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Bank of America vs. Citibank: Which is Better?


Written by Brynne Conroy | Published on 10/10/2019

Bank of America and Citibank are two of the largest banks in the country. However, they offer relatively lackluster options for consumers in terms of deposit accounts. With low interest rates and high monthly maintenance fees compared to other options, any advantages of working with either financial institution are only realized when you have tens of thousands of dollars across your deposit accounts.

If you are considering these banks for your checking, savings, certificate of deposit (CD) or money market needs, we’ve evaluated whether Bank of America versus Citibank is better for you, given your individual circumstances.

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Bank of America vs. Citibank: An overview

Bank of America can trace its roots back to 1784, and it claims to have aided in the American Revolution and in rebuilding Richmond after the Civil War. Today, Bank of America has 4,323 branches and more than 16,000 in-network ATMs across the U.S.

Originating in New York City during the War of 1812, Citibank also claims a long and storied history of funding both war efforts and economic boosts to the American industrial system over the years. Citibank is also large, with nearly 700 branches in the U.S. and more than 1,800 locations abroad. It has a network of over 60,000 surcharge-free ATMs.

Bank of America vs. Citibank: Account options

Bank of America Citibank
Checking account X X
Savings account X X
Certificates of deposit X X
Money market account X* X
*Money market account only available within an IRA.

Bank of America and Citibank both have options across checking accounts, savings accounts, CDs and money market accounts.

Bank of America offers three different checking account options. The most basic checking account, Advantage SafeBalance, does not pay interest and has the lowest monthly maintenance fee of the three at $4.95, though this fee is waivable. You can open an account with a minimum of $25.

Citibank’s Simple Checking, which is the account for all basic packages at Citibank, doesn’t pay any interest, either. The fee of $12 associated with this account is dramatically higher than Bank of America’s Advantage SafeBalance’s fee, though it is waivable if you maintain a certain account balance or are 62 years or older.

Both banks have basic savings accounts in addition to more complicated, interest-bearing savings accounts. At Citibank, these savings accounts typically come packaged with a linked checking account.

A savings account at Citibank is opened as part of one of five available banking packages. The lowest-level package is the Access Account, which only has a monthly fee of $10 but doesn’t come with many perks. Then there’s the Basic Banking package, which has a $12 monthly fee and allows you to write checks, which the Access Account does not.

Other account package options include The Citibank Account, Citi Priority and Citigold. The various packages each offer different perks, with varying fees and significantly higher account minimums than the Access Account and Basic Banking packages.

Meanwhile, Bank of America offers an APY boost on savings accounts depending on your Preferred Rewards Program member status. The three tiers are as follows:

  • Gold: To qualify for this status, you must hold an average of at least $20,000 over three months across all of your Bank of America deposit and retirement accounts. Interest rates are boosted by 5% on savings accounts at this level.
  • Platinum: To qualify for this status, you must hold and average of at least $50,000 over three months across all of your Bank of America deposit and retirement accounts. Interest rates are boosted by 10% on savings accounts at this level.
  • Platinum Honors: To qualify for this status, you must hold an average of at least $100,000 over three months across all of your Bank of America deposit and retirement accounts. Interest rates are boosted by 20% on savings accounts at this level.

While both banks offer money market accounts for individual consumers, these accounts are only offered within an IRA at Bank of America. Money market accounts are conservative investments, and you may have them offset in your portfolio by more aggressive investment options, like stocks or mutual funds, depending on where you are in your retirement savings journey. Bank of America does not publicly provide its current rates. However, to open a money market account within an IRA, you must make an initial deposit of $100.

Citibank’s money market account is accessible outside of an IRA. In fact, the rates are much better that way. Citibank’s money market account pays 0.20% at the time of writing within an IRA, which is extremely low, but it does not have a minimum opening deposit requirement. Outside of an IRA, the Citi Accelerate money market account earns 2.21% APY (as of September 24, 2019). It does come with a $4.95 monthly maintenance fee, but this fee can be waived by maintaining a balance of $500 or more. You can only open a Citi Accelerate account if you live in a state without physical Citi branches.

Bank of America vs. Citibank: Rates

Bank of America* Citibank* National Average
Checking Advantage SafeBalance: 0.00%

Advantage Relationship: 0.01% to 0.02%
Simple Checking: 0.00%

Interest Checking: 0.01% to 0.03%
0.202% APY
Savings Advantage Savings: 0.03% Citi Savings: 0.04% to 0.15% 0.278% APY
1-year CD 0.05% 0.25% to 2.00% 1.293% APY
5-year CD 0.75% 1.25% 2.015% APY
*Because rates can vary by location, we looked at rates in New York City and Charlotte, which are Citibank and Bank of America’s respective home cities. Rates as of October 10, 2019.

Bank of America and Citibank’s rates fall short of national average rates almost across the board. In almost all situations, though, Citibank beats Bank of America when they go head-to-head.

Bank of America’s most basic checking account offers no opportunity to earn interest. However, the bank’s Advantage SafeBalance account can be converted into an Advantage Relationship account, which does earn 0.01% on balances under $50,000 and 0.02% on balances $50,000 or over.

In order to qualify for this conversion, though, you must either pay a $25 monthly fee or maintain a minimum balance of $10,000 across your checking, savings, CDs and/or IRAs held at Bank of America. If you have Merrill investment accounts and adding them to your other account balances would increase your total balance to at least $20,000, you also can have the monthly fee waived when you enroll in the bank’s Preferred Rewards program.

