an online bank, meaning that they save on overhead costs.

The high interest savings account has consistently offered one of the top interest rates all year, and is currently about .10% higher than other banks. This account could also in many instances be used as a chequing / savings account as you can make bill payments, and some debit transactions out of that account (although I still wanted a chequing / savings account).

The chequing / savings account has unlimited transactions, and you can use any ATM on THE EXCHANGE Network (which makes it extremely accessible, as there are many banks on that network, such as HSBC and almost all credit unions). I also got free cheques with the account, which most banks do not do — even Coast Capital). They have a very basic but functional online interface that allows for online banking with bill payments and transfers. I have found interfacing between the two accounts is completely seamless, with instant transfers.

——————————————

All these elements lead me to open my account with Citizens. I found the actual opening of the account relatively easy — I did do it in branch (because I didn’t have any cheques from my other bank), and the service in branch was good. If you have cheques you can open the account by mail.

Unexpected, value-added features

Since becoming a client, I have come to discover some unexpected, value-added features:

Transferring funds between other Citizens clients

You can transfer money to other Citizens account holders for free. This is a great paperless way to settle payments with others. There are many applications of this, including: paying rent; settling a tab with a friend; and buying something online.

Memorized accounts

I have only recently discovered this feature, and it makes the above mentioned item much easier to do. Basically, you can have the system save other account numbers for you, so if you frequently transfer funds to other people, you can save them as a ‘memorized account’. Once logged in, click the Member Services tab, then click the Manage Memorized Accounts link on the left, add an account, name it and presto. Later, when you transfer money to another Citizens Bank member, you can choose their account from the memorized list.

Memorized accounts dropdown list

Good customer service

I have occasionally had to phone their 1-800 number for customer support. I have always found the service to be very helpful, and very efficient. There is no 20-minute long phone tree or extended wait times; they pick up right away and provide good service. They are also open 24/7; you may be anxious about having a bank with only one branch, but it’s actually more accessible than most banks as you do not have to race to the branch before it closes. Whenever you have a problem, you can just call them up and receive quick service. This was one of my biggest complaints at my previous bank, as they were open so infrequently that I could almost never get service.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR)

Citizens is a bank you can feel good about banking with. They have great corporate social responsibility policies. For example, they set a goal to be carbon neutral as an organization, and they have achieved it ahead of schedule. You can read about how they did it here. As well, they have an annual campaign where bank clients can vote from a list of charities about where corporate donations will be made. Initiatives like these make you feel good about being aligned with the organization. Remember, money talks: if you are concerned about CSR you have to think about who you are storing your money with.

Areas for improvement

Online login

This is an issue I have only recently had as a complaint. Within the last 3 months they changed their online login system to add some new ‘security’ features. You now have to enter your personal password, view a secret picture, and a secret word. Then if you have not registered your computer, or are using a public computer, you have to answer questions which you previously filled the answers in for. I hate this system. I find it cumbersome and annoying. I believe there may be a time and a place for extended security when using public computers, but I never use public computers for accessing my banking data (the best security measure of all), and therefore would have much preferred if there was an opt-in/out feature on the new security measures. That way I would not have to endure the hassle every time I log in from home, but if I knew I would be traveling or potentially using other computers, I could turn that feature on. I also question exactly how much security it adds to your account, since if someone could hack in and determine your password, why couldn’t they hack in and replicate your secret picture/word etc.

No fee account

As mentioned above it really bothers me that you need a minimum account balance in order to waive fees. The fact that they are apparently getting rid of this is a huge improvement.

Paperless statements

When I first joined I signed up to not receive my paper statements. However, I still receive them, and can’t fully figure out why. My complaint on this issue, is not one actually specific to Citizens but to all companies that try and sign you up for paperless — why can’t an option be that they email you a link to your bill every month. I don’t want to have to remember every month that it’s time to go online and check it, then have to find where it is on the website etc — this whole ‘paperless’ thing would work much better if they would send you a link once a month.

