Banking

Chime vs Simple: A Review of Millennial Financial Options

Editor's Note

You can trust the integrity of our balanced, independent financial advice. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article. Opinions are the author's alone. This content has not been provided by, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any advertiser, unless otherwise noted below.

When it comes to banking, millennials are a little different.

For instance, were less likely than our parents to choose a big bank or even a local credit union. In fact, a 2016 FICO survey showed 16 percent of millennials were considering opening an account with an online-only bank.

What do our banking quirks mean for the world of financial technology? It means new options are hitting the market every day!

Two of those new options are financial apps, called Chime and Simple. Growing in popularity, especially with the under-forty crowd, these apps give users more control over their money. But their premises and features are different.

If you’re looking to change the way you manage your money, here’s what each app does and how they stack up.

The Basics of Chime

Chime is both a spending and savings account and an app to manage those accounts. When you open an account here, you get a Spending Account and a Savings Account. You’ll also receive the Chime Visa Debit Card.

The accounts are FDIC-insured. They have features that millennials have come to expect, including no monthly minimums or fees, no overdraft fees, and plenty of fee-free ATMs.

That all sounds pretty standard, right? So, what sets Chime apart from other free online banking options?

Two things: its automatic savings program and its app. Full Chime Review

Automatic Savings

We’ve talked before about apps that let you virtually save your change, including Qoins and Acorns. These apps will automatically round up transactions, saving or investing the difference for you.

Chime does this, too, when you enroll in its automatic savings program. When you spend $2.05 on coffee, Chime will round up the transaction to $3 and toss the extra $.95 into your savings account.

But there are some key differences between Chime and these other apps, including:

  • Direct to Savings. With Qoins, you have to send your change to a credit account of some kind, and with an Acorn’s app, you’re investing your round-ups. But with Chime, you just put that money right into your savings account. It’s more flexible and accessible there.
  • No Fees. Chimes accounts are fee-free, and so is its automatic savings program. With the other apps, you have to pay to have your change moved over to a different account (either a percentage of your savings or a monthly fee). With Chime, it happens automatically.
  • Paycheck Savings. When you set up your Chime accounts, you can automatically move 10% of your paycheck over to savings.

All in all, if you’re looking for a way to save your virtual change, Chime is an excellent option. Just complete an average of two transactions per day (including online bill pay), and you should easily save around $400 in a year.

The App

With all the new fintech options, apps are essential.

Chime’s is available both on Android and on iOS. It gives you instant notifications on all transactions, so you can keep a close eye on your spending. It will also ping you each morning with an account balance update, so you know exactly what you have available to spend for that day.

With the app, you can also easily check your balance and transactions log, find nearby fee-free ATMs, and check for cash back rewards.

Lose your card? You can temporarily block new transactions on your card or send a message to Member Services. You can also quickly pay bills, send e-checks, or transfer funds with the app.

A note on the checks feature: Chime will create and mail a paper check for you, if necessary.

You may still have one or two bills that need to be paid by check. You can create and send the check from your Chime app for free. The money comes from your account when the check is drafted rather than when it's cashed, too, so you're more aware of your cash flow.

One other interesting feature of Chime is its cash back program. When you use your debit card at certain retailers, you can earn credit card-like cash back rewards. You can use the app to figure out where to find these rewards.

Switching to Chime

When you sign up for Chime, you can simply link your old bank account to move your existing funds into your new Chime account for free. You can also easily set up direct deposit. With this feature, you could receive your paycheck up to two days early!

What It's Missing

Chime is still developing some of its features, including photo check depositing. You can use a third-party app to deposit checks currently, but you can't do this straight from Chime.

Depositing cash is also a bit hairy. You can deposit cash at any Green Dot location, but Green Dot will likely charge a fee.

Another missing piece is joint accounts. You can't use Chime in tandem with another person yet, though they say they're working on developing this feature.

The Basics of Simple

The premise of Simple is a bit more complex than that of Chime.

Instead of focusing on the major selling point of rounding up your change, Simple involves a bigger money management system. If you want to have more control over your spending and a built-in budgeting option, Simple may be just what you're looking for.

Like Chime, Simple's accounts are fee-free. They don't charge for overdrafts or charge monthly fees. There are also no maintenance, card replacement, or minimum balance fees. Simple itself doesn't charge ATM fees at its network of ATMs, though the ATM owners can still charge fees.