Citibank’s Basic Banking package offers a non-interest-bearing checking account, Simple Checking. However, the bank also offers an interest-bearing option. The rate on Citibank’s Interest Checking currently beats out Bank of America’s Advantage Relationship checking, though only by a hundredth of a percentage point.

To earn the highest APY, you must have a Citigold or Citi Priority Account package. The former requires a minimum of $200,000 held with Citibank, though there is no monthly fee. Citigold has a $30 monthly fee, though it can be waived if you hold a minimum balance of $50,000 across your Citibank accounts. Citigold accounts also receive relationship management services.

Citibank’s checking options may pay slightly more, but these higher interest rates are also more difficult to access. When it comes to the savings account category, though, Citibank clearly wins as even its lowest interest rate is higher than Bank of America’s APY offer.

Most of Citibank’s CDs come out on top, too, with rates consistently more than double those offered by Bank of America. If your one-year CD has a balance of $25,000 or more, Citibank even beats out the national average with a 2.00% APY, though it should be noted that beating the average does not automatically mean you have the best CD rates on the market.

Bank of America vs. Citibank: Fees

Bank of America* Citibank
Standard checking account Advantage Safe Balance: $4.95, waivable
To avoid the fee, meet one of the following requirements:
  • Be a student under the age of 24.
  • Enrolled in Preferred Rewards.
Simple Checking: $12, waivable
To avoid the fee, meet one of the following requirements:
  • Make one deposit and pay one bill during your statement cycle.
  • Keep your balance across your Citi accounts at $1,500 or more.
Standard savings account Advantage Savings: $8
To avoid the fee, meet one of the following requirements:
  • Maintain an average monthly balance of $500.
  • Link your Advantage Savings account to your Advantage Relationship Banking (checking) account.
  • Enroll in Preferred Rewards.
  • Be a student under the age of 24.
Citi Savings: $4.50
To avoid the monthly fee, you must maintain an average monthly balance of $500.
ATM fee Free at in-network ATMs
$2.50 at out-of-network ATMs
Free at in-network ATMs
$2.50 at out-of-network ATMs
Overdraft fee $35, charged no more than 4 times per day $34, charged no more than 4 times per day

Overdraft fees at both Bank of America and Citibank aren’t atypically high compared to other financial institutions. However, if you set up overdraft protection where your checking account pulls money from your linked savings account or line of credit, you will be charged a fee of $10 at Citibank and $12 at Bank of America. These charges, unlike the overdraft fee itself, are unusual, as many financial institutions do not charge you a fee when you need to use overdraft protection once you’re enrolled.

ATM fees are also not unusually high or low at these two institutions. Both banks allow free in-network ATM withdrawals and charge a fee of $2.50 for out-of-network ATM usage. However, there are other financial institutions that do not charge a fee to use outside ATMs at all while others will refund at least a portion of out-of-network ATM fees. Bank of America does waive the out-of-network ATM fee for Preferred Rewards Platinum/Platinum Honors members who hold a minimum of $50,000 across deposit and investment accounts at Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. Citibank waives it for those age 62 or older.

The fees at both Bank of America and Citibank start to get particularly troublesome when we look at monthly maintenance on basic checking and savings accounts. Bank of America has a cheaper checking account, with a fee of $4.95 compared to Citibank’s $12 fee for its standard account. On the other hand, Citibank has a cheaper savings account, charging nearly half of the amount that Bank of America does. One perk at Bank of America is that new account holders will not have to pay the savings account fee for the first six months.

Who is Bank of America better for?

While Bank of America is not a great option when we’re considering offers from the entire marketplace, it does do better than Citibank for a select few consumers.

You want to pay lower maintenance fees on your checking account. Neither Citibank’s nor Bank of America’s basic checking option pays any interest, but Advantage SafeBalance from Bank of America does charge a lower monthly maintenance fee. It also provides more avenues to get that fee waived.

You hold investment accounts with Merrill Lynch. If you hold investment accounts with Merrill Lynch, it’s far more likely that you will qualify for one of the tiered membership levels of Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program. Enrollment in this program waives many fees and helps you earn interest, though the APYs are still often lower than what Citibank offers.

Who is Citibank better for?

If you’re looking for low fees and great APY offers, Citibank shouldn’t be your first choice, either. Still, it beats out Bank of America under most scenarios.

  • You want higher APYs. Citibank currently offers higher rates than Bank of America across all categories. In one area — one-year CDs with at least $25,000 invested — Citibank even outperforms the national average.
  • You’re opening a money market account within an IRA with an extremely small opening deposit. Opening one of these accounts at Bank of America would require a minimum of $100, but Citibank has no minimum opening deposits.
  • You want to pay lower fees on your savings account. While you won’t have to pay fees on your Advantage Savings account for the first six months with Bank of America, once the fees kick in they’re almost double that of Citibank. Citibank also pays a higher APY on its savings accounts than Bank of America.

Bank of America vs. Citibank: Which is the better bank?

While both banks have high monthly maintenance fees and low APY offerings, at the end of the day, Citibank comes out on top in this head-to-head challenge. Its interest rates are higher than those offered by Bank of America, and on certain one-year CDs, rates even exceed the national average.

That being said, you’d be wise to shop around before opening an account with either of these large banks as you likely can find a better deal elsewhere.

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