Automatic credit limit

When I first opened my chequing / savings account with Citizens, they opened it with an automatic $1000 credit / overdraft approved. I did not want that, and I still don’t. This should be an opt-in/out feature. My main concern is security — if someone stole my debit card tomorrow, they could withdraw my funds plus the $1000 ‘credit’ which I would then be on the hook for. Second, this extra $1000 is shown in your balance, so it can be confusing sometimes as to exactly how much you have if you forget to mentally deduct that $1000. Third, I find this to be sneaky behaviour on their part, as this credit comes with an extremely high interest rate in comparison to their regular lines of credit. It makes you feel that they are trying to pull a fast one on you, because if you ever make a mistake and dip into that money, you will be charged a hefty fee for that. I would prefer to take the risk of having a cheque bounce than to have this pre-approved credit.

——————————————

Overall, I have been happy with the service, security, and money management of Citizens Bank. I would recommend this bank to anyone.


Latest posts in the Citizens Bank forum

Forum/Topic Started Last post Posts

Citizens Bank

Vancity has a new high interest savings account Jumpstart?

November 16, 2007
12:59 am by
Peter
View

January 4, 2019
11:52 pm by
speedwagen
View

7

Citizens Bank

service charges,electronic packages and plan 24 savings account

June 25, 2010
7:53 pm by
jude
View

June 30, 2010
12:42 am by
Doug
View

6

Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank is closing

August 5, 2009
4:49 pm by
Peter
View

February 25, 2010
3:31 am by
Doug
View

28

Citizens Bank

Download your account history before your Citizens Bank account closes

February 24, 2010
5:14 am by
Peter
View

February 24, 2010
4:28 pm by
Prag
View

2

Citizens Bank

Checking account functional until probably February

December 7, 2009
9:08 pm by
Patrick
View

December 7, 2009
9:08 pm by
Patrick
View

1

No-fee chequing account from Citizens Bank is coming!

In early June 2008 Starting on September 16, 2008, Citizens Bank will introduce a no-fee, unlimited transaction chequing account called the Global Chequing Account. Their current chequing account has an $8 monthly fee unless you carry a $1,000, but that will soon change. That’s right, soon you will be able to write cheques, make your debit payments, use THE EXCHANGE Network, HSBC, and National Bank ATMs, and more to your heart’s content, no matter how much of a balance you maintain.

One-time fees such as NSF, bank drafts, and so on will still apply (as with all chequing accounts) but say goodbye to usual operating fees or monthly fees. Moreover, if you use an ATM while traveling outside of Canada, Citizens Bank will waive their portion of the fees. (The other bank might still charge something on their side).

While Coast Capital made the big news when they offered their no-fee chequing account a couple of years ago, I am partial to Citizens Bank to an extent because of its Ultimate Savings Account. That account is consistently near or at the top of the high interest savings account rates. With the new Citizens Bank chequing account, I would be able to make unlimited, instant transfers between my own accounts and to other Citizens Bank accounts. Essentially, I can keep the bulk of my money in the high interest account, and instantly transfer it over to the chequing account as needed.

Citizens Bank is mostly an online bank, which suits me well because almost all of my banking can be done electronically. However, I am also fortunate enough to live near its downtown Vancouver location, which does offer teller service (for the rare occasion that I have to deposit a US dollar cheque).

Ever since I opened a Citizens Bank account 4 years ago, I have become more and more of a fan. They’re owned by Vancity, they have great service, they’re socially responsible and green, and of course they have practical, relevant account offerings. Heck, here I am writing what is essentially a free promo for them!


Latest posts in the Citizens Bank forum

Forum/Topic Started Last post Posts

Citizens Bank

Vancity has a new high interest savings account Jumpstart?