Other basic features include:

  • Photo check deposits. Unlike Chime, Simple allows you to deposit a check with a photo right from its app.
  • Account connection. You can easily transfer between Simple and other checking or savings accounts.
  • Transfer to friends. Simple also allows you to transfer money to friends instantly, so splitting dinners and other expenses is easy. It also works with Paypal, Square Cash, and Venmo, if those are your preferred methods of money-moving.
  • Check writing. Like Chime, Simple will write and send paper checks for free whenever you need that done.
  • Shared accounts. Simple allows for shared accounts for couples, or others who want to share a joint account for whatever reason. Shared accounts allows you to set up one joint account and two solo accounts, so you can share some expenses and transactions while keeping others to yourself. With shared accounts, you can get notifications of your partner’s spending in real time, so you’re always on the same page about spending.

The Budgeting System

Simple is set up as not only a banking app but also a budgeting system. It operates on the idea of Goals. You can basically create digital envelopes within your Simple account to work towards certain Goals.

Your Goals can be small things, like your monthly electric bill or rent. Using Goals this way is similar to setting up a budget on another tracking app. The difference is that the money gets separated within your account, and earmarked for certain goals.

The other option is to use Goals to save up for bigger-ticket items, such as a vacation or a new car. When you set up a goal, you'll name the goal, put in a dollar amount, and tell Simple your time frame. It'll then divide out how much you need to save per day to reach your goal in time.

Then, each time you spend, you can assign your spending to a particular goal category, if that's where it fits.

Safe-to-Spend

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Simple is its Safe-to-Spend category. This is basically money that's left over after your scheduled bills and goals.

Simple explains the setup this way:

At the base of your total balance is your scheduled bills and transactions. If you've set up the scheduled transaction from Simple, it'll keep track of what's coming up for you.

Then, you have your Goals. These are the budget items or longer-term plans you're saving up for.

On the top is your Safe-to-Spend category. Basically, your Safe-to-Spend money is what's left after you subtract the next thirty days' worth of Goals and scheduled transactions from your account balance.

Let's say you have $1,000 in your account, and in the next 30 days will need to spend $500 on scheduled transactions. You'll also put $250 toward Goals. This means you'll have $250 in your Safe-to-Spend category. This is basically money you can do whatever you want with.

However, if you spend $300 outside of Goals and scheduled transactions, you'll dip into some of your Goals to cover the transaction. Simple will do all of this for you. It'll just take you longer to reach your goals if you overspend.

Tracking Your Spending

With Simple, each transaction can be assigned to either a particular Goal or your Safe-to-Spend category.

In essence, your Goals work like your budget, allowing you to spend within limits or save to meet longer-term goals. Your Safe-to-Spend category is what’s leftover. It’s your “fun money” that you can use to cover unbudgeted transactions.

Because of its Safe-to-Spend category, Simple is ideal for those who don't want to budget for every single expense that comes up.

If a zero-based budget isn't for you, Simple might do the trick. It'll let you keep track of your must-pay bills and budget for areas where you typically over-spend. But you won't have to budget down to the dollar, because you'll always know what you have left after your bills and Goals.

Possible Drawbacks

If you're looking for a Chime-like automated savings option, Simple isn't it. It'll help you earmark money for particular goals, but you have to set them up in advance. Simple also doesn't offer a rewards program like Chime, and it doesn't offer a high-yield savings account option.

There are some ways around these issues, though. You could, for instance, use a credit card to pay for basic expenses, netting the rewards, and then repaying the card through Simple. You can also link Simple to a high-yield savings account to transfer out your longer-term savings on a schedule.

Chime vs Simple: Which is Better?

Even though Simple and Chime are targeting the same market, they're actually not trying to accomplish the same thing.

Sure, at their core, they both offer app-based banking. But that's where the similarities end. They're both a great option, but they'll meet different needs.

If you’re looking for automatic savings or to start saving your virtual change, Chime is the way to go. It’s also a great option if you want to net rewards on your debit card spending, rather than focusing on credit card rewards. However, if you need a joint account or frequently deposit checks, you might want to wait until the app gets those kinks worked out. Want to learn more about Chime? Check out our full review here.

If you're looking for a money management tool combined with a bank account, Simple is a great option. As I noted above, I think it's a particularly good fit for those who prefer to keep a looser budget without dictating where every dollar winds up. And it's a good option for saving up little by little for big financial goals. Want to learn more about Simple? Check out our full review here.

Related: Best Neobanks

Have you tried either Chime or Simple? Or both? Tell us what you think of these services in the comments!

Chime Disclosure - Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services and debit card provided by The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC.

1Chime cannot guarantee when files are sent by the IRS and funds can be made available.

^Early access to direct deposit funds depends on payer


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