The Chime banking app has been closing accounts, not returning money

A dollar floats in a museum-style plastic display case.

Enlarge / Putting the dollar in the box is easy—but getting it back out can sometimes be a months-long ordeal. (credit: PM Images)

Chime is a banking application which serves millions of users—but it’s not actually a bank. And it racked up an unusually large number of consumer protection cases over the last year—920 complaints at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and thousands at the Better Business Bureau. The majority of the CFPB complaints regard forced account closure—accounts closed against a consumer’s will without immediately refunding the consumer’s account balance in the process.

Unexpected account closures

Only 197 of the 920 complaints against Chime at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are tagged as involving a “closed account”—but as ProPublica reports, the CFPB complaints are inconsistently labeled, and details of many of the other 723 complaints involve forcible closures also. (By contrast, industry behemoth Wells Fargo has only 317 CFPB complaints tagged “closed account” over the same time period—and Marcus, a Goldman Sachs owned online bank with 4 million customers, has only seven.)

Although opening a Chime account is quick and easy—the app is straightforward, and the creation process requires no credit check and is done in minutes—account closures may happen just as rapidly. ProPublica recounts multiple similar stories of Chime customers who received cryptic emails stating, “Following a recent review of your Spending Account, we regret to inform you that we have made the decision to end our relationship with you at this time.”

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