November 16, 2007
12:59 am by
Peter
View

January 4, 2019
11:52 pm by
speedwagen
View

7

Citizens Bank

service charges,electronic packages and plan 24 savings account

June 25, 2010
7:53 pm by
jude
View

June 30, 2010
12:42 am by
Doug
View

6

Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank is closing

August 5, 2009
4:49 pm by
Peter
View

February 25, 2010
3:31 am by
Doug
View

28

Citizens Bank

Download your account history before your Citizens Bank account closes

February 24, 2010
5:14 am by
Peter
View

February 24, 2010
4:28 pm by
Prag
View

2

Citizens Bank

Checking account functional until probably February

December 7, 2009
9:08 pm by
Patrick
View

December 7, 2009
9:08 pm by
Patrick
View

1

Citizens Bank — review by Peter

Last updated August 18, 2007

Note: this review originated on my blog reviewing Citizens Bank, ING Direct, and PC Financial together.

Website: http://www.citizensbank.ca
Accounts of note: Ultimate Savings Account, 4.00%; Investment Savings Account, 2.4% as of January 27th, 2008

Citizens Bank is actually a Vancity company, and is my favourite bank. You get free cheques on the Investment Savings Account, and can transfer funds between that account and the Ultimate Savings Account instantly (instantly as in… as soon as you click the button!).

Instant transfer between your two Citizens Bank accounts

Therefore, keep as much money as you can in the Ultimate Savings Account and transfer it to the Investment Savings Account whenever you need it (this transfer happens instantly).

Regarding ATMs, Citizens Bank is on the Exchange network, which HSBC and all of the BC credit unions are a part of. Did somebody say coverage?

Key Details
-no minimum balance required
-pair the Ultimate Savings Account and Investment Savings account for a powerful combo
-free cheques, free bill payments

Paying your bills online has never been easier

-four free debits from ATMs on the Exchange network, which should be plenty if you use your credit card as much as possible…

Interesting Facts:
-Ultimate Savings Account’s interest rate was unofficially pegged at 0.05% higher than that of ING Direct’s, but in late 2007, Citizen’s Bank’s rate has been consistently even higher.
-If you’re familiar with credit union online interfaces such as Vancity’s and Envision’s, you’ll feel right at home.
-Call their customer service line (available 24/7) and get some of the same representatives that handle Vancity’s customer service. They’re not supposed to reveal this fact, but some of them will admit it…
-Transfers between two of your own Citizens Bank accounts occurs instantly, unlike at PC Financial.
-You can transfer money instantly to any Citizens Bank account online. Internal transfers can be done at other banks, but often you have to wait a few business days or do the transfer over the phone.
-You can choose to stop receiving paper statements from Citizens Bank (to be environmentally friendly).

Bottom line:
I have accounts at Citizens Bank, ING Direct, and PC Financial and here’s my conclusion:

Use Citizens Bank for the most powerful, flexible account with the best feature-to-rate ratio.
Use ING Direct for the easy-to-use interface.
Use PC Financial for the highest rate if you have more than $1,000.


Latest posts in the Citizens Bank forum

Forum/Topic Started Last post Posts

Citizens Bank

Vancity has a new high interest savings account Jumpstart?

November 16, 2007
12:59 am by
Peter
View

January 4, 2019
11:52 pm by
speedwagen
View

7

Citizens Bank

service charges,electronic packages and plan 24 savings account

June 25, 2010
7:53 pm by
jude
View

June 30, 2010
12:42 am by
Doug
View

6

Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank is closing

August 5, 2009
4:49 pm by
Peter
View

February 25, 2010
3:31 am by
Doug
View

28

Citizens Bank

Download your account history before your Citizens Bank account closes

February 24, 2010
5:14 am by
Peter
View

February 24, 2010
4:28 pm by
Prag
View

2

Citizens Bank

Checking account functional until probably February

December 7, 2009
9:08 pm by
Patrick
View

December 7, 2009
9:08 pm by
Patrick
View

1